[RP Plot] The Founders: Chapter 2


(Greyseer) #1

(( Recapping the events of Chapter 1: Two thunderclaps have been heard so far, each roughly one month apart. The thunder is usually accompanied by a sense a dread–a tugging at the soul that feels wholly unnatural.

Swarms of unusual, purple-silvery worms have been sighted across the land as well, with strange encounters happening to those who have had come across them. Where are these worms coming from? Are they merely a previously unknown aspect of nature, or are they the heralds of something else to come?

Then there are the whispers. Some citizens of Azeroth have been hearing a faint voice of an unknown origin calling souls back to…somewhere.

Who has been curious enough to respond?

Chapter 2 begins now. ))

The first had been unexpected. The second, coming a month later, suggested that the thunder was not yet done with us. We were anticipating a third, and it certainly came. However, it came a week early, and that was when people started going missing.

I do not mean that they wandered off into the forests of Drustvar and never returned. Nor do I mean they charged the enemy lines in one of the ever-expanding warfronts and ended up missing-in-action. Certainly, there had been plenty of that already. But, no, these were not vanishings that happened due to blade or mace, behind closed doors, or outside of our awareness. These happened in front of our eyes.

Dalaran, having bore the brunt of our war against the Burning Legion, had been blessedly quiet for months since the Horde and the Alliance had taken their aggression to the seas. Those of us remaining in the Kirin Tor kept our distance, burying ourselves in our research so as to help keep Azeroth safe from threats far greater than the petty squabbles of two overblown factions.

I had been given a team dedicated to learning the origin of both the thunder and the worms that had been reported as manifesting across the world. It was late during one evening in the midst of Winter’s Veil celebrations, and we were all gathered in the Guardian’s library. The tomes beneath the city proper had been very useful to us in the fight against the demons, and we held onto hope that the knowledge would reveal a sliver of truth regarding the events that were unfolding before us now.

My team, the first I had been granted since becoming a Chronicler of this organization, was diligently researching all potentially linked topics. From the creation of the Great Dark Beyond to the founding of some of Azeroth’s most clandestine organizations, we were attempting to leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of answers. Up to that point, we had found nothing of relevance.

The third explosion of thunder interrupted our studies, and was far louder than the previous two, rattling the bookshelves even this deep beneath the city’s heart. That we could hear it so clearly, surrounded by so many layers of stone, mortar, and magic, was a shock. The even greater shock, however, came with the clatter of equipment and books, all falling to their respective tables or floors. That was when Telnara screamed.

It had happened in an instant; something so fast that my mind was unable to parse it for moments after. As I looked across the rooms of the library, I finally began to piece together what I was seeing. Members of my team had disappeared from in front of me. Of the ten souls who had been assigned to help me research these events, six remained. Where the others had stood or sat, nothing remained but piles of clothing, jewelry, and other trinkets. Books that had, moments before, been held now lay sprawled upon the stone tiles.

Telnara had been reaching for one of these books, opened to a page marked by a companion as he had been handing it over. It had fallen to the ground as his body just disappeared. There was no flash, no dissolution, no ash. He was there one instant, and gone the next.

Then the unexpected visions returned.

-Excerpt from “The Founder’s War”, author unknown

* * *


(Ardell) #2

The young man frowns as his father curses. The sound of marching boots can be heard from outside the wooden structure–a parade of cadets practicing their formations on the academy grounds.

The elder is on his hands and knees in the small wooden office, searching behind the shelves and stacks of books for something. “How long since they’ve escaped?”

The younger man sighs. “No more than a handful of days. I think they’re long gone from here.”

“I can still smell the faint traces of the slime, son. They’re not long gone. The worms are still here, somewhere. Likely burrowed between the floor boards or the wall panels.”

“We’ve looked around, and I’ve had the outside of this building combed, too,” the younger man repeated to his father. “Wherever they are, they don’t want to be found.”

The elder growls and shifts himself to his knees. “Why did you keep them in a jar? Didn’t you listen when I described my last encounter with these things? They can burrow or slip through almost anything. They’re impossible to contain.”

“Yes,” the younger man sighs. “I remember. I read your report of the incident. We weren’t–in fact, we’re still not–sure that your experience and these incidents are related.”

The older man stands and approaches his son, his one good eye stormy. “I do not wish to be taken by them again, Ardell. I’m grateful that you were able to organize a party to find me last year, but I have no desire to become their…food…a second time. I still have nightmares.”

“I know, father,” the younger replies, his voice softer. “We’re doing our best to gain a handle on these events. If you want, we can organize a safehouse for you, to keep you hidden.”

The elder steps away and waves his hand in a sharp, dismissive gesture. He rounds the railing nearby and begins to walk down the steps to the ground floor. “No! I will not trade a wriggling slimy prison for one made of a series of non-descript wooden rooms. No safehouse is needed.”

