The Winds of Redemption ((Story))

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The Winds of Redemption ((Story)) Empty The Winds of Redemption ((Story))

Post  Mammona on Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:54 am

((Hey all, long time no see. I'm currently writing a book, but have found myself with a case of writer's block. In order to keep the creativity up and running, I turned my attention to a new venture set in the WoW universe. Hope you enjoy, and if you feel inclined to participate, let me know! I give you Chapter One of 'The Winds of Redemption!'))

The harsh, blistering winds ripped across the frigid landscape. Great spires of earth and ice tore sky and earth asunder, their walls shrouded in mist and snow as the blizzard raged. The air was filled with the dry whistling sound of the wind, interspersed with the groaning and creaking of the massive shelves of ice that shifted and cracked in the hostile environment. Dotted amongst these mountains of rock and ice were the peculiar structures made by the titans and their subjects, once the focus of so many adventures and hardships, now as lifeless as the stone from which they were created.

The Storm Peaks of Northrend were known for being one of the most unforgiving landscapes Azeroth had to offer. Many an adventurer had lost their lives trying to scale the many mountains peaks, seeking their own glory. Once, many years ago, Aegwynn, the guardian of Tirisfal, had fought Sargeras, the lord of the Burning Legion, amongst the peaks. More recently, heroes had journeyed to the titan city of Ulduar, which lay nestled deep in the mountains. Once the centre of Azeroth’s attention, it now lay abandoned following the defeat of Yogg-Saron. The old god, known (among other names) as ‘The Beast with the Thousand Maws’, had threatened the very sanctity of Azeroth, and heroes of the Horde and the Alliance had converged together to combat the threat.

As with most other threats before it, the world and its denizen abandoned Ulduar and moved on to combat bigger and more evil threats, leaving the Storm Peaks virtually uninhabited, save for the small tribes of indigenous Earthen and Vrykul that eked out a living in the unforgiving landscape. Even they were sequestered for the winter, deep among the mountains. As the blizzards raged through the Storm Peaks, not a soul, living or dead, could be seen or heard.

Except one.

A lone figure clung to the side of a giant ice flow, slowly scaling one of the land’s many peaks. Twin thunks rang out at regular intervals as two thin ice-axes struck and stuck to the ice, followed by a myriad of muffled grunts and the figure pulled itself up, one axe at a time. Spiked boots also slammed into the ice, providing footholds and leverage for the next axe swing. The whistling winds buffeted the figure, who was wrapped from head to toe in thick furs. Snow and hail blasted the cloth, whipping it back and forth. The figure hunkered closer to the ice, attempting to climb through, and out of, the storm.

Suddenly, the ice in which one of the axes was embedded in shattered. The figure’s arm swung free, momentum causing him to lose his footholds as well. For agonising moments, the figure hung from a single axe, thousands of feet above the jagged ravine that marked the foot of the mountain. In the ravine, the bones and frozen flesh of many an intrepid explorer gazed towards the skies, eager for their new brother to join them.

However, it was not to be. With an almighty swing, the figure slammed the loose axe into the ice, arresting the problem. The spiked feet followed soon after, and it was only a short time before the figure was again climbing towards his intended destination – a large outcropping of rock one hundred feet above him.

Half an hour later, a gloved hand appeared over the top of the rocky ledge. The figure pulled himself over the edge, rolling onto his back. With breath coming in ragged gasps, the figure raised a hand and pulled away the cloth covering the head. A stern, weather-beaten face stared up at the swirling winds and the peaks rising into the dusk sky. Brown eyes blinked and watered as the icy blizzard pelted the exposed skin. Long, black, braided hair whipped around his head as Michael Swift, called the Blackmane, sat up, struggling to calm his racing heart and fatigued muscles. He stood on quivering legs, exhausting burning in his gut as he rolled his shoulders, clenching and unclenching his fingers, willing some of the feeling to return to them.

The worgen tracker glanced around, seeing only snow, wind, rock and ice. Swift cursed inwardly, both at himself for daring to climb a mountain in a blasted blizzard, but also at his employer, who had him chasing ghosts in such a place. A year and a half, he thought. Eighteen months of travelling and search for naught. Eighteen months in this frozen land, looking for something that for all I know may not exist.

Even as he cursed, Swift knew that some part of him actually appreciated the time he’d spent searching. The worgen hated civilisation, preferring to spend his time in the forests of the wild, doing what came naturally to him, which meant hunting and tracking. A solitary person by nature, Swift found company and people in general confusing and, on occasion, irritating. Even slogging through storms and wilderness was better than sitting at a table trying to make conversation.

Besides, Swift though with a small smile, this beats the hell out of running through the desert. The whistling in his finely-tuned ears intensified, signalling that the storm was getting worse. His smile turned into a frown. May have re-evaluate the desert thing. He had no desire to be exposed on a ledge in the middle of the mountains during a storm. One strong gust of wind would be all it took to blow him to his death.

Swift looked around, hoisting his pack on to his wide shoulders. Once again, he saw nothing but snow and rock. He took a few steps forward, testing each step thoroughly in case the ledge wasn’t as stable as it seemed. The wind came in waves, battering his swaddled body and throwing off his balance. A low growl escaped his still-human lips. He was in danger from the elements, and he knew it.

Suddenly, he stopped, squinting ahead into the gale. His sharp eyes saw a speck of black amongst the swirling snow, which materialised into a small cave as he moved towards it. Great, he thought as he trudged on, at least I won’t freeze to death out here. He reached the mouth of the cave, a six-foot opening in the sheer cliff wall, and stepped inside. He immediately sniffed the brisk air, seeking to determine the scent of any indigenous creatures who may have been in residence. Finding nothing, he moved inside.

The cave was small, and Swift had to stoop to get his six-foot, three-inch frame into it. Still, there was enough room for him and his pack, and at least he was out of the storm. With the practised ease of a man used to the wilderness, he soon had a fire going, and sat near it, unwrapped of his overclothes, which sat drying nearby. Swift chewed on a strip of dry jerky salvaged from his pack as he stared into the flames. Even as he did, one eye closed, in order to preserve his night vision. He didn’t think anything of note would be able to find him where he was, but he was alive today because of caution. As he sat, he thought again about the purpose of his travels. After a long time spent ruminating, he decided, seemingly for the thousandth time, that it didn’t matter. He did what he was told.

The sparse light from his fire illuminated the mouth of the cave, casting a slight speck of light that could barely be seen from the side of the mountain. As the blizzard raged, the speck became less and less bright, but not unseen.

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Post  Mammona on Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:11 am

The rising sun played over the face of the peak. The excess snow made for a blindingly white landscape, with only occasional patches of grey rock or sparse vegetation poking through the startling brightness. The skies were now clear – the blizzard had worn itself out a few hours before dawn. The Storm Peaks were now eerily silent, with the only sounds being the occasional creaking ice, punctuated by a loud rumbling as a pile of excess snow tumbled down the peaks, having accrued to a weight beyond the mountain’s ability to support.

Swift squeezed his frame through the narrow cave opening, stepping out into the brisk morning air. He stretched, feeling the joints and muscles creak satisfyingly. He’d spent the night in more cramped places, but it was still uncomfortable. He glanced around, seeing a layer of snow covering everything in sight. He stepped forward gingerly, testing the depth of the snow. His foot sank it approximately a foot and a half, stopping when the snow was about halfway up his shin. The tracker scowled, taking another step forward, yanking his leg out of the snow, performing a shambling, shuffling strut that make him look like some sort of cloth-bound rooster.

Damn. I won’t get anywhere fast like this, he thought. He quickly retreated to the cave, re-emerging with his pack. Swift quickly unwrapped his longbow from its oilskin cover and took three arrows from his quiver, before re-wrapping the rest and stowing them. He quickly strung the bow and placed it in a small sheet so that it lay across his back, ready to draw in a moment’s notice. The arrows were threaded through his cloth belt, out of the way.

Swift then stretched a final time, before shifting to his true worgen form. His shoulders swelled, black fur sprouting from his skin. Twin pops sounded as his knees reversed direction. Claws erupted from his fingertips, shorter on the hand he used to draw his bow. His long, braided hair became a jet-black mane that tumbled down his back. His stern visage elongated, fangs emerging from his black lips. His nose grew moist as new scents assaulted his changed senses. He smiled, his canine features contorting in pleasure as he beheld this snowy world in his true form.

Swift leaned forward, placing both front paws upon the snowy ground. The packed powder resisted his weight, and he was able to bring his hind legs out of the divots his human form had caused. With his weight distributed more evenly, he was able to move across the snow, rather than through it. Swift’s breath misted in front of him and he looked left and right. He was surprised to find that his ledge was bigger than he had anticipated. While in the blizzard, all he could see was the cliff and the cave. Now, in the clear morning light, he saw that the ledge was actually a plateau, complete with a small forest of pines and shrubs. Swift grinned. Perfect. He set off at an easy lope, moving quickly over the icy ground. Time to find breakfast.

Two hours later, Swift crouched behind a fallen tree, downwind of his quarry. He had been stalking it for about half an hour, moving as slowly as his canine muscles would allow. His prey was skittish, the legacy of a life spent in the company of predators. It had already run twice before Swift was able to close the distance, forcing him to restart the hunt all over again. However, since he hadn’t seen any other creatures since his hunt had started, he didn’t really have a choice.

Now, as his prey lowered its head to graze and forage, Swift inched forward. He ducked low to the ground, edging around the fallen tree. His gaze flicked to the ground in front of him, and seeing no obstacles that could cause unnecessary noise, took a single step forward. He rose to his hind legs, hovering in a half-crouch. His right arm reached up over his left shoulder, clawed fingers searching for the unyielding wood of his bow.

His prey looked up.

Swift froze. The morning breeze picked up slightly. His prey’s ears flicked this way and that, searching for any sound out of the ordinary. Swift held his breath, his hand hovering mid-air. After what seemed like an eternity, his quarry lowered its head, returning to its grazing. Swift exhaled, relief palpable on his lupine features. That is, until the breeze picked up again, from a different direction. Swift cursed inwardly. The wind is changing. It’s now or never.

Swift’s fingers found his bow, and drew it from his shoulder in a single, fluid motion. His left hand grasped the shaft of an arrow, pulling it from his belt. In a matter of moments, he had the arrow knocked and drawn. He rose, sighting down the arrow as his hulking worgen form entered his prey’s field of vision. It froze, eyes wide as it beheld the predator before it. That short freeze was all Swift needed. He released his arrow.

To its credit, his prey was quick. The arrow caught it as it wheeled around, ready to escape. The force of the impact shot the prey sideways, the arrow puncturing its left rear haunch, robbing it of its ability to run. Swift frowned. It’s faster than I thought. The arrow should have hit its throat. The prey’s wild struggles continued as it attempted to will itself to escape. Swift marvelled at the resilience of the snow-rabbit as he raced from his hiding place toward s it.

Reaching the injured animal, he wasted no time in breaking its neck, giving it a quick release from its injury. He retrieved his arrow, wiping it off before returning it to his belt. He turned, the rabbit in his left hand, and drew his hunting knife with his right. He looked for an exposed stone he could use to skin and gut the animal, his stomach already growling with the thought of fresh meat for breakfast. He saw one a few yard away, and started towards it. As he did, his eyes moved past the stone, and he froze.

There was a footprint in the snow, just beyond the rock. It looked recent, within the last few hours. It was partially filled it, which indicated that the maker had trudged through the blizzard the previous night. Swift wasted no time. Ignoring his hunger, he buried the rabbit to mask its scent, and unshouldered his bow. He sniffed the air, finding nothing. This only made his concern double. He was not alone on the mountain. Someone else was there. Someone who had bypassed even Swift’s considerable senses. That fact alone put the worgen on edge. What made it even worse was that whoever made the tracks had to have passed the cave in order to get this far. They would have had to pass the cave with Swift’s fire.

Swift was not alone, and his unknown companion knew he was there.

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Post  Mammona on Thu Jul 09, 2015 5:21 am

Swift held his breath to keep it from misting in front of him as he inched across the narrow ledge. He held his bow at the ready, an arrow nocked in the case that his unseen companion decided to make an appearance. With every small step he made, he sniffed the air and listened hard. His canine senses accounted for every creak and groan of the mountain around him, but no noise or smell was out of the ordinary. Swift’s fingers twitched around the arrow’s fletching. He couldn’t detect anyone, but still, he felt that something was near.

As a tracker, Swift was versed in using his senses to pick and feel his way along hazardous landscapes, finding the unfindable and tracing the untraceable.  However, while his senses were his greatest advantage, Swift also relied on a highly attuned sense of instinct. He could not put it into words, but something in his gut had saved his life more times than he could count. It always happened when everything pointed to another outcome – an icy twist in his stomach that caused him to whirl around to face a charging predator, or to turn over a stone in a barren area to find a lost item, or even to freeze, inches away from triggering an enemy trap. Swift did not know where this feeling came from. Experience, perhaps. Maybe an unexpected side-effect of the worgen curse. Hell, maybe the gods had thought to grace him with it. He didn’t really care. All he knew that when his gut twisted with icy fingers, he knew something was wrong. And at the moment, his gut was so tight he felt it may rupture at any moment.

The wind picked up, bringing with it a small fall of snow. Not enough to obscure Swift’s vision, but he cursed in nonetheless. He had passed through the small scrub forest, coming across a mountain pass that narrowed quickly to a ledge that spiralled up the cliff face. Three hundred feet from him, the ledge opened up into a relatively large clearing. The worgen moved slowly but surely along the ledge, aware that he was moving a higher and higher up the mountain. He leaned back slightly, shifting his weight against the ice-cold wall of the cliff face. He knew that mountain gusts could arc up without warning, blowing him to his doom, so he kept his body well back from the edge. It had the added bonus of partially masking his approach from anyone who may have been watching from the clearing.

Swift had made a further two hundred feet when he heard the sharp crack. He froze, eyed widening as the cracking continued, echoing around him. That doesn’t sound encouraging, he thought. He spared a glance back, seeing a puff of snow shoot into the air and the rock beneath the ledge fractured and split. He felt the ledge beneath his feet drop a few inches. Oh, gods, Swift thought, shooting a glance forward. One hundred yards to the clearing. Might as well be one thousand. Every inch of his being screamed for him to get moving, to discard his bow and sprint for the clearing. However, he didn’t move. He knew that if he did, the ledge could fracture completely, and he’d be in for a long fall with a very sudden stop.

Swift moved slowly, painstakingly, as he slung his bow over his shoulder. He slipped the arrow into the cloth winding around his arm. Another crack made his pause. The ledge sunk further, and stopped suddenly. Swift lowered himself to all fours. With astounding control and fluidity, he inched forward, shifting his weight slowly from one limb to the next, always keeping three limbs on the rock floor. If I can keep my weight distributed evenly and avoid jarring and bouncing, I might be able to reach the clearing before the ledge goes. The ledge groaned and creaked and the wind buffeted his slowly moving form. Ignoring the panicked cries of his own mind, Swift moved forward slowly and purposefully.

It was slow going. It took him fifteen minutes to cover fifty feet. Swift’s shoulders and haunches shook and twitched with fatigue. His muscles burned from holding the sustained crawl for so long. However, his mind grew progressively lighter with every step. I’m going to make it, he thought. A grin spread across his lupine features. It lasted until a loud crash sounded from above him. Swift looked up, seeing a massive boulder fall free from the cliff face above him. The worgen’s eyes widened. The boulder was going to land behind him. On the already shaky ledge. Son of a –

Swift didn’t even finish his thought. He took off, bounding and scrabbling as fast as he could. He ignored the cracks and snaps as the ledge sunk lower and lower under his flashing paws. He shot towards the clearing, praying for one more moment, a single second to prolong the boulder hitting the ledge. He knew it was a matter of time, and the realist in him knew that no matter how much he wished it, the boulder would hit before he made it. Still, giving up wasn’t part of his vocabulary, and he redoubled his effort, streaking towards the clearing.

