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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.
Ravenholdt, Dalaran, Lordaeron and Zul'Dare
Myrokos landed on all fours, knees digging into the dirt. He chanced a glance behind him and saw the portal he had jumped through snap shut. In its place was a view of Venege. A grey haze obscured the city. An unsuspecting merchant would probably assume it was a serious case of chimney smoke or a very inconvenient fog. Myrokos knew better.
"On your feet, Silentform." he heard somebody say in front of him. He turned and looked up at Scavell, who stood offering his hand. Myrokos took it and hauled himself up. Looking past Scavell's shoulder, Myrokos saw Thomassy, the Man in the Mithril Mask and Marshal Sherman. They were standing around the Lightist clerics, amongst which was a warrior that seemed to glow.
So the Lordaeron leadership had made it. But what about the others?
"That was too close for comfort, Scavell. Who did we lose?" he asked, scanning the crowd that had followed him through the portal.
Scavell's voice was grim.
"Several companies of Perinany and most of the Imperial soldiers in the palace. When it came to evacuation we had... priorities."
Myrokos' mouth moved, but no objection came out. Instead Myrokos swung on his heel and began counting his men. He came up short by two.
"Grigori Dosantos, the men I left guarding your magi..."
The Archmage was staring out at Venege. He did not turn to answer Myrokos. That was, until Myrokos grabbed him and spun him around. Grigori curled his lip in disdain.
"Two of my Kirin Mora did not return. Filbert de Niglac says that your agents were with them. I am sure you are disappointed. Their contribution to the war shall be missed. Now if you please, get your plebeian hand off me, before it spoils my victory."
An image of a fist colliding with Dosantos' face flashed through Myrokos' mind. Lindea and Bazil deserved better. Both had served with him many times in the past. Then the instinct was replaced by a dead calm.
He removed his hand from Dosantos' shoulder and walked up to the soldiers of Lordaeron. There were plans to be made. Professionalism was what was needed.
Coming face to face with the Marshal of Lordaeron, Myrokos was shocked to see the man's condition. Black pits circled the Marshal's eyes, and his skin was pale as if he was fighting a fever. The Marshal regarded Myrokos solemnly, but met his eyes without flinching.
"I am sorry for your soldiers. They died well."
"As did yours, I am sure."
Marshal Sherman nodded coldly. Then his gaze shifted. Myrokos saw that he was looking at Marius. For the first time that Myrokos could recall since having met the man, Sherman smiled.
"I see you have captured General Marius. He has been a thorn in my side for a very long time."
"We hardly captured him. He begged for us to take him."
Sherman cocked his head slightly.
"The tactics mirror the man, it seems. But we will have time to deal with Marius later. Venege is no longer suitable as a headquarters. Its people will have to abandon their city in short order as well, if they wish to survive another day. We will have to travel south and meet with the Perinany."
But Mattheus Perinany was very far away, and always on the move. Myrokos folded his hands behind his back and stood rigid.
"It would be my honour, Marshal, to extend an invitation to you and your allies to return with me to Fenris Isle."
"Accepted." Sherman answered immediately. "But you must help us establish contact with General Perinany upon arrival. Our victory must be capitalized upon."
"It will be, Marshal. I promise you it will be..."
A mismatched hundred men and women crowded onto the beaches of Fenris Isle.
The alarm was sounded immediately, but silenced once Ravenholdt realised that it was their own agents who had arrived. Their own agents had returned, and with them had come the remnant of the Perinanies, Kirin Mora and Imperials who had garrisoned Venege.
Grand Master Van Dam faced the crowd with a certain sense of discomfort. Fenris Isle was supposed to be a low-profile outpost, to pass under the notice of the pagan lands around it. And it could not feed so many men, at least not without being resupplied from elsewhere.
"Welcome to Fenris Isle, gentlemen and gentleladies." Van Dam announced. "I warn you in advance, you shall find no comfort here. The Keep is small. Many of you will have to camp outside, and those of you leaders who think you will have a room to yourselves, you are sadly mistaken. Tomorrow, we shall meet in the council halls. Today, you shall rest."
When Barbara Friendly arrived at Fenris Isle, she was hit by a sense of despair. Ravenholdt had been destroyed, and her people had been relocated to this miserable island.
There was no doubt that Fenris Isle would not have been able to hold all of Ravenholdt's personnel, had they all survived the pagan attack.
"Thank you for the shortcut, Jammal Hildebrand. You have saved us weeks, if not months, of dangerous travel. Time that we could ill afford."
The former court wizard of Gilneas flourished a bow.
"It has been a pleasure to work alongside you, Misses Friendly."
"Likewise, Jammal." Barbara said, her voice stiff with pride. "What lies ahead for you now? Will you remain with us? There is a place for you in Ravenholdt, should you wish it."
Jammal looked wistfully towards Fenris Keep, and a little smile appeared at the corner of his mouth.
"I have thought about it long and hard, Misses Friendly." he clucked his tongue. "But, alas, my place is with my country and my people. Gilneas is a broken land. It will take generations to heal. I am needed."
He shook Warren Greystone's hand and kissed Amarian's. Kid Gorgeous received a pet on the head.
"Me too, kitty. Me too."
"My assessment; You have shown remarkable tenacity remaining sane after your experience in the Shadow Realm." Zero-Nine stated, nearly breaking Jammal's hand as he shook it. "I remember this feeling I am experiencing is best described as respect."
Nor did Jammal forget to glare at Drakgyver.
"Jammal." Barbara said, as the former court wizard was about to depart through his portal. "When this war is over, Gilneas will not stand alone. We'll help you rebuild. I promise you."
The former court wizard's eyes became watery and he gave them one last wave. Then he passed through his portal with purpose. It winked out of existence seconds later.
It was time for a debriefing.
Percy Fayette set foot on Fenris Isle once again. With him was an ambassador from the Lordaeron Remnant, a young man who had helped nurse him onto his feet.
When he walked into the council chamber, he came face to face with a certain old timer he had not expected ever to see alive again.
"Agent Friendly!" Percy gasped. His obvious pleasure would have been emphasized by his subsequent blush, but his dark skin helped to cover that one up.
"It is good to see you too, Percy. I hear that if I had arrived a few days earlier, I'd be talking to Robere as well."
There was a very clear sense of loss in her words.
Myrokos Silentform had also returned from his Venege mission. There was a sour look to him, which told Percy that in all likelihood, they had lost more agents. It was a dreadful guessing game until Percy found out which.
"Is that man with you from the Lordaeron Remnant, Agent?" Warester Van Dam asked formally.
Remembering himself, Percy nodded vigorously.
"Yes sir. Introducing-"
"I am Tileot." the young man said. "Tileot Menethil."
After the debriefing, a tired Warester Van Dam retired towards his room. Just as he neared the door, he heard a faint movement inside. All the agents he was sharing his room with had not yet retired to bed.
The Fang of Korialstrasz was in his hand immediately. He peered through the keyhole, and saw a shadowy shape sitting on a chair at the desk.
Kicking the door open, Warester pounced inside.
And saw that it was Relfthra waiting for him. Indecision hit him; Relfthra the Deceiver had last been seen on Zul'Dare.
Was he friend or foe? Attack first, or ask questions later?
Last edited by Timolas : 05-06-2012 at 05:37 PM.
Join Date: Feb 2009
Gerard was desperate, yet years of experience made sure he would not let desperation cloud his judgement.
"How do I know I can trust you?"
"You can't" The elf said.
"There is nothing I can say that would convince you to. However I can make my offer more attractive to you by saying that you may stay by his side."
Gerard took a tentative step forward, the elves did not react.
"And if I refuse your offer?"
"Then you are free to walk your way. Not that I would recommend moving the Grand Admiral in his critical state."
"There are other healers in Boralus."
"None that would be sympathetic enough to help the same Grand Admiral whose leadership put them in this miserable position." The elf retorted.
"Are you done stalling? Time is of the essence."
Gerard realised the hopelessness of the situation but didn't let it show.
"This is a trap." He said begrudgingly.
"Of course." Seranidan started. "But it is a trap you cannot afford to walk out of."
Gerard cursed under his breath.
"Fine, you win. One thing though, you need to give Lennart the same treatment as Joachim."
Seranidan raised an eyebrow.
"You have no leverage yet you still try to barter? Your stubbornness is admirable. Very well, I will fulfill your request."
He made a motion and two elves stepped forth to help carry the injured.
Gerard fastened his grip around Joachim.
"I'll carry him myself!" He turned back to Seranidan. "Now, where are we headed?"
The elf didn't answer and instead only motioned them forward.
Wotan refused help as well and held onto Lennart. He quickly caught up to Gerard.
"You would give them up so easily, Falrevere? Lord Alten is your patron, they are both your friends!"
"I have no choice!" Gerard roared back. "You heard him, there's no other way."
"Have you already forgotten of the healers promised at the palace? It is no more than five minutes' walk away from here."
"Have you forgotten about the score of elves currently between us and the palace? Do you honestly think he would just let us walk on through with the grand admiral on our backs?"
Wotan shot a glance at Gerard's sword hilt
"... There's barely twenty of them, if you would consider alternate methods." He muttered.
Gerard rolled his eyes.
"Believe me, I would fight an army for Joachim's sake. I'm only opposed to the idea now that I'm literally carrying his body on my back." He made a meaningful motion with the stump of his left arm.
"So do you have any other great suggestions to make?"
Wotan frowned but didn't say anything. They both kept on walking in silence.
Last edited by devius : 05-06-2012 at 03:52 PM.
After the debriefing, Myrokos Silentform set off towards the shared room he had been allocated. He was intercepted on the way, however, when a hooded man walked up in front of him and blocked his path.
"Who are you?" Myrokos asked, drawing his blade instinctively. There was something wrong about this man, if man he was.
"I shall tell you soon." the stranger promised. "But you, Myrokos Silentform, are a very important individual. To me, and to my organization."
"And why is that?" Myrokos asked hesitantly. He felt cornered and unsure of what to do, for once.
"I will tell you shortly. If you would come with me somewhere more private, I will tell you."
"And why not reveal what you know publicly? Excuse me if I do not trust you. What does the Grand Master say about this?"
The man rubbed his hands creepily.
"Oh, he is concerned. But he need not be. I have your best interests in mind. We must go somewhere private. What I know about you could put you in great danger..."
"Very well. If you try anything..."
In one of the Keep's storerooms, the man finally removed his hood. A bearded, scarred face was revealed by the torchlight. The man was missing a couple of teeth as well. Were it not for the tightness around his eyes and the way he carried himself, Myrokos could have mistaken him for a common thug from the streets of Tarren Mill. He looked very familiar. But perhaps it was simply because he looked like so many men before him that Myrokos had killed.
"Myrokos Silentform." the man stated. "You are the son of Anandor Darafel. You are the heir to the Collective, Azeroth's greatest criminal organization."
The man did not crack a laugh, or otherwise imply he was joking.
"Your father was killed by a vengeful elf, and you were left to be raised by your mother, the Matriarch... but she was killed when you were kidnapped. You were kidnapped before you could rise to assume command of the Collective. You were kidnapped... by Ravenholdt."
"Impossible!" Myrokos ranted, taking a step back. Had Krol known? Had Krol killed his mother? The truth was that Myrokos could hardly remember his childhood. Faint memories flashed by him in his dreams, familiar faces and hints of old lessons long since forgotten. "Anandor Darafel... then that means Faldren is my brother?"
"Half-brother." the man corrected with noticeable disdain. "He is a mere bastard, the accidental child between Anandor and a human prostitute we were trafficking. Nothing more."
Myrokos' mind raced. Should he tell the Grand Master immediately? But if Krol had lied to him, did it not mean that Ravenholdt as a whole had lied to him? Did Van Dam know as well?
"I- I have to think about this."
"I'm afraid there is really no time at all to lose." the man said plainly. "The other lords of the Collective are growing bold. You must assume your rightful place and put them back in theirs."
"No." Myrokos grunted, his hand tightening around the hilt of his dagger. "I am of Ravenholdt. If you want me to lead your Collective, it'll be as a sub-faction of Ravenholdt."
The man sighed dramatically.
"I admit I expected this." he declared. "I was hoping you would come peacefully. Number Five?"
So distracted by what the man had told him, he had failed to notice the woman standing in the shadows. Lolita Scipio stepped forward.
"Sorry, Myrokos." she lied.
Myrokos flashed his dagger and eyed the door. If he could get help-
But the man said something. A word. A specific word. Myrokos froze. What had they done to him? A word. A word. That word.
A flashback overcame him. It was a memory... a memory of the last time had heard that word.
He was back in Quel'Thalas. Rimtori Sanguinar stood over him. For once, her clothes were on. This time, his wrists were bound. Myrokos tried to move his legs. But his legs were also tied. One foot was not tied as firmly as the other. A man was standing beside Rimtori. He was bearded and scarred, a man that could pass as a simple thug were it not for his posture.
The man looked familiar.
"Is this the elf you wanted, Micaiah?"
"It is him." the man confirmed. "I could not be sure at first, but he he responds to the Safe Word."
Myrokos had blown his cover. Van Dam would be furious when he found out that Myrokos had been having an affair with Rimtori, jeopardizing the mission. The affair had led him to this - to capture. Who was this strange man that had taken such an interest in him?
"This seals our alliance, I hope. The Benefactors will need your Collective when the time comes to overthrow Anasterian."
"Yes, our alliance is guaranteed." Micaiah said with a grin. "I shall return shortly."
Later that day, Myrokos had escaped. No time was wasted salvaging the mission. There was nothing to salvage anyway. He had returned to Ravenholdt in shame.
The memory passed.
Myrokos found himself back in Fenris Isle, face to face with Micaiah and Lolita.
"You will follow me. You will not call for help. You will not attempt to prevent your return home." Micaiah commanded. Instinctively, Myrokos knew that he would obey.
Why, Lolita, why?
"Take us to the ship you have prepared for us, Number Five."
Once the ship had departed, Lolita Scipio found a moment of privacy before returning to Fenris Keep. She spoke into her communication stone.
"I can tell you where Micaiah is headed, Buffoon. And I just discovered what Micaiah was up to. I have sent somebody far more important than Faldren with him too... forget Faldren. I have found somebody far more important than Faldren."
Last edited by Timolas : 05-06-2012 at 05:11 PM.
Join Date: Nov 2008
They walked through the last pockets of resistance left in the city centre. A hundred Benefactors, a dozen Exalted, held a few blocks and a portion of the Keep. As Seranidan led the procession up and into the Keep he signalled the retreat, and the last defenders joined up behind them. Ahead, just beneath the gate, swirled a portal - the last one active in the city.
Beyond shone Patmos, bright in the sunlight.
They went through.
The Grand Admiral had been placed under the care of the elven camp's finest physicians. The one called Gerard refused to leave his side, and the Wotan character followed suit. Until he had time to deal with them, Seranidan simply detailed a small guard to keep an eye on them.
First he had to deal with Lanudal. The fool had sent a half-dozen messengers that waited for Seranidan as he returned to his pavilion. What could be so important?
Join Date: Dec 2007
Hocus Snood: Well… this place is getting pretty @#$%ing crowded.
Krasus: So it would seem.
In addition to its own agents returning, Ravenholdt at Fenris Isle was now playing host to the now homeless Council of Tirisfal, Krasus’ new Incorruptibles Initiative, the Perinanies, Kirin Mora and the Imperials who had garrisoned Venege. Outwardly, the Keep still appeared as it always had - an outpost beholden to Stormwind. This was intentional. The blue and gold banners still flew, providing a degree of cover for the covert intelligence organization.
It didn’t fool everyone though.
Warester Van Dam: You have some nerve showing up here, Relfthra. My people are dead because of you! Downstairs Erbag is tending to his injured daughter who had a city fall on her because of your lies!
Relfthra: Grand Master... I’ve made some terrible mistakes. Please, give me a chance to explain myself.
Van Dam thought about it for a moment. He then stood up straight, out of his attack posture, and sheathed his weapon.
Warester Van Dam: After helping us save the world in Alterac, you’ve earned that much.
Relfthra: Thank you for your understanding.
And so, Relfthra finally confessed his great sins. They were sins born of a father’s love. For years, he lied to his fellow councilors and he worked to cover up Arronax’s misdeeds. He was protecting him. Despite the horrors he commited, Relfthra hoped against hope that his son could be redeemed. After what happened at Shorel’thalas though, he finally realized that such dreams were nothing more than the folly of a foolish old man. Now, Relfthra wanted to put things right.
Warester Van Dam: So you’re ready to do what must be done?
Relfthra: No. A father is never ready to kill his own son. But it has become painfully obvious that there is no other way. I created a monster… and now I must destroy it.
Warester Van Dam: We’ll see what the rest of the Council thinks. It’s only proper that they be the ones to pass judgment on you.
At that moment, one of his agents rushed into the room.
Agent: Grand Master! Grand Master!
Warester Van Dam: What is it?
Agent: Micaiah! He’s escaped!
Shock rolled over his face. How could he possibly have escaped the Keep? He turned to Relthra and muttered “Stay here!” before he hastily ran out of the room.
When he arrived at the chamber that was confining Micaiah, he found the guards slumped over. They’d been poisoned. But they were beyond Micaiah’s reach. He couldn’t have done it. So who did?
Warester Van Dam: The traitor. I want this entire Isle searched! Find Micaiah! Now!
This was just more aggravation and distraction that the Grand Master really did not need at this juncture. He didn’t even know why Micaiah had come to his Isle. He only knew that he wanted…
Warester Van Dam: Myrokos! Where is he?
He assembled his agents to find his brother, but a search would find nothing. Van Dam reached the only conclusion he could.
Warester Van Dam: He’s been kidnapped!
Electra Wrathchild: Unless… he was the one who poisoned those guards and helped Micaiah escape.
Warester Van Dam: What? Impossible!
Electra Wrathchild: Or is it?
Faldren Darafel: I tells ya Nibbles, one would expect a modicum of hospitality from these buggers. Remember when I swung in and rescued them from those huge golems in the Alterac Citadel? Shoulda just let ‘em get crushed.
Nibbles furiously nodded his head. The admiral and his chef had been brought to the Isle in chains. Now, they sat in a cell in Fenris Keep’s sublevel, supposedly to be kept in “protective custody.” Somebody wanted them dead.
So what else was new?
Warester had said he’d speak with them in person, but he hadn’t gotten around to it yet. What could he possibly have to do that was more important?
As the door to the dungeon swung open, Faldren perked up.
Faldren Darafel: Finally! Someone to get me out of here.
Lolita Scipio: Not quite.
Although the Buffoon had thought Faldren dead thanks to Micaiahs' deception, Lolita informed him otherwise. In return, he told her what to do with the good admiral.
She unsheathed her dagger as she approached his cell.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt, Dalaran, Lordaeron and Zul'Dare
It was strange to be on Fenris Isle again. She’d known elves with flawless recollection, but she was half human. After nearly a thousand years, her actual memories were suspect. The Isle seemed… so much smaller, and the people were different. Or were they? It’d been so long… Was it really her parents that she remembered, or was it an idealized version created over a millennium by a mind fixated on their murder?
She now had the opportunity to find out. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to approach them.
She instead sequestered herself on the second level of what had been made into New Qu’s research and development wing of the Keep. From her vantage point, she could look down at the sprawling floor where all manner of experiments were conducted, be they mechanical, alchemical, arcane, or all of the above. She could look down on her family.
They were younger than they were when she'd known them, but they differed in more disturbing ways. Her mother seemed so inexplicably… hard. There was none of the nurturing maternal grace that Greystone remembered in her posture. Instead, her sexy yet functional leather battle-gear framed her as a potentially lethal seductress. There was something dangerous about her that the child Greystone never remembered seeing. Conversely, her father struck her as so much weaker than she recalled. He was skinny and looked uncertain and lost.
But even more jarring was seeing Magyver McGowan. While she had only had a scant few years with her biological parents, she had decades with McGowan. He raised her into womanhood right here, on Fenris Isle. He trained her to be an agent and taught her the meaning of honor. She still carried his maces to this day. And instead of seeing the pillar of strength from her youth, what she looked upon was a literal monster. He was chained to an examination chamber in the middle of the floor, poked and prodded by these men and women of intellect.
It was too much for her to bear. She disappeared from her perch.
New Qu: Fascinating… Exxxxxtremely Fascinating…
New Qu flipped up the protective mask he wore while analyzing samples taken from Drakgyver and turned to face those who wanted answers. Kid Gorgeous never left her companion’s side, and after the initial debriefing Barb, Warren, and Amarian had been impatiently taking up space in New Qu’s lab.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Well nerd, you finally have something useful or what?
New Qu flipped back down the protective mask.
New Qu: You want the good news or the bad news first?
Kid Gorgeous: Growl.
Warren Greystone: Kid called it. Bad news first.
New Qu: Okay. Bad news is that the black dragon’s essence has ingrained itself on the cellular level. It’ll be impossible to flush out or cleanse away.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Well what the @#$% is the good news then?
New Qu: The good news is that I’m a freakin’ genius and realized that he ingested a relatively small amount of the blood that only attached itself to certain key areas of his body. That’s what induced the transformation. If we can go in and remove them, he should naturally revert back to his human state.
Amarian Zeshuwal: By go in, do you mean some kind of surgery?
New Qu: Not… exactly. Traditional surgery would be far too imprecise. But I had an idea. I’ve done some consulting with my new friend Erbag, and, well, it all gets a bit technical. Let try to me explain, and hopefully this doesn’t go over your pretty head Barb.
And so, New Qu laid out his audacious plan. Laced with technobabble and jargon as it was, Barb indeed did have trouble following it all. But she got the important parts.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: So let me get this straight… you’re going to use that device to, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, shrink a team. Then you’ll send them in to Drakgyver’s body there, and at that size they’ll be able to collect and remove the black dragon essence?
New Qu: Pretty much, yeah. Just need the volunteers.
There was a brief silence.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Okay, let’s do this.
Amarian Zeshuwal: It won’t even be the strangest thing I’ve done this month.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: And I’m sure “Neil Patrick Liberace” here is used to being inside Magyver.
Warren Greystone: <sigh>. Does everyone know about those cover identities?
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: It went viral pretty fast. Word-of-mouth and all.
New Qu: Well, you guys are about to go viral yourselves. As in, go the size of a virus. As soon as I craft the equipment, we’ll be ready to send you in. You’ll need breathing apparatuses, lights, and a way to collect the essences. And then…
Drakgyver McGowan: And then she’ll inject my essence into a new host, as per her bargain.