The younger man, follows, his lips pressed in frustration. “But–”

“Look, son, all I ask of you is to be more cautious. This organization has changed drastically from its roots as a branch of Alliance special forces. This whole ‘Emergency Support’ angle you’re running with risks you forgetting the techniques that kept our agents safe in the past.” As he reaches the lower level, he turns to face his son as he descends the final handful of steps. “Security should still be your utmost concern. External AND internal.”

“And YOUR security is! I don’t want to see you taken now any more than I did then.”

The elder’s shoulders sag slightly, and he sighs. “Just…be more careful with this, will you? If the founders have returned, I don’t know what it’ll mean for us. For any of us.”

The younger man furrows his brow. “This seems larger than the founders. They were just four humans. This? This seems to go beyond that somehow.”

The elder raises the eyebrow above his good eye. “I never underestimated them, even when I thought they were just mortal. Now? If whatever they’ve tapped into has started to awaken… Ardell, I’m not sure the organization, as it stands, is equipped to handle this on its own.”

“We have the Alliance with us, father,” the younger man reassures. The parade of cadets outside come to a stomping halt, and commands are shouted in their sharp, military cadence. They punctuate Ardell’s words. “We have the ear of the king, and the resources that come with.”

The elder keeps his eyebrow raised as he studies his son. After a few long breaths, he replies. “Do we? Do we truly?”

“Ye–”

An explosion of thunder, louder than any of the previous, slams into the buildings around the Proudmoore Academy. The wooden walls shake with the force, and the younger man squeezes his eyes shut and snaps his hands to his ears.

After a heartbeat, he opens his eyes again and straightens, looking outside. There is more noise there now, cries of shock, shouts of command and urgency, and the general chaos of confusion. Ardell can see the edges of the parade march churning about, no longer in their rigid formation. Loose piles of gear can be seen littering the grounds, which was certainly odd.

“Do you believe the founders have learned how to control the weath–” Ardell turns to face his father, but stops mid-sentence.

There, where Luther Magrave has stood but seconds before, was only a pile of clothing and leather armor, and atop this pile rested the old man’s eye patch. Of Luther himself, there was no sign.

* * *


(Aris) #3

“Now, Riq, don’t ya feel right at home here? It’s nice t’be sitting at the sea like this.” Aris dangles her bare feet off the dock and kicks them lightly into the water. “Tide’s high right now.”

Her brother leans back against the pole at the end of the pier and laughs. “Somethin’ tells me that we did less drinkin’ back then, li’l sis. Mum would have tanned our hides if we had.” He grimaces. “Not that it did’na happen enough.”

Aris smirks and pokes his chest with a finger before reaching down for her bottle. “Yah got caught more than me. So, tell me ‘bout werk. What brings ya to Boralas? Not that I’m complainin’.”

“Paperwork really. Ya’d be surprised how many documents are needed for th’ alliance. We’re always running across somethin’ that needs t’ be on record. I’m the one that gets th’ joy of doin’ the recordin’.” He tilts his head back as he takes a long pull from a flask in his hand.

“What about you, Ariseth?” Riqard smirks at the sour expression she gives him at the use of her full name.

The woman thwaps him in the shoulder with the back of her hand. “Stop that! Ya know I prefer Aris.” She shakes her head as she watches him falls back onto the dock, laughing. “Really, Riq, werk’s been… strange. Things happenin’ that we can’t quite explain. It’s all makin’ me uneasy.”

Riqard raises an eyebrow at her worried tone. “Do ya need help, sis? Ya know I’d never leave ya t’fight on yer own if somethin’ big was goin’ down, right?” He sits up and wraps an arm around her shoulder and ruffles her hair.

She smiles at him, pushing her worry away and ignoring the indignity of him mussing her hair. “Yeah, I know. Don’t worry I’d-”

The thunder cracks so loudly that it’s all Aris can do to grab onto the wooden planks beneath her to steady herself. She looks around quickly, but sees nothing that would mean an explosion or attack. Yet, the cries back in the city makes her think otherwise.

“Hey, Riq, we should go check and see if everyone’s-” She stops suddenly as her fingers touch loose cloth. Her gaze goes down to see the pile of empty clothing that used to be her brother. “Riq? Riq!”

Her gaze snaps to the sound of someone wailing on the shore end of the dock. Another woman grasps at a similar pile on the ground. Elsewhere, a child wanders about, lost and crying for his father.

The weight of what happened finally hits her. They were gone. They were ALL gone.

Numbly, she gathered the bundle into her arms and stumbled to her bare, damp feet. “Ardell… I need to find Ardell…” She mutters, then breaks into a run.