Swift was fifteen feet from the clearing when the boulder hit the ledge.  A massive crash sounded from behind him, and the ledge bucked and jerked under his paws. Then, his stomach flew to his mouth as he felt himself begin to fall. He saw the clearing start to get further away. He cursed, gathering his limbs under him, and jumped. He put every ounce of his strength and power into the leap. He soared through the frigid wind, towards the clearing. Even as he sailed towards the edge, he knew he wouldn’t make it. Not fully, anyway.

Swift’s left arm shot up his right sleeve, grasping the arrow he’d stowed there. Whipping it out, he raised his arms above his head as he descended on the ledge formed by the path’s collapse. His upper body cleared it, slamming into the rocky ground. The air exploded from Swift’s lungs as his midsection hit the unyielding rock. He heard the crunch and pop of breaking ribs as his hind legs scrabbled for purchase. As he felt himself begin to slide backwards, Swift slammed both arms to the ground, the sharp claws of his right hand gouging into the ground and the arrow grasped in his left punching through the frozen earth. His slide halted for the moment, Swift pumped his hind legs, trying to find the strength to heave the rest of his body to safety. Ignoring the flare of intense pain form his ribs, he yanked hard with his shoulders, hauling himself up and rolling clear of the edge. The booming crash sounding below him signalled what had become of the path he had just travelled.

Swift kept rolling, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the ledge as possible. Coming to a halt amongst a nest of boulders, he lay on his back, gasping for air. Each breath was agony as his broken ribs protested shrilly, but he didn’t care. He was alive. He shut his eyes, wanting to laugh. “Alive, you dog,” he said to himself, tears running down his cheeks. “You made it.”

“You followed me.”

Swift’s eyes snapped open. The words were quiet, raspy and not his. One of the boulders was rising. Snow fell from it as is stretched up and up, towering over the prone worgen. The black surface of the boulder revealed itself to be a tattered, sweeping cloak that snapped and waved in the wind. The hood was drawn up, obscuring the features of the giant creature. The icy feeling hit Swift’s gut like a gnomish freight train, drowning out the pain in his ribs.

“You followed me,” the giant figure repeated, and from within the cloak came the unmistakeable sound of drawn steel. The raspy voice drowned out all else in Swift’s mind.

“That was ill-advised.”

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Post  Mammona on Wed Aug 05, 2015 7:16 am

Swift’s broken ribs roared in agony as he rolled to his feet. His hand found the arrow and tore it from the ground. He turned towards the cloaked giant, wielding the sharp tip, drawing his hunting knife with his other hand. He had no time to draw his, bow, so this fight would be fought with blades. The icy winds whipped around his battered body, growing colder by the minute. Wait, Swift thought as he raised his knife. That wind’s too cold –

No sooner had he finished the thought when his vision was blotted out by the billowing cloak of the giant. A cold grip closed on his wrist like an iron vice and twisted ferociously, wrenching the knife from his numbing fingers. He stabbed with his other arm, feeling the arrow encounter the familiar resistance of chain mail. However, with the strength of a desperate worgen behind it, the arrowhead punctured the chain links and sunk deep. He jerked his hand, snapping the arrow in half and brought his arm back for a solid punch that would drive the broken shaft further into his adversary.

The giant figure did not once acknowledge the wound. A hammer blow struck Swift’s face, snapping his head back. The worgen tracker felt teeth crack and break as his limbs turned to jelly. He had been hit hard before, even been on the receiving end of a stag’s kick, but this was unlike anything he’s ever felt. As his broken, defeated body crashed to the earth, he groped groggily for his bow, trying to will his vision to coalesce into something of use. However, that final avenue was shut to him abruptly as a heavy foot crashed down upon his lower arm, pinning it to the icy earth. Something penetrated his swimming vision – the tip of a sword – and only did so because of its proximity to his throat.

This is it, Swift thought. After everything I’ve been through, this is where my life ends. In this frozen hell, with no one around, at the hands of a giant. Swift knew he would die at some point. The hunter in his remained philosophical. Things kill, and things eventually die. Why should I be any different? He closed his eyes, relaxing his body, not wanting to see the blow that ended his existence.

The blow never came. Swift became acutely aware of the cold ground burrowing into his body, his tattered clothing snapping in the icy wind. The weight remained on his arm, and the blade at his throat, but the killing blow never came. The worgen opened his eyes and stared up at his assailant. He noticed the sword, a huge hand-and-a-half affair that misted and glowed, even in the blinding white landscape. He could see arcane symbols engraved on the glittering steel. A runeblade, he realised with a start. There was only one type of creature in Azeroth that carried runeblades that misted with frost. However, before he could finish the thought, the rattling voice sounded again.

“Leave, dog. Do not follow me again.”

Swift’s ears pricked up. The voice was quiet, raspy and partially obscured by the raging Storm Peak winds, but his hunter’s hearing picked up a slight trace on an accent. It was an accent he hadn’t heard much, but was so distinctive the one didn’t need to hear it much to remember it. Zandali. This giant is a troll!

Trolls were a very widespread occurrence in Azeroth, as most people knew. They once ruled the world long ago, and had almost ended it on multiple occasions. Swift had a lot of experience dealing with the Forest Trolls that regularly ravage the norther part of the Eastern Kingdoms. The Amani were fierce and bold. He had also encountered Jungle Trolls, mostly in the form of the Darkspear tribe that fought in the Horde. He had even seen Sand trolls in his adventures in southern Kalimdor. However, none of the trolls matched this one’s sheer height. Most trolls reached a height of around seven feet at the biggest. While that was still taller than Swift, it was no real difference to him. This giant of a troll was easily a foot taller than that. A piece of learned information flashed through Swift’s head. Was this one of the Drakkari ice trolls that resided in Northrend? Did they even live this far North into the Storm Peaks?

The weight on Swift’s arm lessened, and was gone. Swift’s head snapped to the side, seeing only his arm, in the recesses of a massive footprint in the earth. He blinked his eyes, trying to see through the snow, which had started to fall at an increased rate. He spied the cloaked figure, now moving away at a brisk walk. He sighed. He almost killed me, but didn’t, he thought. If I speak to him now, he might decide to reconsider. Swift climbed painfully to his feet, rubbing his bloody jaw. He unslung his bow, and nocked an arrow with a shaking hand. I’m as helpless as a cub, he thought bitterly. If he comes back with murderous intent, I’m nothing more than a stain on this mountainside. Despite the monumental risk he was taking, Swift knew he had no choice. There was every chance that this hulking troll was the very thing he sought. He called out, the world emerging painfully from broken teeth.

“I seek Mammona. Are you he?”

The figure froze. Swift held his breath, listening intently for the sound of drawn steel. The wind between the two whipped into a frenzy. Swift held up a hand to his eyes, shielding them from the bitter flakes. Then, the wind stopped. The snow fell to the earth. And it got colder. Much colder. The raspy voice reached his ears, too quiet to have been heard, but heard nonetheless.

“Mammona is dead.”

Swift’s heart raced. He almost fumbled the next words out, the words he’d been forced to memorise and carry around for over a year.

“Dead, maybe, but not forgotten. There are some who would still have words with him. You are not alone.”

The temperature dropped further, causing Swift to shiver even in his worgen form. He started as the massive cloaked figure turned slowly towards him. The hood of the cloak blew back, revealing a pallid, one-tusked face with eyes that glowed an icy blue. The frozen lips drew taught in a half-sneer, revealing sharp teeth. The voice came again, hard but questioning.

“Who are you, dog?” asked Kaz’kah Thraze.

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Post  Mammona on Mon Aug 17, 2015 9:33 pm

Michael Swift lowered himself on to a flat rock, shivering slightly from the frigid air. As he shivered, he gritted his teeth at the bolts of pain that shot from his injured ribs. He grinned, showing bloodied fangs to the troll death knight before him.

“Hope you don’t mind if I sit, sir. Our little scuffle has left me quite worse for wear.”

Kaz’kah did not answer. He simply stood before Swift, glowing blue eyes fixed on the tracker, never wavering. After a few moments had passed, Swift began to grow uncomfortable. Even as one who had spent days without making a sound or saying a word, the silence the troll exuded was a different thing entirely. It was as if Kaz’kah was a statue, carved out of the same rock as the mountain around him. It’s the silence of the dead, Swift thought with another painful shiver. He decided to break the silence himself.

“Sir, my name is Michael Swift, called the Blackmane.” He bowed in Gilnean fashion from his perch on the rock. “I’m Gilnean, a hunter and tracker by trade.” He frowned. “At least, I used to be. Now I’m in the employ of another, and they have had me seek you out.”

“Why?” Kaz’kah’s voice was raspy, thick and stilted. Swift guessed that the Death Knight’s vocal cords had been partially frozen by the cold. The few undead warrior’s he’d met had not healed from wounds like the living. The powerful necromantic magic that held them together prevented decay and rot to a degree, but wounds never healed. However, they also never seemed to stop them either. Swift though back to his time in Silithus, where he had encountered and gone up against a kal’dorei death knight named Alarde. Swift knew from experience that a Death Knight was not an enemy you wanted to have.

Taking the fact that Kaz’kah hadn’t bisected him yet as a sign of good faith, Swift continued. “My employers represent a contractor. Someone who would offer you great payment for your services.”

Kaz’kah’s eyes narrowed. “My services?”

Swift held up a paw, wincing at his poor word choice. “Apologies. ‘Services’ is a bit heavy-handed a phrase. What this contractor desires is merely your presence.”

Kaz’kah’s glowing eyes flared. He took a step forward, towering over the seated worgen. He leaned over, bringing his face in line with Swift’s. .The tracker caught the unbearable smell of death, and he saw that a jagged scar traced along the troll’s right cheek. A healed scar. That may be the source of some of his speech impediments, he thought. However, on the other cheek were three long, open wounds that had long since frozen over. Claws, Swift realised. However, Kaz’kah’s voice snapped his attention to the troll’s eyes.

“My presence? Tell me, Blackmane, what do you know of me?”

Swift swallowed hard. Of course, he had been briefed on the troll before he had begun his search, and he had taken it upon himself to research a bit more. Trying to swallow the sense of dread he felt at Kaz’kah’s presence, he did his best to speak clearly and concisely.

“You were once Lieutentant-Commander Mammona of the Horde. Fifteen Years ago, together with a group of allies, you were responsible for the destruction of Jaedenar, one of the Shadow Council’s primary operating cells, located in Felwood. You then held the Crossroads in the Barrens against the Council, culminating in the destruction of the dreadlord Banehollow.” Swift lowered his gaze. “A battle in which you also lost your life.”

Swift raised his eyes, searching for a reaction from Kaz’kah. Seeing none, he decided to continue. “A handful of years later, you reappeared as a death knight. Renaming yourself Kaz’kah Thraze, you made your presence known in an expedition to capture an artefact belonging to the fallen Arakkoa of Terokkar Forest. This expedition ultimately failed, and you disappeared.”

“How long ago was that?” Kaz’kah asked. Swift started, surprised by the direct question. He searched his memory, trying to pinpoint the date. “By my recollection, then years ago.”

“Ten years…” Kaz’kah straightened. “I’ve been alone in this frozen wasteland for a decade then, Blackmane. What makes you think I have any desire to return to the realm of the living?”

“Well, my - ” Blackmane started, but the troll continued speaking. “One thing your history won’t tell you is that the arakkoa expedition was not my first foray into your world.”

Swift’s eyebrows shot up. Not just at Kaz’kah’s revelation, but at the fact that he had referred to society as ‘your world’. He’s truly left the living behind, he thought.

“I ventured into Tirisfal Glades before I sought out the expedition. I sought to find Mammona’s friends and relatives. Just outside the Glades, I encountered a young druid, who had sensed the dark magic now a part of me. That magic that now consumes me.”

Kaz’kah reached a hand up to trace the trio of wounds that lined his cheek. “The druid died. What is more, she died horribly. By my hand.” He looked away for a moment, before returning his gaze to Swift. “Again, I ask you, what purpose could I possibly have to rejoin your world?”

Swift shut his eyes. What he had to say next went against every fibre of his beliefs. He’s made his choice, he thought. Leave him be. Just say you couldn’t find him. Even as those thoughts entered his mind, Swift knew he couldn’t leave Kaz’kah. He had made a promise to his employer. Besides, there is so much more at stake here than just one dead troll, he thought. He sighed, and spoke.

“My employers and the contractor they represent can offer you just that. They can offer you the chance to rejoin our world. To become living once more.”

Kaz’kah jerked in surprise, the first non-deliberate movement Swift had seen him make. His eyes narrowed. He snarled, baring sharpened teeth. “That is impossible. I’ve searched to the very ends of this world and the next for magic to do that. It cannot be done.”

Swift stood, ignoring the pain from his broken ribs. “It can be, Kaz’kah Thraze. Other worlds have been discovered during your exile. The magic we speak of can do the impossible. Even for you. One thing I know for sure is you will never find out if you do not take this opportunity.”

Swift jerked in surprise as a three-fingered hand closed over his throat. The icy grip tightened, cutting off his air as he was yanked from the ground, paws dangling uselessly. He found himself staring into the murderous blue eyes of Kaz’kah Thraze. His nostrils filled with the foul stench of the undead.

“Do not lie to me, dog,” Kaz’kah hissed. “If you are, then I will paint this mountain red with your blood, and the worms will writhe in your eternally frozen corpse.”

Swift shook his head, unable to speak due to the troll’s crushing grip. His shaking arm came up, placing a paw over his heart, in the traditional Gilnean gesture of honor. He had no way of knowing if the death knight would recognise the action, but he figured its intention was universal. His vision began to cloud as suspicion blazed in Kaz’kah’s eyes.

The iron grip released, and Swift landed in a heap at the troll’s feet. Gasping for air, the worgen looked up at Kaz’kah, who had closed his eyes. The troll’s voice was soft now.

“I shall need some time to consider.”

“O-of course,” Swift sputtered, rising to his feet. He bowed painfully. “Take all the time you need. If it pleases you, I will be tending to my wounds further up the trail. I would like to keep close, and keep your scent.”

After an eternity, Kaz’kah gave a slight nod. Swift staggered away, grasping his side. He glanced back, seeing the immobile form of the undead troll. He sighed. Eighteen months and a beating to within an inch of my life is all it took to get him to merely consider the offer. Swift shook his head. If only he knew what was coming.

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Post  Mammona on Mon Aug 24, 2015 1:51 am

Kaz’kah gazed out over the mountain ledge, along the now-destroyed trail. The glow in his dead eyes faded slightly as strange, foreign thoughts swirled behind his brow. Thoughts that had not graced him for years. Thoughts of life beyond his self-imposed exile. Thoughts of re-joining society. Thoughts of becoming living once more. Thoughts of redemption.

The undead troll almost laughed out loud. He had become resigned to his fate for so long that it almost seemed impossible to be thinking about a way out. He walked the snowy tundra, an ever-moving spirit of death. He avoided settlements and towns, and skirted around the few adventurers that moved through the Storm Peaks. His curse was not other peoples’ to bear. He would die again before losing control to the ravenous need for destruction that even now gnawed at his dead heart. This is my burden to carry, he thought. This is my redemption.

“It does not have to be.”

Kaz’kah turned his head slightly at the sound of the voice. The swirling winds began to coalesce. Horde-issue armour appeared, along with long, muscular limbs. Hair, dark and slightly greying, scraped back from a high brow, below which two intelligent, weary eyes stared. A single-tusked face smiled ruefully at him as a three-fingered hand stuck the butt of a long spear into the snowy earth for balance. The ghostly voice echoed in Kaz’kah’s ears.

