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Old 09-18-2010, 04:56 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Darkmoon Card: Elementals Falconbridge I

I want to begin by first making a confession. I've been lurking on these forums for...I think five years? It's been a really long time, so I know the rules you follow, and even what to expect from some of your personalities! I finally created an account because I started writing fanfiction and had no-one to share it with. People don't take fanfic seriously in real life. Heck, even I didn't take it seriously until the work of one "Semiiramiis" convinced me.

Anyway, our story begins toward the end of The Burning Crusade, so that puts us about the year 31 of the Age of Chaos. I think you'll figure out the timing as the story goes. I plan to post a chapter every other day or so. I promise the writing gets better as it goes.
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Old 09-18-2010, 05:30 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Map Chapter One

The Falconbridge Chronicles

Book I:
Shadowbane

* * * * * * * *

Chapter One: Falconbridge Manor

Notes:
First chapter, we introduce our protagonist and out plot. It also marks the first appearance by Rogers, the adorable Cockney security guard. Just to note, Lord Timothy is named after my richest relative: my Uncle Tim. Kudos to those who recognize the pop-culture reference used as a parting shot. I just couldn't resist that one.

As a side note, I'm a bit unsure how best to format this. Is it working for you?

Kalin Trueshot trudged up the hill toward a large gate. It was unusual to see one of his kind doing anything in broad daylight, but he had an appointment with humans, who, like most of the Alliance races, were active primarily during the day. The purple-skinned elf looked quite young, lines of age only just beginning to appear on his face, but his glowing, yellow eyes burned with a wisdom befitting of his more than seven thousand years. Since he was only running an errand, his long, black hair was let down, but he remained vigilant. With the heavy, brown bag slung across his back, he had opted to forgo his usual bow and quiver. That is not to say that he was unarmed, for he always made a point of carrying as many concealed weapons as possible. Silently, he challenged anyone to try to take him. Six and a half thousand years as a scout for the Sentinels had made Kalin Trueshot a force to be reckoned with.

He was on a cobblestone road that wound its way through Elwynn Forest, up this steep hill, and finally terminated at a high stone wall. The road met the wall at a high, pointed arch, flanked by uniformed guards. The passage was blocked by a pair of enormous wooden doors, no doubt braced from behind by a portcullis.

Temporarily unshouldering the heavy load slung over his back, Kalin addressed the guard on his right. “‘Morning, Rogers,” he said in perfect Common.

“Oy, Kalin!” he replied, “Whatcha got there?”
“The latest specimens for his Lordship’s collection,” he said cryptically.

The man called Rogers laughed. “‘Ee certainly do like to collect things.” He exchanged knowing glances with his partner. Then he turned and yelled up at the top of the wall, “‘Ey Magers, open the gate! The elf’s back!” There was a stream of incomprehensible grumbling, followed by sounds indicating that the portcullis was being slowly winched up.

“I see you’ve beefed up security around here,” said the elf, “Are the Defias giving you trouble again?”

“Aye, this estate was the on’y one VanCleef completed ‘fore ‘ee was expelled, so ‘ee tries all the harder to take it back, see? ‘Is red-scarves ‘ave been comin’ ‘round ‘ere abou’ once a week, give or take. Jus’ vandalism mostly, but ya can’ be too careful!” A dull thud indicated that the portcullis had been locked into its raised position. The doors began to swing slowly open. Kalin picked up his burden again and started toward the widening gap between the doors. Suddenly, Rogers turned and said, “Kalin, where’s tha’ cat ‘o yours? It’s always been with you before.”

The elf stopped, turned and said with a sly grin, “Where I need her.”
“You nigh’ elves an’ your mysterious ways,” said Rogers, “gimme a dwarf any day!”
“At least they always come with ale!” added his companion. All three of them laughed.

Turning back to his task, Kalin stepped through the gate into the garden beyond. It was dotted with marble fountains, topiary sculptures, and hedges, all laid out in complex geometric patterns. Beyond it stood an ornate mansion. The whole place reeked of money. Kalin did not like seeing nature controlled in this way. Typical of humans to try to control everything, he thought, they seem unable to except that anything might be beyond their control. With that, he slung the bag across his shoulders and trudged into the ‘art.’

* * *

It was a beautiful sunny day, but Lord Timothy Hilldemoore Falconbridge was indoors. He was working, as he always was. Despite his great wealth, he could not help but stay busy. His was a keen and curious mind, and in his twenty-eight years he had used the vast resources left to him to investigate just about everything. In fact, he was the first person in recorded history to hold certifications as both a mage and a priest at the same time, leading some to suggest that he was the next Medivh. His efforts had converted his palatial home into a combination library and museum. Nearly every wall was covered by books and some rooms were now nearly impassible because of the shear number of artifacts on display.

This room was his workshop. Hidden away in the basement, it contained only those volumes relating to his most current avenues of research, as well as an examination table, topped with metal for easy cleaning, and a full array of dissection tools. Right now, he was perched on a stepladder, securing an enormous crystal into an equally prodigious mounting. The crystal was larger than he was, but it floated weightlessly, surrounded by a faint, purple glow. With one hand controlling the levitation spell, he used a hammer in the other to close the golden frame around the crystal.

He did this under the watchful eye of a curvaceous young woman…with horns, bat-like wings, and hoofed feet. “Timmy dearest,” she called up to him in a most alluring voice, “aren’t you going to tell me why you’re doing all this?”

“In due time, Muffin,” he replied, not even looking away from his labor, “This is a secret project. I can’t have it being revealed until its ready; and most certainly not to your masters back at the Legion. If I don’t tell you, they can’t make you tell them. There we go!” He allowed the levitation spell to dissipate and stepped back to admire his handiwork once he was off the ladder. “That’s the second in place!” he crowed triumphantly, “now we wait only for the third.” The demoness adopted a sort of pouting slouch as she leaned against a column. Seeing that her master hadn’t noticed, she also pushed some of her shiny black hair behind a horn in a manner that most men found very attractive.

Just then, the scene was interrupted by a loud “poof.” A barely three-foot tall figure had just appeared, standing on the table. She had lime-green hair done up in two pigtails and eyes to match. “Hiya, boss!” she blurted out, jumping down from the table. “Post just came! This was marked F.Y.E.O.” she said in a voice that made it sound as though someone had just told a mildly spooky story and she were humoring them.

“Oh, thank you, Temple,” said Tim, taking the envelope she waved in front of him.

“Actually, I’m Shirley! We switched colors over the weekend. Gotta keep everyone guessing, ya’know!” she added with a giggle. “Well, back to work! Bye!” With a wave, she vanished with another “poof.”

Tim walked calmly over to the table and used one of the tools to carefully open the letter. He unfolded it and began to read. As his eyes scanned farther down the page, his expression became successively more and more annoyed. By the time he reached the bottom, an outright scowl had erupted across his face. He crumpled the page into a ball and cast it to the floor where, with a wave of his hand, it burst into flames. Mastering himself, he turned to his hitherto ignored succubus. “Muffalda,” he said in a quiet yet commanding tone. She hastened forward and bowed slightly, making sure that he got a glimpse down her low-cut armor as she did so.

“Yes, Master?” she cooed. A hand under her chin jerked her gaze upward until it met his. There were many emotions written in those deep blue eyes; there was loathing, as all beginner warlocks felt in the presence of demons, hate too, hate could be useful, and lust, that was a succubus’ primary leverage, but there was something else, something deeper, almost…pity. No, it must be love, she thought, he’s getting in too deep. I’ll have him marching to Kil’jaeden’s beat in no time. Give me a few more years, and I’ll get promoted out of this lease-a-slave business. He seemed to realize she was reading him and turned away, pacing in thought.

“There is a dwarf,” Tim began, “who currently resides in Menethil Harbor by the name of Mundum Bronzeblade who…owes me a lot of money. I want you to find him and bring him here.”

“Yes, Master,” she said, looking slightly dejected. As she turned to go, he added, “And if he doesn’t want to come, go ahead and rough him up a little.” He flashed her a sly grin. She grinned wickedly back, transitioning seamlessly into a saucy wink, and with a crack of her whip, she vanished. He’s becoming more like one of us with every passing day.

Tim turned to suddenly find another figure in the room. The man was balding; most of the hair he had left was already gray. He was impeccably dressed. That and other characteristics demonstrated beyond all possible doubt that this man was a butler. “Oh, I didn’t here you come in, Clotworthy,” he said.

“It would be improper to interrupt his Lordship’s conversations, sir,” the butler replied.

“What brings you down here, anyway?”
“Excellency, we have a visitor: the elf, Kalin Trueshot.”

“Back already? I may have to give him a bonus for early delivery. Very well, show him in.”

“You trust him with the location of your secret laboratory, sir?”
“Clotworthy, I would trust him with my life.”

* * *

Kalin followed the butler through the labyrinth of display cases. Tim must be making a taxidermist somewhere very happy, he thought. Clotworthy stopped abruptly in front of an ordinary bookcase, looking indistinguishable from the innumerable others in the house. He removed what turned out to be a false book, revealing a switch. There was a distinct click somewhere behind, and at the butler’s touch it swung back into the wall. Behind it, a stairway led downward. Its stark, utilitarian look was a far cry from the almost oppressive ornateness of the room they had just left. At the bottom was what was unmistakably a workspace for dirty jobs. A tall, thin man met them, with short black hair and a close-cut, but still present, goatee. His brilliant blue eyes shined with intelligence.

He had the elf locked in a hug in less than a second. The hug was not returned. There were two reasons for this. First, in elven cultures of all stripes, touching another person is considered tantamount to a sex act; an invasion of personal space that should be inviolate. Though Kalin had come to expect this, he still could never to get used to this most distasteful of human customs. Second, his sharpened senses detected something that put him immediately on his guard. Timothy Falconbridge looked up at his friend’s wrinkled nose. “Is something wrong, Kalin?” he asked.

“Demons,” said Kalin with contempt. “I could recognize that stench anywhere. Just what you been getting yourself into these days?” he added with a suspicious look.

“Ahh,” Tim said, “That. One of my study specimens: a succubus to be exact.”

“Studying,” said the elf skeptically, examining his friend as though seeing him for the first time.

Clotworthy seized the opportunity created by the awkward pause to distance himself from the confrontation. “Will that be all, sir?”

Looking relieved to have something else to talk about, Tim said, “Yes, Clotworthy. You are dismissed.” The butler turned and hurried up the stairs. “So, how did the trip to Outland go?” Tim continued as though nothing had happened, “You’re back much sooner than expected.”

“I had some help,” said the elf, seeming to put aside his suspicions for the moment. He unslung the bag from his shoulders and emptied its contents onto the dissection table. Tim examined the pale blue lump of flesh.
“What is this?” he asked, beginning to take one the near-manic energy that he had when he was learning things.

“This is a nether ray. They live primarily in the Netherstorm, the region being bathed most intensely by arcane energy from the Twisting Nether. Why is a very long story. I knew you had been investigating the long-term effect of magic exposure on the physiology of living things, so I figured you’d be most interested in this. However, that took up most of the space in my bag, so this is unfortunately the only animal specimen I was able to procure. I do however have a number of plant and mineral samples for analysis, courtesy of the Cenarion Expedition.”

Tim stopped prodding the dead creature for a moment. “The Cenarion Circle in Outland?”

“Yes, they sent an expedition there as soon as the Dark Portal reopened. I believe they’re after much the same question as you.”

“Most intriguing. I assume you’ll want compensation for your travel expenses?”

“Of course,” Kalin said flatly, “Plus twenty percent for the risk.”

“Twenty?” said Tim, looking slightly taken aback, “That’s quite an increase from your usual ten.”

“Running from one end of Outland to the other isn’t exactly taking a walk in Stormwind Park, you know!” replied the elf somewhat indignantly. “I’d say it’s a step up, even over the silithid hives.”

“All right, all right,” said Tim in resignation, “I suppose you do deserve something special for this.” He seemed to think for a moment. Suddenly his eyes lit up with an idea. “I may have just the thing, my friend.” He slapped Kalin on the back as he strode past him, making the elf cringe yet again. Nonetheless, he followed the human up the stairs and through the maze of display cases to another room.

This room seemed more open, but that was because its primary exhibit was separated by a railing, rather than walls of glass. The fenced-in area that occupied most of the room’s center was filled with numerous skeletons, mounted as in life. Kalin took stock of the display. There was horse, not too hard to obtain, and next to it what was arguably the standout, a murloc. There were also cat and wolf skeletons, both of the large-enough-to-ride variety, and a gnoll. What was most surprising was the number of sentient creatures among the macabre ensemble. There was a human, and next to it a shorter, more robust version, almost certainly a dwarf, and next to that the shortest of all, a gnome. There was what Kalin understood to be an orc, followed by numerous trolls of both sexes and varying sizes. A tauren dominated the scene, flanked by a taller, slighter version of the human which Kalin recognized as an elf. A high elf, he noted on closer inspection. Its placement was probably intended to contrast with the male and female naga next in the row.

“This is something very special,” intoned Tim as he led the way around to one of the side displays. The display cases around the outside of the room seemed to be filled with all kinds of historical weaponry. The piece they stopped in front of particularly caught Kalin’s eye.

“Tell me, Tim,” he said, “Is that what I think it is?”

“Yes,” said Tim. He pressed one hand to the glass, which promptly vanished. “That is indeed a genuine Stormhammer,” he said, beaming with pride.

“And just how did you separate it from its previous owner?” said Kalin suspiciously.

“Well,” Tim began, “in the course of my numerous investigations, I ran across an arms smuggling ring run by a group of renegade dwarves. Naturally, I contacted them and made an offer they couldn’t refuse.” In response to Kalin’s quizzical look, he continued, “Namely, that I get top pick of their inventory in exchange for not revealing everything I know about them to Stormwind Intelligence.”

Since Kalin seemed mollified, Tim reached in next to a sword that must have once belonged to a pandaren brewmaster and pulled out a sort of harness with two scabbards set into it. Kalin recognized it immediately, for elves commonly make use of such implements. After strapping it on, he drew both blades over his shoulders and executed a brief practice drill. The twin blades were identical, somewhere between a sword and a dagger in length. The elf resheathed them and, to Tim’s utter amazement, performed a backflip over the railing while simultaneously drawing the blades and twisting in midair so that he landed facing his “opponent,” the orc skeleton. With dazzling speed he “killed” several of the skeletons, sliding the blades between their ribs, but never touching them. Finally, he vaulted back out in front his friend. “These are good blades,” he said, “Probably the best I’ve ever seen.”

“Of course they are,” said the human, “Those were specially made for a high elven nobleman.”

Kalin snorted. “All high elves think they’re royalty of some kind.”

“Ah, but not just any nobleman. See that symbol engraved on the hilt? That is the crest of the Noble House Windrunner!”

“Windrunner?” said the elf, sounding mildly impressed. “As in the famous Windrunner Sisters?”

“The same. Quite a find, don’t you think?”

“Indeed. I’ll definitely be able to put these to good use.”

“Which reminds me…your next mission.”

“You have the next mission planned before I even get back?”

“Usually, but this one is of far greater urgency than usual. I want you to go to the Plaguelands to investigate certain happenings there. As strange as it may sound, the Cult of the Twilight’s Hammer as recently established a presence there.”

“The Twilight’s Hammer? Why would they go there?”

“They originally landed in the Tirisfal Glades, but the Forsaken drove them out.”

“I suppose that’s one thing they’re good for.”

“As you know, the Twilight’s Hammer is a cult that seeks to serve and, if possible, release the Old Gods from their subterranean prisons. I suspect you’ve heard the rumors of what lurks beneath Tirisfal, Kalin. If those fanatics manage to do what I think they’re trying to do…”

…the whole world will be doomed,” finished the elf. “I understand.”

“I need you to be my eyes and ears in the outside world, if not my hand, while I am busy with certain…projects.”

“About these ‘projects,’ Tim,” Kalin began, “I’m certain you know that every young night elf grows up being inculcated with the story of how my people almost destroyed the world ten thousand years ago.”

“I am fully aware of those stories, Kalin.”