They all turned and looked to the fierce Drakonid that was strapped to the examination table behind them. He’d regained consciousness some time ago but didn’t let on, instead choosing to patiently absorb all that was discussed. While Magyver constantly struggled against him internally, it was Atrumarion’s iron will that allowed him to maintain control.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Name your host. We’ll have him picked up and transported here so that we can take security precautions.
Drakgyver McGowan: Oh, how courteous of you. It just so happens that I have someone very special in mind…
King Alford hadn’t come out from behind his mask for some time. Aside from his inner circle and the Ravenholdt agents who were present for what transpired in the Keep’s dungeons, nobody knew who was beneath the mithril exterior. That was how he wanted it. He wasn’t ready to face the world as Alford Menethil anymore. And there were some members of the world he was more hesitant to face than others…
Percy Fayette: Here he is. The man you requested to speak with.
Percy knew who was behind the mask. Yet Percy brought him anyway. The King’s facial muscles tensed invisibly behind the metal.
Tileot Menethil: So… the legend himself. The Man in the Mithril Mask. You look good for a historical figure.
Alford reached down into his diaphragm to produce a guttural inflection to disguise his voice. He was not ready for this.
Alford Menethil: Prince Tileot, I make no pretensions to be the original man. I merely wear this for what it represents.
Tileot Menethil: And what is it that you represent? You recently recruited several clerics to your cause. Those clerics were part of Archmage Shadowbreaker’s new flock. They’re my people.
Alford Menethil: I’m grateful for their assistance.
Tileot Menethil: You recruited them in the name of King Alford.
Alford Menethil: I did.
Tileot Menethil: What… what became of the King? Where is he that you carry his banner?
The eyes behind the mask connected directly with those of his son. They held the gaze for an uncomfortable moment.
Alford Menethil: I am… I am afraid that King Alford is gone. He died alongside his wife in a coward’s ambush.
Tileot breathed heavily, choosing to sit down against the Keep’s wall. Alford was surprised. He thought Tileot might celebrate.
Alford Menethil: You still respected the man? After his infidelity was made public?
Tileot Menethil: He was… my father. We didn’t leave on good terms. My birth mother… he was holding her prisoner. I was furious. I wanted him deposed. But I’ve come to see that my brother is not an honorable man. He commits atrocities to secure his own power while placating those who prop him up. He’s every bit his father’s son.
Alford cringed a bit, to hear his name besmirched so.
Alford Menethil: I sense you are not. Your father’s son, that is. You’re better than your brother. Better than your father. In the interest of Lordaeron, I think it should be you who sits on the throne.
Tileot Menethil: Easier said than done.
Alford Menethil: We’ll see. We’ll see…
Bellasco sat on the golem’s shoulder, basking in the light of the moon. The golem was mournful, as usual.
Krasus: Zero-Zero-Nine. I know a bit about your history. Do you think you’re the only golem left in the world? You aren’t. You’ve become part of a bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.
Zero-Zero-Nine: Who are you?
Krasus: I’m Korialstrasz, father of Vaelastrasz and Ashastrasz, and I’m here to talk to you about the Incorruptibles Initiative.
Myrokos could not move; could not resist. It was infuriating to be so powerless.
Micaiah: You’ll thank me soon enough. Your father would thank me.
The Collective were garbage. Unlike Ravenholdt, who was shadowy in its own way, the Collective were truly out-and-out criminals. Drug trafficking, prostitution, and apparently even embedding subconscious programming into children, there was nothing too low for these freaks and philanderers. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with them. But there was now the revelation that he was intrinsically tied to them.
Of course, Myrokos always knew he wasn’t Krol’s son. That much was obvious on account of the pointy ears and all. He knew Krol took him in as a child, and suspected that he might have killed his parents. He never asked, because he was afraid of the answer. He was afraid that he was the spawn of damnable scum. And so he was, after all. The scummiest.
Myrokos Silentform: I had a father. His name was Krol.
Micaiah frowned, disappointed.
Micaiah: Right. That’s enough talking then.
And he could say no more.
Last edited by Gurtogg_Bloodboil : 05-12-2012 at 08:40 AM.
Ravenholdt and Stormwind
With helmet under his arm and cloak trailing behind, Duke Augustus Fenris ascended the palace steps. He was flanked by a battalion of footmen. Nobody stood in their way.
At the top of the steps awaited the tattered remains of the Kul Tiras Regency Council. Khalabrond and Alverold were dead, and Princess Elaine and Baron Alten were both missing, which left Henry Caldwell in an awkward position of leadership.
The young Lightist held his sword out and presented it to Duke Augustus Fenris.
"I hereby surrender Kul Tiras unconditionally to the good-will and mercy of the King Stormwind."
Duke Augustus Fenris took the sword gingerly and handed it to one of his courtiers.
"On behalf of His Majesty Lothar, your surrender is accepted, Sir Caldwell."
Henry Caldwell breathed a sigh of relief and stepped back. Duke Fenris turned his attention to the leather-clad charmer watching from the sidelines.
"Master Ravenholdt, if you please?"
Travot trotted up to the Duke, eager to conclude his mission at long last. It had not been an easy mission, at that. Pursuing the Princesses of Stromgarde had only netted him one of two, and talking sanity into the Grand Admiral had caused the Grand Admiral to vanish, taking Wotan with him.
But Kul Tiras had submitted. Hesperia's most stalwart ally would no longer be a problem. And that had to count for something.
"What now, Duke Fenris?"
Duke Fenris wagged his bushy eyebrow worriedly.
"Now we sail north, to treacherous Hesperia, which as betrayed my trust."
"What of General Wrynn?" Travot asked, conscious of the General's lack of predictability.
"He might have me hanged." Duke Fenris stated frankly. "But that's only if King Lothar doesn't hang him first. Leave the politics to me, assassin."
"And what will you do with Princess Tatiana, my good Duke?"
Duke Fenris curled his lip.
"She will be safe with us. But we won't be attacking Stromgarde on her behalf just yet. It is Hesperia which has sunk our ships. But I did not call you here to discuss strategy, Master Ravenholdt. I wanted to thank you. You've been a valuable ally. May Fenris Keep serve you better than it served me."
"I have no doubt it will, my good Duke. We will be in touch."
"Of that, I have no doubt..." Duke Fenris shook Travot's hand firmly, and then turned to his men. "Secure this city!"
By the time Duke Fenris had turned around again, Travot Ravenholdt had vanished.
Xalmor Windrunner awoke soaked through with sweat. A nightmare lingered on into waking reality, a voice mocking him.
"I told you she would betray you..."
He had disobeyed Xaxion Drak'eem. And seemingly as a result, Ianthe Marsh had abandoned the Malefactors. Did it mean Xaxion Drak'eem had foreseen her defection, or was it merely coincidence?
Was the Prophet Xaxion prone to error, or had he been proven right in the end?
Xalmor Windrunner got dressed and began to walk through the empty halls of the Box. He needed time to think.
A change had come over the world in the past weeks. Or perhaps it was merely a change in his own private, personal world.
But Xalmor felt that there was a new malignancy about the very darkness he walked through, as if the shadows themselves watched him. Nor was Xalmor walking on solid ground any longer. He had to tread carefully amidst the wreckage of his beliefs, lest he cut himself.
"Up so late, my lord?"
It was Herman Aranas. The old man stood with his robe unbuttoned and his privacy revealed to the world. Xalmor stood rigid and cold, regretting his life as he did so.
"Long have I lussssted." Aranas proclaimed, slowly dropping his robe to the ground. "Long have I sssssought you. Run away with me."
"... why Aranas? Why?"
Aranas walked up to Xalmor and licked his ear.
Then Xalmor Windrunner awoke sweating coldly. It had all been a bad dream. He sighed with relief and rolled over. Aranas was there waiting for him.
"Lllllllllusted." he snapped.
That morning, the Malefactors had breakfast. As Xalmor hunched over his bread and chicken, he avoided eye-contact with the other leaders at the table. Herman Aranas munched away nearby, causing Xalmor's headache to throb more powerfully.
"You look unwell, my lord." Herman Aranas said, looking up from his meal. "Has your tranquillity been penetrated by ill dreams?"
"You could say that." Xalmor replied, suppressing a hot, salty tear which threatened to roll down his cheek. "I have been most troubled as of late. I fear Xaxion Drak'eem is displeased with me."
"Worry not, liege. Any moment now you will be presented with Madreen Chameral's head."
"Aranas." Xalmor stated quite suddenly. He met the old man's red-rimmed eyes. "I have a question for you... if you don't mind."
"You lust for answers." Aranas answered understandingly, nodding his head. "I can see it in your face. Ask, Highlord. I will answer to the best of my... abilities."
"Why did General Mordred wish to be free of D'vorjakque? Is D'vorjakque not the Azure lieutenant?"
Herman Aranas smiled kindly, like a father to a questioning son.
"Ah, Highlord. That is a wise question. What Mordred realised when possessed by D'vorjakque will never be known for certain. But he wrote me a letter, warning me that D'vorjakque no longer spoke for Zinine. D'vorjakque serves none but himself."
"What of Xaxion Drak'eem?" Xalmor pressed suddenly, dropping his chicken. "Does he serve none other than himself?"
"P-perhaps?" Herman Aranas answered nervously. "But he is an enemy of Men'heva, and Men'heva is an enemy to all, is he not?"
"Yes." Xalmor managed in reply. "But I believe Xaxion Drak'eem speaks for Mnesthes."
I must believe it. Otherwise, what am I fighting for?
A ghostly silhouette of a man stood before Xalmor. Contact had been established at last.
"I am Highlord Xalmor Windrunner of the Malefactors. And you are-"
"Quche Havalanio, acting lord of the Hand. How do you know about the Hand?"
"Brutus Armaggon serves with me. Together we fight the false Doctrine, which your Hand has so long campaigned against. Quche Havalanio, I think it is time that Malachite Hand and Malefactors realise our common interests..."
"I am listening." Quche Havalanio replied.
Last edited by Timolas : 05-12-2012 at 08:52 AM.
<From the journal of Tweed Sorvino, written in Port Baradin's Ironsong Prison>
Just got word from Sendent that I'll be getting out next week.
Can't say I'm not looking forward to some fresh air, but I've had a helluva time in here. The guards, see they know me. They know who we are, that we're the wise guys in this town. And they're good fellas, so they treat us nice and good. Its been like a vacation in here. We got our own kitchen, some nice beds, shipments of decent food. Davey's over in the kitchen making his family lasagna right now.
Still, we've been stuck in here lot longer than the usual. Sedent says that the guys that run the town went and got stupid. Ain't nothing wrong with our business, its a man's work. Sure, we rough up a few guys maybe a bit more than we need to, even whack a few of 'em, but there's no real harm in it. But then they went and got stupid, and its been going down the drain.
According to Sendent the folks in town are starting to wise up again. This guy named Facade's come in and started softening them up. Sendent doesn't like working with the guy, and neither do I. He killed my pop, and you don't fuck with the Morani family. He's got Sendent scared though, and if he's scared then I'm scared. Ain't nothing weak that scares my cousin.
<Lower Port Baradin>
It was a Friday night in Port Baradin. The sky was moonless, replete with stars. As it so happened, a meteor shower had been correctly predicted for that night. As the twin constellations of Kari’sus and Uwen hung over the town shooting stars streaked across the sky. None of this was viewable to those crowded inside the Volery, however. The hedonistic den, located on the slum-ish western part of the city, was crowded with people of all races and skin colors. Some danced, some grinded, some drank, some stripped, some smoke and some snorted. Legality and common sense were thrown to the wind as the allure of pleasure clouded their minds.
Above the common folk was the VIP section. The mood there was a bit classier, but not by much. It was quieter, but the Sayre Sisters walked about. Normally, they were servers of food and drink, glorified waitresses in skimpy gowns. For the right price, they’d do whatever a patron wanted. As long as it followed Matron Dahlia’s rules, that was.
At a table in a corner, two very specific patrons sat talking. Wallace Stoniegear, proprietor of the Volery, alongside other clubs like the Aviary, sat on one side. An angry look was stuck on his face. Across from him sat the much more cheerful Siolfor Blackhammer. Neither had any interest in the Sayre women. Instead, they discussed business. Specifically, one particular associate of theirs.
"Facade's plan worked," Siolfor said firmly. "You can't argue with results."
"Like hell I can't," the Toucan grumbled.
"What exactly do you take issue with?"
"We've lost it all, see? We're his little henchmen now," he explained. "The only stuff that comes into town is stuff approved by the Custom's Office. He damned near runs it. We stop marching to his tune and he can shut down trade operations with an hour."
"Wallace, you and I both know that trade isn't the centerpiece of your operation."
"Trade might not be my machine, but its the oil that keeps the gears turning," he said bitterly. "Without product, nobody's gonna go to my clubs. Port Baradin is a trafficking center. That's what draws people here. And now Facade controls trafficking."
"So, what’re you going to do about it?”
“What am I going to do?” he paused. “Nothing. There’s nothing I can do.”
“Try not to screw it up for the rest of us, Wallace.”
“I’m going to talk to Dahlia Sayre,” the Toucan said with a sigh. “She’ll need to hear about this sooner or later.”
<Port Baradin Customs Office, the next day>
Facade was feeling rather blithe as he walked into the office building. He was brimming with self-confidence, even more than usual. His gambit with the armada had proven to be a complete success. Much of the faith in the law that the people had possessed had been shattered. The city employees had quickly fallen under the sway of the crime lords.
He had come here to iron out a problem in his customs office. Evidently one Mikel Pillaclencher had gone ahead and confiscated a shipment for Quincy Caldwell. Facade didn’t like that. And so he was here. It was sunset, and the harbour was still crowded. They would see the example that Facade would set. They would see the consequences of disobedience.
Reaching the end of the hall, he found a door with the correct name plate on it. Just as he stepped towards it, he heard a clink. Before he could react the floor under him was blown away, and he fell into the dark below. He found himself on wet rocks under the building. The stilt-like beams that supported all the harbour buildings surrounded him. The setting sun was blocked by the office above. And Facade was not alone.
Matron Dahlia stood out amongst her various employees, the Sayre Sisters as they were called. Normally the one that stands out most in a crowd, at least to the men in Port Baradin, is the one wearing the least amount of clothes. Here it was just the opposite. The Matron’s clothing was in fact quite proper, which stood in contrast to the work clothes of her employees. While she was the head of the finest escort service north of the Redridge Mountains you couldn’t tell by looking at her.
It wasn’t merely her dress that set her apart. It was a certain attitude, a certain aura that surrounded her. Confident but not egotistical, brave but not stupid, Dahlia Sayre held her own against the various other crime lords of Port Baradin. But her business was clean, at least in comparison to the businesses of men like Quincy Caldwell or Sendent Morani. And so she had been kept out of the Facade business, for the most part. She had excused herself from the meetings after Facade’s first appearance.
But the Toucan was feeling increasingly isolated. Aside from Siolfor, everyone else in the town was either his enemy or a staunch Facade supporter. And while so far Facade had kept his word, the Toucan was growing more and more suspicious. The man could not be trusted. He made that clear when he killed Hromith Morani, when Paula Ketkhin conveniently disappeared. The Toucan needed more allies. He already had a good business association with the Sayre Sisters. Matron Dahlia was the obvious choice.
“Mr. Stoniegear. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Matron Dahlia,” the Toucan kissed her hand. “I am here to negotiate.”
“Is our current deal not agreeable?” Dahlia said with a hint of annoyance in her voice. “My girls work for you at a low price as it stands.”
“No, not that kind of negotiation. Our contract is perfectly fine,” he replied. “I wish to negotiate an alliance, see?. Of the potentially more violent sort.”
Dahlia Sayre said nothing, but her expression changed to one of interest.
“You know of Facade’s increasing dominance over our town. It has reached a point where his control is nigh absolute. A stray thought in his mind could be enough to shut down all business in the city.” he explained. “We can’t have that. I don’t trust Facade not to enact such measures either. I expect him to ruin us and take everything for himself.”
“What do I have to worry? My Sisters practice Azeroth’s oldest profession. You and your cohorts could find yourselves out of work, but even then the people of this city will still seek pleasure.”
“That’s just it. Matron Dahlia, Facade commands tremendous power. I fear that if he loses control...” the Toucan paused. “I fear that there will be no-one left in this town to seek your services, see? No one at all.”
“Are you certain he is as powerful as you think?”
“He forced the Gimp out of Port Baradin. He single handedly took control of a sect of the Morani family, and the Ketkhin family. He destroyed the entire Mercenary Armada by himself.” his voice was loud and raspy. “I’m not sure that there’s a limit to what he’s willing to do, or to what he can do.”
The Vigilante struck without giving Facade a moment. He knew better than to do that. This was not a game of theatrics. This was life or death. A quick succession of attacks hit the mirrored man. Uppercut to the jaw, punch to temple, jab to the stomach. Facade blocked another fist and countered, kicking the Vigilante back into one of the beams. Now on the offensive, he struck with great force. The man in black quickly dodged, and Facade’s strike broke the beam in two.
With his foe still in the motion of his previous attack, the Vigilante had the opportunity to land another blow. A swift, strong punch connected with the base of Facade’s skull. He stumbled forth, landing on a knee. He turned around, and if he had a face would have given a glare. The Vigilante thought for a brief second that he saw the face of Paula Ketkhin reflected in Facade’s gleaming face.
It gave him pause, and the pause was enough. Facade charged at him, tackling him to the ground. The mirrored man laid into him, letting loose a volley of punches into the Vigilante’s face. Raising his legs, the Vigilante kicked Facade off of him. They both rose, now on truly equal footing. A truly impressive martial duel followed. A flurry of rapid strikes came from both sides. Most were blocked, a few hit.
The moved as they fought, momentum and dominance switching back and forth between the two. Occasionally, a rogue strike would miss and snap another beam. Suddenly, the Vigilante broke the stalemate, jumping back out of the fight. Facade thought himself the victor for only a second. The Vigilante broke another beam. Without the proper supports the building above partially collapsed. Facade was buried in a cascade of rubble.
Facade began to push himself up through the debris. The Vigilante was ready, however. He grabbed Facade’s head and slammed it down. He was victorious, the fight had finished. However, Facade was never willing to lose. He had left one trick unused, however. Magic. With a roar he struck the Vigilante with a telekinetic blow, sending him flying back.
The Vigilante landed in the harbor square, still full with people. Just as Facade had wanted it. The mirrored man rose from the building, still trembling slightly from both pain and rage. With magic augmenting his power, he dominated the Vigilante. He had not been prepared for that level of power. He knocked him about, and the crowd gazed in stunned horror. Facade cut the Vigilante’s stomach with his magic, and blood spilled onto the cobblestones.
Then Facade fell. A new figure stood over himself. Like the bleeding man on the ground, it was dressed in identity-concealing black. However, this was no man. It was a woman that stood over Facade. She grasped a strange knife in her hand, and stabbed Facade in the gut with it. It burned with a strange flame. Facade let loose a metallic, unnatural screech that sent the Vigilantress flying back.
The ground shook with the force of Facade’s rage. The stones cracked, and the crowd was shaken from its paralysis. They ran away, away from the fearsome wounded animal that was Facade. They had seen him bleed. He let loose blasts of magical energy. Stones flew about and building were destroyed. But looking around, he saw no sign of either of his pray. The two vigilantes were nowhere to be seen.
Facade howled in anger.
Join Date: Nov 2008
"... all the while the Vereka herds take the best grazing! We demand recompense, Lord Speaker!"
Lanudal sighed. Another headache was paying another unwelcome visit. Massaging his temples was as useless an exercise as always. Lord Sphrantzes' reply was a monotone droning clawing on the edge of his attention.
"... circumstances allowing... common enemy... focus our efforts, Chieftain!"
Lords of Men and their petty concerns. What did they matter? He had tried to explain it to Vitalian, but Rimtori was right. The glory of the Prophet's words fell on deaf ears when it came to the younger races. Events so vast as to be barely comprehensible were unfolding across the world, over which they have no power; and of the multitude of sufferings and hardships that afflict their people day to day, they choose to do nothing. Instead these Men squabble over details that soon would be of no consequence. The Awakening was nigh!
But, even so. As the spring plants bursting through the hard-packed soil of the highways, so must he be; he must nurture patience. Even Men such as these had a right to be heard. He would not fall prey to the lassitude that had destroyed the Silver Circle and ruined all of Quel'thalas - the people's voices would be heard, as long as he had the ears to listen with.
"It is we who fight the troll in their own country, Speaker! My people suffer while you deal out gifts to weaklings and lowlanders! Where are our rewards?" Chieftain Gann was fairly screaming with indignation. Well, the chieftain's proxy - a nephew - on the Open Council. The actual chieftain of clan Gann was, indeed, in the northern highlands, leading his warbands. Implying that the debate of today was, at best, of secondary importance, if only by necessity.
"Weaklings!" howled the Vereka spokesman. "The Bhelgar lands are ours by right!"
"You won them by the Templar's actions! Spoils belong to the victors, not spoiled brats!"
"Those lands were ours long before the Bhelgar took them! What victories have you won, that you would lay claim to them?"
And off they went, the usual list of complaints, who-came-firsts and name-callings. The Ganns and Marets protested that they had beaten the trolls all the way to Jintha'alor - a campaign the likes of which had not been seen for generations. The Vereka claimed the Bhelgar lands, based on ancient right - rather, conflict - and some statement of the Templar. Gods, did that old wardog ever think ahead? At least he was better than that Irael follower of his - that one was outright unnerving.
"... Donchadh!" barked the announcer. Lanudal started. That name had not been called in the Open Council for many months.
"My father," began a wavering voice, "was the first to join this war. Clan Donchadh defended Silvermoon months before the Gold-shadows led Vitalian to usurp..." The boy's voice drowned in an outpouring of outrage and jeering. Even from this distance - the Lords' Senate was a wide arena, for a Mannish structure - Lanudal could see him sweating, hesitating. But the scion of the ruined clan carried on, though Lanudal doubted anyone without Elf-ears could hear him.
"... to take the throne. Where is our reward? Clan Vitalian and Highwind claim our people, our villages, our herds, with no justification, unlawfully! What error did my father do in defending our country, in coming to the Elf-king's aid against the trolls, that his sons must suffer and starve?"