“Redemption comes in many forms. This may not be the one for which you are destined.”

Fool, Kaz’kah spat. You know what happened when I thought differently. You know the mangled corpse we left behind. You know the crushing weight of failure, compounded many times over. Kaz’kah raised a hand, staring at the dead, frostbitten flesh. His voice was bitter and resigned. This is who we are now. This is our future.

The ghostly troll smiled again. “How can you know, Kaz’kah Thraze? Are you so certain of our condemnation? Can you not find faith for a better path?”

The troll death knight scoffed. That is something Mammona would say. There is no path but what we have set ourselves upon.

Mammona shook his head sadly. “This is the path you have set us on. We were strong once. Proud. Compassionate. We would have done anything for the people we loved. Now, we roam through the ice and snow, never halting, a shell of our former selves.”

It is the only way! Kaz’kah raged. The only way to keep from tearing people apart! The least time that happened, an entire troop of arrakoa died! We massacred them. We couldn’t control ourselves! That cursed elf witch led us to butcher them! Where is the compassion in that?!

“We were weak,” Mammona admitted. “We must get stronger.”

And how exactly do you propose to do that? Kaz’kah retorted. How do you propose to suppress the Lich King’s influence? How do you propose to keep us from murdering anyone else?

Mammona raised his ethereal head. Ghostly eyes stared down the path where Swift had retreated. His voice was simultaneously worried and hopeful.

“We will never know if we remain here…”

Kaz’kah looked up. The icy winds snapped his cloak around him. Mammona was gone. The dead troll stood silently for a long time, staring off into space.


Michael Swift winced as he wound a strip of cloth around his bruised side. Thankfully, his ribs had not punctured a lung, and would heal properly. However, it didn’t stop them hurting like the blazes, and he sucked in a painful breath as he cinched the cloth tight. He pressed another strip of cloth to his nose, wiping away frozen blood. It was broken, but had set well. I’ll have to stay in worgen form for a while, he thought. He began to reach for a pack, when a shadow fell over him.

Swift reacted on instinct, ignoring the pain in his ribs as his knife appeared in his hand as if by magic. However, he saw a frostbitten hand, raised in peace. Kaz’kah Thraze stood over him, glowing eyes fixed on him. His raspy voice sent chills down Swift’s spine.

“I will accompany you. I wish to hear what your employer has to say.”

Swift’s eyebrows shot up, almost meeting at the top of his furry head. “Of course,” he spluttered. “Do you need to take care of anything? When would you like to leave.”

“Now,” Kaz’kah replied.

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Post  Mammona on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:20 am

“Ugh. What smells like wet dog?”

The disgusted voice of the man hung in the frigid morning air, momentarily drowning out the regular sound of the shallow ocean against the wooden canoe.

“I have no idea,” Swift muttered in reply, a tired frown on his face. He shifted uncomfortable, wincing slightly in his human form. His long black hair hung in bedraggled ringlets from his brow, dripping with moisture. It was raining lightly, just enough to wet, but not enough to soak. Swift sighed and shot a glance backwards, where Kaz’kah Thraze sat immobile at the rear of the boat behind the other passengers. Do you even feel the cold? Swift wondered. Judging by the familiar rigidity that Swift had become accustomed to seeing from the undead troll, he guessed not. He looked ahead and winced once more as the small boat manoeuvred through the drizzle and fog.

In the approximate month it had taken for Swift and Kaz’kah to vacate the Storm Peaks and travel south to the Howling Fjord, the worgen’s ribs had healed to the point where every movement was a dull ache. Still, he preferred a dull ache to white-hot agony. He was now able to shift back to his human form, which he did gladly as they reached ‘The Ancient Lift’. His worgen form stood out a bit in this part of Azeroth. Therefore, it was better to have a human make this leg of the journey. He and Kaz’kah would separate, so as not to draw too much suspicion. A worgen was odd, but a human and troll in cahoots was odder.

The troll death knight had barely said a handful of words during their month together. Swift came to think of him as a figure made of stone. He moved forward at a brisk pace. Swift could easily match it, but what he hadn’t counted on was the dead troll’s extraordinary stamina. Indeed, it seemed that corpses didn’t fatigue, and Kaz’kah pushed on through wind, snow, rain and even darkness. He never slowed, and never stopped. Swift didn’t belabour the point. He did not want to ask Kaz’kah to slow down, afraid that the tenuous hold his employer’s offer had on the death knight would break. Instead, Swift resorted to running ahead of Kaz’kah and resting for an hour or so while he waited for him to catch up. It was a brutal pace to set, but it made good time.

When Swift had explained where they were going and what they had to do to Kaz’kah, the troll had asked only one question. “Why this place, Blackmane?”

‘This place’ was Scallawag Point, a small island located just of the south-west coast of the Howling Fjord. It functioned as a minor shipping port and harbour for those who preferred to take the scenic route through Northrend’s seas. By ‘scenic route’, Swift explained, they meant the smuggling and piracy route.

“Does your employer engage in such practices in these waters?” Kaz’kah had asked, his dead face unreadable.

“Of course not,” Swift replied quickly. “But Scalawag Point is a good place for a ship to anchor in anonymity. This endeavour needed to be kept a secret, so it was only natural that my employer provide a ship for us that could be placed somewhere where people don’t ask too many questions. They don’t engage in illegal practices.” At least, none that I know of, Swift thought ruefully.

Kaz’kah had fallen silent after the exchange, and the small transport canoe had arrived, so Swift had moved away from him, keeping up appearances as he, Kaz’kah and several other humans, goblins and elves, smugglers by the look of them, boarded. Now, as Scallawag Point materialised through the morning fog, Sift felt two conflicting emotions rise within his breast. One was relief. After a year and a half in the wilderness of Northrend, he had returned successful. That was sure to earn him some time to do as he pleased. He was thinking of travelling home to the Eastern Kingdoms, spending time in the forests of his homeland until he was called upon again.

The second feeling was nervous apprehension. Even though Kaz’kah had agreed to come with him, Swift had no idea what would happen when the undead troll finally met his employer to discuss their offer. What made it worse was the offer itself. Swift knew he wasn’t privy to all details, but the ones he had received made him uneasy. Sure, the reward may be worth it, but the asking price was understandably steep.

A soft thump snapped the worgen tracker out of his reverie. He saw that the canoe had made it to the docks of Scallawag Point while he had been deep in thought. Sighing once more, he attuned his considerable senses to the island, just in time to hear the canoe operator’s call.

“Scallawag Point, friends. Off you get. Remember, anything goes, but keep your heads down, lest ye lose them.”

The operator chuckled, but Swift did not laugh, instead weighing the odds off such a thing occurring. He did not like the conclusions he drew. He glanced back, motioning with his eyes for Kaz’kah to follow him.

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Post  Mammona on Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:40 pm

Scallawag Point was exactly what its name implied – a hastily-constructed, dank and dingy place that was inhabited by less than reputable characters. The docks and streets behind them were in varying states of disrepair, filth coating almost every available inch of exposed space. The streets were muddy, so much so that one had to keep to the extreme sides of them, lest they sank into the quagmire the street was fast becoming. Sailors, smugglers, runners and bandits milled about, moving from one inn to the next, or even to one of the brothels that had sprung up. The smell of ale and vomit permeated the air, unable to dissipate. The noise was raucous and constant, a drone of debauchery and excess.

Swift wrinkled his human nose at the smell as he strode along the side of one of the streets. He moved fast, with his head down, not seeking to gain anyone’s attention. The light drizzle pecked at his exposed face as he weaved in and out of the crowds, not making contact and not looking to. As he did, he glanced back, seeking Kaz’kah. He was relieved to see the troll twenty yards behind him, keeping pace without being too obvious. Swift noticed how Kaz’kah did not have to dodge and weave as he did. It was as if people sensed him coming and moved out of his way. For a moment, Swift wondered if it was some sort of magic the Death Knight had at his disposal, but dismissed that notion. It is the way he moves, the worgen realised. You didn’t have to be sober to realise that he is dangerous.

Swift increased his pace through the middle of the small island, striding past hastily-constructed merchant stalls and shops. He made his way to the dock on the other side of the island, where he hoped his employer’s ship would be waiting. Reaching the docks, he stopped and glanced back. Kaz’kah stepped up alongside him, shrouded in his long black cloak. He said nothing, staring straight ahead. Swift sighed and stepped forward, when a voice rang out across the dock.

“Hey, you!” Swift turned and saw a portly man rushing towards them. He had the look about him of someone who had been quite large in their youth – a brawler to be sure – but had run to fat as he had gotten older. The worgen heard the jingling of coins in a purse at his hip, and groaned inwardly. Dock master.

“Which ship?” The man asked with no semblance of courtesy whatsoever.

“The Windsinger,” Swift answered tersely. Kaz’kah remained immobile beside him.

“Dock Four,” The man said, before holding out his hand. “Four silver pieces.”

Swift raised an eyebrow, incredulous. “For what? Your daughter’s wedding?” Four silver pieces was a ludicrous amount to pay anyone, least of all a pseudo-dockmaster.

Immediately, four other men emerged from behind various crates and goods. The closed in around the pair, billy clubs in hand. Swift sighed. Figures.

“Passenger fee,” The fat man said. “Need to keep everything nice and tidy for the manifests.” He punctuated the remark with a tap to his own chest, a grin on his face.

Swift glanced at Kaz’kah, but the troll remained immobile. He sighed once again. “Very well.” He dug into his pack for his own purse, pulling out four silver coins. It was all he had left. He deposited them in the outstretched hand of the fat man, and went to move forward. A restraining hand on his chest stopped him.

“That’ll be four coins, each.” The man leered.

Swift went to retort, when a soft sound reached his worgen hearing. The sound of a plated fist tightening around a sword hilt. He shot a look to Kaz’kah, catching the slight movement under the massive cloak. He shook his head slightly. Don’t. We can’t afford deaths here. Not now.

Kaz’kah stared back impassively. After a long moment, in which the fat man’s cronies started to move in, the troll held up a hand. His raspy voice sounded. “I have left my purse in the inn. Let me fetch it.”

With that, Kaz’kah turned and walked away. The fat man, surprised at the troll’s quick exit, recovered by pointing at his biggest enforcer. “Go with him. Don’t let him out of your sight.”

The huge man nodded and rushed off after Kaz’kah. Swift sighed again, and sat on a nearby crate. He kept his knife close at hand. To their credit, the fat man and his cronies did not say anything. Probably wanting to get the rest of his coin, he thought.

Kaz’kah and his escort were back within five minutes. Kaz’kah stepped forward and dropped four silver coins at the fat man’s feet. Then, without a word, he stepped past the man, and on to the dock. The man looked about to comment, but decided against it. Swift moved past him as well. As he did, he shot a glance at the enforcer who had gone with Kaz’kah. Was it his imagination, or was the man paler that he had been when he left? Swift also noticed him shivering slightly. He turned back towards Kaz’kah, who waited for him. What did you do to him? However, more pressing matters filled the worgen’s head, and he pressed onward.

The Windsinger was a double-masted merchant vessel of human construction. Unremarkable in design, it possessed a large cargo hold for transporting goods, as well as a sturdy hull and rudder. It sat nestled between larger vessels in Dock Four. The gangplank was down, and a sailor sat near it, absently smoking a pipe as he glanced around. However, as soon as his eyes settled on Swift, he stood up and nodded his head. Swift passed him without comment, followed by Kaz’kah.

The deck of the Windsinger was bare, which was odd for a commercial vessel. Usually it was have been littered with sailors swabbing the decks or checking the rigging, but on this cool morning there was not a soul on it. Swift glanced around, inhaling the familiar smell of the ship. A voice sounded behind him. It was the sailor, who had followed the pair up the gangplank.

“Mr. Swift, you and your companion are expected in the captain’s quarters.”

“Thank you.” Swift nodded, and headed across the deck. Coming to a small door, he opened it and stepped through, stepping to the side so that Kaz’kah could follow.

The room was dark, lit only by a single candle that sat on a desk. Behind the desk, a feminine form sat, leaning back in her chair. The candlelight illuminated the long, upswept ears and purple skin of a Night elf. The face was relatively unremarkable, with high cheekbones and full lips. The eyes of the woman, however, were almost alight themselves. They settled on the pair of travellers, sweeping over them and back. Swift felt the familiar sense of disquiet he usually did when held in that gaze. It was like she could see him right down to the bone, and knew things she had no reason to know. Her voice, while sounding pleasant, carried a passive tone to it that almost made the worgen shudder.

“Mr. Swift, greetings. It is good to see you after so long. I offer my congratulations on a job well done. And Kaz’kah Thraze, my old friend. It is good – “

“You…” The sound was more of a hiss than a word. Before Swift knew what was happening, Kaz’kah was moving. He strode towards the seated elf, his cloak snapping back with the sudden movement. His hand flashed to his side, and the sound of drawn steel filled the cabin. Swift leaped forward, but it was too late for him to intervene.

The undead troll raised his glowing sword, and leaped at Acantha Mistbringer. With a snarl that was more animal that human, Kaz’kah brought his sword down in a vicious slash.

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Post  Mammona on Tue Nov 10, 2015 6:08 am

Swift shot forward, propelled by both his loyalty to his employer and his aversion to needless bloodshed. Even as he shifted to his worgen form, he knew he would never reach Kaz’kah before his strike hit home. Still, try he did, drawing his bow and nocking an arrow on the fly. However, as he did, movement flashed from Acantha’s left.

A blur of motion and an accompanying ring of blade and blade rang through the darkened cabin. Kaz’kah’s runeblade smashed into Acantha’s desk, biting deep into the wood. The power behind the troll’s slash actually bisected the aged wood. Splinters flew in all directions as the desk shattered, the two pieces falling to either side. Acantha merely leaned back, her hand a blur of motion as it flew to the side of her chair. In a flash of metal, her own blade was whistling towards Kaz’kah.

The seasoned troll merely raised an arm, catching the curved blade of Acantha’s katana on the bracer her wore upon his forearm. While the curved sword was deadly and could cut through flesh like a knife through butter, it was too light to cause any damage to an armored foe. Kaz’kah hissed as he brought his sword to bear, swinging it in an arc, seeking to remove Acantha’s head. However, Acantha was not the only assailant he faced.

Two booted feet slammed into Kaz’kah’s chest. The troll staggered backwards, his swing going wild. Acantha ducked as the massive blade whistled over her head. She rolled to her feet, katana at the ready. In front of her, Ma’dra Shadowstalker did the same, her beautiful face set in a stony mask as she brought her own weapons to bear. She crossed the two short swords in front of her, adopting a martial stance as the dead troll regained his senses.

Swift had stopped moving, his arrow still nocked and drawn. He hadn’t even seen Ma’dra standing near Acantha when he had come in. Probably the way Acantha wanted it, he thought ruefully. Ma’dra was Acantha’s right hand – her most trusted employee. She performed all the deeds Acantha needed done, legal or otherwise. While Swift knew she was a cunning businesswoman, a shrewd tactician and an almost peerless fighter, he also knew that Ma’dra’s distinct lack of emotion worried him greatly. It was like working with a shark – she gave nothing away, even to Swift’s highly attuned senses.

Acantha knew Kaz’kah would react this way, Swift realised with a start. She knew he’d attack her. Acantha was a master planner. Her machinations involved plans within plans. She would have known that Kaz’kah despised her enough to raise a blade against her. Which means, Swift thought, she also thought that Ma’dra and herself would be enough to stop him. Still, Swift was never one to back down from a confrontation, particularly one that involved his employer.

“My my, Kaz’kah,” Acantha practically sneered. “Such a hostile way to greet an old friend.”