#4

“Sir, if you would just-”

“Corporal Copperblast, I do not want to hear your crazy theories any longer!” The burly man in front of her slammed a fist on his desk to punctuate his shouted words, causing a pile of paperwork to shift and a pencil to roll onto the floor. “I sent you out there to do a job, it’s done, and now you’re assigned to other things!”

Wintflink stood straight, her blue eyes meeting her superior officer’s without a flinch. “I understand that, sir, but I am concerned that nothing new has been discovered about who injured Corporal Stormfeather, where her companion Cilla is, and what happened to Private First Class Sparkshield.”

“It’s obvious, they found a Horde operation and suffered the worse for it,” the man replied, but Wint’s eyes narrowed as she noted that he couldn’t meet her gaze, and his hand still on the surface of the desk shook.

For a moment, she could do nothing but remember that day a few weeks back. It had been another perfect day in Stormsong Valley, but she and Gobmat hadn’t gone out to the site they’d been assigned with such a carefree demeanor this time. They’d ridden out at dawn from the nearest settlement, and had said nothing as they’d passed silent farms painted golden in the first light of the sun. It wasn’t until they’d gone off the main road into wild fields full of long grass that Wint and Gobmat had heard the first sign of trouble.

She’d looked up to see a lone gryphon circling and calling. Wint and Gobmat had exchanged a quick look when she’d realized they’d been drawing near the site they’d been assigned, to see if they could find out what had happened to Ani, Cilla, and Kenza.

She’d drawn her mount up short a moment later as the earth had dropped away. What Wint had guessed was initially a small dell caused by a gentle slope had been further dug away, and had been made a potentially life-threatening drop from the direction they’d approached. Backing up, Wintflink had charted a course down a nearby hill so that they could reach the site safely, but before she’d followed it, a heart-wrenching cry from above had stopped her.

A bad thought had struck her, and Wintflink had called out into the sky, “Ellerain, is that you?”

The gryphon that had been circling and calling had begun to dive in Wintflink and Gobmat’s direction. He’d chittered nervously, and Wint had backed up, her eye on the sky. Ellerain had landed just in front of them, however, and Wint nodded as she recognized the markings she’d seen before on Ani’s gryphon.

“Where is she, girl?” she’d asked, only to get blasted by a distressed cry from the gryphon.

“All right, stay close by and we’ll take a look,” she’d replied, watching as the gryphon had taken to the sky once more.

She hadn’t bothered with stealth, since no one had been in evidence at the digsite, and had thundered down the hill into the middle of it. Again, she felt she’d missed whatever important had happened there, although it seemed by the odd tool here and there and the half-unearthed statue that whoever was here had left in a hurry.

As she’d dismounted, she’d taken a closer look at the statue. It had been dug out up to mid-chest, and appeared to be of a woman with one hand out, as if she’d been holding something spherical. Whatever it had been, it was gone now, Wintflink had noted, along with the tips of a few of the statue’s fingers. She’d glanced at Gobmat then, as he’d drawn closer to her, not seeming to like the look of the statue, but then he’d pointed.

“Oh, not more of those,” Wint had muttered, and had run to the edge of the pit of silver-purple worms she hadn’t noticed at first, her hands alight as she began to call down fire.

There had been five pits altogether, and it was at the bottom of the fourth that she and Gobmat had found Ani. Ani had been injured by the worms and had some battle wounds, but that hadn’t been what had worried Wint. Ani had been conscious, but still hadn’t seemed to know Wint and Gobmat were there, the whole time Wintflink had tied her to the saddle and told Ellerain to get her back to Alliance command. They’d taken off with Ani still arguing with someone Wint couldn’t see.

She and Gobmat had taken a few samples and had then destroyed the rest of the worms, burning everything in sight until only an oily purple residue had remained of them. Gobmat had found no sign of Ani’s bloodhound, Cilla. The only sign they’d been able to find of Kenza Sparkshield had been one end of her staff, stained purple where it had been broken.

Wintflink gave Gobmat a glance where he stood beside her, which he returned, looking as resolute as she felt.

She took a deep breath and said, “Captain Walker, sir, I have seen many Horde attacks in my time with the service, and that did not seem to be one.”

He scoffed at her, but still wouldn’t meet her eyes. “You said yourself that no one was there by the time you arrived.”

Wintflink had opened her mouth to reply, but closed her eyes and braced for impact as a booming noise seemed to split the sky overhead and blot out every other sound. As the familiar sinking feeling hit, however, she opened her eyes again, realizing it must have been the strange thunder once more. She cleared her throat and glanced up, ready to continue her argument, but her superior officer was nowhere to be seen.

“Captain Walker, sir?” she said, coming around the desk, only to find a crumpled uniform and the man’s weapons belt on the floor there. As she looked at the back wall of the office, she saw the door was closed, as it had been when she’d arrived and closed it behind her. Her eyes traversed the rest of the office in a second, there was nowhere else to hide, and no reason the Captain would, anyway.

