Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

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Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:01 pm

((This story takes place shortly before the Shattering. Related RPs and stories are as follows: A Satyr's Curse, Crimson Path to Tomorrow, Innocence Under Fire, Trapped in Lies, Paradigm Shift (to which it runs parallel to), and Northern Reflections. Originally located on the WoW forums, Izdazi and I decided to relocate it. Who posted what will be noted for posterity (I'm noted as Sundar and Izdazi as Niashado).

If there's an opportunity for an opening, or an interest in it, I'll put up a note.))



Sundar


Nine months ago...

There was an ill whisper upon the winds in Felwood. Hardly was there a day that went by where the forest was peaceful, there was always some conflict found between those that sought to corrupt the land further and those that worked on purifying it.

The Ruins of Constellas was one of the areas in Felwood that was highly permeated by fel energies and members of the mortal races and demons alike furthering the cause of the Burning Legion. It was also one of the target locations that a group of druids were after to take over.

About half a dozen night elves and tauren prowled the bushes, staying hidden from their enemies. The ruins in particular were home to the Jadefire satyrs, but this time they were joined by members of the Shadow Council. The druidic forces spied the warlocks channeling a spell far within the glade, an effort to maintain a portal that they had opened.

Among the the night elf and tauren agents was a particular Kaldorei druid that stood out. His long, dark violet -nearly black- hair stood in contrast to his purple skin and the green and blue tattoos that adorned much of his face and body. His armour and weapons were also vastly different from the others, sporting furred and feathered rims on his coat, boots and gloves, while he was armed with two fist weapons shaped into the head of dragons. He wore several earrings, though one pair was strangely mismatched. Upon his head was a circlet of entwined silver and white gold, with leaves of emerald on either side and a singular silvery amulet in the middle, though it did not belong to him.

Sundar Stormchaser took in their surroundings and the movements of the warlocks and satyrs, waiting for a gap for their party to pounce upon. The Emerald Circle had asked him to help with stemming the demonic activity in the area, but they had also requested the aid of another for their efforts.

Beside Sundar was someone that one would never expect to be found by the side of a druid. His form was large and imposing, covered in deep violet fur. Horns grew from his head, his hands ended in claws and he possessed cloven hooves and a tail. It was a satyr, but he was not like others of his kind.

He carried an air of honour with him; his eyes shone as stars did, and he was strangely well-kept and clean. His hair was long, pulled together in a single braid starting at the middle of his back. He was armed with an emerald green halberd, decorated with a dragon where its wings formed the blades of the weapon. He had little jewelry aside from an earring that matched the single earring on Sundar and a chain, dog tags, representing his service to the Cenarion forces.

Sundar's brother, Jaou Stormchaser; a ranger as a night elf, and still continuing his services even as a satyr. Few outside of the Circle gave him a chance for trust, but his endeavours for defending Nature against demonic threats were known through the druidic community. He was one of the few satyrs that were corrupted only in body, his mind and spirit remained free from the taint.

"See anything, brother?" Sundar asked the satyr in a whisper.

"Their sentries are tight in patrol," Jaou answered back just as quietly. "There won't be much of a chance to pick them off one by one without another knowing."

The druid let out a slight sigh. It appeared that their foes were well prepared for any chance of an attack. The other druids were starting to become restless as it became apparent that there was no obvious gap in their defenses.

"We'll need to strike soon, the portal still looks unstable, but it won't remain like that for long" Jaou commented, his tail swishing from one side to another in anticipation. "If the warlocks are able to get anything through the portal, it'll just complicate things."

"I know," Sundar replied. There was a tone of hesitation in his voice.There was a feeling within him that he could not be rid of.

Something still doesn't seem right... It feels like something bad is going to happen.

"Sundar?" Jaou asked, shaking the elf out of distraction. He sensed that there was something wrong with his younger sibling earlier. It was unusual for Sundar to be uncertain. Something was bothering him, but the ranger did not know what it could have been.

"I... It's nothing," Sundar said, shaking his head. Jaou still was not convinced, but he did not pursue the issue further. "Hopefully this plan works to close it up."

"It'll work, just focus on disrupting the spell," the ranger reassured him.

"Alright, are you ready?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," the satyr ranger replied. "On your move."

Sundar nodded. He called upon the wind as he muttered a druidic chant. The breeze would carry his message to the others. It was time to strike. Jaou had a throwing knife ready in hand. All he had to wait for was for Sundar to end the message.

Immediately after the last word was whispered to the wind, the ranger let the knife fly, finding its way to the base of the neck of one of the patrolling satyr sentries. Before the dead sentry fell, Jaou leapt from his hiding and led the assault with a fierce roar, felling another nearby guard with a swing of his halberd. Sundar and the rest of the group followed and started their assault.

The guards called out for help as the druids and the ranger tore through their ranks. Many had been gathered at the ruins to ensure the completion of the spell, but not enough to stem the chaos sewn by the small group. The druids were easily able to dispatch the demons and the agents of the Shadow Council; previous attacks from months before had left them with fewer seasoned warriors. Most of them would be deeper inside, around the portal.

While much of the Emerald Circle group was busy keeping the demonic forces at bay, the brothers worked their way deeper into the enclave. Sundar swept a leg low to the ground, knocking the footing out from under a few of the guards before flipping onto his hands then vaulting himself forward into the group, landing on another Shadow Council fighter. Before the others could catch him, he had already leapt over them, landing on the other side of the fighting force.

"Jaou!" he shouted back to his brother before breaking into a run for the inner ruins.

The ranger arced his halberd up in an angluar swing, cutting into a handful of demons and agents alike. He heard his brother call out to him, signaling that it was time he moved forward as well. He caught sight of the enemy group making chase after the kaldorei druid. Jaou would not let them. He called upon a spell of nature's wrath, focusing it on the blades of his weapon. Hefting it up above his head, he sent it swinging down upon the ground, releasing the energies and sending them surging forward. The ground erupted in the spell's wake causing tremors as it sailed, then exploding at the feet of the pursuing agents.

Jaou galloped forward, leaping over the injured and dead after Sundar. He quickly caught up to his younger sibling's side.

"Everything is going as planned," Sundar said. "All too easy to distract."

"Let's just hope our friends are doing well enough to give us time to stop the summoning." Jaou commented in return.

As they ran, Sundar took out his skinning knife, cutting a slit into his thumb. Taking his blood, he smeared it upon the moon of the circlet he wore and started to summon roots and lightning to cover their flanks. His tattoos were aflame with druidic energy as they went on. Even with the barriers a few satyrs and fighters slipped through, but it still helped in stemming the flow of reinforcements.

"I can see why you enjoy using this," Sundar said to Jaou, referring to the circlet, whilst with a sweeping arm knocking away a satyr.

"It's does come in handy," Jaou replied as he decapitated one of the agents, and gutting another with his claws. The circlet he had lent to the druid had allowed them to control storms and lightning, focusing the electricity on objects of their choosing. It was a helpful ability in any battle, but for this mission, Sundar had more use for it.

As they continued on towards the summoning portal, fending off the attackers, Sundar kept up their defense by calling on more roots and vines enchasing them with lightning. While any casualty they caused against the demons and the Shadow Council added to their victory, the portal was their goal.

They had finally arrived at the summoning area. Sundar sealed off the entrance with more roots and lightning, buying them some time before facing their task. The two warlocks channeling the spell looked incredulously at them.

"It's the end for you," Jaou announced, readying his halberd.

"You are too late, vermin!" one of the spellcasters announced.

Jaou and Sundar ignored their quip and dashed ahead. The fel casters began to summon minions to come to their aid. The brothers thought them foolish to do so; channeling such a lengthy spell was unwise when under attack, but there was something different this time around. Immediately from the portal came a pair of doomguards.

The Stormchasers halted in their tracks at the sight of the two massive demons, who let out a roar and charged forward. The two brothers seperated from each other, leaping to opposite sides, leading the doomgaurds in a seperate path. Sundar immediately summoned more roots to their aid, weaving them around one of the demons and holding it in place, though it struggled mightily and broke several roots. As Sundar wove more around to to keep a better hold, the one free doomguard that was chasing Jaou turned around and tackled the druid to the ground, knocking the air out of him.

"Sundar!" Jaou shouted, redoubling back towards his brother.

The doomgaurd held the druid to the ground with one hand. Raising his other, he readied a blow to Sundar when suddenly Jaou pounced on its back. The greater demon let out a roar as the ranger's claws dug into him. Jaou had abandoned the use of his halberd until he could get the doomgaurd fully focused on him.

"Get the walocks!" the satyr called out.

Sundar convulsed as he got up. It felt like his ribs almost broke form the force that the demon used, but he had to stop the warlocks from bringing in more demons. He got up with some effort, wincing from the pain. He saw that the two were completely focused on keeping the portal stable, most likely thinking that the doomguards were enough of a distraction.

Wrong move.

Sundar dashed forward to the summoners. One of the warlocks caught sight of the druid coing towards them. He started to ready a spell at the druid, but it came too late. Sundar came to a sudden stop, swinging his arm back and low the ground. Aiming his fist at the casting warlock, he led up a powerful uppercut, smashing upwards into the fel caster's jaw and snapping his head back. The other caster wore a fearful expression on his visage, as Sundar came upon him with fury.

You're next.

The last thing the caster saw was the draconic fist weapons coming into his face.

Jaou on the other hand was having more difficulty with his quarry. The doomguard thrashed about, trying to force the satyr off and attempting to grab at him. The constant movement made is hard for Jaou to get any solid hits in with his halberd, and the demon's wings added to the difficulty for the ranger. The satyr slashed more at the doomgaurd with his own claws before vaulting off of its back.

The now-furious demon let out a thunderous roar as he lashed out at Jaou with his claws. Jaou managed to dodge most of the hits, back-stepping. The demon feinted another swipe and threw a swing his other claw, catching Jaou on the neck and chest and tearing off his dog tags. The satyr let out a sharp growl as the doomgaurd drew blood. Still, he had led the demon far away enough to be able to strike back at him.

Jaou led his halberd in elliptical swings towards the doomguard, causing it to step back. The ranger began weaving in harder swings and was able to slash at the demon, driving the blades deep into his arm and chest. With the doomgaurd reeling back, Jaou swung upward, slashing into the demon's chest again. He roared in pain, but that came to an end as the ranger deftly leapt up, bringing his weapon up and then with a downward drive, buried the axe-end of his halberd into his head. The demon collapsed, having been disposed of. The ranger landed back onto the ground, checking to see that the other doomguard remained secure in the roots.

That's one of them down, Jaou thought to himself. He looks to see how Sundar was faring, but the druid had little trouble with the warlocks. The second was already dead on the ground, his face a bloody mess of gore.

"The portal should destabilize and close in a few minutes," Sundar stated, pacing back to Jaou. "Let's deal with the last doomgaurd and-"

Sundar stopped mid-sentence as he fell to one knee. The hit he had taken earlier and the energy expended suddenly took a toll on the elf, but he knew it was more than that.

No, this is a bad time fore this!

Jaou was about to come to his aid when more trouble cropped up. The trapped doomgaurd saw a chance. With his struggling and the druid weakened, the roots had come loose. The demon broke free of the vines and charged forward with a roar, intending to plow over Sundar. Jaou noticed immediately, his eyes wide at the impending threat.

"Sundar!" he shouted. Without a thought, he dropped the halberd in his hand and quickly stepped forward. The satyr shoved the druid away from the doomgaurd's path, but he underestimated the demon's speed. The doomgaurd came with full force and ran into the satyr, but their trajectory led them straight into the collapsing portal.

Sundar realized too late on what had happened. Right before his eyes, his brother and the demon had disappeared into the portal.

"NO!" he cried out, reaching for the portal. It was in vain though, as the portal fully evaporated from view.

He was left alone in the glade. Sounds of the battle that raged behind him continued, but for the druid he heard nothing. He blankly stared where Jaou was before, who was now gone.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Present

Sundar slept fitfully in his bed, muttering to himself as he experienced another nightmare. Suddenly bolting upright, he woke with a start, his bare chest heaving up and down as he panted. He was covered in cold sweat again.

It was the same dream over and over again for the past nine months. Since that day when Jaou had disappeared, the events of that mission kept playing over and over in his mind, and in his sleep. Every time he would hope that the ending was different, that maybe he did not collapse in the end, or that he was able to save his brother. No, it was always the same, it was the reality of what happened.

And I was powerless to do anything...

He looked out of the window. The evening was falling in Ashemvale. For the night elves it was the start of a new day and Raynewood Retreat was livening up for the evening business. Although he did not feel like it, it was time for him to get up.

His quarters were the same as always. It was the house that he and his brother had used during their time staying at the retreat from before, though now the other bed was in disuse. The druid let out a sigh, flipping the covers off and walking over to his dresser.

He opened up the cabinet doors and started to gather his clothing. His eyes drifted to his nightstand where on it laid the circlet that Jaou wore. Beside it, standing against the wall was the halberd.

The only things he left behind from then...

No, there was something else. He quickly remembered that after the mission, he found Jaou's dog tags upon the ground. A small smile found his way on his lips, despite the dour memories.

She has them now though. I wonder how she is?


Last edited by KaijinRhada on Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:24 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:03 pm

Niashado:

Azuremyst Isle - Azure Watch

Without a shadow of the doubt it was the most severe storm Azure Watch had ever endured. Since their arrival, years ago, the settlement had grown from the collection of large crash debris used as building, to a fully fledged township. Buildings similar in design to kal'dorei and human surrounded the large dome pieces of the original dimension ship. From residential to shops, these buildings were among the first sign that the draenei, with the help of their allies, were finally on the full mend.

Their arrival to Azeroth was a painful, to say the least. Most of their meager supplies were lost in the breakup of The Exodar as it descended from the skies. Many more of their people had died in the crash. And to make matters worse, the Sun Hawks, blood elves loyal to the insidious Kael'thas Sunstrider, sought to destroy the survivors in their weakened and despondent state.

But with the guidance of the Light and the kindness of the Stillpine Tribe, humans and night elves, and later the rest of the Alliance, the draenei were finally able to overcome the obstacles they had faced. Aid shipments from the mainland slowed as they became more self-sufficient.

Azure Watch had grown from simply being the midpoint between The Exodar and Ammen Vale, the place where the bulk of the habitat module and escape pods had landed. The settlement had developed steadily, acting as a trade center for their furbolg friends, a station for the Cenarion Circle and a training point for new soldiers. It was the very first settlement the draenei had established on Azeroth.

And before the shaman's wide glowing eyes, Azure Watch was being blown apart.

Holding an air totem tightly in her hands, Niashado extended her senses into the blowing storm. The dark black and green tinted clouds boiled in the sky and the trees bent alarming low with each powerful gust. Lightning tore across the sky and thunder deafened her as she called out to the wind.

And the wind didn't answer.

The shamaness pressed herself against the harsh air currents and called out even louder. This was wind. Not fire or earth. She always found the wind to be the most communicative of the Elements. Their conversations were often vividly unfocused, but still pleasant to listen to. The shamaness enjoyed the time she spent listening to the tales the wind wove through trees.

Not this time. This time, despite the gusts howling through her folded back ears, there was an eerie silence that could only terrify a shaman. And terrified Niashado was.

A wide whirlwind of tumultuous water vapor, dust and debris slowly pressed toward Azure Watch and despite her pleas for the lives and livelihood of the residents of the town, the wind wasn't stopping.

Her long hair, blue with random streaks of gray, normally reached halfway down her back. Now it whipped around in the gusts. Had she being wearing cloth robes, she was sure they'd have been torn from her body. As it was, the leather jerkin and kilt she wore stood up better.

Hail began falling and stinging her exposed skin as she raised her hand to shield her eyes. And still, the monster of a twister continued closing, unabated by her calls and cries.

Despite the noise, Niashado heard a loud crack of wood splintering and turned around in time to see the roof of one of the buildings being flung into the air. A now empty fruit cart slid down the street on its side and glass broke as small branches and debris were hurled against buildings. She felt her ears popping.

The roof of another building suddenly exploded as a shard of lighting tore through the metal weather vane above. But that fire was quickly snuffed out by the wind and rain.

Niashado turned her attention to the tornado and resumed calling out to it. She tried everything, but the wind was uncharacteristically silent. The most she could sense from it was, of all things, panic, fear and a belligerence.

The Element was terrified?

With a deep groan, the large tree near her started listing. She could feel the roots snapping as it cam down upon another building. The structure didn't stand a chance and was cleaved down the center. People could be heard screaming within.

The tornado was a couple of yards away and still approaching. She raised a crystalline air totem and was about to call out again when she was tackled by a vindicator and shoved into a small brick building. All bravery faded from her as she and the paladin sought shelter under the heavy workbench of the local blacksmith.

Despite covering her ears, the shamaness heard everything. The roof of the smithy's shop being torn off. More screams of people as a wall somewhere collapsed. The earsplitting howl of the wind gone wild with fear. The vindicator held her tight, but she could sense the fear in him as well.

Then the blacksmith shop collapsed.

* * *


"In here! We are in here!"

"Get us out of here!"

"Where is my wife?!"

"My arm!"

"We need a healer here!"

"Help us!"

"My child! Someone help my child!"

"Vindicators! Hurry up and begin removing the debris!"

"I found survivors!"

The cries for help and assistance filled the evening air and was soon followed by the sound of bricks being hastily removed. Then, she saw a hand offering to help her out.

Rather then take it, Niashado helped the Vindicator who had taken her to safety to leave first. His left leg had been badly wounded when the wall had given out. She had tended to it as best as she could, but the nearly unconscious soldier needed to be taken to safety first.

Once he was freed, she followed and then, as if punched in the gut, stared aghast at sight before her.

Save for a handful of badly damaged buildings, Azure Watch was destroyed.

She looked back toward the west and gasped in surprised at the surreal and beautiful sunset that beheld them. The deep reddish sunlight glinted brightly off the crystal spires of the distant Exodar. And it highlighted the path the tornado had taken. In a near perfect line from, the west to east, a wide trail had been carved through the forest and littered with tree branches and torn trees.

The trail led right up to Azure Watch, seemingly climbing the steep cliff that overlooked the lake below, plowed through the town and continued on as if it had merely stepped on a bug. In the dark eastern sky, distant lightning danced above the orange sunset lit thunderheads beyond the mountain. The storm system was moving away.

Buildings were in pieces, with entire walls and roofs missing. She didn't think she'd find a single intact window anywhere. The wails of grieving draenei came from some of the darkened buildings. Here and there, a body covered in the white tabard of the Hand of Argus laid on the street.

A tent and campfire had already been erected in the northern part of town. A local night elf priestess was busy working with other draenei priests in mending the injuries of the wounded. Artificers quickly rushed by carrying wooden boards to shore up damaged walls.

The few times she caught the gaze of others, she could see the look of accusation and disappointment in them. Niashado was a shaman after all. She should be able to stop these things from happening, right?

But she and the other shamans understood their relationship to the Elements differently. She couldn't force an Element to do her will. It didn't work that way no matter how much she sometimes wish it could.

That didn't change the fact, however, that something incredibly wrong had occurred. They had all been feeling it for the past month, but it was getting worse. The Elements were becoming out of control.

Niashado stopped before a partially broken window and looked her reflection. Her hair was disheveled and blood caked the right side of her face. She wasn't even aware she was injured, much less bleeding. Her right arm was covered in scratches and cuts from her vain attempt to protect her face from the flying debris.

Despite many others, she had come out of this relatively unscathed. However, that did little to assuage the guilt she felt over the damage the storm had done. In ten minutes, the storm had undone what had taken years of hard work and hope and destroyed it.

Looking back at the fallen body, she wondered how many more tragedies would occur before they find out why the Elements are agitated beyond control.


* * *


The Exodar - Crystal Hall
Two Days Later.



"At last count, twelve people were killed in the storm: four women, five men and three children. One of the men was a night elf druid working with the Cenarion Circle," Niashado said, speaking solemnly before the circle of farseers. "Of the fifteen structures in Azure Watch, only three remain standing. Interestingly enough, one of surviving buildings is the inn, which was the first structure in the settlement and built from part of the original crash debris.

"According to Exarch Menelaous, in addition to decimating the township, the tornado also destroyed four farms. We can expect no harvest from these fields this year. He also went on to estimate that optimistically Azure Watch may take years to recover."

"What of this tornado? What did you sense from it?" one of the farseers, a older looking male with short brown hair asked.

"Agitation, farseer. It was panicked and fearful. Completely out of control," Niashado described. "I do not know if it even heard my calls."

"Did you try to redirect it?"

"Of course I did," she replied hotly. "I knew people would be harmed if it continued on its path. If it heard my calls, it chose not to respond."

"My apologies. We are simply lost to account for the level of destruction brought by this storm," the farseer responded. His apology seemed sincere and instantly Niashado regretted her outburst.

"No. I should apologize. I am frustrated by my… apparent lack of skill, in communicating with the Elements."

"It is not… just you… Niashado," Farseer Nobundo said in a voice that managed to calm her anxiety her frustration. "We have received... word from our counterparts in the... Earthen Ring of similar problems. Even the most skilled of farseers are being ignored by the Elements. It is my understanding... that Thrall, a well respected shaman himself... has gone to Outland to investigate this."

"Does he fear that the destruction of Draenor may be repeating here?" Niashado asked in aghast. They can't allow Azeroth to follow the same path.

"He is… not sure and neither… are we. Until… we hear differently, we…. must continue the investigation," Nobundo managed to say between long pauses. "We have been asked to send some of our shamans to assist the Earthen Ring. You may sit… down… Niashado"

Niashado made her way to a rug and patiently waited for them to say that she should get her things. Though she was no where near being a farseer, her participation in the meeting awarded her an opportunity to listen as the most skilled and practiced shamans of their order discuss what they had learned and what can and should be done.

It was fascinating to listen to.

Finally, the names of the shamans to be sent to the Earthen Ring were announced and the Nobundo asked that they continue to meditate on the happenings of Azeroth. Anything, no matter how mundane it might be, should be reported.



* * *


It didn't take long for Niashado to reach her apartment and as soon as she entered, she began pacing in frustration. Why hadn't they asked her to participate in the Earthen Ring investigation? She already had experience working with them.

Deep down, however, she knew the reason. Despite her exile having ended, her actions had still caused the enclave much embarrassment. She had defended Jaou, a kal'dorei satyr, against her people. And, she had even helped break him out of a detention cell.

It didn't matter that Jaou had been innocent, or that they had been misled by another duplicitous demon. She had stood against her people and in turn, damaged the draenei shaman's standing with the Council, not to mention all of those who had defended her.

The Council had imposed an exile upon her, but it was rescinded a few years ago. Still, she knew she was a sore subject among the farseers and Councilors. They wanted to keep her near, where she wouldn't cause any more problems. And that wanted to keep her name from falling on the reports that would make their way to the Councilors.

The exile might be over, but Niashado was still a pariah among her people.

Sighing, Niashado stepped toward a small prayer shrine in the corner of the room. The incense sticks were spent, but she didn't have anymore to light. Instead, she looked upon the symbol of the Light and dipped her fingers in a small water bowl. She touched her fingers to her forehead and prayed. Her thoughts were still with those suffering in Azure Watch, but also with issues concerning the Elements.

Turning away, she continued pacing and thinking on the events of the day. She knew that her actions would haunt her for many years. She would just have to cope with it.

What hurt more was thinking that it may have done no good. Jaou Stormchaser was a kind hearted kal'dorei who was horribly disfigured by the satyrs in Ashenvale. Though his body was that of a satyr, his heart was with his people. He had suffered much in his form. She knew that the only anchor to his sanity was his one surviving brother, Sundar and his duty to his people. If those two were ever taken, she feared that the demonic taint that afflicted his body would spread to his mind.

And being around him, despite his form, always felt special to Niashado. He was so kind and for someone who appeared so confident in the face of death, he always seemed so unconfident when people showed him kindness.

Slowly, Niashado opened a drawer under the table where the shrine sat and pulled out a small folded letter and a trinket. She unfolded it and slowly read it with shaking hands.

Dear Niashado,

I hope this letter finds you well and that you have been in good health. Unfortunately this letter will bear ill news. I don't know when you'll receive this, but about three days prior to me writing it, Jaou has beem missing since.

We were sent on a mission to stop a demonic portal summoning ritual between the Jadefire satyrs and the Shadow Council. While we were successful, Jaou was knocked into the portal before it fully closed. He's not dead, I know he isn't. He has my other emerald earring, and I can still feel his presence briefly. But still, I'm unsure of what to do. I'll be searching for a way to bring him back.

Enclosed with this letter is one of the only things we found in the area that belonged to him. Please, keep it safe, for when he comes back,

Sincerely,
Sundar

Reverently, she held Jaou's Cenarion tag tightly and added a prayer that he may soon return home safely.

It was the same prayer she said every night for the last nine months.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:03 pm

Sundar:

The stream that ran within Raynewood was a spot of serenity within the retreat, and it was often used as a place for bathing. Sundar broke the surface of the cool waters and stood up, washing away the sweat from his nights sleep. With both hands he swept back his long hair from his face. As he stepped out of the waters, he rung out his hair and grabbed the towel that sat on the shore next to his clothes. It would be a while for the next time he would enjoy the relaxing stream.

Once he dried himself sufficiently, he dressed himself in his leather pants and boots before making his way back to his house. Habitually he continued to comb a hand through his hair as it dried, having neglected to bring a comb from his dresser. Just as he made it to the door, a large shadow had strangely started to loom over the elf. Sundar looked up all too late as a large feathered body swooped down upon him. With a thud he fell on the ground as a large owl perched itself on his chest, chirping several times as it bobbed its head up and down.

"Good to see you too, Falathir," Sundar said getting up and rubbing his sore backside. "Did you do this to Jaou all the time too?" The avain chirped back, finding new footing as Sundar got up from his fall and perching on his shoulder as the elf walked into his house.

The bird was of a strange colouration for those that lived in Ashenvale. It stood out with its white-blue and lavender plumage, which marked it as an owl found in the snow-touched climates of Kalimdor. The owl fluttered its wings, jumping onto the unused bed that was on the opposite side of Sundar's, rolling around on the sheets. The druid let out a sad smile, looking at the curious owl.

She still misses him.

Sundar dressed himself in the rest of his equipment, slipping on his leather jerkin and coat, his pauldrons, bracers and gloves. "I suppose you'll want to come with me?" he asked Falathir, securing his belt around his waist.

The owl let out an enthusiastic screech in response to the druid's question. Sundar chuckled slightly at the avian while gathering his weapons. He regarded his fist weapons for a moment before fastening them to his forearms. checking for any damage that would need to be repaired.

Everything checks out, and my skinning knife is still sharp, he mused to himself, placing a hand on his blade for assurance.

He paced over to his nightstand, looking at the circlet and halberd. There was always a moment of sadness whenever he took them. It was not his to have, his to use. However, it was unwise for him to leave them behind. He donned the intricate circlet, making sure it was secure. He then took a harness made specifically for the halberd and before taking the long polearm and securing it.

Everything else was in order. His belongings were completely packed. Nothing was left except for the furnishings in the building. He grabbed the sack that held his personal effects and strode to the doorway.

"Come, Falathir," Sundar called to the owl, who was quick to follow the druid out of the door.

Sundar gave the bird plenty of room to swoop out and fly into the open. He was sure that the owl, as it has for the past months, would keep trailing him. He was the closest thing she had to a family, next to his absent older brother.

The druid looked up to the sky, estimating his schedule. The sun was still barely on the horizon it seemed; he was making good time. He would have had more time to rest if he had chosen to fly, but he felt restless, and riding to Felwood would take off some of the stress.

He made his way to the stables, and he had arranged upon his arrival in Raynewood, his sabre was saddled and ready to go on the hour. The large wintersaber look up excitedly at the druid, padding over to him and rubbed her head into his chest. Sundar returned the affection

"You're off already, master druid?" the stable keeper asked.

"I've a task in Felwood again," Sundar replied, climbing onto the saddle. "Another scouting round to make around the ruins."

And a chance to see if there's still a way to get Jaou back.

"Best of luck to you, sir. Strange things have been happening as of late."

"Many thanks. You may see me back in a couple months if all stays as is," Sundar said back. He leaned forward on the riding cat. "Let's go, Naphta."

With a growl of agreement, the wintersaber raced ahead with all grace and speed. They took a direct route towards the border between Ashenvale and Felwood, and avoided much of the residential traffic on the retreat. With only a few leaps and bounds, they were already on the road that led north to Felwood.

Moments later, Falathir flew down from the sky as Sundar rode along. The druid shifted back on the saddle to allow the owl to land in front of him. For the next several hours, it would just be the three of them, and the quiet of the forests. It was the whispers of the wood that kept Sundar alert on the ride, and it was what would keep him busy on the journey.

The hours melted away. Felwood was still as grim as ever. Despite years of work to repair the damage to the land, few areas had seen a great amount of recovery. The green colouration that seemed to permeate the entirety of the forest remained, and the wildlife was still as ill as it ever had been for many years.

Naphta slowed her pace to a trot as the continued on the road, now well past the border between Ashenvale and Felwood. Sundar could tell the large cat's body was bristling with caution. Her ears swiveled in all directions trying to discern the sounds of any incoming threat. Sundar also kept a sharp ear and eye out for any danger, even Falathir's head bobbed from side to side at any noise that was made. They were only a twenty minute ride from Emerald Sanctuary, Sundar reckoned. Still, anything could happen in the accursed forests.

As they continued onward, Sundar's senses were suddenly under assault. His mind was swimming; he brought up a hand to steady his head, now feeling heavy. Everything became muted, no sound came to him, and his vision became skewed. He fought to keep himself steady.

In his mind, images came to the forefront. It was a sea of darkness. Sundar caught glimpses of what was ahead, flashing between his mind and his actual vision. It was a figure that was entirely black. He felt himself reaching out for the mysterious person. They turned around, but to his horror, blood poured down in rivulets on their face and came out from other parts of their body. All he could see was the red against the black silhouette.

It was there the vision stopped. The druid's senses were returning to normal, his vision slowly returned and he was able to hear the sounds of the forest around him. His breaths were heavy, and he felt hot from the vision.

It was the same as before... Before that mission nine months ago...

He still remembered when he had that same vision last. It was not as clear as this one, but there was a strong sense of foreboding in it. It was what was bothering him throughout their task, but he did not tell Jaou about it, fearing that it would distract them from their goal.

But what does it all mean?

Sundar found that they had stopped. Sundar looked down and saw Falathir looking at him with her large emerald eyes, and Naphta also regarded him with great concern. How long had they been riding? Had they only just stopped? The druid looked to their surroundings. It certainly had changed since he last remembered looking up. They were yet a stone's thrown from their destination. In any case, the feline felt it prudent to stop, though now Sundar felt fine enough to continue.

"It's nothing," Sundar said, trying to laugh it off and feigning normalcy. "Come one, we're almost there." Naphta moaned audibly at the elf, knowing that there was still something wrong. Even Falathir let out a chirp, agreeing with the cat. It was not the first time Sundar has tried to brush off a problem, and he knew his companion was well aware of that. Still he coaxed her to go on. "We'll take a break at the sanctuary. It's not far from here."

Reluctantly, the riding cat started to pad forward again, though with more haste than before. The path to the settlement came into view, and with it, some of the Emerald Circle wardens that were stationed there.

Perhaps it's a good thing we left Raynewood early. It seems a little rest would do me well.

While riding past, he gave each of the guards a wave as he proceeded up the path to the post. Emerald Sanctuary was a small settlement, marked only by a few small buildings and tents. It was more or less a way-station for most travelers, but it was also one of many outposts that the Emerald Circle operated from.

Sundar reined Naphta to a full stop when they had gotten to the resting house. As Sundar dismounted, one of the wardens, a tauren, came up to greet him.

"Master Stormchaser, you've come early. It is good to see you again," the guard stated. "I hope your trip here was without incident?"

"It was," Sundar answered back, not mentioning his near-faint from earlier. "Is there a spare bed? I think I need to lie down for a while."

"Certainly. All of the beds within aren't being used at the moment," the tauren gestured to the house.

"Good, I'll rest up before I get started. Could you take care of my two friends here?" Sundar asked motioning to Naphta and Falathir.

With a nod from the guard, Sundar turned to the beds inside the building. The beddings were simple and the decor was bare, but it was enough for what it was used for. The kaldorei walked over to one of the cots. Taking off his boots, he sat down and fell upon the soft surface and threw his feet on the bed. looking up at the ceiling for a while as he allowed his nerves to rest.

Whatever the visions meant, he hoped it was not anything grave.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:05 pm

Niashado:

Humming lightly, Niashado inspected the elekk’s saddle straps. The well trained mount stood patiently throughout the task, although occasionally he would try to brush his trunk along her shoulder. The shamaness smiled at the affection and brushed her hand on the elekk’s trunk before continuing with the task.

Her mind still spun with the ramifications of what Farseer Nobundo had told them. She had heard of Thrall from the other shamans in the Earthen Ring and knew that along with the being a practicing shaman, Thrall was also the leader of the Horde. For the warlord to suddenly leave his duties as the head of a powerful of faction was ominous indeed. The storms, like the one that had ravaged Azure Watch, were only increasing. Earthquakes were happening occurring in increasing frequency.

And through it all, shamans everywhere were reporting difficulties in quelling the agitated Elementals. They were at lost for what has changed for these events to happen.

But unlike the others, the draenei shamans were especially concerned. These occurrences seemed eerily familiar to the events that led to the destruction of Draenor.

The farseers will learn what the problem is, Niashado tried to convince herself of. She needed to concentrate on her new task. The residents in Azure Watch needed help recovering from the storm and because of her experience as an herbalist, she had been tasked with assisting the farmers with recovering what crops they could from their ravaged fields.

She was just preparing to leave when someone called her name. She turned and saw furbolg Gurrag and the Broken Seer Skaltesh approaching. Two other shamans that she recognized as students followed closely behind. She dismounted from the elekk and regarded the two shaman elders with a polite bow.

“We need you to go elsewhere, Niashado,” Gurrag began, shaking his ursine head. “Students Tomed and Dran will go in your place. They can use the experience.”

Niashado suddenly felt a wave of shame and looked away for a moment before composing her next words.

“Is this because of my failure during the storm?”

“No… It is not your failure,” Seer Skaltesh admonished. “You know that we cannot… demand control of the Elements. We can only ask. What happened to you… is no different then what is happening with many other shamans… throughout the world. We… simply have another task for you.”

“I see,” the shamaness replied slowly as the students stepped past her and took the elekk. Another was quickly order for the other one.

“Tomed was a farmer in Nagrand,” Gurrag added, sounding almost apologetic. “He will be able to determine the condition of the crops just as well as you would have.”

“Then what am I to do?” Niashado asked forlornly. Since she returned from her exile, the shaman enclave has been cautious about where they station her. The Governing Council had denied her request to return to duty in Bloodmyst Isle, despite Vindicator Kuros’s acceptance.

She had even tried to return to the Earthen Ring, but due to the increase in hostilities between the Horde and Alliance, the Council wanted only the most ‘experienced’ draenei to work with neutral organizations. Again, her request had been denied despite her stint with the Earthen Ring in Northrend months ago.

Clearly the Council was still upset with her actions concerning Jaou Stormchaser a few years ago. Why wouldn’t they be? She had defied their orders, openly assisted in the escape of a falsely convicted friend and helped him elude authorities and then chose to stall the pursuing Vindicators while he escaped. And then, to add insult to injury, it turned out that once the greater conspiracy was unraveled, she was right and they were wrong.

But, because of the sensitivity of the subject and because she had willingly attacked several Vindicator in her effort to stop them, they couldn’t overlook her actions. The events were swept under the carpet. Jaou was quietly exonerated in absence, although, because of the way they had treated him, she doubted very much he would care.

