Hamstrung

The buzzing is enough to drive anyone insane, but the Shado-Pan can seemingly ignore it.

Now, some can ignore a fly. Some can even ignore a hundred flies. But no one can ignore the clicking hums of a hundred seven foot grasshoppers fluttering about, clicking war commands at one another.

Marcus Murius was no Shado-Pan. Already strapping on his armor, the huge Human shouted out to the other watchers on the wall. “Lei, how many are there?”

“Too many to count, Smith.” the old, seasoned monk yelled back, near the door of the armory. Marcus grabbed his twin maces, normally enough to be used in two hands, and stalked out onto the wall.

What he saw made his granite jaw drop.

The sky was black and red with the armored bodies of Mantid. Hundreds of them, with spears in forked hands or bladed arms. Shado-Pan held them back with flaming arrows. Marcus ducked behind the nearest rampart and found himself next to a Pandaren drinking from a flask.

“Shang. I’ll bet you I kill more than you do.”

The gambler had a twinkle in his eye as he regarded the massive blacksmith. “Not a fair bet, my friend.”

“This coming from the man who bet me twenty silver that he could eat a hundred Yaungol Guppies in five minutes.”

The broad smile on the gambler’s furry face made Marcus grin.

“It’s not my fault you outsiders don’t know how big they are.”

“They barely filled a glass! Yaungol are huge, I assumed they’d be big guppies.”

“And there’s the lesson, Blacksmith.”

Marcus rolled his eyes and rose from his crouch, charging a Mantid invader. “Yeah, yeah. You showed me, Shang.” he mused, as he brought down one of his sticks through the armored head of a Mantid, dropping the insect creature in a gooey heap.

Shang whistled lowly. His polearm, heavy and bladed, spun as he followed the whirling smith into the fray.

Marcus’ agility was amazing for someone of his size. He spun and danced away from Mantid, instinct carrying him like a shaggy, black haired wolf through the fray, ringlets hanging around his clean shaven face. He blocked with a smile that parted his slab of a face, and a life shone in his golden-brown eyes that denoted the warrior spirit buried in the usually laid back man.

Shang’s skill was more organized, and fluid. Shang systematically chopped through Mantid, shearing limbs and wings and heads alike with his long spear.

This raid was just a pin-prick. They happened. Marcus had seen a few; the Mantid would come in, cause a few deaths, a few injuries, and ruin the rest of the Pandaren off duty before they left again, with the Shado-Pan licking their wounds. It kept the Shado-Pan from ever feeling comfortable.

Marcus kept on swinging, crushing Mantid with the heavy metal sticks, bulbous ends smeared with the innards of the exo-skeletal monsters. Gooey insides covered his armor and sweat covered his rugged face, marked by a scrape around his left eye, leaving blood to slowly seep from the irritated flesh.

Shang and Marcus fought back to back, the Gambler felling Mantid left and right with his whirling spear while the Smith smashed his opposition to bits. A neat pile of limbs and fallen attackers on one side, a mess of gore and twitching wings on the other.

Marcus then met with one of the bladed Mantid, slicing this way and tha twith twin serated arms. Marcus checked each of the blows with his maces, pushing the Matid’s arms apart. As he planted his feet though, the Mantid’s right leg came up and sliced through Marcus’ upper leg, sending him to the ground in a heap.

The Mantid raised it’s bladed arms and swing downward at Marcus’ vurnerable heap of a body, but Shang whirled and sliced both arms off, sending them flying through the air. The amputated Mantid screamed as Marcus howled in pain, and Shang drove his spear through the Mantid’s mouth parts, silencing both the beast and the stunned blacksmith.

Shang leaned down. “How many did you kill?”

Marcus looked up at the Panda in shock, surprised the bet was on at a time like this.

“Forty.” he confessed, holding his leg as it poured blood from his hamstringed muscle.

“Ah. We’ll call it a draw for now. You need to be alive, blacksmith.”

Marcus laughed despite his pain. “I didn’t know you cared, Shang.”

“I don’t.” said the gambler, Dragging Marcus toward the tower barracks. “But you are the worst gambler I’ve ever known, and I’d like to take more of your money.” He barked, laughing.

Marcus looked up at Shang, dizzy from the pain.

“You get me out of this with my leg, Shang, and I’ll bet you the sun rises in the west tomorrow.”

Laughing, the Pandaren quickened his pace.

Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 12:33 am  Leave a Comment  

The Shadows of the Moon

It seemed like any other night with this pack. The fifteen of us all ravaging the countryside under the direction of the lunatic Grizzled. He was our leader, even if he couldn’t see past his own snout.

I had been showing Dewdrop some defense techniques. How to shake a trailer, how to strike an attacker- we were animals now. There was no such thing as fighting dirty. Throwing dirt, going low with strikes- nothing was wrong. But she was so innocent. I hated that in a few short months, Grizzled would probably make her a breeding mate.

Grizzled was not old, despite the thick grey fur on his entire body. He was strong, rough, and knew his worgen self better than any of us, most of which had been men only recently. I knew I was stronger. I knew I was faster. But I didn’t know how to use this body to beat him. I wanted so badly to, too. For Gabby.

