Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:41 pm

Rest was well needed amongst the group. The brothers slept soundly, as did the sabres and Falathir. Sundar found himself in a more relaxed state than he felt since he came to Felwood again. While much trouble had followed them, fortune smiled upon their ragtag group and had returned Jaou to their world, as it were.

The druid slept soundly, breathing deeply, tossing around in comfort, or as much comfort as a marble floor could give. Although it had only been a few hours, he felt like it could go on forever. Had it been any longer, he would have considered slipping into the Emerald Dream.

Such thoughts were interrupted as he heard some one calling on him. Sundar let out a groan as he awoke from his sleep. "Huh, what? Oh, Nia." The druid ran a hand over his face and slightly rubbed his eyes. It seemed that the shamaness had just awoken. "You're awake. Are you feeling better?"

Niashado glanced around and quickly took stock of her location.  She slowly grew calmer and regarded Sundar with a questioning look. "How-how did I get here?  I was… there were satyrs,  What happened?"

"I think Jaou and Falathir found you and brought you back," Sundar said tiredly, stretching the sleep out of his body. "You were considerably injured. I'm surprised I wasn't awake for all of this."

"I did not want to disturb anyone. Falathir seemed jittery about something she saw out there and she led me to the satyrs," the shamaness replied. "You were tired and I wanted Jaou to rest. Is he still resting?"

"Well, he's resting now. He tried to stay awake to make sure nothing happened to you," Sundar said. "Do you recall much of your trek back here? Jaou seems a bit more talkative now."

The draenei closed her eyes and then shook her head.  "The last thing I remember was…" she held her eyes closed even tighter.  "I-I killed the fel hounds and one of the satyrs. And then I was falling in the water."  Niashado whispered.  Her eyes open and she sighed deeply.  "I do not know how I got here.   But, I do remember the fel hounds.  They are not a sub species my people have recorded as being brought to Azeroth.   These fel hounds were brought here very recently."

"New sub-species?" Sundar suddenly sat up straight with great attention. "Do you think it has anything to do with that new demon we saw?"

"The tothrezim?  I would not doubt it," she replied.  "Sundar, if a tothrezim is supplying the satyrs with felhound, then that means he has a vested interest in recovering Jaou." She closed her eyes and rubbed the tendered bruised area of her forehead. "What if I told you that we are at a critical area of Jaou's recovery?" she asked in a hushed tone.  "One misstep is all it would take to lose him.  We need to get him to safety."

"I thought about that already. We're moving north," Sundar stated. "The more north we go, the bigger the settlements and the more protection there will be. However..."

"How are we going to move him with any expediency?"

"We can't go faster than he is able to go. We'll just have to travel as the crow flies."

"'Travel as the crow flies?' I am unfamiliar with that phrase," Niashado asked. "Do you have some sort of method for airlifting him directly to one of the settlements?"

"...It's an expression. Come, we must get ready. If Jaou is correct, the one satyr that managed to escape would have warned the others."

"The one satyr?" she muttered while slowly standing to her hooves.  She appeared to sway a moment, before resting a hand against the wall and waiting for the dizziness to pass.  

"By the way, do you remember anything you said to him before you went to sleep?"

"What I said?  I do not even remember him coming to my rescue.   Why do you ask?  What did I say?"

"It was pretty strange, the things you went on about. Jaou and I were caught speechless!" exclaimed Sundar.

The draenei's white eyes grew wide and she opened her mouth to say something, but then closed it.   She couldn't recall anything.  

"What did I say?"

"Oh I'm not sure you're going to believe what I say..." the druid pondered.

Niashado suddenly grew very nervous.  The way Sundar was wording it, she must have said some terrible things, but for the life her, she couldn't remember.

The concussion.  That could be the only explanation.   She had tended to injured people with concussion.   They sometimes said strange things.  

What… what if I said something hurtful.  What if…

"Sundar, what did I say? Niashado repeated through clenched teeth.

"If I recall, oh you poured your heart out on the topic of a certain someone. Caused quite the blushing I'd say."

It didn't seem possible, but Niashado felt her eyes grow wider and her face became hot as she blushed fiercely.   The tips of her ears burned and she knew she had probably changed several shades of blue in the span of a few seconds.  

She'd been so careful about revealing too much about her feelings for Jaou, for fear of how it might affect his recovery.  The last thing she wanted to do was introduce more confusion into his situation.  And upon learning that he had those same feelings for her, she had redoubled her efforts.    

And now, one lousy rock to the head had caused her tongue to loosen.  

"Oh Light, I-I did not mea-" Niashado stopped short of finishing the sentence.   She wasn't sure it was applicable.   "I am sorry, Sundar.  I-I, oh Light."  

Words slipped out of her mind and she tugged on one of her tendrils hard enough for the pain to snap her back in the moment.  

"H-how did he take it?"

Sundar shrugged. "Fine I guess? He didn't say too much about it, not that I think he knew what to say. Why don't you ask him? You were using him as a pillow."

Where Sundar pointed was where his satyr brother laid. Jaou shifted in his sleep, almost as if he heard some one speaking of him.

The draenei's head snapped toward Jaou at the sound of him moving.   Then, shaking her head, Niashado abruptly stood up and left the campsite.  

She needed to think.  She needed to figure out what she'd say when he came to.   What if he asked her about what she said?  What if… what if she said something wrong.   Would his recovery regress?  

How could I have been so stupid! she mentally raged.  The part of her mind not overloaded with shame understood that this was, at best illogical and at worse, immature.  

At a loss for words, she just paced around outside, biting her lip.  Her tail snapping each way as if mimicking the thoughts she had going on in her mind.

Sundar casually followed the stressing draenei and stopped at the archway, leaning against a wall with his arms crossed over his chest. "You're worried for him, even to the point of suppressing such emotions."

The shamaness looked up at Sundar and very slowly nodded.  

"I really do love him, but I am also worried that I may hurt him.   Especially at this delicate moment in his recovery," she replied softly.  "I have been having these dreams… or visions.  It is of him and I together.   He is a night elf again, tall and handsome, albeit a little scarred.  Sometimes, however, the dream ends with me looking upon the face of Morvai, before I am killed.  That is usually when I wake up."  

Sighing, she absently dug a hoof into the mud.   "It might be a dream.  Or it might be a vision.   But what it tells me is that Jaou is at a critical stage of his recovery.  I never wanted him to think I feel the way he does for me," she adds, while pulling out a bundle of his letters from the pocket of her robes and handing it to the druid.  

"Intellectually, I understand that what happened between Markal and I is not my fault.  He was the one who could not cope with the direction I chose to take in my life.  But there are times when I indulge in the fear that if I had put our relationship first, Markal would not be a death knight now.   We would still be together, perhaps with a family of our own," Niashado confessed.  "That it was my choice that resulted in his life becoming poisoned.

"I will not risk that with Jaou."

Sundar took the letters and regarded him with a fatherly expression, and then looked at the shamaness. "I remember he was writing these letters. He could never finish them to be sent off. He was thinking that the Exodar might have broken the friendship you two have.

"I had a feeling you two had something for a long time, even if you two kept it to yourselves. I know it's important to keep things simple for him right now and let him focus on his recovery. I doubt he has given what you said any serious or complex thought given his condition."

"I am not so sure. I see it in his eyes, Sundar. We are as shades in his memory. With encouragement and time, I think it may be pushed into the light."

"I would be lying if I said I didn't have my doubts," the druid stated. "I know he's made it through a lot, but I fear that this might be something he can't get through. I don't know. I have doubts about my ability to help him."

The shamaness gently couped his hands in hers. "You may be right, but only time will tell. Until then, we should be here for him now."

Sundar nodded, and smiled a little. "Yes, you're right. We'll do our best, and hope that he improves.

"If he got better... well, I know the chances are extremely slim for him to recover his original form, but if he did, would you tell him?"

"I-I do not," Niashado replied after several long seconds of pensive thought. "I do not know. I think it is too early to ask that question."

"It was just curiosity," Sundar commented, though with a grin. "Come on, let's wake the big lug up."

Beaming a relieved smile, Niashado nodded and followed him back in.

She gently nudged his shoulder. "Jaou?"

The satyr mumbled lightly, pulling himself closer before opening his eyes. He looked to his side and then sat up. He looked at the shamaness for a moment before speaking.

"... Are you feeling better?"

"I am, thanks to you. Seems like old times with you coming to my rescue and all," Niashado replied with a smile. "We need to get moving soon.

"Old times..."

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

"Useless, miserable meatbag! What do you mean you escaped?!"

Of the four satyrs that Ran'Shali had sent out, accompanied by Gazheel's two fel stalkers, only one remained of the party, and he stood as a cowering mass before the rage of his mistress.

"But... my lady... he had quickly slain two of our group..." the demon confessed again. "He's not as weak as..."

"Were it not for the fact that we had lost too many of our own recently, I would disembowel you right in this spot and feed you to the beasts," the she-demon spat. "Begone from my sight, before I change my mind!"

The satyr scrambled out of the hollow as fast as he could. Ran'Shali turned around to face Gazheel, who stood in the shadows of the hollow. Her anger dissipated a little as she spoke to them. "I suppose I owe you two more hounds."

"Oh worry not, madame," the tothrezim said. "I had partially anticipated something like this would happen."

"Anticipated?" the satyress questioned. "What do you mean?"

"Those two stalkers are better suited for tracking. They're not suited for straight combat, especially not against a demon high on fel-infusion."

Ran'Shali snickered. "High? It seems the symptoms Stormchaser has are indicative of fel sickness."

"As much as it is, he is currently on a high. He will still experience better physical attributes, albeit unreliably in his case. It will better manifest if there's strong emotional drives, as I have found from past tests."

"Emotional drive, you say?"

I know his brother is here, and most likely has him in hiding from what we have dealt with, but there was no night elf at the bog. He said there was a blue blo-- Her sudden revelation lit up her venomous eyes. In her rage, she had missed such a vital detail. Blue blood! So that wench...[/i]

Gazheel rubbed his chin, while crossing his other pair of arms. "Is something the matter, miss Ran'Shali?"

"I think I know the source of such an amotional drive. It seems that he has even more troublesome help," she huffed. Now she had to think of another plan of action. With the druid and the draenei helping him, the ranger would be harder to recover.

The fel infusion is not permanent, though.

"Gazheel."

"Yes, madame?"

"You had mentioned the symptoms of the withdrawal, and that it happens rapidly?"

"Yes, the onset can be quite sudden. Pains, spasms, migraines, dizziness, many symptoms. He will start to fatigue... he will want more. He might start seeking ways to alleviate the pain. A large source of fel energy might be enough to attract him."

"And there are plenty of those around here," the she-demon stated. A devious grin touched her sultry lips."Perhaps going after them directly is the wrong approach. I think we'll need to do as the wolves do when hunting their prey."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Mon Nov 11, 2013 9:36 pm

It has been almost two years since I have written in this journal.   Journals do not work unless one puts an entry more frequently, but often times I am so busy that I forget I even have this little leather bound book.  

From the previous entries I have reviewed, it seems I only write in this book when I am fraught with worry and delegated to mundane tasks.   My last entry was when I was awaiting my hearing before being exiled from Azuremyst.  

This entry finds me in a far different… and yet eerily similar situation.   That does not seem like it should work.  I assure you, it does.  

The strange thing about being fraught with worry and delegated to mundane tasks is that it allows one to be introspective.  I want to believe I am a good person who walks in the path the Light has demonstrated to us time and time again.  Have I shown wisdom in all I do?   If my parents were still alive, what would they think of what I have done with my life?

There are so many questions and no easy answers.  

I sought out Sundar with the intent of helping him cope with the loss of his brother, Jaou.   Jaou, the kind-hearted kal'dorei, turned satyr.  Despite his transformation, his mind had not turned demonic like his body had.  And then, months ago, he disappeared.   I was at Exodar at the time.  Sundar had sent me a letter to inform me.  

I had sought Sundar out in the hopes of consoling him.   I knew he had been relentless in seeking out the whereabouts of his brother.  It was an obsession for him.   I do not have brothers or sisters.  I do not know what lengths I would go to protect a sibling.  I cannot blame him for his obsession.  But nor did I want to see him suffer for something I thought was beyond his control.

The unspoken reason I had come was to help him move on with his life.  Whatever dimension the portal Jaou had disappeared into led to, it was unlikely he would return.  

Azeroth was in danger.  The Elements have become uncontrollable and agitated.  We need every druid and shaman able to help.   We need Sundar to have his focus on Azeroth and not a brother we may never find again.   He is a gifted and powerful druid after all.  

Besides, if I was willing to give up on Jaou's possible return, he should be able to as well.   Again, I freely admit, I do not understand the bond between siblings.  

But as if fate had planned it, a few days after finding Sundar, we soon found Jaou.  

He was alive, but his mind was a shadow of its former self.   His body had been mutilated in many places and  his left arm replaced with a diabolic artificial one.    Whatever they had done to him, it had warped and forever scarred him.  

The most hurtful part is how he looks at his brother and I.   It is as if he can barely recognize us.

We have eluded satyrs, wild beasts and the sickening illness that gives Felwood the name it has and a week after finding him, we have returned to the Emerald Circle.  

The druids seemed less then enthusiastic about seeing Jaou, but Sundar wasted little time in getting them organized to tend to his healing and to do a thorough assessment of the devilry the Tothrezim had inflicted upon his marred body.  

The first indication of the horror he'd suffered through was evident when he panicked at the sight of the examination room they'd set up in one of the shelters.   He'd nearly begun hyperventilating and it took his brother, two tauren druids and me to restrain him.   Of course, this had only served to increase his panic attack and after much arguing, I finally talked the druids and Sundar into giving me some time alone with him.  

It took a great deal of patience and encouragement for Jaou to understand that he was safe and that we had no desire to harm him.   I am sure the examination table and the appearance of the room was similar to the one where the Tothrezim had removed his arm and experimented upon him.  

I had promised him that I would be by his side and for the first few examination I had been.  

However, that had abruptly changed a few days later, when the other druids had politely, yet adamantly, informed me that I could no longer attend the healing sessions.  They had cited family confidentiality.  

I suppose I should not be offended.  I have no right to be.   I am not a member of the Stormchaser family.   And in truth, I had arrived with the intention of trying to convince Sundar that his brother was gone.   What right do I have to consider myself family, despite the love I felt for Jaou?  

Am I a horrible person for giving up on Jaou?  

And so, for the last week, as I wrestle with that very questions, I have kept myself busy by searching for herbs that the local apothecary has requested.  It is easy work that requires little thinking.   That, in turn, allowed my mind to wander to other, less productive things.  

Did the druids find something wrong with Jaou?  If so, why were they keeping me in the dark about it?  I may not be as good as the other healers, but perhaps a fresh perspective could help.  

Even Sundar is being tight lipped about whatever it was troubling the druids.   Or, I should say, he has not been willing to come forward on his own and confide with me about what the problem is.  

Maybe, I should just try to ask him.





Niashado put the pen down and gently blew on the notebook to hurry the ink into drying.  She looked up from the table and saw Sundar sitting alone and lost in thought.  Placing a cork on the inkbottle, she careful laid it on the notebook to keep the pages apart and allow the ink to continue drying.   Then, she made her way to where Sundar was and sat across from him.  

"How is Jaou?" Niashado asked the Stormchaser brother without preamble or question.

"Jaou? Oh, he's... he's not taking the isolation well, but he's been more agitated as of late." Sundar replied.  

"'Isolation,' she quietly and slowly repeated.  "You mean he is alone, in that room?"    

"No, he's with a druid and a priestess for the most part. They're keeping him under observation while he sleeps from a connected room."

Sundar sighed, seemingly from exhaustion and mental fatigue. "They've advised me to allow them to deal with the examinations without my presence, but they give me updates on how he's faring."

The shamaness shook her head.   "Unacceptable, Sundar.  You saw the fear in his eyes when we brought him to the room the first time.   You can not just leave him there alone."

"It's not for his sake that they leave him in there away from all others, it's for ours. His blood has become saturated with fel energy," Sundar spoke candidly. "They're working on desaturating him, but he's becoming more aggravated as they do so."

"All the more reason one of us should be there.   He needs a familiar face.  Someone who cares for him.  I-I have cleansing totems and healing skills, but they have barred me from even seeing him," she stammered out.  

"Well, they did mention allowing him to be outside, and phasing him back in with our company, so we can better help him. Tonight will be when he can sleep within eyesight, but not in the same room."

The draenei exhaled sharply through her clenched teeth.  

"So, now he will feel like a 'caged' animal," the shamaness snapped.   "This is intolerable for him!"  

"Nia, this is for his own well being," Sundar sternly stated. "I didn't want to tell you this, but as they were cleansing him, he lashed out and injured an attendant.

"It's like he becomes worse when they take out the fel poison in his system."

"Which is all the more reason one of us should be there.   If someone recognizable was with him, he would be more comfortable with the procedures," she explained, while becoming more exasperated.  "For Light's sake, even Falathir hasn't moved from her perch above his shelter."

As she spoke, Sundar had starting undoing his shirt and taking it off. He revealed a bandaged torso, the dressings stained with blood. His next words were dire. "We're not out of danger either."

Her next words fell apart as she noticed the wounds on Sundar's torso.  

"He-he did that?" she whispered.  It wasn't question, however.   Sundar wouldn't lie about something like this.   He wouldn't want to believe it was possible anymore then she did.  

"This does not make sense," she muttered, looking away from him.   "Separation from fel magic typically results in lethargy.  The withdrawal is normally not violent.   Besides, there is more then enough latent fel toxicity in this forest to somewhat lessen the impact of withdrawal."  

She stared at her folded hands on the table for a few moments in silence before looking back at Sundar.  "I am still willing to be with him.  I can take care of myself, but maybe I can calm him.  For Light's sake I washed him shortly after we found him and he did not try to harm me.  You remember?"  

"Yes, it went well there, but I fear it might not go quite as smoothly as it did before. If he is attacking even myself... are you certain? I love my brother, but I also don't want him to cause anyone harm."

The shamaness sighed and dropped her gaze.  

"Let me see him, please.  I do not need to participate in treating him, but let me just be with him for a little while.  Maybe, it can help.   Surely, it would be better then keeping him isolated.  Please."

A few pensive moments passed as Sundar considered her desire. It seemed that there was something else he wanted to tell her, but he relented, giving her a nod. "I suppose I can't stop you. I'll be nearby."

Niashado blinked in surprise and then shot a smile at the druid.  

"I will return to check your wounds in a moment," Niashado said before getting up and going to the shelter where Jaou's was being tended.  

The other druids were busy studying something in the opposite end of the room and seemed so engrossed in it that they didn't even hear the soft taps of her hoof steps as she slipped into the next room where Jaou was resting.  

The room was spacious, with almost a dozen glow lanterns spaced regularly around, bathing itt in a bright blue glow.  The bench in which Jaou was reclined upon had been designed specifically for him, with spaces for his horns so that his back wouldn't be hunched.   She remembered how difficult it was for him to sleep with them.  

Several steel panels had been removed from his mechanical arm, revealing the complex inner workings inside.   The removed parts had been placed on a table against one wall.   Notes and diagrams covered the table.   As well there were bottles of potions sitting on the bench.  

And at the foot of the bench, she could see a rune glowing dimly.  She presumed it was to help relax him, although, judging by the way his eyes were barely open, she also assumed he'd be drugged.  

"Jaou?" Niashado whispered as she approached him one slow hoof step at a time.  

The satyr barely lifted his head, a guttural growl issued from his throat as he shifted in his seat. There was a dull look in his eyes, as he struggled to see who had come in.

"Jaou?  It is me.  Niashado.  Do you remember?" The draenei took a few more cautious steps forward.   "Do you remember me?   You saved me at the lagoon?"  

She came to stop at the bench.  His forehead was glistening with sweat and she gently laid a hand on it to check if he has fever.  

Jaou breathed heavily as she neared. Flinching slightly from her touch, his arm in reaction was moving to push her away, if only he were able to lift it. The sedatives and the spells kept him from doing so.

Another growl escaped, but this time, his eyes opened slightly more. "Nia..."

Niashado moved her hand from his forehead to his right hand and gripped it tightly.  

"Just relax, my friend.  We are trying to help you feel better.  I know it does not seem like it, but you will be better," she said, trying to reassure him.  

"This pain... why... Sundar, I had hurt him, didn't I..." he said weakly, between staggered breathes.  

"You did," Niashado said softly.  "No one is angry with you.  They understand the agony you are suffering.  Your brother cares for you greatly.  We all do."

Slowly, the shaman moved her hand from his forehead and toward one of the scars on his right arm.   Despite nearly two weeks of constant care by the druids, Niashado was surprised to still see such a wound still appearing so fresh on his flesh.  

Closing her eyes, she gently pressed her palm against the wound and began calling out to the elements.   A viridian glow slowly began emanating from her hand.  

It was then Jaou's eyes snapped open. Something had gone off within his mind, an intense feeling of fear and danger. All else was forgotten; he quickly pushed the shamaness away with force snarling. As he moved forward from the bench, the rune on the ground shone brightly. Roots grew from the ground and entwined themselves around the satyr.

Gasping in shock, Niashado withdrew from Jaou and pressed herself against the wall.   The manic fury in his eyes and the baring of his teeth were like nothing she'd ever seen in him before.   The more the roots forced him back, the more mightily he fought against their restraining hold.  

"Jaou, calm yourself!" she called out, raising both hands in the hopes of pacifying him, but his response was to issue a blood chilling roar the likes of which she'd never imagine hearing from him.  

Sundar, upon hearing the roar burst into the room, as did the other attendants. "Nia! What's goi--" He stopped short of finishing the sentence when he saw his brother in a fury.

Jaou started to struggle and thrash. The roots started to strain from the might of his efforts and began to tear and snap.

Niashado could only stare on as the vines restraining Jaou started giving way to his thrashing one at a time.   She saw Sundar rush in and opened her mouth to say something, but all she could focus on was this terrifying display of fury.

The former elf's rage did not abate. One by one the vines snapped, and few remained to hold him. He finally burst free of the holds.  Blindly, Jaou rushed at the others, ready to attack from pure instinct.

As the satyr went in a headlong charge, Sundar stepped in front of everyone else in a fighting stance. The tattoos on his forearms lit up, crackling with energy. He quickly stepped in with palms facing forward, but not to push Jaou back. His hands were charged with a bursting spell of nature; with palms still out his hands turned towards each other and set off a powerful shock, sending the former elf flying back into the wall.

A sharp snarl was heard along with a rough crack as Jaou his the wall. He then slumped down to the ground, his body was still. Sundar did not appear phased, but the expression on his visage spoke of a deep sadness.

"He… he…," Niashado stuttered, looking at Jaou's unconscious body.  She was shuddering slightly. "Y-you warned me, but I-I did not want to believe it.  

"It doesn't seem to happen all of the time. He's normally fine, aside from high tension and fear, but these outbursts... they're random and unpredictable." Sundar shook his head and sighed. "This is the worst I've ever seen him."

"I-I am sorry.   You warned me, but I thought I knew better.   Now, I think I have made things worse," the shamaness muttered while shaking her head.   Giving Jaou another glance, she looked at Sundar with a fearful expression and then abruptly left the room.  




Maybe Sundar is right.  I would have been better not knowing Jaou had changed this much.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sat Nov 16, 2013 10:22 pm

A fog came over the southern forests of Felwood with another day. Falathir had busied herself with preening herself after a meal of voles and shrews. The owl had spent the past week and a half on the rooftop or nearby trees next to the building that had housed her friend, but the past two days, she had relocated to another house. It was where the residents had moved Jaou.

To her chagrin, she had not been permitted to be with him, for reasons that she did not understand. The avian flew down from her perch to look for some companionship. As she soared through the air, she spied the blue one that she recently came to known. However, she did not seem as companionable as she did before. Now she sought the other, the one that had spent much of his time with her friend, and whom she had travelled with while he was missing. Falathir suspected that he would be found in the previous building that Jaou was kept in. She swopped into the building and landed soundlessly just outside of the room he would be in. Half walking and half jumping, the owl found who she was looking for.

Sundar sat on a bench against the wall, with knees bent and arms resting upon them. His expression was that of lethargy as he stared out of the window. He barely noticed Falathir coming in, and despite her rubbing against him, he continued to look outside, towards the one room shelter that they had moved Jaou in.

It had been two days since Jaou’s worst outburst. Everyone had decided that it would be best to keep him in the safe house, with a rotation of a pair of wardens guarding the entrance. The druid thought he would never see such a thing happen to Jaou; nine months ago, it would have been a very unlikely event, but that all changed with Jaou’s torturous time in another world. What was happening to him was out of their control, and very much out of Jaou’s, but it still hurt to see what changes were being wrought in his once-stalwart brother. Even now, the events of the past two days swirled in Sundar’s mind.

“This is hopeless!”

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

Two days earlier

“Master Stormchaser, this isn’t looking optimistic for your brother,” one of the resident Emerald Sanctuary priestesses stated.

One of Sundar’s druid colleagues shook his head. “The more we pull out the corruption, the more volatile Jaou becomes. I’ve never seen a fel corruption of this nature before.”

“Sundar, you’ve reported a new type of demon and a summoning circle when you had found your brother,” a tauren druid quipped. “I’m wondering if this newer fel corruption has anything to do with them. It’s hard to say for certain given that the satyrs of that particular community are well practiced in conjuring more devious experiments.”

“That we will investigate, but what are we to do with Jaou?” the druid in command asked. “I don’t say this lightly when I say that he is becoming a threat to our safety, and most of all, yours... Sundar.”

Sundar sat in the circle with his hands clasped together. Throughout the discussion, he had been squeezing his hands together in tension and dread. He did not want to believe what had just happened. He and his brother had feared that such a day would come, but the druid played it off as an impossibility. They have seen and heard many sad stories of satyrs like Jaou succumbing to corruption. Unlike many others, Jaou had shown great resilience to it, but then one avoidable mistake had shattered it. Witnessing such a downward spiral was unbearable.

“Master Stormchaser, I don’t know if there will be any success in treating him, nor do I know how long he will hold out,” the priestess said with disappointment. “I think it’s time to start thinking about worst case scenarios, like euthanasia.”

Putting him down?

Sundar’s ears perked up, but his body grew tense and he squeezed his hands together so tightly that the flesh around his joints became light. Such an idea was never one he wanted to hear, nor had he given serious thought about.

“Wait a moment,” another druid interjected, a younger night elf. “It’s a bit early to go down that route, isn’t it?”

“Ranger Stormchaser has been a staunch friend,” a second tauren druid added. “Shouldn’t we keep trying to help him?”

The druid leader crossed his arms and closed his eyes with a pensive expression. “We should, but the change is so stark. He was so calm and quiet before. Unfortunately, we have seen such drastic transformations before, and this case is more feral than any other.” Their leader looked towards Sundar. “Master Stormchaser? You’re very quiet.”