And Niashado, alone, had to bear the brunt of their retribution for their bruised pride. And though the punishment had passed, the Governing Council still felt the need to quietly remind her that they were watching. Thus, since her return, and especially since her eyesight was restored, Niashado had been left to meditate, teach younger shamans, more meditating and otherwise wander around the Exodar. It had taken much lobbying for her to be stationed in Azure Watch.

And now even that posting was being taken away.

It looked as if Seer Skaltesh was about to speak but Gurrag suddenly stepped ahead and interrupted.

“We received a missive from the Emerald Circle in Felwood. They could use a shaman of your talents, if you’re up to the dangers that face you there,” the furbolg farseer quickly explained.

“Emerald Circle? Part of the Cenarion Circle I believe,” Niashado said aloud as she tried to dredge up what she knew of them. Focusing on Gurrag, she sighed. “You know that the Council will not approve of me leaving to work with them.”

“This is all hearsay, Niashado. No official requests have been received by us,” Skaltesh interjected. His breaths came in sharp gasps that were customary for Broken. He gave Gurrag a strange look before turning his attention to her. “You are not in any kind of… probation. You do not need the Council’s blessings to travel outside of Azuremyst.”

“But to offer my services…” she began but was waved off by Skaltesh.

“You are simply visiting their camp. And if you offer, as a guest, to assist them, then so be it. You may not be there officially at our behest, but only as a traveler.”

Niashado narrowed her eyes in sudden suspicion. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something seemed odd about their request. It seemed, almost underhanded.

However, she was eager to travel again and she might be able to learn something new about Jaou’s disappearance and the Elemental troubles plaguing Azeroth. Also, Felwood was not a place she had ever traveled to, although she had a healthy respect for all the warnings she had heard.

“When may I leave?” the shamaness asked resolutely. Skaltesh handed her a small folded parchment. She unfolded it and discovered it was a boarding ticket.

“The boat leaves in three hours,” the Broken wheezed.

“Be very careful, my student,” Gurrag warned. “Felwood is a land cursed with much evil.”