“I fear you are following the same path that they did.”

“I suppose you’ll want to set off as soon as possible,” said Tim to change the subject. He walked to the doorway and pulled a rope to ring a bell above it. Almost instantly, Clotworthy appeared and bowed.

“You rang, mi’lord,” he said.

“Clotworthy, please show Mister Trueshot how to get back out of this house.”

“Of course, sir. Right this way.”
As he followed the butler out, Kalin turned and said, “I’m afraid you’re playing with fire, friend.”

“I assure you, I have taken all the necessary precautions, Kalin.”

“I don’t think so, Tim.” And the elf was gone.

* * *

Timothy made another incision in the corpse of the nether ray. Momentarily, he put down the scalpel to make yet another addition to his already copious notes. He did not even look up when a whip-crack sounded somewhere behind him.

“YOU!” said a voice. “It was you who sent this demon after meh, was it?”

That was enough to make Tim turn to face the new arrival. “Mundum Bronzeblade,” he said, “your letter did not please me.”

“I wasn’ lyin’ er nuthin’! They been pushin’ us hard! Makes it near impossible teh send ya yer cut, laddie.

“Your organization is nothing but a bunch of petty criminals. Do you honestly think I care about the difficulty of your illegal activity? Is honesty even in your nature?” he added with a dangerous glare. Sprawled on the floor of the lab was dwarf, with blonde hair and beard. He looked more than just a little roughed up. Behind him stood Muffalda, looking rather pleased with herself.

“Now don’ go jumpin’ teh any conclusions, Mister Falconbridge,” said the dwarf, staggering to his feet. “I’m sure we can work out sumpin’ tha’ll be mutually beneficial.”

“Indeed,” said the human more that a little contemptuously. “Muffalda, I believe your services are no longer required here. I can handle this myself; you are dismissed.” She vanished with another whip-crack.

“Where’d she go now?” said the dwarf, looking around fearfully.

“Back to the Twisting Nether, no doubt to report to her superiors on my activities. I had to get her out of the way before she heard too much.

“Demons er more trouble than their worth, I always say.”

“Look, Mundy, said Tim, “I’m willing to cut you a deal. I am willing to forgo all future payments,” the dwarf’s eyes lit up, “if you can procure for me a certain, very special item.”

“Name it!” said Mundy, “I can git anythin’!”

“I need another one of those,” said Tim pointing to the massive crystals in the apparatus he had been assembling.

“Muradin’s beard!” exclaimed the dwarf, “Where’d yeh ever git those?”
“From the wreckage of the Exodar. Blessed by the naaru, you know; perfect for the storage and focusing of holy energies.”

“Exodar yeh say? Ain’ that where all these big blue people been comin’ from?”

“Correct. Such crystals are relatively easy to find. They’re strewn all over the Azuremyst Isles. But don’t get sloppy; my previous supplier ran afoul of the islands’ new occupants and hasn’t been heard from since. The Draenei do not take kindly to the pilfering of their heritage.”

The dwarf seemed unable to take his eyes off the massive crystals. “A lot ‘o these, yeh say? There be a fortune teh be made here, says I.” He turned a beaming face toward Tim and rubbed his hands together greedily.
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:13 PM
Lon-ami Lon-ami is offline

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Well, "welcome" to Scrolls of Lore then, although you have been "part" for a long time already .

Good luck with the fanfic, we'll look forward it, as usual.

And anyway, good portrait: a Lurker for a lurker xDDD.
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Old 09-18-2010, 08:44 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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I guess I'm a little confused about proceedure here. I posted the first chapter, but it said it had to be approved by a moderator. Does that mean we have to wait for Kerrah to log in?

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And anyway, good portrait: a Lurker for a lurker xDDD.
Glad you like it. I thought it was clever.
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Old 09-19-2010, 04:40 AM
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Nah that's just our anti-bot shield.
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Old 09-21-2010, 07:05 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Unholy Chapter Two

I'm back in action, everybody! I actually wrote this over a year ago, and looking back at the first post, there are a number of glaring typos. I guess that shows how dependant we've all become on Word to cach things for us.

I wanted to make a note while the discussion in the other thread has me thinking about it:
I swear, on my honor, that I conceived this plot arc before the WoW Comic was announced! To make matters worse, I hear the Cataclysm beta includes a "Kalen Trueshot." Is Blizz reading my mind or something?!

Back to business, though. This chapter is, I think, the shortest ever. It also sets up a background plot that doesn't come to fruition until the second book, and isn't fully explained until the third! I kind of dropped the ball on that one. Anyway, it provides an excellent example of my fanfiction philosophy: "you're playing in someone else's house; put things back the way you found them."

Finally, I should warn all readers (if there are any) I've never actually played WoW. (I know myself well enough to avoid situations that might result in starvation.) As a crutch, we'll be leaning heavily on WoWWiki. Don't say I didn't warn you!

* * * * * * * *

Chapter Two: Ironforge

Kalin dismounted the gryphon with typical elven grace, having just landed in the center of the city. He was immediately hit by a withering blast of heat. That was precisely the reason he hated coming here. Most civilizations would make a temple of some sort the centerpiece of their cities, but not the mountain dwarves. The center of their city was a massive foundry, the city’s namesake. In some ways it could be argued that smithcraft was the “god” of dwarven culture, but that was a matter for anthropologists to debate.

Flying may be faster and more convenient than walking, he reflected, but it was still a terrible pain. First, there was the ridiculous pre-flight safety briefing that the flightmasters were required to give for liability reasons, but being dwarves, it usually consisted of, “Hang on tight an’ don’ try anythin’, laddie, or she’ll take yeh up to two thousand feet an’ drop yeh!” Such a confidence-boosting way to begin an hour-long flight. Then, there were the lousy in-flight refreshments, usually peanuts because they were so cheap. Hadn’t these people taken allergies into account?! Finally, there were the layovers; usually in places you would otherwise never want to go, like Ironforge.

Night elves are a rare breed, and fewer still consort with dwarves in anything deeper than professional relationships. That said, they were apparently common enough around here that no-one spared Kalin a second glance as he exited the landing zone, even though he towered a full two feet above most of the city’s inhabitants. He cast about for a quieter place to wait for his flight, somewhere away from the incessant bustle of city life. Kalin hated cities. He much preferred the remotest wilds, where he could work alone, in quiet; his pet providing all the companionship he needed. His gaze alighted on the High Seat. Most people would be respectful enough to leave the king and his court isolated from day-to-day activity.

He had slipped in and waited in this area in all of the previous times he had unwillingly visited Ironforge, so he new it well. Having been here before, he immediately recognized the dwarf who sat on the throne. That in itself was unusual. Magni Bronzebeard, High Thane of Ironforge and King of Khaz Modan, usually stood among his court, only retreating to the throne when he needed to seem extra powerful and imposing. Now, he sat upon it even though no-one was speaking to him, brooding. He seemed to be staring despondently at a ring he wore on his right hand.

Kalin slid into some nearby shadows. He could remain hidden in this way virtually forever. Allegedly, this was a magical power endowed by Elune on night elf women, but Kalin had learned to do it as well. He had chosen just the right moment for his vanishing act too: had he stayed in the archway any longer he would have been run over by a richly-dressed dwarf woman. At her side, barely keeping pace with her purposeful march, was a gnome, who was somehow able to carry a book nearly as large as himself. Both bowed as they came before the king. “Majesty,” began the woman, “Melbic here thinks he has found a solution!”

“To what, Archesonus?” the king replied, “There are many problems.”

She looked as though she were afraid to remind him, but continued, “The problem with your daughter.” The king looked furious that this had been said aloud, but the gnome seemed not to notice. He fitted a monocle into his left eye and opened the book on the floor, which he did not have to bend down to read.

“There would appear to be an obscure provision in the succession law that may give us a loophole,” he said, sweeping a finger across the open page. “If we can declare her to be legally dead, all persons claiming lineage from her after time of death are automatically excluded from the line of succession.”

“So, you see?” said Archesonus triumphantly, “We won’t have to kill her after all!”

The king’s mood did not seem to have lightened. “Either way, I will still be the last of my dynasty,” he said despondently. He muttered to himself, “Why do you do this Moira, why? Do you want to destroy your own people?” He pressed the ring to his lips and sat for a long moment, eyes closed, brow furrowed in thought. When he opened them, they had changed. Despair had become a dangerous fury, a primal rage that seethed against the whole world. He stood with such speed and ferocity that both the gnome and the Royal Historian drew back in fear. “Do it,” commanded the king with terrible resolve.

At that moment, another, much younger gnome burst into the room. “Is that lame excuse the best your legal experts could come up with, Melbic? We’ve got a plan!”

The older gnome looked scandalized. “How did you even find out about this, Sparksputter?” he demanded.

“The High Tinker knows all,” he replied. “He and his council have devised a plan that will keep the crown in the royal family and prevent a Dark Iron takeover.”

“And just how does he plan to that?” asked Melbic, sounding thoroughly unconvinced.

“It’s a secret plan! Can’t discuss it in public; besides, they didn’t even tell me what it was!”

The gnomes’ antics seemed to have defused the king’s rage. “I might have known Gelbin would get word of this,” he said in resignation. “I suppose there’s no harm in seeing what he has to say.”

“I wouldn’t put much hope in a plan devised by gnomes, sire,” interjected Archesonus.
“Hey!” shouted both gnomes simultaneously.
The king shrugged. “If their plan fails we can’t be any worse off than we are now,” he said darkly, “It would destroy me to kill my only child, Archesonus, but I’ll do it if I have to.”

“This way, Your Majesty!” Sparksputter said brightly. The foursome moved off in the direction of Tinkertown.

Only when they were out of sight did Kalin emerge from his hiding place. “What was that all about?” he wondered aloud. He made a mental note to ask Tim about it the next time they met.

* * *

Kalin glanced at the hourglass next to the landing zone as he approached it. Without breaking stride, he made a bee-line to the gryphon master. “Gryth, where’s my flight?” he demanded, “It was supposed to be here a half-hour ago!”

“Now hold your ram, laddie,” he replied, “Service to Light’s Hope is intermittent at best. Flights that long are nearly always late. A bad gust o’ wind could put you three hours behind, if the wind direction stays unfavorable. For all we know, they’re still grounded by bad weather up there.”

Kalin knelt down so as to better make eye contact with his vertically challenged companion. “Listen here, ‘friend,’” he said dangerously, “you have ten more minutes to get me on that bird, or you’ll be doing it for free because I demanded my money back, got it?”

The dwarf’s goggled head suddenly looked up. “Wouldn’tcha know it, here she comes now! Bless me! Why, if it ain’t ol’ Gerda! I didn’t think she was still flying; probably shouldn’t be at her age.” The gryphon alighted on the landing platform somewhat stiffly; she seemed unable to fold her wings as far as most of the others Kalin has seen. “How are you, old girl?” called the dwarf, “Thought I’d never see you again.” He tossed a sizable hunk of meat to the creature, who devoured it ravenously. The elf started toward her, but the dwarf held out an arm to stop him. “Don’t come close ‘till she’s done, or she’ll think you’re trying to take it away.” Kalin had enough experience with animals to know that trying to take away a carnivore’s dinner had disastrous consequences.

When the last scraps had vanished into the beast’s fearsome beak, Kalin stepped forward. Gryphons, even the extremely tolerant ones used for commercial flights, had to be treated with great respect. That was no problem for him. He always made a point of treating all animals with great respect, down to the most ignored beast of burden. They were each unique individuals in their own right, and deserved to be treated as such. It was terribly frustrating how often others, especially humans, forgot this.

He spoke to her softly in Elvish. It mattered not what was said; only the tone. The seasoned gryphon master stared in amazement as the gryphon came to her passenger, not the other way around. “In all my years,” he began, “I guess you elves really do have magic words.”

“It only looks like magic,” said Kalin, running a hand through the feathers on her neck. “This is what should happen.” In a single motion, swift and fluid, Kalin Trueshot leaped into the saddle. In response, the gryphon reared back and spread her wings. The elf leaned forward and whispered to her, “Get me out of this hellhole, friend. Fly free in open skies!” And with a running start, she was airborne.

“Wait!” called the dwarf, “I have to give the safety…” But Gerda was already in the air, taking advantage of the massive updraft produced by the Great Forge.
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Old 09-23-2010, 06:26 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Map Chapter Three

Come on people! Are you telling me nobody has comments on this? The thread is racking up views, so I know you're reading this!

Notes: Maybe Chapter Two wasn't the shortest one after all... Aside from that, I should have used Andorhal over Corin's Crossing. I really, really should've used Andorhal. Oh, and as a reminder, this was written before WotLK.

* * * * * *

Chapter Three: Light’s Hope Chapel
Kalin had been to Light’s Hope Chapel only a few times before, but that was enough to tell that something was seriously amiss, even from the air. There was no doubt in his mind that the woman wreaking havoc below him was totally smashed. Gerda the gryphon alighted a little stiffly in the landing zone, as she was trained to do. Immediately, a dwarf woman rushed forward to steady the beast while her rider dismounted. “Hello,” she said, “My apologies, friend, but we’re having a bit of a crisis around here right now. I’m Khaelyn Steelwing…” At that point, the conversation was abruptly brought to a close when Khaelyn was blown off her feet by an errant blast of holy magic.

Kalin, who had just gotten onto the ground, was forced to dive and roll to avoid being struck by the flailing wings of the startled gryphon. “Well met,” he called in the direction of the dwarf, who lay sprawled on the ground.

As he picked himself up, the cause of the disturbance came into view: a young, human female, dressed as a priest. Barely of age, but so drunk that she could hardly stand up, let alone walk. She was staggering about, more crawling at times, blasting everyone in sight with spells. She paused to take a swig from the enormous jug she carried. Kalin seized the opportunity to dart behind a building. “Bastards!” she screamed, “Bastards, all of you! Damn you! Damn you all! This is for Sally!”

Kalin knew how to end this, but his way was risky. On the other hand, no-one around here seemed to be trying. Taking off his quiver, he selected an arrow specially made for this sort of purpose. Most arrows were made for maximum penetration and damage, but this one was precisely the opposite. It was made to allow the application of poisons with minimal damage. He dipped the head in a vial of potent tranquilizer. Nocking it in his bow, he crept silently from his hiding place. If his quarry had been coherent before, she had now degenerated into profanity-laced ravings that made no sense at all. She momentarily hauled herself onto her feet again. Kalin knew this wouldn’t last, so he took advantage of the temporarily larger target profile. He didn’t want his shot to go too deep, so he did not put full draw on it. Nonetheless, it struck with accuracy befitting of his name.

The woman fell over again, now vomiting violently. She also seemed to be sobbing uncontrollably. She fired off a spell at her attacker, but considering her condition, it was no surprise that it missed by miles. Yanking the arrow out of her belly, she used some healing magic, but then collapsed. Once she had not moved for a minute, Kalin stepped forward and squatted to examine his prey. She was young all right; and pretty too, by human standards. He ripped open the bloody spot in her robe. The clumsy heal had left a scar far larger than was necessary, but it was too late to do anything about that now, Kalin noted. He checked her eyes next, pulling one open, then the other. The pupils dilated normally, so she must not have fallen too hard.

A powerfully built man came charging up the hill to where Kalin sat. He was puffing as if he had just run a long way to get here. Kalin recognized him as Steven Pureblade, Tim’s primary liaison with the Argent Dawn. “Kalin? Kalin Trueshot?” he called, “I never expected to see you again, though I wish it could be under better circumstances. I should have known something like this would happen. What happened here?” His armor rattled as he knelt beside the elf.

“I shot her,” he replied simply
Steven’s eyes widened, aghast. “Um…why?” he asked.

Kalin picked up the discarded jug and emptied its contents on the ground. “Because of this,” he said. “She was drunk out of her mind and seemingly bent on destroying everything in sight. She seems awfully young to be in a place as dangerous as the Plaguelands.”

“She was supposed to take over for me,” said Steven, “Tim sent her so I could go back to fighting. I’m in the Brotherhood of the Light, now.”