“You are no friend of mine, witch,” Kaz’kah spat back. “Death is the only greeting I will give you.”

“Kaz’kah! Stop!” Swift implored, raising his bow. “I do not want to see harm come to you!”

The look the dead troll shot Swift could only be described as murderous. “You lead me here! You work for her?! Have you no honor?!”

“Oh, come now,” Acantha pouted. “That is quite a rude sentiment. Swift has been nothing but honourable. You are here after all.”

Kaz’kah roared in reply. He launched himself towards Acantha. Swift’s hand released the bowstring. The arrow streaked across the cabin, burying itself between the armour of Kaz’kah’s back and shoulder. The long shaft didn’t even slow the dead troll down as he surged forward. Ma’dra leaped to the defense of her mistress, her twin swords flashing in a whirling dance. Kaz’kah swept a long arm at her, catching her across the face in a vicious strike that lifted the she-elf’s heels from the floow. She collapsed in a heap upon the cabin floor as Kaz’kah reached the object of his fury. Acantha raised her katana, her eyes flashing in anger as she glared up at the troll death knight. Even in that heated moment, Swift thought that the expression on Acantha’s face was the first true emotion he’d ever seen her exhibit.

Kaz’kah howled, an eerie, high-pitched sound as his misting blade descended. However, it halted with a crackling crash, inches from Acantha’s neck. The troll’s eyes widened in surprise, and Acantha grinned. Then, both were blown apart by a shimmering purple wave that arced through the cabin like a violet tide. Swift was knocked off his feet, landing hard on his back. He tried to rise, but his body was pressed to the floor by an unseen hand. Try as he might, he could only turn his head in time to see Kaz’kah and Acantha slam into opposite walls of the cabin. Both remained there, unable to move. Katana and runeblade clattered to the wooded floor, as a new voice rang out.

“Well, that’s quite enough of that! We can’t have you killing each other until my colleague has had his say.”

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Post  Mammona on Sat Nov 14, 2015 3:29 am

The purple wave subsided, fading away into nothingness. However, the combatants stayed where they were. Swift struggled against the supernatural energies that prevented him from rising. His worgen muscles bunched and rippled as he tried to move magic with might alone. It was to no avail. He remained where he was on the floor, weapons out of reach. To his right, Kaz’kah was pressed against the cabin wall, likewise straining against his invisible bonds. Directly across the room from him, Ma’dra lay in a crumpled heap, her raven hair scattered across her features. Kaz’kah’s blow had knocked her out cold. To Swift’s left, Acantha hung limply in a similar postion to Kaz’kah. However, she did not struggle. Swift caught a familiar gleam in her eye. She expected this, he realised, before chiding himself. Of course she expected this. She expects everything.

The sound of the cabin door creaking open further diverted Swift’s gaze from his employer. He saw two figures enter, one before the other. Both wore simple robes and cloaks with the hoods drawn up. They strode to the centre of the room and swivelled this way and that, taking in the scene. The foremost, shorter figure spoke, and his voice was the one they had heard earlier.

“My, you certainly have a way with words, Miss Mistbringer. What did you say to cause this ruckus?” Swift caught an edge of arrogance to the voice, along with the cloying scent of perfumed body oil. Blood elf, he sneered in his mind.

“I said nothing which warranted such an overwhelmingly violent response,” Acantha replied, batting her eyes. “You know what I’m like.”

“I do,” the sin’dorei replied. “Which is why I am surprised everyone is still alive.”

A delicate hand reached up and pulled back the elf’s hood. Swift saw the familiar elvish features – high cheekbones, delicate features and green eyes – the legacy of the Blood Elves’ addiction to magic. However, where most sin’dorei were pale and soft-skinned, this elf had tanned, leathery skin. He’s spent a lot of time outdoors, Swift realised. That in itself was unusual for the Quel’doras denizens. They had a reputation of liking the finer luxuries in life. The tanned features also made the elf’s age impossible to determine.

The blood elf turned and addressed Swift and Kaz’kah. “My name is Erindar Sunseeker. I apologise for the rather rude interruption to your… conversation, but you did not travel hundreds of miles simply to injure or maim.”

Kaz’kah snarled. “Nevertheless, I mean to do so. Nothing you say will stop that.” He jerked his chin at Acantha. “The last time we met, she was responsible for atrocities that merit no forgiveness. I will have her head!”

Swift’s eyebrows shot up. This was not something she told me. Still, his surprise was short lived, and he mentally berated himself for once again assuming that all Acantha had told him was true. She tells me only what I need to know. I should realise that by now.

“You may not have her head, Kaz’kah Thraze, or Mammona of the horde if you prefer,” Erindar warned. “My spell will protect us from your steel until you have heard us out.”

Kaz’kah’s raspy laugh filled the cabin. It chilled Swift to the bone. He found it hard to believe that the creature before him had once been a noble soldier for the Horde. Now, the dead troll’s voice filled him with dread.

“Your mistake, elf, is believing that steel is all I have to draw on.”

Swift’s breath misted in front of him as Kaz’kah’s eyes flared, glowing blue in the sparse light. A keening sound shot through the cabin as the very walls seemed to shudder. Eerie blue light shone from Kaz’kah’s mouth as he shouted a single word. Immediately, he dropped to the floor, landing in a fighter’s crouch. Erindar jerked in surprise and pain as his spell was broken. Kaz’kah raised a hand and his sword appeared in it, glowing brightly. He stepped forward, blue eyes flashing and ready to do murder. Acantha, who had also been release, snatched up her katana.

Swift realised that he could move and rolled to his feet, snatching up his bow. He moved beside Erindar and drew another arrow. “Please, Kaz’kah, I am begging you not to do this.”

“Move, dog,” Kaz’kah hissed.

Erindar stepped forward, hands raised. Swift opened his snout to warn the elf, but instead he turned and looked over his shoulder at his companion, who had not yet moved. “Are you going to say something?”

Something whistled past Swift’s head. He almost loosed his arrow until the object landed with a thunk at Kaz’kah’s feet. The troll’s eyes lowered, and immediately widened. His sword dropped, the tip lightly touching the object. Swift gazed at it and his brow furrowing in confusion. A spearhead? What –

“Where did you get this?” Kaz’kah asked, his raspy voice on edge.

The second figure stepped forward. It was hunched, but well over seven feet tall. The robe parted, and a three-fingered hand reached up and pulled the hood back, revealing the young face of a troll. The troll’s voice was calm, with only the barest hint of an accent. “From your grave, Mammona.”

“My… grave?” Kaz’kah looked confused. “By… my body was…”

“Reanimated? Yes.” The troll nodded, yellow eyes alight. “This what what your friends and allies used as your tombstone. I don’t think I need to tell you where it came from.”

Kaz’kah’s expression took on a pained look. If shifted between rage and confusion, as if some battle were raging inside the troll’s corpse. “It… was mine.”

“Yes. Your own spear bore this head. It is engraved. Here lies Mammona, soldier of the Horde. Warrior, Friend, Father. They wanted to add ‘hero’ to it, but they knew that Mammona was never one for glory.”

“Why… why do you show me this? I do not know you.” Kaz’kah’s voice was different, almost tentative.

The troll smiled, long tusks glittering in the blue light still emanating from the death knight. “Because I know you, Mammona. I needed you to see this to convince you to hear me out. I can offer you something which hasn’t been done on this world for an age. The change to restore you to your former self. The chance for redemption.”

The troll turned and walked past Erindar and Swift. As he passed Ma’dra, he leaned down and place a hand over her forehead. He whispered something in Zandali and the beautiful night elf began to stir. She was on her feet in a moment, blood leaking from the side of her mouth, below an increasing bruise. She joined her mistress without saying a word. The troll simply perched on one of the two pieces of Acantha’s desk. His voice, while quiet, was commanding.

“I can offer you all something you’ve never seen. The price is steep, but so are the rewards. For now, however, all I require is that you listen.”

Erindar moved to stand beside the troll. Long tusks sliced the air as the head swiveled to Acantha. She smiled, performing a mocking bow. Ma’dra stepped back. Acantha looked at Swift and jerked her head. The worgen started, put away his bow and nodded his assent. Then, everyone’s gaze went to Kaz’kah.

The undead troll reached down and plucked the spearhead from the cabin floor. He gazed at it for what seemed like an age, and shuddered. Once again, Swift caught the peculiar air of conflict emanating from the death knight. Finally, the eerie glow surrounding him subsided. Kaz’kah raised his head and nodded. Once.

“I will listen.”


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Post  Mammona on Sat Nov 14, 2015 4:41 am

“Now that we’ve all agreed not to slaughter each other, would anyone care for a drink?” Acantha offered. “I have a lovely bottle of Darkshire red in my desk, assuming it is still intact, of course.”

“That sounds heavenly,” Erindar replied with a smile. “I haven’t had Darkshire red since… well, the last time we did business.”

Acantha gestured to Ma’dra, and the raven-haired night elf moved to the desk. After some rummaging, she came up with the bottle and several goblets. After pouring the wine, she passed one to Erindar and offered another to the unnamed troll, who shook his head once. She gave one to Acantha and cast an appraising eye at Swift. “Er, no thank you.” He stammered, caught off-guard. He had never once shared a drink with his employers, and he wasn’t about to start now.

Ma’dra then walked right up to Kaz’kah. She poured another goblet and held it up to the giant troll. Kaz’kah made no move to grasp it. Instead, his hand tightened around his sword, and the blue glow in his eyes flared a little brighter. Ma’dra showed no indication of fear or dread. Holding the death knight’s gaze, she drained the goblet and threw it over her shoulder. As is clattered to the floor, Ma’dra cast Kaz’kah a smile and a slow wink, before strutting back to Acantha’s side. Swift shuddered inwardly. Ma’dra and Kaz’kah at each other’s throats. If that fight happens, none of us will get out of here alive.

The troll’s voice brought Swift’s attention back to the matter at hand. He was tall, although not quite the towering eight feet of Kaz’kah. He carried himself with the surelty of a warrior, despite his plain robes. His face was almost feline, with yellow eyes that gazed out of a tattooed face like beacons of reason. His tusks were long and ornate, with runes inscribed into them. His voice was interesting. It was low, but level. Acantha leaned against the other half of the desk, the picture of relaxation. However, Swift’s trained eye saw that the she-elf was listening intently to the troll. Ma’dra had folded her arms, flicking her hair behind her head as she stood by her mistress. Even Erindar’s arrogant smirk disappeared as he sipped his wine. This is someone who commands a tremendous amount of respect, Swift thought.

“My name is Kali’bane. You may refer to me as ‘Kali’ if you choose. While my official title is ‘Researcher’, I assure you that I am much more than that. For the past year, I have been embroiled in a challenge that stretches the very bounds of the imagination.”

Kali’bane held Kaz’kah’s eye. “Much has changed since your exile, Mammona. I will not go into great detail here. Suffice to say, Thrall withdrew as Warchief of the Horde, appointing Garrosh Hellscream in his stead. Shortly after this, Deathwing returned to Azeroth. I’m sure you felt the effects of the Cataclysm even in your corner of the world. However, he was defeated.”

The troll sighed. “However, this was only the beginning. The Horde descended into unrest due to the leadership of Garrosh. Caine Bloodhoof is no more, and his son Baine leads the Tauren. We also have new allies in the Bilgewater goblins and a faction of Pandaren from the recently re-discovered continent of Pandaria. Garrosh’s machinations nearly destroyed that continent, and he was overthrown by a joint effort of the Horde and the Alliance. Vol’jin was appointed Warchief, and he rules to this day.”

“I care not for the politics and allegiances of your world, Kail’bane,” Kaz’kah interjected, impatience creeping into his voice. “It has been an age since I felt anything resembling loyalty to the Horde, regardless of who lead it. Get to the point.”

Erindar smiled. “He’s catching you up, old troll. Perspective can be a wonderful thing.”

Acantha snorted. “Ever the toadie. I am in agreement with Kaz’kah. Move on, Kali.”

The robed troll sighed. “It was decreed that Garrosh would stand trial in Pandaria to answer for his crimes, not the least of which was the attempted genocide of the Pandaren people, as well as anyone who wasn’t an orc. However, before the verdict could be given, he disappeared. He was whisked away by a renegade bronze dragon. To another time.”

“You still fail to get to the point,” Kaz’kah rasped, teeth bared. “Why would I care about this? Where is redemption in this?”

Kali’bane smiled. “The time Garrosh was sent to was just before the orcs accepted the blood of Mannoroth. He prevented it from happening and created, to our best estimates and research, an alternate timeline. One where the orcish race never succumbed to the Burning Legion’s influence and declared war on the rest of Draenor. Garrosh has approached his father, Grommash and raised a massive army the likes of which the both Draenor and Azeroth has never seen. They call themselves the ‘Iron Horde’, and they mean to conquer all who oppose them. To make matters worse, they rebuilt the Dark Portal and reached the soil of Azeroth.”

Kali’bane stood, his fists clenched. “Military forces from both the Horde and the Alliance were able to infiltrate this alternate Draenor and establish a foothold there. They have been able to halt the Iron Horde’s advance there by killing their commanders. However, several still remain. It is up to us to stop them, and the greater threat they represent.”

“Us?” Swift blurted out. “You mean us, in this room? Surely not.”

Erindar chuckled. “Figure of speech, dog. Do us a favour and don’t speak unless spoken to.”

Swift growled, but Acantha silenced him with a raised hand. “He makes a good point, Erindar. What does this matter to a motley collection such as us?”

Kali’bane’s words were subdued. “It seems that politics also play a part in the Iron Horde as well. Grommash Hellscream is dangerously close to being overthrown. The Legion has made its presence known in Draenor. There are rumours that demons once again walk amongst the orcs.” He leaned forward. “And this is where we come in.”

“I do not research just anything. After everything that’s happened on Azeroth, a select order of artists, scholars and magic-users have been working to stem the demonic influences that continue to threaten our world. Since the Third War, the Legion has not tried actively to enter Azeroth, save that instance with the Sunwell – “

“Don’t make the Sunwell sound paltry, Kali,” Erindar interrupted, his voice deadly serious for once. “I was there. It was anything but.”

Kali’bane inclined his head in apology. “However, if the Legion is indeed on Draenor, it is only a matter of time before they come here. Needless to say, things would be very bad if they did.” He looked up, seemingly staring into space. “My colleagues and I are close to perfecting a strategy that could seal Azeroth to them forever, but we have hit a snag.”

“Colleagues?” Acantha asked. “Who is this mysterious order?”

“That, you do not need to know,” Kali’bane replied in a sharp tone. “I would think you of all people would understand the need for discretion.”

Acantha smiled in the face of the troll’s sudden anger. “Fair point. Continue.”

Kali’bane’s voice softened. “As I said, our strategy is almost complete, but in order to put it into place, we need certain artefacts. Artefacts that only the Legion leaders possess. More specifically, Archimonde the Defiler and his lieutenants.”

Swift almost yelped in surprise. “I know I’m just a brutish worgen tracker, but even I know that Archimonde is dead! He fell in the Third War.”

Erindar sighed, placing delicate palm to his face. “Have you not been listening, Blackmane? Alternate timeline. The orcs never drank Mannoroth’s blood, which mean they never had to be redeemed, which means the Legion never invaded Azeroth with the scourge, which means…” He let the words hang in the air like a bad smell.

“Which means Archimonde never died,” Acantha finished.

Kali’bane continued his narrative. “We need to obtain these artefacts if these spells are to work. Therefore, it has fallen to me to mount an expedition into Draenor. You are the ones I have chosen to accompany me.”

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Post  Mammona on Sat Nov 14, 2015 5:24 am

“Why us?” Swift asked. “Would it not be easier to send an army, or warn the leaders of the Alliance and the Horde? Surely King Varian and Vol’jin would do something if this were the case.”