Sundar stirred and looked straight up at his colleague. “Sorry, I’ve been listening.”

“Did you need some time to yourself? This is a difficult subject for you I’d imagine.”

“I think so,” Sundar replied. “I need to think about this.”

“I think, in the meantime, we should move him to a larger facility, with less outside access in and out. We’ll have to see what would cause his outbursts before we continue treating him.”

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

Tense suspicion was in the air. It was all around him, but all Jaou felt was solitude and sorrow. Like before, he was surrounded by a runic circle, but this time he was alone in a one-room building. He had been lonely before, but his mind had grown more lucid in the past two days; it only served to make the feeling worse. He understood why he was segregated; it was just that he never thought he would end up like this. His heart was full of fear, worry, and dread.

He sat against a wall, pulling his knees close to him. The satyr’s gaze was lost in the distance, directed at nothing. Jaou was only thinking about the events of the past two days.

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

Two days earlier

Jaou woke up with a start. He found himself lying on the floor, but he was sure how he ended up there. Everything was a fuzzy memory to him. He got up with a groan, catching his head. He felt dizzy and disoriented; his head was pounding. He stroked the length of his horns and one of them, the right horn had a small fissure in it. Had he collided with something? It would explain this terrible headache.

Was I being attacked? Where am I?

The former elf looked around him. He was in a building crafted by Kaldorei. Emerald Santuary, I recognize this building. Suddenly, an expression of revelation came to the satyr’s visage. A flood of memories came back to him. He could remember bits of pieces of his time here, the people he worked with, his family, and friends. More importantly, he started to remember who he was. It seemed that the knock on his head helped dislodge some of his memories.

But now other, more recent, memories came to mind as he thought of the events that preceded his waking. Druids and a priestess were treating him in this very room. He had sat on the bench nearby while they had tended to him; there was an immense welling of fear. Sundar and Niashado had been present, but then it was only Sundar. He could remember a sudden surge of fear and panic, and of rage. He had injured others, including his own brother. Jaou also remembered the terror-stricken face of Niashado. She was cowering against the wall opposite to him. The ranger could remember being restrained by something. He could remember attacking the others. After that, it was darkness. Jaou now realized that he was starting to lose himself, losing control. How long would it take? How long would his sanity hold out in this growing corruption? His mind had withstood it for years, but now, he was failing.

Now another image flashed in his mind. A face, blood, baleful yellow eyes; it was another satyr, he was a being of crimson, and his laughter was cruel. Jaou shook his head in protest.

No! I don’t want to be like him! He calmed himself and looked into the distance. Morvai... is that my ultimate fate? The satyr sat back, reminiscing about a conversation that he and Sundar had had years ago.

“So that murderous and rage filled demon, Morvai, was a dedicated soldier of the Kaldorei. What a strange dichotomy that is.”

“It’s a frightening change, to think that I and others like me could end up like that... he wasn’t much different than us. I don’t want to believe that that is how we’re going to end up.”

“Oh come one, Jaou. Don’t think like that. We’ll get through this, you’ll see! We might not be able to do anything about the satyrs out there, but we can at least support you and the others, keep you all from that end.”


That end was in sight for Jaou. What he and others have shrugged off was now staring at him. He was becoming dangerous, a threat to those he cared about. He would never want to hurt them, but he had. He could not control himself.

In another room, he could hear voices. They were talking about him, he was able to discern.

“That we will investigate, but what are we to do with Jaou? I don’t say this lightly when I say that he is becoming a threat to our safety, and most of all, yours... Sundar.”

“Master Stormchaser, I don’t know if there will be any success in treating him, nor do I know how long he will hold out. I think it’s time to start thinking about worst case scenarios, like euthanasia.”

Euthanasia...? They’re talking about euthanizing me?

Was he already that far into the downward spiral? His heart thrummed rapidly. As much as he did not want to become like Morvai, Jaou feared dying, especially in such a state as his. Memories of him skirting by death when he was in a convoy from Zoram Strand to Raynewood Retreat came back to him. He remembered the dire near-death experience, not knowing what would happen to him after death.

Most of all, he feared the end, and he feared being alone.

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

Jaou shuddered from a chill up his spine. He felt cold, not only from the temperature in the air, but from the sobering past days as well. He had gotten few visitors, and for good reason, he thought. He had attacked Sundar and Niashado amongst others. They probably feared being in the same room as him.

Even still, the druids and priestess had come by to check up on him. There was little in the way of conversation, except for the questions concerning his health. Jaou too felt little inclination in speaking with them, still overwhelmed by guilt and shame. He was unsure of how much time went by, but he had not seen Sundar or Niashado for quite some time. Perhaps they had lost their faith in him.

The former elf now began to wonder if escaping the Jadefire satyr camp was even the right choice. Would it have been better if he had not left? Maybe death would have been better than becoming a monster. All he did now was inadvertently push others away, and left them with final memories of him being no better than the other demons they fought.

He lowered his head into his arms and his ears fell down as he thought of his alternatives, but in the midst of it all, even when he could have given up, he did not. He had a strong will to fight it, he still had that will. The battle now just seemed more impossible than ever. With more of his memories returning, the progressive change seemed more depressing for him.

Outside he heard the wardens step aside, but he neglected to look up. Boots were heard falling upon the wooden floor and stepped up to Jaou before taking a seat.

“Are you feeling better, Jaou?” a familiar voice asked.

Jaou slowly looked up. Sitting in front of him was Sundar. Falathir had also came in, peeking from behind the druid before awkwardly wandering up to the satyr. Sundar looked to the side for a moment where a dish of food and water had been sitting.

“You haven’t eaten or drank anything in two days,” Sundar stated.

Jaou lowered his head again.

“Are you ill? You haven’t said a word since they moved you here,” Sundar continued on.

Jaou shook his head. Sundar sighed and sat back. Falathir looked between the two brothers and let out a worried chirp.

“Look, I’m sorry I haven’t come by lately. I-It’s just that— ”

“It’s hard, isn’t it, seeing your own kin like this,” Jaou suddenly spoke.

“Yes, it is...” Sundar automatically replied, but he stopped himself when he realized how Jaou was speaking. He was talking more like his old self again. “Wait, Jaou, are you...?”

“I can remember more now,” the former Kaldorei stated with his head still buried in his arms and knees. “It’s coming back to me, but there are still large swathes that are blank.”

The druid looked at him in amazement. “That’s good to hear. That you’re getting your memories back.”

“Is it though?”

Sundar was caught off guard by such a question. He felt his own heart tense.

“I’m now able to see what I was before without any trouble, or any doubt.” Jaou looked up with sadness in his eyes. His claws, natural and artificial, started to dig into his legs. “Seeing how far I’m falling... I don’t know if I can take it.”

“No, we can work through this, together!” Sundar stammered. “We have to try.”

“You said those words back then, back then when we were trying our best to find a way to defeat Morvai. We found out what kind of a person he was before he became that wretched demon. Isn’t it uncanny how the parallels are coming up? The only difference is that his friends and family didn’t have to watch him change.”

Sundar’s mouth was agape with disbelief, hearing the tone of their conversation. He looked away to the side in exasperation,  as an adolescent would upon hearing something they did not wish to hear.

“I’m afraid, Sundar,” Jaou quietly said.

The younger brother’s eyes opened wider, as he slowly looked to Jaou.

“I’m afraid of becoming like Morvai, I-I'm afraid of being alone, afraid of dying, of having to be put down. Most of all, I’m afraid, that I’m going to hurt you and the others... worse than I have already...”

“It’s not your fault, Jaou. No one is going to fault you for that,” Sundar argued.

“How long can you say that it isn’t my fault? No, it is my fault.”

“Jaou...”

“I had been thinking, maybe I should have died back then, when I was subjected to torture by that four armed demon. Maybe I should have met my end before I had escaped the other satyr.”

“Please, Jaou, stop...”

“It’s the truth!” Jaou snapped to Sundar’s surprise. “I don’t want to be like him, like Morvai, but I don’t want your last memory of me to be seeing myself becoming a blood-thirsty demon.”

A silence fell upon the room like a heavy blanket of snow. Even Falathir had stopped fidgeting and wandering around, sensing the growing pressure. The druid looked resigned, but he still looked to his brother.

“Then... what are you going to do?” Sundar asked.

Jaou exhaled deeply, letting his shoulders sag. “I don’t want to give up.”

Sundar slightly cocked an eyebrow at him.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to stop fighting this, but... I don’t know how I’m going to do this. It used to be clearer: keep friend, family, and duty close to heart, stay away from fel influences...”

Sundar sat back, propping himself up with his hands behind him. “I talked to the others, those that were looking after you. Natural magic seems to have an ill effect on you now ever since we tried to get the fel corruption thinned out in your body. It seems to bring out your primal instincts and driving you into a rage.”

Jaou’s ears folded further back on the bad news.

“But,” Sundar went on. “They said that medication seems to be working better. It won’t be as fast for you, but it will make you less volatile.”

The satyr looked up, with a modicum of hope. “Do you think it will work?

“We can only try,” the elf answered back. “It’s better than nothing, but we do need a skilled alchemist for this. They said we would have to go up to Whisperwind Grove, but even then it might not be enough.” Jaou’s heart started to fall again, until he heard what else his brother had to say. “There’s a way though, that I know about. Ravenstar and Ashtalar are here. They’re at Talonbranch Glade. I’m sure if the two of them can work on this as well, we stand a chance at tackling this.”

“I see,” Jaou said. “I-I have to try.”

“You won’t be alone. I promise,” Sundar said with determination. “We’re in this together, until the end.”

The satyr looked down for a moment. “The end... Sundar?”

“Yes?”

“Nia, the last thing I remember of her, was how terrified she looked... when I lost my senses. How is she?”

“I haven’t seen her in a while, she’s probably still in camp, I’m sure.”

“It’s fine, I may have scared her off now,” Jaou replied. He sighed with regret. “What a pitiable lasting impression I gave her.”

“Cheer up, brother. Come on, let’s get you some fresh food and water,” Sundar said as he picked up the dishes in the room.

“... Thank you.”

You gave up a promotion for looking after me, and you recently refused it again. I promise, I’ll see this through to the end.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:03 pm

Two days earlier


She wasn’t sure how far she’d walked before she finally stopped. The shock of what had happened had blinded her mind from much. There was a vague memory of one of the rangers, a tauren, who had asked her if something was wrong, but she had stepped past him, rushed past the boundary of the Emerald Sanctuary and into the woods.

Thankfully, the ranger hadn’t pursued her. No one had.

This was good. She needed time to her thoughts. She needed time to try to rationalize what she’d just seen. She needed time to pray.

And yet, when Niashado closed her eyes, all she could see was Jaou’s countenance, twisted in burning, mindless rage. She could still hear the roots snapping as one-by-one they failed to restrain him against his efforts to rend her with his claws.

If Sundar hadn’t intervened, he would have killed her.

Jaou… was going to kill her.

The draenei stopped walking and leaned back against one of the trees. She wasn’t sure where she was or how far she’d hiked from the sanctuary. Nor did she particularly care. There was only one thought cycling continuiously in her mind.

Jaou would have killed her.

The realization sobered her thoughts.

All the progress they’d had with Jaou had been for nothing. All the improvements they’d seen had been wiped out by the vile experimentation and torture conducted by the tothrezim. And they still didn’t know what the demon was after.

Not that it mattered.

“You set him free!” Councilor Lorren nearly screamed. His voice echoed loudly in the chamber and even the other councilors seemed shocked by the elder draenei’s outburst. “Do you have any idea what you have done?”

Before she could reply, he continued. “At least here, he could have been observed. At least incarcerated he couldn’t hurt anyone, including himself. But out there… if Jaou hurts anyone, Niashado, their blood is in your hands.”


The shamaness shuddered at the memory. For so long, she believed she’d done the right thing by rescuing Jaou from Exodar. He would be in his brother’s care, which would be far more conducive to his state-of-mind then a dungeon.

But what if she hadn’t rescued him. He’d still be imprisoned deep within the walls of the Exodar, but he wouldn’t have inadvertently fallen into that portal and into the claws of the tothrezim. It wouldn’t have been an ideal situation for him, but perhaps in time the priests may have found a solution to his demonic transformation.

“He’s a time bomb,” Izdazi snarled as she struggled against the restraining grip of the pair of Sentinels. The huntress’s eyes darted from her to Sundar. “Your brother will snap just like all the other turned-satyrs have. He’ll blow up in your face and you’ll have the blood of his victims in your hands.

Niashado closed her eyes and physically shook her head as if to rid her mind of that particular memory. But like molasses on silk, it refused to be shaken.

She hadn’t wanted to believe that Izdazi and the others were right about Jaou. It was impossible. He’d been so kind and duty bound to his people.

Was his sanity always on the edge of a precipice? Had he always been this close to snapping? Had she ignored the warning signs simply because she… had feelings for him.

“One day, Niashado, these convictions you have are going to come back and hurt you. This… this vile magic you practice and this… satyr you are defending,” Markal hissed, and all but spat the word ‘satyr’ in her face. “One day you will be wrong and you will have to live with the repercussion of your choices.”

Burying her face with her hands, the draenei muffled a scream as she tried to push the dark reminders from her mind. She thought she’d been doing the right thing!

In an attempt to think of something else, she studied her surroundings. Like most of the Felwood, the forest was diseased and succumbing further to its corruption. Around her there were giant mushrooms, living off the death in the ground. Many of the trees had sparse covering of leaves, as if they were holding on to life with all their might.

One fierce windstorm, one small forest fire, one more burst of fel taint and many of these trees will just whither and die. Just one misstep is all it would take.

Her hands clenched into fists as she suppressed the urge to let loose an indignant scream at the Burning Legion.

The draenei turned to leave, only to suddenly see the husk of a long dead tree. Most of the bark had long since disappeared giving it a deathly pale impression. A long, deep gash gave the tree a sinister wide grin. Along with the dark spots just above the grin, the entire face of the tree appeared to be the effigy of demon’s leering smile. Inside the wide maw, petrified green tree sap glinted in the dim light of the hazy sun like slender slivers of drool.

It was as if the very nature of the fel taint were laughing at all that had happened; adding insult to injury.

Shaking from a sudden swelling of anger, Niashado called out to the Elements and lashed out with several strings of lightning. The tree’s evil grin exploded and showered the area with slivers of wood. She ignored the few pieces that pelted her and the blinding flashes of white-hot light as more lightning arced from her fingers and struck the tree husk.

She didn’t stop until the grinning husk was gone. In its place was smoldering stump of jagged wood.

The outcome however, only added shame to her mounting worries.





Present

Two days and there’d been no improvement from Jaou. At least that’s what she gleaned from the druids. They didn’t seem particularly eager to volunteer information about him and she wasn’t particularly eager to learn more.

It was bad enough that she’d heard mention of euthanizing him.

It seemed wrong to put Jaou down like a rabid animal. But, knowing Jaou, if his mind has truly slipped, perhaps he would have preferred this.

She’d been taught to revere life and respect the dead. That was the way of her people. Even if it was hers, she couldn’t make that choice.

The choice was Sundar’s. And though she prayed he would chose not to end his brother’s life, the truth was, even she carried doubt whether it was any better for Jaou to live.

She hadn’t seen him since he tried to…

… tried to kill her.

Niashado had also avoided Sundar, if only to also avoid the shame of having to reveal her doubts.

I am supposed to be a shaman, Niashado mentally chided herself. How am I supposed to help nature maintain balance when my own mind is off kilter like this?

As she had for the last few days, she found her way back to place where she’d destroyed the tree trunk. The damage was still fresh, with several remaining slivers of the trunk still trying to reach for the sky.

She had derived no pleasure in destroying the trunk. That was the action of an orc blinded by rage and bloodlust. She should be above acting in such ways.

But, besides reproving herself, the only other thing to occupy her mind was the friend she was on the verge of losing.

With a deep breath, she approached the trunk and ran her hands along the course edges of one of the jagged slivers of bark. Looking down into the hollowed out trunk, she expected to see a pool of thick fel-tainted sap, but to her surprise it was mostly just moist, semi-decomposed wood.

Adding to her surprise, there was a tiny green sprout that appeared to have broken from the ground. Quietly closing her eyes, she strained to listen to the Wilds as she touched the tiny sapling.

There wasn’t a trace of fel poisoning in the budding tree. She pulled back her hand but continued to stare at the sapling as if at any moment she expected it to dance or something.

How could something pure have survived in the midst of such corruption?

Niashado wasn’t desperate enough to believe this was a ‘sign’ or an omen about Jaou.

But perhaps, it was just a reminder. Things sometimes seem worse before they get better.

“Very well, little one,” Niashado whispered to the sapling with a slight smile. She’d check on Sundar this evening and maybe even try to see Jaou.






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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Thu Dec 26, 2013 6:44 pm

The Next Day

Sundar paced back and forth in the open common area. Jaou sat off on the side, crossing his legs slightly and rubbing his left arm where it met his prosthetic with Falathir perched on his horn, asleep. He watched his brother agitatedly wander in a tight circle.

"Brother, it's almost time," Jaou said.

"Yes, yes, I know, but we have to wait," Sundar replied as he kept pacing. "Aren't you in a hurry to leave; of all the people, I thought you would want to wait for Nia." Jaou did not reply to the druid's observation. Sundar still sensed something amiss with his satyr brother and approached him, leaning down with his arms crossed. "You're not telling me something."

"I..." Jaou hesitantly started, looking away and downcast. "I want her to, but that's not for her best interest... I don't think that this would be the best choice for her, to come with us. It would be more safe for her to return to her home."

Sundar appeared to have a blank expression on his face. He stood up straight cocking his head to the side. "I'm not sure that will convince her to go home. Leaving her without a word or explanation would probably do so even less."

"I know," the satyr replied. "But we haven't seen her for two days."

"The guards have."

"But she hasn't sought us out. I think she may be afraid of being around me now... after I had attacked her."

"Erm... well..." Sundar did not have a counter argument to the point Jaou had made. It was very probable that she had no more desire to go on with them.

"Let's just leave her a note..." Jaou suggested gesturing with his good hand.

"I suppose I'll add one some return fare for a flight back to the Exodar," Sundar added. He rubbed the back of his head with the other hand on his hip. "Let's just wait for the warden to come back, see if she spotted her."

Minutes had passed by with the brothers idle. There the others in Emerald Sanctuary went on with their business, occasionally greeting the pair. Jaou was starting to nod off while Falathir unconsciously rebalanced herself. The satyr did however catch Sundar looking to the canopy.

"Are you looking for something?" Jaou inquired.

"Our ride should be here soon," Sundar stated.

"Is that how we're going to travel north?"

"Well, it's the fastest. I have various mounts that can do the job with more ease than a hippogryph." Sundar still looked upward, then what he sought came into view.

The air carried the sound of large beating wings, and soon the trees rustled with gusts of wind. A cry like no other made by any resident in Felwood was sounded and came with the sound of armour and more amplified wing beats. Emerging through the tree tops and descending on to the camp was a sizable frostbrood drake. Its bones were a chilled blue with remnants of frozen flesh and its armour a frozen violet.

Jaou looked at the monstrous dragon with an incredulous expression and Falathir was frantically beating her wings. "You called that?! Couldn't you have called your... other one, what was it?"

"You mean my protodrake? She's a bit more of an open area flyer." Sundar said in a matter-of-factly manner, with a bit of a grin. "Besides, Sleetwing has better seating."

The dragon touched down on the outpost grounds before Sundar, drawing attention from the rest of the inhabitants. It was not the first time Sundar had flown in the area with Sleetwing, but the sight of the dragon still drew many raised eyebrows.

"This had better be worth my time, mortal," the drake said in way of greeting. Its voice gave no indication of gender and was filled with a hollow echo. "The Ashen Verdict gave my services to you, not to others."

"It's only one other person," Sundar shrugged. "You two might get along with one another."

Jaou looked doubtfully at the elf and drake, but he heard footsteps coming towards them in a hurried manner. The two brothers looked to see the warden Sundar had sent for coming back.

"Master Stormchaser! I see you have more interesting company these days."

Sleetwing let out a growl, but Sundar held a hand up to it. "A perk of being part of an adventurer's guild. Any luck finding our shamaness?"

"She's still in camp, I'm sure of it, but I've not seen her."

The druid let out a sigh. "Well, we can't wait any longer." Sundar reached into one of his pouches and produced some coin for the warden. "Would you mind passing on a message to her?"

"I can do that," the warden nodded.

"Let her know we're headed north towards Talonbranch Glade. The coins are for a return trip to the Exodar if she so wishes." Jaou's ears perked at the words, but he seemed rather suspicious of the message. "Tell her thank you for coming here."

"The warden saluted Sundar, who turned back to Jaou and Falathir. "Time for us to depart."

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

The Stormchaser brothers were making good time, they were already approaching the halfway point towards Talonbranch Glade with two hours of travel. Naphta and Falathir were huddled tightly between elf and satyr. Despite Sleetwing's decidedly unfriendly disposition, the frostbrood took care to not throw off its passengers. Its size was also of no bother either as it surprisingly navigated the forest with ease.

"Sundar, aren't we stopping at Whisperwind Retreat?" Jaou asked above the wind.

"Huh, what?" Sundar asked back in a puzzled manner.

"You said in the message to Nia that we were heading to Talonbranch. Wasn't the plan to stop at Whisperwind first?"

"The expectation would be there that I would continue on to Talonbranch Glade to get things from Raven," Sundar stated.

Jaou looked at his brother just as confused as when he answered back. "Yes? Is that not still the plan?"

"Honestly speaking, I don't trust leaving you alone with anyone. If something were to happen..." Sundar stopped for a moment before continuing. "Well, I want to make sure I'm there if something went wrong. Others are not so calm when dealing with these problems, and..."

"What this rambling elf means is that he doesn't want to find you dead in his absence," Sleetwing interrupted.

Sundar looked ahead with some annoyance, but the drake was accurately succinct. "Basically that. I know I probably shouldn't bring you into Talonbranch, but if you hide on Sleetwing, then you probably won't draw any attention from the Sentinels."

Jaou nodded, but he said nothing. He had doubts in the plan, and the decree on Jaou not being allowed in non Cenarion settlements was still in effect.

"Don't worry about it!" Sundar said to reassure his brother. "We'll work it out." He looked around to the ground that raced below his mount, noticing they were passing Venomblood River. "Hey, remember Venomblood River? We did a fair amount of sludge clearing after Mount Hyjal."

Jaou looked at his brother blankly and then tried to think to himself. "... N-no... I can't remember... I don't recall anything about a river here..."

"I see..." Sundar said with some disappointment. "I'm sure more memories will come back!" The druid's gaze returned to the river that was now behind them. "But I don't think I've seen that many oozes around there before."
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Sat Feb 01, 2014 8:04 pm


Niashado tried to visit the Stormchasers when she returned to the settlement. She really did. But just as she approached the door to the room where Jaou was being tended to the doubts resurfaced in her mind. Was this the right time? Did she have the strength to see Jaou consumed bind blind rage again?

Not for the first time, the unintended similarities between rabid animals and Jaou Stormchaser resurface. But as easy as it was to hate the analogy, it was equally difficult to ignore.

So, she returned to her cabin. As in the night before, sleep came fitfully.


* * *


The next morning Niashado stopped at the same door. She wasn't sure what to expect when it opened. Will Jaou be further lost to the demon within? Will he be further restrained while his brother struggled to find a way to help him? She knew that many of the other druids had given up on the ranger.

How much longer can Sundar fight for his brother's sanity?

The draenei knocked on the door. No one answered. She knocked a second time a little louder but was met again with silence.

Taking a deep breath, she carefully turned the knob and pushed the door open.

The room was empty save for the table where he'd been laying the last time she'd seen him.

A cold spike of terror ran down the shaman's spine and her mind instinctually clung to the first worse case scenario she could think of.

Had Sundar given permission for Jaou to be… taken out of his misery? Had the druid determined that his brother had succumbed too much to the demon taken him over?

She should have been there, if only to offer Sundar some support as well as to see her friend go. She shouldn't have run off like a coward into the forest and avoided her fear.

"Shaman's don't cower in the back, blueblood. They serve in the frontlines with the warriors." It was something Cressa, an orc shaman she'd run into shortly after her people arrived in Azeroth, told her. At the time Niashado was still struggling to find her place and the orc's words, while harsh, had been honest.

Since that meeting, Niashado had tried to live in the front, trying to stand for her beliefs, while still remaining true to the teaching that had guided her for years before.

But, when it came to Jaou, she always felt uncertain. Confused, in fact.

"Lady Niashado?" The shamaness spun in the direction of the voice that had called out to her. A warden was approaching her quickly and with an urgent look upon her eyes. "Sundar wished for me to deliver a message to you."

"A message? Is he ok? What has happened to Jaou?" Niashado began, speaking urgently.

"They are well, Lady. Actually, Jaou seems much improved. However, they have departed for Talonbranch Glade," the warden explained. She handed Niashado a few silver coins. "Sundar wanted to offer his thanks for your aid. This money should get you back to Azuremyst."

A look of confusion crossed the draenie's visage as she studied the coins. Jaou was well but it seemed Sundar no longer cared for her presence.

No. That wasn't it. More then likely, Sundar had deduced that since she disappeared after Jaou's outburst, it was her choice to have nothing to do with them.

"How long ago did they leave and where is Talonbranch Glade?" she asked, once she came to a decision. The look of sudden concern that crossed the Warden's gaze did little to quell Niashado's concern.

"They left a few hours ago. Talonbranch is many miles to north. Almost three hours by flyer," she announced.

The shamaness glanced briefly at the hippogryph stables and shook her head. The sabre Sundar had provided for her was still here and though she wasn't accustom to riding one, she still far preferred it to flying.

"How do I reach Talonbranch on the ground?"

"My Lady, that is highly unadvisable. The road is very dangerous. A convoy is due to pass through here tomorrow. I recommend traveling with them."

"No," Niashado said, shaking her head. "I need to leave right now."

With some reluctance, the warden provided her with directions, while taking the opportunity to issue another warning about travel in Felwood alone. A few minutes later she was digging her hooves into the sides of the sabre as they began their travel north.


* * *


Several days ago when she had arrived in Felwood with Sundar, the level of fel corruption that permeated through the forest had shocked Niashado. To her dismay, the deeper she traveled into the forest, the more tainted it became.

Now, hours later, it seemed that the faintly green miasma that obscured the distant forest had graduated to full blown thick smog. Course green sludge filled the small streams and brooks that she passed. And beyond the ominous shapes of the jagged trees she swore she saw movement in the periphery of her vision.

The draenei would have discounted for tricks of the eyes and the wind moving branches if it weren't for the nearly inaudible worrisome groans her sabre issued from time to time. His ears twitch to and fro.