Gabby, I’d known before this happened. When we worked a pub in Gilneas. “The Raven’s Roost” was in a particularly bad part of town, and Gabby had no place there. It was for scum, and she’d been the furthest thing from it. I bounced and helped clean up after we closed every night, slept in an attic apartment I had over a smithy every morning and struggled to stay fed until I got to work the following evening. I’d been in a lot of fights. I’d been cut. I’d had bones broken. But I was good at it. Always a good fighter, and quick to fight if someone else showed an interest.

I had a girlfriend. I think. Sort of. Things were rocky. We were always on and off and that night had been no exception- maybe the last straw.

I’d been in my usual spot, underneath the lamp that lit the sign. I was leaning on the wall of the tavern, as I often did, arms folded over my chest. She’d come up to me, drunker than I’d ever seen anyone, and asked me to take her into the alley and have her.

I refused. I didn’t always refuse, sometimes I’d be down for a little sport in the alley or in the back of a wagon down the street, but she was out of her mind with the drink. And something was going on that night. I could feel it in my very bones. She grew angry with me, flustered and said things I bet she would never have said sober. Then she left.

When finally it was time to close, I moved inside and started stacking chairs. Closing had been nicer lately. The new bartender was a beautiful young woman, real nice girl. She wasn’t my type, really, but she was something to look at. And the low cut tops- she’d even figured out how to get more tips out of the regulars. She liked talking to me too, I think. It was a great way to stay alive, particularly in this bar, to have a guy like me think you had an interest in him. 

But Gabby, I’d thought at the time, was working below her station. I bet she walked from a better part of town, courted a better sort of man, and ate three square daily.

We were talking about something- it was never anything important, it seemed like, just polite small talk, when she reached across the bar for a tip left for her earlier. A silver. A whole silver. Her bust was worth at least that, but it emphasized how far out of my league she was. And as she leaned across I could see almost the entirety of those perfect honey colored orbs. Then she caught me looking, her eyes turning up to mine. So I did what any decent man would do.

I stacked chairs.

But she didn’t let it go. I thought she was going to slap me when she started walking toward me, but she instead pulled her shirt lower and asked “Waylin, do these make you want to do anything?”  

I gaped, staring at her as she walked closer. “Do they?” she asked, and I stared, taking in the perfection of her body. Maybe that’s what I’d felt tonight. That this would happen. I opened my mouth, to invite her over after we finished closing that we could finish this conversation somewhere other than our place of work, and then the whole world exploded in a shattering of glass and splintering of wood.

Three worgen burst into the tavern. I grabbed Gabby and tossed her rather unceremoniously over the bar, and grabbed a stool from atop the counter. I swung at the largest worgen, but he didn’t even flinch as they tackled me to the ground and started to tear at me. I managed to fight them off and break a chair over one’s back, again to no avail. I punched and threw and fought with everything I had left.

A sound got my attention.

Turning my head I saw one atop Gabby, and blood on her blouse. I took one stride toward her, my mouth opening to scream her name, when the wind was taken from my lungs. I felt my face hit the dirty floor, and never saw anything with human eyes again.

My head snapped up as I spotted Grizzled with Gabby on his back. Taking to shadows and trees, I followed. My claws found branches and gently moved them aside. I saw him pinning her and his arousal in his claws. Then the terrain blurred as I spanned the distance between us.

In seconds it happened. My fist connected squarely with his face, and shattered his nose and front teeth. Pinning the stunned leader of our pack, I growled loudly in his ear. “Keep your damn claws off Gabby, bastard!” Unsatisfied, I added a threat- “Touch her again, and I’ll kill you where you stand.”

I wasn’t satisfied even then. My forearm crushed his throat. My teeth showed as my lips curled back in a growl. I wanted to kill him. I remember feeling how easy it would be. And then I felt a hand on my shoulder. If it was one of Grizzled’s worgen, I was done. I turned, snarling, and saw the teal eyes staring at me in the moonlight. No fear in them at all. She leaned forward and growled at me “Get up. You’re killing him.”

I looked back down at Grizzled, bleeding from his mangled snout and unconscious. I stood up, casting a shadow over the injured male. The moon behind my head framed me. They’d always had called me Shadow for the looming size of my body. Sighing in a huff through my snout, I looked over to Gabby, illuminated by the moon. “What’ve I done?”

She looked at me, slowly moving to my side. “You, my shadow, have just cock-holed the the leader of our group. We’re dead, you know?”

Removing my knee from the chest of the leader, I turned to Gabby, pulling her into an embrace. Looking up at the moon, and then down into her eyes, I tried to reassure her.

“We’ll be okay. Together, you and me. We can make it. I won’t let nothing hurt you again, Moonbeam.” I said, looking down at the moonlight reflecting in her teal eyes.

In a few moments we ran.

Those few moments of fleeing felt like the night at the pub when I was ogling her. Like we were taking the step. And then we fell.

The ground rushed up to meet me in what seemed like an eternity. And then I hit.

And I thought it was over forever.

Published in: on March 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Beast

She loves you.

It seemed absurd, that she could. He was a worthless ex-con, barely scraping through life on a job he did more because it was right than for the wage. He was bitter and rough. Distant. Cold.

Not when you kissed her.

Reading the journals that Reese kept had caused Eddian to relive each and every moment of their time together. He remembered how for the first time in years, life rushed into him when he kissed Reese, and when she returned it. As they rode together through the wood on the back of his wondrous horse, Cloud.

Cloud was as good as gone though. He had no way to make that sort of cash back. So all he could hope for was that he found Reese. He could get over Cloud if he had her back in his life.

She loves you.