“I will be,” Niashado replied with a quick bow as she tried and failed to contain her excitement. “Thank you, teachers! I must prepare for the trip.”


~~~~

Gurrag and Skaltesh nodded and watched as she walked briskly back into the city. Then, the Broken turned and regarded the furbolg with a curious expression.

“You did not tell her of our vision. Why?”

“Because it would cloud her mind and make her reckless,” Gurrag explained. “She needs to follow through with what we saw but she must be careful and watchful.”

The Seer snorted. “I am afraid what we saw is more then she can handle. She is only a student after all.”

“Niashado is only a student because she refuses to accept that she’s more then what she once was,” the furbolg continued. His lips peeled back from his ursine snout in what looked to most like a snarl, but was really a grin. “She needs to realize many things. This trip might just be what she needs.”

“If she is not killed by what it is we saw,” Skaltesh added solemnly. The grin faded from Gurrag, but he didn’t say anything. They all know the risks when they step out of the door.


* * *

Felwood – Emerald Circle Settlement
Three days later


The day and half journey from Azuremyst to Auberdeen was made on thankfully calm and uneventful seas. It had taken an extra day to procure a hippogryph to Felwood and thankfully, that flight was coming to an end. Overall, it was a pleasant journey.

The transition from the perpetually overcast Darkshore to Felwood was ominously stark. Spottiy rain showers and low clouds were replaced by green haze and sickly looking trees. Even the creeks that they flew over appeared thickly corrupted.

Ancient ruins dotted the landscape as the hippogryph effortlessly flew below the forest canopy. The flight master in Auberdeen had assured her that the creature would know the way. All Niashado had to do was hold on and not fall off. Still, it was strange traveling but not having any control on the destination. And it probably didn’t help that she didn’t like flying.

Although the wind kept her bangs from covering her eyes, it allowed the mist to sting her eyes. She almost gagged a few times but after sometime recovered. And then, before she realized it, the hippogryph was rapidly descending toward a small group of structures. The draenei snapped her eyes closed and held the reins so tightly her knuckles turned white.

It wasn’t until she felt the creature’s wings folding and brushing her legs that she realized they had landed.

“You enjoyed frightening me,” she announced in jest and scratched the hippogryph’s head before sliding off.

“Welcome traveler,” a tauren warden greeted as he approached. Niashado replied in kind. “What brings you here?”

“I-I am not rightly sure yet,” the shamaness replied. She suddenly seemed uncertain about what to do. They hadn’t asked for help and judging by the calmness around, she surmised that they probably weren’t in any kind of distress. She gave the warden a lopsided smile. “I suppose I am here to offer my assistance, if you so desire.”

For a moment, the tauren warden seemed to stare at her suspiciously. Then, with a warm smile, he gestured for her to follow him.

“We can always use some assistance in Felwood.”
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:06 pm

Sundar:

Three hours had passed since he had arrived, he was still lying down on the cot, staring at the ceiling. Sundar could not quite recall what he had been doing since he had gotten on the bed, but he was now more rested than when he had arrived. Stretching his arms, the druid reached for his boots and put them back on, it was time for him to leave the post. He left the hut and went outside to find that Naphta and Falathir had been waiting by the door rather diligently. The saber sat up and looked at her rider expectantly.

"It seems your friends did not want to go far, master druid," the tauren warden that greeted him earlier said.

"They're rather attached," Sundar admitted, placing a hand on the sabre's head. "Thanks for keeping an eye on them."

"It's of no trouble," the warden replied with a smile. "Be careful in the forests. It has gotten more dangerous as of late."

Sundar nodded in appreciation as he climbed onto the saddle. "Take care, my friends. If you could send the usual message to the next post up, that'd be appreciated."

The druid urged his cat forward, Falathir followed along on the wing by Sundar's side. Their first destination was towards Jadefire Glen, as he usually ran from the south onward towards the north. The satyr settlement has always been one of the primary sources of trouble, but like many other areas of issue in Felwood, they remained largely unchanged from a lack of numbers to deal with them. Sundar's mission though, was not to wage war against the satyrs, he was there to search for anything that would bring back his brother.

He had been fortunate enough to get a temporary posting with the Emerald Circle until further notice. It was usually uneventful enough for him to travel around Felwood to search the demon-corrupted areas more thoroughly. For the past nine months, he had found nothing, and one burning question remained to trouble him. How would he get Jaou back?

The obvious choice, being a demonic portal, was out of the question; he could not risk allowing for more demons to find their way into their world. A summoning was likewise folly. Sundar did not want to admit it, but he really had no idea how he would go about retrieving Jaou. Doubt was starting to creep in the more he thought about it. What could he possibly do to about it?

There has to be something out there. There has to be a way to get him back.

Sundar did not want to give up. It had, after all, only been nine months. It had been no longer than the last time Jaou had gone missing.

Except that time he was missing in Feralas and not a world that was filled with demons or what have you...

Try as he might, that one question ever nagged him from the back of his mind more and more as time went on. Still, he continued trying, keeping up his hopes that there may be something that could be done.

The satyr settlement was over half a day away from Emerald Sanctuary, even riding upon a swift sabre such as Naphta. While it would have been faster for Sundar to take wing and fly, he felt more conspicuous as a stormcrow swooping down on the camp rather than sneaking upon the edges. The hours passed by with little event at least. After some time he knew, as he had come several times before, that he was nearing Jadefire Glen.

The area was dotted with night elven ruins, but the soon aged white marble rubble started to take on a red tinge, as if bleeding, ahead in the distance. Further ahead, he could see all of the ruins were of a deep red colour. He reigned Naphta to a stop. Falathir had seen the pair and perched in a nearby tree, where the ruins were still relatively pristine. Sundar had to admit. while the owl had been rather clingy in the past months, she was excellent as a lookout.

Now, time for me to do some snooping around.

Sundar dismounted Naphta, motioning for her to stay hidden in the shrubs. In a flash and with such fluidity, his body began changing shape; fur came to his skin, his fangs grew larger as his face took on a more feline look and he fell on all fours as a darkly coloured sabre. His tattoos still gave off a sign that he was no ordinary cat. It was of no matter to him. The demons would not see him, so he hoped.

Just as other druids that were adept in using the mighty sabre as one of their animal totems, Sundar blended into the shadows and began prowling into the interior of the camp. He crept close to the ground, moving forward into the glen. His eyes darted around and his ears swiveled in all directions as he kept a high level of alert. If he got caught later on or even now, there was little chance for him to escape unscathed.

Now, Sundar was deep inside the perimeter of the Jadefire held grounds, he was sneaking around amongst the satyrs. Every time he had come, there always seemed to be the same number of the vile demons. He knew the Circle had sent in agents and willing travelers to clear out some of the demons, but it did not seem to have an impact on their population. He had as much of a hard time dodging their hooves nine months ago as he did now. Several times he had to stop and hide by one of their foul structures, looking for an opening to cross.

In the corner of his eye, he could see a white flash every now and then in the trees. Falathir had little trouble keeping track of the druid from the air, soaring silently from branch to branch. The satyrs, despite the owl's bight plumage, did not notice her presence. If there was anything that would endanger the druid, she would warn him.

With some patience, Sundar was gradually making his way into the centre of the glen. So far everything he had seen looked normal, or as normal a demon settlement looked. There was no particularly suspicious activities going on as far as he could tell. Quite a number of them were resting, and the others were, what he could discern, going about their daily activities. Sundar quickly made it throughout the camp, as far as he could go into, and found nothing of note.

Still, there was always an area of interest that he wish he could get closer to, but ever vigilant fel stalkers flocked the sides of the entrance. It was a great tree that grew against the side of the mountains. The roots came down in front of the sheer cliff face forming what looked like a cave. He was not sure if it were in actual use, or if there was even enough room in it, but he had a feeling the fel stalkers were not there for display.

And if only I can get in there and confirm what's inside.

He had made and attempt to get closer to inspect the tree, even trying to communicate with it in the past, but the demonic hounds had almost caught wind of his presence. Sundar did not want to risk alerting them to his intrusion again. Still, he had rounded his route close enough to try and sense if there was any strange energies coming from there.

And again, nothing.

Another visit, and there was nothing to gain from his scouting route in the glen. It was time he made his way back to his wintersaber. Sundar hastily returned to the riding cat with his avian companion in tow, who was lying flat in the cover of bushes. The cat raised her head in excitement and whipped her tail around as he approached.

"I hope I didn't keep you waiting too long," he said to Naphta as he shifted back to his kaldorei form. "We'll make a quick round in the ruins before we make camp."

Sundar got up on the saddle with Falathir finding a perch in front of him again. The sabre started off to the north after her rider was comfortable in his saddle. It was going to be a long day.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Seven hours later

Nothing again...

Sundar had made another circuit through the Ruins of Constellas. Activity there had been more muted since nine months prior, but there was still a great number of demons present.

Particularly, the Emerald Circle was suspecting the local satyrs to be quickly recouping from their last attack. The druids were looking to lead another assault on the area to finally take it, but that was still in the stages of planning.

Sundar's pursuits into the demon infested areas were not all for selfish purposes. He frequented their territories often enough to provide valuable updates for the Circle on any happenings to deal with the satyrs. Still, many knew why he was so willing to go and scout out such places.

Much of his colleagues had, over time, started to tell him that his search was in vain. Many times he had traversed Felwood, and he had come up with no leads. He still did not give up, Sundar would hear none of it. It would be a lie though, if he said he was not starting to feel frustrated at the lack of progress he was making.

The druid returned to Naphta with Falathir, a despondent expression painted on his face, letting out a sigh. His dour mood was even spilling over to the great cat, who had lowered her head in surrender.

"Well, let's take a rest," Sundar said with some exasperation.

He found a seat next to the side of Naphta. He had chosen to stop by a large tree where its roots would give them some shelter and a place to hide if need be. Regardless, the area was usually sparse with local fauna to give them trouble. Sundar snuggled back into Naphta who had curled up around him. They were already on their second day in Felwood and they have gotten little rest.

Sleep sounds too good to have now.

With little effort, the trio had fallen asleep.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

What is this?

Again, Sundar was in the middle of a black ocean, shrouded in a thick fog. It shimmered like water, but he could not tell if it actually was water or if it were another substance. He tired to tread through it, trying to find anything else that would be there, but his legs would barely move. He felt weighed down by something invisible. In the distance, he saw something come out from the haze. Sundar then realized it was the same as his vision from before.

Try as he might, he could barely move towards the figure that appeared before him. He had to know who it was, but they were still shrouded in darkness. The druid tried calling out to them, but who ever it was, they did not notice him. He was unsure as to the meaning of this, but he continued to trudge through the expanse.

"... nd it... a voice said to him.

"What?" Sundar asked.

He could not discern who it was, let alone what they said.

"Please..." it said more audibly.

"I don't understand," Sundar replied. "What do you mean, who are you?"

"End it... Bring me peace..."

Suddenly he was much closer to the figure. It was still difficult to tell who it was, but this time he could see their eyes. It was looking at him, with a vivid glow. Once again though, they became awash with blood. Blood spilled as if grievous wounds were afflicted upon them. As the blood came forth, the 'sea' started to rise higher, as if feeding from the stream and threatened to engulf them both.

"Sundar..."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Sundar again woke with a start, and with such force Naphta and Falathir were also stirred from their sleep. He took in deep breaths as he tried to calm his nerves. The dream was still very fresh in his mind, but he still could not make any sense of it.

I can't even attribute this to stress.

He did not want to think about the implications of the dream, but he knew better than to dismiss it. He would have to seek counsel with one of his colleagues. Perhaps discussing the strange dream would shed some light on its meaning.

Speaking of light...

He looked up to the forest canopy. The rays of the sun were coming in a deep shade, it was setting and night was about to fall. It was already the start of another day and they had slept through the last.

"Perhaps we needed that bit of rest," the elf mused, though he almost wished he had not so he did not have to endure that dream.

Sundar roused the sabre and owl to fully awake as he stood up. The wintersabre let out a loud yawn as she stretched, while Falathir took to the air with great energy. Sundar ruffled the fur around Naphta's face with affection before he got up upon her again.

"I suppose we should drop by Wildheart," he suggested to Naphta, but it was already determined that they would go.

With a slight mew, the cat began on a gallop to their next destination.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Wildheart Point was a smaller outpost than Emerald Sanctuary. It was a relatively new location for the Circle to build upon and was thus fairly spartan. Only a handful of small buildings marked the locale and there was only basic facilities available. It was truly only meant to be a resting point for travelers and those working for the Circle.

Sundar and his animal friends had finally arrived at the camp some six hours later since their last stop. The wardens greeted them, being familiar with their consistent visits. The druid rode up to one and dismounted from his sabre, leading her by his side to the interior of the outpost.

"Master Stormchaser!" one of the wardens, a Kaldorei, bowed and greeted him. "What news do you bring?"

Sundar bowed back. "Nothing to note of, aside from the fact we don't seem to be making a dent in their numbers." Sundar cracked his neck as he replied, referring to the satyrs.

"It's rather strange indeed," the other elf replied. "Where else are you heading to?"

"Jaedenar is my next stop, then it's further nor--"

Sundar stopped in the middle of his sentence as the ground started to shake abruptly. The tremors caught the entire outpost off guard, confusion taking hold of its inhabitants. Many fell close to the ground, trying to catch their footing. The hippogryphs at the roost started to panic and even Naphta and Falathir were getting anxious.

Sundar tried to get a feel of what it was. The earth was heaving, but somehow it did not feel natural. Something was off and he could not quite place what it was. Seconds later, it had stopped, and before the druid could probe its potential cause.

"What in Elune was that?" the warden exclaimed.

"A quake it seems," Sundar stated. "But in all my years, I've never heard of it happening here."

"Nor have I. This is very strange. What would be causing this?"

"I'm uncertain, I couldn't quite make out what was the cause."

But I'm not liking it one bit.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:07 pm

Niashado:

Just as her father had taught her, Niashado carefully slid the blade of her dagger into the soil and carefully carved a circle around the large lotus plant. She was cautious as to not knick the roots and was soon able to lift the plant safely out of the ground with as much of the soil as possible still clinging to its roots.

She wasn’t sure of the name of the herb, but as it had been described by the druids, most of the leaves were purple and curled tightly around the stem. However, the description diverged when it came to the shading of the veins in the leaves. They were supposed to be black; not dark green. Even stranger was that the green coloring was beginning to seep beyond the vein.

The corruption is growing thicker in this area, Niashado surmised, while gently placing the plant inside a small sack. Once back at Emerald Sanctuary the druids will be able to better compare it to earlier specimens.

Felwood was vastly different from most of the others forests Niashado had visited in the past. There were still insects and birds calling, but not nearly as many as in places like Elwynn and Azuremyst. And the few animals she’d seen from the distance looked sickly and acted erratic.

The draenei brushed the dirt from the knees of her kilt and stretched before carefully slinging the bag with the herb over her shoulder. She looked up in time to see a lone owl swoop silently through the trees.

As soon as the large bird disappeared from view the forest fell eerily silent. Niashado felt the skin on the back of neck tingle and strained to listen for any sound. She wasn’t a hunter or warrior, but because of many past experiences, she knew when something wasn’t right.

It was the smell that struck at first. Rotting meat and feces mixed with a dreadful odor of moist matted fur. And then there was the low growling.

Gripping her staff tightly, the shamaness turned to see a pair of dark, red furred satyrs glowering back at her. Her ears lowered as she tried and failed to suppress a gasp. Bits of flesh dangled from their long claws and their chins were stained with dried blood from whatever poor creature had the ill fortune of stumbling upon them.

One of them was carrying a large feted carcass that was eviscerated beyond any hope of recognition. Even from the forty yards that separated them, Niashado could see and hear the flies swarming around them.

She slowly allowed the bag with the herb to slide off her shoulder and it landed behind her with a dull thud. Meanwhile, she began inaudibly calling out to the Elements. It wasn’t a question of whether, but rather, when and how, they were going to attack. She’d dealt with enough satyrs, both in Azuremyst and in Ashenvale to know what to expect from them. Indifference was certainly not among their traits.

Her eyes carefully studied their faces and she drew a breath of relief knowing that none of them were recognizable. He’s only missing. He would not turn. He can not…

Mirroring her action, the satyr carrying the carcass also dropped it on the ground. Their lips were peeled back, revealing a sharp set of stained teeth. Their eyes leered at her with a mixture of maliciousness and desire that threatened to bring the bile up her throat.

Niashado swallowed nervously and checked her stance as the self-defense instructors and her friends, who were more skilled fighters, had taught. Her tail was taught and she held her staff behind her back and nearly horizontal. Her other hand was free, but depending what the demons tried, that would change.

As she hoped wouldn’t happen, but nevertheless, fully expected, the satyrs surged forward as one. Their movements were hasty and their run was stunningly fast. She could feel the thrum of their hoofsteps travel along the earth and along the ground under her own hooves.

If this had been a few years ago, Niashado knew she’d had frozen and been unable to mount any kind of defense. She’d been lucky through those naïve times and now, where luck and friends had determined her survival, she had experience and trust in her own relationship with the Elements.

Uttering a determined called to the earth; she slammed her hoof on the ground. The earth rumbled under hoof and a ground wave traveled from her toward the satyrs and then exploded upward from below their legs. Both tumbled to the ground, but one was quick to recover and was nearly upon her.

The draenei lowered herself to the ground and twisted the staff into the air. She felt the winds grip the ends of the staff and aid in its rotation. The shaft itself burst into flames that neither consumed the wood nor burned her hands. But when one end of the weapon made contact with the side of her attackers head, it showed the air between them with sparks and embers.

The satyr howled in pain and spun away from her. Niashado nearly gagged as the air became saturated with the scent of burning fur and flesh. He clutched the side of his face and hobbled back a few feet.

On instinct, Niashado again knelt as the razor sharp claw of the other satyr raked the air above her. She brought staff around and rammed it into his neck. She felt the shaft sink into the soft front of his neck and the demon started gurgling. Yet, even while in the throes of death, he still tried to reach out to her with his muscular arms. She kept him at bay by continuing to push back on the staff until he was pinned against a tree.

Despite his strength and size, for he was several feet taller than her, not including the horns that made him look far taller than even that, Niashado was able to position herself to leverage her wait and strength against his. It also helped that some of the earth had wrapped itself around her hooves, further securing her position.

The flaming staff continued to scorch his face even as it sank deeper into his throat. She felt its progression stop, as if it struck something hard. Then, to her sickening shock, it suddenly broke beyond whatever the barrier was and slid forward like it was no longer impeded. The satyr’s body lurched once and then his screams and struggled stopped.

Absently, the shamaness realized she must have severed his spine. The thought gave her no comfort and she began to exhume her staff from the dead demon. That was when she was struck behind.

Her weapon fell from her grip as she slid on the ground. The other satyr, with half the flesh of his face literally gone, landed on top of her. Niashado cried out in fright at the damage that had been inflicted. She could see his teeth from the hole in his right cheek. His right eye was missing.

“<Ash gyared narrex da!>” the satyr snarled, showering her with spittle. A long viscous line of drool hung from the hole in his cheek and spattered on her chest.

Niashado closed her eyes and called out once more even as one of the satyrs claw started pressing against her neck. Small arcs of blue white lightning began sparking throughout her body. The satyr howled once again, as the electrical assault launched him into the air and away from her.

Before he landed, Niashado was back to her hooves. Her bluish gray hair danced about as lightning began arcing from her outstretched hand. When the satyr, still stumbling about from the previous shock, tried to make for her again, she released the thick of shard of lightning. The bolt slammed through the satyr’s chest and exited from his back. A moment later, the body of the already lifeless satyr fell to the ground.

The shamaness snatched up her staff and struggled to control her panting. Her glowing white eyes scanned the forest and her ears pivoted and turned as they strained to hear anything beyond her thrumming heart. There was something moist on her neck. Cautiously, still looking around the forest cautiously, she swept her hand over the spot and fell something cool and sticky. Pulling her hand away, she gasped at the blood.

The shamaness glanced around the woods again and then gently called out to the Elements. Her hand became suffused with a viridian glow and, pressing it against her neck, she felt the warmth of the healing radiating outward. It must have been a shallow cut. Despite the amount of blood, it didn’t take long for the wound to heal.

Niashado scanned the forest again and concluded that the two satyrs must have been the only ones. Then, deciding it best to not be here if more satyrs came she picked up the bag and left.

* * *

“The wound is shallow and didn’t hit anything vital. You were fortunate, draenei,” the tauren warden explained as he carefully wiped the dry blood from her neck with a moist cloth.

“It would seem,” Niashado replied, even though she still felt sickened by the entire encounter.

“You are more powerful then you’ve led us to believe,” the tauren added. Niashado’s frown only grew. They were satyrs, demons that would have hurt anyone there and who needed to be stopped. Still, it always seemed to wrong to call upon the Elements to aid in dealing death.

As strange as it seemed, she understood why she had done what needed to be done. She just hated to be the one to do it.

“I do not see my ability to call on the Elements to deal death as a thing to be measured by,” she answered more sharply than she had intended to. Contritely, she lowered her head. “I am sorry. I did not mean to snap at you. I am just frazzled by the experience.”

“I understand,” the tauren replied as he replaced the unused healing equipment back in the box. “My cousin is a shaman and I understand how balance dictates much of your actions. You do not like taking life, but in your self-recriminations, do not lose sight of the fact that demons salivate for any opportunity to thrust the world into chaos. They are outside the cycle of balance. You did what must be done.”

He was just about to return the box to the tent when a large flock of bird, for seemingly no reason took to the sky squawking in fright. The other druids and wardens in the Emerald Sanctuary immediately grew alert.

It started almost unperceivably. The first thing they heard was a deep rumbling sound. Then, the ground started shaking. It continued shaking and some around the camp, her included, fell to their knees as they tried to find some way to stay stable.

As soon as the shamaness hit the ground, she instinctually called out to the Element. What she received was like nothing she’d ever felt before. Panic, fear and confusion surged into her unprepared mind, causing her to cry out in fright and start looking around as if preparing to for an attack. It took her a few moments to realize that those emotions weren’t hers, but rather, being transferred to her from the actual Element. Even with that knowledge, however, the emotions were almost too blinding to think past.

She had sensed such a thing before from rampaging free-range elementals. They were difficult to control but sometimes they could be persuaded to grow calm. This wasn’t an elemental though. This wasn’t even a group of them. From what she could tell, this was all the earth in Felwood and perhaps even beyond.

Closing her eyes tightly, Niashado struggled to erect mental barriers between her and the emotions surging from the Element. It wasn’t easy, but she knew that the level of fear and panic she was experience was possibly enough to drive a lone shaman insane.

Then, just as her mental barriers began crumbling, the rumbling suddenly ceased. Carefully, she opened her eyes and got up. Her heart still beat rapidly and unspent adrenaline caused her joints to ache. Her eyes darted around as the residual fear and panic from the Elemental still coursed through her mind.

Leaves were raining down on the settlement as the druids and wardens began taking stock of the damage. A heavy arm gently lay on her shoulder, causing her to jump and lash out awkwardly with her fist. The tauren grabbed her swinging arm and held it.

“Calm yourself, shaman. We’re all fine,” he explained calmly. “What you are experiencing is not your fear, but theirs. Repeat that in your mind.”

Niashado did as he said and repeated the mantra until her heart slowed. She was still breathing heavily, but was no longer fighting his grip or looking around for phantom attackers.

“I-I am calming,” she said between deep breaths. “I have never felt such fear.”

“I can’t imagine it. But it has passed and we have work to do. Are you for another flight?”

“A flight?”

* * *
An hour later, Niashado cringed and held on tightly to the bridle of the hippogryph as the flying creature dove below the forest canopy. Trees whipped past them and then, with an unexpected and sharp bank, the hippogryph touchdown just beyond the perimeter of Wildheart Point.

The draenei wasted little time hopping of the flying mount’s saddle and gave it a steely gaze as she unlatched the saddle bags. The hippogrph stared back, and she swore there was mirth in its gaze. It knew how much she hated flying.

“Welcome to Wildheart Point, master draenei,” a night elf announced by way of greeting. Niashado turned and offered him an elegant bow.

“Thank you, warden. I am Niashado. I have just come from the Emerald Sanctuary and carry some deliveries. As well, I was asked to inform you that this hippogrph is to be stationed here to assist with any duties that may be needed.”

“Ah, thank you. We’ve been requesting another hippogryph for some time,” he said, approached the flying creature. He tenderly swept his hands around the creature’s neck and plumage. “He’s a strong one. I’ll have him sent to the roost.”

He unlatched another saddle bag and escorted her into the settlement.

“We have a tent waiting if you’re wearied from your journey,” he offered, but she shook her head.

“I can begin working if you…”

The shamaness suddenly paused when she recognized one of the elves’ standing over a table and studying a map. He sported dark long hair and wore armor covered in furs and leathers. Most striking was the detailed tattoos that contrasted starkly against his purple skin. When he turned his head slightly, she noticed his face and her suspicions were confirmed.

She also noticed the circlet over his head and her frown only deepened. She knew who it belonged to and if it was with him, then things still haven’t changed.

“Sundar? Sundar Stormchaser?” she called out after approaching behind him.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:09 pm

Sundar:

Since the sudden quake, the outpost had settled down once more and resumed operations as normal. Sundar had taken a seat in one of the private tents while waiting for one of the scouts to return from reporting his findings, having sent Naphta and Falathir on a hunt. Together they would go over their findings and their routes of the rest of Felwood.

While he was waiting, he had taken out a skin of water and a small packet containing a strange brown powder. The druid looked at the substance with some hesitation, but he knew he had to consume it. After a few moments of apprehension, he brought the paper packet to his lips and poured the powder into his mouth, quickly washing down the bitter powder with several gulps of water. The bitter and acrid taste continued to linger on his palette, inciting a look of disgust for several minutes.

I'll never get used to this medication.

Just as he placed his water skin back into his pack, the warden that greeted him earlier came into the tent.

"Scout Faelia is done with her debrief, Master Stormchaser," the kaldorei informed him. "She's just outside of the main tent as usual."

"I'll be out there in a moment," Sundar replied as he gathered his pack.

The warden nodded and went back to his duties as Sundar followed him out of the tent. Given that the outpost was rather small, he did not have to travel far to arrive at the meeting area. It was only a few paces in towards the inner camp that he walked to find the table and the scout that was there waiting for him.

"It is good to see you again, sir," the she-elf said with a bow.

"And it's good to see you in good health as well," the druid replied, returning the bow. "What news do you have for me this time?"

"Unfortunately it's not very lightening, the recent events," Faelia replied with a darkened expression. She pointed to various areas marked on the map of Felwood that laid on the table. "We're still getting more reports of missing agents and travelers through Felwood. We haven't been able to find much evidence of where they may be. We had contacted Raynewood and Forest Song in case they had seen anything, but none of the missing persons have come up, even those that went missing nearly eight months prior. We don't have particularly high hopes given that these match the incidents of a few years ago."

"This is forboding news," Sundar commented. "I'm rather curious, how is satyr activity in the area?"

"They're getting more aggressive these days, but sometimes it's hard to tell that from a normal day. They're getting more tightly knit defense going on at all of their locations. It's been getting harder and harder to glean any information from the area."

So it isn't just me

"Anything new on your front, master druid?" the scout asked.

"I think you covered most of what I seen as well," Sundar had to admit, rubbing a hand at the back of his head. "The spot I reported some months ago in Jadefire Glen is still in my interests, but I still haven't been able to infiltrate it." He tapped at the corresponding point on the map with a slightly furrowed brow.

"Well, we'll continue to work on fixing that. I'll be sent towards the northeast though, around Shatter Scar Vale. What's your route going to be like?"

"Well," Sundar said, as he traced his planned circuit on the map. "I'm pretty much going up along the western side of Felwood, then turning back down around and making a stop at Talonbranch Glade. I'm hoping to hit the camps on the way and see if there's any information we can use."

"So your next destination looks to be Jaedenar. We'll work more on the eastern side and send our reports to Whisperwind Grove. Does that sound good?"

"Sounds fine to me," the druid replied, looking back at the scout.

"Alright, now that that's set up, we can get to work." The scout offered Sundar a salute. "Safe hunting and may Elune watch over you Master Stormchaser."

"You as well Faelia," Sundar said with a bow.

The scout left Sundar with the map as he mentally thought his route over. Before he had started planning out his path, he heard some one, a familiar voice, call out to him from behind.

"Sundar? Sundar Stormchaser?"

The elf turned around and to his surprise, he found a draenei female walking up to him dressed in mostly familiar green and brown leathers, leathers that he crafted.

"Niashado!" he exclaimed. "I haven't seen you in ages, last time it was..."

The Exodar, she was getting apprehended for helping Jaou escape...

It was most likely a sore subject for the draenei shamanness as it had been for his elder sibling. He decided to skip over the subject and cleared his throat.

"It's good to see you in good health, have you been faring well?"

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The satyrs of Jadefire Glen were ever active in their dark rituals. Just as the elves and tauren of the Emerald Circle sent communiques to each other on their founded activity of the demons, so too did the satyrs inform their brethren on what their enemies were up to.

One of the sentries strode over to the large hollowed tree with purpose. He walked past the fel stalkers that flanked the roots in vigil, though he paid them no heed for they did the same to him.

The space beneath the sickly roots of the tree was almost cavernous. The inside was kept lit by sinister green and blue flames, lit on posts that looked to be crafted from the darkest of metals and bones of their victims. At the centre of the room was a runic circle that pulsed with a fel green. Various items and reagents were organized on a crude shelf in one corner, opposite to that were tools and weapons of various sorts along with armour made for someone of a lgither frame than the usual satyr.

More curious were the large iron cages that sat further in the hollow. There were three in total, each occupied by creatures of a strange nature. At first glance they appeared to be more satyrs, but their builds were different. They seemed larger, hunched over, built more like beasts than satyrs. Great manes covered their necks and what would have been hand were paws that ended in vicious claws. They faces appeared to be elongated, like that of hounds, or more like a chimaera. One turned its head to face the sentry. A pendant strung around the beast's neck shone in the lights through its fur. It was an emblem of a tree with a crescent moon behind it.

The guard ignored them as well, though. His attention was set on the one that sat at the very back of the hollow, opposite to the entrance. A vivacious female satyr, of crimson skin and loose and full black hair and fur, sat on a chair carved from stone and wood with one leg crossed over another. Typical of the satyrs of Felwood, she was decorated in various jewelry and bangles of jade, displaying the sect she belonged to. Most notable was the look of malevolence in her burning yellow eyes.

"What news do you bring me?" she asked the guard, not hiding the mischief in her voice.

"Our stalkers posted in the north have caught another stray traveler," the demon guard announced. "They are now being held at Constellas; shall we proceed with the ritual, Mistress?"

"I think we can accommodate another to be assimilated into our ranks," she said with a sultry tone, touching a clawed finger against her full lips. "Keep them at the ruins though. And give them permission to make another aberration if they end up as a failure."

With a dismissive wave, she sent the guard on his way, who left with a low bow. Ran'Shali, with the loss of Xarathor and Khadal, had taken the reigns over their division of satyrs. While her co-leaders fought at the Shrine of Aessina, she was sent back to Felwood to continue her work with bolstering their numbers. In retrospect, it was a good plan, as she was spared defeat and death in Ashenvale at the hands of the detestable night elves. It was a great blow to have two of the three leaders slain, but she persevered.

Her aims had grown and with a swift hand, she began expanding her work, posting her apprentices in other satyr camps in Felwood. She easily maintained a seat of power and a voice of influence over the Jadefire with her work and knowledge in turning mortals into satyrs with little risk in the process, creating the perfect subjects to add to their sects.

Still, even with her position and exploits, there was one goal in particular she wanted to fulfill, one goal that she kept in her sights. She would have her revenge on those that had killed Xarathor and Khadal.

She rose from her seat and slowly stepped over to the cages where the beasts laid. A growl and a whimper came from the creatures as she stood over them, viewing them with indifference.

"Now that you're all complete, I grow bored and tired," she said to no one in particular with a face full of tedium. Almost as soon as she had said that, a look of absolute delight flashed on her features, and a look of sheer malice in her eyes as her lips revealed a fanged grin. "But this means I get my new toy very soon."

Perhaps I should check on my barter.

She turned her attention away from the demonic beasts and walked over to the runic circle that adorned the ground. She began intoning a chant in Eredun. With every word, dark energies formed and swirled over the rune, soon materializing into a mass, warping and reflecting a distorted image. Soon the image stabilized and reveal a scene of a dark laboratory. Various cruel tools hung on the walls and tables were covered in vials of various liquids and reagents.

Coming to the fore of the image was a demon of sizable proportions. It appeared almost like a Dreadlord, a nathrezim, but there was something vastly different about it. It had deep set eyes, its wings were covered in cruel, but almost artistic cuts and stitching. Most notably different was that the demon had four large arms, each handling different tasks with expert ease.

"Ah, Miss Ran'Shali," he spoke with a curteous and professional manner. "It has been a while, several months I do believe since we last spoke. What may the tothrezim do for you today?"

"Gazheel, good to see you again," she said, palcing a hand on her hip. "I've come to check on our deal. Hard at work I see?"

"There's always something to do," the demon commented, making idle gestures with on set of arms, while mixing a liquid substance with the other. "As for the deal, how are your goods coming along?"

"My part has been done. The beasts are ready for you to take," Ran'Shali said, sweeping an arm to the back where the cages sat. "And how about my soon-to-be new plaything?"

Gazheel let out a smile as he stepped to the side of the image, revealing a cage of fel iron behind him. Inside the cage was what appeared to be another demon, a satyr, of darkly coloured fur. His back was faced towards the image, revealing large curved horns and various scars that covered his body. He barely stirred as he laid on the ground, oblivious to the fact he was being observed.

"Are you certain he's been kept in good health?" Ran'Shali asked, with a slight sneer and a measure of suspicion. "I'm not paying for something that will break in a month."

"Oh I assure, he's been taken care of," Gazheel said, laughing at her doubts. "He's certainly in better condition than when you last saw him, though he's been taking to our reparations with some difficulty. I guarantee you he'll be to your satisfaction, if not then we shall compensate you for your generous payment."

There was still some uncertainty the she-demon had. The subject in the cage did not seem particularly lively. She needed confirmation to show he was not damaged beyond use, even though the tothrezim were reputed to be expert researchers and artisans of the Burning Legion. A cruel smirk soon spread across her lips.

"Show me that's he still at least alive," Ran'Shali requested, her voice deep with mischief.

"As you wish, my dear."

Gazheel sounded more than happy to comply with her desire. The female satyr could see a shadowy spark emanating from the tothrezim's hands. Condensing the energy, the demon sent a shadowy bolt at the captive satyr.

The spell struck the demon, eliciting an anguished snarl intoned with a mortal cry. Dark strand of electricity arced over his trembling body, still the satyr did not stir, taking the pain in resignation.

Ran'Shali beamed widely. "Oh what music it is to my ears!" she declared. "Well, he's certainly still alive it seems. I'll take him; when can you be here?"

"Give us a day perhaps, then we can make the exchange," Gazheel replied, stepping back in front of the image. "We'll mark him for you on the spot."

A darkness loomed in her eyes as her smile became ever more malicious. It was a look that could cause even the most steely of demons shudder.

"Oh I just can't wait for the fun to begin."


Niashado:

"Niashado!" Sundar exclaimed. "I haven't seen you in ages, last time it was..."

The Exodar, the shamaness reminisced somewhat bitterly. Saying it wasn't a pleasant time in her life was an understatement. Jaou was being held before the draenei Governing Council under the suspicion of aiding the satyrs in Bloodmyst. The charges were as ridiculous as they were false, but thanks to the false testimony provided by certain individuals with agendas, he had been found guilty.

Worse yet, was that Niashado's attempt to testify in Jaou's defense had been turned against her. Convinced that Jaou was going to suffer worse while being incarcerated, she and a few of his friends broke him out of the cell and found a way for him to leave Azuremyst.

But in order to buy him the time needed to leave, Niashado was forced to remain behind. She was arrested and it ended in her being exiled for several years. But the painful part was the humiliation that her teachers in the shaman enclave had experienced because of her actions.

Shortly there after, she heard from Sundar of Jaou's disappearance, which only added to the gloom of the last year.

"It's good to see you in good health, have you been faring well?" Sundar asked, politely changing the subject.

"Passably well, Sundar," she replied, before taking another step and embracing him tightly. After a moment, she pulled away. "I am sorry about your brother. Have there been any leads as to what may have happened? Where he has gone?"
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:12 pm

Sundar:

It was certainly an unexpected and pleasant surprise for Sundar to see Niashado in Felwood. He was not very sure why she was present in such a dangerous wood and there was no news that they would recieve additional aid. Though if she was here to help, then it would be more than welcome. He returned the warm embrace that she gave and the draenei looked back to him.

"I am sorry about your brother," she had said. "Have there been any leads as to what may have happened? Where he has gone?"

A look of disappoint found its way onto Sundar's features on hearing the question. "Nothing has come up so far. The only thing we have to work with is that he was knocked through a demonic summoning portal. There were times where I can briefly sense his presence after he had disappeared, but it was never long enough to tell me much." He pointed at his one mismatched emerald earring.

"I've been in and out of Felwood scouting the fel-tainted areas here for Jaou and for the Emerald Circle, but now we're getting curbed by tightening defenses. I can't get any further in to look. I'm not going to give up, though there is still my duties to the Circle I must carry out."

Speaking of duties, I need to get back to my rounds.

"Nia, there's still some places I have to go to in Felwood, I'm not sure if you're already on assignment here," Sundar said with a slight shrug. "But if you did want to, you can come with me to Jaedenar. I need to take stock of the activity there, and... It is another prime area for my search."

A light rumbling roar was heard a short distance away towards the entrance of the camp. Coming up the hill was a rather excited Naphta with Falathir erched upon the saddle. The great riding cat trotted up to the draenei shamaness, rubbing her head into Niashado affectionately.

"Looks like she missed you a lot," Sundar observed with a chuckle. "If she could purr, I'm certain she would be."

Falathir had also grown quite curious of Niashado. The owl jumped off from the wintersaber and took a few cautious, though cumbersome, steps towards the shamaness. The avian bobbed her head around, looking her up and down, and swaying her head form side to side with a great child-like interest. She started poking her head into her kilt, inspecting the folds and layers. She then took a few steps backwards and flew up to find a perch on Niashado's shoulder. Falathir seemed rather comfortable, occasionally preening through the draenei's hair.

"Falathir!" Sundar admonished the owl, though he was more taken by surprise if anything. He stood back, rubbing the back of his head with a hand, perplexed at the bird. "I'm sorry, she's doesn't normally take to a new face with quite this much enthusiasm."

Sundar just shrugged in the end.

"So, what do you think? Want to tag along?"


Niashado:


Niashado could tell by the shadow that fell over his countenance that Sundar hadn’t made any progress in the search. She knew it had to be hard on him. Only a few years earlier, his younger brother had been murdered by Morvai. Now his older brother was missing.

She also knew the significance of the earing he wore. Jaou wore the twin. They had used the magically infused earrings to get Jaou out of Azuremyst. But she couldn’t help but to wonder if the feelings he said he was experiencing was from some sort of residual aura from the earrings, or whether it was something he was simply hoping for.

If Jaou had been knocked through a demonic portal, and Niashado prayed dearly that that wasn’t what had happened, then she could only imagine what horrors he’d seen, or worse, experienced. Like most draenei, she had studied about the demons of the Burning Legion. She knew the barest of hints about the depraved and insidious evils that the denizens of such worlds were capable of and it terrified her to think of what Jaou could have possible encountered. It was for his sake, that she prayed he had died quickly, rather than live in such environment.

But she wouldn’t dare tell Sundar of these things. It would only be one more burden for him to carry.

“I'm not going to give up, though there is still my duties to the Circle I must carry out,” Sundar continued. Without realizing it, Niashado nodded.

Yes, my friend and you must start concentrating on these duties. Something is wrong with Azeroth and such a skilled druid like you should not be wallowing in such guilt over something that was beyond his control. But Niashado couldn’t make the words come out of her mouth.

"Nia, there's still some places I have to go to in Felwood, I'm not sure if you're already on assignment here," Sundar added with a slight shrug. "But if you did want to, you can come with me to Jaedenar. I need to take stock of the activity there, and... It is another prime area for my search."

Jaedenar? She had never heard of the place before, but it sounded familiar. It sounded dreadfully familiar, in fact. Then, her glowing white eyes widened. Kil’jaeden? There is a place named after such a man’ari?!

What dangerous and dark paths your search is leading you on, my friend.


Before Niashado could respond, she was accosted by an overly excited wintersaber. The sabers that night elves often rode upon were always such a contrast to her. They were large but silent, but brutally efficient hunters with powerful legs, razor sharp claws and ominously large teeth. But sometimes they showed such affection towards others.

Niashado remember Naphta and gently rubbed her head around the ears, like the saber enjoyed. If the large cat could still purr, she would undoubtedly be doing that. But it was the large owl that was perched calmly on the saber’s saddle that caught her by surprise. It’s wide round eyes fixed on her and it fluttered its wings momentarily. The feathers were a mixture of white, blue and purple, which certainly signaled that it wasn’t indigenous of Felwood.

Still stroking Naptha’s head, she watched as the owl fluttered to the ground and took a few slow steps toward her. Niashado stood still and watch in amusement as the owl poked around the hem and folds of her kilt. Then, taking a few steps back, it jumped in the air and flew toward her. The shamaness wasn’t prepared for the impressively large wingspan of the bird and jerked back in surprise, but the bird still managed to land on her shoulder. She felt the talons clamp tightly over her shoulders, through the leather vest and brown long sleeved shirt she wore and couldn’t stifle the brief giggles that escaped when the bird would occasionally dig its head into her blue-gray hair.

"Falathir!" Sundar barked, but she could tell that he was just as surprised as she was. "I'm sorry, she's doesn't normally take to a new face with quite this much enthusiasm."

“She is fine, Sundar,” Niashado assured, even as she twitched when the owl preened near her ear and tendrils.

"So, what do you think?” he finally asked with a shrug. “Want to tag along?"

The question returned her to her previous thoughts and Niashado frowned for a moment. She wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about poking around Jaedenar. But nor could she bring herself to willingly allow a friend like Sundar to go into such a dangerous place by himself. Especially since she suspected that his self-recrimination was clouding his judgment. And if worse came to worse, she wasn’t a fighter by trade.

And the truth was she had been a bit of a fifth wheel for the Emerald Circle. While they appreciated her help, she wasn’t knowledgeable about the things they were studying in Felwood. Her ‘help’ often wasn’t as helpful as they would have liked. At least they were polite about it, though.

“I will join you,” Niashado finally replied. “An extra pair eyes may help.” She tried to look confident, but knew that she wouldn’t be able to completely conceal the concern in her eyes.


* * *


Green miasma hung low over the ground and the distant horizon started changed to gray as the druids of the Circle began their daily tasks. While the night elves, naturally, preferred to work in the night, their tauren brethren followed a more diurnal schedule. Adding to the reasons for the increased activity during the day was that the satyrs were much more active at night.

In the end, safety won out. While there would always be activities going on at night, most of the tasks were confined to the daylight hours.

This suited Niashado just fine. She never fully managed to adjust to the nighttime hours of her kal’dorei friends. If there was any chance of danger, she also far preferred to face it during the day.

The shamaness slowly wandered around the perimeter Wildheart Point and tried to set her mind at ease. Her suspicions that Sundar was blaming himself for what happened to Jaou hadn’t abated. The real question was how far Sundar would allow this search to continue.

A few minutes of walking brought her to a cluster of trees well away from the noise of the outpost. Smoothing her kilt, she carefully sat on the ground, laid her staff before her and closed her eyes.

Since the earthquake, the shamaness had been leery of meditating with the Elements. The shock of their pain was still fresh in her mind, but Niashado understood that as a shaman, she had to try to understand why it had occurred. There had to be reason.

Her fist tightened around a string of four small crystalline totems. As usual, wind was the first element to answer her call. She heard the leaves rustling in the calm breeze and her hair danced over her shoulder. She felt nothing amiss with this particular element, but then, it was the element that adapted to change the easiest. It was free-spirited and always calming.

She always suspected that that might be the reason she always found comfort and ease in meditating with the winds.

Water was about the same, but she could detect the faint undercurrent of something. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, however. She knew that in the ocean, the waves may appear to go in one direction, but deep under the surface, the current was going in another.

The earth was a far different story. Whatever had caused the pain was still present, although somewhat lessened. She likened the experience like having a toothache. The pain spikes and ebbs, but it’s always there until something happens to change it.

As she recalled from her childhood on her last visit to the local healer, sometimes the only way to fix a toothache is to remove the tooth entirely. It was only her third set of childhood teeth, so nothing dramatic, but as a child, it’s sometimes a terrifying concept to have something pulled out of your body. At least, she thought it was terrifying.

Now she was wondering if whatever it was causing the earth to be unsettled was going to result in something enormous occurring. Niashado very much doubted it would be as innocent as a childhood tooth being removed. In fact, she was starting to suspect that whatever it was, was going to be catastrophic and enormous in scale.

If so, what could it be and how could it be stopped?

The shamaness offered her assurances to the earth, but it was like fighting a forest fire with a single drop of water. She hoped the other shamans throughout the world were having better luck with this.

As usual, her attempted to mediate with the fire was answered with silence. As with the others, she could feel its presence within the totem, but it wouldn’t deign to speak with her. That was nothing new, however. Fire rarely shared its wisdom with her. Farseer Nobundo said that it is common for younger shamans to have a difficult time communing with this particular element.

Maybe one day she’ll be good enough to be worthy of more than silence or one word responses.

She felt herself drifting deeper into the mediation and felt the warm embrace of the wilds surrounding her. But as with water, it was twinged with an underlying current of concern and uncertainty. The whispers said little she could understand, however. There would be no one-on-one talk with her wolf spirit guide this time. Perhaps next time.

Her eyes opened to a slightly brighter sky. The greenish haze still hung over the surface. Despite the color, it was eerily familiar to the persistent haze that shrouded most of the Bloodmyst Isle.

Another scar upon Azeroth, she mulled sadly as she felt around the small totems with her fingers.