Shrubs and weeds encroached over the road and at times, almost completely buried it. The sunlight that fought past the cloudy sky, felish miasma and dense foliage only served to further obscure what lay beyond the edge of path.

If that weren’t bad enough, the smell or rot was getting stronger, as was the unsettling discomfort that came from her sensitivity to fel magic. It was getting bad enough that Niashado was beginning to consider turning around and taking a hippogryph instead, despite her fear of flying.

Her sabre suddenly froze and issued another low growl. He didn’t move, except to pan his ears around the terrain. The shamaness wasn’t sure what to make of the sudden change in the cat’s behavior. She tried tapping its sides with her hooves, but still it didn’t move.

Its eyes were frozen forward, but all Niashado could see ahead of them was the empty road and then a steadily thickening greenish fog.

“What is it, boy?” she asked softly. Her voice felt oddly loud after such a long time of quiet riding. And then she realized that there were no other sounds in the forest. No insects or birds chirping. Not that Felwood had many songbirds, but there were a few. And of insects, there were plenty.

But now, all she heard was her steady breathing and the sabre weary growl.

Two things suddenly happened. First was the snapping of a small tree branch. The sound was not unusual as any number of now silent forest denizens could have been responsible. However, with the deep silence of the forest, it was enough to even make her jump.

The second occurred before she could even think to look toward the sound of stick snapping.

Her sabre bolted.

The cat ran at a speed she wouldn’t have thought it possible. She’d known them to be fast and had even ridden one at what thought was full speed.

This was different.

Wind was roaring past her ears and the road was rocking up and down rapidly as she was bounced along his back. The draenei barely had time to grip the saddle tightly before her mount veered from the road and shot into the forest. She tried to steer it and twist it, but the sabre refused to heed her commands.

Just before they cleared the road, Niashado swore she saw two shapes suddenly leap into view. Then they were hurling through the forest foliage. She cried out when a thorny stick sliced the skin just under her left eye. Her head was twisted as thin vines got caught on her horns, only to be torn by the sheer force of the sabre’s momentum.

They were beyond the road now, twisting left and right and in seemingly random directions. Niashado pressed her body down against the sabre’s back and tried to quell the nausea she was feeling from all the bouncing.

She closed her eyes briefly, but when she reopened them she was greeted to a dark lupine form a scarce few feet away bounding toward them on all fours.

Worgen!

Somehow the sabre had detected an ambush and had saved their lives. But now, where was it going? They were far off the road now and the sabre was focused on evading them.

The shamaness shot a fleeting glance behind them and gasped at the suddenly half dozen dark shapes in pursuit. She turned forward just as her horns again snagged a handful of vines. Her head twisted hard before they snapped off. She again pressed herself as flat as possible against the sabre’s back.

This must be why so many night elf warriors seem to have frayed ears. she realized while flattening her own ears against her head.

The sabre was operating completely beyond her control and despite how much that terrified her, Niashado at least felt reasonably sure that the sabre would know its way around.

Her assurance lasted right up until the sabre leapt over a large fallen tree and into a small clearing. She felt the cat shudder and then it landed hard on its belly. The abrupt stop flung Niashado over its head and into ground.

Her vision stopped rolling long after her body had. The forest canopy was hazy, but she wasn’t sure if that was from fall and tumble, the motion sickness, or the suddenly cold realization that she something was wrong with her sabre and now she was alone in the worgen infested, fel-laced, rotting forest.

“A draenei?” a gruff voice suddenly spat.

“What is one of those doing here?” another, a female, said. By the accent, she was probably a Darkspear troll.

“Good aim, Grelka! Right between the eyes!”

“By the ancestors! That was a perfect hit!”

Niashado slowly sat up and brushed the leaves and mud from her eyes. While the motion sickness stubbornly remained, her eyesight at least cleared enough to take stock of her still less-than-ideal situation.

Her sabre was dead. It had landed awkwardly, with its hind legs still up on the log, and his head laying on the ground. He seemed to be staring at her, but even from the distance from where’d she been thrown, the shamaness could tell that it was dead. The arrow protruding straight from between its unseeing eyes was enough of an indication for that.

The voices she heard were coming from eight figures surround her and her dead sabre. It was a mixture of orcs, tauren and trolls. But they appeared young. While not children, many appear to not yet have passed into adulthood.

Some of them wore armor was too large and fitted poorly. Several held their weapons in unsteady fashion. Even the way they spoke displayed their inexperience and youthfulness.

With a grunt, the shamaness struggled to get to her hooves. One of the younger orcs shook his mace and approached her.

“Hey! She’s getting up!” one of them yelled. He held a mace in his hand and looked at her uncomfortably, as if deciding if it would be wise to hit her, or keep his distance.

Standing on branch behind the orc was a troll girl with bright teal-colored Mohawk. She held a bow steadily and was easily the first of these younglings who appeared at ease with letting her arrow fly. Another orc, stormed toward her and pushed the one with the mace aside.

“You are our prisoner!” he shouted, raising his sword and pointing it at her.

The shamaness paused and looked at each of the Horde younglings. Almost all of them wore expressions that were eerily easy to see. She was used to interacting with experienced warriors who shielded their emotions as much as they shield their bodies.

With the exception of two or three, most appeared green; the color, of course, having nothing to do with their skin tone.

“Why are you in our forest?” the ‘leader’ demanded. The others seemed to rally behind the strength of his voice.

Niashado wasn’t sure what to say. Technically, the forest didn’t belong to the Horde. But these soldiers were young, and possibly in training. Trying to explain that, or her purpose here may be lost on them. In fact, it may even be dangerous to point out where she was going.

“Hey Milek,” the ‘leader’ called out. “I think this one is a shaman”

Another orc appeared. This one had long black hair and although he wore heavy leathers and a mail shirt, there was no mistaking the wooden totems hanging from his belt strapped sideways in front of his chest. His eyes narrowed on her.

“A blue blood pretending to be a shaman,” he spat. Then, giving her a contemptuous grin, he knelt down, picked up a handful of rocks and began grinding them between his hands. “Let me show you real power.”

The others watched and she caught the expectant emotions in a few of their expressions. Clearly, this was a trick this shaman youngling had regaled them with in the past.

Pale white smoke was beginning to stream from between his fingers

Niashado closed her eyes and concentrated on the element he was trying to manipulate. The rocks were screaming in pain as the orc was forcing them to bend to his will.

She winced at the revolting nature of how he handled the element. Already, she could see slivers of glowing red magma between his closed fingers.

The orc glared back at her and took her aghast countenance as that of fear. He grinned.

“What are you doing here, blue blood?” the ‘leader’ repeated. He was undoubtedly feeling assured that Milek’s display of power was intimidating enough.

Niashado would have undoubtedly felt intimidated if she hadn’t found the young shaman’s careless spell so revolting. And there was still the issue of the worgen that were probably still tracking her. There was simply no time for this.

“Can I burn her?” the orc shaman asked expectantly. He narrowed his eyes and pulled his arms back.

“Be quiet,” Niashado commanded, before closing her eyes and quietly calling out to the element in the orc’s hand. The molten rocks in his hand shuddered and then crumbled to pieces on the ground. The mud hisses under the intense heat, but even that quieted as the orange glow quickly faded.

The orc’s nonplussed reaction to what she’d done would have been comical under most circumstances. The others looked at her with a mixture of astonishment and fear. Still in the outcropping, the troll girl pulled back an arrow on her bow, but remained fixed in her position.

What Niashado had done was nothing more special then to tell the rocks in the orc’s hand that it was free to ignore him. Against a more experienced shaman, such a simple request wouldn’t have worked. Most seasoned shamans wouldn’t have ever considered pressing their will on an element with such wanton maliciousness.

“Worgen were pursuing me. They are no doubt about to arrive. I suggest preparing to defend yourselves,” she warned. As if to confirm the truthfulness of her words a chorus of howls rang out from beyond the greenish shadows mists surrounding the clearing.

The shamaness reacted without a thought when a pair of shadows emerged from the greenish miasma above them. Crying out a shaman call, a shaft of bluish white lightening leapt from her hands. The shafts of raw electricity branched out part way and struck the two worgen head on. They fell back to the edge of clearing, leaving only the strong odor of burnt fur.

Four more worgen had entered the clearing and were soon engaged with the orc younglings. They seem to hold their own well and after only a few minutes, the remaining two worgen alive quickly retreated into the woods.

Niashado found herself momentarily forgotten by everyone in the heat of the battle. She watched as the Horde warriors-to-be let out a quick cheer, but they quickly fell silent when they noticed one of their own on the ground.

No one paid her any attention while they tried to tend to their fallen comrade. Niashado shuddered at how much blood was staining the ground around the tauren’s body, though. While one of the younglings created a tourniquet another tried to get the unresponsive tauren to drink a healing potion.

The draenei’s practiced eye, the tauren was beyond anything a tourniquet and a healing potion could repair. The white of his eyes were all that could be seen through his mostly closed eyelids. His chest was hardly rising and falling and there was blood bubbling up from the corner of his mouth and his nose. His snout glistened from the thick fluid. Occasionally, his body lurched as it frantically tried to take in his breath.

Hemorrhaged lung, at least, the shamaness diagnosed solemnly. He was drowning in his own blood.

Under Warlord Garrosh, the Horde has become increasingly more antagonistic and violent toward their neighbors. But, it wasn’t her nature to allow anyone to suffer. And, it was difficult for her to ignore the panic and concern in the eyes of the tauren’s fellow younglings.

Coming to a decision, Niashado stepped forward and pushed her way through the trolls, orcs and tauren. That they didn’t respond to her was a testament to the amount of attention and fear they had for their friend.

It wasn’t until she knelt near the body, that the leader took notice of her. He was about to protest when the shamaness abruptly handed him her staff.

Ignore the protests around her, she pressed her hand gently on his chest and closed her eyes. She could literally feel the blood bubbling in his chest. A pair of deep gashes under his left armpit indicated where the puncture wound had occurred. The thick tourniquet they had bundled under his arm was already saturated with blood.

He was beyond most healing spells at this point.

Closing her eyes she prepared the words in her mind. Rather then turning to the elements, this time she turned to a simple prayer to the Light. Though she didn’t see, she felt the warming embrace of the Light travel down her arms, to her hands and then to the tauren’s body. A forehead signet quietly shimmered on her forehead as the healing radiated outward.

Unlike she pleasantly cool and somewhat moist feeling natural shamanistic healing that she was familiar with, this left her with a warmth that felt inviting and serene.

Though her eyes remained closed, she could feel the tauren’s breathing gaining strength. Gone was the gurgling that was coming from deep within his voice.

She didn’t know how the Gift did what it did, but it was a miracle she wasn’t too keen on questioning. When she reopened her eyes and pulled her hands away, the tauren was breathing effortlessly. His injury, however, was still dire and he would need to be transported with care.

The shamaness was about to supplement the healing already done with some shamanistic magic when someone abruptly covered her head with some sort of bag. Likewise, she felt her arms being drawn back and tied together and her totems torn from her belt.

"What are you doing?" she demanded, trying to shake them off. Her struggles quickly came to halt when she felt a sword touch her neck.

"You are our prisoner, blue blood," the leader said. She picked up on a distinct lack of malice in his voice that was there earlier. "I would stay quiet, were I you."

"I-I just saved your friend's life," she blurted out. Someone responded by slapping the back of her head harshly.

"He said quiet, blue blood," the voice of the shaman from earlier grunted harshly.

The shamaness felt a spike of panic as she waited patiently. The leader barked several orders and soon there was a increase in activity as the other younglins immediately went about their tasks. They were making a brace out of several tree branches so that several of them can carefully carry the wounded tauren away.

Once that was complete, they began hiking. Niashado wasn't particularly pleased to be walking blindly, but it seemed these Horde soldiers-to-be were much more concerned with the secrecy of the location of their camp.

She slipped several times, but with the exception of some angry taunts from the orc shaman she had humiliated earlier, the others seemed were gentle in helping her back to her hooves.

The brief kindness did little to quell the fear that she was now prisoner of the Horde. She'd heard stories about what the Horde had done to kal'dorei and other Alliance prisoners.


* * *


It was hours later before they abruptly pulled the hood from her eyes. Once her eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, they widened at the sudden implication of their destination.

This was a not a mere camp.

It was a settlement, complete with walls, towers and several permanent buildings. A quick glance around the surrounding terrain was enough for her to note that this was not Bloodvenom Post, which had been marked on maps she'd studied back in the Emerald Enclave. This was something new. And the implications to the night elves were inescapable.

"Recruits! What's happened? Who is this?" a commanding voice harshly shouted out. A short orc wearing plate armored Horde uniform was storming to them. The younglings, which Niashado now realized were soldiers in training saluted smartly.

"Centurion. One of my soldiers was injured when we were attacked by a group of worgen. They were chasing this draenei," their leader explained.

"Medics!" the Centurion shouted. A pair or peons raced forward and quickly relieved the recruits of their injured tauren. They carried him deeper into the settlement.

Meanwhile, the Centurion turned his attention to Niashado. His yellowed, chipped tusks were nearly only a hand-length away from her face and she fought to keep from recoiling from his breath.

"Are you here to spy on us?!" he demanded.

"N-no," Niashado replied, shaking her head.

"Is the Alliance planning to attack us soon? Are you checking to see how we’re reacting to their surprise attack?" he spat out rapidly.

"I know nothing of the military forces in Felwood. I am a member of the Earthen Ring and-"

"Lies!" he yelled. "Secure her with the other prisoners! We will interrogate shortly."

Two seasoned warriors quickly appeared out of no where and with grips on her upper arms that were so strong she feared it would bruise, they dragged her away from the recruits.

Niashado didn't struggle as she was taken to a small courtyard. There, a shackle was attached to her left leg with a chain that led to a pike set into the ground. Without a word, the two guards departed.

The shamaness quietly studied the area and then the metal ring attached just over her hoof. The metal, while appearing to be low quality compared to that of her own people, was still fairly sturdy.

Something stirred in the shadow corner of the courtyard. She saw a figure standup and then the rattle of chains as it staggered toward her. When it entered the green tinted hazy sunlight, she instantly recognized the figure as a night elf.

He staggered toward her and then fell to his knees. Niashado rushed forward and caught him before he fell face-first into the moist mud.

The night elf was a mess. His face was marred with scars. His white linen shirt was caked with blood, but old and fresh. His breaths were quick and shallow and when her hand brushed over the front of his chest, he visible shuddered and gasps.

"Adare Sha! What have they done to you?" Niashado cried out. She was about to try to heal him but quickly realized that without her totems, it wouldn't be possible.

He had a broken rib and perhaps even a collapsed lung. Adding to his considerable injuries was dehydration.

She gently laid the kal'dorei on the ground and stormed toward the gate to the courtyard. There, an orc guard eyed her suspiciously until she arrived at the gate.

"We need water," she demanded sternly.

"Not without the Centurion's word," he replied.

"That is unacceptable," she nearly shouted with indignation. "He needs water right now."

The guard seemed to think it over, than unlocked the gate. Without warning he slammed his fist into her head. There was bright flash light and than everything went dark.



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Izdazi
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:23 pm

This seems terribly one-sided, Izdazi considered as she eyed the two trolls circling her. Further out, encircling the trio was a gaggle of other young soldiers representing the Kalimdor member races of the Horde. They were all watching with rapt attention at this latest exhibition.

“Come one and all to the spectacle of the night elf getting her ass kicked repeatedly. It promises to never get old,” the she elf muttered darkly, while mimicking the tone of a goblin carnival announcer she’d once heard in Booty Bay.

Izdazi had never been one to be overly concerned with her appearance, but deep down, she dreaded what she’d see when she finally got around to seeing her reflection. Her thin dreadlocks hung loosely from her head and she could feel the bruises marring her face. Her knuckles were skinned deeply and there were gashes along her arms and leg. Her clothing, the same she'd been wearing since the training mission when they'd been caught, was torn and stained with dirt and blood.

Beyond the myriad of aches and pains, she could detect at least one broken rib rendered her mobility questionable. One eye was nearly swollen shut and at least one ear was ringing with tinnitus after being repeatedly punched there.

To describe her condition in a succinct manner: she felt like hell. And it wasn't looking to improve anytime soon.

The trolls separated and came at her from two sides. Izdazi twisted sideways, grabbed the tusk of one of the charging trolls and dragged him off course until he collided with his partner. However, she didn't react fast enough to the foot that stuck out and tripped her. She fell hard on her back and cried out as the broken rib irritated something inside her.

The pain prevented her from recovering quickly and it wasn't long before both trolls were upon her.


* * *


"How many Alliance soldiers are in this region of Felwood?" the gray skinned orc demanded.

"I-I do not know," Niashado responded quietly. She kept her eyes averted from the mad orc's gaze, but her options were limited with her arms tied behind her back and around the freestanding pole set in the middle of the building.

"Why are you here?" the orc screamed. She felt his spittle across her face and sought to turn her face farther from him. He responded by grabbing one of her horns and twisting her head harshly back to his. "Answer me!"

"I-I was looking for friends. I do not serve in the Alliance military."

"Where are your friends?"

"I do not know," she replied earnestly. It was the truth. At this moment she didn't know where they were.

"Then where were you traveling to?"

She wasn't sure how to respond to that. She didn't want to admit the existence of Talonbranch, although, undoubtedly the Horde knew of it. What harm would it be to tell them of it?

Impatiently, the gray skin orc used her horn to slam her head against the pole. She cried out from the shock of pain and again when he used her horn to force her to face him.

"Answer me!"

"Talonbranch. I was going to see if they were Talonbranch," Niashado replied between gasps.

"Are your friends with the Alliance military?"

The draenei shook her head, partially to answer him and partially to clear the haze in her mind.

"Grent," the green skin orc who'd been standing against the doorway finally called out.

Grent, the gray skin, ignored him. He stepped toward a brazier and pulled out a metal rod. The portion that had been in the fire was glowing red. He approached her with a menacing look upon his eyes.

He brought the glowing part close to her eyes.

"I have been told that when something this hot touches an eye, the eye actually explodes. I hear it is painful.”

"Grent," the green skin orc repeated a little louder this time.

"I will give you one chance, blue blood. Tell me who your friends are or you will experience this pain," her interrogator threatened.

Niashado could feel the heat on her face radiating from the rod. She saw the red glowing piece nearing her eye and the memories of the two years she'd spent fumbling around, blinded after being attacked by a deathknight inundated her mind.

She would have spent her entire life blind if it hadn't been for a freak encounter with a powerful artifact. There was little chance of such an unlikely circumstance like that ever repeating.

"They are druids. They serve in the Cenarion Circle," she all but blurted out in near desperation. "They are not with the military."

Niashado knew this was yet another partial truth, but desperately hoped it would quell her interrogator's thirst for information. She had little doubt that Sundar and Jaou would protect their people, regardless of their affiliation.

"We-we are investigating a resurgence of satyr activity in Felwood," she added quickly. Her eyes continued to follow the rod that he slowly waved precariously close to her eyes.

"Grent," the green skin called out, this time a little more forceful.

"What, Azgard? What?!" Grent shouted.

"She is with the Earthen Ring and she has not shown any hostility toward us," the aged orc said. She sensed that he was straining to control his temper.

"She attacked one of our recruits! She is an enemy to the Horde!" Grent spat.

"What she did to Milek was hardly an assault. In fact, I would say it did the foolish upstart some good," the orc replied in a strained calm voice. "And had it not been for her, some of the recruits may not have returned."

"Those that would have had died would have proven that they weren’t worthy of being soldiers of the Horde," Grent blurted. The callousness of Grent’s remarks startled Niashado, but she kept quiet.

"You can not harm a member of the Earthen Ring who has done nothing against us," Azgard persisted.

The gray skin issued a frightening howl and hurled the metal rod against the far wall. Niashado watched as he charged toward Azgard and fully expected him to attack to older orc. Instead, he froze until his face was nearly pressed upon Azgard's stoic visage.

"These 'rules' you keep trying to abide by will not be tolerated by the Horde for much longer, Azgard. Remember who you serve."

The older orc growled and didn't back down.

"I will not have my loyalty to my people questioned by you, Dragonmaw," Azgard replied derisively. "But I am also a shaman, and I serve something much larger."

The two orcs locked eyes for a moment long before the gray skin orc scoffed and abruptly departed. The older one, Azgard, swept his hand over his course grey hair and sighed. Then he fixed his steely gaze on Niashado and all she could think to do was gulp.


~~~~


“You are a weak fighter,” the orc who’d been lecturing to the young Horde recruits finally said as Izdazi was hauled to her knees. “I have fought many night elves and find them to be have a prowess of fighting that you utterly lack.”

Coughing up a glob of blood-tinted phlegm at the orc’s boots, Izdazi slowly lifted her eyes up to the orc’s.

“Well, I was working at getting better, but we’ll never know if learned anything now, ehh?” she spat back. The orc merely growled and jerked his head toward someone behind her.

The she elf nearly jumped in surprise when a rough leathery hand tilted her head to the right. Izdazi’s eyes widened in disgust at the Forsaken that was studying her. It had once been a human, although now it could barely be called that. Her skin, for it was woman, hung loosely from her bones and in places, the flesh was actually torn, revealing bones, muscles and veins, each of which looked as fetid as her skin.

The smell, though, was the worse. She couldn’t understand how the orcs could stand smelling it, or perhaps it was just that her race was blessed (or cursed) with an overly sensitive olfactory sense. Then again, how’d the tauren and trolls handled it?

Her eyes (or eye, since one of them appeared too milky to be of any good), looked her over, turning her head this way and that and seeming to take note of her injuries.

“This subject seems a little stronger then the last one, although her injuries are considerable.”

’Subject?’ Izdazi did not like the sound of that.

“Do you think you have refined the potion to avoid a repeat of the last failure?” the orc leader asked.

’The last failure?’

“I believe so, but I respectfully remind you that the development of performance enhancing potions is a long arduous process that is further complicated by the nature of the various races we must tailor it too. Side effects and performances will vary from species to species.”

“I am getting tired of excuses. This project has suffered enough failures as it is,” the orc growled.

“Alchemy is a science. We learn much from our failures,” the Forsaken woman retorted.

“In my camp, failures are beheaded and their heads stuck on a post as an encouragement to others.”

“How utterly droll,” the undead hissed, completely unaffected by the ominous threat.


~~~~


Niashado rubbed her bruised wrists as Azgard escorted her into another building. The orc hadn’t said a word since Warlord Grent departed. He untied her and gestured for her to move. From there, he directed her to a different building and into a darkened room.

A fetid aroma lingered about the room and induced a sense of dread in the draenei. The windows had been shuttered, allowing only slight slivers of sunlight to breach the room. Some of the rays glinted off an impressive collection of glass beakers and test tubes.

Nearby, a nearly depleted candle heated a glass bowl. A reddish liquid bubbled continuously atop it. With a slight shove, she was directed to keep moving into the room where she passed a large table with various species of mushrooms and other herbs that were being cultivated.

Adding to Niashado’s concern were how most of these herbs were actually fungus. Very few things of benefit could be created using fungus.

“What am I doing here?” the shamaness asked as she was again shoved into yet another room. This was one was darker and mustier.

And it smelled of death.

Once her eyes adjusted, Niashado gasped and covered her mouth to stifle a sudden scream. At least half a dozen dead bodies were strewn about. Several were on tables, but most were on the floor. Many appeared to have been gutted open.

The vile desecration of the bodies, something that was horribly taboo in draenei culture, appeared to have been half-hearted attempts at autopsies.

“In the name of the Light, what are you doing here?” Niashado nearly hissed as she felt herself grow angry. Most of the victims were night elves, although she saw a human and two furbolgs on the floor. “This… this is wrong!”

“Yes, it is,” the orc unexpectedly confirmed.

“Then why is this being allowed?” the shamaness replied nearly in desperation. She shook her head sadly as her eyes roved from one body to another. “Why are you allowing this to happen?”

“Because, draenei, it is beyond my control,” Azgard replied in a raised voice. She sensed that the anger in his reply wasn’t directed at her so much as it was to himself. “I am not with the military. I was ordered here as a mere healer for this camp and for no other reason. But I was once a proud soldier of the Horde. For many years I defended my home and people with pride. But I was stripped of my rank.”

The orc sighed again and leaned against a wall. She waited for him to elaborate on the reasons for the loss of his rank but he offered none.

“This is nothing to be proud of, but my words fall on deaf ears. The new Horde has no desire to learn from the lessons of old,” Azgard continued. Then he pointed at her. “But you, can help me end this.”

“Me?” the shamaness replied.

With a nod, the orc gestured for her to follow her to one of the tables. There, a night elf lay. For the first time, the shamaness came to realize that at least one person was still alive. Her breaths were shallow, however and much of the color had left her. Her brow was covered with sweat.

She didn’t recognize the uniform that this kal’dorei wore, however. It could best be described as a very basic version of a Sentinel’s. A village guard perhaps?

“We captured her along with two others a few days ago.” Azgard explained while Niashado began accessing the elf’s condition. Her forehead was hot to the touch. She gently pried open one of the elf’s eyes. The normally silvery glint that most night elves had was tinted red, indicating several burst capillaries. The pupils were dilated.

“She has been poisoned,” Niashado stated matter-of-factly. She held the elf’s wrist and quietly counted the pulse. It was dangerously high.

“They are testing a potion on her,” Azgard replied. “Once she dies, they will dissect her to find out which organ failed and do an analysis of her liver. I have been quietly trying to heal her but I have not been successful.”

The shamaness shook her head in ire as she continued assessing the poisoned elf’s condition. She gently pressed down on the patient’s abdomen and the unconscious elf responded with a slight whimper.

“The liver is swollen,” she added while also noting the rash under the elf’s arms. “I do not think the potion is directly responsible for her deteriorating condition. She appears to be suffering a severe allergic reaction to it.”

“What can be done?” Azgard asked.