Kalin was taken aback. “She’s one of ours? Who is she?”
“Whitemane. Sarah Whitemane,” Steven replied.
“Whitemane, eh? That’s a funny name for someone with black hair and brown eyes,” Kalin mused.
“I thought the same thing, when I first met her. She said there’ve been a lot of albinos in the family.”

“That would do it.” Examination over, the pair stood. Kalin used his foot to roll the unconscious woman over so she would not choke on her own tongue.
By now, even the most protected of the residents had come to see what the ruckus was all about, and those who had seen it emerged from their hiding places. As Kalin looked around at the assembled populace, something caught his eye. Lying on the ground nearby was an ornate, red hat. He walked over and picked it up. “Steven,” he said, “what is this?”

The paladin turned the object over in his hands. “This is from the Scarlet Crusade: a high inquisitor’s chapeau.”

The elf scanned the crowd again, looking more carefully this time. “Hold it. Who’s that?” he said pointing at a woman who was watching from more of a distance. Over her armor she wore a distinctive tabard: a red flame on a white field.

“That’s Scarlet Commander Marjhan,” Steven replied, “chief negotiator in our relations.”

“You’re negotiating with the Crusade?” the elf said incredulously, “I never thought I’d live to see the day; and for me, that’s saying something.”
The paladin laughed. “Well, they’ve actually been coming around, now that most of their leadership has been knocked out. The ravings of Isillien have been silenced, for good; but the biggest difference came once we took down the Grand Crusader.”

“You finally got him?” Kalin interjected.
“Well, let’s just say we aren’t wondering how a noble purpose became so evil any more. Apparently, Dathrohan had been possessed by a demon. He’d been pulling the strings all along.”

“Let me guess: dreadlord”
Steven seemed surprised. “How’d you know?”
“It’s exactly the sort of thing they’d do. After something like that, I’m kind of surprised the whole organization didn’t fall apart.”
“They’ve still got one more leader, and the new General Abbendis seems more apt to compromise.”

A tall, older-looking man with a bushy, black moustache was pushing his way to the front of the crowd. “Steven!” he called as he strode forward, “What’s the meaning of this?! The rest of you,” he turned to the assembly, “back to your posts!” The crowd began to dissipate with murmurs of discontent.

“Your pardon, Duke Zverenhoff,” Steven began, “but…”
But the duke seemed to make a connection as he glanced between the hat his subordinate held and the young woman lying unconscious on the ground, now snoring like a drunken sailor. “Oh…she must have found out about the raid on the Scarlet Monastery.”

“Sir?” asked Steven. There did not seem to be a connection.
In response, the duke snatched the chapeau from his hands. From its lining, he plucked a long, silver hair. “I believe,” said the duke, “that High Inquisitor Whitemane was her sister.”

“Oh…” said Steven, his eyes widening as he realized the implications of that statement. “Then that means… No wonder she was acting so strange.”
Only now did the duke seem to notice Kalin, who had been watching impassively. “And who might this be?” he inquired.
Steven snapped back into the present. “This is Kalin Trueshot, sir. He’s with the Falconbridge network.”

“Well, I suppose that is your domain. I’ll leave you to your business, but be advised Mr. Trueshot, that when you leave, you will be escorting her back to your master. Until, then put her up with Jessica; and put it on Falconbridge’s tab.” With that, the senior paladin turned and left.

Kalin waited until he was well out of earshot before saying, “I’m sensing some resentment here.”

“We’ve had a lot of washouts lately,” said Steven, “Kids keep coming up here with fantasies of fighting the Scourge, but then crack under the constant danger.”

Kalin stooped to pick up the unconscious woman. Steven continued as he bent to help, “You’ve established a reputation for fighting evil all over the world. I’m sure Lord Tyrosus’ membership offer still stands. We could use someone like you up here, especially after the mysterious disappearance of a certain phylactery.”

The elf briefly imagined how he would look wearing the Dawn’s tabard, a silver sunburst on black. “I fight evil, yes; but in no-one’s name but my own, not even Tim’s.”

“Well, all the same, don’t forget to wear that pin marking you as a friend of the Dawn: we wouldn’t want our agents killing each other. Speaking of which, there was a sizable Horde expedition that came through here a few days ago.”

“Hmm…” said Kalin, “and did they say what brought them out here?”
“For the same reason I suspect you’ve been sent: old enemies in unusual places.”

“You’ve got that part right. Where are these Twilight cretins anyway?”
“They’ve taken over the ruins of Corin’s Crossing. Even the Crusade hasn’t done that. They are numerous and fanatical, so be careful.”

“Aren’t I always?” said Kalin with a grin. And the pair carried Sarah into the inn.
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Old 09-23-2010, 06:40 PM
Orifiel Whitedeer Orifiel Whitedeer is offline

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*up tempo bow chicka wow chicka wow chicka wicky wicky wow*

I see ya Kalin, shakin dat ass

*Chicka chicka wicka wow wika wow*

Kalin, he's one bad mother

SHUT YO MOUTH

Why, I'm just talking bout Kalin!

*chiki chicka wika wow chicka wow*
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Old 09-23-2010, 07:02 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Crossed Axes (War2) Chapter Four

The brevity of the last two makes me somewhat impatient. Behold, a real chapter!

Notes: Here we introduce our secondary cast, on the other side. The real question is, why are they traveling east if they just landed a Light's Hope? Another reason to have used Andorhal. I guess I really liked Light's Hope Chapel for some reason...

* * * * *

Chapter Four: Twilight in the Plaguelands

Naiva Shadowbane sat on a rock drinking Thistle Tea. There was a time when she would have held the teacup delicately while she took small sips, being careful to hold out her pinky finger to show how sophisticated she was. Now, she gripped the tin mug tightly in both hands as she slurped greedily at the hot, bitter brew. That life had been stolen from her. The only thing that she had left to prove to herself that it had ever been anything more than a dream was a pattern of scars branded into the palm of her left hand. That had been an accident; one that she frequently regretted, for it made it highly uncomfortable to close her fist. The mug was large enough that she couldn’t down it all in one go, so she came up for air. As she did so, she took a moment to examine her reflection on the surface of the liquid. Her hair was blonde; shoulder length, or would be were not most of it pulled tightly back into a ponytail. Still, she left her forelocks free with an off-center part, dangling to just above her chin. Protruding from the gap between hair that was and was not pulled back were her long, pointed ears. Her most striking feature was her eyes. Once, they had been deep blue, like the lake near her home; but now they were green, and seemed to emit an eerie glow.

“Oh Naiva, dear,” called a voice from somewhere in the woods she sat facing, “are you feeling better yet? Those Scarlets can be tenacious.”
“Yes, nearly ready to go again, but how many times do I have to tell you not to call me ‘dear’?” she snapped. Thattia Seagrave appeared, felhunter padding alongside her.

“I’m just trying to make you feel more at home, Naiva,” she said sympathetically.
“I don’t have a home. It was stolen from me, remember?” said Naiva with a slight pout.

“Oh. I see you’re in one of those moods again,” Thattia replied, rolling her eyes, or rather, the glow that replaced them. “In that case I’ll just leave you to stew in your despair.” With that, she turned to leave. Feeling slightly disgusted with herself, Naiva downed what remained of the mug’s contents and stood up, her tight-fitting leather armor creaking slightly as she did so. I’m going to have to oil this thing again tonight, she noted. Out of frustration, and rage at herself for casting aside friend, she threw the empty cup to the ground. Unintentionally, it struck a stone with a sound like a cowbell. She stooped to pick it up. There was now a large dent in one side. Damaged goods, she thought, just like me. I guess it’s mine now. Thattia won’t want it back like this.

It was true. Thattia was the best thing that had happened to her since her old life had been destroyed. She was a Forsaken, but more caring than any of the other survivors had been. All they cared about was rebuilding Silvermoon. They didn’t want to “waste resources caring for the weak.”

They wouldn’t call me weak if they could see me now, she thought fiercely. She was far from what she had been then, a disoriented child with a burned hand, a broken arm, and numerous lacerations stumbling about in the charred remains of her village.

Being careful to hide the cup in her hand, she returned to the camp. “Snaps you out of it every time,” said Thattia without looking up from the potion she was concocting. Naiva surreptitiously slid the dented cup into her pack, along with her few other possessions. She hated being manipulated like this, but knew it was for her own good. She looked over at her best friend and mentor. Thattia Seagrave had been very lucky compared to most other undead. Though her skin was deathly pale, and her digits bony and claw-like, her face remained intact, save for the usual gauntness of her kind. Her hair was black, matted and always sticking up at strange angles. Her eyes burned with a yellow glow in the usual undead manner, but were always kind, except during fights; then she wore an almost sadistic expression.

Naiva walked over to where Thattia sat and leaned back against the tree behind her. As she did so, a lock of hair fell into her face. At first, she tried to dislodge it with a well-aimed blast of air. Only when that had failed twice did she reach up with her hand. It was a swift, fluid motion, clearly well-practiced. Her annoyance was interrupted by a heavy panting sound. Looking down, she saw the felhunter looking up at her expectantly. Then she noticed the stick that had been deposited at her feet. Smirking slightly, she picked it up, then threw it, but did not let go of it. The felhunter charged off in the direction Naiva had “thrown” it, but seemed to realize something was wrong. As it turned, it caught sight of Naiva, who held up the stick tauntingly. The demon hound came bounding back, once again looking up expectantly. Dumb animal, she thought, but a useful one nonetheless. She threw the stick again, this time for real. Though it lacked the aerodynamic characteristics of her throwing knives, its flight was remarkably straight. The felhunter surged after it, leapt off the ground, and clenched its jaws around the stick in midair. Now that was impressive, thought Naiva, stupid, but inescapable. The demon hound romped back to her and again dropped the stick. Instead of picking it up though, knelt down and ruffled her hands through the mass of tentacles on it back.

“I don’t understand how you can conscience allowing a child to place herself in such danger,” said a voice. Thattia looked up. A wizened orc approached, leaning heavily on a staff to take some strain off his arthritic hip. Razak Skybinder had hired the services of Thattia and Naiva to aid him on an expedition of as yet undisclosed purpose. His eyes were deep-set; his face deeply lined. A white beard protruded from his hood. He had the air of someone who has seen a lifetime of suffering, but harbors no anger at the world; a deep acceptance of hardship.

“I fail to see the danger you speak of, old man,” said Thattia somewhat defensively, “That felhunter is magically bound to obey my wishes.”
The old orc grunted. “It only takes one blow to kill, my child. I doubt that even your thoughts are fast enough to react in time.”

Switching the subject, Thattia said, “Naiva is not a child. She may be young, but she has already seen more suffering than most people do in their lives.”
“It is not knowledge of suffering that makes one mature, my child,” intoned the orc.

“Stop calling me that!” Thattia snapped. “Our agreement was between equals. I will not be talked down to.”
“You wish to terminate your employment, then?” inquired the orc.
“No,” she stammered, “I just…”

“Then you will have to put up with idiosyncrasies of an old man,” he said turning away. Thattia glared after him, then turned new eyes on Naiva, still playing with the felhunter. She was happy, that’s what mattered, right?

* * *

A young woman sat beneath a tree. Her legs were folded beneath her, her eyes closed in meditation. She was powerfully built for a female creature, but so were all of her kind. Short tusks protruded an inch beyond her lower lip. Most of her head was shaven, save for a long topknot that fell to her shoulders, but usually less depending on how many golden rings she used to bind it. The hair itself was black and wavy, tending to spread out unless bound. Several more gold rings hung from her pointed ears in various places. Gold complemented her green skin, or so she was told.

Beside her slumbered a living mountain, a bovine form covered in short, gray fur. Everything about this creature was massive: broad, heavily muscled shoulders; robust, wide-set horns; oversized cloven hooves terminated legs thick as some trees. A mane of longer, black hair ran from the back of his head over a developing, but not-quite-finished neck-hump. His breathing was slow and shallow, but for a creature with lungs this large, that was a tremendous amount of air. His eyes were squeezed shut, but seemed to be moving rapidly beneath their lids. A fly landed on the exposed arm of the sleeping giant. Reflexively, it was squashed flat by the black tuft on the end of the bull’s tail. He grunted, and turned over in his sleep.

A ghost padded silently toward the serene pair. It took the form of an ethereal wolf, trailing mist behind it. It wound its way among the trees of the corrupted forest, circling the two several times, but all the while watching them. Finally, seemingly satisfied that the woman would not awake, it strode boldly forward stopping to watch her in the open.

Suddenly, the wolf reared back on its hind legs and began to change, becoming more substantial as it did so. When the transformation was complete, there stood not a wolf, but an orc, old and stooped, clutching a staff. He spoke to the orc woman, “Well, Huranka, what can you tell me?”

She came gracefully out of her meditation pose, looking up at him. “These lands have suffered terribly, Great-Father. The spirits are out of balance; they cry out for vengeance upon those who wronged them.”

“Yes,” he agreed, “and it will only get worse the farther east we go. I suggest you steal yourself.”
“What brings us to such a tainted land, Great-Father?” she asked, “What is this mission that the Earthen Ring has tasked us with?”

“Now that is privileged information, Huranka. There are…enemies here. Needless to say, the task was given to me; I merely chose you and Sark to accompany me, at the behest of the spirits. We are to face grave danger, my child. Yet even that is nothing compared to the ancient evil we would face if we did not come here. The world is complicated place. Sometimes, the wisest choices are completely non-sensical, for we do not see all that the spirits do.”

Huranka stood with a start. “If we go into such great danger, then why did you hire only two mercenaries? And not very strong ones at that.”

The old man looked deep into her eyes, then beyond, as though looking through her. “I chose Thattia and Naiva over all the other blades for hire in the Undercity not because they were strong, nor even because their bid was low. I chose them because the spirits told me it was right to do so.”

Huranka looked down at her grandfather’s feet and took a deep breath. “I…envy your faith, Great-Father,” she said quietly.

* * *

Claws dug into the spongy ground of the Plaguelands, then retracted back into their sheaths. A horned lion glared about at his surroundings. Finding this position safe, the cat reared back, and grew; in moments a massive humanoid bull stood in its place. Sark Swiftwind gave the hilltop a final once-over. Even though his feline eyes were better than his bovine ones, he still didn’t quite trust them. Seemingly satisfied, he turned to the undergrowth behind him and expertly mimicked a bird call.

At the signal, the rest of the party emerged: a stooped, ancient orc who leaned heavily on his staff, almost using it as a crutch; a much younger, female orc; and their hired help, which he found to be most unsavory: a walking corpse and a clearly underage blood elf. “This position is not being watched,” said the bull to the old one, “though there are many Eyes of Kilrogg patrolling the area. They could send one up here at any time.”

“That surprises me,” replied Razak, “I would be especially careful to watch an overlook like this, in their position. It’s almost as if they want us to see what they’re up to.” He seemed to ponder this for a moment. “It looks as if they make haste to prepare a ritual circle for the casting of a great spell,” he mused. “If their guard is down, perhaps we can risk a closer look, if we keep a low profile.” He turned to the others. “Naiva, Sark, see if you can find any more evidence of what they’re up to in the town. You must not be seen, is that clear?” The two addressed nodded in acknowledgment. The elf vanished into the shadows, seemingly into thin air. The bull returned to his feline form. “Sark,” the old orc added, “do make sure she stays out of trouble.” The cat turned and inclined its head, then preformed a similar vanishing act.

“No offense, Razak,” said the zombie, “but with so many Eyes around, I doubt they would ever notice my own.”
“An excellent suggestion, Thattia,” he replied, sounding mildly amused, “Only, stick to a standard patrol pattern. We don’t want to arouse suspicion.”

* * *

Naiva Shadowbane picked her way closer to the hastily erected barrier around Corin’s Crossing. It was manned only at checkpoints at each entrance, with perimeter patrols circling in a regular pattern; ridiculously easy to penetrate. Either these cultists were dangerously few in number or just negligent about security. Either case suited her just fine. The buildings here were rotted, just like everywhere the undead had been for an extended period. Still, the cultists had wasted no time in mounting their banner on every available place: a silver hammer against a golden sunset on a field of violet.