A sudden flutter of movement from her periphery jolted her from her thoughts. She spun around and was about to jump to her hooves, when she saw that it was only Falathir. The owl was had just landed next to her and was busy picking apart at a small mouse on the ground. She must have just returned from a hunt.

“Falathir,” she murmured, actually listening to the name for the first time. The owl fixed her large eyes upon the draenei momentarily before setting back to its task. “That sounds masculine in Darnassian. But Sundar said you are female. Did someone name you before they knew you?” she asked with a small grin as the bird swallowed the last piece of the mouse. Then it looked upon her and bobbed its head around a few times. Niashado laughed lightly.

“Where we are going may not be a place for you,” she warned, turning serious. As if Falathir understood (and she very well might have), the owl spread her wings, jumped in the air and silently landed on one of Niashado’s rounded horns. It righted itself and then stood almost like a statue. The draenei couldn’t help but to chuckle.

“That is an odd feeling with you there,” she said while standing up and retrieving her staff. “If Sundar is fine with it, then let us be going.”

A little later she gathered some supplies, breakfast and secured a saber. Unlike Naphta, her saber was dark furred and seemed well-mannered, although not overly friendly. She did catch his eyes looking upon her when she patted Naptha affectionately at the stables. Perhaps he’d warm up.

Afterwards, the Sundar and she began making their way into the wilds of Felwood.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:13 pm

Sundar:

Hours had passed since they left Wildheart Point. Sundar kept much of his attention on their surroundings as he and Niashado rode upon their sabres towards Jaedenar, with Falathir trailing over them. They were traveling at a reasonable speed; Sundar estimated about a day and a half of travel to reach their destination, with periods of rest in between at pre-designated locations. The druid thought it to be a good pace to travel at, allowing them to stay alert and not become tired.

He shot a glance at Niashado, who was riding with him. He was glad that she had agreed to come along for his scouting round. While Naphta and Falathir were good company to keep, Sundar had to admit that the stress of the past months had been eating away at his nerves. Having someone he could talk to would be a refreshing change. It would also be useful to have another pair of eyes on the survey, in case there was something he might miss on the way.

Sundar turned his attention back on the path ahead. It was well past noon and the sun was now past its peak. While Sundar had travelled through the forest in the day before, the sunlight filtering through the canopy was making the green haze somewhat uncomfortably bright for his nocturnally trained eyes, even at such an hour. Still, he could not argue that it was safer to travel in the daylight hours as opposed to the evening. Even so, it was still dangerous no matter the time of day.

Levels of danger are always relative here.

As it usually was, the creatures in the cursed wood had a muted presence. In comparison to Ashenvale or Feralas, even Darkshore, it was eerily quiet. Yet, somehow, it was even more so with each mile they traversed closer to Jaedenar. Even the air felt like it was becoming thicker, closer, seemingly threatening to suffocate them.

Sundar slowed Naphta to a trot. He could feel the sabre tense her muscles as she became more wary of their surroundings. Falathir was still in the air, gliding silently from tree to tree to keep with their slowed pace, occasionally circling overhead for the night elf and draenei. As they progressed further west, there was a noticeable change in even the plant life around them. Much of it was sickly in growth, and patches of withered vegetation were spread everywhere in the area. The trees themselves had taken on an even more twisted and imposing look.

The druid had been in the area many times, but it never ceased to send chills up his spine. It was only made worse by the incessant wails that Sundar sensed from the trees. It had taken some effort to ignore their woeful voices; with time, they would retreat to the edge of his senses, present, but at least not at the fore of his attention.

Soon the pair were arriving at the first of the resting points. It was a place that Sundar had gone to rest on his previous circuits around Felwood. It had proven to be a relatively low traffic location with some shelter provided by scattered kaldorei ruins. Oddly, the way the trees grew in the area had left a gap in the canopy, letting in sunlight by day and moonlight by night.

Sundar reined Naphta to a halt and turned to Niashado. "We'll stop here for a bit. We should be a third of the way there." He dismounted from his riding cat, stretching the stiffness out of his body. He walked over to a ruined pillar and sat upon it. Falathir swooped down from her flight and deftly landed next to the druid, letting out an inquisitive chirp. "The way to Jaedenar will be slow going from here on out, so it'll be a longer ride to our next stopping point."

The druid called Naphta over, who immediately padded to the elf's fore. Sundar then dug into one of the saddlebags and took out two pieces of meat wrapped in giant leaves. He opened one up and gave it to Naphta, who happily took the treat. He offered to other one to Nashado, to give to her sabre.

"So what have you been up to these past years?"


Niashado:

This is what the Legion does. They defile everything… slowly, meticulously and painfully. Niashado kept her face as carefully neutral as she could, but inside, the draenei was seething in anger. Unlike many of her non-draenei friends, she had a better understanding of how the Burning Legion operated. Almost every draenei knew this.

There were two constants in a draenei’s life. There was the knowledge that at any moment, the Burning Legion may attempt a full scale invasion to take Azeroth (or at the time of the exodus, whatever world they were on), and the presence of the Light. These two constants warred in the souls of most of her people. If one has faith in the Light, why should they fear what lurks just beyond the shadows?

However, Niashado wasn’t a priestess. She didn’t make theology a point of study. She was more of a believer in the simplicity of faith and less so on the ritual. Not every reason should, or could, be understood. But there’s a reason and she was willing to see where it took her.

It’s not always easy. Looking at the sickened trees and the occasional emaciated wildlife that crossed the trail, she couldn’t help but to question why such evil happened. Just as, while she was a shaman, she was afforded no explanation for why the Elements did as they did.

In silence, Sundar led them deeper into the forest. Shafts of sunlight were revealed in the palpable viridian miasma that hung in the air. Overhead, flying gliding without a sound, she watched as Falathir swooped toward a tree further ahead.

Her saber handled the trail with almost casual grace. Unlike talbuks, he was able to negotiate the almost nonexistent trail with smooth ease. Niashado was quite surprised by the comfort of their ride. If it weren’t for the occasional rambunctious yawn, she would have considered sabers to be perfect. As it was, the feline’s yawns were only serving to drive her into somnolent state.

Thankfully, before long, Sundar brought them to stop at a small clearing. They both dismounted from their sabers and stretched their legs.

"We'll stop here for a bit. We should be a third of the way there,” he announced while digging through a saddle bag and handing her something wrapped in a large leaf. She carefully unfolded the leaf and noted the large slab of raw meat. At first she was unsure what to do with it but the answer came unbidden when she watched Sundar feed the meat to his Naphta.

Looking back at her saber, she shivered nervously as he looked at the meat in her hands expectedly. She had never fed a saber before and was uncomfortable at the site of the two long teeth hooking downward from its upper jaw. His large tongue licked around his chops, but, in what she surmised was a testament to night elf training, he remained patiently seated.

The shamaness looked back at Sundar as Naphta finished eating and noted the way he held the meal for the saber. Niashado carefully unwrapped it and, with her hands holding under the leaf, warily approached the saber. Instinctually, she closed her eyes and half expected to feel her hands being bitten off. But the saber was trained well and careful. A few seconds later the meat was gone and the saber quietly resumed licking his chops.

“That was different,” she whispered, exhaling in relief.

"So what have you been up to these past years?" Sundar asked, seemingly oblivious or choosing not to comment on the drama that had just occurred between her and her saber.

“I-I have been, keeping myself busy,” Niashado replied neutrally as she rinsed her hands in a small puddle near the edge of the ruins.

The last few years had been a whirlwind for her and much of it she wanted shielded from her friends. They had enough to worry about.

“I spent a few years in Stormwind City working for a local herbalist. And then there was an opportunity to work with a small Earthen Ring enclave in Northrend,” she recalled. “Both were fulfilling, although I think I learned more about my path while working with the Earthen Ring.”

Pacing around for a bit, the shamaness bit her lower lip as she recalled some of the more recent occurrences. From the Council trying to keep her confined in Exodar, to the tornado and earthquakes, she had to admit that from a shaman’s perspective, a lot more was happening now than it has in the past few years.

“We have had several severe storms cause damage to our settlements in Azuremyst. The Elements are agitated and from speaking with my elders, no one seems to know why. The same is here with the earthquakes,” Niashado quietly added. “Do you or your elders have any thoughts on this?”
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:15 pm

Sundar:

“I spent a few years in Stormwind City working for a local herbalist. And then there was an opportunity to work with a small Earthen Ring enclave in Northrend,” Niashado said in reply to Sundar's question. “Both were fulfilling, although I think I learned more about my path while working with the Earthen Ring.”

Northrend, huh? Seems a lot of people have gone there.

Sundar momentarily reminisced about his experience in Northrend. It was not particularly the best time he had in any place. It seemed to be the overall opinion of many of his colleagues and friends that had gone there as well, but Sundar had a rather strong reason to dislike his time in the northern continent. Although, he did have to admit, there were experiences there that he was glad he had gone through.

“We have had several severe storms cause damage to our settlements in Azuremyst. The Elements are agitated and from speaking with my elders, no one seems to know why. The same is here with the earthquakes,” Niashado continued. “Do you or your elders have any thoughts on this?”

"There's been some discussion about these earthquakes and other disasters happening around the world. It feels rather unnatural, perhaps like an effect from something greater if you will." the druid nodded, crossing his arms. "Many of us have been stationed in Hyjal. These strange occurances are happening too close for comfort to Nordrassil for us, and there appears to be other troubles as well, but what exactly it is, we can't say quite yet."

Her glowing white eyes stared impassively at the druid as he spoke.  She didn't look too particularly encouraged by what he'd just imparted.

"What are your thoughts on all of this?" Sundar asked the shamaness in turn.

"The shaman enclave in Exodar shares that prognosis, Sundar," Niashado replied.  "Whatever is happening is not part of the cycle of things.  Something external is agitating the Elements, but what, or where, it is, we can not tell.

"I failed to stop a storm from razing Azure Watch several days ago.  I could hear the Elements and they heard my calls, but they could not be reasoned with," the shamaness continued. "No matter how I pleaded, the Elements were too agitated to even care.  And this has not been an isolated incident.  Other shamans of far more skill and experience are reporting increased failures with the communing with Elements.  Even meditation has been rendered difficult."

Sundar put his hand up to his chin as he thought to himself, he then stood up and started pacing around. "Things are in disarray; it reminds me of when the Nightmare was running rampant in the Emerald Dream. Any probing into this is brining up insufficient answers as to how to prevent this." Sundar stretched out his arms before him. "I hear rumours of the Circle and the Earthen Ring working more together in the near future on this."

The druid looked towards the northeast. "But most of the druids might be relocated towards Hyjal."

At this, Niashado smiled slightly. "It would be good for us to pool our resources.  We are connected to Azeroth in similar, yet different ways.  It is disappointing that it takes such a threat for us to finally work as one." Niashado leaned back and gently stroked the side of her saber. The slumbering cat merely purred lightly. "How many times have you made this patrol?"

Sundar looked back to her when she asked the question, though there was a slight glint of futility in his eyes. "This is going to be the fourth. While I'm still looking for Jaou, this doubles as a scouting mission to see what the satyrs are up to. They've been getting more fearsome in the past year and a half."

Her eyes grew momentarily fearful at the mention of satyrs. "Has there been any sightings of Morvai, or of the satyr sect that kidnapped Jaou the first time?"

"I haven't seen Morvai since a few years ago when we were all in Ashenvale. As for the Jadefire..." Sundar rubbed a hand behind his head looking up to a corner with his eyes as if he were a child admitting to an accident. "Well, they're actually from here. This is where they live and operate from."

"Should there not be more, then?  An entire battalion of Sentinels or Watchers for starters?  Why only you, Sundar?" Niashado asked.  "We need every druid and shaman trying to figure why Azeroth is reeling in pain.  We can not afford to lose one of your caliber.  Is there no one more suited for this task?"

Sundar looked at her remained unfazed by the question where most would have expected a feeling of accusation. There was a good reason he was posted in Felwood, or at least a good reason in the eyes of his colleagues and superiors. It was not something he would willingly make public.

"I've not been assigned in Hyjal yet," Sundar stated. "The Circle requested that I would stay here for a few months longer."

Niashado notched her head at his reply but remained unconvinced.  Her own attempts to join the Earthen Ring in studying anomalies causing Azeroth's suffering had been stonewalled by the Council, but that hadn't stopped her from continuing to try.  She was surprised that Sundar was content with such a mundane duty.

"Forgive me, but that seems out of place.   Any Sentinel could do what you doing," the shamaness said.   She looked at him quizzically and then shook her head.  "You are not telling me the real reason."

She watched him expectedly; hoping, and yet, also doubting, that he'd confide in her. And he would not at this time. While Sundar had great trust in Niashado, he still had apprehensions in letting others know about the supposed state of his health.

"Perhaps I can tell you later," said with a sigh. He looked away for a moment. "I'm not entirely comfortable with saying what the reason is." Sundar looked back to Niashado. "I wish I could be in Hyjal. The rest of my family is there, and I hear of the things that they're finding..." A look of disappointment appeared in his eyes, but was then replaced with resolve. "But I have to abide by orders for now, and in the meantime, I'll couple it with looking for Jaou."

Again, a sudden faintness assaulted the Kaldorei. Sundar staggered to the side, just barely catching his balance. He brought a hand up to his head, now feeling heavy and his sight started to fade. The air felt close to him, feeling as if it were to crush his lungs.

Not again...

Something was different however. There was a familiar presence coming to the fore. Yet, beyond the dizzying effects of the vision, it was too late to discern who it was. Sundar's vision and other senses finally failed, and he was plunged into darkness.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Once more, he found himself wading through the darkness. This time he had better control of his body, but it was still difficult moving through. The fog that had habitually danced over the black ocean had a colour to it now, a fel green. What else would be new?

He started moving forward again. He knew what to expect, but the question was when it would come to him. The 'water' he moved through was not remotely wet; is was a strange and viscous substance, textured like thick mercury. As Sundar progressed through the area, the fog started to thin. Little good did it do for there was little in his surroundings. It actually made it slightly worse, where the fog lightly illuminated the druid, he could now barely see himself.

I can't even tell if I'm actually going anywhere.

Time was passing, but Sundar could not tell at what rate. It felt like hours had gone by, and that he had not moved a foot anywhere closer to where ever he was supposed to go. More of what seemed like minutes passed, and then as he looked up, the surroundings lightened slightly. Ahead of him, again, was the mysterious figure, covered in shadows.

"You again," Sundar breathed out.

"Sundar..."

The voice was distorted, Sundar called back to it. "Who are you?"

"Sundar... End it..."

"Tell me who you are!"

The druid grew more frustrated, Would the vision still withhold the identity of this person from him? He moved toward them more urgently, and with greater determination. He fought against the weight of the sea and nearly broke into a dash.

I'll find out who this is this time. I'll find out who and...

Just as he neared the figure, he could now better make out its outline. A Kaldorei, a male by the stature of their body. Mere seconds after the revelation came to him, he was suddenly infront of the elf.

Sundar awkwardly stopped in his tracks and nearly toppled over, bemused by how he got there. He looked back at the man, who was still strangely enshrouded by the darkness.

"Sundar..." he said again, but this time as he uttered his name, his voice became clear. Sundar recognized it and looked at the figure in disbelief.

"It' can't be..." the druid whispered out, almost in shock.

Another piece of the puzzle had been filled. The shadows that had covered the night elf and their surroundings was sheared away, revealing who it was against a demonic green backdrop. It was Jaou, his elder brother as he appeared before his transformation into a satyr, but something was dreadfully wrong.

He was covered in vicious gashes, cuts, slashes and claw marks, everywhere on his body, even his face. Blood was oozing out of his wound in alarming rivers. Much of his violet skin was now covered in the red of life. He looked barely alive, even the light of his eyes were faded, beginning to reveal the icy blue of his irises.

"Please, end it..." Jaou pleaded. "This pain... is unbearable."

"What in the name of Elune happened to you?" It was a horrifying sight for Sundar.

A more desperate look found its way to Jaou's wounded features. "Help... me..."

He reached out for Sundar with his left hand, which Sundar was ready to take, but the druid stopped, almost recoiling from what he saw. The skin on his brother's left arm was dissolving away, and the flesh beneath was falling off in pieces until there were large gaps of bone. The bloodied bones that were revealed began taking on a more menacing image. the tips of his fingers formed into claws and spikes started to grown on his arm.

"How is this happening?" The druid was nearly struck speechless.

Jaou suddenly grabbed a hold of Sundar's left. The druid winced from the force of the injured elf's grip. He looked to Jaou with confusion before he noticed his hand was glowing with strange shadowy energies.

Sundar's left arm felt like it was on fire. He went to grab it with his other hand and wrench it out of Jaou's grip, but his brother held it firmly. The pain grew worse, and instinctively he held his free hand over his forearm, stifling a cry. What he felt under his other hand sent chills up his spine.

He felt something under the skin of his left arm. It was solid, plated, segmented. His skin began tearing away underneath the pressure. Sundar shouted out in agony as his skin was torn asunder. The fissures had started to reveal a frightening sight; the flesh of his arm was replaced with a metal. Plating and spike were jutting out everywhere, his hand a cruel metal mockery, his fingers ending in steely claws.

The druid cried out in sheer pain. Everything went dark once more.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Sundar had dropped to one knee, having lost the strength to continue standing. He was clutching his head now with both hands. It felt like a wind torrent was ripping through his mind. Soon that pain spread to the rest of his body as if he were standing in a barrage of attacks. He let out a cry of pain as the vision finished running its course. Naphta and Falathir worriedly rushed over to their stricken companion.

"Sundar!" the shamaness cried out, rushing to the druid.  With one hand on his back and the other at his arm, she steadied him and then gently helped him to the ground.   "What is it?!"

The vision began to fade, and with it, the pain. Sundar's sight was still hazy, and he looked spent of energy. The druid took in heavy breaths as he allowed the shock to dissipate. He felt himself covered in sweat and his head was still pounding, but Sundar slowly recovered.

That presence... Brother?

"A vision..." the Kaldorei said, hoarsely, still rubbing his head. "I've been having the same one periodically for the past year almost." He fell back to take a seat on the ground, to which Naphta helped support, moving behind her friend. Quickly he brought up his left arm to view. It was still normal, but the vision seemed unnervingly real, and it felt it. "It started off bleak and murky, but now, each successive time, the vision is longer, more clear. I don't want to think about what it might mean, but I think I know what it could be."

Niashado quickly retrieved a water skin and handed it to the druid.   Her eyes betrayed the concern she had for Sundar.  Every 'vision' operated differently, but she'd never heard of one that could be so physically exhausting.  

"What is it?" she asked, still holding him upright.

Sundar gratefully took the water skin that the shamaness had offered, taking in several gulps. He looked wearily to Niashado. "The vision showed me Jaou, only with this recent one did it reveal to me who it was. Before he was shrouded in shadows. Now... Grievous wounds, everywhere on his body... And his arm..." Sundar could not continue. It was a scene he never wanted to have repeated again, even in passing memory. "He wanted it to end."

Niashado looked at him dumbfounded for a moment.  Then, her eyes widened in sudden fear.  Still supporting Sundar, she held his arms tightly and lowered her head against shoulder.

"No." she whispered.  She heard the truth in Sundar's voice.  This wasn't just wishful thinking, or denial of his brother's fate.  This was truth. She continued holding the druid and offered what support she could for the brother. "Do you have an idea where he is?" she whispered in shaking voice.

"No clue," Sundar admittedly with despair. "But I haven't felt his presence this strongly in the past months, or perhaps it was because it was him in the vision." Sundar righted himself slightly. He really hoped that it was not his wishes that made him sense Jaou, but he did not want what was shown in the vision to come to pass. "Let me see if I can discern if his presence can be found."

"I do not think now is the best time," she quickly replied.  She knew how disorientating a vision quest could be.  The wilds of Felwood was not the ideal place for this.

"Perhaps you are right," Sundar agreed, with a slight sigh and rubbing the bridge of his nose as his headache died down. "We'll continue resting here, and move out in an hour."

Hesitantly, Niashado released her hands from his arms and stood up.  She started to walk back toward her sleeping mat, but turned and regarded Sundar momentarily.   

Is this why Gurrag said I should come here?  Did he know that Jaou was returning?

"We can return to Wildheart Point and attempt to glean more from your visions if you wish.  I know some herbs and techniques from my elders that may grant you more clarity," she offered.

The idea of revisiting that terrible vision was not something Sundar fancied, but if it would tell him more of where Jaou may be or what happened to him, then he would do it.

"I think that might be best," he said, tiredly nodding. "I just need to rest for a moment."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Ran'Shali paced about the centre of Jadefire Glen. Several of her warlocks were busy at work finishing preparing an elaborate summoning rune and other ritual items. A number of elaborate fel iron pillars lit with an eerie blue flame bordered the circle, eight in total. The rune itself was perfectly drawn onto the ground, Eredun written in various spots, and cruel symbols spread around the circle.

The she-demon was awash with excitement. It was time that she received her bargain, one that she had waited several months for. Ever since she had learned of him, she wanted him.

The tothrezim were rather difficult to barter with. They were not as willing to give up their new toy. It puzzled her why they would want to keep the satyr as much as they had, but perhaps they too were puzzled by how much she desired him.

She had offered a high price for him. Ran'Shali offered the tothrezim three satyr-hounds in exchange for their captive. It had taken months to condition the beasts. She even went as far as to capturing some of the night elves prodding too close to home and one of her own men to create the hounds.

Now all of would culminate in earning her a fantastic new plaything.

"How are the preparations?" she asked one of her servants.

"On schedule, milady," the summoner replied. "The final checks are now complete. We may start at your word."

"Go ahead," she said with a wicked grin. "It would be impolite to keep our guests waiting."

The summoner nodded and started barking out orders to the other warlocks. The satyr felcasters scrambled into position. When all were ready, they began intoning an incantation, holding out their clawed hands towards the centre of the runic circle. The runes that they had drawn started to take on a violet glow, each symbol and Eredun script lighting up in sequence. Wisps of energy started to flow upward into the air, and soon coalesced together into a swirling mass floating over the centre of the circle.

A portal was forming. The swirling energy stabilized, and the shadow of the connected plane came into view.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Gazheel had just finished with his preparations for the journey to Jadefire Glen. He was dressed in dark plate armour, reminiscent of that of the armour that their nathrezim cousins wore, but with more jagged and rough designs. Attached to his belt were long, runed sabres, dripping with poison.

It would not be his first time in Azeroth. He had been there a number of times before, hidden, unseen. Some of that world's warlocks had dealings with the tothrezim, bargaining for infernals that they constructed. In exchange for the inferals, Gazheel and others of his kind charged highly for their services. Those that could pay would continue to enjoy their services, those that could not were swiftly dealt with.

The portal that was being prepared for him was starting to come into view in his lab as he finished gathering what belongings he saw fit. "Come my pets," he said to two large fel stalkers sleeping on the ground to the side. "We have some business to conduct.

The two demonic hounds got up, yawning and stretching out. They loped over to the almost complete portal and patiently awaited their master, who had turned around and approached the cage in the back.

The satyr within the cage breathed heavily. He was not well; traces of his ribs were showing on the side of his torso, and several cuts and bruises were still healing, and some injuries were infected. He heard Gazheel approaching the cage and opening the door. A chill went up his spine as he dread what cruel act would befall him this time.

"It's time for you to meet your master now." Gazheel said with a sharp, toothy grin.

The satyr barely turned his head, showing his eyes that glowed with a fel green light. There was dread in his weary eyes as he saw the demon's reach out for him. Gazheel wrapped one of his four hands around the lesser demon's neck, nearly choking him. The satyr gasped for air, growls of protest escaping his lips as he was being dragged out of his prison.

As the tothrezim approached the now-finished portal, his fel stalkers took to snapping at the satyr mockingly.

"Now, my pets, we can find you better fare where we're going. We need to keep this one intact."

The three of them stepped through the portal, with Gazheel still firmly holding on to the satyr. A swirl of colours and lights assaulted their vision, but they had grown accustomed to the kaleidoscope of portal travel. Their surroundings started to shift about them. The colours began to fade, revealing a sickly green background of ill vegetation, ruined and diseased trees and an ambient green haze.

Around them were various satyr structures and tents, and in their immediae vicinity, warlocks. Standing before them, however, was a female satyr, Ran'Shali, who had a cruel smile on her sultry features.

"Lady Ran'Shali," Gazheel bowed, his fel stalkers falling in disciplined formation, flanking his sides. "I give to you that which you have bought."

He roughly tossed the large male satyr to the ground before the she-demon's hooves. He immediately gasped for air, breaking into a coughing fit. The fur and hair of the satyr, though looking more disheveled, was of a dark violet colouration. His hair was long, with an ill-kept braid starting down low on the length of it, and a lone emerald earring was worn on one of the satyr's ears. He brought his arms under him, steadying himself off the ground. There, it was seen the biggest difference between him and the other satyrs.

His left arm looked to be covered in armour plating, beginning high on the biceps. with attachments securing the plating straight to his flesh. The plating was cruel and sleek, covered in runic engravings and spikes and continued along the rest of the arm's length. Between the segments, the gaps revealed a series of fibres and coils.

Ran'Shali walked over to the fallen satyr, a lustful gaze in her eyes.

"Jaou Stormchaser," Ran'Shali purred as she uttered his name aloud. "It's been a long time."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

It had been nearly an hour since Sundar's vision. The druid rested against Naphta, almost fully recovered. Niashado, likewise, was resting upon a mat near her sabre. Falathir quietly perched near Sundar, standing upon a broken chunk of the ruins.

It was mostly quiet, but then something stirred Falathir from her rest, and Sundar's. The two looked over to the south. A curious look came over his features, and his earring started to glow faintly. He could feel something, something that he has been searching for the past nine month. His eyes grew wise

Could it be?

Falathir then broke out in a loud squack. She flapped her wings frantically, screeching as she did. She took off in the sky, looking at Sundar with excitement in her eyes.

"Falathir, you can feel him too, can't you?" Sundar asked, a grin finding its way to his lips.

The owl let out a few more exuberant cries before taking off towards the south. Sundar looked back to Niashado.

"I think Jaou's home!" Sundar said, equally as exhilirated, seeming to have lost all evidence of the physically exhausting vision from before. He quickly climbed onto Naphta's back, who sensed his haste in following the avian. "Let us make haste and follow Falathir."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:17 pm

Niashado:

Green lightning sparked past the gaps in the forest canopy. The winds howled and the rustling of trees overwhelmed even cries as she raced past a thicket. Yet, even through the cacophony she could hear him. She knew his voice. Though it had been years, it was a voice that always left her reassured.

Only this time, she felt anything but reassured. The calls continued. It was a lone cry for help that could only 'just' be heard over the roaring wind and rustling leaves.

She pressed forward, using her hands to protect her eyes from the forest debris flying around the air. Her hooves suddenly slipped in the mud and the shamaness slipped from the trail and down a steep embankment. Her arms screamed in agony as they were lacerated by sharps stones and prickly bushes that she tumbled through. Her vision flashed when her forehead hit a hard root.

As ironic as it seemed, her mind's battle against unconsciousness was being augmented by every bludgeoning blow her body was assaulted to. The inclined ended with a sharp fall into a rain-swollen creek. A perfectly thin layer of sickly green moss that coated the surface of the water, was destroyed when her body crashed into it. The tainted water surged into her nose and mouth, instigating a coughing fit and initiating another surge of adrenalin that gave her the extra amount of alertness and energy to shoot to the surface.

The shamaness half swam and half crawled to the bank, coughing up more water in the process. The draenei's hooves sank deep in the muddy floor, as if like the weather, the creek conspired to keep her from him. With each step and her joints and muscles screamed in agony, but she pressed forward. Then, his voice boomed across the forest again. It was much closer.

It was on top of her.

Literally.

Slowly, Niashado pressed her hands to the ground and sat up. Clumps of slimy moss slid down her soaked bluish-gray tresses and thin dark streams of blue blood mixed with water stained her arms.

Yet, the cry of anguish that escaped her lips wasn't from her injuries, but rather from the sight above her. A wooden archway spanned a trail before her. It was similar in design to the kal'dorei archways, only this one was more spindly and darker. It was a deliberate perversion of the kind that the kal'dorei erected throughout their villages.

And hanging from it was satyr covered in violet tinted fur. His hooves dangled several meters from the ground. Occasionally, they would kick, but she'd seen enough of the recently deceased to distinguish a death rattle from a body that still held life. His eyes were open but she couldn't see any life in them. The noose squeezed his throat impossibly tight and his chest wasn't moving. He wasn't breathing.

"Jaou," she whispered, stumbling to her hooves. Her eyes never left the gently swaying body of her friend. It felt as if her heart falling.

Suddenly, his mouth moved and she heard him called something out, but the words were intelligible.

Keeping her tail close and her ears fixated on him, the draenei slowly took a few steps closer to the impossibly speaking body of her dead friend. It wasn't, shouldn't be, possible for him to still be alive. The damage to his throat would have destroyed his ability to speak.

There was a sudden rustling and the draenei gasped as the multitude of sinister glowing eyes looking back at her from the shadows. She could hear them hissing and smacking their lips. Their scent started to fill the air.

She looked back at Jaou, hoping to find some answers. Suddenly, his eyes flashed green and his head snapped toward her. Jaou's mouth opened and a painfully sharp screech issued forth.

* * *

Niashado cried out and then ducked as a screeching blur of white and blue flew juts over her head and into the darkened forest. Her head snapped toward Sundar, who was busy readying his saber.

"I think Jaou's home!" Sundar announced in an exhilarated voice, without preamble or explanation. He quickly climbed onto Naphta's back. "Let us make haste and follow Falathir."

Before Niashado could protest, the druid had already taken off. She felt her saber brushing against her leg, as if eager to follow them.

But the dream she had just had tempered her enthusiasm. Something was wrong and if Jaou was truly nearby, then they needed to approach in caution. But Sundar and Falathir were already beyond her calls. Slinging her backpack on, the shamaness grabbed her stave and quickly got on her saber's back. Without waiting for a word from her, the saber leapt into the forest.

Faster then she could have imagined, they sped through the forest. Trees were a blur and it took courage to not encourage her mount to slow down. Already, Sundar was beyond her sight.

Unlike horses and talbuks, doing a fast run, the saber actually seemed to enjoy leaping over obstacles. Her breathing was louder then his footsteps.

The draenei pressed lower against his back and sensing this, the saber began taking routes that she would have thought were too risky.

Finally, growing increasingly nauseated by the constant up-down motion and the hastefully executed course changes, Niashado closed her eyes. The saber was more interested in following Sundar rather then her and that suited her fine. She wouldn't know where to go anyway.

* * *

Almost a half hour later, her saber finally slowed to a brisk walk. Niashado started to fear that he had lost Naphta's scent or their trail, but a minute later they came upon Sundar's saber waiting near a small copse.

The forest seemed deathly silent. Not even the insects made a sound.

Sliding off the saber, which proved far less cumbersome then it would have been with a talbuk, the shamaness unclasped her stave from the side of the saddle and carefully studied the area. Though, she didn't see where Sundar walked off to, she did pick up on some crumbled grass and the occasional bent stick.

With a rueful smirk, she carefully followed the game trail, while quietly giving thanks for her past experiences. Hunting was not her forte, but she'd picked up a few things from the hunters she'd had dealing with. She didn't know nearly enough to be considered 'good,' but just enough to be observant.

She found the druid lying low to the ground and peaking just over some rocks on the peak of the hill. Matching his posture, Niashado crawled toward him. She was careful to avoid anything that might make a noise.

As soon as she reached the top, she stole a quick peak from over the rock. Her eyes widened and the color drained from her face and she quickly dropped back down.

It was a satyr coven. But that in itself wasn't what shocked her. It was the large archway; the very one from here dream! It was down there sans a hanging Jaou.

Jaou!

"Do you believe he is here?" she whispered.

Sundar looked back to her, still appearing incredulous. "I can feel his presence in there. If he's in there though...

"This doesn't bode well for him."

"I-I do not doubt you. I think he is in there as well," Niashado confirmed. However, she shook her head and looked back at him. "But, I do not think just the two of us can mount a rescue, Sundar. We need to summon help."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:17 pm

Sundar:

Bright lights continued to flash in his vision and his hearing was muffled. His mind was in a tumult as he recovered from the choking. As it had been for the past several months, Jaou's body continued to wrack with a dull pain and nausea. With some difficulty, he pushed himself off the ground with his right arm and a groan. The satyr tried to gather his wits about him to discern where he was, but he had difficulty in doing so. Still, the scents that assaulted him were dreadfully familiar and his vision began to stabilize.

As he lifted up his head, he felt something grab a hold of one of his horns and jerked his head up painfully. He winced as a sharp pain came to his neck, letting out a grunt. As his sight came into focus, he found himself face to face with a demmoness with deep red skin and ebon hair.

He knew he had seen her before, but he could not place where right away.

Ran'Shali quickly scrutinized her new prized possession, kneeling down to inspect him. The ranger was not as unspoiled as when she had first seen him in Ashenvale. Indeed, it seemed that his time with the tothrezim was a harsh one. Grievous scars ran across his body, and notably on his previously unmarked face, though it was partially obscured by his disheveled hair. While some were recognizable as scars from battles, most looked deliberate. She also noted the colouration of his eyes, having changed to a fel green from a silvery white they were before.

"It seems you've had your fun with him," the she-demon noted to Gazheel.

Jaou's ear twitched slightly as he recognized the voice.

"A bit of reprimanding for destroying some of our property," Gazheel responded rather joyfully, petting his fel stalkers. "Had you not purchased him, he would not be quite as... whole as he is."

Ran'Shali seemed rather intrigued at the tothrezim's reply. She was curious as to what had occurred in the past months, but she continued to look over Jaou. She held onto his horn with even greater force, straining his neck. She placed a hand on the side of his torso, running it over his ribs. He flinched as she did so, but she only held him more roughly. Jaou instinctively knew that any sudden movement could result in a broken neck.

His eyes, now back to full focus, were fixated on Ran'Shali's face and followed her every movement. That baleful visage, he knew it, but from where?

"He's certainly more gaunt than what I remembered him to be," the female satyr commented on his exposed ribs and overall leaner appearance.

"We had found him starving himself. We kept him alive through fel infusions. Though he hasn't reacted to them as well as predicted in the beginning, he appears to be adapting to them as of late."

Ran'Shali gave the demon a cursory nod. Her attention turned to the most notable feature the male satyr had: his left arm. She grabbed ahold of the metallic limb, bringing it closer to her view and Jaou's. His throat tightened at the sight of his detestable arm. With each movement, his arm made a series of metallic clinking noises reminiscent of plated armour coupled with the sounds of springs tightening and relaxing. The fact that he could not feel it still sent chills up his spine.

"Adamantine bone frame with a felsteel-adamantine forged plating," Gazheel said, explaining the properties of the arm to Ran'Shali, folding the lower pair of arms behind him while crossing the top pair over his chest. "Quite a good resemblance to an organic arm and hand, no? We did have a mo'arg suggest another design for it, though we felt this was a better fit for the satyr. They were correct, however, that the hand would be the most difficult part to engineer. Still, we managed and it functions just as his hand did. There's also room for improvements and aaded weaponry if you so wish."

"I think this is fine for now, but I'll keep that into consideration," Ran'Shali smirked as she studied Jaou's new metallic claws. "I take it there's nothing salvaged of his original arm? Will he be able to operate this thing? What of the damage to the rest of his body?"

"Oh no, there was nothing that could have been done about it. We have it properly connected and tested. He should be able to use this attachment just as naturally as if it were his own, but perhaps more conditioning could be implemented. The other wounds have been dealt with as requested. He is due for another infusion."

"I have that taken care of," the demoness cackled. "Now to get him settled in." She threw Jaou down with enough force to cause him to see stars and then turned to one of her assistants. "Bring me the needles."

The warlock obediently handed her a rolled leather case. Ran'Shali unfurled the casing revealing a series of carefully prepared needles and vials filled with unknown liquids. She took out the first to fourth needles, admiring them for a moment.

"Last we have met, you were not pure of blood," she said to Jaou almost distantly. The ranger listed up his head, still suffering from the blow dealt to him. There was a feeling of dread in him, but in his eyes, there was a a smoldering light as he looked at Ran'Shali. "I suspect you still aren't, but it will make this all the more fun."

Without any warning she injected the contents of each needle in rapid succession into Jaou, piercing them into his back. Jaou let out a snarl echoed with a cry as she carelessly and roughly stabbed the needles into him. To his dismay, it would not be the end of his pain. A seething and debilitating sensation started to spread from his back and progressed through his body. He started to shake, with his muscles seizing up. He started retching, it felt like his insides were turning inside out.

"A bit of satyr blood laced with two does of fel blood. That should last you a while, my dear." Ran'Shali's eyes soon darkened with ill intent. "Before we go any further, I think it would be wise to mark you as one of ours."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Sundar, riding atop of Naphta, raced through the damned forest following Falathir as she soared above them. Jaou was home, and he had to see what had become of his brother. For some time, the dread of the disturbing image he had earlier had fled his mind. Yet as they progressed further on their path, the inhibitions started to return.

The had gone past the Ruins of Constellas, continuing southbound, but their direction changed slightly and they were heading towards the mountain side south. They were going in the direction of Jadefire Glen.

Strands of worry were finding their way into the druid's mind as well as the image of a terribly injured or dead brother. His mind was soon plagued by thoughts of what terrible end would come from the search. Regardless, he needed to know. He needed to see what became of Jaou.

"Make haste, Naphta," Sundar whispered to his wintersaber. "If we're continuing this way, we need time on our side."

Time soon became an irrelevant feeling. Sundar was wholly focused on reaching Jaou. Before he knew it, they were on the outskirts of the satyr settlement. It was the same as it was when he was there a couple days prior. The only difference was that he was almost certain that within the cursed camp was his brother. A look of disbelief was painted on his visage.

He's in there, but... why?

Sundar looked from side to side making sure there were no guards. He then quickly led Naphta to the side where there was a hill littered with large rocks. Dismounting, he fell to the ground and had Naphta do the same. They could not afford to be found.

He brought his head over the rocks, looking below the hill. The typical defiled Kaldorei archway that marked one of the entrances into the glade were flanked by satyr sentries still. He fell back down and started to formulate a path to get into the camp when he was joined by Niashado.

He noticed that the draenei also looked past the hill just as he had, but something had startled the shamaness and she quickly recoiled. He almost asked what was wrong, but she was first to speak.

"Do you believe he is here?" she asked Sundar in a whisper.

"I can feel his presence in there. If he's in there though... This doesn't bode well for him." Sundar replied grimly. He still could not understand what Jaou was doing within the Jadefire encampment,

"I-I do not doubt you. I think he is in there as well," Niashado agreed. However, she shook her head and looked back at him. "But, I do not think just the two of us can mount a rescue, Sundar. We need to summon help."

"Help would have to come soon," Sundar commented quietly. "We'll need to see if he's actually there and alive."

Sundar started looking to his sides. He knew there was a path that would take them into the camp along its perimeters where a fallen tree was and allow them a vantage point to peer into its centre. Falathir soon landed by the pair, chirping quietly to Sundar with concern.

"You're worried too, we'll see what happened to him," Sundar said to the owl. He looked again to the west and spotted the hidden path. He looked back to Niashado while pointing to his right. "There, I know that area isn't patrolled. Let's see what we can gather from this. I know the Emerald Circle can't spare the forces on our hunches, so let's see if we're right."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

"Bring out the iron form the forge!" Ran'Shali called out to her followers, standing up.

A crowd had since gathered around the group, watching as Jaou was suffering humiliation upon the ground. The satyr felt the pain dull back to tolerable levels. Even with the pain fading, his muscles were still too stiff for him to have full control of his body, and he was still sick to his stomach.

The she-demon relished the sight of the ranger enduring the pain, letting out a laugh. "Oh how you have fallen, and so magnificently!" she declared. "I'm sure you never thought we would get our claws on you, but here you are, once again at our mercy."

Jaou managed to lift his head up enough to look at Ran'Shali. She knelt down once more, cupping his face with a hand.

"Mercy is something you'll find to be quite lacking here though," she hissed at him. "Xarathor would want you to suffer for his fate."

Just as quickly with the same hand, she raked her claws across his face, drawing blood and adding to the scars that already decorated his skin. The satyr ranger growled at the sudden pain.

Ran'Shali stood up again and looked back to see her attendants coming out with what she had asked for. One of the satyrs approached her with a pronged fel iron rod, covered in sickly green flames. As her assistant got closer, the flames on the rod died down to reveal that it was a branding iron. The iron continued to smolder bright green as the satyr assistant stood by, ready for Ran'Shali's orders.

"You're very well organized," Gazheel remarked.

"I have been waiting a long time for this," the female satyr answered back, with a calm tone. "His life from here onward will be one that he will rue." She waved her other subordinates over. "Pin him down."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Sundar tread lightly and low to the ground. While he knew that the path they were traversing upon was not lined with any guards, they would still need to be as silent as possible to avoid detection.

He made sure that Niashado remained close to his side, not wanting to risk leaving her alone. Even their riding sabres were following in tow, though they stayed farther back. Falathir on the other hand had found a perch on Sundar's shoulder. The avian was astir with nervous energy, her head swiveling from one side to another and bobbing up and down. The druid could tell Falathir was anxious, but he had to admit, so was he. More than anxious, he was worried.

He feared what he might discover. He feared that his search would end in utter failure or disappointment. He feared that he would find Jaou to be dead, but he could not turn back. To run away would be worse, it would mean betraying his closest kin.

You better be alright, Jaou, he thought to himself.

Quickly, they had arrived at their vantage point. A large rotting log that spanned over the northern part of the camp. It was high enough that they would not be noticed, and it gave them a mostly unobscured view over the glen. As they approached the middle point of the log, they stopped. Sundar turned to Niashado for a moment.

"Only a glimpse is all we need," Sundar said, next turning to Falathir. "No matter what you see, remain clam. We can't afford any chance that they will spot us."

Sundar laid low, crawling forward to see what he could spot in the camp. It did not take long for him to notice a large crowd of satyr had gathered in the glade's centre. They were loosely gathered around something. There, in the middle of the gang, he spotted what looked to be a portal and a runic circle. His brow immediately furrowed, but the next thing he saw gave him a greater feeling of dismay.

It was a large demon, one he had never seen before. It reminded him of dreadlords, but there was one striking difference. The demon had four large arms. Its wings also appeared to have a stitched appearance in its membrane. It add to the alarm, the new demon came flanked with two imposing fel stalkers.

"What in the world is that?" Sundar asked out loud.

His attention then moved to a female satyr that stood close to the large demon. A rare sight it was to see a female satyr. It was then he noticed what was on the ground before them. A satyr of a larger size struggling to get up. He recognized the fur, the colouration, his hair and horns. Sundar would know him anywhere.

"I-It really is him," Sundar said, almost in shock. "Jaou, he's down there...!"

Before he could glean anymore details, a number of burly satyrs started pinning his brother to the ground. He saw the female gesturing to Jaou and then back to another satyr that held a glowing rod, sparking with green flames. There was a rune wrought upon the end. Jaou struggled mightily against the weight of the satyrs, but they would not budge.

"No, we have to help him!" Sundar declared.

There was no time for Sundar to act. The satyr approached his captive brother, kneeling down beside him. He then pressed the burning brand into Jaou's right thigh. Even with the loud jeers and raucous cheers and laughter from the vile demons, he could hear his agonized cries.

At first, Sundar appeared horrified at the sight. He was struck speechless, but soon, that horror and disbelief turned into anger and rage. Sundar gritted his teeth, baring his fangs, which started to become longer. Claws started forming on his hand, along with sprouting dark fur.

A guttural growl escaped from his throat. They would pay for this trespass.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:19 pm

Niashado:

"There, I know that area isn't patrolled. Let's see what we can gather from this. I know the Emerald Circle can't spare the forces on our hunches, so let's see if we're right."

The shamaness nodded silently, but she could still see the eagerness and worry in Sundar’s eyes. If Jaou was down there, and she was beginning to truly suspect that he was in fact there, would the Stormchaser druid be able to maintain forethought.

Niashado chose to keep those thoughts unspoken as she followed him through a perilously winding path. Unlike the elf and their sabres trailing behind them, it was much more difficult for her to find silent footing. Draenei were good climbers and excellent runners, but being silent about either wasn’t what they were suited for. Still, it seemed that the adventures of the past had imparted more wisdom then she had expected and their slow hike continued in silence.

They finally arrived at an overturned log that stretched over the northern end of the camp. It offered them a more than adequate vantage point of the satyr camp then any rational mortal would ever want. Sundar turned to her.

"Only a glimpse is all we need," he said, before turning to the owl perched on his shoulder. "No matter what you see, remain calm. We can't afford any chance that they will spot us."

It seemed to her that those words were more Sundar himself then Falathir. Still, he was right. If the satyrs found them…

Niashado shook her head and pushed the thought from her mind. Mimicking Sundar, she crawled forward until she could look down on the coven. Her eyes were immediately drawn toward a large group of satyrs surrounding a large inscribed circle of power near the center of the camp.

It only took a moment for her eyes to lock on something different. There was another type of demon amidst the satyrs. He looked like a dreadlord, a nathrezim in fact, but with two pairs of arms. His wings were heavily modified with some sort of stitching and his back was hunched over severely. He was flanked by two felstalkers, denoting his importance.

Niashado immediately thought back to school when she centuries younger and living back on Draenor. The teacher was introducing his students to the various demons that serve the Burning Legion using arcane holograms. When she was younger, it was frightful seeing these demons being presented nearly life-sized, but seeing such a rare demon as this in the real world was even more ominous.

"What in the world is that?" Sundar asked out loud. She was about to answer when there was suddenly more movement below the camp.

A female satyr came to view and the shamaness felt her face grow pale as she recognized her. Instinctually, Niashado’s hand moved toward one of her tendrils. Like the other three, this one was the same length, but it wasn’t always like that. A few years ago, when she first met the Stormchasers, she had been held captive by the female below. In an effort to use her as bait to capture Jaou, the satyr had cut one of her tendrils off. The pain had been excruciating and until recently, had never fully healed.

Thanks to an encounter with a Titan artifact in Northrend a few months ago, it was restored, but she would never forget the agony of the injury, nor the perverse pleasure that the female satyr had exhibited while torturing her.

Her eyes then locked on another figure struggling below. His violet fur contrasted with the near uniform coloration of the other satyrs. He was being restrained, but was struggling against them.

“Jaou,” she whispered almost automatically. She heard Sundar confirming her suspicions.