“The real question, Azgard, is what will happen to her if she is healed?” Niashado replied. “Will she be subjected to more vile experimentation? Will she be executed? Am I healing her only to have her suffer something worse?”


~~~~


Izdazi was getting the distinct feeling that it would be better to have been killed, rather then suffer whatever this Forsaken was planning to do to her.

“You should know,” the undead began, explaining in a soft tone that a healer would to someone terminally ill, “that there may some side-effects to this potion.”

She began listing off symptoms that included things as uncontrollably itching, loss of color vision, stomach aches, uncontrolled bowl movements, loss of hair, uncontrollable vomiting, loss of smell, memory loss, and much more. Izdazi stopped listening as the Forsaken droned on. She concentrated on wrenching her hands free of trolls who were restraining her. She wasn’t met with much success however.

Snapping a quick order, one of the trolls grabbed a fist full of her dark blue dreadlocks and pulled her head back harshly. Her mouth was held and, like a skillful blacksmith pouring molten metal in a mold, the Forsaken alchemist carefully poured the thick reddish liquid in a vial down her mouth. Izdazi tried to spit it back but her head was held back and her nose pinched until she was forced to swallow the vile fluid.

“It should only take a minute or so for the effects to begin,” the Forsaken announced to the orc warlord. They both turned and departed from the training quad.

A sudden spike of pain radiated out from Izdazi’s stomach and her body bent forward with so much force she sent the pair of trolls holding her sprawling on the ground before her. She didn’t see any of this as she curled in on her body and clutching her stomach. Another wave of pain struck like a lightning bolt and left her trembling in a fetal position on the ground.

One of the trolls angrily approached her and kicked her the stomach. Her eyesight was blurry from tears and her vision was tinged with red. Izdazi felt her heart racing and her muscles aching with a sudden need to do something. She sensed the force of the kick and the air get blown from her lungs, but her mind didn’t register any pain.

Everything grew bright and reddish as she rolled on the ground and gasped for a breath. The stabbing pains were gone, although she felt that her stomach was tender. The huntress barely registered the string of insults and racial slurs being hurled at over the nearly steady thrum of heart. She saw the trolls approaching and got to her feet.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Izdazi realized that she shouldn’t be able to stand after such a brutal kick to her torso. But, she was not only standing, but already lashing at the trolls.

Three rapid-fire punches to one of the troll’s face followed by solid sidekick to his solar plexus left that opponent disabled. She turned just to get kicked in the side of the face by the other troll. Izdazi stood up quickly, again mentally noting how she should be on the ground dazed, but was still functioning, and then hurled herself upon the troll with a series of punches and kicks.

The troll was able to block and deflect most of her assault. In fact, he was able to lash at her with an even number of strikes. However, unlike her, his body was registering each successful strike and it wasn’t long before he became fatigued. Despite the swollen eye, bleeding lip and open raw knuckles, Izdazi kept swinging at him almost like a machine.

And she didn’t stop even after he fell.


~~~~


“I don’t know what I can do,” Azgard responded. “Maybe I can find a way for you to take her away from here.”

“And how far do you think I will get carrying a near comatose elf?” Niashado argued. Even as she spoke, she’d gathered a wet rag from a bowl of water from one of the table and began wiping the sweaty brow of the she elf. “Without my totems, I can do little for her beyond alleviating several of the symptoms.”

Without a word, the orc handed her a string containing Niashado’s four crystalline totems. She accepted them and quickly began working on a string shamanistic calls that would purge the poisonous potion from her system. She hoped the damage wasn’t too severe.

She also wondered what Azgard was trying to accomplish by having her do this.


~~~~


The two trolls were down, as was an orc they had sent afterwards. But it was the tauren that ended up being her downfall.

The huntress wasn’t sure exactly what was wrong, but she knew something was dreadfully wrong with her body. Healthy people don’t cough up blood. That, and despite not feeling any pain, she knew that her body had been battered fiercely. Her knuckles were bleeding; her right shoulder was dislocated at the shoulder join. Her right foot was sprained; her left ear was broken and hung loosely.

It was getting harder to think, but when she could get a thought across, Izdazi knew that she should be unconscious by now. Not still fighting.

Well, at this exact moment she wasn’t fighting, so much as struggling to remove this tauren’s heavy hoof off her sternum. The night elf desperately raked her nails along the back of leg and tried to buck his hoof off, but the weight was just too much. Adding to her troubles was the fact that she couldn’t breath with his hoof there.

“Stay down, elf,” the tauren reluctantly rumbled in a low voice.

Izdazi would have hurled a string of choice expletives at him if she could have breathed. Instead, her reddish vision was beginning to swirl and darkness was starting to encroach.

“I’d say this test was a success, eh, warlord,” she heard the unseen Forsaken say.

“It was indeed. Once she’s unconscious return her to the cell,” the orc shouted to the tauren.

“The subject should be separated from the other prisoners, warlord! She could be a danger to them!” the alchemist warned.

Izdazi felt her arms fall to the ground and her struggles completely stop as her body finally succumbed to exhaustion.

“What better way to find out if the subject can still differentiate between friend and foe. What good is an enhanced rage potion if it turns soldiers into mindless berserkers? And if she kills her cellmate, then that’s one less night elf in the world.”

Then she finally passed out.

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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Fri Apr 18, 2014 2:37 pm

Serenity was a rare commodity in Felwood. It was serene enough for a small group of deer to leisurely graze on the grass on the ground and lichen on the trees with lesser worries than they were accustomed to. For them, savouring such opportunities was a good change from the near-constant danger that the forest often provided for its inhabitants. And just as quickly as they found some peace, a threat came racing towards them. The base thrum of hooves came their way and the deer scattered.

Bursting from the brush was a group of over a dozen satyr lead by one in particular that was clad in darkly coloured leathers. Their leader was now taking the group progressively northward in search of their target prey.

They had come from the surrounding area in the Emerald Sanctuary, occasionally being chased off by the wardens and druids in the area. Regardless, they were still able to keep track of their quarry. The demons kept their vigil, patience and persistence, but they were not prepared for the turn of events to come.

On that day, a large wyrm had flown down into the settlement and took off shortly after. It would have meant naught to the hunting group, but a well placed scout in the hills had caught sight of their target riding upon the wyrm. Had he not spotted them, they would have been wandering the forest for another week for all they knew.

The mistress cannot be kept waiting... There’s been too many setbacks.

Taur had been sent as their best chance to track down Ran’Shali’s missing possession. While he was more than willing to carry out this task for their leader, he knew that subsequent failures would only further test her patience. Between the resources that she put in to make the trade with the other-worldly tothrezim and their losses from the druids and the chaos of the recent pursuits, they could not afford anymore defeats. Taur especially did not wish to be on the receiving end of her wrath if she lost her temper.

He looked up to the canopy of the trees and through the gaps in the branches. They had lost sight of the wyrm long before, but they had an idea of where they were heading to. There were two settlements to the north that their prey would try to get to: Whisperwind Refuge and Talonbranch Glade. They also had scouts stationed in those areas. Between the two, it would only be a matter of time before they would find that scarred satyr that Ran’Shali so desired.

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

Ashthiel was certainly keeping his pursuers occupied. The Horde group were still unable to catch neither the more nimble warrior nor their errant beasts of burden. There were a number of times where he had hid in trees and bushes and silently waited their passing, and just as they thought he had fled, the warrior would toss a stone at them or their animals and start the pursuit again. This time, Ashthiel was hidden in the branches of a tree and observing his pursuers circling a pathway with his helm visor tilted up. It was a good time to rest and keep an eye on the enemy, but he knew the Horde members were getting wind about his distractions. Fully armed with his two axes, a greatsword and Ravnestar’s throwing knives, he had many tools at his disposal.

“Blast that elf! His games are growing old, and fast!” one of the orc guards spat.

“And he seems to be leading us farther,” another commented, a female.

“It can’t be helped, our mounts and kodos need to be retrieved,” a third added. “The army is being stingy with resources these days...”

A good way to extend this chase even more, he mused to himself, pulling the visor of his wolf-sahped helm down.

The kaldorei readied more throwing knives to launch at the party. He started to descend down the tree as silently as he could manage. As Ashthiel came down, he let a trio of knives loose upon the Horde group. As intended, they narrowly missed the faces of some of the soldiers; it was hard to miss the fury that ignited in their expressions. Ashthiel jumped down the remaining length of the tree and deftly landed on the ground. With a mocking wave, he dashed away.

GET THAT ELF!” the leader of the group shouted. With that, the chase was on again.

Ashthiel started on a more roundabout route back towards the camp. It was only inevitable that they would catch on to what he was trying to accomplish. Raven should be done in there by now. The warrior leapt over bushed and slid under the large fallen trees with the nimble reflexes that was natural to his people. This was terrain that he was beyond being used to. The Horde on the other hand were comparatively trundling along following him. The warrior elf drew his greatsword and took a swing at one of the decaying trees he was bearing down upon. The tree was felled and descended on the Horde.

It should have been obvious that he was not looking for a fight, but the flaring tempers of his pursuers seemed to cloud their judgement. Either way, for Ashthiel, the chase was going according to plan and now he dashed ahead to outpace the enemy forces. As he ran though, there looked to be something else going on the chase with them. He could hear footfalls coming from something else; too light to be the ones giving chase to him, but too soft to be elven. He could hear growling, lupine growling.

Wolves? Something seems wrong.

Next a guttural howl was heard.

Now that was completely wrong for a wolf, even worgs aren’t that deep, but does that mean...?

Several figures leapt from the sides towards Ashthiel. The warrior’s eyes opened wide and he dove forward to roll away from the attackers. He regained his footing and looked to see what it was. Oh we really don’t need this.

A group of worgen were now in the glade with him and more came charging from behind. Ashthiel quickly drew his greatsword and faced off with the wolven creatures. With an overhead swing, he liberated head and limbs from their bodies. He pivoted to face the other worgen coming up behind him; one charged towards the elf before the others. Ashthiel held up his sword with the flat of the blade facing it. The worgen collided into the blade, wildly swiping at its target. The warrior pushed the beastly humanoid away with his blade and swung his weapon upwards. The arcing slash split the worgen's chest open.

The other worgen were beginning to grow wary of this elf in wolf-like armour; he was not easy prey. Ashthiel sheathed his greatsword and drew his axes. Two more of these mongrels. He quickly dashed towards the worgen at full speed, to which they answered in like. Just before making contact, Ashthiel slid to a slow with arms crossed. Just as the worgen came close, he swung his arms open. His left axe dug into the neck of one worgen and showered the ground with blood, the other only suffered a cut on the chest, not deep enough to kill. Both of them went past each other and rebounded for another attack. The worgen snarled and growled before running on all fours after the elf. Ashthiel stopped his skid and regained his footing and balance, using one hand to steady himself. He stood ready for the creature.

The worgen leapt up, launching itself towards the kaldorei claws first. Ashthiel threw one of his axes at the worgen, burying it in its collarbone. The worgen howled in pain as Ashthiel quickly threw his second axe, which hit the beast again, lodging itself into the wolven head. The corpse tumbled onto the ground before stopping at the warrior's feet. He retrieved his axes and wiped the blood on the fur of the worgen.

Can't be too careful with the blood, he reminded himself. The elf noticed a steam of blood from his arm, and found a shallow set of claw marks. It's not a bite wound, that's all that matters.

There was still howling in the distance, and it came from the direction of the Horde camp. On top of that, he could hear the Horde group; they were catching up to him. Raven should definitely be done by now, but he'll need help with worgen running around.

Ashthiel now took a direct path back to the enemy camp, putting an unexpected end to his games.

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

The wind rushed past the Stormchaser brothers as the rode on the back of Sleetwing. The outer reaches of Whisperwind Refuge were now behind them, and ahead was their destination: Talonbranch. The ride overall was an awkwardly quiet one. Sundar had tried to make conversation with Jaou, but the elder brother's subdued disposition made it difficult for him to lighten the mood and only made Sundar more concerned.

Still, the druid looked around the ground passing underneath them. Much of the forest had seen little change through the years, but a new development caught his eye.

"Sleetwing, can you land on the camphor tree we just passed?" requested Sundar.

"What now, sightseeing are we? the wyrm replied as it started to circle the area.

"There's something strange down there."

The conversation caught Jaou's attention and the former elf looked down to see what the druid was talking about. "A camp... Horde by the looks of it, but isn't this..."

"Too close to Talonbranch," Sundar finished. We can't have another reapeat of Silverwind Refuge.

The skeletal dragon found a perch on the tree as Sundar requested. The cold aura that surrounded Sleetwing poured off and around its body like a thick mist. Sundar and Jaou looked down at the small camp that they had spotted earlier. The tree was dead, but it was full enough to conceal the group, but they had to be careful, the tree was only just tall enough to keep them out of sight.

"It doesn't look permanent," Jaou observed.

"It also looks hastily built," Sundar added.

Jaou's eyes darted back and forth as he took in the details of the camp, he took in the smells and the sounds form the forest. All seemed normal to him, but an updraft came, and it hit him like a splash of cold water. The satyr's eyes opened wide and his fur started to bristle fiercely, yet his tail started to curl in towards his body tightly. Jaou started to tremble, his mind felt paralyzed with anxiety and his stomach was turning. He brought up a hand to his mouth, he felt like he was going to vomit.

Sundar noticed his brother convulsing and quickly turned to him. "Jaou! Are you alright?!"

Jaou tried to steady himself using his mechanical arm and a spine spike of Sleetwing's. "I-I can smell it... I can feel it...!"

"What is it, what's wrong?!"

His hearing became distant from the current setting, it was being replaced by sounds of boiling potions, rifling of steel tools and the sharpening of surgical blades. He could smell different potions and alchemical creations, and blood, his blood. There was a rank stench of death in the air. He started to remember the sensation of being cut into, being beaten and burned by spells. He could see the leer of a demon in his mind. They were memories, things he could not remember clearly, but he already knew he did not want to remember them.

He banished the thoughts and emotions as best as he could, but Jaou's body was still reeling from the sensations that suddenly surged forth. "Something isn't right... down there..." Jaou spoke in a strained voice, with a hand still over his mouth. "It... it reeks of death."

Sleetwing shook its head and turned to the brothers. "The little demon is right. I sense a slaughterhouse."

Sundar regarded him with a puzzled, but concerned, look before turning back to face the camp. What are they doing down there? As he tried to discern what it meant, he caught something bizarre happening.

There was suddenly shouting followed by howls and growls coming from the ground. Sundar looked for where the sound came from, even Jaou through his difficulties turned his attention to the commotion below.

Worgen. There were worgen down there and it looked like they were tearing through the camp. While it was not in Sundar's nature to leave others in need, however the recent Horde aggressions have hit harder and closer to home. The druid was part of a neutral organization, but he took threats against his people seriously, especially with his mate as a member of the Sentinel forces.

He was about to tell Sleetwing to continue on when he spied others in the fray. He could see a night elf carrying away some one that was injured. In the centre of the attack, he saw two familiar kaldorei fighting off the pack.

Jaou could also recognize them as he recovered from his daze. "Isn't that... but what are they doing down there?"

"I don't know, but I'm going to find out," Sundar declared. "Pick up the two fleeing night elves and anyone else you come across, take direction from Jaou. We'll meet at the south east hills from Talonbranch."

Jaou's expression had went blank for a moment as he wondered if he misheard his brother.

"Leaving me to take orders from some one else, how brave of you, the wyrm huffed back.

He expects me to direct Sleetwing?! Jaou's expression went from blank to worried in a flash.

"He can be assertive," Sundar smirked back. "We'll see each other soon!"

With that, Jaou and Sleetwing watched the druid jump down into the fray taking the form of a stormcrow. The undead dragon looked over its shoulder to Jaou. "You better not get snappy with me, because I'll snap back."

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

Patience was Ravenstar's key to success. They may have cleared out a good deal of the camp's inhabitants, but there were still enough sentries around to keep the elf on alert. The way to the cells were clear now that every one else had moved on to other parts of the camp. The opportunity has come, and the roguish fighter went to work.

Only of of the cells were occupied from what he could discern. The door was mostly enclosed, save for a small observation window. The lock itself was built into it. Ravenstar picked the lock on the cell entrance and sabotaged it with one of his daggers so it could not be used again. He quietly entered the cell and closed the door behind him to hide any suspicion.

The opening of the cell door elicited an abrupt breath from one of the prisoners, Mateus. He could see that Mateus was there and alert, but strangely he was up against the opposite side of the cell from Izdazi. The soldier appeared puzzled, but was honing in on any clues to who had just entered the cell. It was time to show himself.

“Hey,” Ravenstar called, as quiet as any whisper as he slid out of the shadows.

"Shando Ravenstar?" Mateus whispered back. "What's going on out there?"

“Ashthiel and I created a distraction, and he continues to lead the pursuing party astray. Come, let’s get you two out, there’s no telling what is out in the forest now.” Ravenstar approached Izdazi and went to grab her attention by placing a hand on her shoulder.

"Stop! Don't touch her!" Raven suddenly shouted just as Raven grasped Izdazi's shoulder.

In a blur, Izdazi whirled around and slammed her fist against Raven's jaw. Her eyes flashed in fury and she issuing a feral growl as she added a right cross to his temple and then thrust her knee hard against his groin. She finished by punching the back of the head and pushing him away.

The impact from the she-elf's knee dulled any pain there was from the other hits Ravenstar took. The pain took out his hips and back, causing him to crumple to the ground. The amount of agony had almost made him vomit. He cupped his groin in pain, he knew that it should go away in a few minutes, but that was time he did not have.

"Izdazi!" Mateus shouted, but the huntress answered by slamming her boot against his chest. He was thrown back against the wall and slid to the floor holding his chest. She turned and headed for the doorway.

Ravenstar continued to muffle his voice to not draw attention as he moved ahead. Using his adrenaline, he tacked the huntress down and drew out a needle of tranquilizer and plunged it into her neck.

"Get off me!" she roared, lifting herself up with him still upon her back and then hurling her back against the wall of the cell.

Ravenstar was shaken by the impact, but he kept his head forward. He quickly moved his hands to the back of her neck where it met her shoulders and clamped onto them hard. Come one, this better work, or I’ll have to pull out the chimaera poison.

The she elf tried to reach back with her hand to pull his off her neck but then, slowly, she seemed to grow more sluggish and her movements became less coordinated. Her rapid breathing finally began to slow and she fell to her knees. With one last jerk, she tried to dislodge his grip from her neck and then relented.

As Izdazi slumped down, Ravenstar let go and fell back against the wall with heavy breaths and cupping his groin again. He had never seen such brutality come from the young elf. When he had fought her some years ago, and even in the training camp, she was not capable of such movement; what was it that changed? He drew long breaths and looked to Mateus. “Are... you alright...?”

Mateus shook his head and struggled to get to his feet. He gingerly touched the back of head and winced slightly. "I think I'll be fine, sir. They've been forcing her to fight. I think they gave her something. She came back barely able to restrain herself. Are you ok, sir?"

Ravenstar winced as he tried to sit up. “Sounds... like the telltale... signs of a physical-emotional overdrive drug... And I’ll be fine... when we’re back at Talonbranch. It’s a good thing I had kids already. Are you able to move?”

"I should be able to, sir," Mateus responded. "I don't know where Ryaha is, though."

“I’ll go back and get her, for now you two will have to get out; you’re not in any condition for this part of the extraction. I’ll get the way cleared for you.”

Ravenstar first took out another needle and filled it with a potion. This should help. He lifted his armour slightly and injected the potion into his abdomen.

"A potion?" Mateus questioned.

"A painkiller," the elder kaldorei replied. "I'll need it to keep you two from getting swarmed; all of that noise might have alerted the guards to something."

It was then that they heard what was unmistakeably a howl was heard in the distance, however Ashthiel would not have turned back to the camp so quickly. No, this howl was more guttural, more feral. The air itself grew thick with dread. Ravenstar was familiar with this feeling.

“No, this can’t be...”

Mateus struggled for a moment to pick up Izdazi and then sling her over his shoulder. "What was that," he asked, hearing the distant howls. "Worgen?"

“There haven’t been worgen in these parts in many years,” Ravenstar stated. “But that was definitely a worgen howl. They had been contained near the border of Ashenvale and Felwood previously...” The older elf shook his head and stood up straighter. “We must leave, now!”

"No argument from me, sir," Mateus quickly replied.

Ravenstar opened the door slightly and carefully looked out to see if anyone was approaching the cells. Oddly, there was no one coming to see what was going on. Perhaps they knew that she would be prone to outbursts. This time he did not slip into the shadows, he had to keep himself visible to Mateus. He waved a hand to signal the soldier that it was safe to follow him. As they made their way to leave, there was the sound of rustling leaves just outside of the camp. Ravenstar turned to the direction it came from, but the rustling stopped.

That couldn't have been my imagination.

A different sound came towards them. It was light, purposefully so to stay as silent as possible, but they could easily discern the sound with their sensitive hearing. Running up to them was Ashthiel.

"Revar, we have to leave!" Ashthiel declared form the distance.

"What are you doing here? I thought you were leading the Horde away," Ravenstar asked.

"I was, but there are worgen around. And it sounds like they're closing in on this camp," the warrior spoke.

There was that rustling again, this time there was more than the sound from one bush. They could hear soft pads falling upon the ground, along with growling.

"It looks like they're here," Ravenstar said.

"It's unavoidable now." Ashthiel cooly drew his greatsword out. "You should get moving, Mateus, get Izdazi back to Talonbranch.

"And I thought being stuck in a cell with a on a rage high was going to be the highlight of my time here," Mateus quipped as he shot Ravenstar a worried glance.

“You heard him, get going!” Ravenstar ordered. The older elf took his glaives into hand. "We'll hold them off."

Mateus nodded and proceeded to take off, but it was then that the still air was broken. The worgen that had lurked around the camp made their move and came out to attack them.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Wed Jun 04, 2014 2:15 pm

Without feedback from the patient, it was difficult for Niashado to ascertain how effective her healing attempts were on the unconscious elf.   The elf's breathing had calmed a bit and some color was returning to her skin, although not much.  

Light only knew what they had subjected this she-elf prisoner to.  It was callous and cruel, but then, that seemed to describe what the Horde was becoming under its new leadership.   If wise elders like Azgard were too afraid to speak up against the intolerable agenda of Garrosh, what hope was there in the 'New' Horde that Thrall had created?

A heavy green hand gently laid on hers just as she was about to attempt another round of healing.  

"You're out of time, draenei, " Azgard said quietly.   Her concentration interrupted, she suddenly became aware of the sounds of battle outside.  Then, a feral howl filled the air.   It sounded just like the worgen she'd encountered earlier.  

The older orc gripped the hilt of one of his axes tightly.   "You need to save your energy and flee."  

Reluctantly, Niashado acquiesced.  She wanted to tend more to healing the she elf, but it would do no good if they were discovered.   Then, her eyes fell on the table where vials of potions and fluid were bubbling unattended.   Hurriedly stepping past Azgard, she quickly scanned over the various items.  

The shamaness only had a very basic understanding of alchemy.  But she knew lab notes when she saw them and quickly snatched up what she could.  

"What are you doing?" Azgard demanded.  

"We need to understand the toxin to heal this elf," Niashado replied sharply.  She shoved the parchments into her backpack and quickly slipped the pack over her back.  Then, pointing a hand toward the lab station, she closed her eyes and quietly called out to the elements.  

"Stop!" Azgard shouted.   Being a shaman, the orc understood what she was asking of the elements, but it was too late to do anything about it.  The small tongues of fire on the candles heating the beakers suddenly erupted in an inferno that engulfed the entire table.    Glass vials popped and shattered and the potion, which was apparently flammable as well quickly added to the growing conflagration.  

Satisfied that what was on the table will not be used to harm anyone else, the shamaness turned to Azgard.   The orc was gone.  However, at the entrance to the laboratory stood a frail human female.

"What have you done?!" the woman screeched in a guttural voice.   "My research!"  

As she awkwardly stepped past the bright light streaming from the doorway, Niashado was able to take in more details.   The woman was a Forsaken in a grotesque state of decay.   Her arms were nothing more then muscle covered bones.  Her jaw could be seen through the holes in her flesh.   Judging by the condition of the dress she was wearing, it seemed like she had died wearing it.  

"You… you… you  bitch!  How could you do this?!" the undead screamed in blind rage.   She withdrew two daggers and started charging toward the shamaness with more speed than she expected an undead capable of.  

The sudden fear and shock of being charged froze Niashado.   She tried to think of a spell, but the words never formed in mind.    

A blinding arc of white light shot out from a darkened corner of the hut and struck the Forsaken dead center on her chest.   Her sickly emaciated body shuttered momentarily before violently exploding.  

Niashado had just enough time to duck under behind the burning table as parts of the undead's body rained upon the room with wet thuds.   The smell was a mix of decaying corpse and burned flesh.   Like ammonia and sulfur adding to the steadily strengthening scent of smoke from the fire.    

Standing up, she watched as Azgard slowly approached the mutilated leftovers of the forsaken.  

"You… you killed her," the shamaness finally managed to say.  

"Only because you were too weak to do it yourself," he added contemptuously.  He looked at her darkly.   "Take the elf and leave."

"What will they do to you when they find this?" she asked, suddenly concerned about this orc.  

"Nothing.  You killed her," he replied.  Then, noting the shock in her eyes he sneered.  "They will kill you anyway, blue blood.   You have escaped, freed a prisoner and destroyed this project.  Adding her death to it doesn't change anything."

He stepped past her and with a strong swing of his axe, cut a hole in the wall.  It led directly outside of the settlement.  

"I ask only one favor, draenei," Azgard said as he returned to her side and helped Niashado lift the unconscious elf over her shoulder.  

"What?" the shamaness asked tersely.   She wasn't pleased with the idea of taking the blame for someone's murder, yet she was hardly position to argue against it.  

"Don't give the potion to the Alliance.  I may not like how we developed it, but I cannot allow our enemies to have it either."  

Niashado regarded the elder orc for a moment and then nodded.  "Once we have derived an anti-toxin, I will destroy the notes.  I promise."  

This seemed to satisfy the orc and before she knew it, he was rushing her out through the hole.   At this point the fire had begun to singe the cadavers stored inside.   The scent of burning rotting flesh was beginning to override all others.   The orc didn’t follow her.  

Niashado prayed that Azgard's superiors would accept his explanation, even though it meant she'd take the blame for the Forsaken's death.   Besides, if she'd reacted, it was likely that she might have killed the Forsaken herself.   She'd like to think she would have tried to incapacitate her, but Light only knows what could have happened.  The thought of killing anyone was unpleasant enough.  

Despite her misgivings, if it hadn't been for Azgard's intervention, it was very likely she'd have been killed.   She at least had to thank the Light for that.  

Another blood curling howl echoed through the woods and quickly reminded Niashado that she was far from safe.    With a grunt, she pressed on and hoped she'd be able to carry this elf to safety.  


~~~~  


Mateus didn't need to be told a third time to get the hell out of dodge.   He'd fought worgen before and had no desire to do so again.   Especially not in his condition.  

By kal'dorei female standards, Izdazi weighed about average.  Under normal circumstances, he knew he could handle the burden of carrying her for a long time.   However, the last several days had been spent barely being fed and repeatedly beaten by his interrogators.   He was not nearly in the best condition to make good distance carrying anything.  

And even if he didn't need to worry about her, he wasn't sure he was in the best condition to handle an attack from single worgen, much less a pack.  

Still, he pushed on, if only because it was the only thing he could do.   Never one to be too spiritual, he heard himself whisper a prayer to Elune.  

He prayed the worgen wouldn't notice him.   He prayed he'd have the strength to make it.  