She waited for the next patrol to go by, then vaulted silently over the barrier behind them. Deftly, she checked their pockets. Nothing too interesting; just a few gold coins. Darting back out of view, she examined one, rolling it semi-absently through her fingers. It appeared to be an old Lordaeron coin, bearing the image of Uther the Lightbringer on the obverse and the royal seal on the reverse. I’ll keep this, she thought, what Razak doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

Ducking around the other side building, she gazed up at the ruined clock tower of the town hall. I hope no-one’s watching from up there, she thought. They could see everything. Before the tower, the cultists chanted and danced, preparing the ritual circle. Instinct told her that this was where everyone would be watching. She prowled through an alley to the next street. She was met with a sight that begged for further investigation. An old orc was coming, complete with honor guard. That was strange because all the cultists she’d seen so far were humans. The presence of personal guards, not to mention the intricate embroidery of his vestments, strongly indicated that the orc was a leader, and a high-ranking one at that.

Doubling back to a parallel street, she carefully shadowed his advance, still taking care to remain unseen. Finally, the dignitary failed to emerge on the other side of a building that must have once been a shop of some kind. As she crept closer, she noticed that the building’s poor state of repair had opened a hole through the wall. That was convenient; almost too convenient. Better to be careful, she thought.

The hole was small: small enough that it took a good deal acrobatics to slip through, not that that was a problem for her. It led into a back room, perhaps once the proprietor’s office. Voices could be made out in the other room. “This is the final stanza of the incantation,” said one voice. It was low and harsh, unmistakably that of an orc, and there was only one orc Naiva had seen so far. “The Masters command that the ritual of summoning begin at sundown two days hence. Take heart, all of you! We stand now on the cusp of the completion of our noble cause’s highest goal. Soon the Masters shall be free of their cruel bonds, and we their faithful servants shall receive our just rewards! Glory to the Old Gods!”

“Glory to the Old Gods!” echoed a chorus of other voices. Many booted feet tromped out the front door. When all was again silent, Naiva chanced a peek into the other room. There was no furniture, save for a large table. On it sat a box of scrolls, over which a single cultist stood guard. He apparently believed that any threat would have to enter through the front door. I can’t believe these people, thought Naiva, they’re practically begging to be robbed.

Her advance was silent as a whisper of wind. All the while the guard continued to stare in the opposite direction, unaware. The first indication that he was not alone came when a gloved hand clamped down over his mouth, and a dagger slit his throat from ear to ear. The iron grip did not slacken until his struggles ceased. His killer paused a moment to wipe the blood from her dagger.

The scrolls were stood on one end in the box. Each bore a red wax seal. Naiva nonchalantly plucked one from its fellows. She sensed the enchantment on the seal immediately: it would be folly to attempt to open it here. Still, something was written on the outside of the scroll. She squinted at it because it didn’t make sense. The characters were clearly of the Common alphabet, but the message appeared to be in code. Hopefully, Razak would be able to decipher it; and even if he couldn’t, it would still provide vital clues to the purpose of cultists. Quickly, she stuffed the scroll into her pack. Razak would be pleased indeed.

* * *

From the top of the ruined clock tower, a lone sentinel watched. He saw all, yet was invisible to others. Mere walls did not constrain his sight. He had become trapped here when the cultists came, and now maintained his lonely vigil at the behest of his master. Floating on a vaporous trail, he passed through the corroded remains of the clock mechanism to get a better look at the action below. On one side, a young elf was sneaking about; on the other, a lion prowled. Both were quite out of place here. Clearly the Scourge were not the only ones watching this area. It mattered not though, for their supremacy over the Plaguelands was unchallenged.

The shade’s master spoke, commanding him to be even more watchful, for battle was coming. None could defy the master and live. Soon, these paltry cultists would be added to the ranks of the dead. They came now, the first ghouls charging the defenses as shock troops. Legions of lesser zombies coming behind, they fought with mindless fury, hurling themselves at the defenders with no thought of self-preservation. But the defenders were prepared, no, more than prepared. Finally, he saw the purpose of the wards erected at the gates, wards much like those that kept him imprisoned in this tower. The moment that the tide of living death came within sight of the walls, the wards activated, calling forth powerful elementals to beat them back. The innumerable zombies found themselves burnt, frozen, pummeled to dust, and then blown away.

Still, the intelligence provided by the unseen servant proved valuable indeed, for the next wave took care to destroy the wards. No more elementals spawned, but more than enough time had passed for every member of the cult to meet the enemy fully armed and ready. Suddenly, there arose a cry of, “Bash'a no falor talah!” The elf had just leaped into the heart of the chaotic bloodbath. That move was…unexpected. Both sides paused to reassess, the elf’s fury taking a heavy toll. She was an amazingly proficient fighter, especially considering her age. Still, she was heavily outnumbered and surrounded. Once the surprise wore off, it was only a matter of time before she fell.

Enemies pressed in on all sides, threatening to consume her. Long she stood, taking hit after hit but refusing to fall. She looked more like a wild animal, backed into a corner and fighting to the death. Finally, the overwhelming weight of numbers proved too much, and she vanished beneath tide of enemies. Yet, the battle was again disrupted, this time by a deafening roar. An enormous bear had entered the fray, casting aside any who did not flee before his furious assault, cultist and zombie alike. He single-mindedly beat a path to the elf and seized her in his mighty jaws. Though she struggled mightily, she was carried off into the corrupted forest.

Distraction gone, the grim melee resumed with renewed fervor. Still, the undead had been quicker to react to changes in the situation and acted as one: slowly, inexorably, they were gaining the upper hand. That trend ended the moment more elementals joined the fray. But the wards had been destroyed! Where could they have come from? The shade turned to see. A richly dressed orc was directing activity at the ritual circle. Seven cultists were using the circle to channel a spell that had opened a portal. From the portal came elemental after elemental, a seemingly unlimited supply. The undead army could not hope to stand against such a force. The master sounded an inaudible call to retreat, and the remaining undead fled the field.

* * *

Thattia Seagrave looked up from her seeing trance, genuine concern etched on her boney face. “Razak,” she yelled frantically, “we need healing ready! Naiva is hurt, Sark is bringing her back.”

The old orc sighed in resignation. “Is this going to happen every time a fight breaks out? That could be a very serious liability for our burglar.”

“No,” she replied quickly, “just...” Frustration seethed within her. How was it that he always made her feel this way? “These flashbacks always tend to come at the worst of times. Usually, it’s helpful, but…”

“Flashbacks?” he said with infuriating calmness, “There always seems to be more and more you didn’t tell me.” “Huranka,” he called to the other orc, “Healing is your specialty, is it not?”
“It is, Great-Father,” she replied.

“It seems you will be getting a chance to prove your worth earlier than expected.”

Soon, there was rustling in the woods. Sark Swiftwind emerged, carrying the unconscious Naiva. “Had to knock her out,” he said brusquely, “and confiscate these.” He produced Naiva’s daggers, still dripping with blood. “I already dropped a few heals on her, but she’ll need more; just stopped the bleeding, not much else.”

Huranka hastened to help as her patient was lowered to the ground. “Get the armor off. I need to see what I’m dealing with here,” she said, all business.

The bull knelt to lend his strength to the effort. “Never seen anyone fight like that before,” he said, adding in the direction of the daggers, “some of that blood is mine.”

When the pair finally succeeded in separating the elf from her armor, Huranka gasped in shock. She would never have dreamed that such a body could belong to one so young. The scars of a thousand battles laced their way everywhere; except the neck and head.

“What?” said Thattia sarcastically, “you don’t get that good by not practicing.”
“Good?” grunted Sark, “good fighters don’t attack their allies on sight.”

“All blood elves are scarred,” she said, “some more deeply than others. You just have to know how to work around them.”
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Old 09-23-2010, 07:07 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orifiel Whitedeer View Post
*up tempo bow chicka wow chicka wow chicka wicky wicky wow*

I see ya Kalin, shakin dat ass

*Chicka chicka wicka wow wika wow*

Kalin, he's one bad mother

SHUT YO MOUTH

Why, I'm just talking bout Kalin!

*chiki chicka wika wow chicka wow*
You make me regret asking for comments, now. But hey, even non-relevent comments are better than none at all, right?

Now, I'll just pretend you asked a question:
Yes, Kalin has has personal reasons for hating alcohol. But we'll get to that.

Edit: On second thought, maybe you meant that my self-insert is a badass. In that case, I'm flattered!
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Old 09-25-2010, 01:56 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Horde Flag Chapter Five

Things have been quiet on the last section. Maybe everyone's just taking a long time to read it?

Anyway, it's time for the two groups of protagonists to collide!
A few notes though: Don't ask me why there's a Dwarf in the Scarlet Crusade. I guess I had been thinking of those statues in the Scarlet Monastery. We are also about to find out the unintended consequences of Mekkatorque's "plan."

* * * * * * * *

Chapter Five: Despair

The black tiger padded in silence through the corrupted wilderness. Her name was Sablia, and beside her stalked her partner, Kalin Trueshot, as silently as she did. They had been through much together: their trust was absolute, and they worked as a perfect team.

Suddenly, her smooth stride halted, the hair on her neck and shoulders bristling while her sharpened senses scanned the area. Kalin halted too, and was reaching for an arrow when the voice called out, “Ye’ve got ten seconds to prove yer not undead, elf!” He turned to face the sound while the cat melted quietly into the shadows.

Not these people again! he thought. The Scarlet Crusade was an organization dedicated to the quixotic goal of annihilating all the undead in the Plaguelands, but they usually ended up killing far more of the living in an effort to “play it safe.” Even crazy paramilitary vigilante types like the Silverwing Sentinels had nothing on these fanatics. “Shoot first, ask questions later” seemed to be their central tenet, rather than their method.

A dwarf in red armor was pointing a double-barreled shotgun directly at Kalin’s chest. On each side of the elf, a burly goon emerged. The extra red stripe on their tabards marked all of them as members of the elite Crimson Legion. Kalin had walked right into this one. He was surrounded, but only smirked before regaining his composure.

“Eight…Seven…” intoned the dwarf.
“All right,” said the elf, “how about this?” He drew one of his blades and, holding it aloft for all to see, made shallow cut in his left forearm. Blood oozed forth. “Well, does this convince you?”

“Nice try, laddie,” said the gunman, “but the very newly undead ’re indistinguishable from the livin’.” The elf gave a barely perceptible nod. “You’ll have to come with us an’ spend a month er so in quar…” Kalin dropped to the ground before the dwarf could finish his sentence. In fact, he never finished the sentence at all because that was the moment that Sablia pounced from behind. There was an excruciatingly loud explosion as the first barrel discharged, spraying shrapnel into the enforcers on either side of Kalin. Letting his weapon fall from his grip as he sought to catch himself, the dwarf nonetheless landed on top of it, triggering a second, more muffled explosion. Kalin sprang to his feet, but none of his attackers moved.

“About as effective as a circular firing squad,” he commented as he looked around at the bloodied masses that had once been his foes. Stooping, he pulled the gun out from under its former owner by the stock, lifted it to an angle, and brought his foot down on the barrel, leaving a permanent kink. This gun would never fire again.

Kalin hated guns. Guns were loud. Guns were slow to fire. Guns were as much a danger to the user as to his enemies. The elf much preferred his bow. After taking a moment to wipe the blood from the gun barrel off the bottom of his boot, Kalin and his cat set off again. “Let’s get out of here before anyone comes to see what all the noise was about,” he said.

* * *

The ghoul marched purposefully through the plagued forest. Still, it was an uneven, shambling gait, as all undead creatures are apt to adopt. Its glowing eyes betrayed its dull intelligence, not that it had any need of such a thing. The body of this mindless foot soldier of the Scourge was merely a magical marionette, manipulated by a far-off puppetmaster. Once, of course, this pathetic husk had been a living, thinking being. Perhaps it had been a soldier, cut down in the relentless campaign to take Lordaeron; or maybe it was a helpless peasant who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Plague of Undeath swept through; maybe it was once a haughty nobleman who had the misfortune of dying too soon before the Scourge came. It mattered not. After all, that is very much the definition of a ghoul: a creature so advanced in its state of undeath that has ceased to identifiable as the remnant of anyone specific, and some would add, the remnant of a human at all; warped into a hideous mockery of its former self.

Suddenly, the ghoul paused; something had attracted its attention in the nearby brush. Cautiously, it turned from its course and crept closer. Just as suddenly, a green-feathered arrow was protruding from the beast’s enlarged forehead. It recoiled, more in surprise than pain, for undead creatures are nearly immune to physical pain. For a moment, it attempted to use its clawed hands to extract the offending addition to its person, but succeeded only in snapping off the shaft and driving the head deeper.

It looked up to see a purple-skinned elf, bow in hand, waving in a taunting manner from a gap in the trees. Driven by primal urges to kill and feed, the ghoul charged with astonishing speed, howling a wordless scream that left most foes rooted to the spot in terror. The elf merely vanished into the shadows at the last possible moment. The ghoul looked around in confusion: its quarry had to still be here somewhere.

Indeed he was. At that moment, a pair of booted feet slammed down into the creature’s torso as the same time that twin knives slid over each other in a scissor action, neatly severing its head from its body just behind its wiry mane of hair. The broken body continued to grope about, but this fight was over. Kalin Trueshot methodically carved up the corpse until there was no piece large enough to harm anyone. He turned to Sablia at his side. “How many times do I have to tell you?” he scolded, “Undead things are NOT food!” His feline companion merely sulked and sniffed the still-twitching remains disgustedly. “Come on,” added the elf, “We’ve got nasty cultists to track.”

He did not have far to go before he found something of interest. At about the place where the ghoul had been patrolling, he spotted footprints pressed into the spongy earth; many footprints. His expert tracking skills came on-line. The ghoul he had slain was certainly not the first to pass this way, but more intriguing were an older set of tracks, all from about the same time. There were two orcs, one light and healthy (probably female), the other limping with a walking stick (injured or just very old). There were also hoofprints of something bipedal and very heavy; strange to see a tauren in this land. There were two more sets, more difficult to indentify: possibly human, possibly elven. Creeping forward in a near-trance as he read the history pressed into the ground, Kalin reenacted the sequence of events in his mind. The hoofprints became pawprints. Shapeshifter, he thought, they’ve got a druid.

Painstakingly, he followed the tracks to their destination, which turned out to be exactly what he was searching for: a ridge overlooking the town of Corin’s Crossing. What he saw when he looked up from the ground chilled even he, a battle-hardened veteran, to the core. In the center of the town was a well-prepared ritual circle; whose ritual must be very advanced, for a dimensional portal floated above it. Yet this was not what struck fear into the heart of the elf; it was the army of eighty or more elementals that stood marshaled around it. “Elune preserve us,” he breathed. It would take a well-trained and equipped army to stop the ritual now, and there was none in the world that could get here fast enough. As despair and disbelief washed over him, he felt a strange tingling at the edge of his consciousness: some foreign entity was trying to read his mind! Then, just as quickly as it came, it was gone, leaving the sensation of a familiar presence.

Kalin stood still for a moment before he regained awareness of where he was and what he was doing. Blinking away the mental cloud, he returned to scrutinizing the footprints. If he was going to stop this, not to mention save the world, he had to get word out.

* * *

Steven Pureblade trudged in to the Argent Dawn base at Light’s Hope Chapel with his comrades. His armor was beginning to feel heavy. It had been a long patrol, made even longer by the fact that both Scourge and Scarlet Crusade forces seemed to be stepping up their activity of late. Apparently, the Scarlets were interested only in “coordinating operations” rather than a true alliance.

However, he stopped in his tracks the moment he was in sight of the base: there was hardly anyone there. Barely a skeleton crew manned the perimeter. “What’s going on here? Where is everybody?” he demanded of the guards at the barrier.

“At the funeral, sir,” replied the sentry, “We just got word that the king of the dwarves is dead. Once the news arrived, everyone of any rank had to go show how important they were by heading strait for Ironforge.”