"Your brothers support the rebel Eldengar!" sneered Rel Vitalian. "If they - like you - were to swear fealty to the rightful heir of the Trollbanes, Queen Katerina, our ravaged country might see peace again. Until then, those lands are needed by the crown!"
And off they went. By noon the Donchadhs' plight had earned - in turn - the sympathies of the lowland nobles, the Bhelgar remnants, and the Marets, and lost them all again. Lord Tertullus of Aestbrad presented a motion to curtail the new taxes meant to fund recruitment of new soldiers, and Nikeras Notaras amassed enough votes from the highlander clans to bury the southern nobles for good. Chaplain Daneb sought support to improve on the Cathedral of the Light and left the building in a rage, chased by cat-calls and laughter. The topic that had opened the day's deliberations - the army from Baradin about to invade the country - had been all but forgotten.
Just another day in the Open Council of Stromgarde.
"I should have that... ufblesan senate shut close," growled Mallick Vitalian in his proud, Highlander drawl. "They cry and quack like so geese, but words or not words, they follow me. It is wasting of time and resources, no less."
"Every emperor since the time of Komenin the Cruel wished to be rid of that obligation, and every one of them was wise enough to learn from his example and abstain." Queen Katerina wore her usual, haughty, exasperated look. "Husband," she added.
Lord Sphrantzes, Lord Speaker in the Senate, and here Grand Logothete, cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Her Majesty the Queen speaks true, Lord Protector Vitalian. Had my lord attended the Lords' Round but this very morn, he would have seen clear the issues..."
"That is what I have you for, not? Listen the birdsong, like so? Phah! The senate is sheep luegen to be wolves - they howl like if they would go alone, but when the fox appear, they bleat and hide under my shield. It is for arrogant men to display their pride to other men's pride, no less."
"Those be the imprudent words of a warlord, not a King of Stromgarde," replied Katerina. "Perhaps the clans of the highlands may be so steered, but my father's bannermen respond not lightly to indignity nor such derision. My words may only sway old Tertullus so far."
"I led men to war and death before you was made by one, woman. Lowlander lords or no - as long as the trolls are to be fought, even the faintest hare in the village will fight as leowen in the field!"
"Speaking of which, " Lanudal interjected, "what news from the provinces? Grand Marshal - what of the trolls? Where are they now?"
The closed council turned its eyes on Rel Vitalian, who gave an annoyed shrug. "So far, they haven't crossed south of the Daggers, not in force." Rel spoke near-fluently the tongue of the lowlands. But he was neither so proud, nor so stubborn, as his master. "Warbands, scattered after the Battle of the Slopes, burn and ravage though we hunt them down - but of the force that drove the clans from Jintha'alor, no sight."
"Good, good. It was likely all the strength of the troll cities of the Hinterlands gathered together to repel the invasion. The army the Templar destroyed on the Slopes was, we believe, a large portion of their mobile force," explained Lanudal. "From the information we have gathered, the troll alliance is in confusion after the death of their warchief - it may be that we will have reprieve for a while longer from the troll clans."
"We?" pried Nikeras Notaras, ostensibly temporary replacement of Lukas Notaras as Master of the Public Wardrobe on the council. None still seriously expected Lukas to reappear.
"The Benefactors have many sources, Lord Nikeras." A smile, so as not to appear too rude.
"Then is this not the moment to strike?" asked Katerina. "The troll threat might have been mitigated for now, but as long as they remain a presence in the north, the raids will recommence, one day. It is not for naught that the emperors of Arathor yet wear the title 'Trollbane'."
"The Templar led three clans over the Daggers just a few short months ago, dear princess," said Bryenn, of house Notaras, in his dry, droll tone. The man was Grand Constable on the council. "They themselves apparently harboured such a notion as you presented..."
Katerina shot the man a spiteful look. It had been Bryenn and Rel who had... fetched... the then-princess from the custody of Stormwind in Rhodos. She had not forgiven them the kidnapping, nor the separation from her sister - but she had settled on doing the best for her country, which was to ignore their occasional barbs. In any case, she had no time to respond before the last present member of the closed council spoke.
"Barely-prepared clansmen, sent on a whim, advancing much too quickly and much too brashly," muttered Magus Alexius. "Not the true strength of Arathor, not the pride of Stromgarde!" A thin, intense man, swathed in the heavy crimsons of his Cabal, he seemed to be constantly covered in a thin sheen of perspiration, regardless of the weather.
"Peace, Magus," soothed Lanudal. "For now, the Daggers are our wall, while other concerns demand our attention. The trolls do not threaten to invade us in the immediate future - but Ironforge does."
"I still find it hard to believe," sighed Katerina. "My missives to Port Baradin fall on deaf ears."
"We do declare, an outrage, on our honour!" spluttered Sphrantzes, eager to hear his own voice again. "As did Lord Tertullus agree with me, as we dined after the Open Council was adjourned - the dwarves' rude antics do display them in their true colours!"
"I have fought men and troll and gnoll and gobol, but I have yet to kill a dwarf!" declared Vitalian. "Let them come! We are free men, not like to let such as them make us slaves!"
"Their... impertinence is regrettable," Lanudal started. "It would be wise, I think, to give a greater effort to finding a diplomatic solution. Perhaps Lady Katerina could travel in person to speak with the commander of the army, and negotiate a peace before war can commence?"
"I would do so gladly. My sister had many acquaintances in Port Baradin - I am certain that cooler heads may yet prevail."
"Then it is decided. I will arrange transport for Queen Katerina myself. A speedy resolution to this matter would be best."
"Best, but how likely?" pondered Sphrantzes rhetorically. "We must consider alternatives! The vile dwarves have no kindly reputation. They were Dalaran's allies, then their enemies, and now declare against peaceful Arathor as well? We should wring an apology from them for this unprovoked act of aggression, at the very least!"
"It has been announced that Lord Vitalian will attend to the great council in Dalaran," said Nikeras. "Their hostility could be thus explained - your enemy's ally is your enemy as well, no?"
"That meeting has nothing to do with them or their vendetta with Dalaran. Damned dwarves should get their facts straight," muttered Rel.
"And yet you have oft encouraged us to declare for Hesperia in their conflict with the Stormwind expedition!" spat Katerina back.
"Aye, to save the Hesperii poor from suffering under another foreign invasion. I think your uncle put them through quite enough of that business..."
"King Dorath wanted to liberate the oppressed Hesperii from that megalomaniac dictator in Dalaran! Whatever hardships befell the people were on Javali's account, not by Dorath's wishes."
"But suffer they did. Do you think another crusade will do them any better?"
"To the countless Lightists living in fear of the Harev's daggers, yes, I do!"
"Peace!" urged Lanudal. "That is all that matters, in this room and out there, in the world. The Four were once persecuted; now they are not. If the Lightists now suffer in Hesperia, that is regrettable. We of the Benefactors do hope to bring Dalaran into our fold, my queen. But until then - Arathor's security is paramount. Lord Sphrantzes is right - we had best send a host to Thandol Span, to stop the enemy army there if needs be."
"Be it so," confirmed Vitalian. "Rel, see to it. Teach the shortlings Highlander lessons. If need be I will have an Elf take me there."
"Take with you the Crimson Cabal," said Lanudal instead.
"Us?" asked Alexius, eyes glittering.
"Them?" asked Sphrantzes after a short silence.
"For too long have the Crimson Cabal been shut in their tower, would you not say, Magus?"
Head bobbing eagerly, Alexius agreed. "Emperors have come and gone and for much too long have my proud order been forgotten, yes, yes, my lord. We wish but to serve" - and the bobbing changed direction, towards Mallick - "my lord."
Katerina frowned. "The Cabal has only ever been called upon in times of utmost need, Magus."
"Nor do Vitalian need conjurors to beat a few short dwarves," rumbled Mallick, disapproval plain.
"We are facing an invasion, gentlemen!" protested Nikeras. "Let the Cabal do what it was meant to - to protect our realm."
"Indeed, indeed, it is but our wish, our desire, to be of service. We who are the faithful - the first school of magic! Fallen disciples and lesser men founded new orders for their own profit, but we, we remain, true as the day we were created!"
Lanudal smiled. "Quite so, Magus. The neglect of Arathor's Lightist emperors - and, at times, their outright disdain for their arcane servants, have rewarded the kingdom poorly. It is time we changed all that."
Katerina nearly choked. "Disdain? Are you referring to the mad preachers speaking of Hell and condemnation of all sorcery?"
"I am indeed, my queen."
"Surely my lord does not mean to say that the Emperors of Arathor have been in any way influenced by the common superstitions of the people?" Sphrantzes spluttered. "Vizier, I do protest! The separation of the Cabal from court has been one of benign tradition for generations!"
"I do. Tell me, Alexius, how often has the Cabal declined any request by the Emperor, to your knowledge?"
"None, lord vizier, none!"
"And had you been sent against, say, the Freedom Movement, to destroy it - would you think Lord Vitalian here could have risen again to take over the country?"
"Never, lord vizier!"
Mallick grunted angrily. "His point, Lanudal?"
"Simply that the followers of the Four have not been the only ones to suffer... indignities... during the Lightist emperors' long reign. Simply that we must open our eyes to the adversities of others, so that we might uplift one another. For instance: the orthodox Lightists of the city sought funds this morning to finish their monument to the one called Duokas."
"What of it?"
"They were laughed out of the Lords' Round by Muharist clansmen and reformist lowlander nobles."
"Poor reward for such service," mused Bryenn. Rel nodded, and even Mallick grunted his assent. Duokas had been a fiery champion of the rebellion.
"They will have their funds, then," Nikeras decided. "Was that your point?"
"Hardly. We must look farther still. Before Lady Katerina departs, I would have her draft an open letter to her cousin, Lord Eldengar. Offering him and all his followers a complete pardon, reinstatement of office and returned lands and possessions."
The clansmen looked ready to burst with outrage. "Pardon? I want that nievit dead!" shouted Mallick.
"Surely, it would cause an outrage among the clansmen, lord vizier," objected Nikeras. "A pardon, perhaps, but reinstated with full honours? Eldengar is a symbol of the ancient regime! It would be seen as... as admitting defeat! Inviting the old aristocracy to take back control over the country."
"I know," replied Lanudal. "Which is why I wish to also instate a third council - perhaps one to alternate with the Open Council in the Lords' Round, every second or third day the senate is called. A public council, a people's forum, where the common man may have their grievances be heard by the ministers of the government, and their opinions be given as great weight as the lords of the Open Council."
Bryenn began to laugh. "It is brilliant!"
"I never took you for a cynic," came a sinuous voice from behind.
Lanudal turned from the view of the Bay's gray-green waters, leaned back on the cold merlon.
"Irael. To what do I owe the displeasure?"
Sharpened teeth bared in a smile. "Come, now. I have returned!" The slender, white-cloaked, white-maned, red-lipped Elf flung his arms wide in an expansive gesture.
"I was not aware that you had left."
Again, the smile, modulated slightly to impart a message just thus: why, of course you were not aware. If you had been, it would have implied you had any kind of control over me. Which you do not.
"But you have not answered my question!"
"You did not ask me anything, Irael."
"Very well, you have not responded to my comment - quite rude, you know." He sidled up to the battlements, leaned out, breathed in the salty air. "I was referring to your cold-hearted exploitation of Mannish psychology to preserve your balance of power while still gathering more strength to yourself."
Lanudal frowned. "I do not recall having done anything of the sort."
Arched eyebrows grinned at him. "Of course not. You are here to, ah, hear the 'voices of the people', was it?"
"Whatever you think, we of the Viridian believe in the sanctity of life, of right, of liberty. What I do, I do for I think it is right, that it helps others."
"Hah, Mnesthians and their sentimentality. If not for the Benefactors, you'd still be slaves to the Sunking, tending his gardens, no? Old King Kariel hardly seemed to share your regard for the, ah, 'sanctity of life'."
"Death is as much a part of life as life itself! And we were the persecuted, the hunted ones! This war, all of it, has never been about whose faith is right, but that each and every one has the right to believe as they will, to be what they wish to be! The Benefactors believe in the equality of all individuals, of all races!"
A short pause. Lanudal realized he had been shouting.
"And yet you seek to control them."
"To guide them!"
"By conquering them."
"By advising them! Nowhere have we conquered, or laid claim to what is not ours."
"Except here, of course." Irael's teeth gleamed in a sliver of sunlight. Too polished, and somehow... fused? "You were here, no, when Vitalian took Stromgarde?"
"I... King Kariel sympathized with the clansmen's plight, and yes, Lord Mallick was made Lord Protector. Hardly did we usurp anything that was not already falling - and, besides, we strive to mend relations to the old regime."
"Why ever you'd want that."
"Our opponents are misled, Irael, no more. If they are shown the truth, understanding and compassion, no longer will they be opponents to our cause, but followers!"
"You have lofty expectations of Men, methinks. No. Men are ruled best from pyramids. Let them form the base, thrown on a spectacle at the top, and let the fruits flow down" - he made a wave-like gesture with his hand, as water trickling down a slope. Or some other fluid. "Bread and games, Lanudal, and the few lording over the masses. That is Mannish civilization."
"Only because no other way has been attempted. My forum will change that."
"Your 'public council' is a game to entertain the masses! Surely you do not think any real change will come of it?"
Lanudal sighed. "What is it you want, Irael? Why have you come?"
"I heard that the Vitalians will send an army to Thandol Span, to stop the Baradin army from entering Arathor."
"It is foolish, is what."
"You would have me break the Span, as your master suggested?"
Incredulous laughter. "Madreen told you to break the Span? Hah! Why am I even surprised?"
"Have you another suggestion, then?"
"Why, let the dwarves in and let them pillage to their heart's content, of course."
"You jest, but hardly in good taste."
"I do not jest at all. I am dead serious."
"Why on earth would I let that happen? You Ivory have strange notions! One of you would have me break the Span and destroy trade to the south; the other would have me sit idly by as the countryside is ravaged!"
"Tell me, Lanudal, are you aware of the strange properties of spider's blood?"
"Have you gone completely mad?"
"I take it that you do not. Suffice to say, in the days following my master's departure from the caves of Jintha'alor, I had plenty of time to consider that, and many other mysteries. Truly, remarkable things can be achieved with the blue-tinted fluids in spiders' bodies. You are aware, I presume, of the Mezejin arts of blood thaumaturgics?" Eyes glinting, long-nailed fingers of one hand tapping his lips - yes, this was the Ivory disciple Lanudal had learned to do his best to avoid. They were, alas, alone on the battlements.
"I see not how that has anything to do with this."
"Then tell me this: are you one of the Undying?"
"I... no. Few among the Benefactors are."
"King Kariel was, no? At least five centuries old, yes?"
"What has this to do with the army of dwarves you would have me let loose on the people of Arathor?"
"Bear with me. So, even though the brunt of your supporters were base-born, like to not even see three centuries before they die of old age - they followed Winthalus for generations."
"It was not always Winthalus. Rimtori was there, and before them, the Templar and the Yol'tithians..."
"Undying, or near enough, all of them. With decades and centuries to hone their skill, to perfect their art, to amass their wisdom. Even when their longevity is the symbol of your oppressors, you follow them unquestioningly. And Madreen Chameral, the Ivory Templar - he was old when the Troll Wars were fought. He is ancient. He has fought more wars than you can imagine. Who knows if he and his likes will ever die?"
"All of us join Mnesthes, eventually."
"Undoubtedly. But the point was this: through all of his long life, the Templar has wandered the world, occasionally taking sides in one conflict or another, waged some short campaign against this troll tribe or that. Never does he fail to attract a following, to muster support. Do you know how he does it?"
"He is a Templar! A leader of all followers of the Four!"
"He is an old, bitter, spiteful Elf. Men follow him when he leads, because there is always someone to be led against."
"Of course. In every conflict, there is an enemy. What of it?"
"You miss the point. Had Madreen Chameral ever considered Men a worthy investment of his time - and not as tools in his occasional strikes on Trollkind - he could have conquered the world long ago, for he is a master of a simple principle. Which is what I am trying to teach you - learn from your betters! There is no shame in that, is there? And the lesson is this: every good leader needs an enemy for his people to unite against."
"So... you would have me let the dwarves burn and pillage, in the hopes that this will somehow unify Arathor behind Mallick Vitalian? We already have an enemy - the troll!"
"Which we turned back all the way to Jintha'alor! The southern nobles have no concept of the threat posed by the troll tribes, but are quite familiar with one another's disagreeable aspects. While the troll yet slumbers, take this opportunity to forge them together!"
"I... you are mad. Invite the enemy into our homes? Who can say if we'll be able to control them?"
"Well, that is where the interesting properties of spider blood comes in. You see, I have just returned after a second visit to the caves of Jintha'alor..."
Last edited by Ashenmoon : 05-19-2012 at 04:40 AM.
The Malefactors and the Elves
The hills of Arathor looked like camel humps amidst a desert of brown grass. As the night gave way to dawn, the sky turned from black to purple and finally to gold. Madreen Chameral watched as the stars were extinguished one by one.
Madreen Chameral sat in meditation at the edge of camp. Every so often, the chilly breeze of late autumn whistled in his ears. Behind him, the clansmen sang their morning melodies, of fighting and glory to come.
And thus, it was a new day like any other for Madreen Chameral. As long as living memory served him, each new morning in Arathor had always been so. Some things never changed.
"My lord." a silky voice called to him.
And so, time marches on, Madreen thought. And a moment's peace, like all things, can only last so long. Madreen rose to his feet.
"What is it, Andrael?"
The young Andrael stood with hands clasped behind his back and eyes lowered.
"By the Light of the Sun. Fair morning to you, Templar. A moment of your time? I would speak with you for a moment."
"You have my attention, Andrael." Madreen drawled, weary of the youngling's trivialities. "As always, you have my guidance."
A frown creased Andrael's expression.
"Someplace more private, my lord Templar. This is a matter regarding your enemies and your safety. Come with me. I know just the place."
Madreen raised an eyebrow. His enemies? He had outlived them all. Unless the boy meant the royalist rebels, though they posed no threat. With a grunt Madreen followed the whelp into the valley below, out of sight of camp.
Andrael kept walking.
"Where are you taking me, youngling?"
"It is not much further, lord Templar."
At last, they halted before a stream running down the hillside. In the distance, Madreen could still hear some of the clansmen singing. But the camp was out of sight.
Andrael bowed his head.
"Wait here, lord. I will be back shortly."
Back shortly? What, did the youth really expect him to wait on him? Madreen watched in disbelief as Andrael trotted back towards the camp. Before Madreen could think up a punishment, his communication stone flared. With a sigh he lifted it out of his pocket. Lanudal's voice bleared out of it, ruining Madreen's morning. Lanudal raving to him about the Awakening.
Little did Lanudal know that the Prophet had already told him everything. Then Lanudal broke off to speak with Rimtori, and Madreen waited until they mentioned Teliel Zamashen. And then Madreen could no longer contain his contempt.
"Do not overestimate that girl. 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."
Brutus Armaggon breathed in the cold air and wrinkled his nose. He was not sure he liked the Arathi Highlands or hated them. They were certainly unlike anything he had ever seen before. There was no sign of the sea in sight in any direction. All he could see were barren hills, covered in rocks and dust and memories. It was no place for an Eel.
"He is where I said he would be." the young elf said to the side, interrupting Brutus' sightseeing.
"You had better not be deceiving us, little elf." Cyrisus growled, his eyes burning blue with the perversity of his intentions. Cyrisus stood with the other Malefactor agents assembled around him. As if sensing Cyrisus' power, they flocked to him like bees to honey. Brutus, on the hand, was not sure he trusted this Cyrisus just yet. He was still an unknown.
The young Benefactor before them did not even flinch. His hands were held behind his back in a pose of dignity and self-control. How noble of him, Brutus Armaggon thought. It was confidence that Brutus was sure the elf only had out of ignorance of the danger he faced.
"I deceive, but I do not lie." the young elf stated.
"Very well." Cyrisus snarled. "Onwards, for vengeance."
Vengeance for what, Cyrisus? Brutus wondered.
“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!”
Madreen Chameral panted as he expressed his anger. His fist clenched the communication stone with a fury he had forgotten he possessed. The insolence and sheer inexperience of those that called themselves his equals.
Then he heard movement and saw a man emerge above him. It was no clansman. Immediately, Madreen felt that something was amiss. His rage turned sour, churning into the bitterness available only to old men. He dropped the communication stone. It clattered on the shale at his feet.
And is if in answer, five more figures emerged behind the stranger. Three women and three men in total began to walk down towards him. One of the women wore the garb of the Hareveim. One of the men looked like an elf, but Madreen had lived long enough to know that it was no elf that approached him.
Madreen Chameral's hand went towards his belt, but his sword was not there. He had given it to Irael. And his replacement blade was back in his tent.
"You are Madreen Chameral?" the non-elf asked, his voice echoing on the wind.
"That is what mortals call me." Madreen affirmed with a weary grimace. "But your kind has other names for me, does it not, dragon?"
In an instant, the five other companions of the non-elf halted their advance. Shock and fear replaced their former determination. They had not realised their companion was a dragon. How amusing, Madreen thought as his smile broadened.
The dragon's blue eyes flared brighter.
"Thorel osh'onza. You will regret your choice of words."
"You have the audacity to call me young and insolent, lizard?" Madreen laughed. "I was your better before you were hatched. It is not for nothing your brood calls me Ticharamir."
"I've had enough of this half-troll-shit." one of humans snarled through his mask. The masked man's hand shot out, and a series of clicks were all the warning Madreen received. He threw himself aside and the bolts fired from the human's crossbow whistled harmlessly by. The other human male charged towards him holding a spear; no, a harpoon. Madreen knew he would have only seconds.
At long last, it had come to this. After hundreds of mortal generations wandering without purpose, Madreen Chameral had finally regained his passion. He had a new motivation, a motivation that overpowered any other he had come across in all his years.
The motivation was simple in its brutality. Survive.
And as the human tore towards him, Madreen Chameral began to laugh. He remembered then that he too was an animal. Underneath it all, in the end, he too was motivated by the same baselessness as the humans he had learned to hate. Civilization was a lie after all. All that mattered was survival. And so, Muharism died within him.
But he would not die with it.