He couldn’t walk down this tainted road any longer- lowering himself to his knees, he clutched his chest as his skeleton expanded and hair shot from his pores- in seconds, smooth, well practiced seconds, he was a Worgen. Sleak, grey and powerful, he took off, bounding through the wood.

She’d have been back by now, if she still drew breath.

He snapped at that, barking at the thought that crossed his mind. Rage was an emotion unknown to worgen. Only humans grew angry. The man riding along inside the simpler mind of the beast was furious. Nothing would stop Edd from finding Reese. Nothing.

He carried her pack on his back, including her journal, in which he’d read that last entry before bed, and felt sleep elude him. How could he rest when Reese was out there, facing danger.

You don’t know love.

Lies. He remembered it, vaguely. Bitterly. But Marie had never, ever been like Reese. She had loved him, he was sure, but she had forgotten him. He’d rotted away for years, thinking life was unfair only to find that it was beyond that. It was just plain cruel.

But not anymore. Reese made it all make sense. She was such a lovely person, quick to smile. He’d felt the same things she had written, when they kissed that night.

And so it came to be that Eddian grappled with rage inside a Worgen that grappled with Eddian.

There. That cavern.

He stopped running, tilting his predator head toward the dark cavern. Patrols of cultists and demons seemed thin.

“You again?!” yelled an Orc, charging at Eddian with knives drawn. Eddian pounced with ferocity, tackling the Orc to the ground, and then dug his claws into the soft hollow of the Orc’s chin, tearing a hole that gushed blood immediately. With a snarl, he leaned down and his teeth ripped open the Orc’s gurgling throat as it spilled the life blood of the poor wretch.

That’s settled. She doesn’t love monsters though. Beauties and Beasts mix only in children’s stories meant to show that there is more to a person than their appearance. 

There was, wasn’t there?

Not in you, LeCavalier. You’re a monster inside. Pretty eyes can’t hide that.

Growling, he tore off, sprinting into the cavern. Here, patrols were thicker, but he eluded them, a shadowy spider crawling among the pockets of darkness left by the dim lights in the cavern. He moved slower than he’d have liked to- but he could not find any sign of Reese. There had been fighting in here- not two days removed based on the old blood on the damp cavern ground.

Still, it was not long before he found a small chamber- dimly lit and crawling with Satyrs. There was no one on the altar in the middle of the room, but it looked like a place for people to lay. Eddian quietly moved among the shadows, slinking into a position where he could watch.

His eyes fell on a corpse, and his heart sunk. It was awful. Pale, sunken cheeks, blood pouring from either eye socket, now left blank and shredded as if by carrion. He nearly felt week to his stomach- but then he’d battled Forsaken too long for a corpse alone to do it. No. It was his heart that ached.

You failed.

He must have. Those slender shoulders, that feminine chin. Those long, elegant ears that seemed the defnition of beauty.

Wait.

That was an Elf. He was nearly filled with Joy, until he remembered that someone was in fact dead- probably the warrior that Reese had come looking for. Maybe she hadn’t made it this far? Maybe further?

Just then, one of the horned demons turned and spotted him.

Fool!

He leapt from the darkness and swung out with his claws, tearing the throat out of the nearest monster. Two others reared on him and attacked with pointed pitch-forks, never designed to see a bale of hay. Eddian dodged instinctively, clawed hand slashing open the stomach of one, just above it’s groin. It poured blood as it’s compatriot made a stab that pinned Eddian’s free hand to the ground, driving his pitchfork down into the dirt until Eddian’s hand could not be drawn through the prongs. Roaring, the worgen tried to power his way out. The Satyr attacked, and Eddian kicked with all his might, sending him sprawling to the ground.

Shifting his hand from it’s worgen form to human, Eddian managed to get it free, and then hoist the pitch fork, driving it through the neck of it’s own owner. His hand returned to it’s clawed state and he dodged a fire-ball from one of the remaining Satyrs. Leaping on it, he pinned the thing to the altar, and tore at it with repeated swipes, roaring in rage, echoing his fury through the caverns.

Demons would be drawn.

By the time he was interrupted, the Satyr that had his ire was in shreds, blood staining everything in the room. Eddian panted from the effort, stained in blood himself. When he turned, he saw a pile of demons all bound in roots, and was staring directly at a tall creature with one sightless eye.

Braya Windhoof.

“You! You did this! Where is she! Where is my love?” Eddian bellowed in the guttural voice the curse left him in this form.

Braya wasn’t given a chance to answer, as Eddian bounded toward her, leaping. The huge tauren swatted him aside, and he rolled in the dirt, springing to his feet and attacking again. This time, he was met in the air by a lioness as powerful as he. They rolled for position on the ground, him snapping with his jaws while her clawed paws shoved back on his shoulders. He was frothing, blood staining his muzzle from his attacks on the forces inside this incarnation of Hell.

“Where is she?!” he bellowed again, kicking her off with powerful legs, and rolling to his feet. He bounced around her in a lateral motion, waiting for an opening, and watched for her attack, so furious was he that reason eluded him. “Where is Reese?!” he demanded.

Attacking again, he was encircled around the waist by roots that tugged him into the wall. He clawed at them, until smaller ones wrapped around his hands and held them up by his head. Roaring in pure rage, he snapped his jaws at anything he could get his hands on.