Steven detected the note of resentment in the sentry’s voice. “Well, the dwarf-king was one of our biggest benefactors. A shame to see him gone so soon,” he said. “A dwarf like him should have lived for another century at least. I hope this doesn’t mean foul play was involved.”

“The courier didn’t say, sir. He said only that he’s dead.”
“Why do these things always happen while I’m gone?” Steven wondered aloud. “Very well,” he said, turning to the others, “get this column into base. We all deserve our rest.” He did not have far to go before he was met by his next surprise. No sooner was he beginning to relax some when another no-ranker came running up.

“Pureblade! Glad to see you back,” he said, “They told me I was in charge until you got back, so now you’re in charge here. Your orders, sir?” Steven looked at him; he was still a lad really.

“First,” began the elder paladin, “I want to know how much personnel we have left to work with. Second, is there any timeframe of when we can expect the others back?”

“They did not say. All took an indefinite leave,” said a voice. Steven whirled and nearly drew his sword before he recognized the zombie behind him.
“Leonid,” he said, somewhat shaken, “you really shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.”

“I didn’t think I’d be welcome in Ironforge,” he said with what was probably a grin, but it was hard to tell since the corners of his mouth were missing.
“You’re higher up than me,” said Steven, “Why didn’t they leave you in charge?”

“They did, but I declined. I have far better things to be doing than barking orders at peons.”
“Thanks.” Steven turned to the lad. “Everyone back to stations,” he ordered, “get me that personnel status report on the double!”

“Yes, sir!” said the lad with a pathetic attempt at a salute. He turned and ran off.
“I’m going to need to think our next move through very carefully,” Steven told Leonid.

“A wise choice,” he replied. “I’ll be right here if you need me.” This was followed by another “grin.”

Steven set off to do another of the duties that had been dumped on him in recent days. Arriving at the camp’s inn, he accosted its keeper, Jessica Chambers. “How’s vodka-girl doing?” he asked.

“Sarah is recovering fine,” said Jessica. She was a tall, brown-haired woman in a pink dress. “She really just needed someone to talk her feelings out with.”
“That’s good,” Steven said brusquely. “Still, I’m reluctant to send her back via dwarf country without an escort.”

“Well, that goes without saying,” said Jessica, suppressing the urge to laugh.
They were interrupted by the tromp of heavy boots on the floor. Steven turned to see another Dawn member. He held an arrow in his hands. “Sir,” he said, “this just embedded itself in one of the west perimeter barriers. It’s addressed to you.” Steven took the arrow. It was well made; obviously very high-end. It was of the kind used to make accurate shots over astonishing distances by expert marksmen. The black shaft and green feather flights were telltale signs of night elf design, and there was only one night elf marksman that he knew to be in the area. Then, he noticed the strip of parchment wrapped around the shaft just behind the head. Written on it was “S. Pureblade.”

Peeling it off, he examined the message inside:
Steven-
The situation is far more advanced than we feared. Need immediate deployment of all available troops. Get the Scarlets to come too. Get everything you can throw together marching on Corin’s Crossing by sundown on the second day at the latest. The world must not end on our watch.
-Trueshot

“This is turning out to be an interesting day all right,” he muttered. “Now I want a drink.”

* * *

When traveling, bows are generally carried unstrung. This is done to maintain the shape of the stave, which will eventually warp under sustained tension. The resulting loss of firepower can be deadly. Yet, the bow carried by Kalin Trueshot was strung, and had been since the day he arrived. These lands were simply too dangerous to go even a moment without being ready to fire; the short-term gain far outweighed the long-term loss. You just never knew when you would find yourself faced with wandering zombies, corrupted wildlife, or worst of all, closed-minded Crusaders. In fact, he had begun keeping an arrow knocked at all times.

It was the sort of place that exacts a psychological toll from all who enter it. Kalin had already paid that toll long ago, six thousand years ago. It was amazing the things you can get used to. Still, there was something deeply unsettling about the Plaguelands, even moreso than the seemingly endless supply of giant insects that once boiled forth from the city of Ahn’Qiraj. Perhaps it was the fact that it was crawling with some of the most nightmarish horrors imaginable. Perhaps it was the unnatural brown haze that pervaded the land with a constant sense of depression. But the most probable reason was that the Plague had not so much destroyed everything in its path as it had consumed everything in its path. Things that have been destroyed can be rebuilt or replaced; but here, the old was still present, just twisted to serve its new master.

The land itself, not just its inhabitants, was a hostile, malevolent force. One slip into one of the pools or brooks filled with the green-glowing Ichor of Undeath and hapless travelers would be the newest servants of the Lich King. It was a place where the dead could not be buried, lest they rise to destroy those who had cared enough to bury them. The bodies of those that fell in battle here had to be immediately burnt or dismembered to keep them that way.

Still, Kalin kept his mind on the task at hand. With the Argent Dawn alerted to the urgency of the situation, he had set out to track the Horde expedition. The Horde had demonstrated many times before that they had no more love for the Twilight’s Hammer than the Alliance did, but their response was the key unknown in the equation.

He was getting very close now: these tracks were very fresh. Yet he had no fear of discovery. He was one of the Kaldorei, and night was his element. With shadows all around, he could hide anywhere. He paused to peruse the record stamped into the earth, crouching to check the consistency of the mud.

Only his elven reflexes saved him from what happened next. He found himself on the ground, a knife embedded in a tree where his neck had been just moments earlier. He sprang to his feet and aimed his bow in the direction from which the shot had come. There was no-one there. Rogue, he surmised, backing against a tree to reduce the possible directions available for the inevitable surprise attack. Quickly, he stowed his bow and drew the twin knives. Range was of no use when you couldn’t see the enemy coming.

For many long, tense moments, nothing happened. Kalin was generally not one to let his guard down easily, but eventually he began to relax slightly. And that was when his attacker struck again. It took all of his prodigious skill to parry the flurry of slashes and stabs that she sent his way. It was the sheer fury of the attacks, rather than the technique or speed, that caught him off guard.

When the initial assault was repelled, both of them took a step back to catch their breath. Kalin at last had the chance to size up his opponent. She was a blood elf, quite young by the look of her. That made her fighting skill nothing short of astonishing. Her glowing green eyes seemed to burn with an equally astonishing level hate. Eye contact was a mistake as it turned out, for it triggered her to initiate a new assault. However, despite her renewed fury, she had lost the advantage of surprise, and Kalin was able to block her blows with ease.

Gaining confidence, he launched an offensive of his own. It was only half-hearted: he did not want to hurt her just yet. He merely wanted to demonstrate that she was outmatched. Most foes would back down from a one-on-one fight if the opponent was of superior skill. He found several holes in her guard, but didn’t exploit them. He just wanted to show that there were a few tricks she didn’t know yet; not surprising, since he had several millennia on her.

To his surprise and dismay, this only seemed to infuriate her more. But blinded by her rage, her guard got worse. Kalin delivered a kick to the stomach. With his enemy on her back, he whistled for Sablia. As the cat launched herself from the shadows, a voice rang out from somewhere on his left. He couldn’t understand the words, but the harsh sound was unmistakably Orcish. Kalin signaled the cat to deal with the new threat while he dealt with the existing one.

An old orc, hooded and leaning on a staff had appeared. His adversary yelled something back at him. It sounded quite strange to hear the harsh language in an elven voice. The orc did not seem pleased by whatever she said, though, and continued to scold even as she charged the other elf again.

Suddenly, Kalin collapsed on the ground. His body felt too heavy to lift. He turned his head to see Sablia pinned down as well. Magical energy swirled around a stick planted in the ground before the orc. His adversary seemed unaffected, however, and she knelt to deliver the killing blow. Then, just as suddenly, she collapsed as well. A tauren hoof planted itself in his vision, and the elf fell asleep.
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Old 09-26-2010, 08:44 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Argent Dawn Chapter Six

I'm going to be low on time tomorrow, so I'm going to post this chapter now.

Notes:
This is a chapter of which I am particularly proud. It marks the first "field test" of my "both sides of the fight" techinque. So, commentators, how does it work?

I bet you've all been wondering how Naiva got so banged up. This is your first hint.

This chapter also marks what is probably the first conversation in WarCraft Elvish. Can't do much with only a few phrases, though.

Chapter Six: Help Unexpected

* * * * * * * *

Night is a dangerous time in the Plaguelands. It reduces visibility, and the cold weakens resistance to the Plague. Yet dangerous as it was, fires tended to attract unwanted attention. Consequently, Razak’s party sat in darkness, huddled together for warmth as they discussed their next move. “We must send word to the Blightcaller at once!” Thattia was saying, “I am certain that the Dark Lady will send us the Deathguard’s finest: this ritual is a threat to everything we’ve worked so hard to build. We need only ask for them!” She addressed the group from a distance because, being long since dead, the cold was no threat to her.

Razak merely nodded his gray head. “Is that your opinion as well, Naiva?” he asked, sounding perfectly calm despite the gravity of the situation.
“If you don’t mind,” she said, extricating herself from the group, “I have to pee.”

The old orc’s eyes narrowed. “Very well,” he replied, “just don’t stray too far. How about you, Sark?” he added, turning to the young bull.
“He’s asleep, Great-Father,” Huranka replied in his place.

“Hmm,” he mumbled. “That leaves you, Huranka. What are your thoughts on this?”
The younger orc seemed flummoxed. “Call for help!” she finally blurted out, sounding unsure of herself. “Ask anyone who’ll listen!”

“That is the option that I was leaning toward,” said the old one. “You have a good mind, Huranka,” he said, “but you seem to have convinced yourself otherwise. You should never be afraid to speak your mind, my child, not even in front of the Warchief. However, we should start with those able to respond the fastest. As for your suggestion, Thattia, I have little doubt that the Deathstalkers have already informed your Lady of the crisis at hand. I have even less doubt that, once informed, she will send everything she can spare to deal with the problem. In all likelihood, she will lead the expedition personally. Therefore, I see little need to do as you say.”

Thattia sighed grudgingly, “You’re right, as usual.”

* * *

Naiva skulked among the mushroom-trees of the corrupted forest. Or were they tree-mushrooms? It was hard to tell. She was not dire need of urination; not really. She just wanted to get away from the old man and all his talk. Try as she might, she simply could not understand his insistence on patiently listening to everyone’s perspectives before making his pronouncements. In her mind, a true leader was someone who gave orders to his underlings and not the other way around. She paused, lost in thought for a moment.

She was snapped back to the outside world by the sound of something moving nearby. Silently, she struggled to control a thrill of fear. If she had another flashback frenzy now, help might not arrive in time. Killing the undead would be no problem, as long as they weren’t too numerous. The real worry was how far she would run before she came back.

Employing her stealth skills, she chanced a look around the tree. The intruder was close, very close, stooping to examine the ground. How had he managed to get so close undetected? He was a fellow elf, but a purple-skinned Kaldorei; of the kind that had exiled her ancestors, the Quel’dorei, long ago. Millennia-old grudges do not die easily.

Naiva paused, calculating, being careful to factor in the panther that stalked beside her quarry. He was in throwing-knife range, but she would only get one shot. She drew one of the expertly-crafted blades and launched it in a single, fluid motion; however, as she drew, it made a noise. A human would probably have missed it, but the blasted cat picked it up immediately, giving its master time to duck. The knife merely struck the tree behind him, provocatively announcing a hostile presence.

There goes surprise, she thought, I’ll have to handle this more personally. The night elf’s first reaction was to use his bow, but Naiva remained hidden. Not finding a target, however, he switched to melee weapons and backed up against a tree. Clearly, he was experienced enough to guess what he was dealing with. The cat had vanished: he stood alone. With her adversary’s back against a tree, Naiva knew that there could be no surprise attack from behind. Her only option was to wait. Even the best had to give up eventually: that was how Naiva Shadowbane took her prey.

It was a waiting game now. Silently, she crept to a position to best engage him. For many tense moments, the night elf remained vigilant, but eventually, his guard began to falter. That was when Naiva seized her opportunity. From seemingly out of nowhere she appeared, the fury her initial assault nearly braking him.

Yet even her rage was eventually exhausted, and she withdrew, both combatants panting heavily. The night elf seemed to look her over. Naiva frequently relied on her appearance to cause opponents to underestimate her. This one did not seem to be making that mistake. Last of all, his glowing yellow eyes bored into hers, seeming to size up her spirit as well as her body. This she could not allow.

Rage building within her, Naiva launched herself at him again. This time, however, it was clearly he who held the upper hand. Blow after blow was parried with infuriating ease. His own attacks were always feints: he was toying with her. I am not a toy! she thought. Abandoning all pretense of self-preservation, she poured forth all she had; this one would die.

In Naiva’s experience, none had ever lasted long under this level of assault; so perhaps it should’ve come as no surprise when her adversary capitalized on her complete lack of defense to end it. A well-timed kick to the stomach left her sprawled on her back before him. He whistled, and the cat reappeared. Apparently, he meant for the beast to do the dirty work of finishing her off.

Yet just when all seemed lost, Razak’s voice boomed out, “Stop this! Both of you!”
Naiva turned to see him standing at the edge the gap in the trees, every fiber of his being burning with fury. “No! He must die!” she yelled back as she leapt again to her feet.

“Don’t be a fool girl! If you keep fighting, he will kill you!” But Naiva ignored him, already in mid-charge. This was too important. Then, just as she was about to reach him, he collapsed on the ground, seemingly unable to lift his own weight. She shot a wicked grin back at Razak; apparently he was helping her after all.

Keeling before her helpless victim, Naiva went for the kill. But just as suddenly, she too collapsed, her body to lift. She lay just as helpless as her foe. Silently, she cursed the energy swirling around the totem placed by the elder shaman, but could do nothing about it.

Sark appeared, shifting out of his cat form. With a wave of his hands, he put both elves to sleep, first the purple, then the blonde.

* * *

Naiva was running for her life, nearly stumbling as she was dragged along behind her mother at top speed. Both of them were running for their lives, and the younger elf could barely keep up. No, she thought, please, not this again! But the replay was already started, and she knew she would be powerless to stop it.

Their headlong dash did not stop at the doors of the house. All the family that could be gathered on such short notice were there, along with the servants, all of them armed and grimly determined. The traitorous prince of Lordaeron was coming, and his minions cut down all in their path. Their numbers had simply been too much for the Ranger Corps to handle: one after another the defenses had fallen. Even the main body of the army, under the command of Ranger-General Sylvanas Windrunner herself, was preparing only to make a final, desperate last stand outside Silvermoon.

Naiva was dragged into the dining room and thrust into one of the cabinets that held the fine china. Her mother looked at her for what would be the last time. “Whatever happens, don’t move,” she said, sounding desperate, but not afraid. She looked deep into her eyes and added, “I love you,” a tear rolling down her cheek. Then, she slammed the doors and was gone.

Moments later, the shouting began. Arthas’ minions had arrived. No, no! she told herself. This was the part she wanted to forget most of all. There was a reverberating thud; the whole building shuddered under the impact. Then another; and another. The fourth was replaced by an explosion of shattering wood. Whatever had smashed its way in let out a low-pitched roar of triumph. Locked in the cabinet, Naiva was nearly overcome by the horrid stench of rotting flesh that accompanied the onslaught. With nowhere else to dump it, she vomited on herself.

Sounds of battle sang from the entry. At first, the enemy was met by cries of mutual encouragement; but they were soon replaced by her father bellowing orders, and it was clear that the fight was not going well for the elves. “Fall back! Fall back!” he called. Figures appeared in the crack of light between the doors of the cabinet, taking up positions behind furniture hastily piled into barricades.

Many bows sang as a volley of arrows was launched at the attackers streaming through the door at the other end of the room. Then, the nearest barricade exploded, shattering into a thousand pieces. One of the creatures Naiva would come to know as abominations lumbered into view. Though so shot full of arrows that it resembled a pin cushion, the grotesque mass of stitched together flesh stopped only long enough the swing its gigantic cleaver at the defenders. Two of the servants were chopped in half by the wide arc of the swipe.