He was back! Her visions were right, but that only offered her little comfort. The vision did more than announce of his return. There was a warning in there.

One of the satyrs was approaching with a glowing rod in her hand. A branding iron with some sort of runic symbol flickering with green felfire.

No no no… please do not. Her fingernails sank into the rotten log as she watched the them bring the rod closer to Jaou.

"No, we have to help him!" Sundar declared, but it was too late. Her eyes clamped shut, not wanting to see them harm him, but her ears heard his agonizing cries amidst the demonic cheers.

When her eyes opened, he was on the ground in agony. Wisps of dark gray smoke rose from the fresh branding in his thigh. The fur was burning away from the scorched flesh.

The Elements drew closer as they felt her righteous indignation at their wrongness, but it was Sundar’s transformation that brought her back to sensibility.

Ignoring the long fangs protruding from the transforming druid’s maw and the claws that could probably rake her to ribbons, Niashado moved toward him and pressed down on his shoulders.

“We are outnumbered, Sundar,” Niashado hissed in his ears. The words hurt even as she spoke them. She wanted just as badly to rescue him, but it would be folly. “That demon down there is a Tothrezim. He is more then what he appears. And the female satyr worked with Xarathor. Sundar, listen to reason. Please.”

Using all her might, she pushed the half transformed druid back.

“Do not complete Jaou’s torture by forcing him to witness his only brother being killed,” she hissed in his ear. She could feel his powerful muscles fighting against her and she prayed her words would sink in.

She started calling to the earth in the hopes of getting more strength to hold him down, but the elemental response she received was like nothing she’d felt before. Wincing, she suddenly grabbed her head and fell away from Sundar. The earth was screaming in her mind almost the way Jaou’s screams had been.

Automatically jumping to her shamanistic training, she tried to reason with the element and to find out what was causing this. But the elements were out of control. Niashado felt like a lone person trying to stop a massive avalanche. It was beyond futile, but nor could she hope to ignore them. Mental dams erected to protect her mind from the fury of the Elmental’s aimless panic, fear and pain crumbled like parchments holding back falling rocks.

Seldom had she been able to hear their voices without the aid of herbs and meditation. Now, it was as if thousand Earth Elementals were trampling over her body.

“Oh no,” she whispered, falling back on the ground. Her bluish gray hair splayed out around her head and her white eyes wide with in shock. Her rigid fingers dug deep into the soil.

What is happening?! Niashado mentally screamed into the cacophony of earsplitting Elements. Tell me so I may try to help!

But as before their only response was to continue flooding her mind with panic and fear.

And it was growing.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:20 pm

Sundar:

Sundar started to give into the rage; a feral beast was rising up to the surface. His elven features continued to take on a more feline appearance. His nose and mouth forming a muzzle, and his hands becoming paws that now ended in razor sharp claws.

Nearly all sense had left him, leaving the slaughter of the satyrs below the only thing on his mind. The druid suddenly felt something push down upon his shoulders. Instinctively, Sundar fought against the force that was trying to keep him down. A whisper then spoke into his ear.

“We are outnumbered, Sundar.” It was Niashado. “That demon down there is a Tothrezim. He is more then what he appears. And the female satyr worked with Xarathor. Sundar, listen to reason. Please.”

Sundar paid the shamaness little heed. His fur continued to sprout, taking over his purple skin. Against his defiance, Niashado set her weight against his, keeping him down despite the low growls that he issued in warning.

“Do not complete Jaou’s torture by forcing him to witness his only brother being killed," she urged the druid.

His eyes opened wide, it was those words that brought clarity back to Sundar's mind. Niashado was right. With such numbers against them, it would have meant certain death for him to have gone below. His death would have done Jaou little good. With a disheartened expression and a heavy heart, he looked away and lowered his head, allowing his feral transformation fade.

I'm sorry, brother. There's not much we can do right now.

Sundar's form returned to his normal kaldorei shape. It was impetuous and undisciplined of him to have fallen prey to feral rage. Still, the pain of him being unable to change the situation was more prominent than the shame of letting such emotions come over him.

He was about to apologize to Niashado for his brash actions, but the draenei had suddenly tumbled away from him, clutching her head in pain.

"Nia!" he called out, though minding the volume of his voice. He held her as steadily as he could, even as she fell back to the ground.

"Oh no," she whispered, sounding shocked. She was tense.

"What is it?" Sundar asked her.

The druid then felt a bracing force; the whispers of the land and trees came to him all at once. Their uncertainty and increasing panic flooded into his mind. The feeling was incredibly familiar and uncanny. He had felt it before, and only recently.

He could hear the rumbling from a distance.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

He had struggled greatly. In his throes, Jaou had managed to nearly toss off some of the guards, leaving them with bruies to nurse. In the end, they kept him down long enough for the demonic brand to be applied. His struggle ended as he writhed in agony. The guards released him and stepped back.

Ran'Shali was still filled with unrestrained glee. The ranger's cries sent shivers up her spine, and she reveled in it and his pain. She knelt down before Jaou, taking a hand to him and pulling his chin up. He was still wincing from the burn.

"Now everyone will know that you're ours," the demoness cooed to him. She let him fall from her hand. "In case you escape and our neighbours find you."

Jaou fell back and rolled on to his left side. He took in heavy breaths, trying to let the pain subside. It was fading gradually.

No... more...

As he fought back the pain, his eyes tried to search for a way to run from the torture. Everywhere he looked, there was another satyr standing before him. His heart thrummed at a quicker pace.

Don't want... Anymore...

Gazheel smirked his former prisoner. "What shall you do with him now, out of curiousity?" he asked Ran'Shali. "I have to admit that this is rather good entertainment."

"Oh this is only the beginning," Ran'Shali said, cackling.

No...

Jaou's eyes opened wider. His heart beat sped up even more. Ran'Shali paced a little away from Jaou. He lifted his head enough to follow her movements. She was looking in the direction of an ominously hollow tree.

"I must savour this, however. Pace my fun with him. I want this to last as long as possible," the she-demon stated. "I think I'll put him away for now, I have a nice cage set up just for him..."

No... I can't...

"Take him away, boys!" Ran'Shali ordered her followers.

No!

He had begun to push himself up from the ground, attempting to escape what was to come, but all in vain. Two larger satyrs from the crowd approached him, with wicked gins spread upon their features. Panic was flooding into Jaou's mind. His heart was now aflutter.

The two demons reached down to get a hold of him. Grabbing him by the arms and horns. Jaou started to thrash about, but in his weakened state, he was not able to fend them off. They tried to push him down, to subdue him, but the ranger fought back with growls and snarls. He could take no more, no other time was there a chance to escape the torment.

"This one's got some fight in him yet!" one of the guards commented with a grunt.

"Keep 'em down. He may be scrawny but he can still put out an eye." the other answered. "Better get him to the cage as fast as we can."

No! No more!!

A mighty roar issued from Jaou in defiance, catching all around him off guard. But as suddenly as he roared, something else happened.

There was a rumble, that without warning revealed itself to just be the beginning. The ground was in upheaval. All around them the land shook. Another quake came, but greater than any other they had experienced.

The inhabitants of the camp were all in disarray. Many fell to the ground, and other were rendered immobile, trying to keep their balance. The guards that held Jaou were likewise in the same situation. One fell away from the ranger, and the other toppled over him, both falling to the ground. Despite that, Jaou impulsively saw an opportunity.

Jaou thrust his left elbow back into the fallen gaurd's midsection, the spikes of his false arm impaled the satyr. The demon let out a howl, and Jaou pushed him off and scrambled away from the other Jadefire, the metal plating of his arm now running with red rivulets of blood. The land was still in tumult, and Jaou fell to all fours to maintain his balance.

All the while, Ran'Shali was pinned to the ground and Gazheel was busy flapping his wings to provide only momentary escape from the earthquake. Everyone was kept busy trying to withstand the quake, but the satyress, she saw what had happened. A fire in her eyes lit as she saw her prize escaping.

"You fools! Don't let him escape!" she screeched at the other demons.

Jaou heard her screams, looking back with eyes opened wide with desperation. It was now or never. He looked back to one of the entrances to the camp, and with no hesitation leapt into the air, over and onto the other satyr. He was bounding away, using the satyrs of the camp as springboards, and crushing them with his momentum. He paid them no heed though. He was focused on keeping as little time on the ground as possible, lest he would be stuck and unable to escape. Everything became of little consequence to him, even the pain that wracked his body. Unfortunately, as quickly as the quake came, it had ended.

"Get him!" Ran'Shali ordered with ferocity.

The other satyrs, unwilling to face her wrath quickly took to the chase.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Sundar fell flat onto the rotting log as it threatened to give way to the heaving earth. He looked around to his companions. Falathir was perched on his back, her talons digging deeply into his coat. Naphta and Niashado's riding cat were bracing themselves well, stifling the growls that they would instinctively let out. The shamaness too was finding a steady hold on their footing.

What in the world is going on?!

The druid knew that Felwood never had suffered from quakes, but the recent days have shown otherwise. The quakes seemed to be getting worse. His thoughts changed focus then. As he made the mental observation, he heard a cry coming from below the camp. And then an angry yell. At the same time, Falathir let out a screech and had taken to the air, circling frantically over the camp.

Jaou!

He looked to the spot where Jaou was, eyes darting everywhere. To his surprise, he saw that his brother was not there, but was some distance away. The quake had left them as well.

"Jaou's escaping!" Sundar exclaimed. The situation though soon became more dire. In his wake, Jaou was being chased by several satyr. He was unsure of how injured Jaou was, but Sundar would not allow them another chance to catch his brother.

"This isn't good. We need to harry his pursuers."

Falathir sped on as a white blur after Jaou and the other satyrs. Sundar got up with all haste and climbed onto Naphta. It was time to make chase.

"Nia, we need to go!"
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:21 pm

Niashado:

By the time Niashado was on her saber, Sundar was already gone in pursuit of his brother. Unsure of how to request her saber to follow, the draenei jabbed her hooves against its ribs. The giant cat made a somewhat confused sound and looked back at her.

“Follow Sundar!” she cried out, gesturing emphatically toward the direction where the druid had gone. She wasn’t sure if the saber understood what she was saying, or more likely, it just figured that she’d want to follow him. Regardless, without much warning, the cat bolted after Sundar, with the shamaness holding tight to the reigns.

The forest dissolved into a long viridian blur, occasionally punctuated by a branch rushing out toward her. Instinctually, Niashado leaned against the saber’s back and fought against the nausea from the rapid movement. Unlike a talbuk, the saber seemed to almost wrap around corners and bends. The flexibility of his back was most unusual and a bit unsettling.

Niashado had to admit, however, that a talbuk would never be able to attain this speed this deep into the wilds of Felwood. After a few moments of rapid course corrections and ducking under low branches she began to see fleeting images of Sundar upon Naphta. It would only be for a split second and then the saber and her rider would disappear under more foliage. Yet, her saber continued on. She felt confident that he knew how to track them.

As they continued racing, she allowed herself to feel the first glimmer of hope for Jaou. Beyond her belief he survived wherever the errant portal had taken him. Yet, joy was quickly tempered by what would soon be their reality. Light only knew what tortures they had inflicted upon him.

And through her own personal experience, Niashado would be hard pressed to forget the pain that the female satyr, Ran'Shali, had inflicted upon her years ago. Ran’Shali hated Jaou. She had heard the demoness repeat his name several times during her brief incarceration. Now she was working with a Tothrezim, which only made things all the more dangerous and ambiguous.

As these thoughts swirled in her mind, her saber continued adjusting his course and kept on the pursuit. After a few minutes, however, he suddenly slowed down and started lowering himself to the ground. Was he tired already?

Naphta and Sundar were nowhere to be seen. Near as she could tell, there was no reason for feline to break off the chase. Words of admonishment began to form her in mouth just as she heard the sharp sound of foliage snapping. The saber pressed low to the ground and sensing that he knew something she didn’t, Niashado followed his lead and lowered herself upon his back.

Moments later, half dozen satyrs burst past the clearing. None of them saw her. They just kept racing in the direction Sundar had gone. They were after Jaou.

The shamaness felt her lips peel back in anger and she motioned for the saber to rise and pursue after them. Six against one weren’t the best odds and she wasn’t much of a fighter, but perhaps with the element of surprise, they could be delayed.

It was at least worth a shot. Or so she hoped.

It took longer to approach them then she expected. It was frightening to see just how fast a satyr can travel this deep in the woods. They were effortlessly jumping over logs, ducking under tree branches and even avoiding the haphazard rocks that dotted the landscape. With one hand, she tightly held the pommel of saber’s saddle. The other hand held her stave, which she kept raised as to keep the feline from tripping on it accidently.

Keeping steady on the saber, the draenei closed her eyes and began calling out to the earth under her breath. The shamaness wasn’t sure what her options were. Maybe the ground can soften and slow the satyrs or perhaps even a sinkhole can form. Unfortunately, neither was going to happen. The earth was still reeling in fear and uncertainty from the recent quake. They couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hear her calls.

Hissing in frustration, the shamaness spurred her saber on. The satyrs were still fixated on capturing Jaou. At least that was still in her favor.

The ground ahead dipped into a broad shallow stream. It wasn’t deep enough to slow them down, but it did provide Niashado with an idea. With a sharp elemental call to the stream, the water over the stream suddenly snapped into a thick unmoving sheet of ice.

Roaring in surprise, the satyrs slid on the ice and began tumbling. Niashado winced as she heard the unmistakable sound of a few of their horns cracking against the smooth rocks that jutted above the frozen stream.

In haste, she slid off her mount and approached the bank. Two of the satyrs were already rising to their hooves, despite the sliding. They turned, barred their fangs and hissed at her.

Pushing away hesitation, she brought her hands together and began another elemental call. Arcs of blue lighting began sparking between her fingertips and her hair blew back from the power forming. The satyrs were slipping and sliding toward her. The lust to bring pain was unmistakable in their eyes.

The charge continued to grow.

I will not allow you to harm him any further.

The demons were almost an arm’s breadth away when she ended the elemental call and outstretched her left arm. The lightning jumped from her hand and onto the chest of the nearest satyr. She watched as his chest exploded outward and the lightning forked from him to another pair and then from those, to the final two.

The air filled with the strong scent of ozone and burnt fur. Niashado covered her nose with her sleeve and waited for the smoke to clear. The final echoes of thunder were just dying out in the distance yet her ears were still ringing. The draenei blinked her eyes a few times in a vain attempt to clear the afterimage of the lightning chain.

Once things cleared, she could count five satyrs lying over the mostly melted stream. Their chests were horribly burned, but because of the heat, there was little blood. The plan, if she could call it that, worked. Unfortunately, her saber had fled. He was probably frightened by the thunder.

“Five?” Niashado whispered, glancing back at the smoking carcasses and gripping her stave tighter. She thought she had seen six, but it was hard to remember. Everything was moving so fast, it was difficult to…

Something brutally slammed against her and she was thrown into the stream. Her back landed painfully on several of the jutting round stones, but adrenalin damped the pain. Niashado tried to quickly get to her hooves, but it was difficult getting traction in the ice. Before she could stand, she was thrown back as the remaining satyr slammed his hoof against her chest.

The shamaness coughed and tried another elemental call, but she couldn’t breathe. He reached out behind her head with his claws and grabbed a fistful of her bluish gray hair. She cried out as he hauled her up by her hair. Desperately, she tried to loosen his grip on her hair, but his fingers didn’t budge. Instinctually, she slashed out across his face with her sharp nails. The satyr gasped and then to her added horror, grinned.

With his freehand, he pressed his sharp claws through the leather jerkin and into her abdomen. She screamed. One hand still fighting against the grip he had on her hair, she used her other hand to fight against the claw he was still sinking into her. He twisted his hand ever so slightly and the draenei saw stars explode in her vision as the wound in her abdomen flared with renewed pain. There was no air in her lungs to scream again.

The satyrs dark eyes were staring intently at hers and through her agony-fogged mind and Niashado realized that he was watching for the life to slip from her. Still gasping, she continued fighting to extricate his arm, but it only continued slowly sinking deeper. He was going to draw out her death. Her mind was too clouded with terror to think of something to try next. There was just pain.

She closed her eyes, not wanting the last thing she’d see in this life to be the cackling face of the satyr who was killing her.

Then, Niashado felt frigid water splashing over her face. Her eyes snapped open in the shock of the cold water and she sputtered when she accidently breathed in water. Bolting upright, she exploded into a another scream as her abdomen flared in pain. Through the haze in her mind, she realized the satyr was no longer holding her. His claw was no longer sinking into her body.

Coughing up more water, she looked down and cried out as the water around her began turning dark blue. Thick blood welled up from the deep laceration. Clenching her jaws tightly, she pressed a hand against the wound to staunch the blood flow.

Liver wound, Niashado realized as her medic training surfaced through the fog of pain and terror. She didn’t know where the satyr was, but neither did she care. Stop blood loss and call a healer immediately. I need a healer.

With successive grunt, she slid backward along the shallow creek until she could rest her back against a large rock. Something that sounded like tearing coupled with low growling caught her attention. The shamaness turned to her left and saw her saber twisting against something in his jaws. Once her eyes slowly focused she realized it was the satyr that had attacked her. His neck was between the saber’s jaws. The demon’s eyes stared back at her, but there was no life in them.

“Thank you,” she whispered at the saber, smiling slightly despite the brutal carnage the saber had caused to the satyr and her own pain. She fell into another brief coughing fit and tasted blood in her mouth. Looking back down at the wound, she grimaced at the sight of her fingers coated in more slick blood.

Bandages. I need bandages. Wrap them several layers deep and… and… press them to the wound. Avoid moving the injured if at all possible. Find a healer. More of the medic training slowly came to her mind.

At least Sundar will get Jaou to safety. Her finger slipped along a thin braided string hanging from the lower pocket of her leather vest. Trying to keep as still as possible, she brought her hand to the pocket and pulled on the string. Tied to it were four small crystalline totems. Each glowed dimly with the color normally associated with their respective element.

“Nia, you idiot,” she grunted, as she pressed her fingers around the blue totem. How could she forget that the Elements can heal her? Maybe it was shock induced from the wound, or perhaps blood loss. It didn’t matter now.

Closing her eyes, she began another shamanistic call. Her blood soaked hand began glowing with viridian magic and she felt the tingling sensation of the wound being coaxed into regenerating quickly.

The shamaness wasn’t sure how long she kept the healing going, but when she opened her eyes again, the wound was closed. The leather vest was badly damaged and stained with her indigo colored blood along the midriff, but otherwise, the wound was healed. There was a tender soreness along the area, which caused her to move a gingerly pace.

The swirling vision and rapid heartbeat reminded her that she was still suffering from blood loss, but she was able to move, which meant she could still help Sundar.

Giving thanks to the elements, the shamaness slowly knelt down and retrieved her stave. Her backpack was thankfully still attached to the saber’s saddle.

His feline eyes followed her as she moved toward his back. He sniffed the ruined jerkin around her midriff and then looked up at. Without a word, he lowered himself on the ground so that could get on his back easier.

“And thank you for coming to my rescue,” Niashado whispered in his ear. Once she was on his back he rose and began a brisk, but gentle trot in the direction Sundar had gone.

Niashado had only seen the six satyrs, but somehow she doubted Ran'Shali would only send so few. The glee on demoness’s face as she tortured Jaou was seared into the Niashado’s mind. She wasn’t going to stop coming after Jaou.

And what in the Light was she doing with a Tothrezim?

“Let us find them,” she managed to say even though the saber was already doing that very thing.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:22 pm

Sundar:

Jaou galloped with what energy was granted to him in desperation. The chase had picked up pace, with a number of demons pursuing him. The adrenaline in his body kept him going, as well as the fear of being captured. For now, his focus was on putting as much distance between him and the other satyrs.

As he ran, a pain flared up in his right leg, but he ignored it. Jaou spared a look back. A quick glance revealed to him close to a dozen or so of the satyrs chasing him. It would be too many for him to handle in his state. There had to be a way for him to thin their numbers.

He dashed ahead at a faster pace, putting more distance between him and the trailing demons. Jaou's eyes scanned the quickly passing environ for anything that he could use to slow them down. A fallen log, broken from a stump, was ahead. It was a small log in comparison to the gargantuan trees that grew in the forest, and it was fairly decomposed, but it was a good enough size that he could use it. However, he would need to find a way to lift it.

The ranger raced straight towards the log with all speed. He held his hands low, using his momentum to scoop up the log, gripping it tightly. Pivoting on a hoof, Jaou spun around to build momentum. Just before the completion of his second revolution, Jaou was on the cusp of facing his hunters. He let it fly.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Sundar rode close to Naphta, streamlining their combined form as the great cat bound through the forest. Jaou was already quite a distance ahead, and behind him, a party of satyrs giving chase. Falathir was still keeping up, flying above just under the canopy of the trees.

"We have to get between them and Jaou!" Sundar urged the giant feline.

Naphta let out a growl. Many creatures in the wilds of Felwood would be hard-pressed to keep up with a galloping satyr, but Naphta was faster. Racing along their flank, they soon caught a glimpse of the trailing satyrs.

And now to pick them off!

The tattoos upon his body began glowing with an emerald light as Sundar readied an attack. Just as he was ready to unleash a series of roots, he saw something in the distance close in on the demons' advance.

Wait, is that a log?

His answer was found as the object crashed into part of the pursuing party, and broke into pieces. Two satyrs were taken down by the log, with another injured by a splinter of the rotting wood. The rest of the demons had time enough to react, putting up their arms to shield themselves from the flying debris. Regardless of the attack, they continued running, not bothering to see to their fallen allies.

Sundar looked in astonishment at what had just happened. The log had come from the distance in front of the satyrs, but he was not certain he could believe it.

Logs just don't fly on their own, it had to be from him. Sundar again was ready to attack. They'll know I'm around here now, but better for them to chase me than Jaou.

The druid threw out a hand towards one of the demons running astride him in the distance. From the ground several thick, thorny roots erupted. With Sundar's direction, the roots submerged into the ground again and surged towards the pack of demons. He clenched his hand into a fist, and abruptly pulled his arm back. The thorny plants exploded from the earth behind the rear of the group. The plants fanned out and curved over, a few reaching out to each of the target demons.

All too late did the demons turn around to discover their impending doom. The plants quickly lunged towards their victims, wrapping tightly around them as they lacerated the satyrs with their thorns. Their sharp growls and cries for help started the draw the attention of those that were running ahead of them. Those cries were quickly silenced as Sundar commanded the roots to drive themselves through the satyrs. Unfortunately, the others had heard their comrade’s shouting and stopped a for a moment. Thy turned back to find them wrapped in roots, and Sundar riding upon Naphta and running along their flank.
 
I’ve been found out, great.
 
One of the remaining satyrs shouted at the others, waving two more beside him. Three other satyrs went ahead, continuing on their chase of Jaou while other trio started to dash towards Sundar and Naphta.
 
“Keep running, Naphta!” Sundar told the riding sabre. “We can play with these pests later.”
 
The wintersaber roared in reply and ran with greater bounds and leaps. The few satyrs that stayed behind attempted to intercept the two, but Naphta took a wide arc to avoid running into the demons. They could not afford to be distracted by the splinter group.

Sundar called more roots to aid them as they evaded their foes. The roots exploded from the ground beneath the satyrs as they ran, but each time the plants failed to impale their targets. The scene looked as if the satyrs were leaving a trail of spikes in their wake.

It's too hard to hit moving targets like this. I might have to deal with them and the others in the end.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The log he had thrown had bought him some time. Jaou only kept galloping as fast as he could, but the exertion was becoming taxing on his body and he was beginning to lose speed. The muscles in his right thigh were seizing, and it felt as if something was caked onto the fur on his leg.

Can't... Stop...

Jaou was unsure of how long he had ran, or how much distance he had covered. For all he knew, he could have still been in Jadefire territory. The scents of the corrupt camp though seemed far away. Even so, he was still running, but he could not keep it up.

The pains protested against his desire to keep going. Each stride became harder to make and he was slowing down. He had to stop. There was no chance of him being able to go much farther than what was already covered.

Finally, his right leg gave out. Jaou came to a stop, falling on his knees and hands in exhaustion and pain. He panted heavily. Every moment that passed while he was immobile allowed that satyrs to catch up with him. At this rate, his recapture would be inevitable. Even in the distance, he thought he could hear their advance towards his location.

Keep... Going...!

Wincing, the ranger attempted to stand. A sharp pain from his leg was the only response he got. Jaou stifled a cry. He looked to the brand on his thigh; the seared flesh had cracked open in several places, allowing blood to flow freely from it.

He was not able to move. He had come this far, only to have it result in nothing.

Jaou hung his head in frustration and dug his claws into the ground. He had hoped that he would be able to free himself from the torture today. That glimpse of freedom he had now seemed liked a faraway dream.

The low thrum of hooves beating upon the ground became more audible, and now the other satyrs were in sight. Jaou could see them baring their claws and fangs. He was ready to submit to defeat.

He suddenly heard a screech overhead. It sounded like a call form a bird, and it was. An owl of white, blue and lavender plumage came swooping down from the trees and began its assault on the demons. It bore its talons, taking swipes at their faces as it flew circles around them as it screeched wildly. The avian managed to dig her talons in deep, leaving lacerations upon their visage and arms. In vain attempts, the satyrs stopped to fend away the raging owl. The bird flew up, away from the demons, giving them momentary respite, only to circle back again for another attack.

All the while, from the back, came a large lavender sabre cat and a rider upon its back. Tje cat bounded towards Jaou with great speed. The satyr ranger started to panic. He tried ever harder to stand, but the muscle in his thigh was too torn for him to be able to make use of it. All he knew was that there was a large feline barreling towards him, and with all of his troubles, he did not want to stay and find out why.

Strangely, the sabre abruptly took a sharp turn and leapt to stand between Jaou and the other satyrs. The rider, a night elf, got off of the large feline and turned to face Jaou's adversaries. His eyes grew wide as he looked at the elf. Did he know him?

Sundar quickly glanced at his brother. He did not see any severe wounds upon him, but the druid would not get the chance to better inspect Jaou's injuries yet. Falathir had halted in her assault and quickly flew to Jaou's side. The enemy satyrs were now without a distraction, and centered their attention on the kaldorei. He quickly retrieved his fist weapons from a pack attached to Naphta's saddle, a pair of metallic dragon heads with eyes of emerald. He clasped the heads upon his forearms.

None of you will be going back alive, I'll see to that.

"Keep Jaou safe with Falathir, Naphta," Sundar said to the great cat.

Naphta replied with a loud grumble. She was hesitant to let her kaldorei companion fight on his own, but she stayed nonetheless, alert as ever. Falathir was busy curiously circling around Jaou, throwing a wary glance at the satyrs every now ant then. Jaou, however, paid them little heed. His eyes were set on the night elven druid.

He is...

You protected me when I was younger, now it's my turn to protect you. A low thunder sounded above them as the remaining satyrs that had chased after Sundar joined them.

The druid slid the fist weapons down to cover his hands. The satyrs set their blood-thirsty gaze upon the druid; growls and demonic curses escaped their mouths as the fell in formation before Sundar. Once again they numbered at six. and he was only one. The satyrs that Falathir had assaulted looked particularly angry. Rivulets of blood streaked their skin, oozing from the wounds from the owl's talons. The demons turned their anger to the night elf that now stood in their way.

Through the canopy, the group was illuminated by flashes of lightning. Sundar readied himself in a battle stance, but he stood his ground, with his eyes shifting to each of the satyrs. He could not be so hasty and allow impetuousness dictate his movements. He had to dispatch his foes as efficiently as possible. He needed the demons to make the first move.

The brutes were starting to lose patience. The demons edged forward trying to get Sundar to react, but the only reaction the druid gave was an arrogant and taunting wave of the hand, motioning them forward. The druid was confident in taking them on in combat.

The satyr party sneered and snickered; if it was a fight that the elf wants, then they would be more than happy to oblige. They rushed forward, issuing battle roars. Sundar started to channel natural magics through his being and sent a clenched fist into the ground. Where the fangs of his fist weapon hit, a tremor erupted. Roots of the surrounding trees rushed through the ground, moving with Sundar's will. The plants arced up and burst past the earth and curved their way to the closest satyr, piercing through his body in several places. His blood-curdling screams almost gave pause to his comrades.

One down.

Sundar continued to stand his ground. The remaining demons would have to deal with the fallen satyr later. They had to deal with the druid quickly. They sped towards Sundar, who was channeling another spell, this time focusing on the brewing storm in the skies. He called upon the lightning in the clouds. A bolt came down upon the night elf, however it did not strike him. The electricity instead circled around the druid.

And now for the fun part.

Jaou watched the elf carefully. While a part of him wanted to flee from the danger, another part was compelled to stay. He was not sure why, but there was something about the night elf. He was hesitant to leave him alone against the other demons, even though he was rendered immobile from his wounds and exhaustion. The longer he watched, the more he started to recognize the druid. Even his fighting style was very familiar.

Sundar dashed towards the satyrs. It seemed like a foolish plan, but the Kaldorei was certain in his success. Just a few strides away from the next satyr, he planted his left foot down and stopped in his advance. He stepped in and brought his right arm back with a twist of his torso, Sundar threw a hard punch at the demon's chest, braking his ribcage and electrocuting him.

He now in he thick of the enemy group. The four satyrs that stood quickly closed in a tight circle around Sundar, but now within striking distance for the elf. He quickly threw a left uppercut to another satyr's jaw as he lunged for him while hooking a right punch downward. Using the opening, he stepped to the side and called for more lightning to surround him.

The druid rounded a kick into the next satyr's head, sending lightning to course through the demon's body, and taking another life. His attack however left a gap in his defense, which the remaining satyrs quickly exploited. One of the demonic adversaries lashed out at Sundar with his claw, forcing the Kaldorei back. The other satyr sent a kick to Sundar's lower right midsection, over his liver.

Blood came to his throat and Sundar felt a sharp and almost paralyzing pain, causing him to step back. The two satyrs tackled him to the ground and pinned him down, one satyr holding his arms down, the other holding his legs. While Sundar was strong and tall, the satyrs were substantially larger than he was. He struggled beneath their combined weight and force.

Frantically, Sundar fought against the pain as much as he could and called for the nearby trees to aid him again. Roots came up behind the two satyrs and rapidly wrapped themselves around the fatrhrest back satyr, pulling the demon away and smothering the brute in vines. The last satyr stopped Sundar's plea with a clawed hand, letting go of one arm and wrapping a hand around the night elf's neck.

Sundar gasped for air as the satyr tightened his grip. He attempte to wrench the hand away from his neck, but the satyr only tightened his grip and began crushing his windpipe. A vicious smile spread across the satyr's face. Sundar began to lose consciousness. The demon raised his other claw as he prepared a strike to end the druid's life, but a roar caught him off guard.

Naphta?

No, it was a different roar, not one from a sabre cat. The satyr's attention was broken, and a flash of violet fur flew over Sundar and knocked the satyr away. Sundar rolled over to his side, convulsing for air to ease the burning in his lungs. His torso still protested with pain, particularly his liver and the surrounding are, which was of great concern to him. Naptha was quick to attend to her companion, grumbling with concern.

I'll need to see a healer just in case.

Regardless, he was glad to be able to breathe again, and he got up to see who his saviour was. Hunched over the now-deceased satyr, and the last of the pursuing party, was Jaou. The former elf turned his attention to the recovering druid, revealing his heavily scarred face, and his weary eyes glowing with fel energy. He was breathing heavily, Jaou had spent the last bit of energy he had to save Sundar. His eyes, though glowing, were dull as he looked at his brother. He seemed perplexed.

"Jaou..." Sundar called out to him quietly. He started to get up to approach his satyr sibling, but as he did, Jaou collapsed on the ground. "Jaou!"

Sundar got to his feet and winced in pain. He hobbled to his fallen brother, keeping a hand over the sore spot on his body. Long before he had gotten to Jaou, Falathir had flown over to him and fussed over the ranger.

Sundar reached his brother with Naphta in tow. It was plain to his eyes what halted Jaou's escape in the first place. The fresh brand caused the flesh to split and blood was leaking all over his leg. Sundar went on to look over the rest of his brother. He also bore additional scars over his body, but they were at least closed. Kneeling down, he pushed the unconscious satyr more to his side, but as he saw more of Jaou, he pulled back, an alarmed expression crossed the druid's features.

Jagged scars ran over much of his torso. Most of them were healed, but one particular scar on his chest suggested open-chest surgery. That however was the least worrying of his new scars. Sundar's eyes were laid on Jaou's left arm, or what was his arm. Much of it was now replaced with a metallic monstrosity. The plating was too tight and streamlined against what liitle arm the satyr had left to suggest worn armour, and his hand ended in four viciously clawed fingers. Memories of the horrid vision he had earlier flashed through Sundar's mind, and pain assaulted his left arm, though nothing had changed in his form. Sundar grabbed his arm with his opposite hand, and shook away the superficial pain and looked back at Jaou.

"My brother... I'm sorry." Sundar quietly said, hanging his head down.

The forest returned to its eerie quiet state, only punctuated by the concerned cooing of Falathir as she looked between Sundar and Jaou.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:23 pm

Niashado:

The forest was a blur as her sabre raced at full speed. Her abdomen still ached dully; in reminder of the wound she’d just been dealt, but the rushed heal should be strong enough to ward off any further damage. At least, Niashado prayed it would. Right now her concern was with the Stormchaser brothers.

Jaou had returned! Even Niashado couldn’t deny what her eyes told her. Nor could her eyes ignore the scores of satyrs that were perusing him. With the aid of the Elements she had managed to down a small group, but there were still plenty more that Sundar would be left with dealing.

The draenei raised a hand to shield her face against the whipping sting of several low thin branches as they burst through another grouping of shrubs. It seemed as though most of the plants in Felwood were the stiff thorny kind. Already her forearm was bloodied by her earlier brushes with them.

She saw lightning strobing in the distance. There was a storm bearing down on them, but this flash wasn’t from the sky, but rather near the ground. It had to be Sundar! He was fighting the demons.

She tightened her grip on the saber’s reigns and he sped up, as if sensing her tension. The flashing had stopped. Then, despite the wind blowing past her ears, she heard a roar. It didn’t sound like anything any of the twisted wildlife would make here.

Her fingernails dug into her palm as she gripped the reigns even tighter. Her feline mount was already racing at top speed, but she couldn’t help it.

With a final leap over a fallen log, she found herself amidst the remnants of a battle. The bodies of satyrs littered the ground. Some were charred. Others had their faces torn to ribbons. Still, others had wounds she couldn’t even begin to diagnose from fleeting observations. Not that Niashado cared to. Her attention was set on Sundar kneeling over the body of a satyr.

No!

Even before her mount stopped she had slid off the saddle and was stumbling/running toward them. Falathir was fluttering near him the satyr and seemed to peck at its violet fur.

Violet fur? Jaou?!

She could scarcely believe what she was looking at. The kal’dorei satyr was… Words couldn’t describe the sheer wanton desecration of flesh the satyrs had done to him. Deep dark scars covered his body, including one across his chest where it appeared to have been splayed open at one point. Burns and injuries, most of which appeared healed by time rather than care, blotched his body. His fur was matted, ill-kempt and in areas it appeared to have been torn out completely.

On his thigh was the brand they had seen the demoness imprint on him. The scar was bleeding freely. His eyes were closed but she heard the telltale sound of wheezing, as if some of his ribs were damaged or broken altogether. And there was no mistaking the exhaustion in his voice.

Without looking past his face, the shamaness reached out for his left wrist to measure his pulse, but pulled it back when something jagged cut her finger. Her glowing white eyes widened in shock as she took stock of Jaou’s left arm. His original arm was gone. In its place was metallic artificial arm complete with razor sharp claws. From the subtle movement of the fingers on his left arm she could discern that it was attached to his tendons.

“Light! What have they done to you!” she cried out. She felt an uncomfortable tingle from metal they used on his arm and knew at once that felsteal had been used.

With a deep breath, Niashado allowed her medic training to take over. Jaou wasn’t just a friend now. He was a patient in peril.

Pressing a finger against his neck she measured his pulse. Then, she carefully open his eyes and studied the pupils. Her frown deepened upon seeing that his eyes were nearly blazing with the glow of fel energy. They had saturated his body with it.

“He is losing too much blood,” the shamaness announced as she removed her backpack and cloak. The sky rumbled with thunder, but she ignored it while tearing her cloak in half. “Hold him down. This will hurt him,” she told Sundar, while taking note of his injuries.

Working quickly, she doused a wrapping of bandages in a healing potion and pressed it against the brand. The satyr inhaled sharply and his body jerked as Niashado applied pressure. She took her torn cloak and started wrapping it around his thigh. She shot Sundar a warning glance before tightening it in a knot just over the wound. Jaou lurched and groaned, but with Sundar’s help, he was kept mostly still.

Then, closing her eyes, she called out to the Wilds. Her first request was for Falathir to find them shelter nearby; any place that would afford them protection from the coming storm and the soon to be searching satyrs. The white and blue owl nuzzled her beak against Jaou one last time before taking flight.

Her second call was to bring healing on them. They didn’t have the time for her to tend to them as she should, but at least she could buy them time and a little comfort. When she reopened her eyes, Jaou was resting more soundly.

“We must move him to a safer place before more satyrs come. My sabre should be strong enough to bear him," she announced before turning to face the large owl. Calling upon the Wilds, the shaman spoke her thoughts to the avian. -Falathir, find a place for us. Please hurry.-

The owl squawked once before spreading her large wings and taking flight.


* * *


An hour later
Ruins in Southern Felwood


"How is he?" Niashado asked as she set soaked pack on the ground. Her rain-drenched hair clung to her neck as she slumped near the small campfire. Sundar was tending to Jaou. Nearby, the two sabers were resting.

"Still not awake," Sundar said with a sigh. He glanced over at Jaou. "He seems... uneasy."

Jaou stirred and then awakened with a start. He started scrambling back against the ruined walls of the overhang they had made their camp under. He looked warily between Sundar and Niashado.

"Jaou, calm down. It's alright," Sundar reassured his elder brother.

"You are home. You are among friends, Jaou," the shamaness quietly spoke. She rose to her hooves and took a few steps closer. Her hands were outstretched and open.

Jaou's breathing came rapdly and heavily. His eyes focused on the draenei that held her hand out. She did not appear malicious, but he was still unsure. Yet, she had a familar air to her. Both of them were familiar to him. He started to have a sense of safety.

"Your brother is here. Sundar," she said. Then she gestured to herself. "I am Niashado. Do you remember? You saved my life several years ago." There was a pause as the shamaness tried to study Jaou's emotions through his fel green eyes. "We... we are friends," she added in a slightly pained voice.

Jaou continued to study their faces. He knew them, memories began to stir within him.

"Jaou, are you going to be off again?"

"A ranger who can fight off armies of demons and save my clumsy tail, having difficulties in finding some fruit?"

"You know you'll always be my big brother."

"Jaou..."


The satyr shook his head, bringing up his right hand to his head. He knew who they were, but everything was so scattered in his mind.

"F-Friends....?"

"Yes, Jaou. We're not going to hurt you," Sundar said. "We just want to make sure you're alright."

It pained Sundar to have to speak to his brother in such a manner, but he did not seem to understand much else.

"You have been gone a long time. We did not know what happened, but your brother never stopped looking," the shamaness explained. She was careful to keep her voice soft and slow. "We care about you. We want to help you."

A confused look came across his visage, but there was a glimmer of recognition in his eyes the longer he regarded them. "Help?" It was a concept he had not experienced in a long time.

"'Help,'" Niashado said, repeating the word. She pointed at herself and then at him. "It is what you did for me when you rescued me years ago. It is what your brother and I are trying to do for you. You are home and we are here for you."

He doesn't seem to be able to grasp these concepts, Sundar thought to himself.

"Jaou, you're safe here, there's nothing here to harm you."

"Pain..."

Sundar's eyes grew wide. "Brother...?"

"There's only pain," Jaou muttered, as he slowly brought up his hands to shield himself.

The druid stood aghast. He had never seen his brother like this, nor would he ever imagine him to be in such a state. What has happened to him?

"No... no, it's alright." the elf said. He had difficulty in maintaining a steady tone. "There's no more pain here."

The shamaness blinked back the tears that threatened to make themselves known as she watched her friend in so much agony. Jaou was a shade of his former self. The first time she'd met him, he had already been turned to a satyr, but he was so sure of himself and his duty to his people.

But over the years, she'd seen as the doubt and pain of his transformation, not to mention the fear and distrust of his people, had eroded his confidence. Now, he was barely grasping to his former life.

"We will help you past the pain. If we can, we will if bear some of it," she added quietly. "We are here for you."

Jaou looked through the gap that his arms left. His eyes had a somewhat fearful glint, but that fear was starting to fade.

"You... won't hurt me...? I... I know this... but, from where...?" he said to no one in particular, as he lowered his guard.

"From your life, before you were taken to the demon's world," Niashado replied. "But you are no longer in the world of the demons. You are back again. We will not allow anything to hurt you."

She took a tentative step closer. In the campfire his wounds were easier and much more startling to see.

"If you allow me, I will do what I can to lessen your pain. May I?" she asked.

The satyr ranger looked up to the draenei shamaness. With some hesitation he nodded.

Sundar saw some progress being made, but at the same time, he felt of little use to him. The druid felt a pang of guilt biting at the back of his mind.

Niashado carefully approached and gently put her hand on his shoulder. She wanted Jaou to pay attention to her and not the magic that would soon be coursing through her hands. Light only knew what pains they had subjected him to with magic.

Her hands began glowing with the gift of the Wilds and she slowly began working on his wounds, all the while keeping her eyes on his. It was hard to look at him. All her life she'd been taught to fear demons of the Legion. Now, he shared the same kind of glow in his eyes as the demons did.

We will right this wrong. Somehow.

"Do you remember the first time we met? Raynewood Retreat," she began, hoping to bring his mind to somewhat better times.

"Raynewood..." Jaou said after haphazardly flinching away from her hand. He seemed to redouble his effort to still himself and she pressed on with the healing.

"You were a ranger there. You helped many of the residents." With her free hand she slowly caressed his head. "We came to depend on you. You have been missed."

"I wasn't always like this...?" Jaou muttered.

"You were always looking out for others," Sundar said to him, sitting down nearby. "Try to remember, let the memories come back."

The shamaness smiled reassuringly as she continued tending to his wounds.

A moment passed as Jaou tried harder to delve back. He was familiar with what they were saying, he was familiar with them, yet everything in his mind was a haze. His brow furrowed as he tried to remember.

Flashes of scenery came to his mind; a verdant forest, buildings, either free-standing or incorporated into trees, Kaldorei going about their daily routines. Everything was so familiar, he knew he was there.

With a tired sigh, the shamaness ended the healing. His wounds were far from repaired, but they were at least in the process in the process of mending. She turned to her leather bag and opened it. Slowly, she withdrew a bundle of silk cloth and then turned to Jaou

"You gave me this," Niashado added as she unwrapped the cloth, revealing the leaf pendant he had given her years ago. "Do you remember?"

Jaou regarded the necklace. There was a memory that sparked within him.

"It's very nice. You could always give it to, I don't know, how about Niashado? A gift of thanks on behalf of the Stormchasers."

"T-To... Nia... this...?"


Yes, he was beginning to remember.

"Something for you, to thank you for all that you have done, when you could have just returned home instead of being in danger. This is also to protect you and offer support when you need it."

"Thank you for your blessings and the condolences, Jaou. And the pendant is beautiful. Thank you."


Jaou looked between the shamaness and the pendant, he then looked to the druidic elf before turning once more to the draenei.

"I... I did give this to you," the satyr began. He looked back to Sundar. "You encouraged me to give this to her."

A look of surprise and embarrassment came across Sundar's features as Jaou recalled his memories. He looked away for a moment, but he could not with hold the growing hope that Jaou would remember himself.

"I-I..." Jaou started to strain on his burgeoning memories, but it soon went back to being hidden from him.

Niashado felt herself blush at the revelation, but she allowed it to pass without comment. In some ways, it made their friendship seem more endearing. Her gaze returned to Jaou's battered body and that's when she noticed that his ribs were easily visible through the skin. He must be starving.

"Sundar, his memory may return if he had a chance to taste his favorite meal again," she suggested.

"That's a good idea. He does like deer," Sundar said with a nod. "And we're close to the border with Ashenvale and there's plenty that wander around here."

He stood up and started on his way out. "It's a little rainy, hopefully I won't take too long. Will you be alright here? Our sabres and Falathir will at least remain here with you."

"I think will be fine," the shamaness said as she gave Jaou another reassuring smile. "He might start to feel like his old self if we can wash the filth of that world from him."

"Alright, I'll leave you to that," Sundar said. With no hesitation, the druid stepped out into the rain, taking on the form of a large stormcrow and flew off in search of food.

Jaou looked rather intrigued at the departing ngiht elf, but his gaze soon went past that of the entrance.

Niashado looked at the lost gaze in Jaou's countenance and rested a hand on his shoulder. "Your brother will return soon. He is gathering some food for us. In the meantime, follow me outside."

The satyr seemed confused, but he did not protest against her request. He followed Niashado as she requested, but for what reason she had, he did not quite understand.


* * *


"Watch your step," Niashado warned as she carefully guided Jaou through the forest. The latter seemed to walk in dreamlike haze, but she was careful to be patient with him.

The trauma Jaou endured must have been intense. His scars, and his arm, were indeed proof of that. They must have torn into him repeatedly. Was there a reason or was it simply to hear him scream? What were the demons trying to achieve?

Like many draenei, she had been taught of the various demons that made up the Burning Legion. She had seen the Tothrezim at the satyr coven. They were some of the most black-hearted inventors and researchers of the Legion. No doubt, they took pleasure affixing the felsteel cast arm on him.

She doubted that his arm even required an amputation. They probably removed it just so they'd have an excuse to further desecrate his body. It sickened her.

Since his rescue, the mechanical arm was kept wrapped in cloth, more for their protection then Jaou's. The arm was covered in sharp spikes and was much more powerful then his biological arm. Niashado wondered if Jaou even realizes just how powerful this prosthesis could potentially be?

They heard the sound of running water long before they arrived. The pools were normally thick with green fel taint from the sickness that permeated the lands in Felwood. However, thanks to the half-dozen wooden water totems placed around the pool, the waters were sparkling with pure. The glowing blue totems cast a calming glow around the area, but the effect on Jaou was unexpected.

He stared at the totems with unbridled trepidation. The fear that alighted in his eyes spoke true of the magical torture they had also inflicted upon him.

"Everything is fine, Jaou. These totems are only purifying the water," she explained patiently. She didn't want to rush him if he was feeling uncomfortable.

One of the things that separated Jaou from the more demonic satyrs was that he always kept clean. It was such a small thing, but something it's the smallest things that have the biggest effect on one psychologically.

So, as Sundar went to look for food, she was going to clean him. She prayed that once of the filth of the place he'd been force to stay at was gone, it would become easier for Jaou to recognize his former self.

The natural pool was fed by a series of small waterfalls that fell constantly from the nearby mountain. The shores were rock and the waterfall created a constant mist that rebuffed the heat of the day. Even without the healing water totems, she found this place to provide a calming environment.