The harpoon-wielding human leapt forward, stabbing straight towards Madreen Chameral's exposed throat. Hatred overcame him. Madreen's blood boiled. And so the human was hit by the force of a thousand years of meditation and magical practice. The force sent the man spiralling right over Madreen's head and towards the bottom of the valley. He smashed into the rocky stream with a crunch.
Seconds later, the magic of the women and dragon tore into Madreen's chest. Fire, ice, earth and wind ripped through his robes and flesh.
But the pain only fuelled Madreen. On his feet, the Ivory Templar shoved his hands into the bloodied mess that was his chest. The blood empowered him. His own death became a rebirth.
"I... will show you... why they call me... Ticharamir!" he wailed, arcs of crimson magic ripping from his body. The stream, bloodied with the man's contents, came alive. The water reversed its course and began flowing uphill. Then the water began to build up, into the shape of dragon. A dragon of blood, the likes of which he had unleashed upon Clan Bhelgar.
Madreen groaned as the blood elemental formed a connection with him. Then it was done. With an unearthly screech the blood elemental flowed towards its enemies, catching the real dragon off guard in its humanoid form.
Distracted by the elemental, the men and women turned their attention away from Madreen for a moment. The Ivory Templar wiped his gore-stained mouth and hobbled towards the clansmen encampment.
He heard the disembodied roar of his blood elemental as it crashed against the earth. Madreen spared a glance behind him. The Blue Dragon had ditched its humanoid form, and was warding off attacks from the blood elemental with magic.
A cry went up from the clansmen camp above. They must have seen the dragons fighting. Gathering above, they raised their spears and roared in defiance. Madreen stumbled into the midst of the camp and collapsed. The clansmen encircled him and carried him to his tent, cursing and swearing in their vulgar dialects of Common.
"We send healer for you." a clansman told Madreen as he was placed on his bed.
"Kill the dragon." Madreen growled through gritted teeth, pain chewing at his senses. "Kill the dragon."
Abandoned in his tent, Madreen began to lose consciousness. But he had survived. He would be there for the Awakening the Prophet had promised them. And then Muhar would forgive him for his lapse of faith...
... Andrael walked into the tent.
Andrael. Realisation dawned upon Madreen Chameral.
"It was you..."
Andrael said nothing. He was holding Madreen Chameral's new sword.
"You are an agent of heresy, my lord Templar." Andrael stated, his eyes watering with self-hatred. "I have no choice. By the Light of the Sun, by the True Faith, and by my honour as a Malefactor, I condemn you to die."
A tide of clansmen were tearing down towards the Malefactors. Cyrisus knew that he could not handle both the blood elemental and all the clansmen as well. They were outnumbered. Then, something changed. The scales tilted.
Just as suddenly as it had appeared, the blood elemental began to thrash and wail as it dissolved into the earth that had birthed it.
Cyrisus knew then that it could only mean one thing. Madreen Chameral was dead. The clansmen all stopped in shock and awe as their blood elemental abandoned them. They were suddenly facing an angry Blue Dragon alone.
There was no time to kill them all. Cyrisus reverted to his humanoid form and wove a portal in the air. He ushered the surviving Malefactors through it, back to the Box. Then he passed through himself. The portal winked shut behind him.
When Brutus Armaggon awoke, the first thing he noticed was the pain. His head was a maelstrom of suffering, and he could hardly feel his left arm. With a groan he rolled over. The twin constellations of Kari’sus and Uwen appeared above him, warning him that it was night.
It became apparent that the Malefactors had left him for dead. Indeed, he was surprised to find himself alive.
With a groan, he hobbled onto his feet. His left arm was dislocated. Dried blood pulled at the hairs on his head. There was no sign of anybody anywhere.
He managed to drag himself onto a nearby hilltop. From there, he saw the endless expanse of hills stretch on all around him. The clansmen encampment was gone. They had packed up and moved on, probably immediately after the ambush.
The chances were that Brutus Armaggon would soon be hopelessly lost. He had not memorized any maps of Stromgarde, but even if he had, he was a navigator at sea, not on land. All that he knew was that the ambush was to take place somewhere south of a city called Strom's Hand.
So his best bet was to head north. And that is what he did.
He walked and he walked, all through the night, morning and day. Drinking water from streams and eating rations he had taken for the mission, he managed to keep up a steady pace. Perhaps he could feign an ambush by bandits, and smuggle himself aboard a merchant caravan headed for the coast.
The agony of his wounds did not slow him. Instead they sped him up, because he knew that he risked infection and death if he took his time.
But in the end, Brutus Armaggon could go no further. By the following evening, he tripped and fell. He rolled down one of the wretched hills and was still at the bottom. Delusion overcame him. That is how he explained what happened next.
He had visions or dreams of people he once knew, places he had once been. Hallucinations became his companions as he lay dying. Madness was sure to take him.
But when the waking nightmares faded, Brutus Armaggon found that he was in a cave. A cave with a fire burning beside him, and an old man tending it.
For a time he said nothing and watched the old man stir the fire, wondering who it was that had saved him. By studying the old man, he could at least make an accurate guess.
The man wore humble robes, but one thing distinguished him from a crazed bucket-worshipper. This hermit had a eagle-marked blade, the weapon of a Tribune of Stromgarde.
Last edited by Timolas : 05-13-2012 at 03:55 PM.
Join Date: Apr 2006
The world has become a molten mess of colours, like splashes of paint on an endless canvas. Though you can feel the seats of the steamhouse below yourself, you appear to be floating in an eternal void of strange sensations.
"Are you still there?" You ask, trying to keep yourself calm. You extend a hand to where Korran was just a moment ago. Your hand passes through thin air. "...that's not comforting." Even the feeling of the seat you're supposed to be sitting on vanishes, and you are fully immersed in what you hope is a hallucination. You can't get over the nagging feeling like something about your state of being is fundamentally different from usual, but you can't tell what it is.
Suddenly, you feel the presence of someone behind yourself. As you turn around, you witness a being unlike anything you've ever thought of. Its general shape is like that of a great dragon, but much longer and sleeker, as well as covered in shaggy dark gray fur. It seems to have no spine, but is instead circled up as it floats above you, like a gravity-defying snake. It has four limbs, the upper pair bony with sharp talons and the lower ones broad and sturdy. Two pairs of wings are spread behind it, covering much of the "sky" beyond: one dark and demonic and the other like those of a mighty eagle. Its head is fairly small for its size, but has a great lion-like mane as dark as the rest of it, while its face is as if a leathery mask hastily placed above the fur, with glowing, golden eyes and a snake's tongue flicking out from its muzzle.
Before you have time to panic, the creature flexes and speaks in the voice of the Bruxist cult-leader: "Do not be alarmed, Cenus Zanaxer. It is only I."
You take a look at Korran's spirit avatar and ask: "Why do you get to be... that, while I am stuck my normal self?" You look down on your puny human body.
"Because inside your Cenus Zanaxer body is a mind that wishes to be nothing else than Cenus Zanaxer, and only wants the world around him to change and accept that Cenus Zanaxer is the greatest thing to be", Korran answers and shifts around in the air, his great coils moving lazily across the empty space.
"I prefer Javali", you mutter before clearing your throat and looking this thing in the eye. "So, the ritual is working, then?"
The humongous beast looks around itself, as if expecting to see the steamhouse return, and then does the closest thing its physique can produce to a shrug. "I would say it is."
"Very well then. Let's get this over with", you say loudly, pretending to be in charge of this whole process. "I need to commune with Phorcys."
Before your eyes, Korran's humongous spirit appearance shrinks down until it's the width of a normal snake (though many times longer), upon which point he flies through the air and sits on your shoulder. You remain still, though you can't stop yourself from tensing up as you feel his very material-feeling weight on yourself. "And that you shall."
A shimmering, bluish portal appears before you, breaking up the surprisingly non-sickening colour-blotch background. The space behind the portal is pure black. "Step thorugh", Korran advises.
As you do, the portal doesn't so much close behind you, as it ceases to be. The moment you cross it, the miscoloured void behind you vanishes, and the black emptiness you're entered turns into a landscape. Some ancient ruins, almost entirely swallowed by thick forest, are visible amidst the trees. In the distance, you can hear the sound of the ocean's waves. "We are in Phorcys' dreams. We must go deeper before we can have any kind of effect on what we are shown..."
You nod slowly, and then ask him: "So... more portals, or do I have to actually walk physically deeper?"
"There's nothing physical about it", your guide says patiently. "You must walk through to progress, because your mind equates walking with travelling." He once again twists his coils a bit. You feel his weight shifting against your shoulder.
You walk forward in silence heading toward those ruins, and soon come across two men going the same way. They are walking through the forest as well, seeming alert and anxious. They look... faded, their colours blurred and their appearances lacking in detail. However, one of them is clearly Phorcys himself, many years younger and way less... squishy.
As you'd expect, the men seem unable to perceive you. This is Phorcys' memory of some past event, so it'll play out as he recalls it regardless of what you do. You follow these two, a few paces behind as they walk forward. As those ruins grow nearer, the two men watch them with awe. You notice that even though the forest and the men themselves seem to be worn, partly forgotten, every detail of the ruins remains. You're not quite sure if they're troll or ancient human in origin...
As the men approach the ruins, suddenly a half-transparent figure appears before them. They take cautious steps back from... a man... and that is all that can be said of him. He bears no feature on him whatsoever, that Phorcys has pressed to memory. But barely a second after him, another ethereal shape appears half a pace behind. A bird consisting of a spiky iron skeleton covered in bright red flames, every detail sharp as broken glass. The bird flaps its wings and remains still behind the blank man, and somehow you know that the two are one being.
Phorcys crouches down a little and asks: "Who are you?" The only answer he receives is a lightning-fast poke to the forehead.
Before you can so much as guess what is happening, Phorcys' surroundings start to melt and flashes of different scenes in other places and times start to appear all around. You look at them with alarm, recognising that a great many of them contains trolls and... purple elves?
Korran shifts his weight on his shoulder. "You may stay here if you wish, or advance forward. I see that this part of Phorcys' mind is haunted by a memory that seeks to obsess him." You hesitate for a moment. The flashes of foreign memory seem to grow slower, and focus in roughly the same content. Eventually shruggling, you walk past the four figures and into the ruins.
A few seconds pass after you walk through that scene that your surroundings reshape themselves. Now you are in a beach filled with floatsam and seaweed. As you walk forward, you see a shape amidst the planks move. In this memory, Phorcys has already changed to his fugly appearance. Panting, he rises to his knees and gives out a primal scream of defiance to the skies, his body covered in torn rags and seaweed. You can't help but snigger at the sight of him before passing him by.
"Was that a memory too?" You ask Korran, waiting to leave this area and enter the next mindscape.
"Could have been, though it is also possible it was a representation of Phorcys' determination to keep going no matter what hardships he endures. A man swimming ashore from a shipwreck would be a good symbol of that to a sailor."
The beach vanishes, and you arrive to a large stone hall with doors at both ends, where another you is waiting. He is not quite you, though, but looks shorter, uglier, crueller. "Is that what I think it is?" You ask, a wide smile spreading to your face.
"Yes. Phorcys' mental projection of you", Korran answers.
As you approach the other Javali, he smirks in an arrogant manner and says: "The old religions are in crisis? My empire is more important!"
"What does that mean?" You ask, cocking an eyebrow.
The other Javali doesn't seem to hear you, but swishes his cape haughtily, lifts his nose and announces: "My allies are my first priority. Right after the morning orgy with my Hareveim harem."
You burst into laughter. You could stay here all day and listen to the literal voice of Phorcys' personal bias against you. "You don't understand. I had to sell those priceless cultural artefacts to a private collector! I need that money to uphold my outrageously refined taste for wines!" The strawman-Javali insists to your amusement.
"This is how your allies view you, Cenus Zanaxer", Korran says. Even he can not keep the sliver of amusement out of his voice. "If you are quite done enjoying the irony, we should perhaps go."
"Very well, very well", you say and force yourself to leave the funniest thing you've ever seen behind.
While you walk, Phorcys' view of you has time to yell out two more gems: "No, don't go! My parents didn't love me and I am secretly insecure about that!" and "Come back in reach so I can stab your backs!"
Once you reach to open the door at the other end of the room, the scenery once again melts away and is replaced by a seemingly endless desert. Phorcys (this time represented as the pathetic, wasted-away version that you brought to Korran's home with you) is standing in a crouched position, his hands shaking, looking alarmed. No, scratch that. Paranoid. As soon as he hears your steps, his eyes dart to you in panic and he jumps the other way to avoid some imagined blow.
"We there yet?" You ask Korran as you watch the Phorcys take cautious steps away from you, his eyes large with suspicion and mistrust. "This can't be Phorcys' soul, or whatever we're searching for."
"You are correct. This is still his subconscious. Another part of how he views his life", your temporary shoulder-pet responds thoughtfully.
Just then, something appears behind Phorcys. You don't really have time to see what it is, but it's coming right for him and you're not sure if it's safe to let his self-projection die. "Watch out", you yell and point at the thing.
For a terrible moment, you fear the skeletal-thin man is going to say "Like I'm going to fall for that-" and then have his head chopped off. Instead, he falls into the ground, just barely avoiding the swing of a saw-like sword held by his floating assailant.
The attacker... is unlike anything you've ever seen. The general body shape, including the presence of breasts, suggest it is female. However, it's hard to tell for sure because it is not only a reptile in human shape, but also terribly wounded. She has no legs, but instead just bloody stumps below her waist, her hide is full of bloody scars, and her eye sockets are empty and actively bleeding. And yet, when she turns her gaze to you, it is clear she sees you.
You raise a hand and try to conjure flames to destroy the thing, but find yourself unable to. "You have no magic here, fool", Korran says. "Run."
The flying brutalised lizard woman lets out a hoarse breath and starts to float toward you. You hesitate for a moment before turning around and running from her as fast as you can. "Why no magic, you imbecile! You didn't tell me!" You mutter before focusing your breath on running.
"Because it is obvious. Of your body, mind and magic, only the mind is here. You have no magic because this place is not a physical world where the arcane can even be used", Korran barks at you and jumps off your shoulder to fly ahead of you, annoyed by the bumping of your shoulder. You can hear the breathing of this murder-lady getting louder and louder.
Finally the empty plains vanish and you enter another setting. Korran is back on your shoulder. For a moment, you consider knocking him off to show your displeasure with the withholding of facts.
The newest location looks like a normal middle-class home, but everything appears gray. The walls, the furniture... everything. Ahead, you hear a low female voice talking, and a male voice responding to it every now and then. Somewhat cautious for another dangerous situation, you creep forward silently.
You come to the door behind which the voices are speaking. You can now hear the words. The woman says: "The faith of your ancestors is going to be subverted by a false prophet. Do you think Mnesthes is going to accept I tried my best as an excuse when you face him after death?" The man grunts and can be heard tossing something aside, causing a ruckus.
You open the door slowly. As you guessed, Phorcys is the man. This time, the woman with him is much more lovely. She's a pale, small lady dressed in a bluish robe. She's kneeling in the middle of the room, looking at Phorcys intensely with her dark eyes. Neither of them seem to notice you, thankfully. She looks at the man, who apparently hurled a chair across the room in rage in response to her question. "Remember the look of disgust on your own son's face when he saw your appearance? You know the people are even more appalled by you. This sea zombie, coming back when everyone had accepted his death and trying to take over his son's kingdom! You'll go down in history as a boogeyman. Behave, children, or Phorcys will crawl from the sea and drag you under."
You walk through the room, hearing Phorcys yank a bookcase down from the wall in silent, brutal denial. Opening another door, you leave the scene.
"How close are we? These scenes seem to variate between pathetic and dangerous", you ask Korran, looking at him as he cranes his overlong neck to take a last look at the happenings behind you.
"Very close", he answers absent-mindedly. "Self-doubt is always close to the soul."
"I wouldn't know", you say cockily and straighten your robes a bit. That's weird, no new mindscape has yet solidified around you.
You spot a looming, humongous shape ahead of you. It's vaguely humanoid, but devoid of almost any characteristics. As you walk nearer, it shimmers and vanishes. "We're there", Korran says grimly.
Before you have time to ask what happens now, the black void around you springs to life. Unlike previously, when locations would just appear as you entered new parts of the subconscious, now a desert actually erects itself around you. A sudden wind blows the sand to the ground, the hills bulge out of nothing and wobble a bit after setting in their right size, weeds grow out of the ground at a heightened pace. "Ahah", you mutter and crouch a bit.
Two vultures actually fly into view and start circling. You roll your eyes at the corniness. "What am I supposed to do?"
The sand around you starts to grow beaming hot. As you walk to a nearby spot of clay-ish earth instead, Korran says: "You are now in contact with Phorcys' soul. Commune with him, if you wish. But do not expect words in return. The mindscape around you is his means of discussion."
You nod slowly and turn your head away from your shoulder-rider, and address your surroundings: "Phorcys, son of Mnesthes! I have come far to talk to you. We have to discuss serious matters, as dangerous rebels are trying to lose the Pagan cause to our enemies!"
The ground before you parts and spits out Anazar and Gianata, who busy themselves with looking suspicious. You slowly nod and continue: "Yes. Those two have stolen away the Scroll of Lore, which is needed to defeat the Lightist threat."
Gianata pulls the scroll out from the folds of her robes and hands it over to Anazar, who proceeds to read it and smite down waves of strange folk dressed in venomous green outfits that are suddenly running at her. The idea is somewhat clear: Phorcys thinks the scroll is being used by those two for some kind of purpose, with a clear enemy of some sort. Maybe this has to do with the crisis of faith you've heard mentioned a few times now.
You hesitate a bit and then say: "Yes, I think I've heard their noble arguments. Something about the Hareveim being subverted from within. However, none of that will matter the slightest bit if the Stormwind armada makes a landing and starts burning pagans alive, regardless of whether their faith has been corrupted or not."
The two women and their combatants vanish, and the desert seems to churn in thought for a moment. It starts to slowly change into a beautiful seaside vista, probably as a show that Phorcys is no longer as hostile toward you as he were initially.
Two new figures appear before you. One of them is yourself, once again depicted as an unlikeable, slimy person (how much more wrong could Phorcys' view of you be?), while the other is clearly Thaumas Proudmoore, Phorcys' son. Thaumas is considerably younger than he was before his death, and much more... heroic-looking. Funny how these things work.
"I've got your back, buddy!" The pseudo-Javali says, making a cheesy gesture of companionship at Thaumas, who nods at him. Javali then proceeds to pick his nose while a man with a knife sneaks up to the two and stabs his friend in the back. The three shapes disappear.
"That's hardly how it went", you argue. In truth, you hired that hit on Thaumas, but Phorcys doesn't have to know that. "I was attacked at Fenris Isle as well, in case you forgot. The Lightists let that summit devolve into a bloodbath, and unforunately I could not save everyone."
There's a moment of silence. The mental Javali flickers into existence again, looking a little less repulsive, and a dead young man is at his feet. He looks at the boy, as if unsure whether to feel sad or not. You nod your head solemnly, keeping yourself from smiling. "Yes. I lost someone too, back then." Someone being the key word here; for the life of you, you can't remember the kid's name right now.
The imaginary Javali's face turns a bit more handsome, and also sadder. Your bluff went through. "Look", you say and stare into the distance. "I need the Scroll of Lore. That thing has the potential the win the war overnight, if held by the correct person. I could literally turn the Stormwind armada's ships into pudding. And after the faith is secured from threats without, we can focus on the dangers within. How does that sound?"
There's a silence. The mourning Javali vanishes, and instead storm clouds start to gather in the horizon of this coastal locale. In the distance, you see a glimmer, and through a sickening visual effect, your view of that location is zoomed. You see a manor of some sort, with Gianata and Anazar visible through the window. The effect vanishes after a few seconds. "Whoah", you mutter. "You know where they are. Can you give me an exact fix on that location?"
The storm clouds roll nearer and nearer. You look into the distance, and wonder if the distant coast you can see from here even corresponds to any real geography. Suddenly the piece of cliff you're standing on breaks off from where it is, and flies toward where you saw that manor. It moves incredibly fast, but you feel no wind or gravity pulling you backward off your feet. Soon the piece of stone and grass rises high, and gives you a few of that manor from above, high enough to see the surrounding landscape.
It takes you almost a full minute, but finally you recognise where this hideout is supposed to be. You slowly nod, and look into the sky. "Thank you, Phorcys. I'll do my best to not harm the two women. Anazar is practically family to me, and Gianata is... a respected figure among the wizards of Dalaran." It takes you a beat to come up with any kind of good thought on that old she-goat. Hopefully you didn't come across as too obious...
"Let's go", you mutter to Korran. He gets off your shoulder and floats in front of you. There's a flash of light, and you appear in that void you were in at the very beginning. "Ugh... that was surprisingly easy in the end."
"Yes", the serpentile cult-leader says, flying a few dozen paces away from you and growing back into humongous size. "I think you forgot the implications of what we witnessed before that. This normally proud man is desperate and depressed. He's reaching to be some help to someone. You took advantage of his insecurities, and got him to give you information despite his personal dislike of you..."
He turns to look at you, and you realise you're still tripping. "Can you not wake us up, or do you choose not to?" You ask simply.
The humongous creature before you flexes a little, and that mask-like face twists into a smile. It looks like the flesh is tensed almost to the point of ripping by this gesture. "You always manage to surprise me with your sharpness, Cenus Zanaxer. Before we return to the world of flesh, I would like you to know something."
"Tell me", you say calmly, looking up at this thing. You're not sure what will happen if Korran actually attacks you in this state. However, out of principle, you are not going to let physical intimidation budge you.
"This supposed demigod may well be legitimate", he says and starts to lower his head down to your level. "There were things in his subconscious that a mortal man of this world would not know, unless told by the Gods themselves."
"Point taken", you say and cross your hand over your chest. "Would that be all?"
"No", the cult-leader's voice booms. "One other thing. You must know this, if you lust after the powers of the Scroll of Lore. Despite the extraordinary powers is possesses, it is not a simple magic amplifier for power-hungry wizards to fight over. The Scroll holds knowledge directly originating from Zinine herself. Some of it is from the other Three."
"So, I should not seek it?" You ask, cocking an eyebrow.
"No. If you are to combat others over it, win. This sort of power was not meant for those weak of mind, Cenus Zanaxer. You are strong. You are of Brux. Over all those Hareveim and archmagi, you are the one who must have it." Korran doesn't wait for your answer, but flies directly skyward. Soon, there is a flash, and you awake in the steamhouse.