Something else occurred to her, and Wintflink barrelled out behind the desk in a panic. “Gobmat!” she called, and her heart seemed to start back up again as she saw him standing halfway behind a chair, looking up with a suspicious eye.

Wintflink laughed, but it sounded unsteady even to her. “Thank the light you’re all right!” she said, hugging him close. He chittered in her ear, then patted her arm as she pulled back, but didn’t let go.

They both looked up a moment later as a young woman in uniform burst into the office, tears running down her face and her blonde hair coming loose from her bun. “Oh, thank the light!” she said, her voice half a sob. “Corporal Copperblast, I was bringing the Lieutenant General some paperwork, and as I was handing it to him, he just…”

“Disappeared?” Wintflink replied, nodding. “Yes, same here. Let’s go from office to office; I’m sure there must be someone left here who outranks me.”

“Yes, ma’am,” the young woman replied, wiping her cheeks and falling into step behind Wintflink and Gobmat.


#5

With a smile and a little bow, the priestess backed out of the shop, her arm threaded through the handle of her basket. “Yes, of course. I understand, Missus Crawlen. Thank you for finding what you could. Ishnu dal dieb. That is, I wish you fortune to your family.”

The blonde-haired human behind the counter just winced a bit and nodded with what was obviously a forced smile. “An’ a right good day t’ya, ah… dearie.”

With one last little waggle of her fingers, the night elf pulled the door closed behind her.

It wasn’t until she’d rounded the corner of the wooden-sided little shop that she sighed and rested her body and head back against the slats, looking up at the piece of sky visible between the greedy, dirty roofs. The pale stone of the Boralus seawall dominated a full half of what she could see everywhere else, and she shivered in its shadow, suddenly chilled by the lack of sun. Its looming weight combined with the odd, ill-defined gloom that seemed to permeate the Ashvane dockside around her made it feel like sinister evening even though it was only late afternoon.

Rhoelyn sighed a second time before she straightened and brushed a few specks of dirt from her gown, a habit that was calming in the face of the thin layer of fear that she felt. Being a kal’dorei among humans? She was used to that by now from the months that her displaced family had lived in the city. But down here in the shadows, she felt the Kul’Tirans’ stares as dirty, hungry things. Suspicious. Malicious. Frightening.

The priestess shuddered once more and reminded herself of her ridiculousness and of her mission, poking a finger through her basket. Its meager contents were the product of a long day of walking and talking. charming and cajoling and telling the story of the poor, misplaced victims of the attack on Brennadam. They were hardly inspired: an old, musty-smelling blanket with a few moth holes chewed in it, a handful of limp, orange carrots, and trio of flasks of some goat milk fresh from the morning’s delivery, but the shops here were… less successful than those at the top of the wall. They had less and thus less to spare, and as she turned to wander back into the street, she reminded herself that it only made their charity all the more precious.

With her hands clasped together and her arms folded across her waist, the silver-haired little healer walked onward through the docks, passing a nervous young father and his squalling child, a pair of shoppers leaving a milliner’s, an elderly couple on a stroll that looked more purposeful and less leisurely, a trio of ragged-garbed workers that eyed her with that mistrust and hunger she so disliked, and so many more. The streets were busy with people, and Rhoelyn noted them all with a cleric’s insight, watching them without watching them and keeping her glances light and friendly despite the way her hands clenched and unclenched nervously.

She had just come in sight of the turn that would take her back toward the steps to the top of the wall when she felt it, and she gasped. Not quite instantaneous, this time, but too fast and too heavy and too hard. Her trembling hand was just reaching for the pouch at her waist when she doubled over with a strangled cry that had everyone staring at her.

Not that she noticed. Elune’s priestess was under siege once more, and suddenly, the power was everywhere. Light like fire and blinding sun. Light like everything living at once in her head. Light that surged outward from her heart and filled her with awareness. Too much awareness.

One heartbeat of a head full of everything: that little girl’s name and favorite treat; the old man’s life as a fisherman and the day he nearly drowned in a storm; the father’s weeping grief to come; the milliner’s guilt over his inflated prices; the Ashvane Company’s thugs’ deeds, both past and future, both good and ill.

A second heartbeat: the purple-silver worms hiding in the seams of … everywhere, waiting to devour; the consumed, suffering silently as their bodies moved without their wills, heralds dripping from the holes in their ruined flesh; the weeping masses, screaming for their lost and finding no answer; the hate and grief in the eyes that speared her.