He prayed Izdazi wouldn't wake up still under the influence of a rage-high.    


~~~  


Jaou sat perched on Sleetwing's saddle, looking down below where Sundar had dropped down. It was a chaotic scene, one where he wished to help. The howls were ominous calls for more pack members, but for some reason the growls and snarls set chills up his spine.

"How dull to be on rescue duty. I would rather rain ice and rot on those mongrels than sit around," Sleetwing huffed.

Jaou sheepishly looked at the irritable wyrm for a moment before looking down below again. "Come on, let's go get the two that are running," he said

"Had your sibling not commanded me to do this, you would stuck in this tree."

Sleetwing extended its wings and took off into the air. It lifted itself up before bringing its wings closer to the body and rushing down to the elves.


~~~  


It wasn't long until lactic acid began to build up in Mateus's thighs and back.   And despite the howls spurring him forward and the brief burst of energy from the adrenaline, he was already beginning to lose momentum.  

It wasn’t the worgen or the weight upon his back that finally did him in, but the unseen root protruding from the ground that sent him sprawling down a steep ridgeline and into a small clearing below.  

The tumble seemed to go on and on and the forest dissolved into a kaladiscope of spinning colors until, with equal suddenness, he finally stopped rolling.   Groaning, Mateus lifted his head out of the semi-decayed leaves and dirt.  Nearby, Izdazi was still unconscious, but a cursory glance confirmed that she no worse after the fall.   The warden scanned the area where he'd fallen from and felt his blood to turn to ice.   A pair of dark furred worgen were prowling along the ridgeline and sniffing around the area where he'd fallen.  

He instinctively reached for a sword, only to be reminded that he hadn't bothered to arm himself before leaving the camp.   And even if he had, exhaustion would have made the fight nearly one-sided.  

He reached for a rock just as one of the worgens glanced down the ridge and caught sight of him.  Issuing a snarl, the pair began a rapid four-legged dash down the ridge.   He raised the hand clutching the rock and moved to position himself between them and Izdazi.  

Mateus froze when a loud screeching roar sounded overhead.  Through gaps in the forest canopy, he caught fleeting glances of something large moving overhead.  

Beyond the roar, there was a cacophony clatter of branches snapping when the undead dragon broke under the forest canopy and flew directly toward him.  

The worgen, with single-minded determination, had taken no heed of the drake gliding toward them.   Mateus noted an icy blue glow building up in dragon's chest cavity and rush into the neck before it unleashed its breath on the worgen.  Their yelps were drowned by the sound of rapidly forming ice.  

Even from the distance where Mateus stood, he felt the chill leech to his bones.  

The warden ducked as the drake flew over him.   It didn't seem possible for a dragon that large to fly so nimbly between the trees.  Then again, it didn't seem possible for a skeleton of dragon to fly at all.  

Then, with his mind still numbed from the sureness sight of the rescue, he watched the drake bank hard and then start flying towards him.   He closed his eyes and prepared to feel its frost breath end him.  Instead, with a heavy, but dull thud, the drake landed before him.  

And then the surrealness of the situation spiked again when a purple furred satyr astride the undead dragon turned to him and said, "If you wish to get to Talonbranch, I suggest you get on."

It took several precious seconds for the seasoned warden's mind to fully process what he'd just witnessed and heard.   When he finally managed to fully take stock of the situation, he responded in the most rational way anyone would when offered a ride on undead wyrm by a demon.  

"I don't think so."


~~~  

Niashado felt her hooves sink into the mud as she staggered forward with as much speed as she could safely muster.   Carrying someone was much more difficult then she had assumed.  She had to continuously adjust the unconscious elf over her shoulder, not to mention her backpack.  At least her staff provided a little extra stability.  

If it weren't for the sounds of battle from the Horde base she was leaving behind, the shamaness might have just given up.  As it was, adrenaline was fueling each hoof step.   But Niashado knew that wouldn't last for much longer and when it ended, it was going to end hard.  

She also didn't have a clue where she was going.   Because it was far more important to get as far from the Horde base as possible, she had chosen to ignore her lack of destination, but the concern never truly went away.  

She was lost in an unfamiliar, and frighteningly dangerous forest.  

That was when something heavy slammed onto her back and hurled her into the ground.  She lost her grip on the elf and watched her roll on the ground away from her.  

The shamaness scrambled on the ground to rush toward her patient but she was abruptly lifted up by her backpack and roughly shaken.  There was a muffled growl coming from behind her.

The blood fell from her face as she realized she was being tossed about by a worgen who'd gotten a jawful of her backpack.   She struggled out of the straps of her pack and was hurled on the ground.  Rolling around in the muddied ground, she gasped when her horn struck a rock.  The shock radiated to her skull and spine and left her momentarily dazed.  

When she opened her eyes, she watched the worgen throw aside her pack and affix his eyes upon her.   Then, it issued a howl that turned her blood to ice.    

~~~

"We don't mean any harm, we were sent here to help," the purple furred satyr said in an earnest voice that Mateus didn't think was possible coming from a demon.

"Of all the things your boneheaded druid brother thinks of letting us do," Mateus heard the dragon grumble unfriendly like.  

The warden was completely unsure of how to react to this.   The satyr and the undead wyrm did save them from worgen, but that didn't necessarily mean they were to be trusted.  

He saw something small moving at the side of the satyr and then watched as a small owl bounced onto the pommel and then fluttered the wyrm's scapula.   It looked completely at peace being in such proximity to the two creatures before him.  

"Do you know Ravenstar and Ashthiel? I'm a friend of theirs. This is crazy, but you have to trust us!" the satyr replied again.  The earnest tone of his voice started to turn to pleading.  

Mateus pondered his options.  It wasn't like he could outrun the dragon.   In fact, he wasn’t sure he could make it back to Talonbranch anyway. And there were still the worgen and other unseen dangers that permeated Felwood.  

As if to punctuate his very though he heard a group of canine howls that sounded awfully close.  He looked back at the satyr and let out a sharp breath through clenched teeth as his options evaporated.  

With a growl, he charged toward the skeletal wyrm and pushed Izdazi up toward the satyr's arm.  

This was wrong on so many levels, but he was willing to allow himself the briefest chance.   He hesitated to release Izdazi when the satyr took hold of her, but another howl forced him to accept his aid.   Then, Mateus reluctantly looked at the claw the satyr offered him.  “Quickly, get on!”

"Don't have to tell me twice!" Mateus snapped as he accepted the satyr’s claws and struggled to get on.  He quickly sat behind him.  As the wyrm slowly spread its wings and seemed to coil up in preparation for a leap into the air, the warden held on to the saddle tightly.  There was a loud burst of wind and it felt as if stomach had fall to his boots.   Then, they were above the trees.  

"So, you know Ravenstar and Ashthiel," Mateus asked as he shifted his position on the saddle.  

“I understand that there is good reason not to trust a satyr, but I am not,” Jaou replied.   Again, Mateus was taken aback by the way the satyr spoke.  It was too ‘civilized.’  There was no contempt or malice in the voice that he’d heard often from other satyrs.   “They were my teachers, Ravenstar is a friend of my family, though I am the only satyr.”

I suppose you want me to keep scanning for more runabouts, Sleetwing announced.

“Yes.” Jaou turned to Mateus. “Were there any others?”

"We're missing one other.  Ravenstar said he'd look for her, though." Mateus replied loud enough to be heard over the sound of the rushing wind.   "Listen, I really think we should make our way to Talonbranch now.  We don't need her waking up while we're in flight."    

The satyr nodded in agreement. “We’ll have you two dropped off around the outskirts; the Sentinels wouldn’t be too pleased to see me in the area. I’ll go back to see if there are any stragglers.  The name is Jaou Stormchaser”

Mateus shook his head as his mind still reeled from the very concept of being rescued by a satyr astride a skeletal wyrm.  And to top it off, the small owl perched on the demon's shoulder quietly staring at him.  

"I can't even imagine the story that's behind you," the warden remarked while shaking his head.  "The name is Mateus, by the way.   Also, a student of Ravenstar."  

“My story is... complicated, to say the least,” the satyr replied. “I see you’re part of the most recent batch of his wards, what of the girl?”

"They're both sentinels.  Ravenstar is teaching an advance tactical class.  Half the class are sentinels.  The others are wardens.   It's been an interesting experience so far."

“Well she’ll certainly make things more interesting considering her past,” the demon muttered.

Mateus picked up on the sudden tone of familiarity coming from the saty… from Jaou.  

"You know Izdazi?" he asked incredulously.   "Small world."  

“It wasn’t exactly the best encounter ever.”