Erindar started in surprise and looked at Swift with a small smile. “That’s what I told him.”

Kali’bane shook his head. “We cannot. Both the Horde and the Alliance are stretched tpo thin. Between the threat posed by the Iron Horde and the infighting both between and within the two factions, any official expedition would almost certainly fail.”

“Again, why us?” Acantha prompted. However, the smirk on her face never left. She already knows, Swift thought. Acantha, master tactician that she was, would have used every resource at her disposal to find out exactly what it was that Kali’bane and Erindar represented and what they were doing. She would not have agreed to meet with them otherwise.

“In your case, you can supply us with both resources and personnel,” Kali’bane said. “This expedition will rely of stealth and knowledge, not strength and military planning. We need people who excel at both finding information and not getting caught.”

“While I see the point in you coming to us,” Acantha replied, “What I do not see is why this should be made my problem?”

Kali’bane nodded, as if he knew Acantha would ask that very thing. “You will be compensated well. Extremely well.”

Acantha snorted. “Compensation is something I can achieve with less suicidal ventures.”

Erindar stepped up to Acantha and leaned in towards her. As his lips met her ear, Ma’dra stepped forward, drawing one of her swords. A single word was whispered before the beautiful kal’dorei had her blade at Erindar’s throat. However, Acantha’s raised hand stopped Ma’dra.

“No. We will take your offer.” Ma’dra stepped back as Acantha folded her arms. Her voice was icy as she spoke to Kali’bane. “I do have some to other conditions I wish to speak to you privately about.”

The troll nodded. However, as he did Kaz’kah’s dead voice issued forth. The dead troll’s dulcet tones exuded anger and darkness. Swift stepped closer to Acantha, one hand on his bow, and Ma’dra raised her sword. Even the casual Erindar raised a hand, purple energies arcing between his fingers.

“You have talked for a long time, Kali’bane. You have told us of alternate times and grave threats. You have told us what you want us to do. However, one thing you have neglected is to tell me why I should bother to listen to you for one more instant. Why would I help you?”

Kali’bane smiled and stepped forward. He lifted a long arm and pointed a finger at Kaz’kah. More specifically, he pointed at the troll’s runeblade. “Do you know how yourself and the rest of the scourge death knights were created?”

Kaz’kah snarled at the mention of the scourge. “Arthas raised fallen heroes, imbued their bodies with necromantic magic and had them fight for his undead armies.”

“Correct,” Erindar replied, stepping up next to Kali’bane. “However, what most people don’t seem to remember is that these – you – were not the first generation of death knights, but the second.”

“During the orcish invasion of Azeroth, Gul’dan and his Shadow Council injected the souls of fallen orcish warriors and members into the bodies of slain Stormwind knights, creating the first death knights. One such example was Teron Gorefiend.”

“What do those abominations have to do with my plight?” Kaz’kah hissed.

“With Arthas gone, his magics cannot be retrieved. Necromancy and dark magic were the principle skills of several orcish chieftains,” Kali’bane explained, stepping back. “Kilrogg Deadeye and his blood magic. Ner’zhul and his clan’s shadow magic. And, of course, Gul’dan’s warlock arts. These the the darkest and most powerful orcish magic users ever to have lived. Their arts gave rise to countless spells and cantrips, one of which created the death knights.”

Kazkah’s eyes widened. “And could possibly undo them…” He shook his head. “I have scoured the very ends of Azeroth looking for such a thing.”

“You never had the source to find before,” Erindar replied with a grin.

“Gods…” Swift whispered, understanding now why Kaz’kah had been retrieved.

“In the alternate timelines, the orcish chieftains are still alive.” Kali’bane said flatly. “Their arts are still being used, and can be retrieved. One of those arts could reverse the necromantic spell that affects you…”

“And restore me to the realm of the living…” Kaz’kah’s voice was almost a whisper. The room was deathly silent.

“Let me be clear,” Kali’bane said softly. “I am not guaranteeing you that we will find what you seek. We may not find anything of use. But I believe that this is the single best chance you will ever have at redemption. I know you, Mammona. I know you’ve done terrible things while in the grip of this horrible state. I also know that Kaz’kah Thraze is not who you were destined to be. You - ”

“Save your words, Kali’bane,” Kaz’kah interrupted, turning and heading for the cabin door. “You have said what you needed to. I shall need some time to think on this.”

“Of course,” Kali’bane acknowledged. He turned to Swift and Ma’dra. “I assume as employees of Acantha, you are also assenting to this expedition.”

Ma’dra nodded once. Swift looked hesitant, his lupine features wrinkling in thought. He turned to Acantha, who sat on the end of the desk fragment, her legs crossed casually. “Miss Acantha, if I do this…”

“It will suffice.” Acantha finished. Swift sighed, nodded and turned back to Kali’bane. “Very well. I shall come.”

Kali’bane nodded and regarded Erindar. The blood elf drained his wine and dropped the goblet. Any trace of arrogance on his features vanished as he spoke. “You know what we’ve seen. You know what I’ve seen. I will not waver. Not this time.”

The troll smiled. He spoke to the room. “Thank you all. I will allow you four days to prepare, then we will meet back here.” He nodded to Erindar.

The sin’dorei reached into his robe and pulled out a small purse. He pulled out several small marked purple stones. He tossed one to each person. “These are two-way teleportation runes. Grasp them in your left hand and think of a place you wish to go, and you’ll be there. Do the same I your right hand and you’ll return to this very spot. Only good for one journey though. Use them wisely.”

Acantha, Ma’dra and Swift nodded. Kaz’kah took his without comment. He resumed heading for the door.

Kali’bane turned to Erindar. “Now, we need to find someone who can weave earth-magic.”

“Attunement to Draenor’s natural rhythms would help us for sure,” Erindar agreed. “Do you know a shaman?”

“I may know someone,” Acantha interjected, coming to stand with the troll and blood elf. “She has helped me a few times before. A draenei – “

“NO!” Kaz’kah roared, whirling around. “You will not bring her!” He bared his sharpened teeth. “It is bad enough I must consort with you if I decide to go on this accursed venture, but I will not share it with her as well!”

With that, the death knight had left the cabin. The three stared after him, before Erindar turned to Kali’bane and said “Most of the shamans we know are tied up with either healing the earth from the cataclysm of fighting in Draenor.”

The troll nodded once, his eyes clouded over in worry. Erindar regarded Acantha with suspicion. “Can this shaman of yours get the job done? Without dying at Kaz’kah’s hand?”

Acantha grinned. “I’m sure she can handle herself.”

The blood elf sighed and tossed another teleportation rune at the she-elf. “Fine. She and Kaz;kah are your problem, though.”

Acantha caught the rune, her grin widening. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” She beckoned Ma’dra over, gave her the rune and said “Find her. Convince her if you can.” Ma’dra nodded and stepped away. Moments later, she exited the cabin. Swift bowed and followed her.

“Now, gentlemen,” Acantha said. “About my extra conditions…”

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Post  Izdazi on Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:20 pm

The sounds of dry leaves crunching under hoof greeted each step as she negotiated her way through several large copses of ferns. Somewhere unseen an owl hooted, adding to normal array of sounds normally heard in this part of Ashenvale.

The shamaness glanced upward in a vain effort to spy the elusive owl, but the forest canopy was massive. With some trepidation, she did note the glimmer of thin strands of spider webs crisscrossing between the trees. Forest spiders were common in this area and she reminded herself to check overhead from time to time.

Despite her reasons for being here, she was garbed for a simple day’s hike. A brown skirt that fell to just below her knees, revealing a slender foot ended on a cloven hoof. The short-sleeved shirt, also a light shadoe of tan, was made more for comfort then armor. The green cloak draped over her shoulder was thicker. Although it was sunny, the humidity this morning was warning enough that it would rain later.

Her backpack and staff were well worn, but in good condition nonetheless. She tried not to be too attached to material things, the life of shaman demands constant travel. Besides, they were two items that carried sentimental memories.

The backpack had been given to her the day her village had joined the others in their exodus from Draenor. Despite it’s age it was still sturdy. And even though wear and tear had caused several holes in the clefthoof leather, Azerothian leather had subsequently been used to patch the holes nicely. The shamaness saw some similarities to the patch jobs in her own life.

The staff, made of the wood from the Stillpine forests of Azuremyst, was a gift when she passed on from being a shaman initiate.

Thanks to her hooves, the increasingly rocky terrain did little to hinder her progress. Here and there she spied signs of her quarry. Fresh scratches on the rock faces; deep trenches in the moist soil. All of these signs were fresh.

The shamaness didn’t fancy herself a tracker. She knew hunters who were renowned trackers. They could probably tell you the history of whatever it was they were tracking just by looking at the print.

Thankfully, the draenei already knew what she was looking for. She brushed her bangs from her forehead and paused a moment. Sensitive ears twitched as she heard the low rumbling, like an earthquake. Her quarry wasn’t much further.

Another steep climb and narrow trail later she stumbled upon it.

It had been terrorizing the road to Astranaar repeatedly over a period of a month. No less than three adventurers had taken upon themselves to seek it out and destroy it. Each time it returned a few days later. Convoys were threatening to stop travelling to the night elf village if something wasn’t done.

A day earlier she and her boyfriend had stopped by on their way to Darkshore for a meeting. When they learned of the troubles, they both decided to volunteer. He’d gone to assist with a major hunt to the south. After insisting that it’d be easier for her to deal with her quarry alone, she’d gone to the north.

Finally setting her eyes on her target, she felt the first tendrils of apprehension descend on her. It was much larger than they had described.

The earth elemental was pacing around a small field set on the side of a rise. It was almost twice the height of her and maybe wider.

Niashado swallowed and stepped past the shrubbery. As soon as her hoof touched the stone ground the elemental whirled on her and charged forward her. Fighting instinct, and common sense, she held her ground. It could undoubtedly run over her without feeling thing. It could barrel into her and crush her between its body and the mountain wall. It could smash her with a huge rock fist.

The elemental opted to shove her. Of all the things it could have done, shoving her was, unexpected to say the least. But it was also the most fortunate of reactions.

But still, a shove from a rock elemental might as well be the same as having a boulder thrown at her. The shamaness was launched off her hooves and sailed several meters before crashing into some shrubs.

These weren’t the nice soft shrubs commonly seen in the forest below. These were the mountainous kind. The kind of shrub with sturdier stems and branches to survive the wind and snow of the higher altitudes. The kind that don’t provide much crash protection when shoved into.

Niashado doubled over on the ground and gasped for air. She found herself questioning the wisdom of not wearing any kind of armor to deal with this kind of elemental.

A few minutes later, she finally got to her trembling legs and approached the earth elemental again. She clutched the crystalline earth totem on her belt tightly.

This time the elemental paused and seemed to study her.

Earth elementals were steadfast and unmoving. It was there way to barrel into things. They lacked the dance-like quality of wind and the adaptability of water. They were an anchor that fought against changing tides of wind and water and even their own kind.

And even years after the upheaval of the Cataclysm, this was the element having the most difficulty adapting to the new changes wrought upon Azeroth.

She knew what was bothering it. The small mountain she was near was created during the Cataclysm. It shouldn’t be here. It was wrong and brought upon by unnatural forces. This agitated the earth element. And with enough agitation, an elemental manifestation was inevitable.

Mob mentality, she surmised, not for the first time. Elementals were difficult, but not impossible, to handle.

She carefully approached it and set her staff and backpack on the ground. A few more steps forward and then she sat on a small rock outcropping and waited.

And she waited.

And she waited some more.

The shadows on the ground were starting to change directions when the elemental slowly approached her.

“This is here now,” Niashado said, speaking for the first time since she’d hiked from Astranaar. She motioned to the fresh mountain.

The elemental shook and it sounded like an avalanche. It hurled both fists into the ground before her.

It wasn’t easy, but Niashado fought to hold her ground and shot the elemental an un-amused glare she’d seen teachers give to children with temper tantrums.

The adventurers who had come before her had destroyed this earth elemental several times. Destroying it was easy. It was always easy to go to war and rampage out of frustrations. The town ordered the elemental destroyed because they were frustrated with it destroying their convoys. The elemental destroyed the convoys because it was lashing out of frustrations over this sudden mountain.

Everyone keeps lashing out. No one seems to listen.

“Be a part of this mountain,” the shamaness offered. “Teach it to be patient. To be an anchor, as you once were.”

The elemental stood upright. She could barely make out eyes, but she often wondered if that was just a cosmetic manifestation, or if they were real. She couldn’t gauge an emotion from them.

Still, she sat and waited. Earth elementals respected patience and resoluteness. At least she could dance with wind elementals. But this wasn’t wind. This was earth. And it was the very definition of stubborn.

Finally, and without much fanfare, the earth elemental crumbled to pieces and spread out over the ground. She sensed the spirit of the elementals dissipating over the mountain. And then all was quiet.

Letting go of the totem, the shamaness sighed and shook her head. This had gone far easier then she’d expected. Then she stood up and gasped at the pain radiating from her ribs.

“Almost easier then expected,” she gasped. Pulling up her shirt, she felt her ribs with her fingers and found two that were broken. Adrenaline and fear had kept her from feeling the wound, but now it was unmistakable.

Her hand radiated with greenish magic and she felt the bones reset and heal. The pain spiked, but soon diminished. The emerald glow faded, but the bruising was still there and growing angrier. She couldn’t afford to heal it further, though. Energy had to be reserved for the long hike back to Astranaar.

* * *

It was well past nightfall and raining when she returned to Astranaar. The sleepy town they had arrived at earlier during the day had become abuzz with activity thanks to the elves nocturnal preference. Limping slightly, Niashado found her way to the tavern.

“Has Jaou Stormchaser returned?” she asked the girl at the counter. The young waitress shook her head.

“The hunters are still out. A runner came earlier and reported that they were on the path of some good game.”

“I imagine it will be nearly midnight before they return. I will have some moonberry juice while I wait, please,” she asked with a smile.

The girl served her a large cup and the shamaness took it to the deck in the back that overlooked the lake. Tomorrow they’d have to move on if they wanted to make it to the meeting. But it felt good from time to time to stop.


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Post  Mammona on Thu Nov 19, 2015 9:41 am

Swift emerged from below deck, checking his quiver as he inhaled the brisk air of Northrend. He had been to his quarters, changed into new leathers and resupplied. He had inspected his bow, and regretfully shook his head. The bow had been with him for the past year in the frozen land, and it had the wear to show for it. He briefly debated repairing it, but decided that a new bow would be better, especially if he was undertaking a new mission.

A new mission, he thought with a frown. One that puts me in more danger than all the others combined. Working for Acantha put him in no small amount of harm’s way. Swift accepted that as part of his employment. This was in part because the jobs Acantha had him do were well within his skillset. Hunt this, track that. Even finding Kaz’kah was something Swift never lost hope in. He was a tracker, and tracking was what he did.

This mission, however, was nothing like the others. I’m not trying to find some no-name person who’s welched on their debts, or going after a hidden cache in the woods. Now, I’ll be in a strange new world, going up against one of the lords of the blasted Legion! I’ll be rushing headlong towards a nightmare that mothers tell their children about! And stealing from him! I am so far out of my depth I might as well be an elephant in the ocean! Swift felt like howling in frustration. However, his natural composure returned, and with it a glimmer of hope. One more. One more and I’m done with all of this.

Swift glanced around the deck. Kaz’kah stood near the rail, looking out over the ocean. He made no sound. The worgen did not bother to distract him. He knew that the dead troll had a lot to process, and would need time to come to a decision. As he watched, Swift saw the death knight’s head tilt every few seconds. The worgen raised an eyebrow. Odd. Almost like he’s listening to someone.