The Tauren woman approached, no long the lioness. She looked into his furious blue eyes with her singular brown one, and shook her head. “I would speak with the boy.” she said slowly. Eddian felt his energy fading as a root held his throat closed. He shifted slowly, back into his own shape, and swallowed a desperate breath.

And then he started to cry. Not a loud, sorrow filled cry, but a quiet sob that sounded as if it belonged to a man with nothing.

“I never told her. That I loved her. That she was doing for me what I never thought possible. The druids gave me humanity back- but with her I finally felt ..alive again.”

Monster.

“Light, but she’d hate me to see me now. But I’d give my life to save hers. Druid, you have to bring me deeper. We can find her. I will control my rage.”

Braya didn’t seem to believe him. So he cried. Softly, he felt tears pouring down his face, through his unkempt facial hair. He felt the roots retract and let him sag to his knees. He collapsed to his hands and held his head down, tears falling into packed dirt.

“You fight like a man with no hope..”

He stopped shaking then. He felt afraid, and helpless. He slowly looked up at the tall Tauren, who frowned down at him.

He rose to a kneel, rubbing the backs of his hands against his reddened eyes. “I love her. I’d rather die than lose another thing I love.”

The bovine woman lowered a huge hand and he looked at it.

“All were born to die, human.”

He took her hand, looking up at her questioningly.

“But until then,” she said softly. “Until then, we live.”

Nodding, he rose to his feet. “Not without her.”

Braya smiled knowingly. “No, not without her. She has escaped this hell- unlike some.” she said, frowning at the dead elf. Eddian felt sheer relief in his heart- though he could not smile.

“And you know where she is?” he asked. “Can you take me to her? Is she all right?”

Braya’s smile became a soft laugh. “Child, you’re in no shape to warm a heart- We’ll clean you up along the way. I will tell you what I know.”

Eddian followed as Braya retreated down the cavern, oblivious to the things going on around him.

She’s alive. And she loves you.

He put one foot in front of the other.

And you love her, too.

Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 9:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shadow Hold

My students are coming along slowly, but all good things do.

Neither one has time though- the problem with druids who are not of Kaldorei descent. It took me centuries to grow to my current ability. Which is discouraging  watching Waylin and Huegga work. I was nowhere near as good when only a few decades old. Huegga isn’t even twenty summers old, and he can use restorative talents better than I ever will.

The world of my people has changed- we are outdone by the urgency with which these folk approach their lives.  Waylin is a worgen, almost thirty years old, and a vicious fighter. His affinity for druidism is lost on me- something to do with an old tradition among the Gilnean people. Still, the man is angry and hot-headed. He will need to learn to balance his emotions in order to be a good Druid.

Huegga is a gift as a student. The awkward tauren youth may not be the most coordinated druid ever, but born of Druid parents, he has studied the arts a long time. He can use shapes seamlessly, almost as good as me, but his true power is in the healing he can do. While it is far from perfect, it is beyond the skill of a novice.

When the leaders among the Cenarion Circle sent me to inspect the lost Sentinel in Felwood, I brought my students. We walked all day, tracking the woman to a hovel deep in the wood, known as Shadow Hold. Cultists prowled everywhere, with demons mingled among their population.

It was night- though the vile green glow of Felwood never left. Huegga was hard to hide, but Waylin and I were sneaky. We easily coordinated a direction, and managed to reach the mouth of the caverns. The smell of sulfur filled my nostrils. Still, raising my pole-axe, I lead the ornery worgen and the timid Tauren down into the cave.

Using roots, we could easily keep some of the cultists and demons off of us, pulling them into dark corners or crushing the wind from their lungs and putting them to sleep.

We reached a room where stealth was less possible. Lights- glowing red lights, hung in abundance around the room. There was little we could do to cling to the shadows effectively. Stepping out from behind a pillar of stone, I swung my poleaxe from down to up, splitting open an Orc cultists from hip to shoulder. Waylin leapt out, a brownish blur of power, savagely tearing at a pair of attacking cultists that fell in heaps. Huegga tripped up two more that were flanking Waylin, and I brought my poleaxe down hard upon them both, severing their heads from their bodies. It was busy work- but necessary to keep from the entire cavern filling with angry cultists.

No screams were heard.

Moving on, we came to another winding cavern. Down in it, something felt wrong to me.   I ordered my students to block the path and hold there. Huegga summoned roots through the dirt walls, knitting them together to make a wall at the entrance. Waylin transformed into the heavy worgen form that just dripped savagery.

Moving down the tunnel in the shadows, I came to a chamber in which an altar rested in the middle. I dropped into my prowling cat form, slipping through the shadows until I found what I’d come for.

The sentinel was ripped apart, her body almost an unrecognizable mess laying near the altar. I steeled myself against the anger as best I could, but when I saw the two Satyrs in the room, looming over another woman’s body, I pounced. My strong fore-legs shoved him to the ground.  Rolling aside, I became myself again, and raised my poleaxe.

Roots reached down like the tentacles of a sea-creature and scooped the Satyrs into the lightless heights of the cavern’s ceiling.

I approached the woman laying on the altar, in the rags of a cultist robe. Her eyes were bloodshot, tired, feverish orbs with pale blue irises I am sure are beautiful when not marred by the red. I frowned, though, as the taint in her was well beyond my skill as a healer. I lifted the girl, and walked back the way I’d come.

This mission was a horrendous failure. The Sentinel I’d come to save was savagely murdered by the corruption of the Shadow Hold.