I leave Khaltrax Korran's house soon. True to his words, I am terribly uncomfortable in my sweaty robes. I decide to leave Phorcys here, for the cultists to do as they will. If he wakes up, he knows where to find me.
I conjure a portal in the air, and my group rides through it to catch up with the army. I can't spare any more time. I have to start planning my assault on this manor. I have to have the Scroll.
I am Javali.
Co-creator of UFS, a joint urban fantasy setting.
“Highlord-” Anazar began.
“There is nothing for you to say, Lady Anazar. I am well aware of what Madreen Chameral was capable of. Even someone of his strength should have fallen with little trouble to the force I sent to slay him,” he continued. “Despite this team’s tremendous power, it is obvious that most of you have little concept of teamwork. I trust you to work on that skill, for it is sorely lacking.”
“Yes, Highlord.” Iolande Elliot said in response.
“Good. Now Cyrisus, would you please tell me what the hell happened to Brutus Armaggon?”
“Our retreat was rushed, Windrunner. We had not the time to retrieve his body.”
“Did you see him perish?”
“No, but I highly doubt-”
“You do not know Brutus Armaggon. I have little doubt he still lives.” Xalmor interjected. “He will need extraction. Agent Andrael will find him.”
“Highlord, Cyrisus is not what he appears to be. He is a dragon!” Melusine announced.
“You think I did not know that?” Xalmor said angrily. “I knew. I know everything about you all.” “
“What does a dragon want to be doing in the Malefactors?” Redpath asked.
“Tell, them, Cyrisus, why you are here.” Xalmor ordered. “Tell them, Sapphiron.”
“My duty to Malygos is to guard the treasures of the Blue Dragonflight. I failed. Men’heva slipped past my watch and plundered our trove. He took many precious artifacts.” Cyrisus, or Sapphiron, said bitterly. “I will reclaim them. I will have vengeance, and I will have redemption.”
“We have a mutual foe. Men’heva the Liar.” Xalmor said firmly. “Together, we shall make him pay for his crimes. It is the destiny of the Malefactors.”
“Despite your disappointing work, you did still succeed. Madreen Chameral has been slain. Soon, all will know that nobody can escape our wrath. Let this be a lesson to all those who would follow the false prophet.” Xalmor announced proudly. “Malefactors, dismissed.”
Andrael’s horse sped across the highlands. A heavy leather pouch was tied to his waist. Inside, was the head of his former master. The head of Madreen Chameral. His other pouch contain a collection of coins and other forms of currency. It would hopefully be enough to last. Highlord Xalmor had ordered him to find Brutus Armaggon, dead or alive.
He approached a small town as night fell. Walking quietly through the dirty streets, he found his way to the local tavern. The rooms were cheap and the ale even cheaper. This pleased Andrael, for he desperately needed a drink. He heard that human often found relief from regret and pain in a bottle. He only hoped the same would work for an elf.
Andrael spent several hours drinking cheap ales and spirits. At around midnight, the elf found himself becoming uncomfortably lonely. He spied an alluring young girl nearby. A lady of the night, a lowly prostitute. He introduced himself and only half listened as Arielle, as she said her name was, explained her fee and the guidelines that her Matron Dahlia laid out for her workers. He passed her a few coins and they returned to his room.
In truth, he would have preferred a companion of his own sex. He was not about to be picky in this scenario, however. Cheap pleasure, a sweet distraction, was sorely needed. It didn’t last nearly as long as he had wished it too. He made his way to the latrine and vomited; too much liquor. Smelling of alcohol and desperation, he crawled back into his bed next to his paid companion, and silently wished to die.
“You wished to see me, Highlord?”
Iolande Elliot spoke as she walked into the Malefactor command room. It had formerly been the warden’s office. Xalmor sat in his chair, still slumped behind his desk. His viridian blade sat upon the wooden surface. The templar’s face was still stuck in its typical grim expression. His eyes rose to greet the half-troll lady.
“I did indeed.” Xalmor spoke plainly. “Sit.”
“To what do I owe the honor?” Iolande said as she settled in a chair.
“I understand you handled yourself quite well out there. Almost completely untested, and yet holding your own alongside some of Azeroth’s most seasoned veterans.”
“I am flattered, Highlord.”
“Do not feign modesty, for I understand you well enough to know that is not your way.” Xalmor commanded. “You are a devout daughter of Muhar, and a noblewoman. Your arrogance proceeds you.”
“People do like to talk about me,”
“That they do. You wish to see yourself at the top of a hierarchy, back where you belong.” Xalmor said coldly. “I would have your there as well.”
“What are you proposing?”
“Tell me, what do you know of the Templar? The Templar Four, not the lesser soldiers types.”
“They are leaders of pagans, paragons of their faith. Traditionally, they are elves.” Iolande paused “It is said the Gods themselves choose the Templar Four.”
“We present it as such. Some even believe it themselves. But it was Men’heva who chose us.” Xalmor explained. “Was.”
“What do you mean?”
“With the death of Madreen Chameral, we have been given a rare opportunity. No longer shall the false prophet Men’heva choose our ranks. The Malefactors will ensure that the Templar are followers of the true faith.”
“Iolande Elliot, you shall be the new Ivory Templar.”
In her chamber, Anazar was gathering her few belongings. She had acquired new sets of clothing from the local tailors of Pellerno, who were quite skilled. Her last set of Hareveim garb had been discarded. It had been damaged during the conflict with Madreen Chameral and she no longer cared to mend them. Though she kept the name Anazar, she was no longer Hareveim. The Hareveim was a sick institution, corrupt at the very root. She was Lady of the Malefactors, not a Sister of the Hareveim.
She was preparing a pack, in case she quickly needed to travel. Kindred’s Nave was a likely destination. Xalmor wanted to ensure that relations with Gianata stayed strong. Anazar expected the Highlord to send her there whenever discussion became tense. Or to ensure that they would not. Gianata seemed to still trust her, despite her short confiscation of the Scroll of Lore.
“Do you trust him?” a voice came from the hall.
Anazar turned to see Donald Redpath standing in the doorway. She was amazed at how young he looked. Had she not known him before his rejuvenation she would have thought him to be young, with hair greying before his old age. It was a remarkable transformation, one that Anazar did not truly understand. She didn’t know if Redpath understood it either.
“Do I trust who?” she replied.
“Windrunner. Do you trust him?” Redpath asked again.
“I trust the Highlord. Absolutely.” Anazar answered. “Do you?”
“Not truly. I don’t even know why I remain here. I care little for religious conflict.”
“The Malefactors give you purpose. You lost your home, and though you avenged Middlecreek it remains lost still, forever gone.” Anazar spoke confidently. “You could not stay, and there was nowhere left for you to go but with the Malefactors. Am I wrong?”
“You are not.” Redpath confirmed, approaching Anazar. “But I would not be here if there was body within this organization that I trust.”
“And who, Donald Redpath, do you trust?” Anazar inquired, a somewhat flirtatious tone to her voice.
“Why, Lady Anazar...” he bent down as he spoke. Taking her hand, he kissed it. “I trust you.”
“Care to... demonstrate that trust?”
“Redpath men take their women to dinner first, milady.” he said with a wink before leaving her chamber.
Lady Amorim, Melusine, returned to the Box exhausted. She had just had to suffer through another meeting with the Merchant Council. She needed to let off some steam. Melusine turned a corner and pulled out a key. She opened an inconspicuous door and entered silently. She paused with deliberation. The last time she had been in this room, before Travot Ravenholdt had taken her to Kul Tiras that was, the Buffoon had been strangling her. She had liked that.
This time there was a different guest waiting for her. A tall, raven-haired woman was bound with rope. Pieces of leather armor were hastily and poorly bound to her otherwise bare body. She was awake and struggling against her bonds in vain. Her voice was smothered by a gag. Melusine had taken her from a poorer alleyway of Pellerno. It had been too long since she had done this.
Melusine opened a cabinet and pulled out a staff. Not just any staff, in fact, but the staff of Cathia Malana, the Leopard Priestess. Approaching the woman, Melusine opened the clenched fist of her captive and forced the staff into it, binding it with more rope. Going back to the cabinet, she pulled out some heavy jars. Forcing them open, she dipped her hands inside, covering them with paint.
“Sorry, but this is as authentic as I can afford.” Melusine said, edging nearer to her captive.
She hastily covered much of the woman with a base layer of paint. She followed it with black painted details, in the pattern of leopard’s fur. Her captive struggle fruitlessly. When Melusine was done, the woman somewhat resembled the Leopard Priestess. Close enough for Melusine. Tears streamed down the woman’s face, smearing some of the pain. Melusine drew a dagger and grasped the woman’s jaw, looking into her eyes with a maniacal grin.
“Hello again, mother.”
Andrael clutched at his head, and rolled about on the bed. The alcohol had not helped him forget, but had only given him a horribly strong hangover. He wanted another drink. Looking up, he saw that Arielle was still there. She had woken him up for some reason. He pushed himself up and looked at her. She looked back expectantly.
“What is it?” he asked groggily.
“You said you’d pay me extra if we did that one thing,” she replied vaguely.
“I did?” he honestly couldn’t remember much of what had happened after going to the bar. “Take a few coins from the pouch over there.”
“Okay,” she went over to find the pouch.
“By the way, I appreciate you not stealing it,” he said as he stood up, reaching for his clothes.
“Oh, no. Matron Dahlia doesn’t allow-” she interrupted herself with a scream and dropped the pouch.
“What is it” Andrael rushed over. He saw the head of Madreen Chameral staring at him from the pouch. “Oh. Wrong bag. Sorry.”
“Here, take this,” he handed her a couple more coins. “Now, I’ve really got to be heading off. I’ve got someone to find.”
He made sure to pick up a bottle of Absinthe on his way out.
Cyrisus stood on the roof, watching the sun rise. Xalmor Windrunner approached, having climbed through a hatch to reach the top. There was no wind, only a strange dead air. Being an island, Pellerno would likely not stay as such for long. Cyrisus turned to the Malefactor Highlord, his face betraying no emotion to the elf. Neither were under any illusions as to the balance in between the two of them.
“We called him Ticharamir. He earned the name countless years ago, before he was Ivory Templar. In those days, the structured thoughts of Muhar had not claimed him entirely. The blood of Brux boiled within him still, to his dying day. I saw it in him.” the dragon spoke. “It is good that he is dead.”
“Indeed it is. Now the true faith is one step closer to victory.”
“You know I care not for your trials of faith. I work with the Malefactors because they oppose Men’heva, and only Men’heva. You have no political aspirations or dreams to dirty the cause.” he responded drying. “You are pure.”
“You give me greater honor than I deserve. I merely serve my master.”
“And who is your master? Xaxion Drak’eem?”
“No, my master is Mnesthes, Mueh’zala himself.” Xalmor paused. “I realized, now, that all voices warp the words of my deities. Even the lieutenants of the Four can not be trusted. Xostheron and Akaerna-Sagai, D’vorjakque and Xaxion Drak’eem, they are all too close to mortality, too distant from true divinity, and thus cannot be truly trusted.”
“Then what is your mission now?”
“The same as it ever was. We will crush all those who would keep our faith alive when it is meant to die.” Xalmor said firmly. “Drak’eem and I are in accordance for now. Let us hope it lasts.”
Last edited by HalfElfDragon : 05-13-2012 at 11:07 PM.
Two days earlier, outside Venege.
Bazil did not like waiting. Waiting was playing dice with Fate. The odds could turn against him at any time. Waiting meant that he was not in control.
He could hear General Marius making a speech outside. Then there was a pause. One of the Kirin Mora in the room nodded his head. Bazil grunted, goosebumps covering his skin. And so it begins.
Only seconds passed before a cacophony of blood-curdling coughing and screeching rose out from the streets. The powder bombs had been detonated.
In the palace, they were safe. The Kirin Mora and Tirisfalen had erected a magical barrier to keep the dust out. But Bazil did not like magic. He did not trust magic. Magic was ungodly. Whispering a prayer to Brux, Bazil tightened his grip on his spear.
"This is unnatural. This is wrong. There is no glory in this. No honour when the enemy cannot fight back."
The two Kirin Mora magi threw him a dirty look. Lindea, on the other hand, touched his shoulder comfortingly. Bazil tried to ignore how her touch made him feel. I have to control myself, he thought. Brux is a good of controlled passion, not passion that leads to foolishness and weakness.
"You have that look on your face again, Bazil." the red-headed assassin said. "Don't forget to breathe, big guy."
Bazil snorted and tried to force a smile.
Outside, the sound of fighting broke out. The powder was not working fast enough. Bazil was almost glad.
"They should have retreated into the palace by now." one of the Kirin Mora magi said. Then he paused. "Did you feel that? The shield-"
"But how-" the other mage managed to say, seconds before a reptilian humanoid charged into the room and drove a sword through his belly.
There was no time to think. Bazil leapt into action, spear in hand. He thrust his spear as he charged, driving it through the lizardman's thigh. But the lizardman took no notice, cutting down the other Kirin Mora mage seconds later.
Bazil tugged at his spear, but it would not come free. The lizardman's black scales rippled, and it raised its swords high - but the blow did not fall. Lindea beheaded the beast with her scimitar. It toppled and broke the ground where it fell.
"The shield is down. We might only have minutes..."
Bazil snorted once more, finally pulling his spear free. The woman was right. They had to move. Answers would have to wait for later.
They rushed off towards one of the rendezvous points. When they arrived, they found all the Perinanies and Lordaeron soldiers there dead. Several statues of black metal stood amidst the carnage. And one old mage as well.
It was Dosantos' right-hand man, Filbert de Niglac. And his teeth were needle-sharp. Bouts of flame rose from his eyes.
Bazil had heard of the Imperial Host's Black Iron Golems, unleashed in Silverpine. But they had been pulled off the front lines after going rogue for the duration of a battle. Now they stood active once again.
"The time comes." he hissed, turning towards Bazil and Lindea.
"Run, Lindea. Warn the Grand Master..."
Bazil thundered towards Filbert de Niglac. But his movements seemed to slow down as he drew nearer, until Bazil stood frozen in the air. Cursing magic once again, Bazil readied himself for death. Filbert did not strike him down. The mage opened a portal.
"Bring him through. He is of Ravenholdt. He may know things." the wyrmcult magus commanded. "Korialstrasz must die."
Brux give me strength.
"Where am I?" Bazil asked, scanning the cell he had been thrown in.
"You be in Snowfold." his jailor stated, standing only half-visible in the shadows. "Be feelings welcomes."
"And you are?"
"Me was will be being your most humble host. Some call me... Danny. But you gonna call me Dandred... Dandred Asher, turtlecakes. And yous going to be helping my friends destroy Ravenholdt and their stinky pawns in Alterac. We just need dem magic codes. Then revenge be mine! Revenge for my roof!"
"Who's the flotsam now?!" Dandred laughed.
Ravenholdt and Alterac
"Marshal, if I might have a word..."
Owen Zverenhoff turned. He had been on his way to the Ramrod headquarters when a familiar voice interrupted his thinking. It was the Dragonslayer, Alric.
"I thought you long-gone, young man."
The Dragonslayer did not blink.
"I have located 'Kavdan'."
"And? Did you kill him?" Owen asked. The boy had hardly needed the help of the Ramrods to drive the Black Dragons out of Alterac.
"Kavdan is in Snowfold. A Chancellor hold-out. I will not be able to fight a small army alone. I am Dragonslayer, not a murderer of men and women."
Owen Zverenhoff puffed his cheeks. He had forced every last noble in the land to swear loyalty to the new regime, and the Assassin-Magi had been disbanded. And yet Alterac always had something dirty to throw in his face, no matter how much he tried to stamp out such things. It was like being wedded to a prostitute. And Owen would know, because he once had been. He had not known it at the time, of course. The things one learns about one's wife after marriage...
Alterac, Owen decided, was as wild and untameable as Stranglethorn Vale. The only difference was that instead of wild animals, the country was populated by retards.
"Are you well, Marshal? You are gritting your teeth."
"I'm... fine, boy." Owen sighed. "But I'm beginning to doubt the habitability of this dragons' nest they call a country."
Alric still had not blinked.
"With your permission, regent, I shall train an order of Dragonslayers when all this is over. The order will answer to the crown. And the Black Dragons shall bother Alterac no longer, as long as the Dragonslayers exist. Perhaps you will be able to recommend candidates from amongst your own Legion."
"You know, I just might give that training a try myself, boy. If dragonslaying is anything like divorcing a prostitute, anyway." Owen said, massaging his forehead. "So, what was that you were saying about Snowfold?"
"They made a bargain. The life of one of my finest agents is on the line here, Krasus." Warester Van Dam stated. He watched Krasus cautiously. The humanoid dragon paced angrily in the room, stomping his feet and puffing smoke from his nostrils.
"Atrumarion is too dangerous to be left alive! He is responsible for what happened in Gilneas! In Alterac! He was an ally of Tobijah Kruel and the Chancellors both! Ashastrasz is dead because of his treachery!"
"Misses Friendly told me everything, Krasus." Van Dam said, his face pained. "But I can't lose Magyver McGowan. Not like I lost Myrokos. Not like I lost Wallis, Qu and de Changee."
"You want me to fight in your little war?" Krasus snarled. "I will only do it if the Black Dragonflight is not threatening the Red."
Then he stormed off, leaving Van Dam in contemplative silence.
Good. Good. So he will not interfere.
"Not for now, great lord. The Grand Master is holding Korialstrasz on a short leash." Filbert de Niglac whispered. Atrumarion's voice echoed through his mind again in response.
And what of my brood?
"I am gathering the chosen in Snowfold. Nobody suspects my involvement. I smuggled the Golems out of Venege during the fighting. They will be yours to command."
Excellent, Filbert. You have served me well. Your reward is coming soon, I promise you...
Ravenholdt and Zul'Dare
It wasn't that Ewekapu Marsh particularly cared about what happened to Faldren Darafel. His involvement had more to do with the fact that the angry knife-waving woman had this to say:
"You have seen too much. Sorry, kid. Nothing personal."
And then she tried to kill him.
Faldren Darafel and Nibbles cowered in a corner, and a gorgeous but dangerous woman was fast advancing on Ewe, who stood in the doorway.
Life was never easy.
The woman stabbed him. Ewe grabbed her by the throat. She unleashed a barrage of exotic attacks against him with her fists, but she had expected to fight a human.
Ewe was not a human. Not completely. The trollish part of him gave him impressive stamina and strength. And the ability to regenerate, to an extent.
As the woman beat at him futilely, Ewe pondered his next move. Then he head-butted her, and she went limp. Then he dropped her to the ground.
"Uh, thanks?" Faldren coughed from the corner.
Ewe began to walk away. Halfway through the door, he remembered the dagger sticking in his side. He pulled it out and tossed it away casually, and continued walking. Eventually, he mentioned the unconscious woman to Captain Dampwallace.
"Grand Master Van Dam." Percy announced, bursting into the Grand Master's office. "We found Lolita Scipio, unconscious. She was trying to murder Faldren."
Now why would she want to do that?
Ravenholdt and the Collective
"We're on the open sea at last!" Micaiah chuckled, talking to Myrokos as he always did. Perhaps the man had some sick idea in his head that he could somehow talk his way onto Myrokos' good side, and that Myrokos would then simply agree to become lord of the Collective.
"I still don't see why you're bothering with me." Myrokos grunted. "You don't really think I'm just going to grow to like the job offer you've given me? How can you even trust me if I said yes?"
Micaiah sat with legs crossed and face hidden under his hood. He took a puff from his pipe and blew smoke rings towards Myrokos.
"I'm doing this for your father, not for you. Your father was a good man."
"A good man?" Myrokos nearly spat the words.
Micaiah emptied his pipe onto the deck and ground out the embers with his boot.
"Anandor's philosophy was always the same. To finance a revolution. Alas, he had to make sacrifices along the way... all the Anandors did."
"All the Anandors?" Myrokos asked. "How many were there?"
Micaiah sighed. He pulled his machete from beneath his robe and began to sharpen it.
"I suppose I might as well tell you. Anandor Darafel was a genius."
"Which one was a genius?" Myrokos asked sarcastically.
"Why, the only one!" Micaiah answered cryptically. "Like I was saying, Anandor was a genius. He devised his own immortality, in a fashion. He had a son, a son that was moulded to be a vessel. A vessel for Anandor's memories."
A chill ran down Myrokos' spine.
"That's right." Micaiah stated. "His son was a vessel. When Anandor grew old and frail, he implanted his memories into his son. His son then took on the persona of the original Anandor Darafel. And the new Anandor Darafel did the same thing with his own son. And so it has gone on, for thousands of years. Anandor Darafel is a personality. I am taking you to my home on an island near Dun Argath. There you will be locked away, until Anandor's memories take over in your body."
"It has already begun, boy. The food you have been eating has been laced with chemical agents that have already begun the transformation. You will save yourself a lot of hassle if you give in rather than fight. If you cooperate, I won't have to lock you away. You'll be happier as Anandor, Myrokos. He was a very powerful man. Yours will be a synthesis. Your experience, plus his."
"I won't let him win, Micaiah." Myrokos swore. "I won't let him become the dominant personality. I swear it on my life. I'd rather kill myself."
Micaiah threw his hands into the air.
"Suit yourself, you imbecile. The transformation will be slow and painful then. You will pine away in darkness until the boy you were is dead and gone, until my master has returned."
Then Micaiah stormed off, leaving Myrokos to contemplate the horror ahead of him. Finally, the nightmares made sense.
And somewhere below, the Manta stirred.
Last edited by Timolas : 05-15-2012 at 07:41 PM.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt, the Benefactors, Lordaeron, Zul'Dare, the Collective
Van Dam felt as if he was being pulled from every direction. Strained as he was, he poured over the latest intelligence and reports in his ready room. Even as he attempted to juggle everything, there was no solitude. Someone had snuck in, unseen by anyone else but unable to evade the detection of the Grand Master.
Warester Van Dam: Can I help you, Wrathchild?
Emerging from the shadows, the half-elf slammed her fists on the desk.
Electra Wrathchild: You don’t call me that! Everyone else, fine, but not you! You’re the only one who really knows who I am!
She cocked an eyebrow, rethinking her statement.
Electra Wrathchild: Well, the only one who isn’t a dragon or a foul-mouthed insect.