The rustle of leather and the clinking of steel caused Swift to turn around. Ma’dra had emerged from the same passage he had, stuffing the remainder of her supplies into a pack with a practised hand. Like him, the she-elf wore basic hunting leathers and an unremarkable cloak. Her long raven hair was tied back in a long plait that ended at the small of her back. Her twin short swords hung from her hips. As Swift watched, she wound a black strip of cloth around her forehead, keeping back the few unruly strands of hair that had escaped the plait. She then reached into the belt-pouch, taking out the rune Acantha had given her. Ma’dra closed her eyes.

“Miss Ma’dra!” Swift’s voice surprised even him.

The beautiful kal’dorei’s eyes opened. Settling on him, she waited for him to continue. The worgen was immediately uneasy. Ma’dra does not speak unless she has to. No small talk, no conversation. It’s almost unnatural, even to me. Swift walked over to Ma’dra and leaned against the rail, trying to appear casual.

“Miss Ma’dra, do you know where you’re headed?”

The she-elf shook her head, also leaning against the rail. “No. The rune should take me to her. I do not require knowledge of her whereabouts.”

Full sentences, Swift thought. She’s in a talkative mood. He decided to try and push his luck. “I wanted to ask you what you thought of this whole endeavour.”

Ma’dra’s eyes did not change, but her tone became flatter. “I do what my mistress commands.”

“I am aware of that,” Swift said, inhaling yet another breath of Northrend air. “But you still must have opinions, must you not? This is unlike anything we’ve ever done. Another world. Gods, it even sounds ill-advised saying it out loud.”

What happened next shocked Swift more than any wilderness experience. Ma’dra laughed. It was a highly musical sound, one that carried on the chilly air. The smile still on her face, she reached out and placed a hand on Swift’s human cheek. Resting it there like it was the most natural thing in the world, her voice dropped a few notes.

“Blackmane, I stopped thinking of the dangers of what I do years ago. How else could I deal with the situations I am required to be in?”

The she-elf withdrew her hand, but kept her eyes on Swift’s. Her voice was softer now. Almost caring. “We fill a niche for Mistress Acantha. We are people with specific skillsets. We do what is required of us. We are but a small thread. Acantha sees the whole tapestry. I trust in her planning, and I trust that whatever she says will be necessary. And you should as well.”

Ma’dra stepped back from the flustered worgen. Her smile never left. Instead, her tone lightened. “Do not spend your idle time thinking of such things, Blackmane, for the thoughts will surely drive you insane.”

The sound of the captain’s cabin opening diverted both elf and worgen’s attention. Acantha strode from the cabin, her face set in a picture of satisfied neutrality. Swift glanced behind her. Kali’bane and Erindar did not follow her. Acantha moved towards Ma’dra and Swift, stopping next to them. She inhaled deeply.

“One thing I will miss is the crispness of the air here. So bracing.” She cast a sidelong glance at Swift. “I imagine you feel right at home in these conditions. Do you not? A creature of the wild, and all that.”

Swift inclined his head. “As you say, milady. Although, after the year I’ve had, I am beginning to yearn for a different sort of wild than Northrend.”

Acantha smiled. “Indeed.” She turned to Ma’dra. “Are you ready to depart?”

Ma’dra nodded, adjusting her cloak. She raised the rune, ready to activate it. Swift stepped between Ma’dra and Acantha, holding up a hand in a show of respect. “Please, milady, I request that you allow me to join Miss Ma’dra.”

Acantha raised an eyebrow. “And why would that be, Mr. Swift?”

The worgen tracker spoke quickly and concisely. “I have nowhere else I wish to go before the venture. I would seem prudent that I accompany Miss Ma’dra to find the shamaness. Two sets of weapons are better than one.”

Acantha’s smile widened. “You doubt Ma’dra’s ability to keep herself safe?”

“No, milady,” Swift replied. Gods, no. That’s like doubting a wolf’s ability to howl. “But we have no idea where the shamaness is at the moment. Besides, I have history with her as well – that business in Silithus. It may be easier to convince her to join us if I am there.” Swift stared at the ground. “Of course, I defer to your wisdom, but it just seems like having me there would maximise your options.”

Acantha’s brow furrowed as she digested Swift’s words. For a long time, the only sound to be heard was the creaking and groaning of the Windsinger around them. Finally, Acantha nodded once. “Very well. You may go with Ma’dra, provided she consents to it.”

Ma’dra bowed. “I will take Blackmane with me.”

“All right, then. Find the shamaness. Bring her here. Oh, and Mr. Swift?”

“Yes, milady?”

Acantha’s eyes hardened. “Make sure she agrees.”

Swift’s heart hammered, but he nodded. “Yes, milady.” He took out his own rune and joined Ma’dra. They closed their eyes.

A pair of light pops sounded, and Acantha was suddenly alone at the railing. She stared out over the harbour, a slow smile creeping across her features.


Swift sucked in a breath as he popped into existence. His legs wobbled slightly with the disorientation of the void, but he quickly found his footing. He looked this way and that, seeing Ma’dra appear to his right, ten feet away. The worgen surveyed the area, and was surprised to find himself indoors. He saw tables, chairs and a bar. The smell of ale permeated the air. Tavern, he thought. As luck would have it, both Swift and Ma’dra’s sudden entrance had gone unnoticed. It seemed that most of the patrons were kal’dorei who were intent upon their own business and company. He moved over to where Ma’dra stood.

She greeted him with a nod. “Astranaar.”

“How do you know, Miss Ma’dra?” Swift asked, perplexed.

“I know.” Ma’dra did not venture anything further. Instead, she moved towards the bar. The female night elf behind it greeted the pair with a weary smile. “Ishnu-alah, travellers.”

Ishnu-alah,” Ma’dra replied. “Two ales.” The waitress smiled and served them promptly. As she did, she cast a strange glance at Swift. Ma’dra leaned over and whispered to him. “Reveal your true self. Worgen are more common here than humans.”

Swift nodded, seeing the wisdom in Ma’dra’s words. They would not want to draw attention to themselves. True enough, some of the patrons were giving him curious glances. When he shifted to his worgen form, the glances turned to slight nods of comprehension. Swift returned them and regarded the waitress, before bowing in Gilnean fashion.

“Excuse me milady, my companion and I are looking for someone. A draenei. Female. A shaman by the look of her. Perchance you have seen her?”

The waitress pointed towards the back of the tavern. “The deck. She has been here for about half an hour.”

“Thank you, milady.” Swift dug into his purse and flipped her an extra silver, which she caught graciously. Swift and Ma’dra moved through the tavern, dodging patrons and furniture, until they emerged from the deck and into the Ashenvale night. Swift almost groaned in delight as the sights, sounds and smells of the forest assaulted his senses. Despite his adventures on Northrend, it had been a long time since he had been in an actual forest. He savoured the sensation for a few moments, and then glanced at Ma’dra. True to form, the beautiful kal’dorei had her sights fixed on their quarry, who sat looking out over the lake, cup of juice in hand. Moonberry, by the scent of it, Swift thought.

Swift regarded Niashado, unseen. The shamaness was much the same as he remembered her. Slender and lithe, wearing simple tan clothing with a green cloak. Totems strung from her belt. The same nervous air that usually accompanied her. However, this had diminished greatly since the worgen had last seen her. Granted, she was under much less stressful conditions now than before, but Swift sensed something different about Niashado. He couldn’t quite place it, but resolved to ask more of it.

Ma’dra, it seemed, had similar thoughts in mind. Cup of ale in hand, she sauntered over to where Niashado sat and Swift, now very conscious of his worgen form, followed. Reaching the table, he bowed in the proper Gilnean fashion. “Milady.”

Without preamble, Ma’dra spoke quietly. “Ishnu-alah, shamaness. May we join you?”

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Post  Izdazi on Sun Nov 22, 2015 12:31 pm

The shamaness had closed her eyes and was lost in quiet mediation. The sounds of the leaves rustling in the gentle and breeze and the water lapping on the banks of lake lulled her into quiet contemplation.

It was a struggle at times, to purge the questions, doubts and duty from her mind during these times. She just wanted to listen and do nothing.

The irony, nay, near hypocrisy, of that struggle wasn’t lost on her. She’d just fought and pleaded with an earth elemental to calm itself. But now, she was fighting with her restlessness. The draenei wasn’t even sure why she was still this restless.

The conference that Jaou and her were going to was rather mundane. It mostly centered on the struggles of Azeroth. The Cataclysm had wrought many changes to the world’s ecosystems. Generations old farmlands were suddenly unfertile. Rivers and lakes were gone in some places, while in other places flooding had become a very regular occurrence. Parts of Mulgore were facing an unprecedented drought while in Desolace, an oasis brought on by a dragon aspect was spreading at an impressive rate.

And though years had passed since the Cataclysm, every month new discoveries were being made about what the world was undergoing and the effects it was having. The duties of the Cenarion Circle and Earthen Ring were heavier then ever.

But even with the increased travel and workload, there was no sense of urgency. Things would be discovered. Recommendations would be made. The people and the world would be assisted to the best of their abilities.

This was nothing like Silithus. Even thinking the name made her shiver. It had taken her more than a year to come to terms with what had happened. But nightmares still haunted her. The sacrifices that had been made and the good and bad decisions she’d made.

Azgard, Yevana, so many people who’d died. And though they had thwarted Seyanoxia’s plan, the victory, from Niashado’s point of view, was pyrrhic.

Their sacrifices had saved the lives some of the world’s most powerful shamans working to stabilize the Maelstrom. And if Seyanoxia had been successful in depositing the mana bombs into Deepholm, the repercussions to the world would have been catastrophic. Perhaps even terminal.

The draenei shuddered as she thought of the Outlands.

She’d been congratulated. The survivors, both shamans and the adventurers who helped had been rewarded and held in high esteem. The farseers even offered to make her project lead with a new team of shamans.

Instead, Niashado had given them her resignation. How could they offer her such and honor when so many died?

It had taken her a long time to come to terms with what had happened. She was thankful that friends, like the Stormchasers, had been there for her. Jaou, with his struggles, had done so much for her.

Even Izdazi was quick to impart wisdom, when she wasn’t drunk during her off duty hours.

When Niashado finally returned to the Earthen Ring, she had declined becoming a leader of project team. Instead, she would take small assignments that required the travel she enjoyed.

All we can do is learn from our mistakes, she mentally reminded herself while once again also chiding herself for not allowing her thoughts to still.

Her ears flicked at the sound of boots on the wooden deck and she started to stand, expecting to see that Jaou had returned from the hunt. She didn’t expect to be met by the two individuals holding mugs and standing before her.

Both were instantly recognizable, from the raven-haired night elf to the black-furred worgen standing next to her. A range of emotions came crashing in her mind, obliterating the meditative calm she’d been working towards.

The worgen greeted her with an elegant bow, the night elf simply asked if they could join her.

The shamaness nodded very slightly. They regarded each other quietly for a moment. She’d spent enough time among the druids and in night elf territory to become familiar with the worgen. Though there’s still a spike of surprise at seeing a tall, muscular lupine form standing so near one, she typically recovered quickly.

Swift. Michael Swift, she remembered. He’d also gone by another nickname but she couldn’t put her finger on it at the time. Regardless, his help in Silithus had been invaluable. Many of the survivors owed their lives to him. She’d grown to respect him and appreciate his company during that harrowing time. His politeness with her contrasted greatly with the viciousness his form afforded him.

And after all these years, you are still working for her, the shamaness mentally lamented. Unlike Ma’dra, the kal’dorei sitting next to him, Michael didn’t seem like the kind who would gravitate onto Acantha willingly. More than likely, as she’d seen with Izdazi, Michael probably owed her something, and Acantha remembered them.

Niashado couldn’t imagine what Michael owed her to still be in her debt, but it must be something big.

Ma’dra, on the other hand, was Acantha’s right hand. And though initially she thought of Ma’dra as the scary person who did whatever Acantha ordered without question, in their last mission, she’d seen the usually silent and always deadly kal’dorei offer alternative suggestions to her mistress.

Nevertheless, if Acantha willed it, Ma’dra would do it, regardless. It was a devotion that was fascinating and frightening at the same time.

“Mr. Swift. Lady Ma’dra. It is a surprise to see you both again,” the shamaness said with a quick bow of her head. “What brings you both to Astranaar?”

The shamaness had little doubt what brought them to Astranaar. And she dreaded it. Especially after what she’d done the last time they worked together.

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Post  Mammona on Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:25 am

The sights and sounds of Scalawag Harbour permeated the air. The day was coming to a close, and the many ships docked there were winding down for the frigid Northrend night. Behind the Windsinger, the many inns and taverns on the island were churning to life as sailors sought to spend their wages on ale and pleasurable company. However, the ocean beyond the Windsinger was still and misty, the aurora borealis casting shades of beauty upon the black water.

None of this mattered to Kaz’kah. The tall troll stood immobile at the ship’s railing, staring out over the water. He was an unyielding figure carved out of stone, unmoving, save for his long black cloak that rippled in the slight breeze. Even the unnatural light that shone from his eyes were dim as everything that had transpired in the past few hours rushed through his thoughts. Mist began to creep up on to the deck of the Windsinger. It contrasted with Kaz’kah’s thoughts as it curled around the dead troll.

Life. After all these years, a chance to rejoin the living. A chance to feel again. It is almost too good to be true. It almost cannot be. And as such a cost –

“No one said that redemption comes cheaply, Kaz’kah.”

The death knight shifted slightly, staring at the railing beside him. The swirling mists coalesced in his mind, developing long limbs and horde-issue armour. A smoking spear appeared in a three-fingered hand as the smoky troll leaned against the railing, facing towards the island. The ghostly voice sounded again. “It would not be redemption if there was not a test involved.”

Test, scoffed Kaz’kah. You make it sound like this was destined to happen.

“Wasn’t it?”
Mammona smiled sadly. “You still do not believe in this?”

How can I? Kaz’kah closed his eyes, struggling with the turmoil within him. I have to take what Kali’bane and his blood elf pet say on blind belief. You know how hard we searched. How many times we failed. This cannot be the answer.

“And what if it is, Kaz’kah?” Mammona’s ethereal eyes bored into Kaz’kah’s dead ones. “What if it is our only chance to right the wrongs we have wrought for so long? We cannot afford to miss this one instance. If we do, we may be doomed to this purgatory forever.”

So you say, Kaz’kah replied wistfully. Given what we’ve done, it is a fate we deserve.

No reply was forthcoming. Mammona’s ghostly forms simply lowered his head. An internal chuckle rose from Kaz’kah.

So, you agree. After all you preach about redemption and saving our soul, you cannot deny that our actions make us deserving of this hell we are currently in. Kaz’kah’s voice hardened, anger creeping into it. You know what we’ve done. How can you ask this of me? How can you come out and say that we deserve to live again after the lives we’ve taken? And not just when we were the Lich King’s tool either. The innocents that were butchered by Kaz’kah, acting for Kaz’kah! Tell me, brave soldier, where is the redemption in that?!

“There is none to be had.”
Mammona’s voice had the finality of the grave within it. “We cannot atone for what we have done.” The spectral troll turned, staring out over the ocean. He raised his spear, staring at the metal tip. A solitary, misty tear fell from his eye. “We have done unspeakable things, both in the name of Arthas, and Kaz’kah. We cannot go back from there. We cannot dig ourselves out of that dark pit.”

Kaz’kah closed his eyes. Then it is decided. We will refuse Kali’bane’s offer.

The word was whispered, but the force behind it startled the dead troll.

“We will do no such thing.” Mammona was suddenly in front of Kaz’kah. Ghostly hands grasped his shoulders as the troll floated in space past the railing. “We will accept. We must.”

Why? Kaz’kah’s hand went to the hilt of his sword. Why must we torture ourselves further for the irredeemable?