A shuddering, whimpering third heartbeat as tears shone in Rhoelyn’s eyes, and her mouth moved without sound…

And then the thunder split the empty sky above them, closer and more horrible than ever, shaking the buildings and the lines full of drying clothes. Her stunned audience watched the purple-skinned mainlander arch back with a cry, blinding Light bursting from her gilded form and washing over them, over everything, flowing away in all directions like a tidal wave set free over the heart of the earthquake.

Maybe in that first moment, some of them noticed how well they suddenly felt, how energized and healthy and whole. But in the second, they looked around and found the piles of clothes where their friends and loved ones used to be, and the screams began. The cries she’d already heard in her fugue. The grief that was already behind the tears in her eyes.

The priestess collapsed to her hip and her elbows in the dirty street, gasping for breath and barely aware of what went on around her, her head swimming and her vision blurred as the fading overload thrummed pain through her. Voices drifted into the edges of her senses, incomplete pieces penetrating here and there.

“Ricket?! M’mate wuz…”

“… was that?!”

“… th’mainlander… sum’fin t’em!”

“… what’d done it… can _un_done it!”

A hard, bruising grip on her upper arm tugged her from her slouch and forced her to try to lift her face until she stared up into a mustachioed man’s desperate sneer while he yelled something at her. She only blinked slowly at him with luminous blue-silver eyes, tears on her cheeks, unable to parse what he said around her swimming head and aching bones, even when he shook her roughly and more crowded in over his shoulder.

F-fathal Elun’es’theros… hath’aerom f-finel belore m-

Rhoelyn tried to reassure them with a few muttered words, but the meaty human who gripped her clamped his hand over her mouth, his eyes widening as he shouted more unintelligible words. His sudden captive lifted her hands to pull at his, muddled and confused, and wanting nothing more than to escape as instinctive fear bloomed like ice in her chest.

Weakly, lethargically, she began to struggle, pulling away from his iron grip and the new sets of hands that reached for her.


#6

Elishtar Fangblade sits on a rickety wooden chair at a cafe in the bustling Boralus evening, enjoying a plate of sweet rolls and some sort of thick, savory stew that smells heavily of herbs. Her head lightly pulses from one too many ales the previous morning, and the cloud of slumber still mutes her senses. The Kal’dorei woman seems a contradiction in many senses of the word: blinded and tattooed like an Illidari, but wearing the leathers of a traditional Sentinel. Her tattoos visibly glow through any cloth that covers them, and they seem to cycle between midnight purple and a golden yellow and back again.

She smiles faintly, happy to have a few minutes to herself before the night’s work would begin as she dips a round piece of bread into the stew and savors the warmth that flows down her throat and radiates from her stomach. She would have never guessed that running even a small military operation would be so much work …but here she was. And she enjoyed it. Maybe not as much as she enjoyed the rush and thrill of battle, the caustic hiss as demon blood hits air, the blur of motion as she moved between foes and victims alike. Parts of her missed Argus, the war against the Legion. The war against the Horde had been, comparatively… dirty. She frowns, thinking of the young Tauren brave her blades snuffed out the week before. Part of a raiding party against the Kul’Tiran humans. Her ‘allies’. How long had the Tauren been the allies of the Kal’dorei Ten Thousand years sharing a continent with them, and she could not recall a single war. Then the orcs and humans came, and… “All fel broke loose…” she says, quietly, to herself.

Suddenly not so hungry, she stands and tosses down two gold coins, her waitress-daughter away inside the building and thus unable to protest the generosity. She grabs the large Illidari warglaive, topped with a stylized screaming Nathrezim skull and flickering with enchanted shadow-flame, and attaches it to the latch in the back of her harness. She wanders up the street, keeping to the growing shadows between buildings and her head down, so her long silver hair covers most of her blindfold.

The light within her feels it and reacts before she is even conscious of something happening. Her tattoos flare up brightly, the golden yellow color intensifying to a blinding white, and even as her ears twitch and she registers a sudden thunderous crack, a rumble, and the corona of magic pulsing from up the street, wounds from the last battle only half healed and scarring smooth out to fresh skin. And then, just as quickly as it was there, it is gone, a wave of energy that cascades out over a few blocks and recedes, but where before maybe two dozen humans were before her in the street ahead, now there are a little less than twenty. Four or five souls just simply -wink- out of existence for no discernable reason.

Her breath heaves in her chest as she scans behind her as far back as she can, to make certain her daughter is still at her work. Sure enough, there is her soul, cleverly disguised to match the non-demonic exterior she wore when away from home. A brief wave of relief passei through her, before she turns her attention up the street where the unknown pulse came from. Her ears can pick up cries of anguish and anger from up ahead, and she rushes forward, preternaturally fast.