Warester Van Dam: Fine… Can I help you, Greystone?
Electra Wrathchild: Yes. No… maybe.
Warester Van Dam: I see…
Exhaling deeply, Greystone dropped her guard.
Electra Wrathchild: Look, I just saw my parents out there. My mother, my father, my adopted father.
Warester Van Dam: Did you speak with them?
Electra Wrathchild: What would I say? They don’t even know me. I’ve obsessed over my parents’ murder for a thousand years, and now they’re right here. But what can I do? I can’t tell them who I am. That might cause some ripple effect or something that results in me never being born. Same goes for half the people in this damned Keep that I grew up with.
Warester Van Dam: I’ll admit, that’s a kind of frustration I’m not familiar with.
The time-displaced half-elf moved in closer to the Grand Master.
Electra Wrathchild: And what kind of frustration are you familiar with?
Now Van Dam was the one cocking an eyebrow.
Electra Wrathchild: Here's the deal. I don’t know you from my time. Maybe you die before I’m born. I don’t remember “Electra Wrathchild” either. Maybe we both die soon. You're the only one I can share that with. So since that’s the case, why don’t we live while we can?
Van Dam dropped the reports. Greystone swept whatever else was on his desk off, taking up that space herself as the two passionately embraced.
Shortly thereafter, Percy Fayette burst into the room.
Percy Fayette: Grand Master Van Dam. We found Lolita Scipio, unconscious. She was trying to murder Faldren. And… why are you naked? And sweaty?
Electra had vanished behind the desk. An impressive display of rogue-craft. But it left Van Dam exposed in more ways than one.
Warester Van Dam: Umm… some of Travot’s malevolent washing fluid got on my clothes so I had to disrobe and battle them. Don’t worry, situation is under control. Secure Lolita, I’ll be there shortly.
Percy Fayette: …sure, right away.
After Percy left, the Grand Master looked behind the desk as he gathered up his leather apparel.
Warester Van Dam: We’ll finish this later.
Krasus, flanked by Zero-Zero-One, stood watch on the shores of Fenris as the small rowboat approached. His gaze never turned from the blindfolded individual being lead off the boat and inside the Keep. This was the “vessel” that had volunteered to become the host of Atrumarion after his essence was removed from Magyver. Masked, this dragon cultist concealed his true identity beneath.
Cruel Barb approached unheard from behind, placing her hand on the red leviathan’s shoulder.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: I get that you’re angry, but I gave my word.
Krasus: Atrumarion is responsible for the death of my son! He’s a monster who deserves to burn in the Nether! So, yes, angry is an understatment!
Barb leaned in, whispering into the red’s ear. Krasus' eyes widened at waht he heard.
Krasus: I see. Well, I can’t say that I fully approve, but I understand.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Good.
Van Dam had been concerned that Krasus was going to abandon their cause, but Barb’s words seemed to placate the powerful dragon mage. As she followed the well-guarded “host” back into the Keep, she saw that her compatriots were suited up. Warren, Amarian, and Kid Gorgeous were geared out and ready to be shrunken. New Qu had equipped them with arcane-tech that would enable breathing inside McGowan’s body and powerful vacuum-like containment packets to bottle the offending essence.
Barb’s gear was waiting.
“Cruel Barb” Friendly: Let’s do this.
She’d been interrogated thoroughly. Her plan to kill Darafel had gone array, and now she was desperately trying to salvage was remained of her cover. So imagine Lolita Scipio's relief when her fiancé walked into the dungeon.
Lolita Scipio: Travot! You’ve returned! Finally, someone with sense in this damned place who will let me out of here!
Travot silently pulled up a chair, sitting on the other side of the bars from his betrothed. He stared for a moment, stoic and emotionless.
Travot Ravenholdt: How long have you been working for the Collective?
Lolita Scipio: What? Travot, are you serious? I was attacked by Myrokos Silentform! He’s a traitor!
Travot Ravenholdt: How. Long.
Lolita Scipio: You’re my fiancé, damn it! How could you think that of me?
Travot Ravenholdt: Your communication stone has been making unauthorized transmissions to distant locations. Who were you talking to?
Lolita was silent. Her crocodile tears began to recede.
Travot Ravenholdt: We’ve deposed Marsh and Dampwallace. We know that the Collective wants Darafel dead. You were going to be their weapon. Don’t bother lying at this point, it would just embarrass the both of us.
Lolita Scipio: Well, so much for my cover. Hard to full you assholes once you bother to put an investigation together.
Travot Ravenholdt: Privileged heiress like yourself… how did criminal scum like the Collective get their hooks into you?
Lolita Scipio: They offered a lot more than a life of being daddy’s passive showpiece in Andriano.
Travot Ravenholdt: You were working for them before we even met.
Lolita Scipio: Of course. Did you really think I’d fall for a mustache-twirling chump like you without an ulterior motive? Like killing a few gnolls would make be swoon. I used you to get into Ravenholdt and spy for the Collective. You mean nothing to me.
Travot cringed on the inside, but remained outwardly unphased for several uncomfortable moments of silence.
Travot Ravenholdt: Enjoy your new accommodations. The next person who interrogates you won’t be so gentle.
He got up and left the room as she yelled behind him.
Lolita Scipio: Travot! Travot!!!
This wasn’t how he wanted his homecoming to go. It was bad enough that he could not locate Wotan on Kul Tiras, to which he promised to return for the giant, but to arrive at Fenris Isle only for Van Dam to inform him that his fiancé is a traitor… It was disappointing, to say the least.
Katherine Adai was waiting for him beyond the bars.
Katherine Adai: I’m sorry. I know how crippling betrayal can be.
Travot Ravenholdt: It’s going to be a lot more crippling for her, I promise you that.
Join Date: Nov 2008
The dungeon was hewn out of the limestone rock. It still had a scent of newness about it, of dust yet lingering in the air. The ceiling was roughly put together of planks, sunlight filtering through the many cracks. Now and then a shower of pebbles would rain down on him as someone walked across on the street above.
Ephraim Marsh stalked the confines of his makeshift prison, a restless, caged animal. He flexed his muscles, he glared at the walls as if to bore through them with his gaze alone, but could but take a handful of steps before he returned to his original position.
The lock on the lone door gave a metallic clank and opened.
"You," grated the warlord, voice made hoarser than usual by the injury he had sustained.
"And I come not alone," replied Mathredis Firestar in a sulking voice. Behind him strode the tall frame of the one known simply as Seranidan.
"Duke Marsh," he greeted.
"Discourtesy does not become you, Duke. I do, after all, come to help you." At that, Mathredis gave an annoyed noise. Marsh gave a leer in response.
"Elf-aid is hard to distinguish from their attempts to do harm, I have found."
"The past is past. Had you had more patience, your recent mishaps might have been avoided - with our help, you would have had Zul'dare back by now."
"You sent envoys saying something like that, I seem to remember. Assassins I took them for, and indeed, I hardly find myself as honoured a guest as in King Kariel's court-"
Mathredis was fairly bursting. "King Kariel, whom you killed!"
Ephraim rose to his full length, enough to look down on the younger elf. "Before he had us all killed, boy. The Prophet did order it, I but served."
"The Prophet would never have-"
"Enough, Matha!" snapped Seranidan. "It is in the past. Kariel enjoys the wilds of Mnesthes' gardens; it is for us to carry on his work. Lord Marsh, if you would come with me, it is time you were given more amenable quarters."
"What?" cried Firestar incredulously. "That was it? That is all you are going to say to him? He killed Master Winthalus! He cost us Silvermoon!"
"Do not let your successes get to your head, Matha. You were Winthalus' glorified manservant, nothing more. It will not do, rescuing Mannish kings and treating them as prisoners."
"You come to my camp, to take my captives, and you intend to treat them as heroes? You go too far, Seranidan!"
"Know your place, boy," said Seranidan icily. "You get on my nerves."
Livid, the younger elf almost shook with rage. He was going to retort, but Ephraim spoke first.
"When a servant-boy looks upon his master like so, I have him schooled. Or killed," he added.
Firestar stared at him, aghast. And when Seranidan remained silent, tacitly agreeing, the youth lost all semblance of self-control.
"You... you are no Mnesthian!" he spat at Seranidan. "I will show you! I will show all of you!" he spluttered, and his hand shot out. An emerald flash later, and he was gone.
A short silence followed.
"That was almost too easy," Seranidan mused.
"Indeed," nodded Ephraim Marsh. "You are certain you will be able to control him?"
"Winthalus taught him well. He is a schoolboy still, at heart. His youth makes him temperamental, but his teachings will persevere in the end. The Ring will lead him to the other pieces, but he will return once the Trifecta is combined. To serve."
"It seems a great risk, even so."
"Rimtori would never allow it to be combined, no. Nor will she part with the Vial willingly if she knew it was intended to combine them. She does not understand the dire straits you and I share. Matha will get that Vial, and the Shield, one way or another. But never mind that. It is done. Come, let us away. Let us see what we can do about fulfilling King Kariel's promises to you..."
Arinre studied the wavering edge of the Portal and shuddered inwardly. A window through which she looked into a dark corridor of Sorsbrent Keep, even as she stood on the sun-bathed cliffs of Tol Barad.
Linus stood next to her, speaking to a succession of people. She ignored them all save the small group - including two elves - that would accompany her. The rest would travel by ship or remain here, and now merely wished to make some final impression upon her. She was Queen of Gilneas.
But it had been weeks, months, since she had been in her country. The memory of those final hours had occluded everything before them; her mind recoiled at every attempt to look beyond her sudden appearance in the safety of Patmos. Before that... it all seemed unreal, as if it had happened to someone else. Over the past few weeks, she had grown accustomed to remembering her childhood, her struggles as an adult, her early reign, through a lens of detachment. It was time to go back; perhaps then this distance would be broken.
"Husband," she said, though she had renounced the reality of that claim. Everyone who had witnessed it was likely dead.
"Wife," General Wrynn replied. "Shall I accompany you through?"
"It will not be necessary. But thank you." She leaned over, planted a light kiss on his cheek.
"I will see you again in Dalaran."
"At our wedding."
"Yes." He hesitated. "Good luck."
The council pavilion was a huge structure, dwarfing many mansions of Man. Drapes of damask cloth described a maze of compartments in the back, entire wings appended to the main round with corridors and chambers surrounding gardens complete with fountains; even a large library was nestled into that labyrinth. There were a half-dozen ministries operating within these airy walls, their hushed voices a constant mutter blended with the scribbling on parchment, the clinking of coins, the gentle ripple in the breeze of the sail-like standards above.
In the front was the main meeting chamber, a great semicircle richly furbished with ornate furniture, thick carpets and plush pillows to rest upon. It had been shallowly excavated, so that the floor rose in slight tiers from the centre, which was dominated by a great map set out on a low table. From the ceiling hung banners and pennons of every hue and colour, scrawled with the signs of kingdoms conquered, the heraldry of the great lords who had done it, and verses from the holy texts which they worshiped. Crystals swung in the air, spreading an amber glow, but the fringes of the space were cast in an ochre shade.
Seated on the lower tiers of the wide theatre were barely a dozen figures, but by their heated argument, they more than filled the great arena's emptiness.
"... to be returned to my people! You have no right, Elf, to hold me here! I am queen of Kul Tiras!" Elaine Proudmoore quivered with suppressed rage, cheeks blushed with emotion.
"I invited you here, today, to speak reasonably. Not so that you might waste our time shouting insults at us." Lord Seranidan responded with hardly a touch of emotion.
"Then tell me why I am here? For weeks you have kept me here, a glorified prisoner, with barely a word. What is it you want of me? Why have you done this to me?"
"I have kept you here for your own safety, Lady Proudmoore. And I have waited this long in hope that cooler heads might prevail upon you to see the situation clearly. Has not Lord Brock spoken to you at length?"
"Lord Brock has spoken, but far from convinced me. If I could but return and speak to the Stormwinder general, I trust a peaceful solution can be found..."
"That 'general' you refer to is a rebellious cur," muttered Linus Wrynn. "Trust him? I would rather trust a viper than that man again. Light knows, I am here of little more volition than you, Lady - but Fenris' mutiny I will not stand for."
"Lady Proudmoore, I can not in good conscience let you go as long as I believe your first action will bring you into the dungeons of Duke Fenris. Surely you understand our concern."
"You speak as if I am a child! I am the rightful regent of Kul Tiras!"
"Lord Alten yet lives and is your elected leader; but even so... you seem to be a regent that is bent on surrendering her own sovereignty, and her people to the mercy of southern mercenaries. Duke Fenris operates unlawfully, ignoring the orders of his commander-in-arms." Seranidan gestured towards Wrynn. "The southern invasion, I have finally been able to convince Lord Wrynn, is misdirected when aimed against Kul Tiras, which has suffered so much already."
"We suffered still! Joachim Alten, whom you so protect, is a monster! Not a man, woman nor child in all of Boralus lamented the thought of his deposition!"
"Your personal loss blinds you, Lady, and old allegiances die hard. Alten was a traitor to your cause - but hero to your people. Did he not win his position by the acclamation of the people of Kul Tiras?"
"A rebel! That is what he became, no hero. We welcomed him, thinking him better than Periandrius; he proved just as bad."
"Enough of this," rasped the Lord of the Esoterics. "The girl can understand this: Kul Tiras does not belong to the southrons. It belongs to the Four."
"The Four do not exist! I was there, that day - I beheld the Vision!"
"You saw what Xaxion Drak'eem, most ancient and hoary of the enemies against the Four, wished you to see. What did you see, truly, but the righteousness of Men'heva and the nihilism of Xaxion?"
"Both are false; the Light alone is true. The faiths of the Four should, by right, never have existed."
"What legitimacy the Light has that the Four lack, I do not comprehend, Lady. Yet the question is moot at this point. We wish merely to prevent more bloodshed, and all of us here are united in our belief that letting Duke Fenris do as he please will cause only harm to the innocent of Kul Tiras, and in extent, all of Lordaeron. Most of your people still hold to their traditional beliefs, regardless what you yourself have chosen to believe - and it is Fenris' aim to force an end to that. To the culture of Kul Tiras itself! Lady, I entreat you, support us in this! Be faithful to your people!"
"So you would have me be the figurehead of another invasion of my country? What will my people gain from that?"
"Liberation from their oppressors!"
"Yet it is with our enemies - other Stormwinders and rebel Zul'dari - you would do this? That is fighting fire with fire, and all we will be left with is the madman Alten back in place, propped up by your strength at arms!"
"Rebel?" grunted Marsh. "If Kul Tiras had any power over Zul'dare, it was lost long ago. You have to be realistic about these things, I find."
"And in any case, Alten is... indisposed," continued Seranidan. "He will recover from his injuries, but I doubt his suitability as leader of Kul Tiras, though he was amenable to our cause."
"You would have me believe you will leave me in charge of my kingdom? Again - do you take me for a child?"
"With the backing of the Benefactors, yes, I would. Of course, a certain military presence will be unavoidable, as it has been proven beyond a point that Kul Tiras now lack the strength to defend itself and its people."
"Fine words, but all I hear is 'occupation'. You claim to protect Kul Tiras' sovereignty, but propose ways to divide up our territories and garrison our cities with foreign troops. And all of this is hypothetical in any case - where are the armies you would use to carry this plan?"
"The king of Stormwind will, we hope, be of assistance in bringing the rogue Duke to heel. If not, we have all the strength of Lordaeron and Stromgarde both to back us, beyond those forces readily at our command. And, should you fear for the integrity of your power and that of your nation, there are ways to alleviate your concerns."
"Why, I was thinking of a union. Duke Marsh is, after all, looking for a wife - are you not?"
Marsh was thrown into a coughing fit.
Last edited by Ashenmoon : 05-19-2012 at 05:14 PM.
The Eastern Legion of Hesperia marched west, from the city of Firezne towards the city of Venege.
Travelling with them, a wearied Javali struggled to keep a serene mind. Troubles of ever escalating consequence had started knocking at his door. In the south, it was true that the Stormwind armada had been repelled. Archmage Bianca reported how the armada had been driven away from Seashire. It had not returned.
But in the west, all was not well.
Though it had been driven from Seashire, the Stormwind armada had taken Pellerno. Further north from Pellerno, Pasata was already under siege from Stormwind's land forces. And yet further north still, the armies of Count Dorian of Nevezia fought skirmishes with the Imperial Host of Lordaeron, which persisted in its harassment of the countryside.
But those concerns paled in comparison to what had transpired in the city-state of Venege, just to the west of Firezne. That was why the Eastern Legion marched west; it was because the Western Legion was no more.
That morning, a ragged battalion of soldiers on horseback had ridden into the army encampment, demanding to have an audience with Javali. Their insistence earned them that audience.
Falling to his knees in Javali's tent, the leader of the cavalry breathed heavily. Javali looked down on him with displeasure.
"Who are you, and what do you want?"
"My Ducha." the man began in a deep voice. "I am Marcello DeLuca, commander of the cavalry of the Western Legion."
Javali tapped his foot as he waited for the man to get to the point.
"Noble Commander, why the sense of urgency? What troubles you?"
Marcello DeLuca looked up at Javali hauntingly.
"The Western Legion has been destroyed, my Ducha. We were ambushed in Venege-"
"I thought Venege surrendered to us, commander?" Javali snapped rhetorically. "I was told the Perinany Legion was ready to submit at long last. Where is General Marius?"
Ignoring the question, DeLuca droned on.
"It was the powder bombs, my Ducha. It was a trap. The very air of the city turned against us."
"I asked you a question, commander."
Marcello DeLuca seemed to slip out of his trance. He answered numbly.
"General Marius is missing, my Ducha."
Javali realised that he was sweating. He turned away from DeLuca to hide his nerves. It was not often that he was shaken, but the implications were dire for the Hesperian Alliance. The entire western half of the country was in chaos. He had trusted Marius, trusted him to restore order. And he had failed horribly.
"-they're fleeing east, my Ducha."
"The people of Venege, my Ducha. They were spared the carnage. They cannot return to their city, so they are fleeing east."
A refugee problem. Javali turned to one of his servants and clapped his hands twice.
"Fetch me General Farren Meracci."
There were plans to be made.
Sitting in council with Commander DeLuca, Lady Korgal, Count Scipio and General Meracci, Javali's thoughts soon strayed from talk of tactics.
They strayed to the Scroll of Lore. The distractions on the military front had almost made him forget the single most important thing. If he wanted to reclaim the Scroll, he would have to act fast. His strike would have to land decisively; he would need the very best to accompany him.
"-which is why, my Ducha, we need to eliminate the Imperial Host first and foremost. The Perinany and the Kirin Mora hide behind them." General Meracci said, moving wooden tokens on a map of Hesperia. "And then we will be able to strike southwards, and relieve Pasata and liberate Pellerno... my Ducha?"
"Commander DeLuca. What of Magus Primus Augusta?"
Augusta was one of the strongest of Dalaran's spellcasters. She would be invaluable in reclaiming the Scroll.
But DeLuca looked grim.
"It is likely she died in Venege, my Ducha."
Javali was silent. He glared with disgust at the map of Hesperia and the wooden tokens and counters. General Meracci was still looking at him, an expression of faint annoyance on his features at being ignored.
"Excuse me, gentlemen." Javali said, rising from his seat. "I am needed elsewhere."
As Javali walked out, he heard General Meracci cry out behind him.
"Elsewhere? My Ducha! There is a war going on!"
As Javali left the tent, he heard Count Scipio cursing. "... his wine and whores."
In the privacy of his own tent, Javali drew his personal communication stone. The channel opened, and he heard a familiar serpentine voice greet him.
"Wife." Javali answered. "I have news."
"As do I, husband." the Archareveim warned him, the same ice in her voice that made Javali admire her, if nothing else.
"I don't have time to discuss the child, if that is your news." Javali said with a sigh. "I have located the Scroll, Zinizar. I am going to need help retrieving it." Javali admitted with a tinge of shame. "Sister Gianata has it. I trust you remember Sister Gianata."
Javali waited. There was silence, for a moment. He could almost imagine Zinizar choking on her surprise. It amused him. At last, she spoke, her tone measured and composed.
"I will be with you shortly, my Ducha. And then we shall see about the Scroll of Lore."
"Yes, yes." Javali said, waving his free hand in the air. "What were you going to tell me?"
Another pause. Instinctively, Javali knew that he was not going to like what she had to tell him. She told it to him anyway.
"There is to be a summit in the Violet Citadel. Attended by King Andol Corin of Lordaeron and King Vitalian of Stromgarde, and representatives of the Benefactors. All have been invited."
Javali's temper began to boil. Who had the audacity to call such a council without consulting him?
"Invited? By who, my dear wife?"
"The Prophet himself, my Ducha." Zinizar said with a sense of smugness in her voice. "He has come in person."
Last edited by Timolas : 05-19-2012 at 08:32 PM.
Ravenholdt, the Benefactors, Lordaeron, Zul'Dare, the Collective
Ewekapu Marsh sat silently in the medical room Ravenholdt had set up. He was being attended to by one of the organization's medical authorities, Doctor Orochi. The good doctor dabbed at his stab wound with a rag doused with antiseptic. It stung, but not enough to bother Ewe. The doctor asked few questions and received rather brief answers.
With Ewe's permission he drew a vial's worth of blood to study. He also removed the last of Ewe's bandages. Ewe shrugged when he saw his new face in the mirror. It was a far cry from beautiful, but the truth was that he didn't really care much anymore. The door opened, and a certain half-gnome entered the room. Ewe was able to keep collected this time.
"How are you doing?" Shortee Fizzlebang asked him, her voice worried.
"I'm a tad bit more perforated than I'd like to be," he replied with a gruff tone.
"That'll be over shortly. Err, quickly." Doctor Orochi corrected himself, looking at Shortee. "His wound is already healing. Its quite remarkable. I haven't seen such regeneration since the lab studies we did back in trollish biology class."
"If you know trollish body, you'll find my blood quite familiar," Ewe said.
"Wait..." Shortee ran things over in her mind. "You're a member of the Esoteric Order."
"Guilty as charged. Ex-member, I should say." he affirmed. "You made the connection quickly."
"The Council of Tirisfal learned much about the half-trolls of Zul'Dare after their invasion of Boralus."
"We- they invaded Boralus?" he sighed. "Am I behind on the times or what?"
"When did you leave the Esoteric Order?"