Ghouls swarmed into the room as well. Any who fired at the abomination were taken down by the ghouls at close range; those who stood against the tide of ghouls were hacked into oblivion by the abomination. One after another, the abomination destroyed the barricades, and any elves foolish enough to be caught in the arc of the swing; and one by one the defenders fell. Naiva’s cousins, uncles and aunts, almost everyone she had ever known, and certainly everyone she had ever loved, was cut down before her terrified eyes.

Make it stop! she thought, but there was one final horror, for undead being what they are, the ghouls tore into the corpses to devour their flesh.
-------
Naiva awoke with a scream; and immediately began crying. Not just tears, but deep, heaving sobs. It was the kind of response that can only come from the very deepest form of pain. Everyone in the camp awakened with a start. Thattia sprang into action without hesitation. Wrapping her arms around the girl, she said in a soft voice, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” Most people would not be comforted by the embrace of a rotting corpse, but Naiva Shadowbane was not most people. Locked in Thattia’s maternal embrace, she slowly began to calm. The others, especially their newly captured prisoner, were not sure what to make of the strange scene: a zombie slowly rocking an elf-child in her arms. “It’s okay. It’s okay,” she repeated over and over.

* * *

It was morning, or as close to morning as it can get when an eternal haze blocks out the sun. Huranka was packing the camp: Razak had long-ago decreed that they wouldn’t camp in the same place twice. It was a familiar task, one that had quickly become part of the daily rhythm on this expedition. Her progress was swift, speeded by many days of practice. However, her practiced routine ground to a halt when she realized that one of the bedrolls was still occupied.

Naiva did not appear to have risen with the rest of the party. Huranka vaguely remembered Thattia persuading Razak to let her sleep in, but she could never quite remember anything that happened early in the day. The elf beneath her had had something of an episode last night, she recalled; but with the party splitting up for the day, she couldn’t be allowed to rest much longer.

Elves have always been thought terribly fragile by orc standards, so Huranka sought to wake Naiva with a gentle shake of her shoulder. However, no sooner had her hand made contact, than the elf was in motion. With seemingly impossible speed, Naiva seized her arm, jerked her to the ground while using the inertia to pull herself up, and was bringing a dagger toward Huranka’s neck.

Though initially caught off guard, Huranka’s reflexes kicked in. Holding out her free arm, she fired off a spell. In later times, she would mark this as the first time she had called upon the elements without having to think. Naiva staggered back, clearly not prepared for the sudden blast of cold that had left tiny ice crystals clinging to the chestpiece of her armor. It was only after she had recovered from the shock that she seemed to recognize who she’d almost killed. The elf turned and stalked away, muttering curses.

Huranka blinked and slowly got to her feet, trying to make sense of what had just happened. The first thing she saw was Sark, where he stood guard over the prisoner. “I suppose you’re going to say I should’ve warned you about that,” he said.
“You knew?” she asked, appalled.

“Yes, but I couldn’t resist seeing the look on your face,” he added with a grin, if a bull can grin. Huranka responded by punching him repeatedly. Being punched by an orc is no small matter, but a creature as large as a tauren can shrug it off with little trouble.

“Huanka!” called Razak’s voice. The old one had appeared, Thattia at his side, accompanied by her felhunter. Naiva lurked in the background. Upon seeing him, Huranka and Sark immediately stood apart, looking ashamed.
“Yes, Great-Father,” said Huranka, aware that she had been caught acting inappropriately.

“I have just been informed that our spy managed to steal a document from the cultists,” said Razak, addressing the group. “It was magically sealed, but I was able to disarm the enchantment. Unfortunately, it is written in code. However, I brought several keys to codes the Twilight’s Hammer has used in the past that a contact of mine was able to procure. With any luck, one of them will yield some answers.” The old man drew a bundle of small scrolls from his pack and handed them to his granddaughter. “These are the keys,” he said, “and this is the document.” He handed her a larger scroll. “I want you to work on deciphering this, Huranka.”

“It shall be done, Great-Father,” she replied with a slight bow.
“Thattia and I will be conducting further reconnaissance,” he continued. “Sark, we will be needing your stealth skills, so you’ll be with me. That leaves Naiva to guard the prisoner.”

“Your pardon,” began Thattia, “but Naiva has stealth skills as well. I’m sure Huranka could watch him while she works.”
“No,” replied Razak in a tone that ended all debate, “I’m not sending her back into a situation that could compromise our mission. Is that clear?” Silence was his answer. “Sark, how much longer will our captive remain asleep?”

“I just recharged it,” the bull replied, “That should give us about three hours.”
Razak nodded. “That should be long enough. When we come back, I will interrogate him myself.”

* * *

Kalin woke up. The first thing he noticed was that a blinding sun was glaring into his face. He tried to turn away from it, but found that he was tied up and unable to move. Oh, he thought as the events of the previous night came rushing back. He had been taken captive by members of the Horde with unknown intentions. His struggles were met with a sharp kick to the ribs. He grunted in pain, but realized that the blow had rotated him out of the sun. That made it safe to open his eyes.

Something about the scene he now saw was fundamentally wrong. Sunbeams filtered down through the canopy of the corrupted forest onto a makeshift camp. Five bedrolls were mostly concealed in the shadow of a tree, but he appeared to be alone with his single guardian. The situation was certainly less than ideal. The last time he’d had the chance to see this particular guardian clearly, she had been trying to kill him. Through the faint demon fire that emanated from her eyes, her expression indicated that she still wanted to, very badly. Kalin knew that instinctively that the longer the two of them sat staring at each other, the sooner she was going to take advantage of the fact he was tied up.

Kalin looked away to break eye contact. There had to be some way to communicate. Then, a thought occurred to him: with luck, the Darnassian and Thalassian dialects of Elvish were still similar enough to permit conversance with the other elf. “Ishnu-alah, sin'dorei,” he said, turning back in her direction.

At first she seemed taken aback, but quickly slid into a mocking demeanor. Mocking was a big improvement over murderous. “Sinu a'manore,” she said sarcastically. She went on to curtsy as though she were wearing a dress.

Kalin decided to ignore his captor’s disrespect. “What are you doing out here, anyway?” he asked.
“I might ask you the same question,” she replied. “As seeing that you’re the one who’s tied up, you first.”

He thought for a moment. He had no reason to hide his purpose, it was innocent enough, but would they believe it? “I am,” he began, “a scout, here on reconnaissance.”

“’Reconisance,’ hmm?” she said licking her lips and creeping closer in a fashion that suggested Kalin was a particularly juicy piece of meat. “Like all the others of your kind skulking around the borders of Quel’Thalas?” She drew a dagger as she advanced.

“For your information,” he protested, “I am NOT in the employ of the Alliance; at least, not directly.”
“Is that so?” she asked as though she already had confirmation to the contrary.

“I was sent to relay information regarding the Twilight’s Hammer to the human I work for.”
“An elf working for a human?” she asked, “and just when I though our backward brethren could sink no lower.”

Kalin’s first thought was, Look who’s talking, you pathetic demon-addict. However, he did not rise to the bait. He was immobilized, she was armed. He decided that a change of subject was in order. “That was quite a nervous breakdown you had last night,” he said.

Her mood flipped immediately from mocking back to murderous. “That never happened!” she spat. She raised the dagger as though to plunge it into her helpless victim, but just as it reached the peak of the backswing, something unexpected happened. Fast-growing roots burst from the ground and held her arm in mid-air.

A voice called out. Kalin recognized it as that of the old orc who seemed to be in charge. He sounded angry, scolding the one who had just tried to kill Kalin. The roots slackened enough for her to wrench her arm free, but only after she dropped the dagger she held. She stalked away, glaring mutinously.

Kalin soon found himself hauled to his feet by a massive tauren, but was turned to face the old man. Both of them looked the other over. The old man’s face was deeply lined, and a gray beard fell to his chest. Seeming to find what he had been looking for in the elf’s features, the orc stood back and lifted two bundles into view. One, Kalin recognized as his own, the other presumably belonged to the old orc. He reached into Kalin’s pack and drew out a small object. It was the pin that marked its bearer as a friend of the Argent Dawn. Reaching into the other pack, he extracted an identical insignia. The message was obvious: they were allies in this land.

At length, he spoke. “We are both enemies of the Scourge. That makes us friends, does it not?” he said in surprisingly good Common.

“Where did you learn to speak Common?” asked the elf, utterly flabbergasted.
“The internment camps,” said the orc. “I spent the worst four years of my life there, but at least I learned a new skill.”

“If I’m not mistaken, you’ve just proposed an alliance.”
“Yes, I believe the time has come to put factional allegiances aside.” He pointed toward the east. Kalin was forcibly rotated to face the direction indicated. Suddenly, it struck him what was so fundamentally wrong with everything he had seen today. There was sun! The perpetual haze that hung over the Plaguelands still filled most of the sky, but in that direction, a circle of clear sky had appeared, centered on a powerful beam of light that lanced up from some point over the horizon.

“The cultists,” Kalin breathed in disbelief, “What are they doing?”
“I was hoping you would say that,” said the old man, “They perform a ritual of unfathomable power. The spirits are in anguish, elf. They tell me of the world’s end. Will you help me to stop this?” At that moment, Kalin nearly collapsed as a familiar feeling washed over him. Yet again, that presence was forcing its way into his mind. Then, just as quickly, it abated. The bull moved to lift him again, but the old man waved him away. His ancient eyes said that he knew more about what had just transpired than he was telling. “I ask again,” he said, “will you lend me your skills in a time of grave peril?”

“Yes,” said the elf, “I will.” The old orc nodded, and drew a short knife from his robe. He knelt stiffly, and cut the bonds that held his captive. Instinctively, Kalin sprang to his feet. His liberator remained seated and extended a hand in his direction.
“Now is your first chance to help me, friend”

“Will I get my weapons back?” asked Kalin.
“You wouldn’t be much use without them. Do we have an accord?”

“Agreed,” he said, “Tor ilisar'thera'nal!” Kalin seized the old man’s hand and helped him to his feet.
“Now,” said the orc, “what should I call you?”
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Old 09-29-2010, 03:00 PM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Invisibility Chapter Seven

It's time for things to escalate, ladies and gents! Now, I know many people frown on cliffhangers (myself included), but they're sort of traditional when the action climaxes. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I would like to add that I didn't know about the 'eight hours' rule regarding heroin addiction at the time of this writing. Do all addictions have the same period, I wonder? Or is each unique? Well, it's an addiction that dosen't actually exist, so I can say whatever I want to, right?

* * * * * * * * * * *

Chapter Seven: The Cipher of Damnation

Razak Skybinder’s cry made Huranka cringe as it never before had. There was a level of desperation in that voice that was disturbing in light of his usual serenity. He appeared, hobbling as fast as his aged legs could carry him, seemingly paying no heed to his usual efforts to conceal their position. “Huranka! Huranka!” he called, “What does the encoded message say?”

“Well,” she began, snapping out of her startled state, “this key gives the first line as ‘Incantation 7, Verse 4,’ but then it goes into some other language. It’s none I recognize, and none of the other keys make sense. It might be in Demonic.”

Her grandfather snatched the still-incomplete translation out of her hands with such force that he tore the parchment. As he read, his jaw visibly slackened. Thattia and Sark caught up behind. “The Cipher of Damnation,” he said at last, looking as though his deepest fears had come true.

Huranka blinked in confusion. “Cipher of Damnation? What’s that?” she asked.

Thattia slapped her forehead in disgust. “It’s only the most powerful spell in the known universe, girl,” she said sarcastically. “If you want to open rifts in reality, you need the Cipher of Damnation. All portal and summoning spells use sections of it.”

“Not all summoning spells,” Razak cut in, seeming to have returned from seeing things not present. “In any case, we must act quickly. If these cultists get any farther along with the ritual, the results will be catastrophic.” He looked around at who was present, and seemed to realize who was not present. “Sark,” he said, “go make sure our two elves aren’t killing each other; and hurry! The rest of us will meet you back at camp.”

* * *

Naiva had not been feeling well all day, and now it was getting worse. Irritability had only been the beginning. She knew this feeling all too well: the slow ache that filled every part of her body, the sensation of being too hot and too cold at the same time. She was now sweating profusely, even in this chill weather. Her internal assessment was interrupted when a shadow fell over her.

“You don’t look so well,” said a voice. It took a moment before she recognized it as the night elf prisoner whom Razak had just freed. The old fool is going to get us all killed, she thought. In this weakened state she would be no match for the other elf.

“Go away!” she spat, and tried to crawl away, but was already too weak to move herself more than a few inches. “Stay back!” she stammered when he moved closer. “I need,” she started to say, “I need…”

“What?” he said leaning closer, “What do you need?”
She lifted a trembling arm to push him away, but touched nothing; her vision was blurring. “I need…” she started again, “…to feed.” Her voice sounded as though someone else had finished the sentence; someone who would not hesitate to kill in order to sate this burning hunger.

Without warning, the other elf was jerked violently backward. “What did you do to her?” a deep voice asked accusingly.

“Thattia,” she murmured feebly, “Find Thattia.”
She had no way knowing how long she lay there, curled into a fetal position by convulsions. It seemed like an eternity. She was barely aware of her surroundings when a familiar voice spoke. “This is what happens when you don’t let me feed her, Razak,” said Thattia’s voice, “she needs it. She’s going into withdrawal.”

“Absolutely not, Thattia!” Razak thundered, “What you do to that girl is utterly abhorrent.” “She will get over this eventually,” he continued, “and then she’ll have no need of your ‘treatments.’” The conversation seemed to be happening somewhere far away.

“Razak!” said Thattia, sounding desperate, “You were just telling me about how you need her to play a special role in your assault! I can fix this now. We can’t wait, and you know it.” Naiva convulsively vomited what remained of her breakfast.

“All right! All right!” the old man relented, “For the greater good.”
Boney fingers gently gripped Naiva’s face. “Focus on me. Pull.” Thattia’s voice spoke from the head-shaped blur in her vision.

Naiva reached out with her mind and pulled. A familiar sensation of euphoria washed over her. She was powerful, invincible even. “Yes!” she found herself saying, then yelling, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” More. She had to have more. She would give anything for this feeling to last forever.

“No,” said Thattia, “No more for now. You have to let go.”
It took every shred of Naiva’s will to obey. Every fiber of her being screamed in protest. Then, it stopped. For a brief moment, she felt fulfilled and contented. Then the world came crashing down. She felt dirty, ashamed, despondent, and too lethargic to do anything about it. “I don’t ever want to do that again,” she groaned.

“You always say that,” Thattia reminded her, pressing a flask into her hands. “Now drink up, we don’t have time for this.”

Naiva uncorked the flask and lifted it to her lips as she sat up. The bitter taste of Thistle Tea filled her mouth.

* * *

Kalin stood where he had been stationed, awaiting the signal. Somewhere on his left, a bird called; but there were no birds in this land: that was the signal. He drew an arrow from his quiver, knocked it, and studied the cultists standing guard outside the makeshift gate.

All seven of the guards looked bored rather than ready. No doubt they had come to view this posting as one of drudgery: all attacks so far had come from the Scourge holdings to the north. The officer of the watch was distinguishable by the golden edging on his armor. Leaders were always targets of choice because of the coordination that was lost along with them.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the officer soon sank to the ground with a black shaft protruding from the narrow gap between two of his armor plates. A second guard was down before someone had the presence of mind to yell, “Sound the alarm!” One of the guards seized a horn from the fallen officer and began to blow it. Ordinarily, he would have acted to prevent the alarm from getting out; but if he was to play his intended roll in the plan, he had to get the attention of the entire camp. Reinforcements arrived faster than the elf had anticipated, but that was all the better.

As the guards began to fan out in search of the hidden sniper, Kalin fell back, continuing to fire shots, but leading them away from the encampment. At last, he allowed himself to be seen. “There he is!” yelled one of the guards, “Get ‘im!” All of the armored cultists surged forward, but Kalin did not even raise a hand in defense. The reason for this was that shortly before they would have reached him, all the guards were pinned to the ground with overwhelming weight.