"It is safe, Jaou. Watch," she said. The shamaness unlaced the leather jerkin and peeled it from her body followed by her shirt and leaving only a halter-top. Her leather kilt followed, leaving only a small pair of linen shorts. The shamaness untied the small crystalline totems from the waist of her kilt and retied them to her wrist.

There was no point in inviting risk. There were plenty of dangers in this forest and while she was relieved that her friend had returned, he too, could potentially be threat. She couldn't risk forgetting that.

Niashado stepped into the pool and gestured for him to follow. The water felt cool and refreshing. The sweat and grime of the day's exertions from the hiking and skirmishes seemed to wash away in the purified water. She ducked her head under the water and swam about for a moment before resurfacing.

Her hair and tendrils stuck to her neck as she found footing underwater and stood up. Jaou was still staring from the banks of the pool.

"Jaou. It is safe. Come on," the shamaness pleaded.

Despite the inherent lack of danger present, there was a strong hesitation within Jaou. The satyr tentatively took half a step back unconsciously.

"Jaou," the draenei replied more sternly than she had intended. She swam toward the shore and cautiously climbed the bank. "Come on. You will feel better, I promise," she added in softer tone.

He was still stubbornly planted to the ground. His ears folded back, though more in confusion than fear. Oddly, the water seemed inviting.

Niashado carefully approached him, noting his demeanor, and carefully took his good arm in her hands. She didn't pull him forward. Rather, she simply held them.

"Follow me. We will go together," she repeated in an earnest voice. "Please. You can trust me."

Jaou studied her face. There was no sense of malice in it, and there was nothing warning him of any threat. He soon relaxed a bit and he nodded.

"Come now. Watch your footing. The stones are slippery," Niashado cautioned while leading him into the water. If she stood in the pool, the water would reach to her chin. It would probably reach to the middle of Jaou's chest at best. Still she led him toward the small waterfall and together they sat against the stone with the azure water falling over them. She smiled broadly and looked up at his face. "Does this not feel good?"

The water surrounding his was somewhat brisk, but he adjusted quickly to the temperatures. The pains in his body lessened as he continued to sit in the waters. There, for the first time in months, came a serene light in his eyes

Niashado felt some contentment at the calming in his eyes, but she also noted the trickle of blood coming from a wound in his face. Not wanting to interrupt the peace he was feeling, she closed her eyes and pressed her hands against the stonewall they were lying against.

The water falling around them muffled her call, but still the elements heard. She felt the healing magic running along the water face and traveling around his body. His injuries were being tended not only by the cleansing effected of the purified water but also by the healing.

It was tiring to issue out such a constant call, Niashado pressed on, if only so that her friend could enjoy his first feeling of peace since he'd been taken from them.

After minutes upon minutes, she ceased the quiet casting and felt herself slide down along the cool water until just her head was over the water. For just that moment, she thought it was a blessing that she could forget being in Felwood, or all the worries of the past years.

The satyr noticed the draenei slipping down into the water and became puzzled. What was she doing?

Niashado glanced up at the satyr sitting next to her and smiled tiredly. Then she rose and waded toward a set of items sitting on a rock. One was a brush and the other was a small palm size pot filled with some kind of paste. Taking the items, she returned to Jaou and showed them to him.

"These will not hurt you, Jaou. They are only for cleaning. Do you trust me?" she asked.

Jaou became more puzzled, though curious at the same time. Still, he trusted her and nodded slightly.

Niashado smiled lightly as she scooped up a small portion of the paste and lathered it between her hands. Climbing up the rock face, until she was just above his head (and barely avoiding his horns). Slowly, the draenei began massaging the shampoo into his hair.

She didn't feel much squeamishness about this. She'd served as a medic and a nurse during the dark days in Draenor. Taking care of patients was nothing new to her.

But this was different for many reasons. Jaou was a friend. She'd never knew him before the ill-fated curse that twisted his body into a satyr. The same curse, also threatened to overtake his mind. But his brother and his friends, all stood by and supported him and it was that support that kept the curse from fully taking over.

And the other dark reason this was different is that unlike most of her past patients, Jaou was covered in fur. And there were so many mats and knots to straighten.

Oh so many knots...
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:25 pm

Sundar:

It was strange how abruptly the landscape changed, as Nature itself drew a distinct border between Felwood and Ashenvale. It was with some fortune that the taint had stopped its advance into the land of Ashenvale, but the animals living in the vicinity were not as impeded. Deer, wolves, sabres and bears wandered between the two forests, and Sundar was aware of this as he sought for his quarry.

The druid flew south for over an hour, and was now well within Ashenvale. If he recalled correctly, there was a herd of deer that migrated near the border, only feeding within the incorrupt land. Though Sundar had to travel quite some distance to prey upon the deer, it was certainly a better alternative than hunting the tainted creatures closer to their camp.

Sundar swooped low into one of the trees below him, shifting back into his elven form as he dropped onto a branch, his hair still slick with rain. A sharp pain came to the elf's torso, around the right side of his ribs. He clutched his side, stifling a grunt lest he betray his position to his prey. Sundar crouched upon the branch, allowing the pain to dissipate. Wincing as he rubbed his side, he remembered that he had not properly inspected his injury.

I'm going to have to take it easy, somehow.

He channeled a short spell of healing to his injury. It would hopefully hold long enough for him to hunt and return to the ruins. It would have to be soon, as hungry as he was, their first priority was making sure Jaou was on his way back to health.

Sundar turned his attention back on his quarry. Below was a herd of deer and from atop his perch, the druid spied for a likely target for the hunt. His eyes spotted a stag grazing along the rocky face of the hills that lay below Night Run. The buck would provide ample meat for their troupe, but now the trick was to bring it down.

The druid's form changed to that of a dark sabre. Jumping down to the forest floor, Sundar began to stalk his way towards the targeted deer. He came close to the deer, moving with such care to keep his silence. It was imperative for his kill to be swift.

At that very moment, the world seemed to melt away. Sundar's attention was fully set on the stag. He allowed himself to be led by the wild spirits of the hunt. The druid's movements were as fluid as any sabre, and he crept ever closer to his prey. The muscles in his hind legs bunched up, and in a flash, he was upon the buck.

The stag let out a bugle as Sundar dug his claws into the deer, causing the rest of the herd to scatter. He quickly found a grip on the animal's neck; his sunk his large fangs into the flesh. Life was draining away from the stag. It let out only a few more throes of struggle before sagging into the ground completely. Once Sundar was certain of its death, the druid let go of the corpse and shifted back to his elven form.

Sundar casually wiped away a small trickle of blood on the corner of his mouth from the hunt. With the hunt over, it was time to bring it back to Felwood. He gave his thanks to Nature and the spirit of the stag and shifted into a stormcrow to carry it off.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Ran'Shali sat back in her seat in the dry hollow of the dead tree she so often worked from. The expression on her features spoke of an underlying annoyance. Her claw finger rapped on the gnarled wooden arm of her chair. Beside her was Gazheel, who held an emphatic expression, despite noticing the growing volatile temper in the female satyr. The she-demon's attention, for a moment, was quickly turned to one of her subordinates trekking sodden hooves and armour into her hollow.

"Speak," Ran'Shali said with a stern tone.

"Mistress," the satyr greeted as he knelt down. There was a slight trepidation in his voice. "I bring news of the pursuing party..."

"Yes?" she hissed.

"Our scouts have found part of the party dead, mistress," the demon continued. "They are accounting for the rest of the group as we speak."

Ran'Shali was now struggling to contain her anger. She dug her claws into her chair with greater tension, and a twitch had come to her eyes. The other satyr noticed his leader's growing dissatisfaction. "Fifteen. Fifteen of you were sent to chase after one, just one satyr. Fifteen to one, and somehow, they have failed? I do hope there is a good explanation for this."

"W-we have determined some of their deaths," the subordinate stammered. "There's evidence of electric shock. One death was from a mauling, possibly from a large beast. The most recently discovered deaths show several large puncture wounds, as well as disturbed earth around and trailing behind the deceased."

The last detail piqued the female's interest, as well as Gazheel, though mostly from Ran'Shali's expression. Unfortunately, it did little to temper her anger.

These deaths are like the others. Annoying vermin.

"What of the Stormchaser?" she asked, eager to know what had happened to her new prize.

"There is no sign, only tracks so far. The recent rains have hindered the search, but we are carrying on with the search."

"An acceptable report," Ran'Shali commented. "I want you to send another report in six hours. I want to have as much information about this as you can scrape together. On anything. The Stormchaser, the one's responsible for the party's death, I want to know it all."

"Yes, milady." The subordinate satyr bowed his head before standing and exiting the tree.

As the guard left, Ran'Shali slammed a fist each into the arms of her chair, letting out an agitated cry. "Again with these deaths! And it's all just like the assault on Xavian when we were there. The fact that they aided in the Stormschaser's escape is undeniable proof!"

"So you know who it is then?" Gazheel inquired, fluttering his wings alightly. His visit to Azeroth became more and more interesting.

"From the information that we know, Jaou Stormchaser has a druid brother that uses roots and vines to attack. We know that he's been in Felwood for some time; attacking our forces with the other druid rats. Of all of the annoyances, he is probably the worst."

"But perhaps an excellent prize," said the tothrezim as he shrugged with one set of arms, and rubbed his other two hands together.

"Perhaps." Ran'Shali narrowed her eyes as she stood up. "He may be more dangerous alive than dead, but we shall see. First, I must retrieve what is rightfully mine!"

"Mayhaps I can aid you on your search and reclamation?"

The female satyr looked back at her demonic cohort, tilting her head slightly. Tothrezim were always putting up a facade of orderly mannerisms, but they were all business. Any help that they would offer comes with a price, and she was no fool.

"If you don't mind me asking, what are you looking to get out of this? Tothrezim are not known for their charity."

"Very astute, Miss Ran'Shali," Gazheel gestured with his hands. "Perhaps only a small payment; two more of those hounds." He pointed to the satyr-like beasts that were in the cages nearby. "My stay here could be of benefit to the both of us."

Ran'Shali gave it some thought. While it took quite some effort to produce the satyr-beasts, the offer made it rather tantalizing. And she could not disagree that the process to produce the aberrations was delightful for her.

"It will be done," the demoness announced. "What can you offer?"

"My two pets are very well versed in finding what is missing. They are specifically trained for such purposes and they've spent enough time with that wretched satyr to know his scent and signature. Shall I deploy them now?"

Ran'Shali looked back, her yellow glowing eyes lit up. "Send them on the hunt."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Almost three and a half hours after he had first set off, Sundar had returned to the ruins in southern Felwood. Dusk had descended upon the forest, and whatever incorrupt life was out and about was starting to find shelter, and Sundar did the same.

He had quickly prepared the deer and its bounty in a shielded outdoor alcove of the ruins, still in his armour and dripping wet with rainwater. The druid set the skins aside to be processed into leather and the meat in another. Expectedly, Naphta and Niashado's sabre joined Sundar as he butchered the stag, staring at the corpse with hungry eyes.

"I didn't forget about the two of you, don't worry," Sundar jested. He lifted enough meat to prepare about eight servings, he left the rest of the deer to the large felines to feast on.

As the riding cats were eating, Sundar was busy seasoning the steaks, and wrapping them with vegetables in large leaves that he had gathered nearby. With the meat wrapped, he washed off his hands with a skin of water and brought the packages back to the main chamber of the ruins.

How fortunate that we end up back here at Jaou's camp of all places. Then again, it was the closest safe spot Falathir knew about.

Sundar walked in to find both Jaou, with Falathir very close to him, and Naishado sitting by the still-strong campfire, with a hint of wet fur in the air. Both looked as soaked as he did, but the druid noticed that Jaou was much cleaner than he was previously. It looked like Niashado's efforts went well; while still marred, he looked much better than when he was found. His fur and hair, though wet, was free from the mats and tangles from before and regained its lustre. Though because of the cleaning, it was clearer to the eye of his injuries that was previously hidden by his fur.

"He definitely looks much more like his old self, err, well his new old self," Sundar said, referring to Jaou.

The satyr glanced up at Sundar with wondering eyes. Jaou watched Sundar set the leaf packages on the burning wood of the campfire. A scent came to him immediately, it was undeniable what it was.

Food, appetizing food at that. His stomach rumbled, but it was the first time in months that sustenance he desired was in free reach, or so he hoped. As he swallowed back his growing appetite, he placed his good hand over his slimmed abdomen. The hunger pains were growing stronger than they have been for some time, feeling like there was a hole being born within him and sending chills through his being. Falathir, concerned for Jaou, leaned into him and let out several chirps.

Sundar noted Jaou's obvious hunger, letting out a sympathetic smile. "It will be ready shortly." He stepped away to the side of the fire and started to strip away his wet armour. "Coincidentally, or not, this is actually one of Jaou's camp sites. For whatever reason, nothing else really live around here," the druid told Niashado. "He kept a number of his belongings in the room connected to here, so maybe there's something around that might help with his memory."

Jaou's ears flinched at the statement, unnoticed by his brother. This... this is where I lived...?

The night elf had taken off most of his armour and placing it close enough to the fire to dry off, leaving only his chest guard and the armour plating over his breeches. Sundar started to undo the fastenings that held his armour together and removed it, ending with the chest guard.

Once he placed the rest of his armour on the ground, Sundar checked on his injury; the wound presented itself as a large bruise. Discoloured as it was, it looked worse and larger than it felt. Clenching his teeth, he pressed a hand against the bruise. Firm, but nothing irregular. The short heal did the trick There would be time to deal with it in private.

"While dinner is cooking, I'll see if I can find something."

Walking into the next room revealed a rather familiar abode. It was furnished similarly to many night elven dwellings; a shelf, a cabinet, a bedding, an armour rack and a table were found here. In the shelves were a number of objects, the things that Sundar sought. The various books, papers, scrolls and boxes were all keepsakes of Jaou's. Something there would surely jar his memory. All the same, he did not want to invade his brother's privacy.

What to look for...

Sundar passed a hand over his brothers belongings, debating to himself what he should look through first. He finally decided on a book of mementos. The druid flipped through the book, finding that it was what Jaou used to keep various documents, mostly letters, maps, and pictures.

This is a good start.

He went through a few more pages as he started his way back to the other chamber, but he then stopped when he noticed a curious item. It was a picture, but it was not drawn. The details in the image were accurate to life. He was familiar with these images, produced by gnomish technology. The device in question would produce a picture of whatever it was pointed at and the picture he was looking at was of great interest to him.

It was of Jaou, along with a number of his colleagues. What made it interesting however was the fact that it was a picture of Jaou before he was turned into a satyr. If Sundar remembered correctly, this was a picture that was taken when Jaou was sent to the Exodar with others as representatives from the Cenarion Circle when the draenei first arrived. It would have been years ago.

This could be just what we need, the elf thought to himself. Soon the scent of cooked meat wafted into Jaou's room. And good timing too.

With a degree of success, Sundar walked back into the other room, closing the book while placing the picture on top. "I think I found something," Sundar said to the shamaness. He gave the book over to the draenei. "Take a look, I'll get the steaks out."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:26 pm

Niashado:

Niashado laid a comforting hand on Jaou’s shoulder while Sundar promised that dinner would ready soon. The exertions from running and the battle with the satyrs had left her drained. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how much hungrier Jaou was. She doubted that the demon’s had bothered feeding him well.

No. The Tothrezim undoubtedly fed him just enough so that he’d be at least conscious while they tortured and experimented upon him. Her eyes traced down to his mechanical arm. The unnecessary, forbidding fel iron spikes glinted green even the orange flicker of the campfire.

"Coincidentally, or not, this is actually one of Jaou's camp sites,” Sundar continued explaining while he removed his armor. “For whatever reason nothing else really live around here. He kept a number of his belongings in the room connected to here, so maybe there's something around that might help with his memory."

The shamaness felt Jaou grow tense and tenderly squeezed his arm. But what the druid Stormchaser had revealed disturbed her all the same. Even before his disappearance, Jaou had already become separated from his people. He protected them as ranger and despite his transformation, he continued to protect them, but they had still treated him like an outcast.

His family, duty and people were the anchors to his old life. These anchors were what held his mind intact. It’s what kept him from descending into a monster, despite the transformation of his body. So many of the recently demonically transformed kal’dorei satyrs had already fallen down the path of complete corruption. Without these anchors, she feared Jaou would be among them.

And here he was, alone, in a forest that had become as corrupted as his body. His mind was already so fragile when he disappeared. She rubbed his arm and glanced at his eyes, but the confusion was still present. Somewhere in there, the honorable Jaou was trying to find his way out. They would just need to be patient.

Meanwhile, his brother had already set most of his armor to dry. She spied a large darkened bruise on his body, but he appeared unconcerned by it. She had her own injuries that were also slowly mending. In a corner, one of the healing totems that she had brought back from the pool was flickering weakly. Its dim azure glow was warning her that it would soon expire, but she was too tired to worry about it.

"While dinner is cooking, I'll see if I can find something,” the druid brother announced before stepping into another room. Niashado considered following him, but for now, she was just content to sit next to Jaou. She quietly brushed his fur with her nails.

Jaou’s breathing had become steadier and calmer. He was no longer as frantic as he’d been when they caught up to him. But recovery would be long for him. She was certain of at least that.

It wasn’t long before her eyes started to droop. The crackle of fire and the steady downpour outside was like a sedative. Being fatigued and hungry also didn’t help and it was long before Niashado found herself drifting off.

"I think I found something.” Sundar’s voice startled her to wakefulness. The draenei stood up and brushed her hands along the light robes she was wearing. Her own armor was lying in a corner drying.
Leaning closer, Niashado studied the book that the druid brought. Her glowing white eyes widened at the picture on top.

"Take a look; I'll get the steaks out,” the druid said as he handed her other book. He didn’t seem to notice her shocked expression. She nodded, but her eyes were still trained on the photo. Her mind, however, was trained on the event surrounding the picture.

In the background was unmistakably Exodar. The focus of the picture, however, were the five night elves. Her fingers traced over the image of one of them. This was taken on his first visit to Azuremyst Isle when he was working under the Cenarion Circle. This was before his body was corrupted.

-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

"Peacekeeper Fa'ore, thank you for coming here on such short notice," Councilor Lorren said to the draenei paladin who had taken station in the center of the chamber. In one wall, Jaou was standing next to the useless helary who was supposed to defend him. Behind him stood another draenei paladin who kept his eyes centering directly on Jaou. In a chamber full of draenei, Jaou, having been transformed into a satyr was less than a welcome sight.

"Now we have some questions regarding the individual standing there." Lorren pointed at Jaou and the witness sneered. "So you recall a group of night elves on an assignment at Bloodmyst Isle about a year ago? A group from the Cenarion Circle?"

"Yes, I do," she answered, confident in her memory.

"Can you tell us what that group consisted of?"

"Three druids, two rangers. Four males, one female,” the witness replied.

"Of these five, we're interested in hearing about one in particular, Jaou Stormchaser, one of the rangers. Can you tell us what he was involved in when he was present?"

"He was there to help scout out areas that were familiar to his people and help map out the land in greater detail as well as sending back reports of the condition of the island to the Cenarion Circle,” the vindicator explained. She paused a moment and then added. “But, he was taking interest in some rather strange things. He was inquiring a lot about the satyrs and their ruins... There were times he had mysteriously disappeared, and I've heard reports of him going towards satyr camps on his own..."

Niashado refused to believe it, but the woman went on.

"There was an unnatural fervor in his eyes when he was talking abou--"

"Lies!" Jaou finally bellowed, chattering the quiet calm of the Councilor’s Chamber. To her disgust, Councilor Lorren simply stood silently and regarded him dispassionately as Jaou tried to explain what had really happened. But it wasn’t until he named a witness who could exonerate him that things took a far darker turn. The vindicator behind Jaou suddenly lashed out and in a burst of golden light, the kal’dorei satyrs was on the ground gasping.

A vindicator gripped Niashado’s hand tightly as she struggled to contained the anger and despair at her friend, her innocent friend, being treated like this.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

The cooking steaks released an aroma was causing her stomach to rumble nearly constantly. Her face felt flush, but part of her suspected that that was more due to the memory the picture had sparked, rather than hunger.

Pushing the trial out of her mind, the shamaness sat next to Jaou and cautiously showed him the picture.

“This is who you are?” Niashado began as she pointed to him in the picture. She purposely avoided using past tense. Despite being physically a satyr, she will always know him as the honorable ranger he is. “You are a ranger with the Cenarion Circle and you have helped many people, including my own.” She pressed the picture into his good arm.

While he studied the picture the shamaness slowly opened the notebook and leafed through the pages. Maybe there’s something inside that will also help jog his memory.

There were hand drawn pictures of plants, beasts and weapons. She flipped past a series of letters, but avoided them, thinking that may be private. There were also maps of Ashenvale, Felwood and Bloodmyst Isle. Occasionally, she’d withdraw one and show them to him, but he seemed more fixated on the picture.

She flipped to another page and a series of lose papers slipped out. More letters, she realized and she gathered them up and was about to put them back when she suddenly saw her name on one of them. Shooting Sundar a surreptitious glance, she carefully unfolded the letter.


Dear Niashado,

I don't know how to say this, I doubt words would be enough, but I'm sorry for the trouble that I have caused for you. You risked everything to get me out of incarceration only to face the consequences for both of us.

You probably resent me for it, and I wouldn't blame you. I can't really make it up to you for what you did. I just want to apologize for everything--


Niashado felt a lump forming in her throat as she reread the unfinished letter. There were other letters addressed to her that were equally unfinished. Some even confessed feelings that she shared, but was too afraid to reveal.

He… he loves me, even after I betrayed him. He is apologizing to me, even though I was the one who betrayed him. Why?

Forcefully gulping down the lump in her throat, the shamaness turned carefully placed the book on Jaou’s lap. He was still studying the picture and didn’t seem to take much notice of her. Despite that, she mustered as much control as she could to mask her emotions.

“I will be back,” Niashado said, touching his shoulder. His countenance remained clouded in uncertainty.

Niashado got to her hooves, passed Sundar, and stepped outside. In her hand she still clenched the letters. Her bluish-gray hair, that had just begun to dry, was immediately soaked. She felt her robes grow heavy under the deluge. Despite the cold and the hunger, the rain granted her something that she couldn’t have inside with the Stormchaser. They masked her tears and blotched out the sound of her sniffling.


-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

"Jaou is not a demon! He has done nothing to me," Niashado repeated in desperation. "Would a demon voluntarily accept entering custody of our vindicators and being brought here?"

Councilor Lorren chuckle only made her angrier. He sauntered toward her dais.

"Hasn't a demon already voluntarily entered our city and stayed patiently in our midst?" he asked in a soft voice that was saturated in smugness.

And just like that, she suddenly remembered the Vector Coil Incident and the account of the eredar, Sironas.

"Yes,” she replied, feeling the walls of a trap slamming in all around her. She desperately wanted to show Jaou that he was innocent, but now she was becoming uncertain.

"Have demons used friendships and family connections to subvert us in the past?" Councilor Lorren asked. Such things were known to happen and Niashado knew it.

"Yes," Niashado again answered, feeling as those walls began closing in on her.

"No one here will argue that you have spent more time with the Stormchasers, Jaou especially, then any other draenei. Can you promise us, with the safety and very existence of our people on your shoulders that Jaou is not the threat as you have repeatedly stated he is not?"

The shamaness turned to Jaou. She could see the pain in his eyes from the vindicator’s earlier spell assaults. He was tired and stressed. They reminded of her the time the satyrs had further corrupted his body by some sort of warlock spell. He had been turned into something less sentient but more animalistic, but she still remembered the pain in his eyes. And the same pain was seen again when his younger brother had been killed by the evil satyr, Morvai.

He had protected her, believed in her and encouraged her. He was among a few select people, with whom she credited with making her the person she was today. He was devoted to the safety of his people. He deserved better than this.

But this was about more than her and Jaou. Could she sacrifice him out of the hope that it would protect her people? Many other kal’dorei satyrs had fallen completely into the corruption that befell their bodies.

THIS IS NOT FAIR! she screamed in her mind. They had trapped her. This farce of a trial, that she had hoped to unravel, was going to succeed because of her.

"Niashado?" Lorren asked, sounding more polite and soft then she could ever remember hearing him being.

Tears streaming from her eyes, Niashado turned and regarded Lorren coldly. Her hands formed into tight fists and her tail had grown taut. "No. I cannot promise that."

"You cannot promise what?" Lorren asked, his voice taking on its more usual condescending tone.

"I-I cannot promise that Jaou will never be threat," she finally said. Each word was as if a knife being jabbed into her body. Her vision blurred with tears and she fought with all her might not to look at Jaou, knowing the pain in his eyes would be like the simultaneous twisting of each of those knives.

And now, I am no better than a demon for betraying an innocent.



-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-

The shamaness closed her eyes and felt the rivulets of raindrops cascading down her body. She used to visualize each of those drops washing away illnesses, burdens and dirt. But this pain inside her wouldn’t relent.

As the letter said, she had assisted in Sundar and a few others break Jaou out of Exodar and flee from Azuremyst. They had invited her to escape with them, but she had refused. She had told them that she’d buy them time, and that she did. But her real reason for remaining behind was the guilt of what she’d done to Jaou. She couldn’t face him. Not anymore. She couldn’t look into the eyes of a friend she had betrayed.

Niashado believed he hated her. And the guilt was tearing at her soul. In fact, when she faced off against the three of the pursing vindicators, she’d done so with reckless abandon. If they struck her down, at least she wouldn’t have the burden of carrying this guilt.

But they were well trained, and though her attack stalled them long enough to provide the others with enough time to escape, she had been disarmed and restrained. With Jaou far from the grasp of the Council and the shaman enclave in Exodar having disavowed her, she had taken the full brunt of the consequences.

They had exiled her for just over two and a half years. She was forbidden from ever returning to Azuremyst Isle or the night elf lands in Northern Kalimdor. They wasted no time throwing her on the first boat to Stormwind City.

Jaou would have been right to hate her. She was supposed to be his friend, and she had outright betrayed him before her own people. She deserved his contempt. Not his… love.

As she covered her mouth with a hand, she stared at the soaked letters that were still in hand. Fresh tears welled up, but she stifled the cry. Niashado had feelings for Jaou. She had fallen for the kind-hearted ranger he was. At first, his appearance had caused her to be wary and distrustful, but eventually she had grown to trust him. The elves in Raynewood looked up to his leadership and guidance. The satyrs of Ashenvale hated Jaou. And, somewhere in the midst of the chaos at the time, the two had become close friends.

Niashado had repeatedly convinced herself that they were just friends. She routinely ignored her own feelings and wanted to believe that Jaou was just kind and friendly. She treated the flower pendant he’d given her as something one friend gives another, despite the fact that the look on his eyes revealed it to be something deeper.

But she couldn’t ignore the letters. She couldn’t’ just make up rationalizations anymore. Those incomplete letters revealed so much about his true feelings for her. The fact that they were unfinished and unsent revealed so much more about the internal debate he felt about it.

He loved her. She had betrayed him and he still loved her.

Shivering in the cold rain, the draenei glanced down at the letters again. Jaou was right to be uncertain about these. Even if he hadn’t been tortured and twisted by the Tothrezim, even if his body had been corrupted and turned into a satyr, she couldn’t follow him down this path that he was hoping for.

Niashado had a responsibility to her people. The draenei were never as populace as the other races in Azeroth. So few had escaped with Velen and then there was Draenor.

Four out of every five draenei. That was the figure she’d heard once in Exodar. Out of every five draenei, four had been killed when the orcs were culling her people on Draenor. More were killed when the Burning Legion struck. And there were the deaths from the crash of the Exodar. Draenei can’t repopulate as quickly as other races. Every death is a painful reminder of how finite their existence as a race has become.

This was something that just wasn’t discussed with many outsiders. Regardless, she couldn’t ignore her people. Even without the curse between them, they couldn’t be together.

And just like that, she felt like she was betraying him again. The shamaness closed her eyes and pressed her forehead against a nearby tree. Being reunited with the Stormchasers was so much easier when she believed that he had erased any thought of being more than a friend to her. She would have even accepted if he’d hated her.

But instead, he had endured something worse by the hands of the satyrs and the Tothrezim.

This isn’t about me. It’s about helping him recover. Reminding him of what he has to live for. To help him fight the corruption before it leaches from his body to his mind.

Quieting her mind, the shaman closed her eyes and concentrated on the patter of the rain. The downpour had turned to light but steady rain. She felt her mind grow calm as her ears tried to trace each drop. This was a soothing exercise she often practiced before meditating. And as always, the rain successfully provided her with the calmness she desperately needed.

Light, grant me wisdom, she prayed. Her body shivered from the chills brought on by her drenched body. Her robes felt almost as heavy as plate armor.

This is about helping Jaou, she repeated, while working up the courage to step back into the abode.


Last edited by KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:33 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 17, 2012 6:26 pm

Sundar:

As hungry as he was, Jaou strained his mind on Sundar's words. Everything around him including the druid and shamaness should have been familiar with him, he knew it, somehow. His memories felt scattered; most of the time, it was as if he were trying to grasp at water. But some of the memories were coming back, if only slowly.

Jaou's eyes drifted to Niashado. Her presence calmed his heart greatly, but it pushed him ever harder to try and recall the details of his life. Things that he wanted to remember were so distant. His family, his friends, why did he not remember them?

All of these things, I should know them, shouldn't I? Why is it so hard...?

Sundar had come back with a book and had given it to Niashado as the night elf went to check on their meal. The satyr focused more on the tome than anything else now. Niashado had taken a sheet that was placed on top on the cover, but Jaou kept his focus on the book.

What is it?

My keepsakes...

What...?


Jaou shook his head. That was his, and something in the back of his mind flagged it as an important item.

“This is who you are?"

Niashado's voice and sudden question caught his attention. The draenei pointed to the picture that she was holding. The image was of five night elves, and she was pointing to the one that stood right in the centre.

“You are a ranger with the Cenarion Circle and you have helped many people, including my own.” She pressed the picture into his good arm.

He took the picture, appearing mesmerized by it. The photo he was looking at, the night elf that Niashado had pointed out, he knew what she had stated. That was him, before he had become a satyr. Memories flooded into his mind.

Various images and scenery came to him; forests, villages, mountains, jungles, cities. Again, it was all familiar to him. Memories of interacting with those pictured with him also came to the fore.

“Come on Jaou, let us not hold up our host.”

“Yes, Shan’do Veruthar.”


"A kaldorei walking into things? It seems women have an effect on your grace and agility, not to mention your coordination! Ha ha ha!"

"That's not fair, Irian!"


"Take point, Stormchaser. You can track better than anyone here."


"That's really well done! Hey, promise me you'll show me some of your sketches, okay?"


Those were not the only memories that the image stirred. The background was the city of the Exodar; the Azerothian capital of the draenei. Crystalline chambers and ethereal lights were what he remembered. Jaou also remembered a circular room filled with many draenei. At the back of the room was a dais, and a few other draenei there.

One particular image came to mind. An armoured draenei, whose eyes were marked with disapproval, hate even. He stood before him, assaulting him with attacks.

"You would presume that I don't know when someone is tainted! And I know enough of what she's done in Ashenvale! She destroyed her career to be in Ashenvale. With you!"

Jaou involuntarily flinched away as the unpleasant event showed itself to him. The former elf could almost feel every punch the draenei had landed. The only thing that brought him out of the reminiscences was the sensation of something placed on his lap. The book that Sundar handed to Niashado. Looking up, he saw that the draenei had gotten up and was walking towards the arch that led outside.

By that time, Falathir had joined Jaou, and he could see that the two riding sabers had sdecided to join them by the fire. The owl let out a whistle, bending her head down. It was odd to the satyr, but he rubbed the back of her head his his good hand. There was something familiar about it.

"I wonder where she's going." Sundar had come up beside Jaou. The druid had two leaf-covered packs in his hands. Taking a seat beside the satyr, Sundar gave a pack to Jaou. "It's a bit hot."

Jaou placed the photo and the book on the side and took the package, which was smaller than the palm of his hand, from his brother. Though as he took it, he looked at it with some confusion. He could smell meat from it, but he was not quite sure what to do with it.

"You can eat the leaves along with it. They're quite tender now," Sundar said with a smile. The kaldorei took a bite out of the wrapped steak. "There's some vegetables in with it. It's one of your favourties."

The satyr tentatively took a bite out of the wrapped venison. Almost upon sinking his fangs into it, Jaou's eyes lit up with nostalgia. His mouth watered as he savoured the flavour. Subsequently, he started eating with greater enthusiasm.

Sundar beamed at his brother, seeing that he was happily eating the steak. "The first thing you taught me how to cook," the druid said to Jaou. The two brothers were quick to finish their steaks as they sat by the campfire. Sundar had taken out a waterskin, taking back a draught and then offering it to Jaou. "There's more if you want," he said, referring to the steaks.

Not surprisingly, Jaou shook his head as he held the waterskin, taking a sip of water modestly. It seemed that the single steak had made him full. In fact, he was starting to get tired.

He would normally be able to finish three of them off nowadays. Being full after one means his stomach shrunk. I guess he hasn't been eating well at all.

Niashado came back from outside, but she was soaked again. Why she had gone outside, Sundar did not know, but undoubtedly, she would like to share in the warmth.

"Food is ready, Nia," Sundar announced. He got up and retrieved a steak for Niashado, handing it to the shamaness. "I'll get you a blanket, you're soaked to the bone again!"

Sundar went to the pile of packs that he had taken off of Naphta. In one of them, he took out the blankets within wih some bundles of fur. Though as he came back and placed the blanket next to Niashado, he noticed that his satyr brother was beginning to nod off.

"It's been quite a day for you. You should rest, Jaou," the druid said.

Jaou was feeling exhausted, but he tried to stay awake. Though he felt that he could rest in relative peace now, there was a feeling within him that said otherwise. How he wanted to sleep so much, but experience of the recent months have told him that sleep meant that he was vulnerable to many dangers.

Seeing the conflicting feelings in him, Falathir buried her head into Jaou's furry leg. Sundar approached him as well, putting a hand on the former elf's forehead. "You'll feel better if you rest, I promise," he said as his hand exuded a calming emerald glow.

Sundar soothed Jaou to sleep. He caught his slumbering brother and laid him down gently, placing a roll of fur beneath his head. Taking one of the blankets, he placed it over the satyr.

"Now that he's resting better, and I've regained some energy, I can check on him better." Falathir turned her head to the side and she watched Sundar hover a hand over Jaou.

I'm not all that good at the healing arts, but this is better than nothing.

The druid closed his eyes and steadied his breathing. Jaou had a multitude of injuries, that was plain to the eye to see, but what injuries could he have within? Already, he could sense the thick fel corruption that wracked his body, but there was something else. It was trace, as if it was running out of his system from an earlier time, but it was still present.

"Poison," he said. "So it seems, I'm not sure. It's only a small amount, though." The druid enacted a spell of abolishment to purge the remnants of the poison, but there was no effect. Frowning, Sundar shook his head.

I wonder if we'll need to get him some proper help... There are priestesses here in Felwood, but they're farther north.

"Let's get some rest, it's been a long day for all of us."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Mon Sep 03, 2012 7:02 pm

Four years ago
Azuremyst Isle


The trees flashed by in a blur as she spurred her elekk to move faster. The lumbering mounts weren't particularly renowned for their endurance at full speed. Nevertheless, she and her accomplices didn't have any option but to push them forward.

Keeping one hand tight on the saddle, Niashado turned and glanced at the others in her party. Riding another elekk was another draenei with long violet hair. He seemed ill at ease controlling the mount. Further back, sharing a third elekk were Sundar and another night elf, Ravenstar.

She looked back at the first draenei and tried to offer him a reassuring smile, before digger her hooves into the flank of her own elekk and calling out. The lumbering mount elicited a frustrated cry before pushing forward again.

It had been nearly an hour since they departed from Exodar. Despite their planning, it wasn’t going to take the guards in The Exodar long to discover what they had done. Indeed, their plan had nearly stumbled when Torallius, the elekk master just outside of city, had initially refused her request when she couldn't provide identification for her draenei companion. Precious minutes had been wasted trying to convince him that she would be responsible for his mount.

The bigger danger, however, was that Torallius was certainly going to remember this encounter. When the alarm is finally raised, and there was little doubt of that that would happen eventually, he will report their meeting to the nearest guard.

Their first blessing had been when they traveled through the heart of Azure Watch without being challenged by the Peacekeepers. Word of what they'd done in Exodar still hadn't reached the outpost. Still, they didn't tarry longer then was necessary for their mounts to graciously lap up water from the troughs.


* * *


Water splashed all around them as their elekk's burst into the wide, but shallow, Ammon Ford River. They spurred their mounts to the north, hoping to reach the rendezvous at the nearby ocean.

Suddenly, her elekk unleashed an ear-shattering trumpet and reared up on his hind legs. The sudden and unexpected motion threw Niashado off her mount and caused the other elekk's to freeze.

The shamaness cried out as she splashed into the river. The shallowness of the water did nothing to cushion impact. Ignoring the pain, she got to her hooves and looked down just in time to see a small eel under the water dart between several rocks. Her elekk, frightened by the eel, trumpeted again and took several back. He nearly collided with the other draenei's elekk before could grab then reins.

How could such a large creature be so fearful of something so tiny?!

Her elekk's fear was quickly shared by the others and it didn't take a druid to understand that their mounts would no longer continue on down the river.

"We have to go on foot," she called out. Her hair and tan colored robes were soaked from the fall, but she didn't seem affected by it. She brushed aside her hair and unlatched her staff from the saddle.

"All the better that we're here; Jaou's disguise is faltering now," Ravenstar commented. In that moment, Niashado watched as the other 'draenei's' form seemed to grow blurry for a few seconds before suddenly changing to that of a satyr.

"How are you, Jaou?" Niashado asked as she helped him off the elekk. They had hardly spoken since breaking him out from the dungeon. She took off the necklace he wore and inspected the sphere that dangled from it. The Orb of Deception was a powerful artifact, but it was prone to failure. It also couldn't change a person's voice effectively and any unnecessary motion further expended the stored mana.

As she suspected, this Orb of Deception was depleted. She wasn't too worried, though. Although it had cost her almost her entire savings to aquire it, it had lasted them through their egress from Exodar and their passage through Azure Watch. It had done what they needed and for that, she was thankful.

"I'm feeling better," Jaou answered.

Niashado smiled a little and turned to him. She tried to find something to say. She wanted to apologize for turning against him at the hearing. She wanted to explain the reason why she'd done what she did. There was so much to say, but the words wouldn't form in her mind.

He had to hate her. He had to feel betrayed. He'd been so kind to her back in Ashenvale and upon his visit to her home, she'd sided with his enemies. It wasn't fair that the curse that had transformed the former kal'dorei ranger into a satyr had garnered him so much contempt and suspicious.

And now, Niashado was helping an 'enemy' of her people escape. This was an act of defiance. Hell, this was an act of treason! Nevermind that Jaou was wrongly convicted, the trust she was breaching and the laws she'd broken… Niashado wasn't a criminal. She would have never imagined herself doing these things.

It had been easy to ignore the doubt and fears when they were rushing to get Jaou out of the city. But now that they were so close to getting out of here, she was starting to see her actions in a very different light.

The shamaness quickly turned away from Jaou. Her mouth opened, but there were no words to say. She glanced back at him and then fervently turned to Sundar.

"You said we needed to get north? How are we getting him out of here?" she asked Sundar.

"You'll see," Sundar replied with a smirk, looking to the horizon.

Jaou seemed mildly shocked at the draenei's reaction, looking away in resignation.

"There are no harbors to the north, Sundar. I hope you know what you are doing," she explained as they began walking along the shallows. Suddenly, the shamaness froze and touched her forehead. Only a bluish-gray hair danced in the wind for a few moments. Her eyes were closed and her lips moved soundlessly.

A few seconds later her eyes burst open and she called out to the others. "Markal! He is coming!"

"What?! How close is he?" Sundar asked. Jaou and Ravenstar were immediately on the alert.

"He and two vindicators have just passed a totem I left about a mile away. They will be here soon," she added. The beach was just over a mile to the north and without their mounts they'd never make it before the vindicators arrived.

She glanced at Jaou and then at his brother and Ravenstar. They had already gone this far. She couldn't believe they were going to fail with Jaou so close to freedom.

Both Ravenstar and Sundar looked strong enough to deal with the vindicators, but that would mean they would be crossing a line. From the onset of the plan, she had insisted that no one be unduly harmed. Regardless of Markal's intention, he was only doing his duty.

Besides, he and the soldiers with him were vindicators; Soldiers of the Light. Breaking her 'wrongly convicted' friend out of prison may be treasonous. But for a draenei to harm a Soldier of the Light was unspeakable!

Perhaps… there was another way. She rushed toward the elves and called out to the Elements. One by one, she touched each of them, allowing the spirit of the water to aid them.

They stumbled at first as their feet suddenly stepped upon the surface of the water as if it was as solid as a stone floor.

"I will stall them. Go."

Jaou looked between her and the distance, shocked by what she said. "Come with us!"

"I can not. They will not hesitate to kill you," she explained to Jaou. She looked at him in reluctant resignation before turning to the elves. "And if you attack them, the consequences may affect your futures. Markal will not kill me."

"You can't possibly take the consequences for all of us," Sundar pleaded as he gestured to himself and the others.

"There's time for you to come if you wish," Ravenstar added.

Niashado shook her head in frustration.

"This is my home and these are my people. I-I have to accept responsibility. How can I live knowing I can never return home?" she explained, before she fervently gestured for them to go. "I will be asking the Elements to help your escape. I can at least stall them. Allow me to do this."

Allow me to at least make this restitution for my betrayal.

Ravenstar pulled Sundar and Jaou to their escape. The brothers, Jaou especially, were reluctant to leave her to face them alone. Ravenstar nodded to Niashado.

"I know we won't be able to change your mind."

"Take care of them," she asked with a reluctant countenance.

Without another word, Ravenstar forced the Stormchasers on their way, giving the draenei a cursory glance.

She watched them leave. Her eyes lingered on Jaou for a moment longer before she turned and faced the direction where the vindicators would be coming from. Taking a deep breath, she took a few steps. Her hooves created ripples as she walked on the water. Then, the shamaness closed her eyes and began calling to the Elements.

To her immense gratitude, the water and air listened. Fog began rising from the river and what was once a clear day, soon became obscured in a grey miasma.

Her ears flicked at the sound of water splashing nearby. The vindicators were approaching!

I just need to give them time. You can do this.

The stomping of the elekk's ebbed slightly as the vindicators slowed their mounts. She could hear their voices, but still she quietly chanted on. This time, her pleas were to the wind alone.

"What unholy magic sets this fog against us?" a voice called out from the fog.

"Oh, I have an idea," a familiar voice replied. It was Markal.

Opening her eyes, she looked up as a trio of elekk's burst from the foggy shroud. They were much closer than even she had anticipated! As soon as they saw her, they began racing forward.

Without hesitation, Niashado finished the elemental call, fell to her knee and drove her staff into the water. A brilliantly shard of lightning fell from the sky, connecting with her staff, and then driving into the water. From there, the raw electricity radiated outward.

Feeling the electricity in their legs and being startled by the deafening clap of thunder, the vindicators' elekks reared on their hind legs in sudden fright. All three vindicators were thrown off their mounts and landed in the water with a metallic thud.

As she expected, Markal was the first rise. He pulled a massive two-handed sword out of the water and stormed toward her.

"Have you completely lost it?!" he bellowed in rage as he charged toward her. However, unlike paladin, who was bogged down by heavy armor and trudging through the ankle deep water, Niashado was actually walking on water and thanks to Wind, much faster and nimble. She thrust the end of staff forward; the end of her staff thudding hard against the chest piece of his armor and knocking him tail first back into the water.

By this point, the other two vindicators were on their hooves and rushing forward. She deftly dodged the attack by the female and then, with a gesture of her hand, a ball of water jumped up from the river and splashed hard into the other male's face. He stumbled back, coughing.

The female vindicator issued a battle cry and surged toward the shamaness. Niashado back-stepped and held out her staff on each end. The female swung her hammer wide and with deadly precision, it impacted squarely on the center of her staff.

To the shock of the female vindicator, the shaman's staff didn't even splinter on impact. Reaching out, Niashado touched the hammer and issued another shamanistic call. A blue white spark jumped from her hand to the hammer. From there, the electricity traveled to the handle of the weapon, causing the vindicator to shriek and involuntarily release her hammer.

Niashado swept her staff behind the paladin's legs and knocked her to the ground, before turning and just barely evading Markal's attempt to tackle her. With a sweep of her hand and a call to the elements, the water he was lying in suddenly froze.

Another battle cry alerted her that the other male vindicator had recovered. She tried to evade him as she had with Markal, but there wasn't enough time. He slammed his shield into her, throwing her onto the water. He surged forward, intending to pin her down, but kicked up with her hoof. It was a clumsy defense, but it knocked him back a little, and bought her enough time to get up.

She didn't want to hurt them too severely, but she needed to stall them. With her concentration set on the battle with this trio, the fog had begun clearing.

With another call, she called a frigid blast of wind that froze the water in the attacking vindicator's armor. His joints froze like a statue and for the moment, the worse he could do was howl in frustration.

Niashado sloshed through the water and recovered her staff just as Markal broke past the ice that was holding him. Both he and the female vindicator moved to flank her.

"What are you doing?!" Markal repeated again. The two vindicators were being much more cautious this time. They were waiting for her to make the first move. She stared back, holding her staff tightly at the ready.

"I am letting an innocent man go," Niashado confessed between heavy breaths. It never stopped amazing her how Markal and other warriors carrying heavy weapons and wearing heavy plate armor had such endurance. Though she was only wearing robes and holding a staff, the brief physical attacks and the magic she had used had taken a toll on her stamina.

"Do you have any idea what you just said?" Markal exclaimed in disbelief. "You just confessed to breaking that demon out of Exodar! I-I can not protect you against this act of treachery."

"I willingly face the consequences of my choices," she replied. Electricity began arcing between the fingers of her freehand as she took a step back.

"Then stand down!" he demanded. Behind Markal, there was the sound of crunching ice and soon the third vindicator, joined them.

"I can not. At least not yet," Niashado said. "I do not want to hurt any of you, but nor can I allow you to pass."

A loud mechanical rattling filled the air. All four draenei, suddenly perplexed by this new and harsh sound, glanced around and then looked up to see a zeppelin rising above the ridgeline. The airship rotated about as it slowly ascended and then, with a belch of thick black smoke, it's propeller began spinning faster. It banked to the east and then began moving toward the horizon.

It was taking her friends to Kalimdor.

"Damnit! Do you know what you have done?!" Markal bellowed.

The shamaness smiled up at the departing zeppelin before turning to the enraged vindicator.

"The right thing," she replied with conviction. It was the last thing she remembered before a metal gauntlet crashed into her face.