The warden laughed and slapped Jaou's back.  Any doubts he had over Jaou's sincerity had almost evaporated.  "I believe it."  

~~~

Niashado narrowly rolled away just as the worgen's claw raked the ground where she'd be laying.   She clumsily back stepped, got to her hooves and unleashed a weak, but quick, lightning bolt.   It struck the worgen in the chest, but otherwise did little more then to anger it more.   With a harsh growl it began to charge toward her.    

The shamaness wasn't sure what kept her from running at that moment.   Her mind seemed to blank out and she didn't even blink as she stared at the charging creature.   In slow motion, she saw the glint from the worgen's eyes and the long sliver of drool that slowly stretched from the edge of his maw until, finally, it broke off and spattered to the ground.  

Little wisps of smoke slowly drifted upward from the point where her lightning bolt had struck.   The worgen hardly seemed to notice it.  He just kept charging.

The worgen glared at her and she shuddered under its gaze.  There was intelligence to this creature's eyes, but that intelligence was strictly feral.   There would be no reasoning with its prey.  

Its nostrils flared as if to take in the scent of her fear.   Then, as if to finish the charge, it leapt into the air.  

Niashado stared in awe at the height at which the creature jumped.  It wasn't until it was past the apogee of its leap that the draenei was finally able to react pass her fear.   Without thinking she called out to the elements and felt the familiar surge of their energy.  Her staff burst into flames and she raised it up just as the worgen crashed onto her.  

The air was blown from her lungs as she crashed back onto the forest floor.   The worgen was pressing upon her body.  She wasn't sure how, but somehow her staff was wedged into the worgen's maw.   It snarled and struggled to close his jaw on the staff, but the elementally strengthened ironwood staff held up.  

The shaman for her part held the staff tightly from both ends and struggled to keep the worgen from simply tearing it from her hands.   She grimaced as she felt its drool drip onto her face.   Her vision blurred when its claws raked down her arms and began tearing into her leather jerkin.  

Issuing another cry to the elements, she felt her hairs stand on end to herald the loud snap of blinding bluish white light.  The worgen's body shook, it paused and then it resumed tying to get past the staff and to her neck.  

Niashado called down another bolt of lightning and then another before the worgen finally jumped off her and began to circle her.   It issued a howl laced with frustration and again charged at her.    

The shamaness scrambled back on the forest floor and, issuing another call, she slammed her palm on the dirt.  The ground directly beneath the worgen exploded upward, throwing the creature back against a tree.  It struggled furiously for almost half a minute, hanging from something unseen on the tree until finally slumping and falling still.

She stood up on shaking legs and after a long pause, slowly approached the inert worgen.   Its feet were dangling in the air only by a few inches.   Then she saw the trail of red blood dripping down the tree from behind the creature.  

It must have become impaled onto the stub of a branch when he'd been hurled back against the tree.  Niashado was not elated by this victory.   Nor did she allow regret to enter her heart.   Instead, issuing a quiet sigh, she turned and started to walk back toward the still unconscious elf and her horribly mauled backpack.  

She'd taken no more than two steps when an incredible pain surged from her left shoulder.   Screaming, she tried to turn around, only to be yanked into the air by whatever had latched onto her shoulder and then thrown back on the ground.    

Staring with wide white eyes, she watched as the worgen pushed itself off the tree and then, with a throaty grunt, fell to the ground.   His breathing was raspy and his movements were slow, but when he looked up at her, there was maddness upon his eyes.   His lips peeled back revealing rows of blue strained teeth.    The shamaness staggered back and clutched her shoulder tightly.  Her hand quickly became covered in blood.  

Her mind was muddled from the shock of the injury and the dreamlike sight of the dead worgen coming after her.   As if reality chose that moment to remind the worgen of its fatal situation, it took one step and then, in eerie silence, fell forward.  

Still holding her shoulder to staunch the flow of blood, Niashado used her other hand to grab her staff and poke the felled worgen.   After several minutes of poking, and eventually escalating to sharp jabs, she was satisfied that the wogen was completely dead and would no longer pose her and the injured night elf any danger.  

Breathing heavily, Niashado turned her attention to the next most pressing concern.  

"No no no no no," she quietly whined while stripping off the jerkin.   The white shirt she wore was torn and stained with bluish blood in the shoulder area.  

The first alarming thought that came to mind was the worgen curse.  Humans and night elves were susceptible to it, but she'd never heard of a draenei or any of the other races becoming worgen.  That was of small comfort, though.   Viruses, bacteria and even magical curses were known to ‘mutate’ on their own.      

Crawling over to her backpack, she snapped it open and withdrew a spare waterskin.   She poured all the water on the wound and then coated it with a healing salve.   Finally, she began calling on the elements to heal and purify the wound.   She wasn’t sure if it would do any good at this point, but even without the curse to worry about, there could always be infections.   Undoubtedly, Felwood was full of possibly infectious or poisonous things.  

Once that was over and the shoulder had been tightly bandaged, Niashado slowly crawled toward the night elf.  Checking her vitals, she was relieved to find the elf still alive and no worse for wear, although still very much unconscious.  

She was in no condition to carry the elf, much less herself, anywhere.   Between the taxing elemental calls, the frightening interrogation, the two encounters with worgen and that she had eaten since that morning, Niashado was much fatigued to continue.   She regretted that the sabre Sundar had lent her had been killed.  

With another sigh, the draenei slumped back against a nearby tree and closed her eyes.   Resting her hands on her knees, she took slow deep breaths and allowed her mind to settle.  This was an old meditation technique that she’d utilized often.  

She thought of O'ros who dwelled deep within Exodar.   She was always calmest when visiting him.  Although she rarely tried to speak to the naaru, just watching his geometric form moving and the brilliant radiance coming from deep within its heart always instilled a serenity within her that she’d found in only one other place on Azeroth.  

Remembering that place brought her mind to the mountaintop behind Exodar.  She’d visited the place often if only to listen the wind.  From this spot, she could see almost all of Azuremyst Isle and even Bloodmyst in the distance.   But it was the serene whispers of the winds that made the spot her favorite.  

And that was where the shamaness allowed her mind to remain until her shaking hands calmed and she felt strong enough to carry her charge further.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:29 pm

The worgen were certainly making a chaotic scene around the Horde camp. While satyrs and worgen have had historically catastrophic relations, the distraction was a good thing for Taur and his party. They had slipped by unnoticed, but Taur had instructed his group to go ahead towards Talonbranch Glade and Whisperwind Grove; he spotted something else to play with.

He saw a draenei carrying a night elf along. It was a strange sight to behold, both were in what would be considered currently hostile territory and some distance away from Talonbranch. They were also not going in the direction of Whisperwind Grove. The night elf was quite injured, though the draenei did not look like she was at full endurance.

At Taur’s feet were a handful of dead worgen. They had provided him with a good warm-up, perhaps the draenei would provide him with some entertainment, and if he was lucky, some information.

Taur made his move, making himself known to the draenei. “How thoughtful of you to try and help that little elf,” he said in a sonorous tone. “But if you want to survive, you should look out for yourself.” He came out from the foliage armed with two long and sinisterly carved daggers. “I advise you to leave the girl here.”

Niashado gasped and froze upon hearing the voice. Eyes widening, she waited as long as she dared before gently lowering the elf to the ground. She was careful to avoid putting much weight on her injured shoulder. Never taking her eyes off the satyr, she also dropped her backpack and then stepped forward, making sure to keep herself between the satyr and the elf.

“Sh-she is injured and poses no threat. Leave us and no harm will come to you,” the shamaness answered tepidly. Holding her staff tightly, she visibly struggled to keep the fatigue out of her countenance.

The satyr snickered at the courageous draenei. “I like them fighty, care to entertain me?” Taur dashed forward towards Niashado and arced a dagger up to slash her. “Now I have to wonder why one of your kind is up in these parts.”

The draenei back stepped and twisted aside just as the blade came to within a handbreadth from her face. Ignoring the satyr’s question, she swung her staff toward his head and in a wide arc. Taur ducked down from the swing and spun a low kick at the draenei before lunging at her with his weapons. The shaman yelped as she felt her hooves kicked out from beneath her. She rolled just as his blades slashed the ground she’d been lying on. Scrambling up to her hooves, she called out to the elements and unleashed a small lightning bolt toward him.

He let out a huff as he leapt back from the lightning that was launched at him as it harmlessly struck the spot he was in before. It was apparent she was fatigued, but he could not let that lull him into a sense of an easy hunt.

“How about this, you tell me if you’ve seen a particularly strange satyr around, possibly riding with a druid upon a dead wyrm. Give me some information and I’ll leave you alone for now,” he said with a playful expression.

The draenei paused and cocked her head slightly to the side at his request. Recognition briefly flashed upon her countenance. Then, she raised her staff defensively. “What is this satyr to you?” she asked in nearly a whisper.

“Oh he’s nothing to me,” Taur shrugged. “I’ve just been asked to hunt him. What a troublemaker... now, I can ask the same question to you. You seem to know him.” A sinister light came to his eyes as he narrowed them at the shamaness.

The shamaness took a step back and shook her head. Then, muttering another quiet call, her staff erupted in flames. “Who has asked this of you?” she demanded in a sterner voice.

“My commander, someone who I would hate to keep waiting.”

The draenei seemed to consider his response for some time before again shaking her head. “Your commander will have to learn to cope with waiting. Jaou is safe,” she hissed with barely restrained anger. She stomped her hoof on the ground and issued another elemental call. The ground at the satyr’s hooves exploded.

The sudden upheaval of the earth was something he did not expect. The satyr was launched into the air. Taur flipped in the air and landed on all fours farther away from the draenei. “Oh, what a temper; I wouldn’t say that he is safe though... no one is,” he grinned.

“Has he not been tormented enough by your kind? What more can they do to him?” she replied angrily.

“Oh, she can get very imaginative,” Taur replied. He quickly dashed up to the draenei and unleashed several slashing attacks. “This is just all games to me.”

The shamaness again back stepped and tried to avoid his assault, but this time she wasn’t fast enough. The second slash of his dagger met her forearm and caused her to drop her staff. The third slash grazed along her abdomen, but was deflected by her armor. She backed up against a tree and called down a gust of wind to push him away. The draenei scrambled toward her staff.

The gust pushed him back, forcing him to dig his hooves into the ground along with one of his daggers. He licked his lips as he recoiled for another attack. He bound forward with daggers in hand and crossed arms, ready to release a double-strike against Niashado. She was again knocked to the ground. She abandoned her staff and instead used both hands to hold back the dagger wielding arm. The dagger blade was less than a finger length from her sternum and it was taking all the strength in her trembling arms to keep it from advancing closer.

“Ah, you have some strength,” he taunted. “But I’m not putting much effort into this.” As if to prove his cocky nature, he sheathed one of his daggers.

"K-kill me and you learn nothing," the draenei strained to reply. She tried to knee him, but couldn't put much force into it without risking losing her hold against his arm.

“Oh I wouldn’t kill you this quick. How about some fun? I do very much like to play...” Taur licked his lips. “Truth needs to be drawn out, not forced. And I would rather have days spent hunting you and your friends.”

The shamaness hissed and tried to apply more force to repelling his arm. "I-I will tell you nothing." She started trying to cast an elemental spell, even though it was straining on her grip.

“I don’t necessarily need you to find that scrawny satyr rat,” the demon laughed. “The thrill of the hunt makes it of little matter on how I get my information. And we can be patient.”

The draenei finished the spell just as the tip of the blade broke skin, slivers of electricity starts arcing up her arms and toward his hand. The sparks jumped onto the satyr’s hand, shocking him slightly, but the pain was enough for him to jump back and let go of his dagger. “Oh, look at what you’ve done. You singed my fur! I think I may have to flay the flesh off of that hand of yours...”

Still not bothering to reply, she brushed off his hand and raked her nails across his face before trying to kick him back with her hooves. Her clawing had missed his face, but the hoof had found its mark. With all of her squirming, she managed to find some height on the tree and slip underneath his weight, and the hoof she sent connected with his right cheek.

Taur was sent reeling back, though he fell back into a standing position. Blood trickled down from the abrasion and out of the corner of his mouth. “Oh, exciting, I wonder how well you would bed.”

Quickly getting to her hooves, the draenei retrieved her staff and held it defensively before her. She still struggled with her injured shoulder, but appeared determined. "That is among many things you will never know," she hissed, clearly revolted at his inquiry.

He was ready to renew his assault against her, but a low thrum started to come towards their direction from above and it was soon followed by a terrible roar.

How unfortunate for an interruption to appear.

“I think that’s my cue to disappear,” Taur stated. “You can keep the dagger. I’ll be waiting.” The satyr then retreated to the forest foliage out of sight.

The shamaness looked between the sky and the satyr until he was gone and then, holding her bleeding forearm, she quickly made her way toward the unconscious elf.

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

Jaou had Sleetwing leand as near as he dared to Talonbranch Glade. Just as he had said, he dropped off Mateus and Izdazi before getting Sleetwing to fly back to check for any other stragglers. With some pushing, the undead wyrm agreed to do so. To Jaou, it seemed that Sleetwing’s prime personality trait was to be difficult and cantankerous.

As they flew through the forest, Jaou looked around for anything out of place in the green backdrop. The dragon circled close to where the Horde camp was located, slowly flying outward as the ranger scanned the forest floor. Some distance northwest of the makeshift camp, Jaou caught a glimpse of something unusual, a scuffle between a draenei and a satyr.

“Sleetwing, bank left and let out a warning roar,” Jaou said to the dragon. “Land where it’s clear.”

Maybe I can get a meal out of this,” the dragon mused. Sleetwing let out a screeching roar as it flew down towards the destination Jaou pointed out.

As they came nearer to the area, Jaou saw a satyr retreat away from the roar and an unconscious elf. More importantly, he saw a draenei he immediately recognized. Sleetwing landed as Jaou had requested, and he looked over from the saddle and shouted, “Nia!”

The draenei’s head snapped up as she recognized the voice. “Jaou?!”

She looked back at the where the satyr she’d fought disappeared and then back to Jaou riding astride an intimidating skeletal dragon mount. She rushed toward him, but stopped just far enough to remain from snapping distance of the dragon.

"Hold on a moment, Sleetwing," Jaou said to the wyrm, who replied only with a grumble. The satyr jumped down off the saddle to the ground to meet Niashado. "I'm glad you're safe, we'll get you out of here."

Niashado silently stared up at him for almost half a minute before abruptly embracing him tightly. It was only for moment and then turned and pointed at the fallen night elf.

"We need to take her as well," she said, still seemingly unable to grasp that he was actually here.

“We can ride on Sleetwing, there’s enough room on the saddle to fit all three of us, just,” Jaou said as he pointed to the undead dragon.

Niashado looked past Jaou at the dragon and then back at her friend. She seemed to struggle with the right words before turning and gesturing for Jaou to follow her. There, she helped the silver-haired elf onto his back and retrieved her backpack and staff.

"She needs medical attention as soon as possible, Jaou. Take her and go. I will be fine. I just need you to point me in the direction of Talonbranch," she said.

Jaou looked at her with the most perplexed expression, what she was saying did not make any sense to him. “What are you talking about? I said it can fit three.” Jaou instinctively reached out with his left hand, though retracted it, remembering that it was a hazard. “Come on!”

She glanced at the dragon and then shook her head again. This time, however, she took his left hand and gingerly held it. "It is ok. Less weight will mean that… it can travel faster," Niashado explained. She glanced out into the forest with worried expression. "Please, just go. I will be fine," the shamaness repeated.

”Are you calling me weak, little blue mouse?” Sleetwing growled.

Jaou shot a stern gaze at Sleetwing before turning back to Niashado. “There are worgen running around, and what about that satyr I saw?”

"I-I will explain about him later. Look, I can run to Talonbranch in wolf form," she sputtered quickly while looking at the dragon worriedly. "Less weight means you will travel faster. Please."

“I will carry you onto the back of this wyrm if I need to; it’s too dangerous to go alone!”

The draenei took a step back and nervously tugged on her tendrils. "I-I cannot go. I can outrun anything. Just, please, I do not want to fly."

“Nia,” Jaou said earnestly. “You’re injured. You don’t know your way around here and some of these creatures can outrun either of us.”

Closing her eyes, Niashado again shook her head. This time was there was an air of desperation to it. "I-I cannot do this. I cannot fly. Just point me in the right direction."

"What a waste of time..." the dragon huffed.

Jaou looked over to Sleetwing and sighed. He took the unconscious elf over to the wrym and climbed upon the saddle, placing her on it. He then turned about and jumped off again. He strode over to the shamaness and looked at her for a moment. "Sorry if this is abrupt."

He suddenly picked her up and started to carry her over to the wyrm.

"Jaou! What are you doing?" Niashado cried out as he carried her to the saddle. "I do not want to fly!" Before she knew it, he had her on the saddle. Lowering her head, the draenei seemed to accept the situation, even though she was clearly hating it.

“I promise, I won’t let you fall,” Jaou said. “And Sleetwing isn’t all that bad, right?” He looked at the dragon, which in turn looked back at him.

Remember, I’m only doing this for your brother, not you.

Sleetwing stretched its wings and with a quick burst, flew into the air and broke through the forest canopy.

The shamaness tightened her grip on Jaou and pressed her head against his back as they burst into the sky. Despite slipping a quiet whine, she kept from screaming aloud and pressed her eyes tightly closed. Jaou almost had the air squeezed out of him by the draenei’s hold on him. He never would have guessed she could hold on that tightly; it was starting to hurt.

Thankfully, Talonbranch isn’t very far away.

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

The pace of the battle picked up as more worgen joined the assault. Ravenstar and Ashthiel continued to cut through the wolven creatures with practiced car to not get bitten, lest they want to join their ranks.

“This isn’t right, worgen haven’t been in this area for centuries,” Ashthiel commented incredulously as he swung his greatsword in an upward slash, striking a trio of worgen.

“They’re more agitated than usual,” Ravenstar said in between a flurry of strikes from his glaives dismembering more worgen. “What direction did they come from?”

Ashthiel rounded a slash downward and brought his weapon back to thrust it into the chest of another assailant. “East from here, probably near the mountains when I ran into them.”

“That’s cutting it close to Talonbranch.”

One worgen was preparing to strike from behind, only to be interrupted by a flash of fur landing hard upon it. It was a sabre, and it quickly shifted form to a familiar face.

“Sundar?!” both of the elves exclaimed.

The druid wore a smirk on his face as he quickly set his fist weapons over his hands and placed himself in a fighting pose. He sent an uppercut to the jaw of one worgen and then pivoted to swipe away another with his forearm.

“Oh boy, what kind of trouble did you guys dig up here?” Sundar jokingly asked.

“If we make it out of here, we’ll tell you. Now why are you here?” Ravenstar rebutted.

“I decided to drop in when I saw you two.” Sundar stood with his feet apart with hands slightly crossed. His quickly flicked his hands downward and a series of roots on his left and right spiked upwards, racing out from his position. About a dozen worgen were caught in the upheaval. The remaining worgen became uneasy and reluctant to attack. They soon retreated into the forest. “The Circle will need to deal with this and I have some news!”

“We better get out of here quick if we want to be alive to regale each other on stories,” the warrior elf interjected. “The Horde group I baited will be back.”

“Did you ever get into trouble,” the druid observed.

“We still have one recruit in the camp,” Ravenstar stated. We need to get her out.”

“This is going to be interesting. Well, let’s get to it!”

The three kaldorei started to advance on the camp, but a roar announced Azgard's arrival among the other Horde recruits. Altogether they surrounded the three elves as the sounds of battle raged behind them. It wasn't difficult to see the eagerness in their young eyes to drop these intruders. One look and growl from Azgard seemed to stifle their eagerness though. Holding his large two handed axe, the gray haired orc stepped toward the elves.

The three elves stood their ground. Ravenstar and Ashthiel looked battle ready as ever, bringing up their weapons to bare; Sundar however was looking around, shifting his eyes from side to side in a more relaxed stance.

“Looks like my pursuers have caught up,” Ashthiel commented.

“This is an interesting situation here,” Sundar stated. “I wonder if we can talk this through.”

“Years and years with the Circle has made you optimistic,” Ravenstar flatly said.

Azgard growled lowly at the jesting tone of their banter. He took three steps toward the trio. "You are trespassing," he replied, calmly and without anger. In response, the half dozen recruits raised their weapons and seemed poise to strike. The troll waiting on a tree branch drew back an arrow.

“Oh how droll,” Ravenstar replied. “It would be better to say that you’re the ones trespassing on kaldorei lands. Even better, you have a recruit of ours.”

"We have no one who belongs to you, elf. There is nothing here that belongs to you. I say leave before you lose more than your manhood, " the elder orc said gruffly. His gaze never left Ravenstar.

“Sorry to say, but someone already beat you to it. We freed two of our recruits. Now, where is our third, or did you choose to slaughter her like you did the villagers at Silverwind Refuge?”

"This is a training camp for young recruits. Yet, you have unleashed worgen mongrels into our base. Do not speak to me slaughter. You are little better," he took several steps closer until he was almost eye to eye with Ravenstar. "There is nothing of yours here. Now limp back home while it is still allowed."

“They would have come here regardless,” Sundar said. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but if there were three elves, why is there only two?”

The orc shook his head and abruptly turned and began to walk away. Once he'd taken a about a dozen steps, he called out to the spirits and stomped his booted foot on the ground. The soil under the elves' feet suddenly lurched up and shook.

The three kaldorei found their footing to be lost, but Sundar immediately called out to the sick and dying trees for a favour. The plants groaned and lurch all around them as the roots started to race through the soil. It stabilized the shaking somewhat, but more importantly, the roots rushed up and elevated the night elves.

Azgard appeared aghast for a moment and then threw another call to the spirits and slammed his axe onto the ground. The dirt around the roots immediately loosened, causing the trees to start shifting again. Then, while the stack of roots was leaning almost thirty degrees, he called down massive bolt lightning that shredded the tree from peak to root and threw the elves off in different directions.

"<Keep your distance from them!>" he bellowed as he charged toward the elf with violet hair.

Sundar shouted out to his elder companions in Darnassian, “I’ll cover your escape and look for the last one. Meet up with Jaou!”

Jaou?! Both elves were surprised by the order as they each landed with their natural elven grace on the ground. They took the opportunity and took off to the north without another word. They knew Sundar would be able to handle himself.

Sundar shifted into a stripped saber and landed on the ground, but as he did, he called on more roots that rushed towards the orc shaman.

The orc growled and nearly stumbled as roots began intertwining around his legs. He nearly slid to stop and had to pause in order to hack the roots away. Yet the more he slashed, the more wound their way around his legs.

In frustration, he glowered at the druid and unleashed a roar. Two arrows landed near the saber's paws while the other recruits, ignoring Azgard command, surged toward their targets.

The druid let out a sharp growl at the recruits coming in to meddle with their fight. Sundar shifted out of his form with arms crossed initially. He threw them out and the trees started to move and rushing towards the young Horde recruits were vines and roots pushing them aside and created a cage around them.

“Your students lack some discipline!” Sundar shouted. “I’d love to stay, but I have to go and find out what happened to our third missing student. Sorry about the others wrecking your camp!” Sundar started to run into the camp.

Roaring in frustration, Azgard shifted into a massive gray furred wolf and took off after the druid back into the camp. Despite the smoke and chaotic sounds of the other Horde warriors warring against the worgen, it didn't take him long to find and tackle the violet haired elf to the ground.

He shifted back into his orc form and pressed the blade of his axe against the elf's neck. A surreptitious look around revealed that no one had taken notice of them.

"There are no elves here, except for you," the shaman whispered just loud enough for the druid to hear.

“I work for a neutral organization, but I find it hard to believe you or your people in the most recent times,” Sundar replied. Fur started to grow over his body and his visage soon became that of a bear as he pushed off the old orc. “You don’t sound like you’re lying, but I’m still unsure of why you’re not more eager to put our heads on pikes.”

Azgard growled as he recovered from being pushed back. Holding his axe defensively he bared his tusks at the druid in bear form.

"I have my reasons, elf," he spat. "Stay longer and I'll put your head upon a pike myself."

“Oh that would cause an awful row with the Circle,” Sundar said. “If I were you, I would move this camp elsewhere. You’re in Talonbranch territory and the Sentinels aren’t very happy with the slaughter of Silverwind Refuge.” Sundar then shifted into the form of a large stormcrow and took off. “May we never meet again.”

"We will meet again, druid," Azgard muttered under his breath before storming back toward his recruits.

Sundar flew away from the camp in tatters. His main concern was regrouping with Ravenstar and Ashthiel and he quickly caught up with the two. He shifted from his stormcrow form to that of a stag as he galloped astride the two elder elves.

“There were no other elves. We saw two elves leave the camp,” Sundar said as they ran. “I got Sleetwing and Jaou to pick them up. That orc wasn’t lying.”

“Ryaha may have been killed,” Ravenstar commented. “Ashtalar is out with a contingent of Sentinels heading in that direction, if she had escaped or not, they’ll find out. We’ll rendezvous back at Talonbranch and see what comes of it.”

“Am I hearing right, you say Jaou is back?” Ashthiel asked for clarification.

“He’s in rough shape. I’m running low on meds, but the other druids think that he would better recover with alchemical means.” Sundar looked ahead. “He would have landed on the outer reaches of the town.”

The three elves continued on their way back to Talonbranch. Behind them, distant howls sounded.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Sun Sep 07, 2014 5:57 pm

Niashado struggled to not notice what was going on as they flew on.   It took every ounce of willpower to not scream like a frightened child at the sight of a monster.  

In this case, it was the monster she was riding upon and what she was attempting to forget was that they were flying.
 
On the fateful and tragic day that The Exodar crashed on Azeroth, Niashado swore she’d never fly again.   Many people had died that day, including her parents.   Her people were in complete disarray and if it hadn’t been for the kindness of the Alliance and the Stillpine Furbolgs, she was sure their first winter would have claimed many more lives.  

At the time it’d been an easy declaration to make.   She wasn’t the adventuring type.  Nor was she a soldier or anyone of political importance.    The reality of that moment was that once she’d recovered from the painful and sudden loss of her parents, she and Markal would start a life together in one of the settlements in Azuremyst Isle.   Markal was a soldier, soon to become a vindicator.  And she would try her best to continue in her parent’s footsteps as an herbalist.  

But the nature of life is change and to drive that point home, things didn’t quite work out as planned.   Markal and she had split up and her fascination with Farseer Nobundo’s teachings had left little time to start up the herbalist shop.   And then she found her Calling and she’d been thrust into this strange world, alone and yet not.  

And as she haplessly found herself in thrust into one unique adventure after another, declarations made in an old life slowly lost their resolve.   She’d been on zeppelins and upon other flying mounts such as hippogryphs.  

The situations demanded a means of speedy travel.   She accepted that.   Nevertheless, Niashado hated every single moment she was airborne.    She hated learning that her friends were traveling by air.    She despised that there was no better way of travel, such as portals.  
And most frustrating of all was that despite all the occasions where she’d been forced to utilize such a brazen method of travel, she never… NEVER got accustom to it.  

And so now she was clutching on to Jaou, her face buried in his purple furred back, praying to the Light that they would make it without suffering a tumble.   And the wyrm (an undead wyrm of all things!) seemed to fly erratically from time to time.   Because her eyes were clenched shut, Niashado didn’t know if the wyrm was taking some sort of evasive action or it was just the nature of its flight.   Judging by the lack of alarm coming from Jaou, she assumed the latter.  

Unless it was toying with her.    Judging by the attitude of the way it spoke, she wouldn’t have put it past it.  
The shamaness busied herself with remember some of Nobundo’s teachings. The way the Broken Draenei spoke, despite the difficulties he had, was still soothing to hear.   She surmised that it was more about the passion he had for the Elements.
 
"N-Nia...!" Jaou rasped from her grip. "We're on... ground...!"

Niashado tentatively opened one eye and then another.  Then, with a sigh, she released her grip on his waist.   “We-we are in Talonbranch?”    
Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t realized they had made landfall.
 
Jaou breathed freely slightly hunched over. "Y-yes, your grip is strong."

Without hesitation, but with some difficulty, Niashado found her way off the wyrm and stumbled on the ground.   She quickly stood up and scampered away from the monstrous undead wyrm.  

“I-I do not enjoy flying.  I would prefer if we never did that again.”

"Sorry, I had to get you out of there somehow," the ranger-satyr replied as he carried the unconscious she-elf off of Sleetwing's saddle.

The shamaness sighed appeared thoughtful for a moment before shaking her head.  Her countenance softened.   “No.  You did the right thing, Jaou.”  

She checked the condition of the unconscious elf and frowned.  “Her condition has not improved.  I need to take her into the camp.”

"I will be here."

Sleetwing sneered. "If I don't eat him first."

The draenei glanced at the wyrm with some trepidation and then back to Jaou.  “How did you get a hold of such a thing?”

"This drake flies with Sundar," he said as he shot a glance at it before looking at Niashado.

Niashado’s eyes suddenly narrowed and she took a tentative step toward Jaou.  She looked intently into his eyes for a moment and seemed to completely forget about the testy drake nearby.  

“Something has changed about you.”
"Um, what do you mean?"

“You are more like the Jaou I remember.  You seem, clearer.  More lucid and aware.”  A smile slowly spread over Niashado’s face and she took another step closer.  “When did this happen?”

"I think it was..." Jaou had to put thought into the question for a moment. "I woke up on the ground in the medical room in Emerald Sanctuary after... after I had...”

“I was there,” she replied quietly, laying a hand on his chest.  “Though it hurt to witness what you were enduring, I understand that you were not yourself.”

"I'm sorry," Jaou said quietly. "I can't help these outbursts..." Jaou regarded her and decided to cut this thought short. "Go take care of the girl, I'll be fine here."

The draenei grabbed his arm as he turned to leave.   She turned him back to face her.  

“Your mind grew clearer at the Emerald Sanctuary?” she asked.  “You were clear minded when you left me behind?”

"I had thought you had left. You would have been right to leave... I'm starting to lose this battle, I can't have you here to be hurt by me!" Jaou said with a candid tone.

Niashado raised her chin and regarded Jaou sternly.  Then, she abruptly slapped him in the face.
 
“After all we have endured, all we have been through, you believe I would abandon you?” she snapped. However, her tone quickly grew contrite.  “I-I am sorry about that.  I should not have.”  

The former elf's face and head was turned forcefully by the impact of her hand. Jaou was not surprised, but it would be a lie if he was not taken aback by it to some degree. He slowly looked back to the shamaness, but not with any hint of anger, just melancholy.

"No, I did deserve that," he said quietly. "I still don't want to risk having my presence around you. I'm... I'm a danger to everyone here..."

Gently taking his hands, she looked up into his eyes.
 
“That is why you need us now, more than ever.  Allow your friends and your family to choose for themselves to help you.  Do not take that choice from us.”

"I..." it was getting hard to speak for the satyr. His heart was clenching, not from any physical ailment, but from emotions. He gritted his teeth trying to gather the words to express his mind. "I don't want to fall, I don't want to be like this or become worse."

“We will do everything in our power to prevent that from happening,” she whispered, laying her head on his chest.  “I have missed you so much.  Even after my exile ended, they would not allow me to leave Azuremyst.  I would have come sooner if I could have.”

With some hesitation, Jaou embraced Niashado. "I'm a coward. I was afraid... afraid that you would have nothing to do with me. I was wrong to have stopped myself from reaching out to you. I was wrong to have pushed you away.”

“I have made mistakes too, but my friendship with you is not one of them,” she said.   Pulling back, she looked up and beamed another smile at him.  “Thank you for coming to my rescue, as you have done many times in the past.   I need to take her back to the camp.”  

As she turned toward the still unconscious elf, her hand brushed the hilt of satyr’s dagger concealed in the pocket of her kilt.   She frowned slightly and then looked back at Jaou.   “If you are going back there, please be careful.”

"I'm staying put," Jaou said with some relief, and a hint of a smile. "I can't go any further than this, the Sentinels have orders to attack me if I'm not in Cenarion grounds or escorted by a member in good standing."

“Good.  I will see you tonight, then.   I promise,” she added, while carefully lifting the elf over her shoulder.  “It is good to have you back, Jaou.  You have been missed.”  

She started to walk away, not an easy feat considering she was carrying the elf and had a bad shoulder.  Despite the urgency, though, she still turned around to give Jaou another look.  At this point, he was tending the undead drake.   But it was the way he moved and intelligence in his eyes that she took in.  

Niashado wanted to believe he was truly back.  She couldn't forget what he'd done earlier but she could pray that this improvement was the first of many steps in the right direction.  


* * *


The last person the shamaness expected to see in the infirmary tent was Izdazi Shadowcreek.   The former terrorist who had attempted to kill Jaou a few years ago was firmly restrained on one of the beds when Niashado had arrived with Ryaha.   Several elves shows up and quickly relieved her of the burden.   The shamaness allowed the backpack to slide to the floor with the thump and then slid to the floor herself.  

“You’re injured as well,” a night elf in some sort of uniform announced as he checked her shoulder.    Niashado nodded but said nothing.   She was too exhausted to care.  The elf turned away from her and beckoned another elf over.  “Orsir here will take care of that shoulder.   Save your energy.   My name is Mateus, by the way.”

“What is this place?” Niashado asked as she felt the druid's healing slowly begin to mend her shoulder.
 
“This is a training camp located near Talonbranch,” the one named Mateus responded.   He glanced at the elf the shamaness had brought back and then back to her.  “Thank you for brining Ryaha back.  I thought we’d lost her during the ambush.  It was just Izdazi and I in there.”

The shamaness slowly rose to her hooves and closed her eyes as Orsir’s healing started to fade from her shoulder.  She nodded her thanks to the druid and then looked back Mateus and the restrained Izdazi.  

Although Niashado had worked with Izdazi to rescue her brother, it still concerned her mightily that she was in such proximity to Jaou, whom she’d tried to kill years ago.   Last she had heard, Izdazi as supposed to be imprisoned in the barrows.  

The huntress was in terrible condition, however.  Her body was marred with bruises and her elevated breathing concerned the shamaness.    She took a few steps closer to the prone elf before being stopped by Mateus.  

“I wouldn’t get too close.  She’s still suffering from the effects of whatever they’d given her.”  

“Is she also suffering some kind of poisoning?” Niashado asked, noting sheen of sweat on the elf’s forehead.  

“Something like that,” he responded as she stepped past him and carefully pried open one of Izdazi’s eyes.   As with the other elf she’d brought back to this camp, the glow of Izdazi’s eye was tinted red.  

“Ryaha’s eyes display similar hemorrhaging,” the shamaness stated as she straightened up.   “It could be that they were subjected to the same drug.  Only it seems that Ryaha is allergic to an ingredient.  Are there any alchemists here?  With their help maybe-“  

The huntress had moved so quickly that before Niashado realized it Izdazi had slipped an arm past the restraints and clamped her fingers tightly around the draenei’s neck.   The shamaness clawed at the hand, but it like using fingernails to cut steel.   Her throat was being squeezed in tightly with no way to get air in or out of her lungs.  

Niashado tried to rear back but, demonstrating an unexpected level of strength, Izdazi actually pulled her closer.   Kicking her hooves and against the foot of the bed accomplished little more than to create a lot of noise, but at least that attracted some attention.    

“Orsir!  Quickly!” Mateus shouted as he raced toward the bed and tried to pull Izdazi’s hand away.
 
“Release me!” the huntress roared, twisting against the loosening restraints.   Orsir quickly set about calling on more vines to further restrain her, but the hand around her neck was still relentless squeezing.  

Dark spots were swirling around Niashado’s vision by the time Orsir had placed a cloth with sedatives over the hunter’s face.   She felt Mateus pry open Izdazi’s fingers just before it was too late.   Pushing far away from the now unconscious Izdazi, Niashado fell to her knees and began heaving.  She didn't feel herself violently coughing.  Instead, what she desired more than anything was deep breath of air.  

With Mateus’s help, she was walked over to bed, but the she refused to lie down.  Once she fully recovered she intended to get to work helping Ryaha and Izdazi.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:27 pm

Ravenstar, Ashthiel and Sundar could see that they were getting within the outer reaches of Talonbrach Glade. It was all the better, as the pain suppression tonic that Ravenstar had used when dealing with Izdazi was beginning to wear off. He was starting to flag, and the others could see it.

"Are you feeling alright?" Ashthiel asked the roguish kaldorei as they ran.

"A little sore between the legs," he replied. "We're almost there, I can take it."

"I'll meet you two in town, I have to check on Jaou and Sleetwing," stated Sundar.

Ravenstar nodded. "Alright, see you in town. We'll see Jaou as soon as possible."

The druid parted ways with the two elder elves and started to head east, towards the mountains. Now that all of the excitement was over, the worry over his brother was taking hold. Sundar had utmost trust in Sleetwing, having grown quite a friendship with the frostbrood wyrm, but he was concerned that its abrasive mannerisms would be too much for Jaou to handle on his own. His satyr brother had also only had some days with a marked imporvement in cognition and emotion, but he knew it was going to be fragile.

I got caught up in the moment of the situation. I hope things weren't too hard on him.

Sundar caught sight of where Sleetwing had landed, as he expected him to. The druid was already taking a risk with bringing Jaou to such close proximity to a regular settlement with no Cenarion contingent, but he was hoping that they would not be spedning too long there.

As Niashado departed with the unconscious elf, Jaou turned his attention to Sleetwing. Falathir had finally fluttered down to Jaou and perched on his left horn. Jaou patted the owl and turned back to Sleetwing. He was not quite sure if there was anything he needed to do with the wyrm. Other mounts had clear reins that he could have taken off, but the reins on Sleetwing were built into its armour, which was also very much secured onto its shambling form.

"Is there anything I'm supposed to do with you to settle down?" asked the former elf to Sleetwing.

"No, I'll be content as is," the wyrm replied in a tone that denoted a lack of desire to converse further. The dragon laid down on the ground, folding up its wings andplacing it's skull upon its forearms. Jaou took that as a strong hint to leave Sleetwing to its own devices.

It was perhaps for the best. Jaou turned around, seeing that Niashado had already made it far into the distance towards the community of Talonbranch. His heart settled down and the adrenaline from the prior events was leaving his system. Now lethargy was creeping in, as well as a feeling of nausea accompanied with an empty feeling; he was hungry. The idea of food though started to further make him ill.

He sat down to try and minimize the discomfort. Jaou bristled his fur to help insulate what warmth his body would produce and he huddled closer to himself. Perhaps he would be able to rest for a moment. Unconsciously, he placed his right hand over where his prosthetic joined to the flesh on his left arm. It was then that he felt that area was much warmer, it was also a bit moist. He pulled his hand away and looked at where his palm had made contact with his left arm. There was blood, and there was another, stickier substance there; pus. A worried whistle came from Falathir at the sight. Jaou needed to tend to his arm, but would it be best for him to search the area for herbs, or perhaps he should wait for Sundar to return.

As he debated the choices, and just in time, he heard hoof-beats coming towards him, but the knew the sound to have come from a stag; it was far too light to be that of a satyr's. Indeed he saw a stag approaching them, it shifted back to the familiar form of his brother.

"You're alright!" Sundar exclaimed, almost surprised.

"Of course he's alright!" replied Sleetwing with a huff an growl. "Did you ever doubt my abilities."

"It isn't so much to do with you," Sundar said to the undead wyrm. The druid turned to Jaou and sat down next to him. "Are you holding up alright? Sorry I kind of left abruptly back there."

"It's alright, and I'm fine," Jaou stated. "So you got out of the camp? What about the others?"

"Raven and Ashthiel got out no problem. We might have made a bigger mess of the camp, but I think the Sentinel cadre might do a better job than us." Sundar quipped. "Worryingly, we might have another one of ours back there. We're not sure."

"Well, actually, after rescuing the first two elves, among which was Izdazi," said Jaou, with the latter part in more of a grumble. "We went back to check on straglers and picked up another similarly dressed elf... and Nia." Falathir let out a series of hoots as if she were also trying to tell the druid what she had seen.

"Oh, that's great news! Raven and the others will be glad to hear that!" Sundar paused for a moment, the elated expression on his face soon turned blank, and then thoughtful as he mulled over whawt Jaou had said. "Wait, did you say Izadai and Nia are here?"

"Yes."

"What?!"

Jaou was taken aback by his younger sibling's sudden outburst causing his owl companion to fly off and land back on the ground next to him. "Nothing came of it! Izdazi was unconscious, and... err, Nia wasn't too happy I opted to leave her behind."

"Oh she was very unhappy. I could hear the slap echo through the mountains!" Sleetwing guffawed.

"I was going to ask why the side of your face was looking a bit more purple," Sundar commented.

"Can we just move on?" the satyr sighed.

"Alright, alright... anyway, Izdazi... So, why is she here?"

"The other elf we picked up, Mateus, he said they were all here to recieve training from Raven and the others."

"Not quite what I was epeccting, but I would prefer her to not find you. Let's get a camp for you going! We're not going to be here for long. We'll get some food into you too. Naphta made it out alright?"

"She went back to the camp to wait for you, and I'm not hungry. Before you get going, do you have any healing salve?"

Sundar looked rather thoughtful, thinking to himself and placing a hand on his chin. "Let me check, I think I have some left."

The druid climbed upon Sleetwing to reach one of the saddle bags. He pulled out a shell container and tossed it to Jaou. "Are you hurt?"

"No, just... maintenance issues..." Jaou mummbled. "I can't remember a lot, but, I think I remember the demons doing work on my arm, but I'm just not sure what, amongst other things."

Sundar and Sleetwing looked at each other for a moment and then back to Jaou. "Let's just start with the salve."

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

Jadefire Run had been quite busy as of late. Given the surge of activity from Talonbranch Glade nearby, the satyrs took it as a good opportunity to sow chaos and destruction upon their enemies, all the while bolstering their own numbers. Lined against the cliff face of their base were a number of cages. A fair number were already filled with night elves of various backgrounds; military, merchants, civillian travelers, they caught anyone they could. Most were quiet now, save for some defiant glares, but the satyrs kept any particularly rowdy prisoners with a strong beating.

The resident demons now were in a bustle, they were going to have a group of visitors. The camp's leader and a few of his followers were standing by an ornate summoning circle. There was much conversation going on in the camp over their guests. There where whispers of the start of something bigger, but the last time a project had been launched, they had suffered great loss in forces. But their recent successes have placed cofidence back in their diminishing population.

They hoped that Ran'Shali was right about this.

Arcane energies started to gather around the rune and swirl upwards. It started to coalesce into a disc and into itself. The disc crackeled and arced lightning as it started to expand. Through the portal was a canvas of green and fel, and then strange objects started to move into view. A cage started to come out of the newly formed gateway. The satyrs looked on in curisosity at the cage, something was inside, but the moment it noticed one of the onlookers approaching it, the beast inside lashed out, short of snapping off the demon's hand. Even the lethargic night elf prisoners looked to see.

"Now now, you can look, but you shouldn't touch," a female voice rang out.

Two armoured satyrs pushed the cage out of the portal, followed by another two cages and more armoured demons, each with one of the creatures within the prison. Behind her attendants was Ran'Shali and, the tothrezim, Gazheel.

"Lady Ran'Shali, a pleasure to be graced by your presence," the camp leader announced with a bow. "Your work is coming right along," referring to the caged satyr beasts.

"Yes, they've come a long way. Unfortunately, two of these were insubordinate troops, but they shall be going to our friend here, Gazheel," stated Ran'Shali, gesturing to the four armed demon. "The third, we shall see to making one just for him. Has Taur reported in?"

"Not in person, but he has sent in progress checks. He says that he awaits your word."

"Is this the charming, young shadow stalker," Gazheel said with both pairs of arms crossed and a whimsical expression.

"He is, and he is one of my favoured servants, we shall be talking to him shortly." Ran'Shali turned to the Jadefire Run leader. "If you can get us settled in, Gazheel and I will be consultng with Taur."

"As you wish," the other satyr replied.

Ran'Shali led the much larger Gazheel to a quieter part of the demonic camp. The tothrezim spoke up, "Thank you for being so gracious to let me see how the entire process works. I'm quite eager to see your work here."

"And I am very eager to begin," the she-demon purred. The two came to a more enclosed section ot he cliffside outcropping. Ran'Shali stopped to lean back on a moss-covered boulder and produced a polished and clear palm-sized orb. She held her hand out and called the name, "Taur."

The orb shimmered with an aquamarine light. Sounds started to come through the orb, and with each sound, the light danced and moved to it. The light frantically shimmered before levelling off. A voice started to come through.

"My lady, it's good to see you have made it to Jadefire Run," greeted the voice of Taur.

"And it's good to see that you are, at least, sounding well. Any new developments?" Ran'Shali questioned in a kind tone.

"It looks like we have a bit of a problem, concerning your toy."

"A problem?" Ran'Shali's tone started to become more sour. "Please, do explain. A bit isn't a whole."

"He and his brother have the aid of an undead dragon of some sorts, however, he is now within the Talonbranch territory, and only just inside."

"Mmm, now this is an interesting turnout." She tapped a clawed finger on her lower lip.

"There's more; we have also conducted a preliminary search, and it seems the elves have more visitors there. Young, inexperienced."

"They probably don't know that he's there. I think we will have to drop some hints, and maybe, get us some new 'recruits' ourselves."

"I'll work on that right away." Taur snickered playfully.

"May I interject, before he goes?" Gazheel asked Ran'Shali and Taur, holding up one of his four hands.

"Go on," the satyress replied.

"I think I have a substance that can help you with this operation," the tothrezim revealed darkly. He held up a single vial with a pale yellow liquid. "There's more where this came from."

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

It had been ages since Ashtalar had seen Talonbranch Glade as busy as it was. What the annoying part for Ashtalar was that ann altercation had happened between their recruits and the Horde in an area that had been, up until recently, free of dangers. That encounter had resulted in them losing three of their students.

The dead shot had gone back to the glade, while Ravenstar and Ashthiel had gone on ahead to find anything that could lead them to the missing kaldorei. Ashtalar had quickly organized the Sentinels into an offensive. The advance party had already been sent off, he was to go with the main party. As they were departing, there was news that two of the missing had returned to camp. Ashtalar turned about to tend to his wards; the Sentinels should have little issue being one man down.

It was Izdazi and Mateus. Both were in rough shape, but the former was certainly in a more dire status than the veteran soldier. Mateus had informed Ashtalar of the drug that was administered to the huntress, and now he was in his tent gathering the supplies he needed. The returned students were now awaiting his return in the medical tent.

Ashtalar had shed some of his equipement onto the ground near his armour rack. He was now on his way back with the alchemy kit and a selection of dried herbs. He entered the medical tent and placed his equipment on a nearby table and started to gather the tools and organized his work.

"Alright, I got the kit, let's get to work." The dead shot was ready to get to work, but he stopped short of continuing his thought process when he saw Ryaha, and a draenei, suddenly in the tent. Ashtalar looked rather confused, with his eyes moving side to side for a moment. "Anyone want to fill me in here?"

Mateus straightened up and quickly approached Ashtalar. “Sir, this is Niashado. She entered the settlement carrying Ryaha. Orsir is tending to her… injury.”

Niashado? So this is the shaman that Sundar and Jaou talk about.

"Alright, thanks Miss Niashado. I'm sure we'll learn more of this, but in time," he replied. "We'll get you fixed up here. Anything from Raven and my brother?"

“Ravenstar rescued Izdazi and I. He went back into the Horde base to look for Ryaha while I carried Izdazi out. From there we were picked up by… an acquaintance of Sundar. He carried us back to town.” Mateus turned to Niashado who was sitting patiently while Orsir directed some healing to her neck. “Did you see Ravenstar or Sundar while rescuing her?”
She quietly shaked her head.

"What? Sundar? That's great! Wait, his acquaintance? Is he here?" Ashtalar asked as he was preparing a needle for drawing a sample of Izdazi's blood.

“If it’s who I think it is, then yes,” Mateus said just as he grabed Ashtalar’s arm to stop him from sticking Izdazi. “I really suggest you don’t do that sir. Whatever drug they forced into her as made her quite volatile.”

Ashtalar looked straight at Mateus and considered his warning. There seemed to be a hint of apprehension in his countenance. The elder elf cocked an eyebrow, but is was better to be safe than sorry. "Help me hold her down."

“Orsir,” he beckoned the druid over and together they held on to her already restrained arms. Niashado helped as well by holding the huntress down at the shoulders.

"Miss, you should be resting." Ashtalar said, catching sight of bruising on the draenei's neck. He furtively gripped a needle while holding down one of Izdazi's arms.

“I have seen the strength of the poison in her system,” the shamaness quietly rasped. She winced at the sound of her own voice but continued to hold the she elf down.

The night elf nodded, and then looked to Mateus and Orsir to hold her down as he inserted the needle into one of Izdazi's veins. Izdazi’s eyes bolted open and she immediately struggled against the restraints. But this time, her struggles were far less furious and it was not long before she was already losing strength. “Get… off me,” she muttered while squirming out of the restraints. Then her eyes started rolling up and her breathing grew erratic.

“Step away from her,” the shamaness rasped out quickly and pressed her palm over the elf’s chest. Then, with a sigh of relief she nodded and pulled back. “It is only exhaustion. I thought it was something more dangerous.”

"Thanks," Ashtalar sighed. Admittedly there was a lot of tension within him. If it was really neccessary to have all three of them help, he had to wonder what the Horde had put into her system. "I got what I needed to run some tests for an antindote. Both of them have this?"

The shamaness nodded again and then pulled a parchment from her backpack that was on the floor. “This is the formula. I believe the other elf, Ryaha, suffered an allergic reaction to something in the potion.”

"An allergic reaction?" The daedshot started to read over the parchment. He started to read what the components of the potion was. His brow furrowed and hsi eyes narrowed; there were quite anumber of volatile ingredients in the formula. What seemed to be missing was a stablizer, in his mind. He started to test Izdazi's blood sample for additional data, but his ears perked up when he heard something coming towards them. Coming into the tent now was a limping Ravenstar and his warrior brother, Ashthiel. "You're back!" Ashtalar exclaimed.

Ashthiel took off his helmet, and shook his head to get his hair in order. "Back, but without Ryaha." He then saw the missing elf upon the cot and appeared suddenly confused. "When did she get here?"

"Ryaha is here?" Ravenstar said with s surprised expression. He came up from behind Ashthiel and up to the bed Ryaha was on for a preliminary look over. He then caught sight of Niashado. "You're here too? Now this is a surprise."

The shamaness offers Raven a tired smile and nods.

“Welcome back, sir. Glad you’re back safely.” Mateus added.

"Thanks. Get me a chair, my boys are killing me," the green haired elf said to Ashthiel. Ashtalar was curious about what he meant, and Ashthiel, seeing that his twin was looking to ask, pointed between his own legs, soundlessly mouthing 'nut cracker' and pointed to Izdazi. To that, the dead shot replied with an expression marked with equal parts realization, amusement, and empathy. Ravenstar had either chose to ignore the silent exchange, or he was too busy with the soreness, but he got straight to business. "Ashtalar, any results?"

"Niashado handed me these notes," Ashtalar said as he held up the piece paper before looking over the herbs and penning down what he needed. Ashthiel put a stool by Ravenstar who took the seat. "This shouldn't be hard to fix for Iz, but Ryaha has some allergies."

"I still have notes from her last bit of blood work, in the box," Ravenstar stated. He then turned to the draenei. "I haven't seen you since the Exodar. So, what brings you to Felwood?"

“The Stormchasers,” Niashdo replied with a gravelly voice. She offered Ashthiel a friendly nod before looking over Izdazi’s vitals again. The elf had fallen unconscious but was breathing comfortably. “Is Sundar coming?”

Ravenstar looked at her with some suspicion, but he replied normally. "Yes, he will be, he just has to check on something. He didn't tell me that you were here, though. I would think that he would have said something."

Ashtalar looked up from the box, "Do we have any fireseeds left?"

"We're running low, use some scarlet tails." Ravenstar, after replying to this cohort, looked more intently at the draenei. "Nia, you were at the camp? How did you get these notes?"

“It is a long story,” she said while checking on Ryaha’s vitals. “I will require the notes when you are finished preparing an antidote.”

Ravenstar and the two Bladefang twins stopped for a moment and lookd at each other. Curiously, Ravenstar found the request to be quite strange. The combatant started to go through the reasons of what she would be doing with the notes. He plainly questioned her, "This has the information of whatever it is they pumped into these girls. May I ask why you need these notes?"

The shamaness paused her examination and looked Ravenstar directly in the eyes. “I promised I would destroy the formula once we have derived a cure,” she replied with a deadpanned tone.

"Why were you given the formula?"

“An orc, a fellow shaman, gave them to me and helped me escape with Ryaha. I would not be here if it had not been for him,” Niashado answered. “The laboratory, along with the Forsaken alchemist who was developing this substance, has been destroyed.”

Ravenstar mulled it over. He could feel that all eyes were on him at that point, but he knew how to go about this. "You'll get the notes afterward. I think I would like to meet this shaman."

The shamaness nodded gratefully. “I only hope they never learn of what he did for Ryaha and I.”

"We'll talk later of this. We have work to do. Sundar should be here soon if you're eager to speak to him. Ashthiel, get her a cup of limethistle tea, please."

((Edited for Naphta continuity fix.))
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Sun Jan 11, 2015 3:17 pm

There was pain.  Oh, there was lots of pain. All over too.   It was what woke her up.   And amidst the pain, she came to another realization.  She was finally lucid enough to feel pain.  

Whatever that Forsaken had forced her to drink had clouded her mind.   Her memory was fuzzy but she remembered the need to lash out.  

Izdazi also remembered being struck a few times, but there was no recollection of the pain from the wounds at the time.   Now, however, there was abundant pain.  

Izdazi tried to move her hand to clutch her pounding forehead.  Her arm didn’t move.  Or rather, it tried to move, but was being restrained.  

A sharp spike of fear served to thrust her the rest of the way from the twilight of consciousness.  The first thing she did was to do nothing.  Or rather, she didn’t react to anything.   She let her other senses take stock of the situation.  

The room smelled of herbs, but it wasn’t the same ominous odor as when she’d been in the Forsaken’s lab.  This smelled more natural and familiar.  The room was also cool, but comfortable.   Her restraints didn’t feel like rope, but rather vines.  

She heard voices, but they weren’t nearby.   However, someone was in the room with her.  She could hear someone breathing.  It sounded like two individuals. The breathing sounded relaxed though.  

Izdazi tested the bonds again, but they were secured tightly.  She didn’t press her struggles.  The last thing she wanted to do was alert the other occupants that she was conscious.   At least not yet.  

After several more minutes of silence, Izdazi determined that she’d learned everything she could without her eyes.   She opened one slightly and took in the scenery.    

She was back in Talonbranch in the infirmary.   She knew the building well as she helped restock it a week earlier.  

"Hey! Is someone there,” she called out, hoping to get the person’s attention.

"Did you call?" Ashtalar stepped up and walked up to line sight.  

"Ashtalar? Are we... are we out of that place?"   She knew they were out of the place, but for some reason she just needed to hear it from someone else.  

"Yes, you're all back in Talonbranch. You and Ryaha were in pretty rough shape, in different ways, of course," he said with arms crossed and a nod.  Ryaha.   She hadn’t given the self-righteous upstart much thought, but now that they were no longer in immediate danger, the huntress was surprised to feel a spike of concern.  

"They made us drink some potion. I didn't see much of her. Is she recovering?"

"She's doing better, but." Ashatalr moved a hand to his hip. "We'll need to see how well she recovers, she has an allergic reaction."   That didn’t sound good.  

"Oh no." She sighed and struggled with her arms for a moment. Looking back at Ashtalar, the huntress said, "You can either untie me or scratch my nose. At this point I'd settle for either."

"Yeah, we weren't sure if you would be safe with out restraints." The deadshot approached Izdazi and untied one of the belts. "Your system is still flushing out the tonic."

Finally satisfying the itch, she regarded Ashtalar with an arched eyebrow.  "Safe?”

Ashtalar scoffed. "I'd say. Whoever did the formula here was as crazy as a murloc. Distilling a potion with no stabilizer, what a nut!"

Izdazi laid her head back down. "It was a Forsaken and I think Ryaha and I were test subjects.”

"It certainly had interesting effects. You allegedly accosted our guest shaman.”

Izdazi's eyes widened, "Is the shaman well?" She shakes her head. "I have messed up so many things."

Ashtalar took a seat nearby and said, "It's not your fault the potion made you into a rage machine. And she is fine."

She shook her head. "It's not just the things I did while under the influence of the potion. I should have realized that those tracks were from the Horde.  I walked my unit right into a trap.”

"Everything is a learning process. Some times the lesson is hard, but you are all fortunate to have gotten out."

Izdazi smiled wanly, "My mother used to say, fortune and luck is an excuse for success used by the foolishly inept."

Ashtalar raises an eyebrow. "Certainly you can't count on it, which is why we went to get you. Your other saviors, however, I would consider,  their presence to be lucky for you three."

"Other saviors? I thought it was just you three?" the huntress asked.

Ashtalar let out a chuckle. "I didn't make it out to the field. Ravenstar and my brother did. Some help ran into you three. First you and Mateus; Ryaha came in later."

"Thank Elune for random rescuers. If you see them, please let them know I'm grateful."

"They're still in town. It looks like they'll be here for a little bit.”

"How long before I can leave?"

"When evening comes I'll check up on you. We want to make sure you won't have anymore rage relapses."

Izdazi sighed, "I feel much better and clearer minded, but I understand your concerns."

Ashtalar stretched his form in his chair and stood up. "Alright, well, get some sleep, I'll see you at dusk."

"Yes sir,” Izdazi muttered as he stepped out.  She turned and glanced at Ryaha.  The sentinel’s face appeared ashen and she was till unconscious.  

Looking back at the ceiling of the hut, she struggle to hold back the tears welling behind her eyes.  This was her fault.  She should have paid closer attention.    

“Not everyone gets a second chance.  You are squandering yours.”  The voice in the back of her mind was in her mother’s voice.  Hell, it was something her mother would say.   For so long, Izdazi had thought this as nothing more than an opportunity to get out of the barrows.  

But despite her brashness, bravado and boasting of her independence, she couldn’t deny the regret she was feeling for what her carelessness at brought.  

For the first time since news of her mother’s death, Izdazi felt like crying.  