Mammona smiled, and it was a smile of utter sadness. “Just because we cannot be redeemed does not mean we should stop trying to be.”

Kaz’kah said nothing. The glow in his eyes ignited.

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Post  Mammona on Tue Nov 24, 2015 7:51 am

Niashado’s expression was almost exactly what Swift had expected. Surprise, followed by weariness and a very healthy dose of apprehension. I would have looked the same, he lamented wistfully. He did not like involving the shamaness in their current plight. From their time together, the worgen knew Niashado to be a person of remarkable personal belief and quality. The business in Silithus had ended badly, and it had ended bloody. So many people lost, he thought as he took a seat across from Niashado. Hasn’t she suffered enough?

Even as he thought that, he knew he would try and convince Niashado to join them. As Ma’dra perched on the edge of an adjoining table, ale in hand, he knew that he had no choice. Not only was he bound to Acantha until the missionwas over, he also knew that Niashado was crucial to that mission’s success. Acantha would not have sent us otherwise.

“Mr. Swift. Lady Ma’dra. It is a surprise to see you both again,” Niashado said, inclining her head in greeting. “What brings you both to Astranaar?”

Swift’s keen ears picked up the dread in Niashado’s voice. She knows we need her. She also knows we would not contact her otherwise. Swift decided that honesty was the best policy. He glanced at Ma’dra, who smiled and nodded at him. She sipped her ale as the worgen leaned forward. He set down his own mug and pushed it away. The ale suddenly tasted bad.

“I will not insult your intelligence by suggesting a lie, lady Niashado,” Swift said ruefully. “Although, I do wish we could have met again under more jovial circumstances. The short of it is that we have need of you.” And by ‘we’, of course I mean Acantha.

“I am sure you have heard of the Iron Horde by now…” Swift began. He spun Kali’bane’s tale as quickly as he could, omitting nothing. Throughout his telling, Ma’dra sat as still as a statue, her eyes never leaving Niashado’s face. As Swift’s recount drew to a close, he leaned back.

“Kali’bane and Erindar represent a group of researchers who are aiming to limit the Legion’s influence in Azeroth. They believe that with these artefacts they can do that permanently. The expedition into Draenor is set. We leave in just under four days. They wish for a shaman to accompany us. Someone who can listen to the natural rhythms of the land and help them understand the magics of that world. Of course, that was when your name came up.”

The worgen shook his head. “I did not wish for this. Gods! Archimonde himself! How did I get mixed up in this?” He reached for his ale, thought the better of it, and returned his gaze to Niashado. “I apologise. That was rude. I have told you all the information I know.” He sighed. “Will you join us, Niashado? I, for one, would like to have another familiar face close by.”

“There is something else, shamaness,” Ma’dra said unexpectedly. Hopping down from her perch on the table, she raked up another chair and sat next to Niashado. Holding her gaze, she spoke softly.

“Kali’bane confided in Mistress Acantha before Blackmane and I left to find you. They raised the point that the Legion’s influence on Azeroth would have similar effects as the Cataclysm.”

The beautiful kal’dorei shook her head. “I may be a novice in the study of shamanism, but I do believe that Deathwing’s explosion into our realm from Deepholm ripped this world asunder, and even now the elements have a hard time finding balance. The Earthen Ring, Cenarion Circle and countless other organisations, including Kali’bane’s Researchers are still trying to rectify the damage Deathwing wrought upon this world. Imagine if the Legion did the same from the Twisting Nether? What would become of Azeroth then?”

Swift lowered his gaze. “Can Azeroth survived another Cataclysm?”

Ma’dra’s eyes flashed. “Do we take that chance?”

She leaned over and took Niashado’s hands in her own. “Believe me when I say this, shamaness. Mistress Acantha did not want to involve you in this. She did not wish for you to be a part of something so deadly, especially after the business in Silithus. However, given our short timeframe and lack of other options, she had no choice. She believes you can handle this.”

Ma’dra released Niashado’s hands and leaned back in her chair. “Of course, the decision is yours to make. Blackmane and I will give you some time to ruminate. We will be inside. Please take as much time as you need.” Gesturing at Swift, the raven-haired kal’dorei stood and exited the balcony. With a smile and a bow to Niashado, Swift followed suit.

As Swift caught up to Ma’dra as she entered the tavern, he spoke softly. “You did not mention Kaz’kah.”

“No,” Ma’dra replied as she headed to the bar. “I did not.”

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Post  Izdazi on Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:59 pm

The reluctance in Swift’s voice was overwhelming.  She had suspected that Acantha needed her services as a shaman.  And Niashado was steeling herself to politely decline the offer to participate in whatever this adventure was about.  Light knew she’d been through enough with her last one.  

But soon her glowing white were wide at the incredulously quest Swift was detailing.   Going to the altered Draenor’s past.  Stealing an artifact from Archimonde. By the Light:  The Archimonde?!

Without realizing it, as Swift continued, Niashado had brought her hand to her mouth.   This quest was insane!   Madness even!  

I cannot do this.  It was bad enough when she discovered that her adversary in Silithus was a minor black dragon.  A black dragon, but minor nonetheless. That was like saying a tropical storm was weaker than a typhoon when one is holding on for dear life to nothing more than a plank of wood.  

And now she wants me to be part of a quest to acquire an artifact from one of the fathers of man’ari eredar?

Swift’s suddenly broke down apologetically, as if he himself were just now realizing the magnitude of this undertaking.   Niashado gave him a sympathetic look, knowing that he probably wasn’t given the option to participate like she was.  

But it was what Ma’dra said that left the shamaness feeling truly trapped.  The Legion was likely coming to Azeroth next and that if they didn’t find a way to acquire the artifacts, the Legion could do to Azeroth the same that had happened to ‘her’ Draenor.  

It was not happenstance that Ma’dra decided to deliver this news the way she did.   If Swift’s telling of this undertaking hadn’t sold her, the threat to Azeroth would.  

The raven hair night elf took a seat next to her and took her hands.  “Believe me when I say this, shamaness. Mistress Acantha did not want to involve you in this,” she explained.  “She did not wish for you to be a part of something so deadly, especially after the business in Silithus. However, given our short timeframe and lack of other options, she had no choice. She believes you can handle this.”

She couldn’t deny the earnestness in Ma’dra’s voice.  In fact, only seldom had she ever heard the woman speak more than a few words, but when she did speak, there was power behind it.  

The pair soon left, as if to offer her time to consider her choices.  She didn’t have a choice.  Whether Ma’dra’s warning about the Legion’s effect on Azeroth was meant almost like a blackmail, or an earnest explanation into why she should join, the results were the same.  She could not ignore the threat to Azeroth.  After what Azeroth had suffered with Deathwing, could they really afford to give the Legion the opportunity?  As a shaman, she couldn’t afford to turn away, even if it meant that it might be another Silithus.  Besides, despite their differences, it wouldn’t be right to turn away a request for help from Acantha.  

Sighing in resignation, she stood up.  Her half-finished mug of moonberry juice sat next to Swift’s untouched ale.  She shook her head sympathetically as she thought of what the worgen was going through.   He was a kind person.  How’d he ever end up tangled with Acantha?  

How did I get tangled with Acantha, she realized ruefully.

Instead of going into the tavern, she walked along the deck until she reached the room she was sharing with Jaou.  Entering, she waited for the next difficult part of this evening.

* * *

Jaou Stormchaser returned to the room just as the overcast sky was showing the earliest signs of dawn.  Despite the heavy cloak he wore, his violet hair was soaking wet.  He shrugged off the cloak revealing his leather hunter garb.  His prosthetic left arm glinted in the candle light as he stowed his gear.  

She poured him a mug of hot tea to ward off the chill of the rainstorm.  He kissed her and gratefully accepted it, but then raised an eyebrow at trepidation he saw etched into her visage.  

“I-I need to leave for a while,” Niashado began without preamble.  “I promise I will return as soon as I can.”

Jaou turned to her suddenly.  The surprise in his countenance was unmistakable.   “What?  We have that meeting in Darkshore tomorrow.”

The shamaness looks down and sighed.  “I know, but I need to help a friend.  It is important.”

“Do you need help?” he asked.  She shook her head silently, yet grateful that he was always willing to assist her.  “Or is this something you need to do alone?” he added in realization.  

She tried to say something, but the words wouldn’t come to her mind.  Unknowingly, she began fiddling with one of her tendrils while struggling for the words. Finally, she just gave up.  “I need to do this alone,” she replies apologetically.  

Jaou wasn’t convinced.  He knew her well enough to know when she was hiding something.  “I can’t shake the feeling something is wrong.”  He placed his hand on her shoulder.  “Can you promise me to tell me if you need help?”  

This time Niashado smiles and rested her head on his chest.  “I will.  It is too early to tell how difficult this will be, but I owe her a favor.”

She realized her error when she felt him stiffen.  “Wait, favour?  This sounds worse by the moment.”

Sighing the draenei looked up at him.  “Before I met you, I was on a quest and worked with her.  She was the first person who showed confidence in me as a shaman.  And I owe her my life.  Several times over.”  

She held his hands and squeezed them.  “She means me well, but I will feel better if she cannot involve you into this.”   I do not want you accidently owing Acantha any favors.

Jaou looked momentarily hurt, but the shamaness knew the more details she revealed to him, the more likely he will be to involve himself.

“You know, I’m not sure how I should take this,” the ranger admitted. “If what you say is true, are you going to be alright?”

Niashado chuckled nervously. “I believe I will be.  I will not allow myself to be dragged into too much danger.

“Just promise you will not look for me.   At least not for awhile.”

Jaou pulled her in and embraced her tightly.  “I know you can handle yourself. Just come back whole and safe.  I’ll leave it up to you and I promise not to look.”

Niashado smiled and allowed herself to fall fully in his embrace.  She barely managed to hold back a few tears at the trust he was showing her.  She prayed it would be worth it.   “Thank you,” she whispered.  “I will return,” she added, praying that she would be able to keep this promise.”  

Jaou nodded and smiled with slight uncertainty. “When you come back, I have something to give you.”  

“Oh, that is not fair,” she chuckled back at him.  She kissed him. “But I will make an extra effort to return as soon as I can.”

Jaou returned the kiss with a more passionate one.  “I’ll be here, waiting for your triumphant return.”  

She smiled and grabbed her backpack and staff.  Giving him one more look, she stepped out into the morning.  The sky was a dark gray shade and the rain was still coming down.  Closing her eyes, she said a little prayer for him.  He wasn’t comfortable with her leaving like this, but he respected her enough to be able to manage it.  Then she found her way to the tavern.

True to their word, Michael Swift and Ma’dra were still waiting in the tavern for her.  

“I will do what I can to help,” she announced, mustering every ounce of bravado that she could.

Last edited by Izdazi on Thu Nov 26, 2015 11:35 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Adjusted last sentence.)

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Post  Mammona on Sat Nov 28, 2015 6:51 pm

Swift’s face was set in a grim mask as he stared at the wall of the tavern. While the mood was subdued, there was still some noise in the night air, but none of it reached Swift’s senses. He kept playing what he had said the Niashado over and over again. He knew the gravity of what they were going to face. He had made sure that she knew as well. What he did not know was how well their expedition would go. There was a high chance that they would all meet their end at the hands of one of the most dangerous and evil creatures in existence. It was a sobering thought.

“Blackmane,” Ma’dra said softly, breaking him from his reverie. “Do not dwell on this. You will drive yourself mad before we even leave.”

Swift started at the kal’dorei’s almost supernatural perception. Ma’dra seemed to have a knack for knowing exactly what people were thinking. It was a skill that was both useful and unsettling, especially due to the fact that the beautiful night elf was a stone wall herself. She saw everything and gave nothing away. A truly dangerous person, Swift thought, even as he smile reassuringly at her. I am glad she not my enemy.

“It is hard not to dwell,” he admitted, turning to face Ma’dra. “This is beyond the scope of my understanding. I am a simple hunter. I do not wish for anything more.”

Ma’dra nodded. “I know. However, we have need of your skills. After the mission, your service to Mistress Acantha will be complete. You can go back to being just a ‘simple hunter.’”

Swift began to reply, but he saw Ma’dra’s eyes change. She looked past him, to the tavern door. Swift turned and saw Niashado making her way towards them. Swift caught the smell of draenei, and the smell of regret, as well as the scent of someone else on her clothing. She is here with someone, he thought in surprise. As the shamaness drew closer, Swift found himself hoping against hope that she would save herself and decline. Just say no. Say no, go back to your companion and keep on living. Say no and stay away from the madness that is our life. Just say no.

““I will do what I can to help,” Niashado stated with no small amount of attempted confidence.

Swift sighed inwardly, but bowed. “Thank you, milady. We are pleased to receive your aid.”

Ma’dra simply nodded, one hand in her pocket. She gestured to Swift. “You know what to do.” The beautiful night elf vanished with a slight pop, leaving no trace.

Swift nodded at the space Ma’dra used to occupy, and dug into his own pocket. Taking out a pair of runestones, he tossed one to Niashado. “This is a teleportation rune given to us by Erindar Sunseeker. Simply hold it in your right hand and think of Acantha, and you will be there.”

Swift smiled at Niashado, gesturing with his chin at the tavern door. “Take all the time you need before following. Say goodbye again if you need to. Thank you once again. As I said before, a friendly face is welcomed.” Swift closed his eyes, and vanished.

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Post  Mammona on Sat Nov 28, 2015 8:05 pm

“Now that the wheels of fate are in motion,” Erindar said with an exaggerated air of drama, “I would ask you something, Kali.”

Kali’bane smiled at his companion’s theatrics. He leaned against the wall of the cabin, lowering himself on to his haunches as trolls are wont to do. Closing his eyes, he willed himself to calmness. Using an old technique a monk friend had taught him, he was soon breathing deeply. It had been a trying few days. He would be glad to rest before the expedition got underway. He opened his eyes and replied to Erindar.

“Ask away, my friend.”

“Why Kaz’kah?” Erindar approached the desk and picked up the abandoned bottle of wine. Retrieving his goblet, he poured himself another cup before moving to the shattered desk and chair. Bottle in hand, the blood elf waved an arm and muttered a phrase. Soon after the desk began to quiver and move. Splinters were retrieved and the shattered wood began to knit together. Within moments, the desk and chair were mended. It was as if they had never been broken in the first instance. Sitting at the chair and putting his feet up on the desk, Erindar sipped his wine and gestured to Kali’bane to speak.

“You know why, Erindar,” Kali’bane stated flatly. “We need a death knight for both combat and magic sensing. They are the closest link to Gul’dan and his fel creations. They were borne of the same black arts. Kaz’kah will also be able to retrieve the artefacts we seek. They would kill mortals who attempted to handle them. Kaz’kah is already dead. We need him.”

“I know that,” Erindar replied dismissively, waving his goblet. “That’s not what I asked. Why Kaz’kah? There are plenty of other death knights out there who would have been easier to find. Gods, all we had to do was enlist one from the Horde military. It would have been easier than coming to this frozen hell. My complexion does not fare well in the cold.”

“I am sure your complexion will survive,” Kali’bane replied dryly, before answering. “We needed an unaffiliated death knight. Horde and Alliance soldiers have pre-existing loyalties, and as such present the threat that they will try to use the artefacts for their own faction’s gain. We cannot allow that to happen.”

“Fair enough,” Erindar admitted, draining his goblet and refilling it. “Still, my question stands. Why not another death knight who roams the countryside alone? Why this troll? Why a dead soldier from ages past? Who is he to you?”