Another night elf- like her, silver haired, but wearing some plain Kul’Tiran robes, sits in the center of a small crowd, being aggressively handled by a human with shoulders as broad as the sea wall that protected the main portion of Boralus from the sea. The woman is clearly trembling, afraid and weak. The crowd is angry. She hears the word ‘witch’ being whispered. Elishtar frowns, and places a hand upon the hilt of a standard Darnassian blade, sliding it free of its scabbard but keeping the enchanted warglaive at her back.

“I think.” Elishtar says, projecting her voice in a slow but powerful timbre, “That the lady would like to be left alone, no?”

The humans slowly turn to look at her. Even without the cursed blade, imposing tattoos and demonic features, she has the cool confidence of a fighter who has seen entire lifetimes of warfare.

“Witchcraft!”

“Demon!”

“Monster!”

“All true. I will not ask again.” Elishtar says, a demonic echo creeping into and beneath her voice, like the shadow of a leviathan beneath the waves. Most of the humans scatter, slowly perhaps, begrudgingly. But a few stay. The tough guy holding the prone woman stays.

The other night elf, pale and tearful, takes advantage of her assailant’s distraction to yank his hand free of her mouth, gasping out in slightly slurred Darnassian, “Sister… please. T-tell them that I did not harm their kin. I… I would never… It was the awful thing that knocks!”

She sniffles and shoves at the powerful man’s wrist as he turns back to her, trying to silence her once more with a growled, “Y’tryin’ ta curse us agin’, witch?!”

He yanks his arm from her weak grip and hauls his hand back, clenching it into a fist. Elishtar takes the moment to capitalize on the brute turning his back to her and steps in, striking him at the base of his skull with the pommel of her blade - a medium strength blow, enough that he’ll feel it for a few days, not enough to make him dumb for the rest of his life. To the man’s credit, he drops the woman and stumbles but doesn’t fall. The Huntress lifts a brow, impressed.

As he regains composure, the other humans start circling. A dagger shimmers in the day’s dying light, and someone else finds a broken oar, holding it shakily. Elishtar holds her blade out, slowly turning, a promise for the humans if they pursue this further.

“If you think this woman is guilty of witchcraft, the Sentinels will allow an interview with an Inquisitor from Drustvar. Send for one. Until then, she is under our protection. I apologize for whatever magical tragedy just befell you, but you will not resort to mob justice.”

The priestess at her back, freed from the bruising and also supportive grip of her attacker, droops amidst an odd collection of dry and now dirty carrots, an ugly blanket, a few flasks of something and a broken basket. She gasps for breath as if she’s been running a marathon, her hair dangling down around her face as her head lolls forward and she blinks her eyes closed.

The big guy groans in pain and shakes his head, rushing forward with naught but inarticulate fury on his tongue. The Huntress side-steps quickly to his side, leaving a single foot outstretched to greet him and a flat, empty gauntleted hand striking him in the face, sending the man careening out of control away from the priestess and clattering to the wet street below. The others spare glances between themselves, and Elishtar swings with her blade, sending half of the broken oar down to the street as well. The more violent remnants of the mob scatter.

Elishtar waits a moment to make sure they have dispersed and leans down to pick up the other Kal’dorei woman. “Ishnu’allah, sister… let’s get you someplace safe.”


(Vasedra) #7

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(Vasedra) #10

A gale salted by sea spray peppered the eastern crags of Stormsong valley in a fine scent of brine and fish guts fermented in the beating sun. Off shore a tempest raged far in the distance, its ominous cloud cover far, but the fury of its winds guided cloudless rain to the shore.

“Oooh~ Sedra come, come! This way, I think I see more of them ♫” The Paramour hopped from landing to landing, her hooves gripping on the water carved ledges naturally as if she were born among them even in a sundress of azure and a blue that made the sky envious. It were only natural, one could suppose. How different were this alien world’s mountains from the seaside cliffs of ancient Argus so many millennia ago? She had lured Vasedra out here on the notion that they were going to continue her lessons and instead turned into a meals picnic and a treasure hunt.

Stoically following behind the closer of two tempests, her companion tromped along with all of the animation of an iceberg, cold and quiet and unsmiling. As usual, her "teacher" had promised a lesson and delivered only chaos. The eredar looked down at the handful of purple-silver worms in her fist, each trying to find its way past her ghost iron plate with hungry, apparently-featureless nubbin mouths.

She could feel their desire like her own, their wish to chew through her flesh and take it for theirs. But Raeisley, no matter how many times she warned her, wanted a collection, danced along the water with all the glee of a child on Daerick’s Blooming Day, hunting crystal nibs poking up from the river Aileslaat on once-grand Argus. Except Sedra was pretty sure these particular treasures were something more like doom incarnate.

She sighed as she hopped up on another ledge, chasing the enthusiastic Paramour and burying her worries.

"Raeis, my hands are getting full," she intoned, keeping the plaintive note from her voice and leaning down to snag another worm and shove it into her palm with the rest. "Wait up so that I can put these in your jar."