However, Razak’s timely totem didn’t help against the second wave that soon appeared. These cultists stayed back out of the totem’s effect radius until one of the robed ones among them blew it to splinters with a bolt of lightning. The old orc merely laughed and launched a lightning bolt of his own, one that arced among the robed ones until all had been hit. At the same moment, an enormous bear with bull’s horns leaped upon the formerly pinned guards with a terrifying roar. One of them succeeded in sinking an oversized axe into his side, but the wound was almost immediately erased by a beam of light from Huranka. Kalin took a few steps back and continued to fire at targets of opportunity.

The fight was going better than he had hoped, considering the numerical inequality, but even Kalin was surprised to find that they had been so quickly outflanked; no, surrounded. Yet once they had their prey encircled, the cultists halted. For a tense moment that seemed to last an eternity, nothing happened. Then, the lines parted, and a figure stepped forward.

The newcomer was stooped, an orc looking to be of comparable age to Razak. He was dressed in ornate, violet vestments. His first response to the scene before was to laugh. Then, he spoke with a booming voice that belied his frail appearance, “Razak? Razak Doomsblood? Am I to understand that it was you who was sent by the so-called Warchief to thwart my plans? How ironic.”

“Perhaps it is, Gangran Soulshredder,” Razak replied, “but know that you speak not to a foul warlock of the Old Horde, but to Razak Skybinder, Far Seer of the Earthen Ring!” He punctuated this pronouncement with a clap of thunder.

“Weak!” taunted the violet-robed one, “You were always weak! So you have cast off the power that is your birthright, and choose to wield playthings instead?”

“I have chosen to deny myself the easy path to power, Gangran. That takes more strength than you will ever know.”

“You are a fool Razak. Even with all the power in the universe staring you in the face, you are too much of a coward to seize it!”

“The power you speak of comes easily, but at terrible cost, Gangran. You know it and I know it, having once wielded it myself.”

Suddenly, a sound like rushing wind split the sky. All looked up to see a meteor, laced with green demon-fire, race across the heavens toward Corin’s Crossing. The reverberations from its impact could be felt through the ground.

“What?!” exclaimed the one called Gangran, “The ritual!” Quickly, he turned to the small army assembled around him. “Finish them!” he ordered, “And return to camp at once!” He pulled out a pendant from around his neck, squeezed it, and vanished.

As the noose around Razak’s party tightened, Kalin asked, “Have any more brilliant plans, old one?”

“I think it’s your turn, elf,” he retorted.
It was then that something very strange began to happen. It began when Kalin yet again felt the horrible sensation of a foreign entity trying to force its way into his mind. This time, however, it went further. Glowing blue runes began to appear in the air around him.

“What’s happening?” yelled Razak, drawing back in fear.
“I don’t know!” Kalin yelled back as he sank to his knees. Even the cultists seemed terrified by this awesome display of magical power. Seven figures began to materialize around the elf. Moments later, Kalin Trueshot found himself surrounded by seven very familiar-looking people. One of them was dressed in almost obscenely gaudy robes. “I hope I’m not too late,” said Lord Timothy Falconbridge.
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  #14  
Old 10-01-2010, 08:40 AM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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Orb of Fire Chapter Eight

Come on people! After all that you have nothing to say?

Coming up, Tim reveals his true purpose as a God-mode Sue, and Kalin morphs into the old hobo atop the Polar Express.

Oh, and I created a few characters solely to kill them from their own perspective.

* * * * * * *

Chapter Eight: Plans and Confessions

Tim did not wait for a response: if he was going to exploit the cultists’ disarray, he had to act now. Pushing the surrounding air upward, he enhanced the freezing process of the ambient moisture. Within seconds, hailstones began to fall in a ring around the party. Their size rapidly escalated until, as fist-sized chunks of ice pummeled them, the cultists fell back, far back. Some of them even ran away.

It was then that he stopped. “That way, go!” he yelled, pointing in a random direction. Even Huranka and Sark didn’t need to be told twice, despite having a poor grasp of Common. All of them ran for their lives. Something about the sight of Kalin pulling out ahead inspired all of them to run faster.

Suddenly, the night elf halted. “They’re not following,” he pointed out, sounding only slightly out of breath.
“Easy for you teh say!” said one of the figures brought by Tim. He was a black-bearded dwarf, breathing so heavily that his voice was barely audible.

“As usual, you demonstrate your uncommon skill for getting yourself into the most dreadful of scrapes,” Tim said to Kalin. “Not to mention making interesting friends,” he added, turning just in time to see a cheetah and two ethereal wolves vanishing into the forest.

“And as usual, your timing is impeccable, Tim,” Kalin replied. “I assume you’ll want to know the situation here.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Tim told him flippantly, “I’ve been periodically reading your mind ever since you got here; everything you know, I know.”

“It was you,” Kalin breathed as realization dawned. “It was you!” he yelled accusingly, pointing a finger at his friend. He followed up with a punch to the jaw that left Tim sprawled on the ground. “That’s for all the pain you caused me!”

Tim sat up, rubbing his jaw. “I can’t help but point out,” he said, “that it wouldn’t have hurt nearly as much if you hadn’t put up such a resistance.”
---------
Some ways away, two ethereal wolves and a cheetah drew to a halt. The animals looked at each other for a moment, then began to change. The cheetah grew into a massive, gray bull; the wolves into orcs, one old and stooped, the other young. Huranka turned to her grandfather. “What do we do now, Great-father?” she asked. The old one did not even look up. Instead, he seemed to stare into the infinite beyond for a long while. “Great-father?” Huranka asked as the silence grew uncomfortable.

At last he spoke. “I am sorry, Huranka,” he said quietly, “I must beg your forgiveness.”
“For what, Great-father?”

“For deceiving you. For all of your years, you were told of my great esteem with the spirits, that I was a founding member of the Earthen Ring; but that is only half the story. Before then, before the internment camps, I was known as Razak Doomsblood, warrior of the Twilight’s Hammer Clan. I came through the Dark Portal. I pillaged and slaughtered all life in my path. I cut down men, women, and children. They were nothing more than animals to me, no, less than animals. I burned their villages and razed their cities without even stopping to consider the risk to myself.

“My sheer lust for destruction caught the attention of Gul’dan and his Shadow Council. They promised me greater power than ever through the use of their demonic magic. By the time of the invasion of Lordaeron, I was a powerful warlock, and more dedicated to the Horde’s mission of ultimate destruction than ever. I pulled the souls from the bodies of innocents and destroyed them to fuel my burgeoning powers.

“Yet just as our victory seemed inevitable, Gul’dan came to us with new orders. We were to abandon our posts and sail south to a remote chain of islands. There we were to aid him in a bid to gain ultimate power. But it was not to be. My ship was late in departing, blown off course by a storm, and becalmed for days. Perhaps that was providential: when we finally arrived, we found that Warchief Orgrim Doomhammer had destroyed the greater bulk of our clan in retaliation for our desertion, including our leader, Cho’gall the Ogre-Mage. Gul’dan himself simply vanished into the Tomb of Sargeras with his closest followers. Demons spewed forth in his wake, leaving Doomhammer with less to destroy.

“We fled, my shipmates and I, and hid in the wilderness until the humans captured us. We didn’t resist; that was the beginning of the Lethargy, I think. Of course, I’m sure you know the story from the internment camps on.”

He looked deep into his granddaughter’s eyes and asked sadly, “Can you forgive me?” Huranka drew back in confusion, trying to process this information. “No,” said Razak, looking down, “my actions are…unforgiveable.”

* * *

Thattia laughed at the utter havoc being wrought by the infernal she had dropped onto the cultists’ ritual circle. Resembling a humanoid collection of jagged rocks bound together by sickly-green flames, the fiery demon had blasted back all the cultists participating in the ritual with its initial impact, and was now terrorizing all those that remained. Certainly it seemed that every inhabitant of Corin’s Crossing was now engaged in the battle against the massive demon. “It’s amazing how much trouble one little rock can cause,” she commented to Naiva beside her. The girl sat transfixed as the towering construct seized one unfortunate cultist in its claws, held him aloft, and incinerated him.

The two of them were perched in the attic of one of the town’s ruined
buildings in an arrangement intended to give them a view of the ritual circle without being seen. Secrecy was important in part because demons of this magnitude are difficult to control, and often turn on those who summoned them. The idea was that if it never saw them, the infernal couldn’t turn on them. In fact, since it found itself in a ritual circle surrounded by chanting cultists, it was likely to conclude that they had conducted the summoning.

Thattia could feel the portal spell falling into chaos; so far Razak’s plan was working. All they had to do was keep sabotaging the ritual until help arrived. Alas, Fate had other plans. Without warning, an old orc in violet robes appeared. “Thattia!” Naiva called out, “That’s him! That’s the dignitary I was telling you about!”

Thattia ginned wickedly back at her. “The leader, eh? Oh, what fun!” With the infernal still fully under her control, she exerted her will to designate the leader as the next target. He seemed remarkably calm, considering that there was a three-story colossus sheathed in demonic flames bearing down on him. Instead of turning in terror, he fell into a casting stance. Just before he was to be pummeled into oblivion, the hulking demon stopped. Slowly, it turned around.

“What?!” Thattia exclaimed, “He stole it from me! I’ll just take it back then!” She fell into a casting stance of her own. The infernal turned back toward its target, who began casting again. For several, tense moments, both were casting at the same time. The strain of exertion began to build on Thattia’s brow. Were she still capable of sweating, she would have been. At last, she collapsed on the floor from exhaustion.

Naiva was at her side immediately. “What’s happening?” she said. The thought that something could overpower her guardian filled her with fear.

“I can’t…he’s just…too strong,” she replied, sounding out of breath.
Far below, the orc laughed. “I tire of these games!” he called out in a voice that seemed artificially loud. With another spell, the infernal vanished, banished back to the Twisting Nether from whence it had come. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!” He laughed menacingly. Seeing that his followers were now emerging from where they had taken cover, he turned to the nearest one. “We have infiltrators in this camp! I want every building within sight of the Circle searched from top to bottom,” he growled, “They can’t hide forever! The rest of you, get that portal back under control. The Masters will not be pleased with the delay.”

* * *

Jett Mayna picked his way carefully through the dusty, rotting building. “This is really starting to get on my nerves, Jake,” he said to the man next to him, “Who knows what could be lurking in all these old shacks?”
“You’re telling me!” Jake replied, “But whatever Gangran Soulshredder wants, he gets.”

“Is that ever the truth!” said Jett, “That old man seems to have enough influence to-”
“Wait a minute, Jett!” said Jake, “That furniture over there has been moved. Look at the dust.”

“Yes,” Jett said as the two of them crept closer, “It almost looks like-” At that moment, there was a distinct “pop-thump.” Jake fell to the floor in a pool of blood. Jett turned to see a bloody knife rocking on a flexible stick where his friend had been standing just moments before. “Booby-traps!” he yelled, “Everybody out!” He moved as fast as he dared back the way he came. Though he reached the exit without incident, he expected at any moment to trigger a hidden trip-wire.

Stepping out into the blinding daylight, he found himself nose-to-nose with Gangran Soulshredder. “Booby-traps, you say?” the old orc intoned. A grin spread across his face. “Then this is the one.”

“Your pardon, sir,” said Jett, taking a step back, “But it could easily cost us twenty men to clear that building. Is it really worth it for a handful of saboteurs?”

Gangran merely turned away. “We don’t have to,” he said, “Burn it to the ground and kill anything that tries to escape.”

* * *

Fire. With this much heat and smoke, the house had to be on fire. Naiva was trapped in a cupboard: she would soon be roasted alive. Out. Her first priority was to get out. She pushed against the doors with her hands, then her knees, but the door didn’t budge. That wasn’t too much of a surprise: these cabinets had been well made by master craftsmen. Their skill was now her worst enemy.

Bracing herself against the back wall, she aimed a kick at the crack of light between the doors. The wood gave, but bounced right back. She tried again, this time striking with both legs at the same time. There was a cracking sound. The wood didn’t bounce back. Snarling in frustration, she kicked again, with every ounce of power she could summon from her small frame.

The doors broke open with surprising ease, the extra momentum causing her to slide out into the room. No, “fall” might be a better word. No sooner had she recovered from the shock of landing, than she found herself staring into the unblinking eyes of a hideous ghoul. Her first instinct was to back away, but she immediately ran into a solid wall with the cupboard above. The creature ambled closer. Though it had at first seemed surprised, it now eyed Naiva hungrily. It was almost on top of her before instinct took over again. In desperation, she kicked at the advancing monster at the last possible moment. The kick connected, her foot slamming into to its face. There was a crunch as its neck dislocated.

Her assailant momentarily stunned, Naiva leapt to her feet and raced out into the room. She cast about, search for something, anything, with which to arm herself. Her eyes locked on to a glimmer of polished steel. Making a headlong dash to retrieve the object, she didn’t realize what she had done until the dagger was in her hand. Lying next to her was her father, or rather, the upper half of his corpse.

His empty eyes stared lifelessly up at the ceiling, his left hand still clutching the splintered remnants of his ironwood bow; but horribly, she could also see inside his chest cavity where it had been torn open, the organs apparently already eaten. On her other side, was her mother, in a similar state. The two of them had died together, here in the far corner of the room.

Naiva turned to face a sudden crashing sound. The ghoul had recovered and was now loping over the piles of debris on all fours with terrifying speed. The elf-child was petrified, but again jumped aside at the last possible moment. The creature slammed into the wall at full speed, crumpling into a twitching mass of broken bones. Naiva seized her chance. She had had some training, and now she brought the dagger down, plunging it into the creature’s chest again and again. Only when its movements had ceased did she stop.

There was a horrible creaking sound. An immense beam fell from the rafters and plunged to the floor with a resounding crash. The fire. Out. She had to get out. Naiva ran for the door, more fiery projectiles falling as the house collapsed around her.
---------
She just made it out before the door collapsed, but in the blinding sun, she now faced four more opponents. They were dressed in violet, and looked very human: obviously fresh spoils from the march through Lordaeron. She drew her other dagger and charged the nearest one, overpowering him in a flurry of blades. The others turned and ran, yelling for help. One of them got a throwing knife in the back for his efforts.

Naiva drew the next knife in her belt and was about to launch it when she stopped and looked at it. Where had she gotten this? What about the other dagger? She turned. Amazingly, the house still stood. No, that wasn’t the house. That was some other building she didn’t know. Another figure was emerging from where she had come, a strangely familiar figure. Thattia. It was Thattia! Where were they?

“You really need to learn to watch yourself, kid,” said a voice. Naiva whirled. A tall, purple-skinned elf with a bow had spoken, accompanied by a large, black tiger. A loud explosion sounded somewhere nearby. “This way,” he said, “We’ve got to get out of here!”
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Old 10-04-2010, 10:58 AM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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WarCraft 3 B.net Eyeball Chapter Nine

I want to make a few notes before we begin this, the final chapter of the first book. First, I think this is the longest of all the chapters in book one. It also has a lot of jumping around between perspectives, not to mention times. Some readers may find this confusing. I've said before, and I'll say again: I really should've used Andorhal! It fits so nicely. Oh, well. I should also confess that Steven's speech right before the final battle was written just after watching Independence Day. It shows. I should add that there are a few more pop-culture references hidden in there, for those inclined.

Finally, it needs to be said that some things I write really pop as poignant moments, and some things just fall flat. The anticlimactic ending is the latter. At the time, I thought it would be funny to make Tim an overpowered Sue, but, well you'll see.

* * * * * * * *

Chapter Nine: The Far Seer and the Warlock

Steven’s legs were tired. He’d been marching for hours. No doubt the column of troops he was leading felt the same. Still, with a mission of this importance, rest was a luxury the world could not afford. He chanced a look over his shoulder. The troops looked as bedraggled as he felt. They were disappointingly few in number, too. Still, knowing what was at stake, all had agreed it would be better to die trying than to face the horrors that would result from failure. To that end, all Light’s Hope had emptied, either flying out to safer lands or marching on Corrin’s Crossing.

Turning back to the road ahead, it took him several moments to realize that a figure stood in the way. Fatigue must be setting in, he thought. The figure was somehow familiar. An orc of great age stood before him, prominently displaying the insignia of the Argent Dawn. Steven called a halt. “I bear ill tidings,” the figure said quietly.