~~~~

Present
Felwood



She sat outside of the shelter, savoring the sensation of the rain falling over her face as the memory faded away. After all those years, only one question remained. Did she regret it?

Niashado shook her head to no one but herself. If she had to do it over, she would do exactly the same thing. Jaou was innocent. And he's a friend.

And he still needed the help of what few friends he still has. Now was not the time to dwell on her situation.

She placed the soaked letters into the pocket of her robes and entered the shelter. The smell of cooking steak caused her to start salivating immediately. She didn't realize how hungry she'd been until now.

Sundar immediately covered her in a blanket while admonishing her for getting soaked again. She smiled slightly at that and graciously accepted the rolled up steak. It tasted even more delicious then it smelled. Whether that was her hunger and fatigue affecting her taste, she wasn't sure. Nor did she really care. She just wanted to savor the meal.

As she quietly ate, she watched Sundar tend to his slumbering brother. Jaou looked so much more peaceful and relaxed this way. It was difficult to imagine how his life had been trapped in the demon world.

She noticed the druid furrow his brow and glance up.

"Poison," Sundar announced. "So it seems, I'm not sure. It's only a small amount, though." The druid tried a spell, but by his demeanor, it seemed that it wasn't successful.

With a reluctant sigh, he sagged his shoulders and leaned back. "Let's get some rest, it's been a long day for all of us."

"No. We have waited long enough. Now is as good a time as any to try to learn exactly what they did to him," she whispered. "If my idea works, the Elements will reveal to me what they've done. Perhaps even why?"

"Are you sure? I don't want you exhausting yourself," Sundar said with concern.

"Tomorrow is a new day. Better to do this now, when I am already tired, then to waste so much energy tomorrow, when we may need it," she said with a light chortle. "Besides, this may work better when I am already in the twilight of consciousness."

"Well, you will probably have better results than me," the druid nodded.

"I will need your help, Sundar. Two are better then one." She sluggishly got to her hooves and stepped to her bags. There, she began rummaging through them until she retrieved a small folded leather satchel. Gently opening it, she withdrew a handful of dried herbs. "I have only done this once. It is not easy."

She neglected to add that her success the first time had been rather pyrrhic victory. What she had accidentally gleaned landed her in much trouble and earned her an enemy that she'd rather not think about.

"What can I do to help?"

"Just keep him relaxed," she said with a smile. Sighing tiredly, she used a stick to extract some burning embers from the fire and placed them in a small clay pot. Several totems were placed near the slumbering kal'dorei-satyr. One was a water totem that will help keep him relaxed during the process.

The fiery totem was one Niashado didn't have much experience with. It was one of the most difficult elements for her and she seldom tried manipulating. Fire could be dangerously chaotic to all but the most skilled of shamans.

Once done, she sprinkled the herbs into the pot with the still glowing embers. Tendrils of gray smoke wafted in the air.

Sundar began channeling a spell, exuding calmness through the chamber.

Niashado nodded in appreciation before closing her eyes. Her chest rose and fell with each slow deep breath. The thin, yet pungent odor the herbs released filled the room. The shamaness brought the small pot of smoldering herbs to her face and inhaled the fumes before setting it down and laying her hands gently on Jaou's head.

The strange scent caught Sundar off guard for a moment. Unprepared for its potency, the kaldorei stifled a cough for a moment. He let out a whistle to Falathir, telling her to keep a watch out for unwanted trespassers outside of the ruins. The owl chirped lightly before she departed.

Niashado coughed slightly and then watched through squinting eyes as the owl flew away at Sundar's request. Then, she began calling out to the elements. Her mind seemed to meld into something sharing the consistency of the smoke. The sounds of the room felt so distant.

Her eyes closed tightly as she concentrated on her task. In order to better heal him, she wanted to at least glean a little of what they tried to Jaou. Perhaps even 'why?'

The images that bombarded her were fleeting. There was a scuffle between demons and somewhere nearby a fel stalker flashed its sharp teeth. Another flash and she saw the fel stalker bury its tentacles on one of the demon's chest.

Wait. It wasn't attacking just another demon. The imagery flashed again, and she saw that the satyr had violet fur. He cried out and the voice was unmistakably Jaou's.

Then the world twisted around her and she was in another chamber. There was a table of some sort set in the center of room. A struggling Jaou was strapped down upon it. Racks upon racks of blades covered the walls. Some were ominously serrated. Others were smooth and rounded. All of them glowed dimly green with fel energy.

Surrounding the room, like a dark demented twist of a gnomish workshop, were tables filled with tools, parts and machinery.

The vision flashed away from the things in the room and turned to the former ranger restrained on the table. A hand was carefully guiding a blade down its chest. The effort wasn't being made to avoid pain, but rather to make the incision as precise as possible. Jaou's pained-laden screams echoed darkly in her mind.

The draenei's eyes moved rapidly under her eyelids and her breathing grew erratic.

The room flashed again and this time, a different blade was being dug into a different part of his body. He screamed again.

Still holding her hands to her head, Niashado flinched visibly. Tears ran from her closed eyes, but still she pressed on. These were just sights, but she needed to find a reason.

The vision flashed yet again and the shadowed figure in the room changed position. Now there was a fel stalker in the room.

The figure waved a vial under Jaou's nose and with a start, the satyr's eyes flew open. He glanced fervently around the room. Agony and confusion was painted in his eyes. It was clear, that he had no idea why they were doing these things to him.

The massive tothrezim seemed to be speaking, but she couldn't hear his voice. She could see the utter hatred in his eyes. He looked past Jaou, at a fel stalker waiting patiently nearby and then uttered something.

Exactly what he said, Niashado would never know, but the reaction from the fel stalker was instantaneous. The creature bound up to Jaou and clamped his jaws around the ranger's left arm. Jaou began screaming in agony and, as a powerless onlooker, she helplessly watched its claws sink into his flesh. Jagged pieces of broken bone began sticking out from the flesh of his arm as it twisted it from side to side, like a dog would to a toy. Thick black blood started pouring from the wound and pooling on the floor.

Any realization that this was merely a vision of things past faded from her mind. Niashado begged for them to stop, but still the events played out before her. She could hear flesh being rend and the snarls of the creature. But above all, she heard Jaou's scream.

And then, to her horror, she watched his arm being roughly torn from of his body. Spittle flew from Jaou's mouth as he screamed. Blood poured freely now around the table and the tothrezim laughed heartedly.

With a brutal twist of his head, the fel stalker pulled the arm completely off, just below his shoulder. The severing could be described as anything but clean and painless. Blood spurt from his veins and flew toward her…

… and Niashado screamed, falling back and covering her face.

"Stop it!" she screamed, not having realized that she had ended vision abruptly.

Sundar's spell was interrupted by Niashado's sudden outburst. Turning around, he ran toward her thrashing form. She was holding her arms up to cover her face.

"Nia, what's wrong?! What happened?" he said as he redoubled the spell of tranquility.

Despite the calmness of Sundar's spell, her glowing white eyes were still wide in shock. She wrapped her arms tightly around her chest and shook. The words just weren't coming to her mind. Jaou's cries of agony were still echoing in her mind.

Sundar's arms were lifted up slightly as she buried herself in his chest. He was surprised when she had screamed, but he could now feel that there was terror within her. Jaou, still deep in slumber, stirred only a bit, though he too looked ill at ease. He placed his hands on her shoulders.

"It's alright, calm down. What did you see?"

The draenei's heart was still thrumming in her chest, even as she clutched the druid's tightly.

"The… the tothrezim… they hurt him for no reason. They hurt him repeatedly, over and over and over and over. And he screamed. He screamed so much, Sundar and they took pleasure in hearing that," the shamaness managed to say between rapid breathes. "His arm… it was torn off… while he was awake. Why? Why would they do that?"

She pressed her face against his chest and took several deep breathes in the hopes of calming down. The only sound between them was the crackling of the fire and the steady drone of the rain outside. The warmth of his hands on her seemed to exude more calmness then all the spellwork in the world.

The shamaness felt herself better able to replay the disturbing imagery again. She tried her best to study it from a dispassionate point of view. She tried to see Jaou not as a dear friend being tortured mercilessly by demons, but as a victim of a crime. She needed find out why this was happening.

Like almost every draenei child, she had grown up learning about the demons of the Burning Legion. She could identify most of them and what their duties. Though she was a practicing shaman, she was still a draenei, and as always, curious about the new things her people were learning.

"Experiments," she finally said after several minutes. "The torture was merely entertainment, but there was a reason to the madness. They were trying to learn something. No… Not learn precisely. Develop.

"Perhaps they were trying to learn a satyr' ability to withstand hardwiring biological forms to technological constructs? They were also dabbling in alchemical studies. I am not sure. I know understand little of what I have seen.

"My people have been experimenting with mechanical prosthetics for some time. The experience the gnomes have brought has helped push advancement in this research many years forward. And devices brought back from various Titan sites have also bolstered this research," Niashado continued.

She had grown calmer as she reviewed the vision in a more impatial level. It wasn't easy, seeing as the demons had been particularly brutal in their 'experimentation' with her friend, but with each replay, she felt like she was gaining more insights. Her thoughts fell back to the lessons she had attended about the Burning Legion.

"What if the satyrs are designing a new kind of soldier? The demons, mo'arg and gan'arg, are the primary technicians of the Burning Legion. They design and build most of the weaponry and devices that the Legion uses. However, most have no desires beyond the will of the Burning Legion as a whole.

"The tothrezim are different, though. Their personal greed makes them a wildcard among other minions of the Legion. They will provide and develop technology to whoever is willing to pay their substantial costs." The shamaness sat back and gently touched a piece of exposed metal in Jaou's mechanical arm. Even the most minor of contact to fel steel felt uncomfortable to the draenei.

"What if someone is paying a tothrezim to find a way to augment satyrs? The fel poison running through his veins may affect the way he thinks? These mechanical constructs make him stronger. Did you see the way he threw logs and large rocks at us as he ran away? Did you see how he hardly recognized us?

"For that moment, Jaou operated on a singular mindset. He hardly recognizes us now, but he did not even react to you earlier except to run faster," she explained. Her eyes widened and she turned to her druid companion. "But once perfected, imagine an army of half-mechanized satyrs whose only will is to do their master's bidding. They'd be… they'd be as the death knights were when the Lich King had control over them."

Shaking her head, Niashado brushed her slender fingers around Jaou's face. He sighed briefly, but then fell still.

"This is only theory, though, but what if that female demon we saw had hired a tothrezim for this reason?"
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Izdazi
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Mon Nov 12, 2012 11:18 pm

The information that Niasahdo had garnered from the scry was frightening to know of. Jaou's injuries were telling; Sundar knew the possibilities, but it still was hard to hear it and as he was trying to calm the shamaness down, he found himself shadowed by guilt. The torture his brother faced was unimaginable to the druid. What Niashado had seen was only a glimpse. Without a doubt, he had faced many more moments of pain. And Sundar blamed himself once again.

He had to wonder how he survived such tribulations, whether by his will or that of the demons that took him. Jaou, having saved Sundar from being knocked into the portal, faced the consequences in his place.

As the minutes passed, the shamaness became more calm and collected. He could feel her breathe heavily to settle her nerves as she pressed her face against his chest.

"Experiments," Niashado began. "The torture was merely entertainment, but there was a reason to the madness. They were trying to learn something. No… Not learn precisely. Develop."

Sundar looked at her with curiosity as she continued. Development? But of what? Niashado drew on what she saw, and explained her thoughts and experiences to the druid. She went on to hypothesize that what happened to Jaou might have a larger meaning to the conflict with the satyrs. The prospects were certainly worrying.

The shamaness sat back and went on to talk about the tothrezim and their place in the Burning Legion. They certainly sounded as devious as the nathrezim, but with their proficiency in technology and science made them just as dangerous as their demonic cousins. What they had done to Jaou was certainly proof of that.

"What if someone is paying a tothrezim to find a way to augment satyrs? The fel poison running through his veins may affect the way he thinks? These mechanical constructs make him stronger. Did you see the way he threw logs and large rocks at us as he ran away? Did you see how he hardly recognized us? For that moment, Jaou operated on a singular mindset. He hardly recognizes us now, but he did not even react to you earlier except to run faster."

'For that moment...' The last point was a particularly hard one for the kaldorei to swallow again. It was an unfortunate truth; Jaou's memory was damaged. They did not know what the extent of the damage was, nor did they know if it was permanent. Whatever the tothrezim had done to Jaou was only known to Jaou for the time being, and all they could do was slowly piece together the past. His harrowing experience continued to draw grim parallels as the draenei brought her theory to a conclusion.

"But once perfected, imagine an army of half-mechanized satyrs whose only will is to do their master's bidding. They'd be…" Niashado paused for a moment before finishing the sentence. "They'd be as the death knights were when the Lich King had control over them." Niashado shook her head and brushed her fingers around Jaou's face. The satyr stirred, but only to the effect of sighing lightly. "This only theory, though, but what if that female demon we saw had hired a tothrezim for this reason?"

Sundar thought about what they knew. Jaou had submitted a report years ago on the Jadefire satyrs that he had encountered in Ashenvale. From what he had stated, they were more organized than other satyr groups and showed a great aptitude in carrying out their plans. It would not have surprised the druid that they would try to amass such forces. There was one thing about their leadership that made him wonder.

"I can't say that I wouldn't put it past her. I share your fears that such a scenario would be the case. I have to wonder how far her plans may span," Sundar began as he sat down by the campfire. "We have a fair share of problems with the satyrs; attacks, raids, corruption... I'm sure the disappearing wardens and travelers, while possible that it could be conflicts with the corrupted furbolg, is their handiwork too. We'll need to bring this to the attention of the Emerald Circle and the Sentinels stationed here. Seeing Jaou will lend credence to that."

While he was sure everyone there agreed, he looked over to Jaou. The satyr was asleep, more sound than he expected, and more relaxed than what Sundar was feeling within. They would not be able leave him alone by any measure, nor would they want to, especially in his current state. Yet it was his current state that also made him worry.There was a worry in his mind on how Jaou will react to seeing others, and the reactions he will garner from the Emerald Circle and the Sentinels. Regardless, it will have to be done, and whatever troubles come from it will have to be dealt with then and there.

"I think we should get some rest now. We'll start north when we wake," Sundar suggested. "We'll take turns keeping an eye out. I'll take first watch with Falathir second, you can rest with Jaou and the sabres first."

Sundar stood up and tossed in another piece of wood into the fire before looking at Jaou and hoping that he would show signs of recovery soon.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The rain had let up to a mist. As he had said, Sundar went on lookout duty first. The druid stalked the perimeter in his sabre form, staying within the foliage. His watch had seen little action. Occasionally there would be a rustle in the distance from passing deer or a squirrel, but otherwise the local fauna stayed away from the ruins.

His shift was coming to an end, all the better as Sundar was growing tired. The druid finished his round from behind the ruins and went back to the entrance to switch out with Falathir. Sundar shifted back to his Kaldorei form, dressed in minimal equipment, and found the owl curling up against Jaou as close as she could be.

She would need glue to get any closer, he thought with a smile. Seeing the two resting peacefully together. It had been close to a year since they had such peace.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Nine months ago...

While the mission had been a success, Sundar wondered if the loss was worth it for him. He returned, alone, to the southeastern ruins where Jaou held a camp. Naphta followed him inside, but only as far as the courtyard. The druid continued further inside to the common chamber with a sombre expression and sagged shoulders; a quality that was noticed by another inhabitant.

A mewling noise came form the ground. A young juvenile owl wobbled towards Sundar's feet, staring at him with large, curious verdant orbs. The bird was of a Winterspring breed by the colouration, and not fully molted into its adult plumage. As he knelt down, the owlet wandered around with excitement and whistled, all the while shooting the kaldorei hopeful glances. As the young avian realized that what she sought was not around, she looked at Sundar with greater attention.

"I-I'm sorry, Falathir, Jaou's not here anymore," Sundar told the owl with a heavy sorrow.

Falathir flapped her wings and let out several cries. As she had always done when Jaou was late, she clumsily walked to a window where she would normally see him come in and fluttered to the sill. Sundar shook his head and followed the owl.

"Falathir, he's not here," Sundar said with a sigh. Still, the owl chirped back as she normally did.

She thinks he's coming home...

Ever patiently did she wait. Sundar rubbed her behind her ears, and she cooed with cheer, but she quickly went back on her watch. Ever waiting for Jaou.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

And wait she had. Every day until she was able to follow Sundar, Falathir stood by for Jaou's return. Now that he was back, she was eager to stay with him. Jaou's mind however was broken, and like many things, he was unable to recognize her. Such a fate broke Sundar's heart, but there was hope that that would change.

"Falathir, it's your turn for the watch," Sundar said as he patted her head.

The owl quickly woke, shaking her head and scratching behind her head with a foot. Falathir rubbed against Jaou and lightly chirped before fluttering towards the door. She looked at Sundar with a longing gaze.

"He'll be safe here. Be careful out there as well," the druid replied. With a small scree, Falathir took off into the forest.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Rain still fell in the western reaches of Felwood and heavy steps fell in the wilderness. All of the surrounding wildlife fell silent and retreated to safer places as danger proceeded through the brush. A group of demons trekked through the forest unchallenged. At the front were two large fel stalkers, their snouts kept close to the ground, and behind them were four satyrs. They were on the hunt.

Every so often, a fel stalker would circle about, making sure of the trail it was following, or throwing up its toothy head and testing the air. Their prey was elusive, sometimes going in circles, and other times disappearing altogether, with no thanks to the weather. Still, the demons persevered.

"Blast this weather," one of the satyrs hissed, a teal furred demon. "The tothrezim raise good stalkers, but the rains work against us."

"Rain or no rain, the mistress wants the cripple and the heads of those who killed the others. I'd rather not face her wrath with failure," the red-furred satyr. "If she gets bored enough, she might turn one of us into those... things. Better to be dead than live like a beast."

"This is getting close to the elves and bull-men's camp too," stated the earlier satyr. "Only a handful of miles or so before we hit the road. If they found sanctuary there, the lady will not be pleased."

"We follow the hounds until then," a third satyr spoke up, a satyr with green fur. "There are tracks of land surrounding their camp, perhaps patches that aren't patrolled heavily."

"Maybe we can pick more of em' off," the red satyr grinned. "They fetch a good prize nowadays, and good entertainment."

Grins and chortles rose from the others as they continued along. The rain became lighter and soon blew as a mist, coloured a sickly green. As they trudged further, the trees became more spread. They were nearing the road and ran north and south. Yet, as they did, the fel stalkers became more excited. Snarls and barks sounded as they looked southeast.

"Looks like we're getting closer, boys," the green satyr announced.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Falathir had circled around the ruins, occasionally finding a perch to land in to observe the world around her. In the two hours she went on patrol, she strayed further out from her home, but still keeping the ruins in sight.

Other creatures never strayed near the ruins, but at the distance that the owl was at, there should have been more activity. Something was wrong. Falathir felt the unnatural quiet and stillness. Falathir called out to other owls in the area, but the answers she heard were not encouraging. Replies of creeping threats coming towards her direction came to her ears. As they came, so did the silence.

And then, in the distance, she saw them. A group of demons on the prowl. Two beasts and four of the horned ones she saw, those that looked like her caretaker, but were of ill intent. She knew what it meant.

Falathir silently turned on a wing. She had to warn them of the approaching danger.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:29 pm

The sound of dripping water was the first things she sensed. Then, the darkness slowly surrendered to a widening pin point of light. After brightening a bit, there was enough light for a bed to be seen in the center of the dank room. Chains dangled from the ceiling and lightly rattled against each other.

The sound of dripping water grew louder as Niashado cautiously approached it. There was someone lying on the bed. The prone figure stirred slightly.

Another figure approached and the shamaness felt dread as she recognized that it was a tothrezim. Hoping against the obvious, she realized the figure on the bed was Jaou.

The tothrezim raised a jagged looking blade and began to lower it upon the satyr-ranger's arm.

"No! Stop!" the shamaness screamed, as she raced toward the room. She called out to the Elements, and yet, they didn't respond. Before she could process the unexpected silence from Them, she slammed into an unseen wall. The force of the impact knocked her to the ground.

Rubbing what will undoubtedly become a bruise on her forehead, Niashado stood up and stretched out her arm. There was a barrier, but it was unlike any she'd ever seen. It wasn't magic. There seemed to be no visible reaction of mana from her contact. But, nor could she discern any kind of physical barrier.

A sudden scream pierced through the corridor. Looking past her hand that now rest flat against the barrier, she watched in horror as the blade cut into Jaou's arm. Blood began pouring wicked laceration.

In desperation, Niashado began slamming her palms against the barrier and calling out for them to stop. But neither the torturer, nor the victim, showed any sign of hearing her. Using the serrated blade as a saw, the tothrezim continued cutting through the bone and flesh of Jaou's arm, directly below the shoulder. The satyr-ranger struggled on the bed, yet he couldn't budge the restraints.

Tears streaked from her eyes as Niashado slammed against the barrier. She again tried calling to the Elements, who remained strangely silent. She kicked out with her hooves, scratched with her nails and even tried stabbing it with the small knife she usually carrier.

Nothing worked and still Jaou struggled as he suffered immeasurable pain.

A new figure entered the room. This one was a demon all the same, but different from the others. The newcomer had her back to Niashado. Her sleek black hair fell to middle of her back and a long crimson tail swish about as she casually stepped closer to the trembling satyr.

The garments this female wore indicated that she didn't sully herself with manual labor or battle. It wasn't designed with the utility of armor or protecting her from the weather. It was more about accenting her body. The cut of her black skirt rose nearly to her hips and revealed a slender leg. Her dark rounded horns were polished so that any light reflected off them brilliantly.

The way she walked indicated that she was used to receiving what she demanded. In fact, the tothrezim seemed distracted by her experience and even tried to shy away as she approached. A subtle nod was all she did to indicate that he should continue his task of removing the satyr's arm.

Her polished hooves stepped into the puddle of blood on the floor and she leaned over the restrained satyr and kissed him lightly on the forehead.

"You would do this happily for me?" Niashado heard her ask Jaou. "You would bleed for me?"

"I-I wooooould," he managed to say between staggered breaths. The tone of his voice seemed to bounce between agony, supplication and lust.

"You would make yourself better, for me?"

"Y-yes!" he cried out just as his arm was finally severed. He howled in pain, and the female, the eredar, just stood there and smiled. She stepped over to a table and pulled the cloth off the device that laid upon it. It was an arm. A mechanical arm. The dark gray steal glinted greenishly in the flickering torchlight.

The tothrezim stepped aside as she gently picked up the device and brought it over so the satyr ranger could see.

"The gan'arg and their gnome slaves have been working on this for many months. I can think of no one is more deserving of this gift then my most trusted lieutenant."

"I-I am honored, my lady," Jaou responded, sounding exhausted and still in throes of pain. There was something else in his voice. Pride. He looked at the arm like it was indeed the gift the woman made it out to seem.

"I know you are," the eredar replied, as she carefully laid the device on the table next to him. Then, brushing her hand across his sweaty brow, she kissed him. "It will not be much longer now. Be strong."

Then, she turned and faced Niashado and Niashado's eyes widened as she watched the dark version of herself approach closer. Then, the figure stopped, just on the other side of the barrier and narrowed her eyes. Niashado stepped back, but was unsure where to go. She wasn't even sure if man'ari copy of her form could even see her.

To her surprise, however, the eredar version of herself suddenly used her finger to straighten a roguish strand of hair.

The barrier, must be like a mirror on that side.

Cautiously, Niashado approached the dark copy, who was busy admiring her own reflection. It was almost an exact duplicate of her. The only difference was reddish skin tone and the fel colored glowing eyes.

Niashado pressed her hand against the barrier as she studied this evil facsimile of herself. Hanging from the necklace around the eredar's neck was a crystal of some sort that flickered with a weak white glow.

"Tothrezim!" the eredar called out.

"Yes Overseer Eri’zia!" the demon that had earlier severed Jaou's arm called out.

"Begin your work. I want my lieutenant at my side by morning," she ordered without ever taking her eyes off her reflection.

"Yes, mistress!"

Overseer Eri'zia began smiling; Niashado assumed it was to herself. Then, the eredar pressed her hand against the mirror, on the exact place Niashado was pressing her hand into the barrier.

What she said next froze Niashado's blood.

"The only difference between you and me, is that I give him purpose, while you only give him uncertainty." Eri'zia whispered. Her eyes began smoldering as she sneered.

Just then, from the table behind her, Jaou began making an odd chirping sound.

Of all the things Niashado had just seen, it was this suddenly anomalous sound that Jaou was making that gave her pause. Jaou chirped some more. This time there was no mistaking the franticness of the sound. But the ranger-satyr didn't seem to be issuing the sound from the pain he was undoubtedly feeling.

No. It was a warning. He was warning her. But of what? And why was he sounding like a bird?

The sound of the shamaness dark reflection interrupted her thoughts. She slowly turned toward this, Eri'zia person, just in time to see the eredar tap her fingernail hard against Niashado's forehead.

- - -



Niashado gasped and bolted upright. The sound of beating wings and an indignant chirp filled the small room that she, Sundar and Jaou were sleeping in. Rubbing her forehead, Niashado glared balefully the owl, who in turn looked back at her with large unapologetic eyes. The owl's persistent pecking and chirping had roused her from the extremely disturbing dream before she could glean more from it.

Or was it a dream? The Elements sometimes communicated in odd ways and she wondered if this dream was a message. If so, it made so little sense. She'd never heard of an eredar overseer named Eri'zia. The names of Legion overseers were common knowledge among the draenei and she tried to keep up with the latest intel that was made public about them.