This poor woman would not know the same fate. We could fix it.

We would fix it.

Determined, I set off, carrying the half-conscious woman in my arms. It would take hours to get home.

I thought she knew Waylin- but it was delirium speaking. She called for Edd.

Perhaps there is an Edd.

Published in: on February 6, 2013 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Moving On

Day 3.

Finally we landed. Ratchet was the port, of course. The goblin ship arrived safely, and the passengers all went about their business. I had no idea where to go, myself. Moonglade, I supposed, as it was the last place other than with her hand in mine that I’d known Reese to be.

I decided it would be best if I avoided drawing too much attention to my condition, and remained in my human form. I invested in a bed at the local inn, more a cot against a wall in the tavern- and relaxed there. I knew that my only hope of finding Moonglade and reaching it safely was to find a Druid.

Fortunately, I had some experience with Druids. They’d helped the Liberation Front adjust to their new, hairier, selves. But in Kalimdor, particularly here in Ratchet, I figured the odds I’d run into an elf were slim. I fell asleep with no solution presented to my dilemma.

Day 4.

I woke up to a noisy day. Ratchet was filled with the sounds of a bustling port. Screaming vendors, all in shrill Goblin voices bellowed out prices and deals in Orcish and common alike. A tauren woman who looked old sat at the bar sipping tea, and a bunch of orcs were dicing for coppers over breakfast. I felt terribly out of place.

Rising, I tugged on a shirt- simple white linen, slightly dirty, and moved to the bar. I ordered a glass of water, and groaned, rubbing my back. I’d slept in a prison cell most of my adult life, but something was worse about the cots here.

The tauren woman was old. Really old. Ancient. One of her eyes had gone misty with blindness, the other a dark pit that scanned the room. Her fur was scraggly and thick. She wore a thick linen robe, with a few feathers tied into her mane of silver colored hair. She was a druid. You could tell just by that alone. She drank deeply of her strong smelling tea made of Earthroot. When she left the bar, I followed, a bounce in my step.

She rounded on me not long after I left, and I instinctively went to my sword’s hilt. She glared with that half-blank stare at me, and I raised both hands, passively.

“I am in need of a Druid familiar with these lands. I mean no harm to you.”

The tauren woman snorted. It was kind of ludicrous as I saw it now, she could snap me in two, the powerful creature that she was. Still, I stood my ground. “I need guidance to the hidden grove of Moonglade, that I might inquire about a friend of mine.” I clarified.

The tauren woman shook her head. “I make for the glade- but I will not be slowed down by you, human.”

I sighed, and let the woman walk away, following among the shadows. Once she left Ratchet, she took the form of a cat, an impressive, tireless lioness, with grey streaks in tan fur. I followed the only way I could- by embracing the wolf.

By nightfall I’d reached the Northern edge of the barrens, a horde encampment. The Tauren woman was still her lean lioness form, and I could smell the power on her. It was weird, the way predator instincts worked. I swear, the only way to describe it was power.

She was the more powerful of is. In a fight, she’d have destroyed me, face to face. But I had been called “The Spider” at times, for how I could get around in my worgen skin. My fur is a few dark shades of grey, and I am leaner than most. I crawled along the edge of the camp, my eyes lowered to keep the moonlight from making them shine. I was so close I could count the hairs on an Orc’s chin as he emptied his bladder onto the base of a tree. I found the wall of the camp, separating the barren wasteland to the south from the lush forest I could smell on the other side. Testing the logs, I found that I could slip under a few that weren’t fastened well at the bottom.

And so I did. And when I did, I was face to face with the lioness. Frightened she would sound an alarm, I prepared to flee. But no alarm was raised.

Instead, the woman shifted back.

“Those eyes, boy, I would recall even if I were twice my age. You are a deft hunter. Capable. Shift. We are not animals. We will talk as what we are.”

I considered debating that the Worgen was my true form, now, but had never really bought into the notion myself. I shifted back, frowning as I looked up at the Tauren.

“I am Braya Windhoof.”  she started in that low, rumbling voice. There was a silence, and I finally realized she was waiting for my introduction.

“Eddian. Eddian LeCavalier.” I said.

She nodded. “Eddian. A fine name. I saw you once. Before today. In the Goblin Port in the southern reaches of the Eastern Kingdoms.”

I struggled with the thought, a second, then it occurred to me what she meant.

“You were with a woman. And by your drive, you are here for a woman. I ..trust, they are the same woman?” she whispered knowingly.

“Reese..” I breathed, and then looked up at her. “Have you seen her? Since Booty Bay?”

The tauren nodded, and I couldn’t help but feel my heart leap. “I saw her, in Ratchet. She was headed to the Felwoods. North of here, where the corruption of the wood is thickest. The druids could use someone with her talents.”

Corruption sounded bad, so I started immediately walking north. Braya stopped me. “Run with me again, Eddian. I will take you to the one you seek.”

Something in her tone inspired confidence. So again, we ran, two blurs of fur in the night.

Day 6

We’re in the Felwood now. The Emerald Circle is working here, and we’re in their camp. Reese was here. The people of the camp remember her, and her task. They’d sent her north, to some elven ruins, to investigate some cultists and save a warrior of theirs that had not returned.

The whole thing stank to me.

This wood. It stank of corruption and rot. But more than that, the situation. An elven warrior was not returned from this place they had sent Reese too, and she’s not returned. I haven’t slept in two days, or nothing would stop me from going north to the ruins, but Braya made them keep me here to eat and sleep a few hours.