"I left it twice, actually. I went to Kul Tiras after the truth of the Esoteric Order, of my trollish heritage, was revealed to me. I met Captain Dampwallace and took passage of his ship, but the Esoteric's impressment policy led to the crew and myself being forced into their service once more," Ewe explained. "My father put me in charge of the attack on Rhodos. His mistake. We abandoned them shortly. I suppose the mighty Duke Marsh is not as wise as he'd like to believe."
"Ephraim Marsh is your father?" Shortee replied, curious.
"Yes, yes he is. And he is a terrible, terrible excuse for a person." he said with finality. "Enough of this. What of your father?"
They continued to speak as Doctor Orochi tended to Ewekapu's wound.
New Qu's equipment fit Amarian rather well. He had used Amarian's outfit to help craft it, after all. She had retained the strange equipment from the Core, and Qu had wanted to study it out of curiosity. As it turned out, the material had some strange properties inherent in it, and the knowledge gained from studying it had sped up the development of the gear. She was glad to have contributed something.
She felt odd, being in Fenris. It had been so long since she had been outside of Gilneas. Dalaran felt like a lifetime ago. She gently flicked her whip absentmindedly. It was one of the only pieces of physical evidence that she had ever been to the peninsula. On the other side of the room, Warren was having trouble changing into the suit New Qu had designed. Amarian gave him a light and playful whip.
"Having fun, Warren?"
"What's with all the whipping?"
"Please, you like it."
"Just a little," Warren said, only half paying attention as he tried to properly gear up.
"Need some help there, darling?"
"No. I'm not a child. I-" Warren stumbled and fell over, half dressed. "Okay, only this once."
"What would you do without me, Mister Greystone?" Amarian cooed while dressing Warren.
"Enter Magyver while half-dressed, I guess." Warren paused. "Okay, that came out wrong."
Join Date: Dec 2007
Ravenholdt and Alterac
This Alric had proven himself to be a valuable resource. With nearly all of the other threats from Alterac’s sordid past eliminated, Jere Kavdan and his Chancellor remnants were the final nut to crack. Actionable intelligence as to their whereabouts warranted decisive action.
Owen Zverenhoff: I’ll personally lead a contingent of the Legion to Snowfold and crush the rats in their nest. You’ll accompany us. We’ll handle the Chancellors, you can bag your dragon.
Alric: Splendid. I’ll prepare.
Owen Zverenhoff: Before you do that, have a seat.
Questions lingered in the Grand Marshal’s mind. Here was a man, ostensibly a boy, with an uncanny ability to slay dragons and a correspondingly uncanny zeal for doing so. He’d already proven himself a commodity, but he was still an unknown entity. Where did he learn his skills? Why did he lust for the slaughter of Black Dragons so? What was he… really?
Owen Zverenhoff: Before we set out for Snowfold, you’re going to tell me your story. In detail. Who are you, dragonslayer? The truth.
Ravenholdt, the Collective, Plunder Isle,
Myrokos induced vomiting immediately after Micaiah left and his subliminal control faded. He hoped to excrete the laced gruel they’d given him for sustenance before the chemicals inside it could do their job. He thought it tasted like hell when he ate it, but he had no idea how right he was. Still, it may have been too late. He could feel Anandor lurking just below his subconscious…
Crewman: All hands on deck! Ship approaching off the port bow!
As the warning was cried out from the crow’s nest, Micaiah rushed to attention. The ship was distant on the horizon, but even from the distance Micaiah could tell it was enormous. Distracted as he was by looking at the approaching vessel, he almost fell overboard when his own ship was rocked from below. It felt as if they’d run aground.
And then the beast surfaced beside the ship. It was gargantuan. Tales of the enormous kraken were widespread amongst those who sailed the seven seas, but this creature dwarfed even the exaggerations of drunken seamen. Now the marine monster was still and wading in the open water, gazing down at the ship and its crew with anger and hostility.
In the distance, Micaiah saw… things flying towards them from the direction of the approaching vessel. Couatls. They were upon the ship quickly, from their backs descending a boarding party. There were yells to surrender, lest Manta send them all to the briney depths. Some resisted, but after the lurker below rattled the ship once again, most threw down their weapons.
One of the Couatls landed, and from its back stepped a man who radiated arrogance and control. This was their leader, and he approached Micaiah - before shoving a crossbow in his face.
Namor Periandrius: Micaiah, I presume? Or do you prefer to go by “Number Four”?
Micaiah: Micaiah is fine. And you must be Namor Periandrius.
Namor’s ship had gotten close enough so that Micaiah could read the name inscribed on its hull. Though the KTS was removed, it still read proudly - “Thaumas F. Proudmoore.” It was the famed former flagship of Kul Tiras. Still hanging from the massive carrier’s bow were the wretched bones of Thamas Proudmoore himself. The skeleton forevermore bore the enchantment of the fallen-God Phorcys, which made the accursed Couatls obey the ship’s commander.
Namor Periandrius: That's Commodore Namor Periandrius, if you please.
Micaiah: Apologies. Who’s your new subordinate?
Micaiah gestured to the Behemoth of the Deeps.
Namor Periandrius: My soul mate, but enough small talk. Do you know why I’m here, Micaiah?
Micaiah: Are you here to shoot me in the face with a crossbow?
Namor Periandrius: Why, yes. Yes I am. Look at the big brain on Micaiah.
With a tug of the trigger, Namor set loose a razor-sharp arrow that directly flew into Micaiah’s face. His limp body fell, his brain splattered.
Namor Periandrius: Or rather, look at the big brain all over the deck.
Collective Goon: You… You killed Number Four! Nobody kills Number Four!
Namor Periandrius: Yeah, that’s nice, but you’re kind of wrong since that’s exactly what I just did.
Namor walked over and removed the signet ring from Michaiah’s finger, slipping it on his own.
Namor Periandrius: As of this moment, I’m the new Number Four. Let any who challenge step forward.
None did as Manta bellowed.
Namor Periandrius: Excellent. Oh, and by the way - you’re all also press-ganged into my service. If you belong to one of the other crime lords then we’ll sort it out back at Bloodsail Hold.
As the crew was rounded up, Myrokos was removed from one brig to be transported to another on the Thaumas F. Proudmoore. He saw the dead body of Micaiah on the deck. One less person who knew "the safe word" that would keep him powerless. But the elf wasn't free from his past, as he caught the attention of Namor’s lieutenant.
Johnnie Jacula: Wait! I know this elf!
The strange lieutenant’s skin was grey and rotten, betraying a state of unlife. More curious was the fact that he was wholly lacking a lower body, sliced in twain by Warester Van Dam in the Battle of Boralus. He now pulled himself towards Myrokos, his legless body mounted on a wooden plank with affixed wheels. The Commodore acknowledged the recognition.
Namor Periandrius: Friend of yours, Jacula?
Johnnie Jacula: He kicked me off a mountain once.
Namor Periandrius: I like him already. Tell me more.
Johnnie Jacula: Myrokos Silentform. He’s a high-ranking member of Ravenholdt. Adopted son of Krol himself.
Namor Periandrius: Hmm. He looks a little worse for wear, and he smells like offensive puke. Watch him until we’re back to the Hold. I’m sure the Collective will have some use for him.
A smile crept across Myrokos' lips.
Anandor Darafel: Yes… I’m sure they will…
Last edited by Gurtogg_Bloodboil : 05-20-2012 at 03:24 PM.
Amani and the Elves
The city of Tyr's Hand was like an ant-hill that had been disturbed. Merchants loaded their valuables onto donkey-drawn wagons and peasants fought in the markets over food and water. Many barricaded themselves into their homes. Many others fled through the city's western gate, into the countryside of Strattania.
A siege was coming. Relief had been promised, but Tyr's Hand had been the site of a massacre once before. The people of the city did not want to be caught in another.
Arthel Durand knew that keeping order was going to be a challenge. And why should he bother? To defend the very man responsible for the massacre at Tyr's Hand? The very man who led the Maroon Cult in a rampage across Strattania.
"To the pits with you, Andol Corin, you bitch-spawned animal."
Durand tightened the cloak around his neck and adjusted his belt. He reached out to his left with one hand without looking and waited. The chill of cold steel jolted his nerves as his majordomo pressed a sword into his waiting hand.
"You should not talk like that, my lord." his majordomo reminded him. "Don't give Andol an excuse. You don't want to end up like the Shermans."
"I piss on the Shermans. Alford's darlings, what have they amounted to?" Durand grunted. "And I piss on the pagan King. The King will not touch me. He needs me. Because I am the only man who can hold this city, and everyone knows it. Tyr's Hand will not fall."
Sheathing his sword, Arthel Durand strode out of the armoury. Light help him, he thought. The King's whore, Rimtori, had come to take command of the city. But she was a damned fool if she thought that he would let her. Or that the Lightist nobles would let her.
Arthel Durand's father had been Duke of Avalon, killed by the trolls mere months ago. He had pulled back to Tyr's Hand, and the nobles had made him de facto leader of the city. They had done it because Arthel Durand had won more battles against the Maroon Cult than anybody save for Marshal Sherman. And Arthel had killed more trolls than any man alive in Strattania. If not for Arthel, Avalon would have fallen to the trolls a long time ago.
He would have his vengeance by making sure the trolls did not advance into Strattania. The trolls were not marching on 'the Wall'. They were a day away from the walls of Tyr's Hand. They intended to enter Strattania by breaking through Tyr's Gap. It would be their biggest tactical mistake in a hundred generations.
So let them come.
Kul Tiras and the Elves
Patmos. Tol Barad.
Fate was a strange mistress. Joachim suspected that he was not popular with her. But Harald was alive. And Lennart had made it too. Watched over by the strange giant, Wotan, Joachim felt that somehow, things would take a turn for the better. There had to be a happy ending to his adventures, eventually. Because he had survived too much for it to end without seeing Balor again.
But doubts lingered.
Harald would not meet his eyes. And Lennart had little to say to him. They were ashamed of him. How could they not be?
He just wanted to go home.
The sound of the rusty lock of his cell door squealing interrupted his thoughts. In stepped a couple of elven guards, clad in green robes and armour.
"Joachim Alten. You have been invited to dinner with the Lord Seranidan."
Invited. Joachim actually chuckled.
"What if I say no?"
The elven guards did not say anything. Their cold stares caused Joachim to avert his eyes.
"In an hour. Come with us. You will bathed and dressed."
Much to Joachim's embarrassment, he was stripped naked and sat in a wooden tub of hot water. And it was an elven handmaiden who did it.
"I can wash myself, you know." he said with a blush.
The elf maid rolled her eyes and said something in Thalassian.
"Don't you speak Common?" Joachim asked, but received no reply. Then he strained his memory. He had read a few Thalassian phrases in books back on Balor. He tested his memory. "Beril no dala."
Suddenly, the elf maid stopped scrubbing Joachim and dropped her sponge.
"You just said my mother is a horse."
"Ah." Joachim said, blushing. "She isn't, I imagine. I mean, obviously not. Nor does she look like one, I might add. I am sure your mother is wonderful. You should introduce us."
"My mother was eaten by trolls." the handmaid said, resuming her brushing. She ducked Joachim's head under the water for a few seconds and then began to scrub his head. "You strange, strange man."
"Please, I can wash myself!" Joachim grunted, pushing her hand away. "Why don't you go away, handmaid?"
The handmaid sighed and stopped for a moment. She met his eyes.
"You are not making my job very easy, human. I have no choice but to wash you. My masters are punishing me. I am no handmaid. And I have a name. Cyssia."
"What are you being punished for, Cyssia?"
"For my opinions."
"Which are?" Joachim asked, curious.
"That you should shut up. And agree with whatever the Lord Seranidan says. Laugh at his jokes. And tell him how much you admire him."
The chicken was overcooked. Joachim chewed away, fork and knife dissecting the dead animal on his plate. Across from him, the white-haired elf lord watched him eat. It was very awkward.
"Do you like it?"
"Mmmmmmm." Joachim intoned, mouth full of chicken. He swallowed reluctantly. "So good! And you are so smart. And brave. It is such an honour to eat at your table."
Seranidan said nothing. He poured Joachim some wine.
"No thank you, I-"
"Drink." Seranidan commanded.
Seranidan only stopped pouring after the wine had overflowed from the cup. Joachim hastily started drinking. Seranidan started talking.
"So, Baron. You are of course aware that Balor has been annexed by Stormwind?"
Joachim spat his wine all over Seranidan.
"I'm so sorry, I-"
"Baron." Seranidan interrupted, wiping his face. "I want to make you an offer."
"I can help you." Seranidan continued, pouring Joachim more wine. "To free Balor. If you wish, I can arrange for its independence to be recognized by Princess Elaine. Or if you would rather, it can remain as a part of Kul Tiras."
"How do you propose to help me?"
"Soldiers. Resources. Magic." Seranidan stated plainly. "The General of Stormwind is my guest. The armada will not interfere. Balor can be free overnight, if I decide it."
"And... what do you expect in return?" Joachim pressed.
Seranidan smiled wolfishly.
"King Silas Lothar is travelling to Balor to declare the annexation officially. General Wrynn wishes to be King of Stormwind. I propose that Silas Lothar's visit to Balor be his last visit anywhere."
"And why do you need me involved in your scheme?"
"Because somebody needs to take the blame for Lothar's death. The blame must not fall on General Wrynn's shoulders. But worry not, Baron. When Wrynn is King, Balor... will be free."
Seranidan was still smiling.
Last edited by Timolas : 05-21-2012 at 07:07 PM.
Join Date: Feb 2009
Kul Tiras AKA The Last Balorian. Actually make that The Last Balorian plus his nephew. Oh wait Gerard is also a Balorian, make that Two and a Half Bal-no screw that show. Oh and I know what you're thinking but Lennart actually isn't from Balor I've just never gotten around to explain his backstory. Let's just keep calling it Kul Tiras for simplicity's sake.
Joachim leaned forward.
"So you say I would assassinate the King of Stormwind and then the next king would let me walk away scot free?"
He said with a confused expression.
Seranidan rolled his eyes just like the Cyssia had, in the complex way elves can roll their eyes despite having no discernible irises in their ever-glowing eyes.
"No, it seems you weren't listening." He started.
"You're not supposed to assassinate him, you are to be seen. Maybe a great showdown out in the open, the people will see it as your glorious revenge, after all."
"Re..venge?" Joachim was sure he'd said that word at least a thousand times in the last month but somehow it now seemed strange and unfamiliar.
"For Balor, of course! It was invaded under his command, after all."
Joachim searched his feelings and found them surprisingly empty. His crazed lust for revenge had subsided and he hadn't really stopped to re-evaluate his opinion on Stormwind and its reign since then.
After a long moment of quiet contemplation all he could say was:
"Oh?" Seranidan was equally perplexed by the reply.
Joachim tried to compose himself "Uh, I mean, I guess I... should kill him then?"
His statement-turned-question was more aimed at himself than the Elf.
He tried, but he couldn't bring himself to hate the Stormwind regent, despite the circumstances. It was hard to hate someone he knew in name only. Before, he'd had some strange manifestation of a "Stormwind Evil" he blamed for the deaths of his family. Now the one to blame had a name, but it didn't even sound evil. "How could someone named Silas ever be a bad person?" He wondered to himself.
Seranidan interrupted his thought process, thinking the previous question was aimed at him. "So that's a yes, then?"
Joachim looked up "Whoa what? Oh! Uh... I guess? No, wait. I need some time to think about this."
Seranidan seemed baffled for a moment, then chuckled.
"One would think this to be an easy decision, but I suppose the workings of the Balorian Baron's mind have always been... Unique. Very well, you have an hour to contemplate my offer."
"Just one hour?" Joachim half-screamed.
For the first time since dinner started, Seranidan stopped smiling. "Do you not think I give you enough?"
Joachim's blood froze. "Nonono, Lord Seranidan. One hour will be great thank you. You are a most gracious host."
He excused himself, bowed as deeply as he could and then hurried back to his chambers as fast as his guard escort would allow.
Last edited by devius : 05-22-2012 at 07:56 AM.
Join Date: Aug 2008
The zandalari council was once again assembled in the ceremonial hall because of Jin’thek, just this time he had managed to make the gather even beyond his own death. And for a matter a fact they were debating the implications of Jin’thek ‘’supposed’ ascendance into loahood, while the waited for the emissary of the Lebenstraum.
Eventually they were interrupted by the crackling sound of the great ivory doors opening, one of the guards stepped to the front and loudly announced the entrance of Forum’hexa. A forest troll who had been living in the island for over two years, since he was sent by Jin’thek to plea for the aid of the king for the first time. He had been serving ever since as the emissary of the Amani tribe and the confederation of forest tribes they headed. And with the founding of the Lebenstraum given his de facto presence on the island, he was declared emissary for the whole Lebenstraum.
Wearing his ragged leather armor he entered the room and walked towards the centre of the hall, where black marble circle indicated the position where speakers were supposed to stand. Right across the room it laid the great throne of the Zandalari, carved out of black stone and whale ivory and upon it, the great king of the Zandalar.
‘Explain yourself Amani, you have requested an audience with the King and his council, in the name of this so called ‘Lebenstraum’’ we never heard of before.’’ One of the council members spoke with a pinch of disdain showing on his voice
‘I am Forum’hexa, Harbringer of the trollish Lebenstraum, and so rightful representative of all the forest tribes and their allies. I come here in the name of our eternal Zul’kaizar and Warchief Jin’thek of the Amani. With a message for you all.’
‘Jin’thek?’ One of the elder cried out
‘The fool who a year ago tried to drag us in the pitiful war that finally killed him?’ Another one snapped.
‘Jin’thek is no fool! He is flesh turned Loa, he is the Lebenstraum incarnate. He sacrificed himself at the battle for Asha no Alor saving his own troll from elven trickery, ascending to Loahood thanks and through our devotion. I though you Zandalar were better than to mock Loas.’
‘The truth of this statement of your is yet to be confirmed by our divinators and the high priest of Zuldazar. So until then your words are only that, mere words and nothing less. Unless of course you could prove it.’ The first elder said.
‘Can you prove it Amani? Can you prove that Jin’thek ascended to Loahood??’ Another of the elders asked.
‘There is no bigger proof of his loahood than the existence of the Lebenstraum itself. The forest tribes stand together as a single entity for the first time in thousands of years. And together we have crushed elven civilization, retaken Zul’guazu and alongside it the holy city of Atalm. Elves themselves have flocked to us asking for a chance to die in the name of Jin’thek, just to get a place in the Lebenstraum, just to be Atal’jin.
And it was we, the forest tribes and the Atal’jin, together that we defended the holy city from a cowardly attack by the elves and their pawns. They brought to face us the most terrible warriors and beasts you could imagine, trollhunters, warriors from the far south, half-human abominations, Azure clad humans immune to our hexes and we defeated them all. And then when by some unholy hex of sorts they raised again from their eternal slumber to kill us, we killed them again. Even know as I speak to you we are bound to reclaim the rest of our lands, from those who unfaithfully occupy them.
And all of this was started and inspired by Jin’thek, if this is not enough proof for you, then what the High Priest of Zuldazar as to say is meaningless to you.’
Forum’hexa spoke with passion of events he only knew by the words of others. That saddened him, last time he saw Jin’thek was over two years ago in a port of Alora’guazu, he couldn’t fight for him he couldn’t die for his name. So this was his fight, a fight of words against this old and aged trolls. He had learned much of them from his stay in Zuldazar in the last two years; he knew most of them were wary of the outside world.
Comfortable in their isolated island, protected by their fleets and their Augurs they had little fears, but the mere mention of intervening the affairs of the outside world terrified them. He wanted to convince them, to show them but Jin’thek had tried before and he failed, getting only token support from his relatives. But the elders were not the Zandalar, he had not sat idly in the island all this time, he had spoken with trolls across Zuldazar. He had travelled the island and realized the population was much eager than the elders were to participate, but that was his last resort since it would mean to openly defy the council. And he knew he could appeal to some of the elder’s hearths, or even the king himself with time. Yet he didn’t have time, and the Lebenstraum knew it, that’s why they sent him to that audience, with a very specific order.
The elders kept debating with themselves muttering and stuttering in their small thrones, he cleaned his throat preparing for the moment that was about to come. The chattering was interrupted suddenly by the King who raised his hand and looking straight to his eyes he asked: ‘What do you want of us Forum’hexa, Harbringer of the ‘’Lebenstraum’’? Our help? You already got that, allowed voluntaries and Zul’gurumo to go.’’
‘You call help to the mere ships Zul’gurumo took in comparison with the grand fleet of the zandali?’
‘’I see, so no you don’t want our help, you want our direct participation, don’t you?’’ Rastakhan answered, his eyes focused somewhere else, in the image of his city burning.
‘I would lie to you if I said no, but that’s not the reason I am here King. I know that a mere council meeting won’t convince you all of joining us.’
‘Then why are you here? Why did you called for this meeting?’ The first elder to speak snarked.
That was his cue, that was his moment he cleared his voice and spoke raising his voice: ‘’As Harbinger of the Trollish Lebenstraum, in the name of our eternal Zul’Kaizar Jin’thek, and by orders of our Kaizar and his Hand. I Was ordered by them given the current events to demand in the name of the Lebenstraum, and so in the name of all the forest tribes and their allies. An urgent and immediate gathering of all the trollish tribes here, at the sacred island of Zuldazar.’
And so with his last words murmur as loud as the crashing of waves flooded the room.
Sun'jeng, the wind serpent, sniffed at Ba'jal. Nuvazgal could only guess what was going on in its tiny mind. But Sun'jeng had belonged to Jin'thek. Perhaps it could sniff out treachery.
Or perhaps not. The wind serpent circled Ba'jal but gave no indication of his intentions.
"I was sure this would work, mon." Ha'lin said with a sense of resignation in his voice.
"What good is Sun'jeng?" Nuvazgal wondered out loud. Ba'jal sat quietly, with his eyes closed. Nuvazgal was sure that inside, he was probably smiling.
Then the wind serpent jerked and hissed. It made as if to bite Ba'jal, but then snorted and glided out of the tent.
It seemed to imply that Ba'jal spoke truth. But the picture was still incomplete.
On the isle of Zandalar, inside Zuldazar, the capital of trollish civilization, the Amani emissary awaited the response of King Rastakhan.
"You presume a great deal and overstep your boundaries, to ask for a meeting of all trolls!" the King boomed. "And to assemble the tribes it would take many months of preparations, and the soonest they could arrive would be in a year at least!"