~~~~  


The years may have slowed the old orc’s physical prowess, but it hadn’t touched his mind yet.   The elves hadn’t left much of a trail for him to follow.  Thankfully, he didn’t much and his canine nose was sufficient enough to help guide him.    

Of course, it also helped that he knew where Talonbranch was.   The trick would be getting close enough to find the druid without running into the Sentinels.

It hadn’t taken long for him to get the blame for the escape of the prisoners and the draenei.   The loss of the Forsaken alchemist had been the last straw, though.   Warlord Grent wanted Azgard’s head for the death of such an asset.  

Thankfully, not being in the Horde military anymore had its perks.   Azgard had chosen to leave before Grent could execute him.  The old shaman knew the warlord well.  His temper was intense but short.   He wouldn’t pursue Azgard as long as he never laid eyes on him again.  

Oh, how the Horde military had strayed so far from what Thrall had was hoping for them to be.  True, they were more charismatic then in years past, but charisma often led to brashness.   The lessons of old forgotten just in time for the young to relearn them again.  

He made his way through the hills and as far from the trade routes as he could.   He’d studied maps of the region for some time and while he was certainly not a pathfinder, he could follow a general directions.  

Several hours of trailblazing and the first sign of civilization was the scent of something burning.   He followed the scent stealthily until he reached a small clearing.   In the center was a small camp fire.  

Hefting his large axe, the orc shaman cautiously stepped toward the fire.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Thu Jan 29, 2015 5:19 pm

Sundar had helped Jaou set up a campsite against the sheer rocky wall of the forest borders. The druid wove plants together, elevating the small living space from the ground with waxen vines and lining the walls and the floor in thick foliage and furs. It was plenty big enough for both Jaou and Sundar to sleep there and insulated enough to keep warm from Sleetwing; it was surprising how well contained his chilling aura was, when he chose it to. After seeing to making a fire and giving his left arm preliminary aid, Sundar left Jaou and went into Talonbranch Glade for more medical supplies.

The satyr tried to make himself as comfortable as possible and sat by the fire, but it was hard for him to do so. Jaou’s ears flinched often from the sounds around him; his nerves were fraught from paranoia and fear. Anchoring him to reality though were his companions, however unlikely one of them was. Falathir cooed occasionally from her perch on Jaou’s horn while Sleetwing rested nearby, like a wall of frozen bones.

You reek of worry and suspicion; I don’t know what you’re so panicked about,” grumbled Sleetwing as he rested his head upon his front paws. “Few are the threats with me around here.

“I... I can’t help it,” Jaou quietly said. “I try to calm myself, but my heart still races, my blood still chills.”

In such a damned forest, peril will eventual find you, but it isn’t here at this moment. Now, stop with your incessant fears! Your restlessness is rubbing off on me.

Jaou had unintentionally flinched at the height of Sleetwing’s berating. The fear of being reprimanded ran high within him alongside of his paranoia. He hated the craven feeling. He tried to calm his mind and body, closing his eyes. As he escaped into himself, he almost succeeded in gaining some peace, but then the visages of Ran’Shali, the tothrezim and other demons flashed in his mind, giving him a startle back to reality. He let out a sigh.

Fearful and depressed, oh save me,” Sleetwing huffed.

“Your whinging isn’t really needed,” Jaou commented.

The satyr’s left ear started to twitch and flinch uncontrollably, as if mirroring his agitation, but it was not from him being flustered. The itch was nigh unbearable. He had mostly ignored them, or perhaps he had gotten used to the sensation, but with little to focus on his mind was hooked upon the irritation. In an attempt to alleviate the itch, Jaou reared his left leg up and then frantically scratched the back of his ear with his hoof. The entire action sent Falathir into a flurry of feathers and squawking as she relocated to the ground next to him.

Sleetwing slowly turned his head towards Jaou. “Don’t tell me you’re lousy with fleas as well?

“I’ve been stuck in a demonic chamber for... I don’t even know how long!” Jaou spat back. “Cleaning myself was hardly an option.”

You would think those druids would have at least done something about it.

“They had other concerns on their minds...” the former elf muttered. Of all of his problems, parasites were the least of his and other’s concerns.

The trio sat silently around the campfire as they awaited Sundar’s return. With little conversation going on, Jaou started to feel his eyes grow weary. He could sense that one of his eyes felt more apt to close as the feeling of drowsiness set in. Even through his wary senses, he was beginning to feel the tug of slumber.

Out of nowhere and quite suddenly, he heard a rustle. Any shred of tiredness was expelled from his being as he returned to full alertness. Falathir and Sleetwing also turned their attention to whatever it was that was heard. There was a sudden silence of wildlife and the first thought of the origin of the noise was a demon. Then, moments after, the sounds of the natural fauna returned. It puzzled Jaou; typically animals were not so quick to return when a demonic presence was sensed. It all felt like a false alarm. Still, the three were ever attentive of their surroundings.

Another sound was heard. This time it was different from before. There was certainly effort into trying to be as stealthy as possible, but it was still a heavy sound. The animals have yet to flee, making way for the possibility of a non-demonic presence. Still, no elf or sabre would be quite this loud, nor would any wolves. A bear? It did not smell like one. No, this scent was different, almost familiar, but he could not quite place it. Oddly, he did not feel threatened, not quite as he would with demons anyway. Still, Jaou was cautious.

“It’s not a demon,” he whispered to Sleetwing. “Let us break the stalemate. Keep me covered.” The frost wyrm let out a grumble while Falathir fluttered her wings. Jaou stood up from the fire and, with more confidence that he had had for months, calmly stated, “Show yourself.”

With a grunt, Azgard moved from behind a nearby tree and stepped closer to the fire. The blade of the large two handed axe he was holding burst into flame.

An orc?! What’s an orc doing here? And why isn’t he attacking me outright?

Jaou, still appearing baffled and unsure, stood on guard. Echoing his thoughts, he asked, “Why are you here?”

"I could ask you the same, demon," the older orc growled. Holding a totem, he called out to the elements. The satyr's hooves began sinking into the soil.

Jaou let out a sharp growl at the sudden loss of balance. Try as he might, he could not pull his hooves from the ground. It felt like the more he struggled, the stronger the grip of the earth became. Falathir became distressed and let out a series of screeches before swooping down at the orc.

Sleetwing on the other hand was slower to act. “Oh, this should be interesting.

“Sleetwing! I’m not here to act as your source of theatrics!” Jaou shouted.

Oh, it’s not like you’re being killed. Your damnable brother would probably think you can handle this.

The orc glanced between the satyr and the massive skeletal drake nearby. Unsure of what to do, he held back for a moment.

Jaou noted the orc’s hesitation and took the initiative to try and talk himself out of trouble. “I’m not here to attack you, or anyone else. I’ll ask again, why are you here?”

"You're a demon. What are you doing here? Spying on the elven settlement," the orc responded.

Jaou sighed, but such suspicions about him were to be expected. “I’m not spying on anyone; I am not enemies with the elves. I am, err, well, I was one of them.”

The orc chuckled mirthlessly. "I know this story. Every satyr was once an elf. Are you a scout?"

“Yes, but technically a ranger, for the Cenarion Circle.”

"A satyr that is a ranger? You lie!"

Sleetwing guffawed at the entire scene, yet still he did not intervene. “What entertainment! There are no lies here, oh green one.

The orc stepped back. He didn't release the satyr's hooves, but he seemed to consider their words. "How can I know you're telling the truth?"

Jaou placed a clawed hand over his face and slid it downward before speaking again. “What kind of satyr keeps such company?” he asked while referring to Falathir and Sleetwing. “And listen around you. The wildlife doesn’t flee from my presence like they do with the other satyrs.”

Azgard seemed thoughtful for a moment. He reluctantly nodded. "The owl lends your story some credence. But the drake does not allay my concerns. What are you doing here?"

“I’m not sanctioned to enter Talonbranch, so I’m to stay in the outskirts, rather beyond the outskirts,” Jaou plainly stated.

Azgard appeared thoughtful for a long moment. Then, he regarded the undead drake. "And what of you?"

Babysitting,” the wyrm grumbled.

With a reluctant grunt, the orc quietly asked the elements to release the satyr’s hooves. But he kept his distance from the camp fire and the occupants.

"Do you know anyone in the village? Is there a way for you to summon them?"

Jaou breathed a sigh of relief after having his mobility back. Am I unable to go a day without some stife in my life? he wondered. He stretched his hooves about and then motioned to Falathir , who had since stopped her asault. “I can’t enter Talonbranch, but I can get her to find my brother, or someone at least.”

"Do so," the orc commanded. The flames faded from his axe and he stepped back until he was just within the threshold of the woods. His eyes never left the satyr or the wyrm.

Jaou whistled for Falathir to come to him and instructed her to go find Sundar. The owl mewled and flew off. Tentatively, Jaou went back to sit near the campfire. “It might be a while.”

"I'll be fine," the orc replied as he sat on the ground. "Do you know if a draenei and an elf were rescued recently?"

The question caught Jaou off guard. He started to wonder if he should answer at all, though the old shaman did not seem the type to be causing acts of violence without necessity. “Y-yes, I do. I saw to their safety not long ago.”

"You? You rescued them?" the orc asked in an incredulous tone. After another moment of reflection he nodded. "That's good to hear."

“I suppose it wasn’t so much a rescue as it was a pick-up,” the satyr mumbled. He looked to the orc. “It’s not every day that I see an orc around here, least of all one that didn’t outright try to kill me.”

Azgard chuckled, “I have had my fill of killing needlessly. And it's not often I meet a demon, who doesn't seem to be a demon. Besides, you seem to be providing me an audience without the risk of running into guards."

The satyr let out a slight and crooked smile, though it quickly faded. “Were this a time from before, I wouldn’t be quite so restricted. There were more of us, others like me,” Jaou said. “But, we started to lose people to the creeping corruption. Our numbers quickly dwindled, now I’m not sure how many of us are left now. I was the only one still in the service of the Circle last I had checked.”

"Fighting corruption is a constant struggle. I know what it's like."

Jaou nodded to him, before looking into the flickering campfire. His attention suddenly snapped in again. "Forgive me, I've not introduced myself. It's been a long time since I was last in the midst of any sign of friendly civilization. I'm Jaou Stormchaser. The unruly wyrm here is Sleetwing." To which the wyrm huffed out a breath of chilled air. "My owl companion is Falathir."

"Azgard Bloodtusk," the orc replied. "I work with the Earthen Ring."

"The Earthen Ring? I've worked with some members before... some time ago. What brings you here instead of a Circle outpost?"

"I'm here to recruit someone," the orc explained. "Something is happening deep in this world and we need all the help we can get. Now is not a time for our people to do their own thing."

Recruit? I wonder who it could be. Jaou started to think to himself. Niashado is a shaman, could he be here looking for her? He wanted to think not, but he had mentioned interest in her earlier, at least how she and the night elf were doing.

“I see...” Jaou replied. He then looked at Azgard curiously, “I’ve actually not been very well informed on the happenings of the world as of late, actually, I don’t even know the date, nor am I able to recall the date of my departure...” The answer was unexpectedly grimmer than he had imagined.

"The world is changing, ranger. And though the Earthen Ring isn't sure what it’s changing to, we worry that when it happens, it will be very bad."

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

The day had certainly worn on. Sundar only just realized that it was already noon and much of Talonbranch’s residents would be asleep. Amongst those that were asleep were Ravenstar and Ashthiel, though it was understandable that they would be in bed. He had learned though, from the day watch Sentinels, that there was a medical tent in the area and Ashtalar was on duty there.

The druid continued onward to the tent, though as he did, a rather cheerful Naphta trotted up to him, giving Sundar a rub with her head that nearly knocked him over.

“Hey, girl,” Sundar said by way of greeting. “I hope you didn’t miss me too much.”

The large sabre gave his face a few rough and scratchy licks before she started to circle him with affectionate body rubs. Sundar returned the love with some head rubs and hugs for Naphta. Signalling for her to follow, the two walked to the medical tent near the training grounds. Unmistakably, Ashtalar was sitting in a reclined position just outside of one of the entrances.

“Ash!” Sundar called as approached him.

“Sundar?” questioned the dead shot as he came to more alertness. He sat up and instantly noticed the druid. “Hey! Good to see you. What a way to come visit, rescuing people and all.”

“Yeah, what was that all about, getting tangled up with the Horde?”

“They caught some of our recruits, we went in to get them out,” Ashtalar plainly stated. “I never heard of an outpost being so close to here, though. The only one they have is around Blood Venom.”

“The camp looked to be quite new, not more than a week old,” Sundar observed. “Blood Venom looks more clogged with oozes than usual too. I think the Horde normally clear it out for their safety.”

The older elf gave it a moment’s thought and wondered about it all. “I’ll have a scouting group head down that way and see what’s up. Anyway, I finally get to meet Niashado, nice girl. Also, you brought another friend with you? How’s the search for Jaou?”

Sundar cocked his eyebrows and his head at the question that was asked. “Another friend? I’ve not brought anyone else aside from Nia and...” Sundar leaned in closer, moving his eyes from side to side and looking to see if there were any would-be eavesdroppers. “Were you not told that he’s been found?” the druid whispered.

“Wait, what?!” Ashtalar exclaimed. The elder kaldorei took note of his sudden loud outburst and continued in a hushed tone. “No one told me that! I feel so out of the loop here... How is he? How did you find him?”

“Uh, well... A bit of a mixed bag,” Sundar started. “He was suddenly returned to us at the southern Jadefire camp and he escaped, but... how about you come and visit us later?”

“You’re not staying in town?”

“No, it’s better if I stayed with him,” Sundar stated. “And we’re not staying for long. I fear we may be tracked up here by the satyr. They’ve taken a rather unhealthy interest in Jaou and I can’t have his presence being the source of problems for civilians. I’m only here for supplies and medicine, after that it’s to Whisperwind Grove.”