And she’d left.

I sat in the small tent afforded for me as a visitor. It was the same tent Reese had slept in. I knew because her things were still there, and that sort of had me second guessing myself even more- maybe they weren’t expecting her back.

I’m not one to dig, but her journal was among those things. I read it with heavy eyes, tired from the trek to Felwood.

Light, but I can’t remember the last time, before then, that I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Published in: on January 30, 2013 at 6:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Passage

Fingering the small purse of silver and gold at his hip, Eddian boarded the ship.

It was a Goblin ship, in decent repair, and bustling with activity in the early morning gloom that surrounded Booty Bay. He’d paid more than he’d wanted to for passage- and could think of nothing but how he may very well have paid with his most prized possession.

Though that was hopefully not the case- if he could be back in Elwynn with twice what he was paid- not altogether an unbelievable sum, but a lot for him- then he could have Cloud back. And for now he’d be cared for by a capable stable. That said, if he failed to return on time and with the money, he had no doubt the gelding would be sold quickly. Cloud could, as his name implied, soar lightly. Or he could boom with thunderous power.

Eddian thought of changing his name, for if he never saw the horse again he’d surely weep.

The ship would push off soon, so Eddian brough his pack to the ship’s bunks and tucked it away under a cot that seemed somewhat less ragged than the others that were left- not taken by the other passengers, which consisted of a Troll woman with lanky legs and wide hips that would have been attractive were it not for the tusks jutting from her lips, one of which was broken, or her wild mane of red hair. Besides her, there was a pair of Orc men, who seemed to be brothers despite being hard to understand given that, well, they talked Orcish, and a dwarven man who slept upon his cot already, which was crazy, since they hadn’t left the dock yet.

Eddian left the lodging and moved to the deck again, moving toward the bow among the yelling of the crew. A soldier was boarding, in a tunic that suggested he was headed to an outpost in the Barrens. He was ordered to take it off, since Goblins like money but didn’t want to have to answer to a horde ship- or the Horde passengers, if a soldier was brought to an active war-zone by a Goblin Ship.

Eddian didn’t feel like the company of a soldier, so he kept on toward the bow, his katana and sword breaker swinging on each hip. He leaned forward on the railing, and stared out over the sea. The ship would leave soon- and he’d never traveled on a ship before.

———————————

Not long later Eddian sat below with the other passengers, the ones mentioned and also a blood-elf woman who had joined afterward. The dainty woman sat along, reading a thick book by light of an Arcane orb hovering around her head.

The she-troll and the orcs had taken to playing at dice, and the dwarf was joining despite only knowing crude orcish- apparently. The soldier slept with a gentle snore. Edd rolled on his side and thought, as the ship lurched on the weaves. The lurch was nothing on some of the more temperate horses he’d ridden, but still was an unfamiliar motion- it made him tired.  He closed his shining blue eyes and rested peacefully on his cot.

He wondered where Reese was. Was she safe? Was she alone? Where could he find her? Kalimdor was all the note had sad, and it sprawled for miles. Not only that- but none save the elves would likely help him, there.

Frowning, he tugged his cloak up to his chin and loosened his sword breaker in his sheath- if any of the folk on the boat touched him, he’d cut them.

With one striking orb open, he fell asleep. Dreams and the passengers left him alone.

Why wouldn’t they- he’d embraced the wolf hours ago, and no one wanted to wake a worgen.

Published in: on January 15, 2013 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Recovery

Alfred woke up late in the morning.

His cellar room was always dark anyway, but he knew it was late. The one small window was letting in a small amount of light, and it finally hit his face- something it did around eleven every morning. 

Groaning, he rolled from the bed. He looked down at himself, paler than usual. He felt soft and loose and weak. The walking had not been helping. Eating soup wasn’t helping.

Snatching up his rifle, he went through his morning routine of maintaining it. The rifle, for true, was older than Alfred. But it was in pristine condition. Despite the fact that he used it often, any collector would welcome the gun.

His father had given it to him. Or rather his mother had said he could have it when his father died. Or when they presumed he was dead. He’d sailed for Northrend with the Prince. Most of those people were dead. Alfred had long since been told his father was not coming home.

The memory didn’t hurt. Maybe it had once. He couldn’t remember much of his father. His face, maybe. There was a moustache. Or there wasn’t. He was tall, or maybe short. Blue eyes? Whatever. His mother had loved her. Or else why was her heart so broken when he died?

Resting the freshly seen-to rifle upon his rack, Alfred rose and dressed in his simple greys and greens and browns. Then, exhausted from the effort, he sat back down on his bed, before falling to his back to stare at the ceiling.

“Skala.” he breathed, sighing. 

She was so beautiful. So different. And she liked him. No girls liked him. Not really. I mean, some had told him he was cute or giggled that things he said, but none really wanted him. Not like Skala had. If Skala had.

There was still doubts about that. She’d been out of her mind when it had happened. And then with Seeruu….he shook his head.

He’d changed so much these past few months. Interest in girls. He was developing a taste for alcohol. Growing up, really. That’s what anyone else would tell him.

Some of it he liked. Some if it seemed like he might even be good at it.

Maybe he should talk to Skala.

But first he’d go back to sleep.

Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Purification

Nessun paced the length of his sitting room, while Alfred lay upon the sofa, looking up at the high ceiling.