Falathir ruffled her white and lavender feathers and chirped again. The shamaness cast a wary glance at the slumbering kal'dorei brothers and hoped that the owl wouldn't wake them up. They'd been through so much today and Jaou even more so. They needed the rest. Surely Falathir, who had such a bond with Jaou would know this.

Unless she was warning them.

Rising to her hooves, Niashado quietly threw a cloak over her sleeping gown. She briefly considered donning her armor, but the noise might disturb the elves. No. They really needed the rest. She would observe and if things were dangerously amiss, then she would return to warn them.

She tied a string of small crystal totems to her wrist and picked up her staff. Then, closing her eyes, she softly mumbled a spell that she seldom used.

Niashado felt her form shifting and a second later she opened her eyes to a different world. Well, it was still the same world, but she was seeing it differently. In fact, she was also feeling it, hearing it and smelling it differently. All here senses were so much more acute.

A startled chirp caught her attention and she turned to the owl. Falathir appeared startled by her transformation and even made to peck at her forehead. Niashado snapped her jaws back and nudged the owl with her snout. Then, giving the owl a steely glare, she tried to project her thought to the creature.

This was yet another ability of shamanism that she wasn't particularly skilled at, yet, thank the Light, the owl seemed to understand and took to the air. Shaking off the last remnants of rest from her canine form, Niashado took off in pursuit.

She marveled at how much more quietly she could move through the forest. Earlier, when it was just her and Sundar traveling, she was having such trouble hiking quietly. The elf, however, was nearly impossible to hear. Now, though, she was able to pad through the forest in near silence.

She kept a watchful eye for Falathir's fluttering form ahead, but her mind returned again to the dream. Or was it a vision? Who was Eri'zia? What was the tothrezim trying to accomplish my adding such artificial appendages to Jaou? Were they indeed trying to create some sort of bio-mechanical super satyr?

'Super satyr?' That term sounds like something a gnomish author would write into a horror/fantasy book. But this wasn't fiction. This was real and now.

More troubling was what the Eri'zia had said. Would Jaou really do anything for her? Was she doing more harm to him? The letters had proven that Jaou did indeed have feeling for her. And the truth was, she really liked him. Perhaps it was even love, although she feared using such a word to describe any potential relationship.

The last person she had loved had been Markal. But his refusal to accept that she wanted to practice shamanism had been the reason (or excuse) for him to leave her. In truth, though, there were many other factors that led to this. Shamanism had dealt the killing blow to their relationship, but the scales were never in her favor. Markal was from an affluent family who resided in Shattrath City. She was a 'swamper,' as the other draenei called anyone who lived in any of the small villages in Zangarmarsh.

He was destined from a young age to become a Vindicator. Her failure to master arcane magics probably meant she'd follow in her parent's footsteps and work as an herbalist. It was a life she was content with. Markal was much more ambitious. He and his family would never be content with a swamper who would never amount to being anyone worth remembering to their people.

After he left her, he immediately joined with another woman, one his family approved. His career as vindicator took off to great heights. Then, tragedy struck and he was killed during a mission in the Plaguelands. To her horror, he had become resurrected as a deathknight under the Lich King, Arthas.

No one else on Exodar knows he's a death knight now. He wanted to spare his new, and expecting, wife, the horror and disgrace of what he'd become. Draenei honor and protect their dead. Raising the dead to life as slaves is… revolting. And even though he's free of Arthas' control, he's not really alive. He's still a death knight. He's serving with the Ebon Blade now.

Their last meeting had been, decidedly unfriendly. The man she'd once loved had blamed her for what had befallen him. It was irrational and he eventually realized it, but not before she'd been grievously wounded.

That had been years ago and through a totally chance encounter with the technological wonder of a Titan's machine, the wounds she had suffered for several years because of him had been erased. All her physical scars had been erased. But the pain was still there. The memories remain.

'Love' is a vital part of a person, and Niashado tried her best to be loving towards all those she'd met. The naaru had shown love for her people by rescuing them from become eredar. The naaru, being with unimaginable power and strength, cared for the little people. In fact, some naaru had gone as far as to sacrifice themselves, so that others had a chance to see the love and grace of the Light. Love is a tenant of the Light.

But since Markal, Niashado had been hesitant to share her heart with anyone. She was content to show forgiveness and caring for all those that she can. But to take anyone into her heart… she couldn't risk it. And more importantly, she didn't want to risk breaking anyone else's heart. She didn't want to disappoint those who love her.

And there was a darker, more vain, part to her wariness. Jaou was not all that he seems to be. He wasn't a draenei. And his body was not that of night elf. He was a good kal'dorei, trapped in the body of demon. And now, even his mind was damaged by the trauma they'd dealt him.

She loved him, probably more so then she did anyone else, but she could never truly 'love' him the way he probably did, or the way she had a desire to.

Niashado was enough of a pariah among her own people. But, if she had to be completely and bluntly honest with herself, to pursue a relationship with Jaou would be to pursue a relationship with a demon. This was wrong on so many levels. One of her kind, with a demon? It was unheard of.

And thus was the endless cycle of doubt that cycled through Niashado's mind. She really liked Jaou. She wanted to love Jaou. But such a thing could simply not happen as long as he was a demon. It was dangerous for her and in many ways, just as dangerous for him.

And deep down, the shamaness couldn't ignore the nagging doubt that she was no better the Markal. She was dismissing his heart out of the idea that it would not be proper to love such a creature. She was wrong to think this.

He trusts her. Before his abduction, she knew he'd have done anything for her. And Niashado would like to have thought she'd do anything for him. She stood before the Council in Exodar and publicly declared her trust and compassion for Jaou. And then, she had helped him escape from the custody of the Hand of Argus.

This earned her exile. And still, here she was helping him.

She had no regrets; only shame that her fear and doubt prevented her from doing more.

All thoughts faded away as Falathir suddenly landed on a low hanging branch and Niashado slowed to a much quieter trot. Her canine ears strained to pick up any sounds. Oddly enough, she smelled them long before she heard them.

That scent of bitter musk tinged with sulfur that demons seemed to always carry. Then she heard them.

The satyrs were close, so close, to the ruins. And there were felhounds with them who were undoubtedly tracking their scent and magical signature.

If something didn't happen soon, they would find Jaou and Sundar. The look of pure terror in Jaou's face flashed in her mind. They would torture him again. They would probably capture her and Sundar. Then all of this would be for naught.

She wasn't aware that her lips were rising, revealing a row of sharp canine teeth. Her eyes narrowed and her tail stilled.

She would not let them recapture Jaou. Turning, her head upward, she glanced at Falathir and tried to channel her thoughts.

Warn Jaou and Sundar. Make them flee!

She repeated the thought over and over until Falathir silently took to the air and disappeared into the ruins. Hopefully she understood. At the very least she will get their attention. She lowered her wolf body to the ground and tried recall what she knew of the area near their camp. There was a small bog further down from the waterfall where she had washed Jaou. The water was disgustedly stagnate and like everything in felwood, tainted with residual fel magic.

But for her plans, it might be helpful. Light willing.

Repeating a short prayer in her mind, she burst from her hiding spot, snarled and barked at the two felhounds and then took off to the west. In surprise, the two felhounds backed away but swiftly regained their courage took off in pursuit. They undoubtedly knew what she was. Most forest creatures fled when demons were nearby. A lone wolf facing off a demon was highly atypical.

The angry call of the satyrs and the snarling of the felhounds indicated that they were indeed in pursuit. Good.

Despite the horror of the moment, she found herself amused at realizing that she thought it was 'good' that these demons were chasing her.

She shot through some shrubbery and ignored the scratches to her face and the clumps of fur that were torn off her body by the thorns. Her four legs burned as she rounded another corner and jumped over a huge tree root. Ahead, she could smell the heavy scent of the bog.

The fel hounds were so close. She could almost imagine that their tentacles were about to snag her hind legs. She'd heard how felhounds could suck all the magic and even the life out of their victims.

How did she ever think fel hounds chasing her was a good thing?

Oh right… at least they're not chasing Jaou and Sundar.

The bog suddenly came to view and Niashado barely had time to call out to the water before jumped over the nearly non-existent shore. Despite the heavy taint, the water answered her call and she was soon running along its surface as if it was just like the forest floor. The pursuing felhounds were not so fortunate.

They fell unexpectedly into the water and their stubby legs were tangled in the roots and thick mushy floor of the bog bed.

Niashado shifted back into a draenei and spun around. Her hooves skidded along the water surface even as she stretched her hand out to the pair of felhounds thrashing near the shore. With an angry call, she had the water freeze all around the demon dogs. Even their soaked fur became frozen solid.

Not missing a second, the shamaness called down lightning. She felt the electricity begin dancing around her fingers. Her bluish-gray hair felt like it was standing on end as the wind began circling around area near the bog. A sharp crack of blue-white light arced from her staff and struck the two frozen felhounds square in the flank. The sudden introduction of intense heat in such a frozen object caused the ice to explode.

With a brief mournful cry, the pair of demon hounds fell lifelessly into the water. The smell of burning fur, ozone and sulfur filled the air even as the deafening clap of the thunder rang in her ears.

Weakened from the intense magical assault she had just unleashed, the shamaness dropped to her knees and panted. She'd always tried her best to keep emotions out of the calls she made to the Elements, but this time she couldn't avoid it. She was still trying to recover on the surface of the bog when two more satyrs appeared. One of them was spinning something over his head.

With a grunt, she got back to her hooves and began trying to call out more lightning. That was when the satyr spinning the thing over his head suddenly swung his arm down. Before Niashado could dream up what it he was doing, something brutally struck the side of her head.

Niashado fell back and crashed into the bog. The pungent water washed away the fatigue she was feeling, but by the time she could find her footing, the satyrs were upon her. Soaked completely, she felt her staff being wrenched from her hand. A knee came up against her chest just as she raked her claws across the face of one of her assailants. Snarling in pain, that satyr backed away.

Bluish blood fell over right eye, even as she managed to gasp out another elemental call. Electricity enveloped her body and the resulting shocks upon the satyrs holding her caused them to back off abruptly.

The darkness encroaching around the periphery of her vision warned her that consciousness was on the verge of leaving. Her medical experience came up with the diagnosis of a concussion. That satyr had a sling. How had she not realized that he was spinning up a sling?

She stumbled on her hoofs, recovered the staff that was floating in the water and swung it against the head of one of the shocked satyrs. It was a clumsy attack, but enough to keep it off balance. The other satyr recovered and reach out toward her.

Muttering another spell, even as she stumbled through the shallow water to get out of his reach, Niashado watched as his fur suddenly burst into flames. It screamed and slogged away before finally getting wise and going into the water. When the demon again ascended he was met with roots, vines and seaweed that the shamaness had called forth to hold him down.

She clenched her fist as the vines tightened mercilessly against his body. He struggled in vain against their pull and for a moment, Niashado was reminded of the vision of Jaou straining against the restraints that held him down as the demon hounds tore off his arm. And then she recalled the dream where his arm was again severed with a saw. Her azure blood boiled in rage and her fist tightened to the point that her nails pierced the flesh of her palms.

The satyr was beginning to gag. He clawed at his neck, shredding his own fur and flesh as he tried to find purchase to peel away the vine.

You deserve this. For everything you put him through, you deserve this. If only she could have done this to tothrezim.

Another vine curled around the satyrs left arm and began to bend it back, far beyond the limits it was ever meant to. Even from where she stood she heard the bones in his arm snap. The satyr's throat was far too constricted for him to issue a cry.

The shamaness heard water splashing next to her just as the entrapped satyrs' neck cracked. Before she could turn her head, something struck her in the back of the head. She fell forward but darkness consumed her before she felt the water.

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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Thu May 02, 2013 10:54 pm

A soft light came from the distance, radiating softly, invitingly, and it was the only focal point in the consuming darkness. The only other thing discernible in the void were subtle sounds, and a strange feeling. Nostalgia. That alone was enough to drive Jaou forward. He moved on, driven by instinct. There was something there, and it was calling to him.

Jaou walked towards the light, unerringly drawn towards it. His hoof-steps echoed loudly in the seemingly endless abyss, as if he were walking on polished marble floor. The light slowly grew in brightness. He was getting closer to to his goal.

The light soon illuminated his entire surroundings, so brightly, he had to shield his eyes from the intense glow. As the brightness subsided, Jaou found himself surrounded by trees, trees of a kaldorei forest. There the satyr stood in wonder. A small spirit, appearing as a ball of light, flitted past him.

This place... I... have been here before., haven't I...?

Jaou stepped forward to explore his odd surroundings. He did not question why he was there. He did not wonder why he was no longer in the protective ruins. The satyr went through the forest, taking a winding path wrought by the densely packed and enormous trees. His hooves did not make a sound, nor did they disturb the detritus of the ground. Indeed, it seemed that the former elf was but a spectre. Jaou even wandered near grazing deer and they paid him no heed.

He continued to trek through the forested paths. Everything, from the smell, to the touch, the way the path winded, the detail of the trees, it was all known to him, like the back of his hand. How did he know all of this, he wondered.

He saw some one else in the forest. A figure flitted through the trees ahead, and like everything else, took no notice of his presence. Whatever it was continued on its course, and Jaou followed it. The few glimpses he had of the figure between the densely grown trees were not able to reveal to him what it was he was following; it was only a curious urge in the back of his mind that made him go forth.

It was not an impossible task to follow it, even at a walking pace, as the figure paused from time to time. Jaou finally caught up with whoever it was he was following. He stopped in between two camphor trees and looked ahead. Before him was a young kaldorei child, no older than a decade in age he guessed.

The boy had dark wavy hair, tapering a little past his shoulders. His white eyes looked at the world around him with great enthusiasm. Much of the forest fought for his attention as his head looked this way and that. For him, there was so much to see. But he was also looking for something. He crouched down and picked up a fallen leaf, still vibrant green and purple. The boy set it aside and began moving more foliage out of the way.

So familiar... who is this, where... where am I?

"... Ahh... Night... song...?"

The name just came to him. Nightsong woods; that was where he was, but why was there a lone boy in the forest? No, he was not alone. He looked up from where he knelt and stood; there was a voice, some one calling for the boy. Strangely, Jaou was unable to hear what was being said, as if it were being purposefully hidden from him. Jaou looked past the child and saw a taller figure standing some distance away in the trees. It was another night elf as far as he could tell. The young boy ran to the adult, who knelt down to greet him.

Jaou carefully walked closer to them, wary of approaching. The grown kaldorei had wavy black hair in tresses and wore a number of earrings and necklaces that dangled as he knelt down to the boy. He was dressed in simple hunting leathers accented with natural designs, appropriate for an excursion into the forest. As the satyr approached closer to the two, he noticed that the man and boy looked quite similar to each other. The man had stronger features, but it was apparent that they shared characteristics with each other, their hair, eyes, the way they smiled, even the split eyebrows the two had.

"Slow down, my child!" the man said with a grin. "We still have a few hours to get back home. If you want to take a detour, just let me know."

"I heard something that way, papa," the young boy said, pointing just past Jaou. The satyr's ears perked up in alert. "There are tracks."

"Tracks?" the father asked. The kaldorei had a contemplative expression on his face. "Did you want to see where it goes?"

The boy nodded his head.

"Are you able to tread silently?"

The boy nodded his head again.

The father let out a chortle. "Well, let's see where it leads us. Stay close Jaou, There may yet be some danger around."

Father?

"I think they're wolf prints," the son said.

"Wolf prints you say? Come to think of it, there is a pack living around here."

That is me, and he is... my father?

The two walked past him, and all Jaou could do was follow them with his gaze. These were such important points of his life, why could he not remember them? Now, more than ever, he was compelled to follow them.

"How are your studies going?" the father asked.

"Good; they're fun, but it's starting to get harder," the young Jaou admitted. "I don't understand them as well now..."

"I can help you with it later if you want. How about your studies with Ravenstar and the twins?"

"I really like it! It's tiring, but I think I'm getting the hang of it."

"Oh? I see." The adult had a thoughtful expression as they followed the prints.

"Uncle Raven said I'm pretty good at the exercises. He's teaching me more advanced weapons soon."

"You're coming right along with those!" the father exclaimed, ruffling his son's hair

"Yeah, I think I really like that training," young Jaou smiled as he fixed his hair.

"Son, have you thought about what you want to do?"

"Huh? I... well..."

Before he could hear more of the conversation, the forest scene started to blur, leaving only the two elves and himself clear in view. Soon, even the kaldorei started to blur. Moments later, everything started to fade into darkness; what remained of their voices was only a faint echo trailing off.

"No... no, wait! Come back!" Jaou shouted as he reached out for them and started to pursue them. The ground gave way and the satyr found himself falling in the consuming dark.

Aside from falling, there was also a strong sensation of wind blowing around him. Along with the wind was a sounds that was growing louder with every passing second. It sounded like... a distressed bird?

Suddenly, there was the feeling of solid ground on his side. He felt his body jerk from the sensation and Jaou bolted upright. His eyes opened in shock and his fur stood on end. He was in the ruins still with a fur throw partially draped over him. Sundar was sleeping in the same room some distance away, but oddly, Niashado was missing. Falathir, however, was next to Jaou, flapping her wings and screeching at him. It was surprising how Sundar stayed asleep with such a ruckus."

"Ah... what?" Jaou said in question to the avian. The owl fluttered towards the entrance of the ruins and looked back to the former elf with a desperate call. Jaou looked between the druid and the owl. He sensed that she wanted him to follow. Was it something urgent? Maybe it had something to do with Niashado's absence.

He set the throw aside and quietly got to his hooves. Only taking a few steps, his mind suddenly was overtaken with a strange feeling.

"What are you going to name the hatchling?"

"Huh? Didn't Ashtalar say something about having to wait until a bird grows older to find out their gender?"

"It doesn't hurt to have names ready."

"I suppose... I was thinking of a couple of names."

"Oh? Do tell!"

"If the owlet was a girl, I would name it Helith. If it were a boy, it would be..."


"F-Falathir..." Jaou murmured. "Your name... is Falathir, isn't it. I gave you that name though you weren't male."

The owl let out a series of mewling noises and fluttered about before making more frantic gestures to the doorway.

"I'll follow."

Jaou quickly followed Falathir out of the ruins, being careful to proceed as quietly as possible. From there, the owl led the way into the forest gliding silently through the trees. Jaou kept his eyes to the canopy to follow the contrasting owl against the sickly green of the forest. The direction they went in drew his curiosity. They passed close to the spring that Niashado had taken him earlier, but they passed it and went forward.

There was a shift in the terrain; the ground became swollen and soft, wet. The stagnant scent of decay and trapped water came to Jaou like a wall. The musk came from a bog, but another scent mixed into it. It was a fel odour. demons. Jaou immediately stopped in his tracks. The mere thought of running into the demons kept his body stationary. Falathir looked curiously at the satyr as he struggled with himself. She let out a series of hoots, urging him forward. However, his body signaled that he had absolutely no want to deal with the fel beings.

But, there was Niashado who was missing. Would she have run into them? What if she was in trouble? While he could not quite remember the exact nature of his relationship with Niashado and Sundar, he knew deep inside from a long-ago memory that he should do what he can to help them.

I must go, I have to move forward!

Still feeling the stiffness of his legs from deep seeded fear, Jaou trudged forward quietly. If other demons were present, he would have to be silent. He could not risk being caught unaware in such an environment.

The trees were skeletal and gnarled; lichen and moss hung heavily on the branches and trunks. The plant life showed little vibrancy, and the decay in the air was stifling. If Falathir was leading him to Niashado, he had to wonder why the draenei would have come here.

The further Jaou progressed into the bog, the more alert he became. His ears twitched as foreign sounds came to him and his fur started to bristle with agitation. He could hear them, smell them. Satyrs. There was something else in the air, charred flesh.

Jaou started to creep lower and Falathir fled into the upper branches of the tress. The putrid environment was purged form his mind, he was coming close to danger. The former elf ducked down into the reeds. Ahead of him were three satyrs, and the body of another in the shallow waters, it appeared. One of them knelt down.

"Dead," the demon announced. "This wench was more trouble than expected."

"Damnation! the hounds are done for too!" another one exclaimed.

"The mistress will not be pleased. I'd hate to think what our guest is going to do," the third chimed in.

"Maybe we should bring the blue-blood back to her. Appease her wrath?"

Blue-blood? Jaou shifted his head to get a better view of what they were talking about. From his position, he saw another body in the water. His chest started to clench tightly in dread.

The first satyr knelt down and pulled Niashado up from the dank waters. "I think this will do nicely."

More memories started to well up within Jaou. In his mind, he was moving quickly through the forest. There was a sense of urgency like no other. Driven by an overwhelming worry and duty, he went forward. He was going after someone, someone he cared greatly for.

Nia... No, I can't let them take her!

As the demons pulled her up Jaou, rather bold and perhaps foolishly, revealed himself from the brush.

"Leave her alone," he demanded.

The three remaining satyrs all locked their sights on the surprise intruder. "Well, look at what we have here, boys!"

"Our losses have been recouped in one nice act of providence."

The satyrs set the shamaness aside having found their new target in Jaou. The fel beings took his appearance as a surrender-bargain. Part of his impromptu plan worked, but now he has three satyrs advancing on him. While his resolve to help her was high, his confidence in being able to defeat them was comparatively low. Jaou fought against his body's instincts, as had been unintentionally conditioned from the past months, to flee from danger. His tail swished from side to side in nervous energy, and his adversaries could see it. But there was no turning back, no plan B; if Niashado was to get to safety, the satyrs would need to be defeated first. He had to do this, and succeed.

"Lucky for you, the lady wants you unspoiled," the apparent leader of the trio sneered. "If you want to make this easy, then you'll be coming with us with no fuss."

Not a word came from Jaou. He only gave them a steely gaze with his ears laid back in aggression. The three closed in around him. They knew there was a good chance Jaou would not be able to fend them off; his physical health was not at its peak, nor was it reliable from what they witnessed at their camp.

"Come on, let's get going with our prize!" one of the other demons cheered.

The troupe started to pressure Jaou away from the scene. A loud attack call sounded from Falathir, who was above them. Such a strange noise caught the attention of the satyrs and caused them to freeze in alert.

A chance!

Jaou used the brief opportunity and went on the offensive. Wasting no time, he turned to one of the demons that had their back to him and buried his claws into him. The howled in pain and the others turned their attention to their supposed captive.

"Stop him!" a cry was issued.

Jaou's claws dug deeper into his victim. He lifted the satyr up and threw him towards his assailants. One was struck by the soon-to-be dead demon, while the other rolled away. He redoubled and charged towards the former elf, claws and fangs bared. He struck out, catching Jaou across the chest, just. Jaou stepped back, the demon took another slash at him, but Jaou grabbed his arm with his good hand, and with his false claw, drove it into the enemy's throat. His life slipped away as his last breath came to him in bloodied gurgles.

By that time, the last of the satyrs had gotten up, but only in time to see his compatriot brutally executed. A fearful look crossed his features before he turned away and fled the scene. Jaou kept his eyes on the escaping satyr, but he would not give chase. He had to see to Niashado.

Falathir flew down to meet Jaou as he quickly approached the draenei. Ever carefully, he lifted the unconscious shamaness out of the water. He was unsure of her injuries, but worryingly, he noticed blue blood trickling over his arm, coming from the back of her head.

"...Nia?" he called out for her, softy.

Only moments later, her eyes burst open and she was convulsing. The coughing fit brought up water she must have taken in while she was laying in the dank bog. Jaou was caught in the spray, but that was the least of the problems. She started to panic in his grasp, trying to push him away.

Jaou attempted to hang on to her through the confusion."Wait!" he called out.

Niashado was still coughing, but the convulsions and her tensions calmed down. She blinked a few times and regarded the former elf. "Jaou?" she said in a puzzled manner. "The other satyrs?"

"T-they're dead," he said quietly. The satyr regarded her timidly. "One escaped. Are... are you hurt? You're bleeding a lot."

"Head... hurts. Are there any others?"

"I only saw three. I don't hear or smell any others," he replied, Falathir hooted in agreement as well..

Niashado touched her forehead lightly and winced in pain. "Not the best idea... I have... ever had."

A concerned look washed over Jaou visage. "Sundar, he can help you, can't he? I'll take you back to him." She did not seem at all fine. She was injured and he needed to take her back to safety.

"I think... seeing him... good idea," the shamaness murmured. Jaou helped Niashado to her hooves. She motioned that she would be able to walk, but she used him as support as they trudged out of the bog back to the ruins. As they went along, Falathir flew low and found a perch on one of Jaou's horns. Then Niashado started to murmur various things. He could not hear what they were though.

"Huh?" Jaou looked confusedly at her.

The draenei opened her eyes and shaked her head a little. "Concussion. I... do not let... me sleep. Talk to me."

"Talk to you?" Jaou repeated, though more puzzled. "I... but... what?"

"Tell... me a story while we walk. If I... sleep... may not wake up," she replied. Jaou started to feel distressed, but she was otherwise oblivious to it. "Why did you... become ranger?"

"Ranger? I-I don't..."

He was cut short by various imaged in his mind, imaged form his dream. His young self with his father. Memories welled up within him. His father performing druidic acts that he as a child tried to replicate, but failed to do so. Yet, his father never looked upon him in disappointment. Another image flashed in his mind. He saw himself training in combat with another adult. The training was grueling, but he remembered his father watching form the side. There was a look of a father being proud of his child. Just as soon as the imagery came, they fled his mind. Jaou shook the dizziness from him, but then, he slowly nodded.

"Yes... I am a ranger..." the satyr answered. "I remember... a boy, and his father, walking in the woods. The man, he was able to speak with the trees, the animals. The boy, he wasn't able to, not the way his father did."

"But, you still found… your place."

"My place..." he started to wonder. "My place, what place? I feel... lost. I can't remember everything..."

"I... remember..." Niashado interjected. "I remember Jaou, who put his people... those in need... ahead of himself. While others... feared his appearance... he held his honor and his duty." She looked up to him, though with some difficulty. "He is very loved."

She suddenly stumbled on a root, but Jaou caught her before she could fall. They paused for a moment together, allowing her to regain some sense of balance before the proceeded forward.

"Was that me?" mused the satyr. "It sounds... familiar, but is it real? I only remember slivers, broken pieces. I can't... Not everything fits together."

"It is you."

"If it was me... How did this all happen." he muttered placing a hand on his head.

"Accident. Poisoned," Niashado murmured. Her pace started to slow considerably.

Jaou's ears perked at the words she spoke and noticed the draenei slowing down. He stopped for a moment and gently picked her up, being careful not to harm her with his prosthetic arm, and continued. "I remember seeing fear in others, You're not afraid, and neither is Sundar. Why?"

"Sundar is your brother. He would do anything for you." Niashado closed her eyes momentarily and then abruptly reopened them as she struggles to remain awake. "I... feared you once, but then I got to know you. What you appear to be on the outside, is not who you are."

Jaou thought for a moment, and appeared to have a revelation. "I think I can remember, seeing you for the first time. I remember you, and many others."

"Raynewood Retreat," the shamaness managed to mumbled with the briefest of smiles. "Two sentinels were... giving me a hard time, but... then you stepped up and welcomed me."

"They were afraid, weren't they. I can remember a bit. Fear was everywhere," the satyr said. As they spoke, more memories started to come to him. "It's wasn't always like that, and I wasn't always there. I was in many other places."

"Your duties… as a ranger took you many places. Things became more difficult when… your form changed. But you still remained… a ranger and a good elf. Your friends and family, love you. You never… changed being… who you… are." Her eyelids drifted lower with each word.

Jaou grew concerned over the draenei losing consciousnes. "Don't fall asleep!" he urged her. "We're getting close!" He tried to think of something else to keep her attention up. "Did you have another question? I will try to remember as best as I can... Or..." The ranger tried to think of something to keep the conversation up. "Do you have family?"

"Family," Niashado murmured. It had been so long since she thought of them. When the draenei crashed on Azeroth all she could think about was the loss of her parents. Now, it stunned her to think that she hadn't thought of them in awhile.

"We lived in Telredor, on Draenor. My father… and mother. I was an only child. I miss them. The crash…" she explained. The shamaness was concerned at how difficult it was becoming to formulate sentences. The concussion must have been much more severe then she had anticipated first. She needed to stay awake. "My parents were… herbalists. They had a small shop… in town.

"Father told me that…Ragveil… has to be kept out of direct sunlight. It can be found… mostly at the bases of… of the giant mushrooms," she rambled weakly. "The Dreaming Glory flower grows on slopes. Flame Cap can be found… in the western side of the marshes. Terocone… falls from the trees in Terokkar Forest. Fel Lotus… is a fungus… that grows on the stems… of some of the plants. Felweed… is… I forget."

"The most common of the herbs in Outland, found in most every environment except the Netherstorm, where it is only found in certain regions," Jaou suddenly blurted out. Surprised by what he said. He had learned that somewhere before.

At that, the shaman smiled. "Right. Everywhere. Very good. Father would be proud you… listened to his… lectures."

His lectures? I'm... fairly sure I haven't met him. Still, this was a good sign for him. Perhaps he would be able to remember more soon.

Jaou almost managed a smile when he looked ahead. "The ruins, I can see them. Can you see them?"

She tried to lift her head up to see what he was looking at, but the effort was too much. She gave up and laid back on his arm. "I just want to sleep."

"Stay awake, please. For me," he said to her. He hurried his pace, but tried to keep her still.

As he approached the outskirts of the ruins, a sabre soon greeted them as it changed to a night elf. "There you are!" Sundar exclaimed. He sniffed the air around them. "I just woke up, and found the three of you missing." The druid paused for a moment and took in the scent in the air. His nose wrinkled in the face of the offensive musk. "By the moon, you guys smell like you went into the bog of the dead."

"Sundar! Nia, she's hurt," Jaou said with urgency. "Can you help her?"

He knows our names now, the druid realized.

"The bog... fel hounds..." she murmuerd. "Mana absorption. The fur color is not right..." she sputtered while being helped up. "Newer breed... no record... of being brough to Azeroth."

"Great, more trouble," he went over to the shamaness as Jaou lowered her to him. "A head injury." Sundar placed a hand behind her head and cupped it slightly. A soft emerald light radiated from his hand. "That will ease it. Let's head back, I have some healing potions we can use."

"Sundar? I-I never told… Jaou, how much… he means to me," the shamaness muttered as she felt someone pulling her up.

Jaou's ears perked as he heard what she said. He felt his cheeks flush, but he was not quite sure why. The words also caught Sundar off guard.

"Well... I think you did just now," the druid said.

"After Markal… left me… I feared being hurt again," she continued as if she hadn't heard what Sundar said, who appeared confused, as did Jaou; the brothers just stood there as she continued. "I… I thought if I devoted my life wholly to the Elements… I would never feel as hurt, as he had made me feel. But, I… never expected… my feelings for… Jaou."

Sundar just waved at his brother, towards the inner ruins. "Let's just go inside..."

"He went missing… and I never told him… my feelings," she said, drowsy-like.

"Um, Nia, he's right here," Sundar said leaning forward to look at her and pointing a finger at Jaou.

The satyr found himself feeling emotions that were known to him, yet, he too found it hard to put into words.

"I… when he gets here… I want… tell him… because of him… I do not want to be… alone,… anymore," she added. Her eyelids drooped lower.

As they neared the main chamber, Sundar looked up to Jaou. "I think you guys need some sleep, her especially."

Jaou nodded, though shyly. Jaou gently laid the shamaness near the fire on top of the blakets laid out on her sleeping area. He looked at Sundar for a moment before looking back at Niashado. "Will she be alright?"

"Good question. It seems she's chattering away without knowing it," Sundar answered. "But, it seems her heart felt it was time to let off some steam."

Niashado muttered a few things unintelligibly for a few moments before her eyes finished closing and she fell into a deep sleep. Sundar took one of the throws and placed it over the slumbering draenei. He looked to his brother.

"I think you need to do the same." Sundar let out a sigh. "Just like in the past, sometimes it's hard to get some sleep around here."

"Sundar," Jaou said.

"Hmm? Yes?"

"One of the satyrs, he escaped."

"There were satyrs?" Sundar asked in surprise. "Looks like they're trying their best to find us. We need to leave as soon as possible, otherwise Nia's injuries will be the least of our worries." Sundar placed a hand to his chin in thought. "I think we need to head north. Emerald Sanctuary is close, we can stop there."

"Emerald Sanctuary?"

"You'll remember it, I think." Sundar stretched and sat down. "With the satyr running off, I think we can at least get a few hours of shut eye without worry."

Jaou tentatively nodded. "Sleep, it sounds nice."

"Yes, and maybe a bath in the morning for you guys."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Mon May 27, 2013 12:17 am

It was cold outside.

You didn't need to be a shaman to hear the cold in the howls of the wind or in the mournful creaking of snow-laden tree branches.

Curling up tightly, she was careful to keep bundled up in the soft warm blankets. The bed seemed to embrace her body in a warm embrace. If she wanted to, she felt she could spend all day here.

That wasn't hyperbole either. Outside there was nothing but bone-freezing frost, confused elementals and even more confused mortals trying to find their way in an increasing entropic world.

But not here, in the bed. Here she had warmth and peace. Here, her worn hooves could get some much-needed rest.

She smiled as she felt a hand gently trace down her spine, from neck to her tail. A tingle sensation radiated outward from where the finger made contact.

"Are you awake?" he asks. She responds with a murmur, not wanting to ruin the peace of the gray morning.

"Care for breakfast?" he asks after a long pause. Still with her back to him, she shakes her head. Again, his hand traces down her back and then back to her neck. Her ear involuntary flicks in reaction to his breathe upon her neck.

"Or we can just stay in bed all day?" he askes, as his warm hand rubs her neck and brushes aside her tendrils. Her smile widens.

"I like that idea," she confesses, as her bluish hand met his light purple hand over her shoulder. "The elements have worked so hard to drape this land over a blanket of snow. I see no reason why we should disturb it."

"I doubt the elements much care if we had a few footsteps to their handy work," he replies in a jovial tone.

"A ranger
and a shaman now. Give a man his looks back and suddenly he wants to be everything," she giggles back while squeezing his hand harder.

"I owe you and my brother much for my restoration," he answers. The seriousness of his tone is as potent as the chill of the wind outside. She opens her eyes for the first time.

"You owe us nothing. You know that," she answers quietly. For the first time, she notes an unsual odor. It's growing stronger. Her brow furrows as she tries to place where she remembers that scent. It's as if something has died and is rotting. It's completely out of the place here.

She squeezes his hand again, but her thoughts are no longer on the warmth of the room or the pleasure of her companion. And thus, it takes a while longer before she realizes that the flesh of his hand has been replaced by fur.

Her glowing white eyes widen. She glances down, knowing somehow what she'll be greeted with, while hoping beyond hope that it isn't so. His arm is covered in fur.

Crimson fur.

Issuing a stifled cry, she bolts upright in bed and her head spins around to face her companion for the first time.

The person she heard earlier isn't there.

The manic eyes of a crimson furred satyr stares back at hers. A flash of scarlet flashes before her eyes and she feel hot blue blood spilling from her neck, down her chest.



* * *


With a startled cry, Niashado bolts upright and clutches her neck tightly. There is no slick feeling of blood. She can breath. The mat she's on isn't as comfortable as the bed, but the campfire is at least warm. Outside, she can hear the patter of rain. There's no snow.

Glances down, the shamaness notes that she's still wearing her sleeping gown, but it's covered in grass and mud stains. She notes, with some dismay, the blue blood stains.

Then, she winces as a spike of pain suddenly jabs at her head. What happened?

Satyrs. She had followed an alarmed Falathir toward them. Satyrs with felhounds were tracking them. She remembered fighting them, but she couldn't remember the details.

"Sundar," Niashado moaned, still rubbing her throbbing head. "What happened? How did you find me? Is Jaou ok?"
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