* * *

Lord Timothy Falconbridge stood over a map, spread over a rotting tree stump in the corrupted forest, surrounded by his few remaining allies. It had been hastily updated with what little intelligence they had. His brow was furrowed in frustration: even his exceptional intellect seemed unable to form a plan with so few.

The others had fallen into idle chat while they waited. “So there I was,” said a black-bearded dwarf, gesturing dramatically, “all alone, an’ facin’ down a full-grown dragon!” His spellbound audience consisted of two female gnomes. One’s hair was bubble-gum pink, the other’s mint green; but other than that, they were identical, right down to the baby-blue ties that held their hair in dual pigtails.

Not everyone was so easily impressed. Kalin had struck up a conversation with Rogers. They discussed possible tactics, but finally agreed on the futility of all of them. “So, who are these people?” Kalin asked, for lack of anything else to say, “I don’t think I’ve met everyone here before.”

“Well,” the head guard began, “a few ‘ours back, His Lordship calls ev’ryone together fer some kinda emergency meetin’. Says ‘e gotta go somewhere fast, an’ ‘e can on’y take six a us with ‘im. Naturally, ‘is ‘personal assistants’ were right there. Shirley an’ Temple Sparkfizzle; they’re twins ya see. S’pposed ta be rare among their kind.

"The dwarf’s called Korin Lightvein. ‘e ‘appened ta be visitin’ when it ‘appened, an’ ‘e’s always spoilin’ fo’ a fight anyway.
“What about these other two?” Kalin interjected.

“They’re summa my men from the manor. I don’t think they knew what they was gettin’ themselves into. They seemed a lot braver when they volunteered for the job an ‘our ago!” he yelled over his shoulder. Kalin, however, wasn’t listening. The elf had pressed an ear to the ground. “’ear somethin’?” asked Rogers.

Kalin held up a hand to silence him. “An army approaches from the east,” he said, “a human army.”

There was a loud “poof.” Kalin looked up to see that Tim had appeared next to him. “May I inquire as to how you know this to be a human force?” he asked, sounding as though there was no danger at all.

“Only human armies bother to march in step for anything other than ceremonial purposes. Unfortunately, that also means I can’t give you an estimate of their numbers,” the elf replied flatly.

“Ah,” Tim said as realization dawned, “now that’s clever! Why didn’t I think of that?”

* * *

Razak Skybinder walked in brooding silence beside the leader of the column. The Argent Dawn had sent everything it had, but he -and everyone else- could see that this wouldn’t be enough. The Scarlet Crusade, he had been told, was so single-mindedly focused on destroying the Scourge that they had refused to support the mission. The support of their far-larger army might have turned the odds in favor of this hopeless gambit, he reflected. This, he thought, is why the Scarlet Crusade is synonymous with misguided zealotry: their inability to see the bigger picture has doomed the whole world.

Suddenly, almost involuntarily, his hand seized the shoulder of the paladin next to him. “What is it?” he asked.

“I sense something hidden ahead; something powerful,” replied the old man.
The commander called a halt. He was in the process of turning around to give further orders when a figure materialized in the road in front of him. The newcomer seemed to step silently out of thin air as an invisibility spell dissipated. His dark hair was cut close, framing his brilliant blue eyes. A short goatee hung from his chin, but his most striking feature was the hideously pretentious robe he wore.

The commander laughed, and the two embraced like brothers. “Am I ever glad to see you!” he said.

“What?” the mage said, “Did you think I was going to leave you all alone in a situation such as this?”

“No, but I thought your agent was all I was going to get.”
“Pardon me,” Razak interjected, “But who are you, stranger?”

“I,” the mage began imperiously, “am Lord Timothy Hildemoore Falconbridge; but there are some who call me,” he paused for dramatic effect, “Tim.”

“Well, 'Tim,'” the old orc intoned, “get ready for the fight of your life.”

* * *

Kalin and Tim sat in a hidden position, watching the guards outside one of the gates into Corin’s Crossing. “So you honestly expect the two of us to attack all by our selves?” the elf asked incredulously.

“Attack, no,” the human replied, “Our role is to create a diversion. Once the guards sound the alarm, I’ll draw them away, and you’ll sneak in to find Razak’s missing operatives.”

“‘Create a diversion,’ you say,” Kalin said with a grin, “I have some experience in that field.” The elf pointed his bow skyward and launched one of his long-range arrows. It arced up, and came crashing down into a narrow gap in his target’s armor. An inch in any direction, and the shot would have merely bounced off; but placed properly, it was deadly. The other guards looked fearfully skyward, clearly expecting more deadly bolts at any moment.

“Come now, Kalin,” said Tim, “You call that a diversion? I’ll show you a diversion!” With that, he leapt into the air, and remained, hovering. As he floated out into view of the guards, a sheath of flame erupted around his body, and he called out in a booming voice not quite his own: “FOOL MORTALS! YOU SHALL BE PURGED FROM THIS PLACE!”

Kalin rolled his eyes. You always did know how to make an impression, he thought.

* * *

“Hey, you!” said a voice. Steven Pureblade looked up from the map on which he had been visualizing his doubts about the attack plan. He saw…nothing. Then he looked down. One of Tim’s gnome assistants was looking up at him, a look of hyperactive enthusiasm on her face. “It’s time for us to move!” she continued, “C’mon!” She turned, bubble-gum pink pigtails flailing behind her.

Steven gritted his teeth. “If this is how I’m going to die,” he muttered, “so be it.” He turned to his troops. “Champions of the Argent Dawn!” he began, “Brothers of the Light! Hear me now! Darkest midnight is upon us, but the Light has not yet failed! This world is but hours from destruction, the undoing of all we hold dear! But we will not go quietly into oblivion! Nay! We shall show these usurpers the error of their twisted ways! We are the Light of this world! We shall trust in miracles if that is the only hope! I say to you now, stand champions of the Light!” There was a deafening roar of approval.

The assembled began to move, spreading out into their attack formation. They moved swiftly, but Steven soon spotted something amiss. A lone orc, garbed in the purple of the Twilight’s Hammer, was picking his way closer. He hadn’t expected to run into scouts. We can’t afford to blow our cover yet, he thought. The paladin felt a tug on his hand.

“Keep moving. We’ll take care of this,” said the gnome with the green hair in a conspiratorial whisper. Before he could object, she vanished and reappeared next to the hapless scout. He turned in surprise, but only caught a glimpse of her disappearing into the bushes. Immediately after, her pink-haired counterpart appeared on his other side and did the same thing. The orc spun in confusion as gnomes ran past in front of, then behind him. The scout turned and ran.
------
Jett Mayna stood guard outside the west-facing gate of Corin’s Crossing. “Do you hear that?” he asked the guard next to him, a well-muscled orc.

“I do,” he growled.
“As do I,” sneered their overseer who had somehow appeared behind them. “Why don’t you go find out what there is to cheer about over there?” he said, pointing at the orc.

Though he went slowly, the chosen scout was soon lost from view. There was a scream. Then, he came back toward them at a full run.
“What is it?” called the officer.

“Gnomes!” he yelled, “They’re everywhere!” A fireball appeared behind the fleeing scout, then another and another, five in all, all from different directions. Needless to say, he was burnt to crisp before he ever reached the gate.

“Sound the…” the officer began, but he never finished the sentence because at that moment, his face was suddenly encased in solid ice.

For a split second, Jett thought he saw a glowing hammer flying toward him at impossible speed. The next thing he knew, he was thrown bodily against the barrier behind him, pain shooting through every fiber of his being. After that, he never felt anything again.

* * *

Steven moved as stealthily as he could into the occupied town. With all the guards taken out in one volley of holy power, and the wards as well thanks to Tim’s intelligence, the Argent Dawn strike team was free to advance. Their objective was simple: kill as many of the skilled casters involved in the ritual as possible before they were all killed by the cultists.

Peeking out into an intersection, he saw two more of the Twilight’s Hammer followers, but they didn’t see him. They were just standing there, seemingly transfixed by something up in the sky. Slowly, silently, he crept around behind them, and motioned for the next person to follow. One-by-one, the whole force made it to the other side.

What Steven saw at the next intersection, however, took his breath away. This was the ritual circle; and above it, a poorly-defined portal had already opened. What lay on the other side was simply too terrible for words. No mortal should see this. Now it was the paladin who stood transfixed.

“Such is the might of the Old Gods,” said a voice behind him. “What chance do you have against such power?” Steven managed to wrench himself away from a sight that he was sure would make any lesser man insane. A hooded figure emerged from the shadows. By his build and gait, he seemed to be an orc of considerable age. “Do you see now? You cannot hope to contend with such power. There are none who can. You can only join with it; submit yourself to its will. Do you hear them? Even now they whisper, speaking of their immutable will.”

“You speak of madness!” retorted another voice. Steven realized that it was the equally ancient orc in his own party that had spoken. “Go!” called Razak, “I will deal with this!” The paladin turned back to the ritual circle. It was conveniently empty of defenders.
------
Kalin practically had to drag the bewildered elf forward to keep her moving and out of sight. Her undead guardian followed at discreet distance, as though attempting to avoid the notice of her guide as well as the enemies that surrounded them on all sides. Another explosion went off, so close that the trio was forced to dive for cover. Maybe I’m doing too good a job of staying out of sight, he thought bemusedly. He looked up as they prepared to move again. Tim’s diversion was a truly spectacular sight. Floating in the air, sheathed in flames, and causing the occasional spontaneous explosion for good measure, he rained destruction as no other man could hope to do. Kalin looked down and cursed: the last explosion had brought down an entire building and strewn a wall of rubble across the street. On his own, the elf could have scaled the obstacle effortlessly, but he was hauling someone else by the wrist. Reluctantly, he turned into a sidestreet. The sounds of battle sounded from the other end, but he was left with little choice.

When the would-be escapees reached the other end, he paused to asses the situation. The Argent Dawn paladins were laying waste to the few defenders, but a fresh wave of reinforcements had just arrived, tipping the numbers in favor of the cultists. “Hmm,” mused the walking corpse behind him, “I think this calls for a little more…muscle.” Drawing a crystalline shard from her bag, Thattia began to chant the words of a forbidden incantation. Kalin considered stopping her, but thought better of it when demonic runes began to appear on the ground around her. When she finished, an impossibly muscular, blue skinned humanoid stood beside her. Easily eight feet tall, the figure wielded an axe-like implement of uniquely demonic design. Without hesitation, the newly summoned felguard charged into the melee.
------
Razak locked eyes with his opponent. He found there a mirror of the hatred that welled within his own heart. “Twenty-four years later” he taunted, “and still you chase Gul’dan’s folly.”

Gangran Soulshredder merely laughed. “You are right, old friend. The quest for power means nothing without the larger purpose of oblivion! A pity you failed to see that. Now I shall show you what happens to those who stand in the way of our sacred mission!” A globe of pure darkness swelled into being around his hand.

“You’re as delusional as when I left you!” Razak retorted, “If there is one thing that all these years have taught me, it’s that there is no such thing as invincible evil.” A lightning bolt launched from his hand struck Gangran squarely in the chest, knocking him to the ground.

“Is that the best you can do, Nature-boy?” he called as he hobbled back to his feet. But Razak wasn’t listening. He was busy casting spells on the square of carved sticks he’d planted in the ground. “This will get his attention!” he muttered to himself. Closing his eyes, a foul incantation came to Gangran’s lips. Balls of fire began to rain from the sky. Though the flames also licked at their summoner, there were few who could survive as long as he. Once he felt certain his opponent was dead, or very close, he looked up. Somehow, the weakling still stood! Then, he noticed the beam of healing energy that was keeping him that way. “Fool girl!” he bellowed, “You will regret entering this fight!”

“Huranka!” called Razak, “Stay out of this! This is my fight!”
“No, Great-father,” she returned, “your fight is our fight!” A roar to his left drew the warlock’s notice with enough time to dodge the charge of a huge bear, which on closer inspection somehow had horns. The dodge bought him enough time for another spell, and by the time Sark turned around, he was facing a creature that seemed to be made of living shadow

“I have minions of my own!” he announced. At that moment, something sharp struck the warlock in the back. Gangran Soulshredder turned in surprise. A tall, hooded figure held a great black bow. Tresses of silver hair reached her shoulders and beyond, framing her strikingly beautiful, but deathly pale face. An army of the dead rose up behind her. The Dark Lady had come. Gangran collapsed as the world faded. There was still one more thing he could do to insure Razak’s demise, and he was resolved to do it to maximum effect.
------
Kalin Trueshot turned surprise. That was one arrow he hadn’t fired. The archer was someone he had heard of, and while he had never before seen her, there was no mistaking her identity. Lady Sylvanas Windrunner, the Banshee Queen, stood before an army of fellow zombies dressed in lavender. At her signal, they charged into the already furious fight. At her appearance, Thattia had gone into an elated frenzy. “For the Dark Lady!” she yelled, “Death to the Twilight’s Hammer!” Her felguard was laying waste as it had before, when it suddenly vanished. Thattia lay on the ground, gasping and writhing. Kalin heard an anguished cry as a streak shot past him. Almost instantly, Naiva was at her mentor’s side. Yet Thattia recoiled from her touch. “No! Not you!” she gasped, “Get away from me! As far away as you can!” Kalin didn’t wait. This time, he actually lifted Naiva off the ground and carried her at a dead run. Behind him, demonic runes erupted into being. In moments, Thattia Seagrave was gone, replaced by a newcomer.

Easily ten feet tall, the horned figure spread its massive wings and hefted a flaming sword. Everyone fell back into defensive positions. The Deathguard moved to protect their leader. Sylvanas knocked another arrow with gauntlets worked to look like finger bones. She never got the chance to take the shot, however, because the portal, destabilized by the deaths of the cultists channeling the spell, finally imploded, sending a magical shockwave rippling out from the ritual circle. When the dust settled, the Doomguard was gone. “What just happened here?” Kalin muttered as he rose blinking to his feet.

“I solved two problems at once!” declared Lord Timothy Falconbridge, alighting nimbly beside him. “I channeled most of the blast into destroying the demon. Thus, no crater, no demon.”

“Uh-huh,” replied the elf, sounding skeptical.

* * *

Tim stood face to face with the undead elf. “Your performance was…impressive, Lord Falconbridge,” she said, a grudging tone to her voice.

“I could never have done it without you, Lady Windrunner,” he replied, sounding as though he hadn’t noticed. “Alas, I must return to friendly lands and report what has happened here.”

“Your pardon,” interrupted Razak, “but what is to be done with the girl?” All of them turned to look at Naiva, staring blankly between the two parties. “I could take her, of course; but she seems to have developed an attachment to someone else. I would prefer to keep her among her own kind, but her happiness must be above politics.”

“Interesting. I wonder…” Tim’s voice trailed off. “I suppose there’s only one way to find out.” He and Razak moved in front of the listless elf. “Kalin, come here,” he beckoned. The moment the other elf was in view, Naiva clung to him like a drowning man to a raft. Kalin tried to extricate himself from her grip, but gave up after a few minutes’ struggle.

“That’s what I thought,” the shaman sighed in resignation.
“I don’t see a problem,” said Tim, “I can find a way to make it work!”

“Hmmm…” Razak growled, “I sense that we shall meet again, human.”
“Of that I have little doubt,” Tim returned. “All right!” he called, “We’re going!” The rest of his entourage gathered about him. Tim began to chant, glowing runes appeared around him, and in moments, Razak stood alone.

“Great-father?” asked a voice behind him.
“Yes, my child?” he returned.
“About those things you did in the war…” said Huranka.

“Yes?” his insides clenched.
“I… I forgive you, Great-father, for anything you may have done.”

“And what would prompt this act of charity, little one?”
“The spirits told me I had to.”
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Old 10-04-2010, 11:03 AM
DarkAngel DarkAngel is offline

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OK, now that the story's over (for now), the floor is open in perpetuity for comments and suggestions. Heck, if you're so inclined, feel free to post illustrations of favorite scenes (I suck at drawing), or whatever else strikes your fancy.
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