Wearing an unlaced shirt of white cotton woven so finely that it seemed made of silk, the Paladin considered the boy on the couch. 

“So, she thinks she did what to you?”

Alfred let out a long sigh. He’d explained it already, of course. And he was tired. And distraught. It was a rough day for the young rifleman, and the effects of it were leaving him in an unusual state of frustration.

“She thinks it’s her fault that I’ve been seeing things. And hearing things. And not able to sleep. She said there’s something bad in me.”

Nessun frowned, stroking his neatly trimmed beard. “Well, it’ll have to be me that looks into that, then. I can’t very well take you to a better healer.”

Alfred sat up some, and then put a hand to his head.

“Don’t dispute it,” the Paladin said, rolling up his sleeves to reveal strong wrists and forearms. “You said yourself, you were accused of cult activity last night- which I admit is ludacris- but then this ‘bad thing’ you speak of is likely going to fan that fire.”

Alfred eased himself back down. “Is it always like this when you have sex with a woman?”

Nessun couldn’t help but smile at that. “Sometimes it’s worse, I suppose. Usually better. Your priestess is a pretty one, Alfred, but she is certainly the type to raise some questions, that way. And you say she is pregnant now, visibly, but was not two days ago.”

Alfred nodded. “I don’t know how it happened. Dark magic, I bet. Seems to be the driving force behind everything this past week.”

Nessun sighed, and channeled Light energy at Alfred, pushing glowing waves from his hands. Alfred writhed immediately, crying out. “Oh! Light! It’s there. I feel it!” he screamed.

Nessun kept pushing the waves of energy into his tenant, trying to draw out the force from within him. Alfred’s body was becoming a vessel charged with Light energy.

No doubt this was making the corruption angry. Alfred was in tears, crying. “Oh please, stop yelling. Please stop screaming at me. It wasn’t my fault. She was sick.” 

Nessun combed dull brown locks back from Alfred’s forehead and looked down into his brown eyes, channeling more of the energy into Alfred’s writhing body.

The boy screamed on; “Nessun, please, stop it. It’s going to kill me. Oh Light, it’s hurting me! It’s hurting me!”

Bleeding from his nostrils, the boy shook his head free of Nessun’s hand, and Nessun more forcefully pinned him down. “Alfred. Be strong.”

Alfred swallowed, and then nodded, fearful brown eyes looking up at the Paladin as he seemed to put on a new resolve, trying to keep a firm hold on himself. 

The glow of Nessun’s power filled the dimly lit sitting room. Himself, he nearly snarled with the effort of keeping his channeling strong enough. He’d never been a strong healer. But looking down at Alfred suffering was motivation enough to keep trying.

Suddenly, Alfred opened his mouth widely and screamed. As if an undercurrent to his own bellowing, the roar of something else rose up, until it met Alfred’s tone and volume.

Bursting forth from Alfred’s mouth, an oddly shaped mass repeling Nessun’s magic moved forth from the boy’s mouth, and Alfred convulsed, chest rising and falling quickly before he fell unconcious. 

Nessun stared at the shape, hovering above Alfred’s chest. He narrowed his silver eyes and studied it. 

“You are a fool! This boy is mine!”

Nessun looked at the shape, and he closed his fist around the Light energy accumulating there. 

“Just as well. I’ll take you instead, Light wield-“

The corruption didn’t finish that statement, as Nessun hit it with a glowing blast of Light energy that caused it to disperse, and then disappear entirely.

Taking a deep breath, Nessun went to the kitchen for some water. He was thirsty, and Alfred would need some attention too.

He’d sleep not a wink, tonight.

Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Morning After

Steeping a spoonfull of crushed bruiseweed into his tea, Nessun looked up at the young man across from him.

Alfred was clearly exhausted. The lad had returned from Tol Barad not two days removed. But it wasn’t the battle that had him worn out. Nessun had of course seen his room.

When he’d gone down to see if Alfred wanted some breakfast, the boy had been asleep at his table. His bed was covered in ash and blood, his floor in yet more of both. He certainly didn’t look to be comfortable.

And so it came to be that Nessun invited him up for a muffin and tea. Alfred was staring into his cup. Nessun reclined a bit, sniffing the delightful aroma of the Bruiseweed tea he’d prepared. Spicey. Delectable.

“So. I trust you had a rought night?”

Alfred looked up at the handsome, bearded man with a sigh and then nodded. “It was awful. You hear about evil like that, but it never seems so close to home.”

“Oh, it is. Stormwind is a cess pit of black magic and ill deeds. I don’t suppose you’d believe it of me- but I used to have friends that were pretty bad.”

Alfred studied the man, and then lifted his tea to his lips. It was too hot to drink deeply from it, but a sip would do.

Nessun continued. “Because I am a Paladin, most people just assume I am good. And I try to be, now. But back then- well…what hides a stain better than a gleaming white exterior, right?”

Alfred tilted his head as he listened. The muffin remained untouched. Carrot, it seemed. His favorite. “I don’t know what you’re trying to say.” he admitted. He was bitter about the previous day’s events. The only good thing that had happened was running into Nessun and having his cellar unlocked.

“Well, it works both ways. While there are bad people masquerading about in white and gold, there are as many good people in crimson and black. What happened in that room?”

“I’m not even sure, Sir. I met this woman the other night. Skala. She dresses funny, a bit…but she’s pretty. And nice to me. And I don’t feel embarassed around her. But she’s sick.”