Forum'hexa spread his arms wide. It was time to play his trap card.
"We stole much elf lore from Atalm, great King Rastakhan! We have learned something that will speed up such a meeting! Teleportation!"
A shocked silence filled the auditorium. King Rastakhan scratched his chin slowly, and then climbed down from his throne. He circled Forum'hexa critically.
"Since when were you Amani so bold? Perhaps you are right. Perhaps Jin'thek is a Loa. Maybe this will be different this time. Not even Warchief Zul'Serak captured Atalm in the Troll Wars. So I will call a meeting, emissary. I will call it today. And then, then we will see..."
"Are you well, Filbert?" Grigori Dosantos asked. He had just come across his lieutenant, sweatily pacing through one of the halls of Fenris Keep. There was something different about the man as of late.
"Everything... is fine. Yes. I am just tired, my lord. Venege exacted a heavy toll upon us all."
"And so it did." Grigori said with a nod. "Get some rest. You'll need your strength. This war is not over just yet."
Once Grigori was gone, Filbert whispered into his communication stone. It felt slippery in his jittery hands.
"The dragon cultists have arrived, Lord Asher. My humble thanks. The plan proceeds. They still do not know."
So, this is what it's like to be inside Magyver, Barbara Friendly thought. This is what it must feel like to be Neil Patrick Liberace. A very wet experience.
Clearing Magyver of his Drakgyverness would be a challenge.
The first block of Black Dragon goo came off with much reluctance. Behind her, Barbara's team were busy at work as well.
How long would it take? Hours? Days? The infestation looked pretty bad.
Suddenly, a dark shape hovered about the party. It was suddenly a race against time.
Ravenholdt, the Collective, Plunder Isle
"Oi. What's that?" the Stormwind sailor wondered out loud, squinting at the horizon. But the sun was in his eyes. Had he seen a black shape? A ship? Or something else entirely?
The Manta tore through the ship's hull seconds later.
"Yo ho ho. A pirate's life for me!"
Namor Periandrius pouted and slapped Kraven Cobra over the head.
"It's a rapist's life for you, Cobra."
"Pirates do plenty of raping, my lord Commodore!" Kraven quailed.
Another slap over the head.
"I told you not to call me that. I'm not Commodore any longer. I'm something more now. Something ubiquitous. Now go milk the Makrura. I thirst. Tickle it first so that the nectar is extra sweet." As Kraven Cobra hurried off, Namor called after him. "And don't rape it!"
A pirate's life indeed. It was not quite as luxurious or as civilized as living in Boralus as regent, but it had other perks. For one, he no longer had to hide the bodies of the prostitutes he Zadonkey Punched to death. He no longer had to pretend to be polite. That was something.
But godhood had eluded him. He shared a connection with the Manta, it was true. Such a connection paled in comparison to what Xaxion Drak'eem had promised him, however. And Jacula still saw him as Xaxion's chosen. Better let him keep believing it.
His communication stone vibrated in his pocket.
"Moron? Is that you?"
"You're funny Namor. But it's Buffoon. Did you make sure Micaiah was dead?" There was something in the Imbecile's voice that gave him away as unhinged. It made Namor Periandrius very uncomfortable, like a man bearing witness to a Gnollish cross-dressing ritual during the Summertide.
"It doesn't get much deader than a crossbow bolt through the brain, Bonehead."
"You really are too funny! Somebody is going to die of laughter if you keep getting the title wrong, Namor."
"What do you want?" Namor asked, losing his patience. Then hastily, he added. "Baboon."
"Buffoon. I want the boy."
"The elf?" Namor pondered, clucking with his tongue. "We'll see about that, Sandra."
He dropped the communication stone back into his pocket while whistling. What a bore the Monkey was.
At last. Namor turned in the direction of land, and saw only azure waves. So he turned around, in the actual direction of land, and beheld the shadows of the mountains of Khaz Modan.
Micaiah had been headed for Dun Argath before meeting an unfortunate end. Dun Argath; one of the 'free cities'. The 'free cities' made for easy plunder. Newman's Landing had already been raped to the ground on the way to intercept Micaiah.
So before returning to Plunder Isle, Periandrius intended to do some shopping. If Micaiah had been headed to Dun Argath, perhaps he had epic loot stashed away somewhere.
Namor Periandrius flexed in the direction of the city in a menacing fashion. He was coming. And as pirate lord, he would keep coming back. He would come all over the face of the city until there was nothing left.
New Qu returned after some alone time with Lolita Scipio. He was drinking some dew when Van Dam sat him down for a full report.
"So? Did she squeak?"
"Yes. She's that kind of woman." New Qu said, flustered.
Van Dam raised an eyebrow.
"I told you to interrogate her, not let her seduce you."
New Qu looked away awkwardly.
"That's not what happened! I mean, she told me everything. I think she realises what is in her best interests at this point."
Caressing his forehead, Van Dam sighed. If Lolita could seduce Travot, he supposed she could seduce hormonal New Qu. Any intel New Qu... extracted... was compromised.
"What did she say?"
"She said, that, ah, Micaiah was taking Myrokos to a leper colony on an island right off the coast of Dun Argath. One of the cities on the Khaz Modan coastline. She doesn't know why for sure, but she suspects Myrokos might be... might be connected to the Collective in some important way."
"Ah, yes. She was working with some goon she calls the Buffoon. She said you'd recognize the name. And that the Buffoon has his eyes on us. He's planning something. Something big."
Saldor Shallowbrook also desired to have words with the Grand Master. The ageless elf seemed to look a decent generation older. It was probably the stress. He had been one of the Companions, crossing the continent alongside many who were now dead or gone. But Saldor remained.
"Grand Master." he said with a respectful bow. "If I might, I would ask that you send me on my way. I must return to my people. But not alone, Grand Master. Send a representative of Ravenholdt with me. My people would have words with yours."
"I am sure there is much that can benefit the both of our factions through solid discourse, Saldor. But I have a feeling I already know what you are going to ask of me."
"Indeed." Saldor said, meeting Van Dam's eyes. "The High Home has fallen. The Sunking's court has fled to Caer Darrow. A Reconquista will not be easy. It might take generations. But we are too few to achieve it alone. And if for no other reason, it is in the interests of all that the trolls be checked. Already, they are poised to invade Strattania. If you win your war against pagans and overachieve beyond your wildest dreams... then I fear it may even then be too late."
"Too late." Van Dam parroted, thinking of the reports from the north. Perhaps it had been naive to hope that the trolls would be content with the sacking of Silvermoon.
"The trolls look to the horizon for new blood to spill, while Lordaeron arms itself with elven steel. Mankind stands on the shores of destiny, and awaits the coming of the tides of darkness...
Last edited by Timolas : 05-24-2012 at 07:15 PM.
Join Date: Dec 2007
Plunder Isle, Ravenholdt, the Collective
Kraven Cobra: What troubles you, Commodore?
Namor had been gazing pensively off the deck of the Couatl Craft Carrier at Dun Argath since it came into view. He didn’t appreciate being interrupted from his thoughts by Commander Cobra, once more referring to him as Commodore. Namor wanted to snap at him again, but he didn’t. After all, he himself had insisted that Micaiah address him as Commodore - before the arrow-to-the-face incident, that is.
But, if not Commodore, what should he be called? Certainly he deserved a title worthy of his station. He was “Commodore” when he ruled Kul Tiras, perhaps he would also be Commodore as he ruled his new nation. He’d conquered it for Phorcys long ago, right before the murder of his old chum Thaumas. The Isle’s conquest was his last act before truly joining the Great War. Back then, he was so foolishly beholden to his gods. Of course, that was before he had the opportunity to become one… and failed miserably. Being bound to a mortal Phorcys was a life-changing experience, and he had to personally hunt down and subjugate the world’s largest sea monster to cleanse him of that taint.
When he returned to the distant tropical shores he left so long ago, it was once again with a fleet and once again as a conqueror. But this time, rather than simple annexation, he was there to forge a new homeland. He dubbed his new territory “Plunder Isle.” On his ships, his loyalists had taken down the green sails utilized by Kul Tiras and replaced them with those of the deepest crimson. This change gave the great Commodore the inspiration he needed to name his new nation. By his command, his band of pirates would once and forever be known as… Namor Periandrius and his amazing Bloodsail Buccaneers!
He liked the sound of that.
But the time for reflection had passed. He was troubled by recent happenings, and Kraven was one man he knew he could trust.
Namor Periandrius: That jackanapes, “the Buffoon,” knew we’d taken Jacula’s elven chum prisoner before I told him. This ship has a leak. And do you know what happens to leaks, Cobra?
Kraven Cobra: What’s that, sir?
Namor Periandrius: They get plugged.
A sinister grin crept across Kraven’s pallid face.
Kraven Cobra: Shall I begin… inquisition?
Namor Periandrius: Not yet. But I do want to know why the Buffoon is so interested in this elf, and I want to know before we return to Plunder Isle. No doubt the clown’s called a meeting of the Crime Lords of the Collective to formally induct me into their ranks, and they‘ll be awaiting our return. Hopefully Mawkiki and Crystal Ball will be there… But that is for later. Right now…
Namor mounted his Couatl as he once again peered out at Dun Argath.
Namor Periandrius: It’s plunderin’ time!
Quinton Stone woke with a start. He pushed himself up on the bed and looked around, trying to get a handle on his location. The room was small and rather bare, with no decorations on the brown wooden walls. He ached and clutched a hand to his stomach, noticing the bandages wrapped around his chest. He remembered the fight with Facade, how the mirrored man had cut him with magic. How he had been saved by the intervention of the woman.
The half-elf urgently brought his hands to his head, worried that his disguise had been removed. To his relief, it remained. The door made a creaking sound as it opened, revealing the hallway behind it. In the doorframe stood a woman, who he presumed to be the Vigilantress. At a second glance, Stone recognized her face. This was the woman he had rescued that first raining night in Port Baradin. This was Meaghan Raines.
“Don’t worry, I never took a peek under the mask,” she said with a smile. “Though I have a good feeling that I know who you are already.”
“And who might that be?” he growled in his Vigilante voice.
“Quinton Stone,” she replied matter-of-factly. “Its quite obviously, really. Your rescue of me was the first of your exploits, wasn’t it?”
“I don’t know who-” he paused, seeing the look she gave him. Stone pulled off the mask. “Fine, you got me. Never much liked the masked thing anyways.”
“Yes!” she said loudly. “Sorry, I’m a bit of a sore winner.”
“I’ve noticed. So, what’s the story with this Vigilantress act you have going?” he asked. “You didn’t seem the type when we met.”
“You’ve inspired a lot of people here. Some more directly than others,” she explained. “Truth be told, I’m not that great at it.”
“You did pretty well against Facade. I’ve never seen him bleed before.”
“That’d be the result of luck and some clever inventing, on my part.” Meaghan elaborated. “Can you stand? I’ll show you...”
“I’m fine. I’ve had worse wounds.” He pushed himself off of the bed and stood.
Stone followed Meaghan out of the room and into the hall. It proved to be just as sparsely decorated. They came to a living room, which was not especially large. She pulled a rug aside, revealing a trapdoor. With a tug it opened, revealing the room beneath. The two of them climbed down a stepladder into the secret room.
As they entered, the room became illuminated with unnatural light. Torch-like devices sputtered to life with arcane energy, giving the room much needed light. Revealed to Quinton Stone was a cramped laboratory, filled with half-built gadgets and machines. Bookshelves filled with engineering and arcane tombs lined the back wall. The Vigilantress outfit was piled in a corner, hastily discarded.
“Behold, my stuff.” Meaghan said in a not-so-serious tone.
“Impressive. What is it?”
“I do most of my work here. I’m a bit of a mage, bit of an engineer. Too unconventional of work for the mage academies in Stormwind or Dalaran, even if I wanted to go there.” Meaghan explained. “I’m mostly self-taught. Don’t get a lot of money from it, but a few years ago I started getting funded by an anonymous donor.”
“Meaning that as long as Mr. Red gives me the funds I need I don’t have to waste time on other stuff. I can concentrate on my work.” she paused, searching around the table for an gadget. She lifted up a rather large knife-like invention. “Here it is.”
“What is it?”
“I adapted it from the principles of Ravenholdt’s arcane bomb. It draws magic from nearby sources to it and channels it into the blade,” she explained. “Excellent against mages or anyone else that’s magically powerful. Such as Facade.”
“Facade...” Quinton Stone began to think. “Things are going to be getting worse, soon. He’s not going to take what happened lightly.”
“I thought the same. I’ve taken the liberty of arranging some alliances.”
“Good. We’ll need them,” Stone said firmly. "Allies are precious commodities."
“I’ve invited one over,” Raines announced. “He should be here shortly...”
“Sir, Osric Greystone is here. He has some issues he wishes to discuss,” Jackie Ketkhin announced.
The room was quite dark with the drapes drawn closed. Only a handful of candles and torches illuminated the study of the old manor, which Facade had taken residence in. The home had once belonged to the Ketkhin family, before Jackie had donated it to his new master. Bookshelves filled with ancient tomes, ornate tables and tapestries, candelabras and statues cluttered the room.
“The fools always come at the most inopportune times,” Facade growled. He was hunched over in a chair, the Ancient Oculus before him.
“If you wish, I can send him and the rest away,”
“Why? Because you think me too weak to handle my own men?” he turned to face the other man. “All boast and no performance. Can’t even handle a couple of street vigilantes without being stabbed. Is that it?”
“Sir, I never-”
“But you were thinking it! And you are a fool to think it.” Facade paused and stood. “Tell me, have you ever heard of the Myriad?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“They were an organization, large and powerful. Just as the Collective sprung out of Lordaeron and Quel’thalas, the Myriad rose from Khaz Modan and the Azeroth continent.” he explained. “Now, they are forgotten. My work.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m not some petty criminal, seeking only money and cheap thrills. I work with a purpose. I clear out the old, broken establishment to make way for the new.” he continued, stepping closer to Ketkhin. “The Myriad were comfortable and contented. There is no greater pain in the world than contentedness. I was their salvation through destruction. That is what I am for all the world.”
“I don’t quite understand.” Jackie hesitated before speaking.
“By destroying the Myriad, I allowed life to flow. I cut down a tree to grow a forest.” Facade elaborated. “I do the same wherever I go. I sweep out established power and take its place for a while. Then I depart, leaving behind a fertile plot sown with the seeds of competition. I’ve slain more lords of the Collective than any other person on the planet. I’ve dismantled organizations centuries old. And yet somehow Port Baradin resists. By all rights, the city should be mine.”
“It is yours, sir.”
“But it isn’t! Not yet! You can feel it, in the air of the streets. It is not my city. And now I know why.” Facade paused. “The Vigilante. His very existence breeds resistance to my influence. So I will crush him.”
“What’s your plan, sir?” Ketkhin asked.
“If the Ancient Oculus were truly under my control, there could be none that could oppose me. But the arcane power it holds is entrapped with esoteric and forgotten techniques. I can barely scratch the surface of the power contained within,” the mirrored man replied, turning his back on his underling. “It would take an entirely different instinct to access it.”
“If I may, sir,” Jackie Ketkhin said with a smile. “I think I might know just who you need.”
Siolfor Blackhammer leaned back in his chair. From his balcony he had watched the sun rise over Port Baradin’s bay. A beautifully impressive sight, and the Silverstache felt privileged to have such a perfect view of it. Luckily, his fortune had not dissipated as his political aspirations had. Just the opposite, his ventures into criminal enterprise had begun to increase it.
However, money did little to satisfy his desires. Some said money was power, but this was not the case amongst dwarves. Even amongst the criminal elements those in charge gained their positions primarily through merit or, more commonly, birthright. Unfortunately for Siolfor, the only birthrights left to him by his father was a tarnished reputation. Once upon a time he would’ve had the Port Baradin barony, but his father had squandered even that.
A messenger arrived at the estate, and one of Siolfor’s servants brought him the letter. She was a pretty young girl, and that was one item on a relatively small list of things that Siolfor liked. However, on this day it was to be the message that she delivered that pleased him instead. He broke the wax seal, marked with the symbol of the Dark Iron Clan, and read speedily. As he consumed the written word his eyes grew aflame with a familiar glow; the spark of ambition.
Siolfor stood up quickly and rushed inside, the letter crumpled slightly in his grip. At the dining table sat his wife, Oneida, and his son, Joldir. He was not especially close to them. He and his wife had been long estranged. Joldir himself was still very young, having been born only a little more than half a decade prior. He had at times thought of them as a burden, and had been somewhat vindicated in that view when his infidelity ruined his political career in the city. But now, they were a great asset.
“Oneida, ready yourself and Joldir for travel. We leave for Ironforge within the hour.” he announced.
“What is it now, Siolfor?” she replied with an exasperated tone.
“This.” he handed the letter to his wife, and her eyes too grew wide with ambition. “It seems that your blood will finally avail us some gain, Oneida Thaurissan.”
“So,” Quinton Stone asked, turning to Meaghan. He had just donned a suit made of special materials that she had made. “what do you think?”
“Hmm,” she picked up a knife and threw it at him. It hit his shoulder, but the blade was stopped by the armor. “Yes, I think it works.”
“A little warning next time,”
“If I had told you I was going to throw it you wouldn’t have let me,” she paused, hearing a distinct knock on the door. “I think that’s our friend”
She climbed up the ladder, exiting the secret lab. It was a short walk from the living room to the front door. Looking through a slat in the wooden door, she affirmed the identity of the man knocking on the door. Twisting her locks open, she let Commissioner Turpin inside the building. He was alone and in civilian clothing. He shut the door behind himself, revealing the Vigilante behind it.
“Damn it!” Turpin shouted in shock. “How the hell do you do that?”
“I eat a healthy breakfast each morning,”
“You’re making jokes now?” he turned to Meaghan and spoke playfully. “What did you do to him,”
“It’s time we properly met,” Stone said, taking the mask off. “My name is Quinton Stone. We met at that charity dinner a few months ago.”
“Well I’ll be.” Turpin replied, shaking Stone’s hand. “So we did. Good to finally see the face under that mask.”
“Gentlemen, we have something to discuss. Facade.” Meaghan interjected.
“I’ve got as many of my boys as I can out on patrol, looking for his next move. That little incident down at the harbor made quite the impression on everyone in the city, you know.”
“The good kind or the bad kind?”
“The good kind. This town needed somebody to stand up to the reflective bastard face to face.” Turpin explained. “Gave them a little hope. Now, as many boys as I have out there, I still can’t get any development to you in a timely fashion.”
“I believe I have a solution to that problem.” Meaghan said as she rummaged through a bag. “Communication stones, privately networked.”
“Perfect.” Stone replied. “Facade is more dangerous than ever. We’ve got a wounded animal out there. We need to be ready when he lashes out.”
Water dripped onto the stone floor of Ironsong Prison as the winds howled around it. The stone fortress was large, dark, dirty and filled with criminals ranging from the petty to the nightmarish. Some inmates, those with connections, got sent to ‘solitary confinement’, which was more of a nice room at a tavern where they filled out the rest of their sentences. The worst of the worst were sent to the Asylum, at the heart of the facility. Those with severe mental issues were sent there as well.
The doors of the prison were drawn open to let a cart in. It carried a large crate, a delivery for the prison. The facility was many things, but it was not self-sustainable. The doors slammed behind the men pushing the cart with a large clanking noise. The crate had a large label identifying it as a food supply crate, and thus was brought down to the kitchen. However, upon opening the crate the kitchen staff found no food, but instead a strange mechanical device.
“Anyone have any idea who in the nether sent us this damned toy instead of our supplies?” the chef shouted. He slammed a fist into it. Suddenly, it lit up a bright blue and various sections began spinning.
“What the-” sous chef’s words were cut off as the Mana Bomb exploded, taking the kitchen and a small chunk of the first cellblock. As the dust cleared a small crowd became visible in the debris field, having moved in after the explosion. Three figures stood at its head.
“Mr. Ketkhin, remind me to pay the Perinany Legion for those wonderful mana bomb designs,” Facade said. “Note the sarcasm. They’re the ones that used my designs in the first place.”
“Sir, the Asylum is this way,” the third figure said. He was a short fellow.
“Very good. Lead the way, Mr. Flyntrock.”
Junno Flyntrock, trailed by his master Facade, Jackie Ketkhin and the Ketkhin Mercenaries, moved swiftly through the Cellblock One. Various guards tried to stop their advance. They were quickly cut down, their keys taken to release the prisoners. By the time he reached the Terminal Structure connecting the various Cellblocks Facade had an army of liberated criminals at his back. The guard force was ill-prepared to face the association of criminals.
The conflict quickly escalated into a full fledged prison break. The released criminals began to storm other Cellblocks. Facade saw notorious thugs Swine and Big Icy amongst the ruckus, alongside other fearsome figures: Emorva, Eyeball Emancipator; Hogar the Walking Inferno; Julia van Bludstein. Their release would undoubtedly cause great and terrible crime sprees in the town. Facade didn’t care. Just the opposite, in fact. They would be useful. He turned to Flyntrock as they reached the Asylum.
“Make sure Hogul Brightletter makes it out of here alive,” he ordered. “Point him towards the office of our dear Ignal Ironroot. I’m sure he has a thing or two to tell him.”
Ripping open the door, Facade walked down the steps alone. His retinue guarded the entrance. The few guards inside charged at him fruitlessly. One raise a battle axe and swung with great force. Facade caught the blade of the weapon in a bare outstretched hand and snapped it off the shaft before decapitating the guard with it. With impossible speed he tore the throat out of another before burning the third with his magic.
Facade stood unchallenged, the medical staff too afraid to try to stop him. The mirrored man walked through the halls of the asylum, searching for the number that Flyntrock had given him. He found it near the end of the hallway. With arcane-enhanced strength, he ripped the steel door clean off and tossed it to the side. In the corner of the cell was a quivering man in a straight-jacket. Facade approached him, bending down to his level.
“Why, hello there friend. It would be a shame to keep you locked up down here. Such a waste of potential. Though from what I understand it was just as wasted by your previous employers,” Facade’s voice was slow and drawn out. ”They thought you mad. But I recognize your madness for genius. From what I understand, you are quite the arcane prodigy.”
“What- what do you want?” the man whispered back feafully.
“I want you to use your talents to give me all the power I could ever want,” the mirrored man explained. “I want Lunarus.”