“That’s a shame. I’ll stop by later,” Ashtalar said with a shrug. “Right now I have to finish the rest of my watch. You mentioned supplies? What are you looking for?”

Sundar seemed thoughtful for a moment as he mentally reviewed the list. “Let’s see... I need some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory meds for the time being, and some ivory woundwort.”

“The antibiotic is in the small red chest, anti-inflammatory is in a gray earthen pot on the table; use the extra clam shells next to it to take what you need,” Ashtalar started listing off the supplies and their whereabouts. “And the woundwort is in a ceramic jar. Oh, and the envelopes are by the shells.” Ashtalar sat back down and reclined himself on the seat. “Just have to keep the noise level down, we got a couple of patients on the other side.”

“Alright,” the druid turned to Naphta. “Stay out here with Ash.”

As he went inside, Naphta and Ashatalar exchanged glances with each other. “So...” the dead shot began. “Do anything exciting the past couple of months?”

It did not take Sundar long to orient himself within the medical tent. Everything was plainly organized for ease of access and the setup was what he expected from Ravenstar and the twins, keeping supplies and patients in separated quaters. The elf started to gather what he needed to keep Jaou’s wounds at bay. His elder brother was never very good at voicing out any issues he may have had, and it had only gotten worse since he became a satyr. Now there was a possible infection festering on the remnants of his left arm. He was surprised it was not any worse than it was at current.

He had finished finding what he needed and was ready to parcel it up to take back to camp. As he prepared to take the supplies, he could hear some rustling coming from the other side of the tent.

“Ashtalar?” a voice called out from the other side of the partition where the supplies were being stored.

Sundar arched an eyebrow. It was a feminine voice, but there was a familiar sound to it. “No, it’s not Ashtalar. Did you need something?” he asked.

“A drink of water, please,” the voice replied, sounding slightly raspy.

“Alright, give me a minute,” the druid answered. He looked around the supply table and managed to find a cup and a decanter of spring water. With a cup poured, he entered the closed off area of the infirmary. “Here’s your wat—” Stopping midsentence, he saw who it was that he was serving a drink to. “Izdazi?!”

Izdazi looked up at Sundar and then, after a short pause, bolted upright on the bed. She tried jump from the bed, but one of her wrists was still secured. “You?!”

“Calm down! You’ll hurt your wrist doing that!” Sundar, in a slightly panicked tone, pleaded.

Baring her teeth slightly, the huntress stopped struggling to get her arm out of the restraint. She seemed to will herself to calm. “What are you doing here?” she growled.

Sundar placed the cup near the huntress and stepped back. “I’m just here to get some medical supplies. I didn’t expect to see you here. In this exact spot, that is.”

Izdazi studied the cup and her anger slowly subsided. “No more than I expected to run into you.” With shaky hands, she slowly took a sip of water.

“I heard that you were injured, though I was thinking you would be in your own quarters by now.”

She chuckled quietly. “Don’t you mean, why am I not in the Barrows?”

“That too,” the druid admitted. “So! I hear that, uh, you’re part of the class Raven is looking after?”

“So far. Truth be told, I’m surprised I have lasted this long. I thought you were in Northrend.”

Sundar took a seat nearby. “I came back quite a bit ago, after the fall of the Lich King.”

Izdazi scoffs and takes another sip of water. “It’s hard to keep track of current events when you’re underground. And what of your brother?”

Sundar paused for a moment. “Um, he’s alright, I guess?”

Raising an eyebrow, the huntress sighs. “He’s here, isn’t he?”

“Nope, not here,” the druid plainly stated.

“Ashtalar told me a shaman was here. And you’re here. He’s not far.” It wasn’t a question. The she elf laid her head back down and stared at the ceiling. “I don’t care,” she added with a tone resignation.

Sundar crossed his arms and arched a brow. “You seem less lively than usual.”

“I feel like shit,” she added. “And your beloved demon of a brother has cost me too much.”

“Well, I am genuinely sorry for your situation,” he said candidly.

“Spare me your sympathies,” the huntress quietly replied. “I have no interest in your brother. I’ll keep my distance as long as he does too.”

“I’m sure he would keep away.”

“I knew it,” Izdazi said with a cough. “It’s a truce, if you want to call it that.”

“A rather awkward and uneasy one.”

"Not really. Ravenstar keeps us busy and then, he'll cut me from the class and I'll be back in the Barrows before you know it," Izdazi added. "Were you involved with our rescue from the Horde."

“I was, and I think you’re wrong about Ravenstar. He’s a lot more patient that you seem to think of him.”

"We'll see," the she elf replied, sounding unconvinced. "And, thank you."

“Not a problem, but for the record. I wasn’t the one that personally saw to your safety,” Sundar looked around for a moment more before standing up. “Well, I’ll be on my way!”

And that was perhaps the hastiest retreat he had made from a conversation in a long while. He quickly went back to gathering the medicine and exited the tent posthaste. Ashtalar looked up from his seat to Sundar with some curiosity.

“That took longer than expected,” the Bladefang marksman stated.

“Why didn’t you tell me she was in there?” Sundar asked incredulously, though in a more quiet tone.

“Ah, it’s not like it’s a big deal or anything,” Ashtalar shrugged. “I took a quick peek through the top, all is well. Besides, you would’ve run into her eventually around here.”

“I guess so,” relented the druid. “I should get back to camp, I’ll see you later.”

“Later!” Ashtalar called back, putting up a hand as a wave.

Naphta quickly padded after Sundar as they went back towards the eastern reaches of Talonbranch Glade. Walking through the now quiet town, Sundar caught a glimpse of Niashado sleeping soundly at the base of a tree. It bemused him to see her rest as such instead of seeking out a tent. I guess she’s pretty exhausted, having chased us all the way up here. He almost wondered why she had followed them to Talonbranch, but it was no mystery to him. He only hoped that things were not too rough between her and Jaou. And I hope she doesn’t get too mad at me either.

Not even halfway to the campsite, a white feathery blur came barrelling towards Sundar from above. The sudden appearance of Falathir was shocking at first, especially given the tone of urgency in her cries. She flew circles around the druid before landing upon Naphta’s back and fluttering her wings, though little did the wintersaber seemed to mind.

“Whoa, clam down Falathir. What’s the matter, is something wrong?” he asked the frantic owl. With more screeching and mewling, the owl kept looking back towards the camp and Sleetwing. Sundar wondered if there was an emergency, but had there been any alarm, he would have heard Sleetwing or otherwise noticed a lot of commotion from that direction. “Alright, we’ll hurry back. I certainly hope nothing is wrong.”

The druid climbed atop Naphta’s back and rode back the rest of the way to Jaou, curious about what it was that Falathir wanted him back so urgently for.

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

Taur sat up upon a branch of a tree, fully obscured by leaves, and kept watch on the camp built for Jaou. He knew from the onset that this was going to be a difficult assignment, but having an undead dragon to contend with on top of the druid complicated the situation further. After a short amount of time, the night elf that was with his target departed; now was the chance he was waiting for. Taur prepared to move in, but as quickly as the opportunity came, it left when he noticed yet another figure on the periphery.

Hmm, an orc... Taur seethed. Perhaps I should wait and see what new dynamic this will add.

He was hoping for the orc to cause a stir, perhaps even a full attack. The chaos would be sufficient to subdue the orc and Jaou. Alas, that was not to be. After a few tense moments, the shaman stopped and now the satyr was joined by him. The situation was starting to vex Taur, but he decided to move on to other parts of his plan.

Parts of his team had already started laying the ground work for planting the toxins around the settlement. They were advised to leave the liquid in the soil to let the plants absorb it, and to inject the wildlife as well. While that was being done, Taur had another plot to work on.

The demon started to distribute some crystal marbles around Talonbranch Glade and the surrounding area. On the way, he laid down the toxin into the soil, though he kept some for another purpose. Now he was interested in observing the inhabitants of the town.

He kept himself hidden in the shadows and trees, ever alert of any eyes that would fall upon him. Taur remained composed and calm, moving with elegance and not with malice. He could not afford being found out, but he also had to sate his daring curiosity to see what new prey there was for him to play with.

He already spied the draenei he had fought with earlier, sleeping beneath a tree with naught a worry it appeared. He was ever so tempted to change that, but he must be patient and bide his time. He saw the druid, but having other colleagues battle with him previously, and not survive, he saw that particular elf as more of a caution. Unfortunate it was that is was day, and many of the kaldorei residents would be asleep, but he worried not about it. It gave him some time meditate on what fun he will have with picking apart the community.

And so he waited in the shadows, ever watching.
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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  Izdazi on Sun Mar 15, 2015 8:40 pm

He’s free and I’m still a prisoner, Izdazi mentally fumed after Sundar left. She jiggled her wrist lightly as if to confirm that her status has far from changed. Then, her thoughts focused darkly toward Jaou Stormchaser. Trying to snuff out that satyr had cost her so much.

Despite Sundar’s assurance, she knew Jaou was near. Call it instinct, or just her poor luck, but she felt as sure of it as she knew she was breathing.

A light breeze rustled the thatch roof of the infirmary. The glow of the moons barely made it through the tiny gaps in the ceiling.


“You walk away when you’re supposed to fight. And you fight when you’re supposed to walk away,” her mother told her the day she sent to the Barrows. “You’ll fight against a cause that barely involves you, but you refuse to fight for your people.”

“He’s a demon. Why did this get so complicated?” Izdazi had replied.

“People are complicated,” Reyada replied. “You have been away from home for so long. What do you know of the san’dorei? Nothing. Why make a crusade out of what you have little knowledge of?”

“He’s a demon. What’s so complicated about that,” she nearly yelled back at her mother’s face. Nearly, but not quite. Reyada didn’t stand for disrespect.

“The question you should ask yourself, daughter, is why you were after him in the first place. You’ll have years to ponder that,” she said. The ‘sentinel’ in her mother visage softened. “I’ll do my best to lower your sentence. I love you.”



It was a question Izdazi had pondered in the years imprisoned. Her hatred of Jaou hadn’t abated an iota, but when she could see past the base of hatred, she really couldn’t answer the question. Why? Besides Jaou being a demon, there was little reason for her to make this a personal vendetta.

No. It was never meant to be a vendetta. It started as a duty. Satyrs were dangerous demons spawned from ancient deviants of her people. Their extermination was simply a matter of public safety.

So, when did it evolve beyond duty?

It’s simple. It evolved the day you stood alone while people defended him.

“Things made so much more sense when I was stuck in Booty Bay,” she murmured.

“What about Booty Bay?” a voice cut into her thoughts. Izdazi gasped and turned to see Orsir approaching her bed. He smiled and held her hand. “You’re looking much better.”

“I feel like I’m recovering from a night partying in Booty Bay,” she replied with a brief chortle. “I’m so ready to get out of here.”

“We’ll let the medic decide that.”

“No,” Izdazi said. She was tired of being poke and prodded. She wanted to leave. “Just untie me and let me go.”

"Hold your sabres there, another preliminary check up to make sure you're back to normal would be best," Ashtalar chimed in.

The huntress let out an exasperated sigh and let her head fall to the pillow. “Oh come on, Ashtalar,” she whined.

"Health is paramount!!" he declared as he placed a hand on her forehead. He went on to check her pulse and her pupils. "No irregularities with your digestive system? Your breathing is normal."

Izdazi rolled her eyes and let out a huff of breath. “Believe me. Compared to how I felt, I’m much better.”

"I suppose I can clear you for light exercises." Ashtalar stepped back and crossed his arms. "Continue drinking lots of liquids and eat lots of fibre. It'll help with cleaning up your system."

“Will do, boss,” she stated. She shook her shackled wrist impatiently. “May I go now?”

Ashtalar undid the binds that held Izdazi down. "Fine fine."

“Finally,” she muttered in exasperation. Swinging her legs over the bed, she tested the ground with her bare feet and then pushed herself off. The huntress took one step and suddenly her weakened legs began to collapse. Orsir caught her before she reached the floor.

Helping her upright, she nodded a thanks to the druid.

“You know, you’re a hero to the others.” he said, garnering a surprised glance from her.

“Me?”

“Well, after what you did to Shando Ravenstar.”

“Wait. What?” Her brows furled as she tried to figure out what he was talking about. “What did I do?”

"You mean you don't remember?" Ashtalar questioned.

She shook her head. “It’s mostly a blur.”

Orsir chuckled and turned to Ashtalar: “It might be better that she doesn’t know.”

“Doesn’t know what? What did I do?” the huntress demanded.

"Oh I don't know," the dead shot said with a grin to Orsir. He turned back to the huntress. "Not many have debilitated him in that fashion, let me tell you."

The huntress’s face grew pale and she looked between Ashtalar and Orsir. “I’m afraid to ask.”

"He's still a little sore between the legs."

The huntress stumbled back against the cot as she finally put the pieces together. She buried her hands in her disheveled dreadlocks. “Oh, how did I do that?! I’m getting tossed back into the Barrows for sure.”

"Ah you worry too much!" Ashtalar said while he gave her a hearty slap on the back. "He's not the vindictive type like that.”

She hardly felt the impact. Instead, after thinking for a long moment, she looked at Ryaha and then at the two men. “I didn’t do anything to celebrate. Heroes don’t leave their people worse off than when they started.”

She started to limp out of infirmary.

"Sometimes you have to knock Revar down a notch or two; can be good for the soul to be humbled."

Izdazi stopped and considered Ashtalar’s words. “It was the rage that did that. Not me.”

"Be that as it is, he doesn't blame you for the hit," he said. "Now you kids take it easy, I have more alchemy fun to do!"

Outside in the cool air, the huntresses paused to take in the fresh air.

“Do you need any help?” Orsir asked. She shook her head.

“I just need some time alone. Thanks anyway,” she replied, before limping off to the tents.


* * *


About half an hour later Izdazi was alone in a quiet area, neck deep in a pool that was part of the the stream that passed near Talonbranch. It felt good to wash away the grime, blood stains and whatever other stains she didn’t care to know too much about from her body.

Orsir hadn’t been joking about her recent ascension to fame. She had received several accolades from the other recruits, both Sentinels and Rangers. Unlike earlier when she’d spurned Orsir and Ashtalar felicitations, this time she politely nodded and thanked them.

Most of her fellow recruits had looked down on her with disdain. It felt good to be seen in a more positive manner from these people. Izdazi didn’t care much fame or hero worship and she understood well that what’d she done was nothing to boast about for her career. But she’ll have to work with these people and if they were more comfortable with her, as she needed to be with them, then maybe it wasn’t all too bad.

As long as Ravenstar didn’t decide to boot her from training. Ashtalar and Sundar had both assured her that it was unlikely he would, but the thought still filled her dread.

The huntress submerged herself underwater and felt the coolness of the water surround her head.

You can always run away. You know you can evade these people, a quiet nagging voice in her head whispered.

She wouldn’t. It was her mother’s dying wish that she be given a second chance. Becoming a Sentinel was part of the second chance. To run away would be tantamount to spitting on her mother’s body. They may have had their disagreements, but she couldn’t hate her mother.

Rising out of the water, she waded to the shoreline where she’d piled her clothing. Izdazi pulled out a knife from the pile of clothing and returned swum back to the middle.

“There’s just one thing to do then,” she said to herself. Grabbing a handful of her dreadlocks, she pulled them taut and then began sawing through the strands. It’d been years since her dreadlocks had been tightened and the only place she could have it done was Booty Bay. Now, there was good two to four inches of it loose, with the dreads hanging messily. It was… well… a mess.

She’d never told anyone why she’d had her hair done this way. It’d been done shortly after she’d gotten herself enslaved in Booty Bay. A troll had offered to help her, but it would cost her. It was help Izdazi couldn’t afford to refuse, even if it was from a troll. But, she had to prove her seriousness with a little humiliation. Hence, she found herself at his sister’s hair salon, getting a style that would make any troll woman look stunning. But on an elf…

Humiliation. It seemed to be the story of her life, but in time, she’d learn to cope with the style and even came to appreciate it. It separated her from the others.

Now, the dreadlocks were falling, a half dozen at a time. She winced each time she pulled her hair tightly. She winced again as she saw more bundles of dread falling. Most of them were gone when she found herself unexpectedly shivering at the cool air blowing over the back of her neck. The reflection of the person in the water looked like no one she recognized.

The hair would grow back, but it was still a shock seeing herself like this. Her dark blue hair was so short it barely came to her neck.

Dunking her head back underwater momentarily she returned to sawing off the last stragglers of dreads. Each cut felt like a severing of herself.



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Re: Shadow of Doubt - Crossroads (Story)

Post  KaijinRhada on Fri Apr 10, 2015 4:52 pm

There was not much to do except for waiting. Sleetwing had elected to get some rest and went to sleep, however undead went to sleep. This left Jaou, Falathir and Azgard to their own devices. Conversation was sporadic, but friendly, and that was something Jaou was thankful for.

“We have always regarded satyrs as a threat. We know that night elves are even more ill about their existence,” Azgard said in an observational manner. “What is your story?”

Jaou had been drawing various shapes and figured in the ground with a stick for some time since they started to talk. As Azgard inquired about the former elf’s situation, Jaou stopped for a moment and tried to think back to that particular moment. “It’s a bit hazy, but I was here on an assignment to investigate corrupted moonwells.” He looked up with an ironic smirk. “I can’t remember much else, but I suppose you can see it didn’t go so well for me.”

Azgard took a piece of tough jerky and started to chew on it while in thought. “So I see. But how is it you are not like the satyrs I have encountered?”

“The corruption isn’t as strong as it normally is. With some treatments, I’ve kept my mind intact. A non-hostile environment also helps.”

“Interesting,” he said, carefully considering what he had heard.

Only a moment later, Sundar arrived at the camp with Naphta at his side and Falathir riding atop the sabre. The avian flew back to land on Jaou’s horn. “He’s back now,” the satyr announced.

Sundar was preoccupied with trying to find the items in his bags, though he kept walking into the camp without noticing their unusual visitor. “Okay, I have some medicine,” the druid announced. He looked up from rummaging through his satchel and caught sight of the orc shaman. There he stopped in his tracks and Naphta started to tense, unsure of how to react. Sundar was wary, but he did observe that there was no air of conflict with his elder brother and the orc. In fact, Jaou was perfectly calm while Sleetwing was sleeping (as well as an undead being could). Slowly, he started to relax. “Uh, what’s going on here?”

Azgard stood up and straightened himself to full height, which was just a head shorter than the newcomer elf. He raised his axe slightly, but kept himself from appearing too antagonistic. His eyes widened as he recognized the druid. “’You’ are Sundar.”

“Yes? I am...?” the kaldorei replied with some confusion and uncertainty of how to carry on the introduction. “So... uh... how is your... uh, camp?” he asked with a shrug and an awkward laugh.

The old orc growled lowly. “I am not here to discuss that with ‘you.’ I am only interested in the shaman that was rescued.”

“Niashado?” both brothers blurted out. Jaou soon sat back and decided to observe, but it was apparent that both brothers were keenly interested in why he was looking for the shamaness. Sundar replied with a question to Azgard, “What business do you have with her?”

The orc noted the way both brothers called out the draenei’s name. So they were familiar with her. “I need to speak with her. The business is our own, beyond that it doesn’t concern you.”

“You came a bit early; it’s going to be a little bit, she’s getting some well needed rest.”

“Then wake her,” he growled impatiently. “This is important.”

“After that foray into your camp, she needs her rest. Can’t you afford that time for her?” the druid asked, trying to reason with him. He was not sure what he could have wanted to talk to Niashado about that required such immediate attention.

The old orc grunted and the two gray braids that draped over his shoulders bounced to and fro as he shook his head. “The longer I am here, the greater the chance I’ll be noticed.” He pulled an Earthen Ring sigil out from his ssatchel and tossed it at Sundar’s boots. “This is urgent.”

Sundar picked up the sigil and examined it; his reasons started to become more clear. “Earthen Ring business? So you’re here about...” the druid started to piece the puzzle together, and understood what it was he was here for. “I guess I can go find here,” he relented. “This is important and I reckon you won’t be budging from your position. I can’t promise it will be immediate though, I have to find here first.”

Azgard nodded. “I will wait as long as I can.”

“You’ll get more time if you hang out with Jaou. He’s not supposed to be here either, which is why Sleetwing is on guard.” Sundar added. “Go into the tent if anyone approaches, Sleetwing will take care of the rest.”

The shaman nodded and approached the campfire, seemingly unperturbed by Jaou’s appearance. Sundar looked to Naphta and patted her on the head. “You stay here too.”

The sabre seemed to huff in protest, but she turned about and padded towards the campfire. Sundar then took his leave and returned to Talonbranch.

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

When last he heard of Niashado, it was Ravenstar that told him he had her go rest before she spent herself on taking care of the injured. He did not say where she went and he preferred to not wake him for such a question after such a night, so now it was down to searching for the draenei. This time, he was certain she would have stayed within the limits of the township as he searched in the form of a stag.

He first asked the innkeepers if they had any sightings of the shamaness. As their answers turned up to be no, he moved on to any townsfolk that were still awake and in the same vein, they had also not seen her around since she had come into town.

You would think a draenei would be easy to spot in a settlement full of night elves. If she is not resting indoors, then maybe outside?

Sundar started to circle around Talonbrach, making sure to look under and around the trees and other shaded areas. The search was dragging on longer than he had anticipated and the druid started to wonder if the shamaness had elected to sleep further out. No, that’s too risky. She had to be somewhere in town.

He was about to make another circle around Talonbranch when the last tree he looked around was the place that Niashado had fallen asleep by. The shamaness had rested her head on her backpack and curled up in the embrace of the roots. Sundar shifted out of stag form and knelt down by the draenei.

It’s a shame you can’t rest more than this; you could really use it.

“Nia, wake up. You have a rather interesting visitor,” Sundar said as he gently shook her shoulder.

The draenei simply groaned and shook her head. “Ten more minutes,” she muttered.

“Oh boy, another stubborn waker,” the druid sighed to himself, before going back to trying to rouse the shamaness. “The Ring has business with you and its kind of important, like, globally important.”

Niashado suddenly opened her eyes, although she was still groggy. “The Ring? The Earthen Ring?”

Still kneeling down, Sundar handed her the runestone before standing up. “Colour me surprised that they didn’t send you a letter instead. You’re being called for duty, it looks like.”

Niashado studied the stone and her brow furrowed with concern. “Where is this person that delivered this?”

“They’re at Jaou’s camp.”

She fully became awake in a near instant upon hearing that, and the sudden burst of energy caught Sundar off guard. “They are with Jaou?!” she exclaimed while suddenly getting to her hooves.

“Whoa, calm down,” he said while motioning with his hands to stop. “They’ve been informed about him, I guess,” the elf shrugged. “He’s got more tension with me than Jaou.”

The shamaness calmed down and smiled a little. “What have you done now?”

Sundar grinned slyly. “Oh, you know, just a little fight with him at the Horde camp. No big deal.”

Naishado cocked her head in curiosity. “The Horde camp? Oh Sundar, do not tell me you are referring to Azgard.”

“Is he a cranky old orc with twin braids?”

She slowly nodded. “He saved my life. Without his assistance, I would not have been able to rescue that elf or get out of that base.”

“That’s good to hear,” Sundar commented and crossed his arms. The druid let out a laugh. “Sounds like you got off on a better foot with him than I.”

“He did not like what he saw was going on,” she replied. “Nor was he well received by the other Horde officers.”

“Sounds like an upstanding shaman. Shall we head over and see what he has to say?”

“By all means,” she said, gesturing for him to lead the way.

“Sorry to wake you for this,” he said as they walked along.

“It is not your fault, but their timing is most strange. I have had little involvement with them and now they summon.” The draenei shook her head and sighed. “The Earthen Ring is full of skilled and competent shamans; I still have some ways to go before I can be an asset.”

You sell yourself short, you have great skills!” Sundar said encouragingly. “Besides, we all have to start somewhere.”

“Perhaps, but I would rather be here helping Jaou with you.”

“Thanks, but that can come with a cost. Would you do it even if the world needs us?” he started to question Niashado. “I know I’m not one to talk. I’ve been here a while already, but I am here on doctor’s orders You’re still hale and fit. I may heed the call soon, if I am healthy enough for it.” Sundar set his eyes to the mountains as he spoke.

“Doctor’s orders?” Niashado asked, instantly sounding concerned for Sundar. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing major. I should be getting well enough soon.”

The shamaness did not appear to be convinced, but she also did not pursue the topic further. “I cannot deny that something is wrong on Azeroth, but I am not sure what course of action to take.”

Sundar looked ahead and then looked to the sky. “Go where ever and do whatever feels right to be.”

Niahsado nodded. “Sometimes what is right and what feels right are not the same.”

“And sometimes it takes a while for the two to line up, but it can, and does, happen.”

The shamaness merely nodded as they continued towards Jaou’s camp. As they walked to the outskirts of Talonbranch, Sundar noticed a strange rustling in the trees. He looked up to the canopy and tried to glean anything he could from the plant life, but their whispers were silent, as usual. Am I imagining things?

Sundar stowed the suspicion in the back of his mind, but another cound caught his attention. A dull thud was heard coming from behind Niashado; it appeared that something had fell out of one of her pockets. The druid turned around to go and pick up the object. “Oh wait, you dropped something.” They both had stopped and just as soon as he picked the object up, he was given a moment for pause. It was a weapon of fel origins, yet curious was its design. “This dagger... where did you get this?”

Niashado was speechless for a few moments as he examined the weapon. “That belonged to the satyr that attacked me before Jaou arrived. This was near the Horde camp.” She came nearer to the dagger. “I meant to show it to you sooner, but with everything happening, I forgot.”

With some hesitation, the druid picked up the dagger for a closer inspection. “Did the satyr drop it on purpose?” The shamaness nodded in response, having picked up on his trepidation. “On the onset, the designs are demonic, but it’s different from the usual stock. There’s a certain familiarity to it, something foreign to demons.” Sundar mused more before standing up and placing it in his pouch. “I’ll send this over to Raven first thing when he’s up; he knows more about such weapons than I do.”

The shamaness nodded. “The satyr mentioned Jaou. He seemed to know about him, and they intend to take him back.”

“They won’t have him back,” Sundar stated with determination. “They already took much from him, in less than a year. I can’t let them have another chance.”

But now I’m worried his presence will draw other troubles to here as well.

Niashado nodded in agreement, but a pall of concern was still upon her features. “This is a most inopportune time for this matter to arise.”

“Welcome to Felwood,” Sundar said sarcastically. “Things are prone to going wrong here.”

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

Taur sat reclined in a tree, having trailed the druid and draenei. A sinister smile rested on his lips. “Wrong for you, right for us,” he said as he played with a jade talisman. His gaze went back towards the tent that the elder instructors used for rest. “We shall see how all of you can deal with many wrong turns.”
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