Nessun lofted a brow, taking a sip of his Bruiseweed tea. “She’s sick?”

“Coughs up blood. And kind of…lets her mind wander, I guess. Though I guess that could be anything- not just that she’s sick”

Nessun licked his lips, a habit Alfred hadn’t noticed when they first met months ago. “So, then. I assume you didn’t take her home for a cuddle and have her start bleeding like that.” then he kind of snorted. “Though I suppose that makes for a rather gruesome tale too.”

Alfred didn’t see the humor, or know what Nessun was talking about. “She was reading off some tarot cards. To this huge worgen. And then they said she ate his soul.” He frowned at that part, not wanting to convict the pleasant woman of things he didn’t understand. “And then she started having attacks. So the Worgen and I brought her to my apartments. She wasn’t getting better, but then this …thing, came in. Something that she was trying to avoid. And it started throwing up…something. Black…I think it was -souls-, Sir.”

“Black souls? Sounds unpleasant. Then the blood is that of this thing?”

Alfred nodded then. “And hers. Blood everywhere. And it was so evil. And I was so afraid.”

“Why shouldn’t you be afraid? It sounds frightening.”

“I’m a soldier! I’m a grown man that fights in wars.”

“That’s hardly the same, Alfred. You’re a young man who fights in wars. You’re not immune to fear. No one is. I’ve been afraid. Seeing what you saw- happening to someone you are fond of- “

“I’m not fond of her!” he retorted. “That’s what the thing said. He said he was fond of her. He saved her with that evil. All I could do was watch and be afraid.”

Nessun sighed, and set his cup down. “What do you propose to do now, then?”

Alfred looked at him. “Just mind my own business from now on. Less trouble that way.”

Nessun bit his lip. “Don’t you want to continue to know this woman? It sounds like you at least are worried about her.”

“I am. So worried, really. I hate seeing people sick. Since my mo-“

“Since your mother, yes. Sad business, illness can be. Sadder still to face it alone.” Nessun looked over his mug. “But still…you’ve every cause to be wary. Let me tell you what I’ll do. I’ll go find this woman and talk to her. Find out what’s going on. Let her know you’re worried.”

Alfred looked up at Nessun a long, silent moment, his plain brown eyes searching the naturally sad ones of his Landlord, sterling silver even in the dim morning light.

“Thank you, Sir. I’ll clean up that mess and look into some new linens.”

Nessun smiled and went about, fussing over his cape as he pinned it in place. “Very well. But first, eat that muffin. Carrot, and fresh from the bakery.”

With that, the young rifleman tore the top from the muffin, and looked at it at length. Amazed at the cool, calm nature of the Paladin, he wondered if he could ever be like that.

Taking a bite out of the bottom portion of the muffin, he realized that he never could be. He wasn’t made of the same stuff as Nessun, who’s vision of the world was always with the cunning of a banker or accountant. Able to weigh the worth of things that were intagible.

Alfred wasn’t the same. The world was a place that was bigger and more impressive than him. He couldn’t manipulate it. He could only make a difference through actions- not ideas.

Powerless to help Skala, he wondered if Nessun could. Or would, even if he could. Either way, Alfred felt like this was only the beginning. And hopefully next time he could avoid being paralyzed by fear.

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cursed Purse.

Why am I so bad at this?

I’m good at everything I do. I’ve always been good at things. Mathematics. Writing. Fencing. The Militant Art of the Light. Cunning and coniving and scheming.

So why in the name of the Light am I so bad at helping? Why is it that I cannot give aid? Why am I bitterly stalking the streets appraising every face and slumped figure looking for someone who needs the money hanging at my hip.

I don’t need it. Anyone, really, could use it more than I could. But the deserving don’t need it. The needy don’t deserve it. I wonder if Kinza knew of this paradox when she gave me this cursed purse.

I should just give it to Larkee. If anyone deserves it, it’s that girl. Short-handed, left alone by everyone who she cares about and still she finds time in her day to smile. Meanwhile I bitterly waged war on people who weren’t responsible, using people who were afraid, for a cause that I could have avoided if I weren’t so weak.

I lost a loved one to death. And to the woman I abandoned in a moment of weakness and cowardice. And selfishness. And I fought to fill the hole it left in my heart to no avail. The only solution was to let the grief of my son’s passing fill the hole instead.

If it weren’t for Maharani, I’d struggle daily with my past. Or for Marlbane, who taught me how to care about others again. To care about people who needed my help and had nothing at all to offer in return. But that’s not right. Marlbane would never – could never really know, but she gave me back hope in myself, and Maharani found that hope and helped it blossom until I stand today as a member of a group of people who try to do well.

And I’m bad at it. Finally, my life almost literally pulled from the grave, and I am bad at what it entails.

I could look a man in the eye and tell you his every vice. But I am failing to find virtue in the needy people of Stormwind. People who beg for coin and will spend it all on wine, or whores, or thieves. All of them, it seems. And then there are the benevolent. Travelling healers and smiling matrons and young mothers with babes in their arms, and not one of them truly needs this coin.

Is that the test? Designed to make me fail? Teach me humility and the lesson that the meek can always do good by themselves, and that the needy aren’t always worthy?

No. I refuse to accept that. As bad as I am at this task…

I swear, I’m worse at failing.

Published in: on April 26, 2012 at 11:42 pm  Leave a Comment