"Fine ♪ Fine~♥" in half prance the other woman posed, holding her leap like a ballerina precarious and at risk for a gale to send her tumbling into the sea, but she in her madness or supreme confidence was unafraid of the possibility. Nevertheless she stepped back, waiting on a small landing.

“We could push our food out and carry them in the basket. - aah~♥” She gasped, ducking out of view for half a heartbeat before rising once more up with a ‘giant’ variant of the worms.

"Look at the size of kit! It huuueeg wurm!" She shook the creature in her excitement bouncing in place as it squirms in her grasp. It was the size of a large hamster or a small dog brilliant in its silvery color in the sunlight.

The taller of the pair snorted, closing the gap between them left by Raeisley’s capering and taking the jar half-full of wriggling worms from her companion’s other hand to deposit more with their kin.

"Oh, glorious," she intoned dryly. "The doomsday worms can get large."

Brushing her free hand off, Sedra added, “You already sacrificed our picnic’s soup for this jar to keep them in. Maybe we could eat the rest before you continue your collecting? I’m hungry.”

At the Paramour’s melodramatically shocked look, she wrinkled her nose and grumbled. “Yes. For once, I’m actually hungry. I told you it happens every few days. Now can you put that abomination back where you got it? Our jar isn’t big enough, and if you try to carry it in your cleavage, I’m relatively sure it’ll eat your heart by day’s end.”

“Fiiiiinne.” Raeisley huffed. Looking seaward, she jumped in place, floating down to sit on the ledge at her current stand. "I suppose this is close enough, and we’ve discovered a far better topic of study in the form of… " Her eyes went wide in reverence, holding the creature up in front of her over the ledge. "Wurm. - Did you find your trip to learn from the cultist of the tide informative? "

The void knight settled beside her with much more mundane motions, reaching for the basket. “No. Maybe… I tried to practice the words, the ones you’ve taught me. They used… Is it the same with an accent of Kul’Tiras or is it a slightly different language?”

"Yes and no and yes. It is all the same and never a duplication. Nothing then? Not even some literature we could read in bed?" She smirked, creeping out of her WURM-induced stupor.

“A totem of carved tentacles from the things of the deep sea.” Sedra said, rummaging out some bread and meat. “A cultist used a phrase to trigger it to spawn shadow appendages, summon pieces of… something. I brought it back with me. That and some items of clothing marked with symbols I don’t recognize. They made some of their acolytes wear them under their robes.”

She paused just long enough to say one last thing before she shoved some food in her mouth. "They felt meaningful to me."

“Good, then you’re learning something or at least felt it. Tell me why they are meaningful.” Raeisley placed the wurm on her lap stroking its slimy skin. The creature seemed to pacify under the stroke of her gloved nails.

The void knight considered that while she chewed, her black gaze thoughtful. She’d pulled her cowl down earlier in their secluded walk, and the glamor no longer made her look like her old self.

“They… pull. Away from the ordered things and toward the mad ones, as if… as if aligning the human cultist more with the unstructured dark than with the predictable rhythms of their own intrinsic biology.” The eredar made a face and looked over at Raeisley, backpedaling out of her own uncertainty. “Perhaps. I don’t really know why they drew me.”

Raeisley smirked. Closing her eyes, she nodded, listening to the woman. "No doubt. Go on, even if it is simply a guess - a blind fire bolt in the dark."

"They were changing themselves," Vasedra said, looking back at her food and showing great restraint to talk first. "Giving their human nature away to the mad power."

The Paramour chortled, shrugging as she wiggled her finger near the supposed mouth of the worm. "Same power you wish to control, no? Quite harsh to call it as part of the mad ♪ and are you any different with your inking skin and ruined eyes?"

She got no response until her companion had managed to eat more and washed it down with some water from her canteen.

“I haven’t claimed to be different, have I? Except… they seek to be changed. My goal is to keep myself through the power.”

“I’m merely teasing, love. Though your new form is straight ugly.” The Paramour held the wom up looking at its face. Her tongue slowly peeked from her lips giving the small-large creature a raspberry. “You, them and this worm are all driven by the same thing.” She paused, her lip twisted and brow furrowed while she taps the worm’s head.

“This is odd, I’ve never felt this type of aberration before.”

Ignoring the purist’s opinion on her stygian eyes, scrolling black tattoos and metal-filigree-banded horns, the eredar paused her lunch, setting the half-eaten piece of bread on her purple-black armored thigh. She joined Raeisley in staring at the worm.

“It’s got something void in it, doesn’t it? I can feel its hunger like it’s my own, though not the what or why of it.”

"Hunger is a universal desire, Desire" Raeis offered the puppy worm to Vasedra. The creature immediately began to waggle and spasm, breaking from its sedated lull.

“But something is different with these ones, it’s… alien when I recall how it felt to hold one of the nightmare-bred worms. This one’s hunger is empty. Instinct without desire.”

The void knight took the large worm and held it uncomfortably as it squirmed and writhed in her grip, trying to curl back on her hand.

"Empty…" she murmured thoughtfully, turning it over. Her dark eyes fell to the jar of its smaller kin sitting on the rock by her hip, and she lifted that collection of smaller worms as well. "Empty…"

Suddenly, she glanced up with a little frown. "How many times do I have to ask you not to call me by that name?"

"Till you learn how to stop me." Raeis smirked, leaning over to scratch the flailing worm’s tail.

“I can’t right tell without a proper lab but you are correct to suspect something is quite ominous about these darlings.”

On a whim, Vasedra set the big worm down beside her and upended the jar over it, watching the smaller worms tumble over it and each other as they settled. Her brows were furrowed as she flicked the ones that settled near her leg away.

"How? What do they mean, Raeisley?" The eredar glanced up at her teacher with a frown. "And what do we d-"

Suddenly, the sky was split with a thunder that went beyond sound, and the void knight doubled over, clutching her chest as the rocks around them shook and skittered with debris knocked loose. The first crack was followed in short order by a second, mere sound, and a fissure split the shelf of stone on which they sat, snapping it from root to tip between the two women. Gasping, Sedra grabbed for Raeisley’s wrist.

The Paramour didn’t move. Stunned and breathless, she toppled over stiff with Vasedra down the collapsing outcrook’s edge towards the white foam tides below. She gasped twirling and coiling her tendrils into a rapid spell of slow fall, initially yanked and nearly pulling her arm from her socket before casting it upon the falling knight also. Her eyes wide she trembled, taking Sedra’s arm in her free hand.

“Did you feel that!?” Raeisley’s cheeks became flush with dark purple, the iris of her eyes wide with questionable lucidness or sanity. She attempted to crawl onto Vasedra and straddle, uncaring of their descent towards the rocks below waiting to break their bodies with aid of the coastal tides.

"You had to of felt it! By the Light and its shadows you have to had felt it!" Raeis moaned, her tendrils coiling up pulling on her cheeks as her head arched back, trembling over what force had just shaken through the dream.

Grimacing, her heart hammering from the sudden plunge and just as sudden reprieve, Sedra grated out, “Of course I felt it. It’s the third time I’ve felt it.”

She squirmed under the other woman’s clinging, shoving at her in an attempt to get them back to a comfortable distance. “It’s getting… worse. Closer? More dire. And no one knows what it is.”

Below them, the cliffside rubble falling at its natural pace had settled, and from its cracks and crags, their collection of worms and more wriggled back to the surface.

Raeisley frowned and winced. Hissing a soft whisper that was lost among the closing waves, she grabbed Vasedra’s wrists pulling her towards her, trying to coax her into some sort of motion - a dance or a squirm. “Not the noise, that was merely the catalyst - Vasedra, the moment after… Did you feel it? In a single grain of sand - that moment, it’s the lesson of it all ~♫”

She twirled herself, dancing among the cliff sprays while keeping an anchor on Sedra lest she flee in the moment of revelry. "I need my bell now; we have to ring back!"

The Paramour stared to the sky, her voice trailing between excitement and a possessed seduction.

Her student shook her head, her confused look saying as much as her words. “I don’t know what you mean. Why are you celebrating?”

“We are being challenged, Vasedra ♪ It would be disrespectful for us not to reply in kind” She mewed still staring at the open sky, mesmerized, her hand squeezing Vasedra’s gauntlet.

As their hooves settled into the surf, water lapping up to their hocks while they caught their step against the debris of the shattered cliff they’d been sitting on, Sedra’s brow wrinkled.

"Challenged by wh-… What the fel?!"

The black-eyed eredar forgot her question when she noticed the growing mass of worms circling them, ever more wriggling up from the crevices in the fallen cliff, burbling out into writhing piles of silver-purple sparkles and ooze. Big, little, medium - in the first second, the forms squirmed like wild, colorful maggots, rolling and tumbling over each other. But then, as they watched, their dozens of tiny bodies started a process that was easy to see and hard to follow, many wriggles smoothing into something less frantic and less numerous.

The void knight yanked away from her companion and reached for one of the twin swords at her waist, the creatures ringing them resolving into only a handful of larger horrors, shimmering silver-blue things of reaching tendrils and hungry maws, each one slightly different from the others.

With a pleased squeak, the Paramour threw her arms around Sedra’s neck from behind, and the pair of them stumbled, the tumbled cliffside ringing with the taller eredar’s annoyed shout of, “Raeisley! Will you please let go so that I can prevent us from being eaten?!”