Kali’bane stood, stretching. He made a show of being casual, but Erindar’s practised eyes saw past the act. Behind the unassuming demeanour and young features lay a shrewd tactician and a powerful magic user. He had never encountered anyone quite like Kali’bane. Despite his youth (the troll was barely into his twenties), he possessed both wisdom and intelligence. He knew far more about magic that even Erindar, who was a gifted mage himself. He was also patient, with none of the recklessness youth often afforded people. Kali never dd anything without a reason, the sin’dorei knew. He waited for the troll to speak, sipping his wine.

When Kali’bane did speak, his voice was so quiet that the blood elf had to strain to hear.
“He is nothing to me, Erindar. He is something to someone else, though.” The troll’s eyes glazed over as if he was remembering something painful. “He was the world to someone very dear to me. I grew up hearing stories of Mammona and his actions. He was so much more than history made of him.” His eyes hardened, and he stared straight at Erindar.

“He was so much more than Kaz’kah Thraze. You made a promise to fight the Legion, Erindar. It is personal for you. I respect that.” Kali’bane’s eyes flashed. “Mammona is personal for me. I would ask that you respect my wishes.”

Erindar chuckled and held up a hand. “No need for that. Of course I respect your wishes, Kali. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I won’t press. Kaz’kah will be valuable to us. Assuming he agrees to come.” The elf frowned. “Do you think he will accept our offer?”

Lowering his head, Kali’bane shook it slightly. “That, my friend, I do not know – “ His head suddenly popped up, eyes widening. The young troll raised an eyebrow. “But I think we may be about to find out.”

The door to the cabin opened, frigid Northrend air seeping into the cabin. The towering form of Kaz’kah stopped as he squeezed his eight-foot frame into the small room. Kali’bane inclined his head in greeting and Erindar tipping his goblet to the death night, while at the same time removing his feet from the repaired desk, leaning forward in the chair. Kali’bane felt the aura of magic in the room shift slightly. Erindar was drawing his arts to him, lest there was a repeat of the day’s earlier actions.

“Mammona,” Kali’bane stated. “Have you made your decision?”

“I have,” Kaz’kah said, eyes narrowing at the mention of his former name. “I will accompany you. I do have some conditions, though.”

Erindar smirked. “Everyone has conditions.” A harsh stare from both Kali’bane and Kaz’kah drove him to silence.

Turning back to the dead troll, Kali’bane raised a hand. “Name them.”

“Do not refer to me again as Mammona,” Kaz’kah said without preamble. “He is dead.”

Kali’bane nodded, a mask of sadness flitting across his features for an instant. He gestured for the troll to continue.

“I will aid you in your goals. In return, I expect that you will lend me your knowledge of all things arcane. You say that the orcish chieftains have magics that could reverse the scourge curse on me. If that is the case, you will help me, regardless of the situation.”

Kali’bane nodded again. “Agreed the two goals align more closely that you think, M – Kaz’kah. If you can be helped, then we will help you.” The young troll’s face grew more serious. “You must understand that this is not a set outcome. For all we know, we may not find the magics you seek.”

“I am no fool, whelp,” Kaz’kah replied sharply. “I am aware of that. Now, my third and final condition. I require your vigilance against the elf witch you call Acantha.”

Erindar stood at this. “Witch? What do you mean by this?”

“Acantha is a manipulator and a thief. For her to agree to help you means that you possess something she wants, or the means to get it. She has no problem with death or destruction, provided she ends up with the spoils.”

“You do know that we enlisted Acantha’s help, do you not?” Erindar asked. “She agreed to our conditions.”

“You do not bargain with that woman,” Kaz’kah hissed in reply. “You are merely a pawn in the game of death and deceit she plays.”

Erindar began to retort, but was cut off by a raised hand from Kali’bane. “We are aware of Ms. Acantha’s tendencies. You asked for our vigilance. You shall have it.”

“Good,” Kaz’kah said icily. “If it come to this, I will murder her myself.”

“It will not come to that,” Kali’bane replied. Erindar’s face, however, read differently.

Kaz’kah turned and headed for the door. “If you abide by these conditions, then I will accompany you.”

“Where are you going?” Erindar asked, setting his goblet on the desk.

Kaz’kah cast an icy glare over his shoulder. “That, elf, is not your business. If you must know, however, I will go belowdecks. I do not want my… current state to cause any issues before we leave.”

With that, the troll death knight was gone. Erindar poured himself another goblet of wine and tipped the glass to Kali’bane. “Well, that was… terrifying. All’s well that ends well, though.”

Kali’bane smiled wearily, staring at the door where Kaz’kah had left. He had started to turn away, when it opened again, revealing the beautiful features of Ma’dra Shadowstalker. She strode into the room and bowed. “Gentlemen. I bring a message from Mistress Acantha. She shamaness you desired is on her way here. Please accompany me to meet her.”

Kali’bane frowned. “Is this the shamaness that Ms. Acantha mentioned earlier?” Ma’dra regarded him with a neutral expression that gave nothing away. “Yes.”

Erindar grinned as he stood, goblet in hand. “Never a dull moment, eh Kali?”

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Post  Izdazi on Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:28 pm

The contrast between Swift’s words of gratitude and the dismay in his eyes didn’t go amiss by the shamaness.   She had a feeling if Ma’dra hadn’t been here he would have offered more information than the sterile explanation given.   Indeed, he had.  

I am getting myself into a situation way over my horns, she mentally lamented.  Nevertheless, she resolved herself to press forward with whatever this was going to entail.  

“You know what to do,” Ma’dra said to the worgen before abruptly blinking out of existence with barely a pop.   The shamaness gasped at first in surprise.  She didn’t figure her for a mage.  Nor was this a teleportation effect she was used to observing.  

When Swift produced two runestones her questions were answered.   He tossed one to her, explaining how they operated.   With a smile, he motioned to the door.  

“Take all the time you need before following.  Say goodbye again if you need to.  Thank you one again.  As I said before, a friendly face is welcomed,” he stated.   Niashado smiled back and was about to reply before he too vanished.  

“-It will be good to work with you once again,” she replied dryly to the empty tavern wall.  She looked back at the door and Swift’s words echoed in her mind.  Returning to the room to say farewell to Jaou again would only worry him further.   And it could weaken her resolve to go into this… insane quest.  

Archimonde!   The Burning Legion!  The draenei sighed and looked at the runestone.  What am I getting myself into?  Surely there were better shamans Acantha could have found.   Especially after the things I had to do during our last quest.  

Why do I keep allowing her to drag me down paths I am not prepared to go down?   Maybe… maybe if I do not show up she will find someone else.  Maybe I can…

Clenching her teeth, the shamaness shook her head and clutched the runestone tightly in her right hand.  A brief wave of disorientation seemed to squeeze her mind and quite suddenly the cozy warmth of the tavern was replaced by a brisk breeze.  Her face was peppered by small cold raindrops.  

No turning back now.  I said I would help and I will.

She swayed slightly on hooves and it took a moment for her to become acclimated to the gentle rocking of the human ship she suddenly found herself on.  The large double-mast human-made ship was berthed in what appeared to be one of most rundown docks she’d ever seen.   But it was what was beyond the port that most surprised her.  

The land mass beyond seemed to be crowned by a sheer cliff face that stretched for miles.   And though thick rain clouds moved across the night sky, through the gaps she could see yellow green streamers of auroras.  

“I am in Northrend?” she gasped, not bothering to raise the hood of her cloak as her face was pattered by cold rain.  From the landscape she surmised that she was in Howling Fjord, but she wasn’t familiar with this location.  

Looking around further, she saw three individuals approaching from the doorway toward the back of the ship. She recognized one instantly as Ma’dra. Flanking her was an elf, either high elf or blood elf. The other individual was towering and from his lanky form she could tell he was a troll.

These must be the two individuals Mr. Swift mentioned. She started to approach them, suddenly aware of the loud sound of her hoofsteps on the wooden deck, compared to their quieter footsteps.

Last edited by Izdazi on Wed Dec 02, 2015 9:44 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Minor edits because I'm always finding something...)

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Post  Mammona on Sat Dec 05, 2015 6:56 pm

Swift shook his head hard, sending raindrops scattering from his long, braided mane. Ignoring the cacophony of splattering water that assaulted his finely tuned ears, the worgen stepped belowdecks. While outwardly a human merchant vessel, the Windsinger’s internal structure was modified so heavily that even a human shipwright would have scratched his head in confusion. The decks were narrow and twisting, meant to maximise the several holds that contained all manner of cargo. Swift knew that Acantha had a slew of ships just like this one and that her merchandise could slip through the watchful eyes of harbourmasters everywhere. All it required was to make sure the shady things were out of sight and the normal aspect of Acantha’s business was in full view.

Even though she possessed an entire fleet of modified vessels, Swift knew that Acantha favoured the Windsinger above all others. She almost always used it as her flagship whenever marine duties required her attention. Swift found it odd that a careful strategist like Acantha would use the same piece over and over again. He had once asked the Windsinger’s captain, a hulking man by the name of Drake, why Acantha was so taken with the ship. The burly captain had merely shaken his head and muttered something about a deep-sea adventure Acantha had once had with Niashado. He had not volunteered anything more, and Swift had let the matter drop, knowing that asking too many questions was not advised.

As he moved down the small hallway, a door opened, revealing Acantha as she stepped out. She held a series of notes that she was scrutinising closely. Swift took a moment to scour her features, searching once again for any sign to the kal’dorei’s state of mind. He marvelled at how neutral the she-elf looked. While not homely or pretty, she was striking. However, Acantha’s features were nothing compared to the beautiful Ma’dra. Still, something about Acantha always gave Swift pause. It was as if she was only the tip of a very large iceberg. She never revealed more about herself than what was required. She could blend in or stand out at will. She could also kill or maim without so much as a flicker of a change. Swift doubted he had ever seen the night elf in a genuine mood that wasn’t cunningly crafted to appeal to those around her.

Swift lowered his eyes as Acantha looked up from her notes. “Mr. Swift. Thank you for your service today. Ma’dra tells me you were instrumental in procuring Niashado for our mission.”

The worgen tracker shifted uncomfortably. “Thank you, milady. If I would be permitted to speak my mind…”

Acantha waved her hand nonchalantly, her smile never wavering. “Your service has earned you that right, Mr. Swift. Speak.”

“Thank you, milady,” Swift replied, before steeling himself for what was coming next. “Is it really necessary that Miss Niashado accompany us? This mission will be dangerous, and I am prepared to accept that. Miss Niashado has her own life to lead. She has… someone waiting for her. Can we really tear her away from the life she has built for herself?”

Acantha laughed. “She has someone? Why, my little Niashado is growing up. I am proud.” Swift almost shuddered as her mirth faded as suddenly as it had appeared. Acantha’s eyes seemed to bore into him. He shifted uncomfortably and fought the urge to step back.

“Believe me, Mr. Swift, I would not summon her unless it was absolutely necessary. Yes, I have other shamans I can call on. Yes, this mission will be dangerous. Niashado is the best person to take this role. For Kali’bane, for Erindar and for us. She must come. Is that clear?”

“Yes, milady,” Swift replied, inclining his head. “I merely wanted to make my concerns known.”

Acantha smiled, but the gesture never reached her eyes. “Your concerns are noted and appreciated. Now, excuse me. I must greet our guest. Go to the galley and get some food. You’ve earned some rest before we begin our journey.”

Swift nodded and moved past the she-elf. He heard the rustling of paper as she folded her notes and her footsteps as she headed for the stairs. The worgen sighed, defeated, and moved towards the galley. As he did, he thought of the storm he had become embroiled in. There was one question he had neglected to ask, for fear of pushing Acantha too far. He had not mentioned Kaz’kah. While he did not know for sure, he suspected that the dead troll may not be as receptive to Niashado joining the crew as the others.


Acantha stepped out into the light rain. Accustomed to the rank air of bustling cities, she inhaled deeply, savouring the crisp clean air of the Howling Fjord. She smiled as she beheld Niashado, standing in the middle of the deck, looking bewildered and lost. The she-elf stepped forward, looking past the shamaness to the captain’s cabin, where she could see Ma’dra approaching with Kali’bane and Erindar in tow. She stepped up behind Niashado and placed a hand on the draenei’s shoulder.

“Niashado! It is wonderful to see you! Welcome to the Windsinger. It has been too long.” The she-elf smiled warmly. “I am glad you accepted my invitation, even if the circumstances are not as I envisioned our next meeting to be.”

Acantha stepped back, looking the shamaness up and down. “Gods, look at you! You have changed. I am proud of what you have become. A man in your life as well? You must tell me about him.”

At that moment, Ma’dra arrived. She bowed and spoke softly. “Mistress, I bring Kali’bane and Erindar as ordered.”

Acantha waved her hand in acknowledgement and Ma’dra stepped back, leaning casually against the deck railing, hands behind her back. Acantha turned back to Niashado and gestured at the two magic-users.

“Allow me to present my two partners on this peculiar endeavour.” She gestured to the blood elf. “This is Erindar Sunseeker, a sin’dorei mage from Quel’thalas.”

Erindar smiled and extended a hand. “Charmed. It is good to meet you, draenei.”

As Erindar stepped back, Acantha swept a hand at the tall troll. “And this is Kali’bane. He is a Researcher specialising in the location and eradication of demonic influences on Azeroth.”

Kali’bane bowed and spoke. “Thank you for choosing to join us, Miss Niashado. I regret that you had to leave your current occupation in order to help us, but I am grateful that you have.” The troll smiled and straightened.

Acantha also inclined her head. “Now that introductions have been made, I regret that I must take my leave. There is much to be done before we commence our travel to Draenor.” She turned and placed a hand once more on the draenei’s shoulder. “After you are done with these two, I implore you to come and find me. We have much to catch up on.” The she-elf smiled and headed for the staircase belowdecks. Ma’dra followed without a sound.

Erindar watched the pair leave, and sighed. “That woman will be the death of me someday.” Turning back to Niashado, his voice took on an impatient edge. “I hope you know enough about shamanism to help us here, Miss. I would greatly prefer it if you were brought up to speed sooner rather than later. If you would - ”

Kali’bane silenced the blood elf mage with a three-fingered hand on his chest. His eyes flashed at Erindar, before softening as he beheld Niashado. “What my… excitable colleague means to say is if you have any questions about our endeavour, we will be happy to answer them.” He gestured to Erindar.

With a snort, the blood elf waved a hand at the captain’s cabin. After a few moments, the door flew open and two chairs came floating through it, along with a desk. The settled on the deck near the railing. Erindar sat at one without an invitation, casting a glance at Kali’bane. The troll shook his head and lowered himself to his haunches in the traditional troll way. His height meant that he was still able to sit at the desk comfortably. He gestured to the empty chair.

“Sit, please, Miss Niashado. The Northrend rain is refreshing. Now, ask any questions you may have. I am happy to provide you with as much information as you wish.”

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Post  Izdazi on Sun Dec 06, 2015 7:36 pm

“Niashado! It is wonderful to see you! Welcome to the Windsinger. It has been too long.” Acantha called out after emerging from a doorway behind her. “I am glad you accepted my invitation, even if the circumstances are not as I envisioned our next meeting to be.”

The shamaness spun around and greeted the kal’dorei with a polite bow and smile. It had been years but as with Ma’dra, Acantha appeared as she remembered. Confidence and strength exuded from her like a beacon in the night. It was always something she admired about the night elf.

The she-elf stepped back a moment and appraised her for a moment. “Gods, look at you! You have changed. I am proud of what you have become. A man in your life as well? You must tell me about him.”

The shamaness blushed slightly at the compliment and was about to offer her heartfelt thanks when Acantha mentioned her relationship. The blush immediately turned to lighter shade of blue and she fought to hide a spike of fear.

Before she could respond, Ma’dra arrived with two unfamiliar individuals in tow. The blood elf, Erindar Sunseeker, introduced himself in the traditionally overdone, yet polite method of the blood elves. She took his hand and bowed her head slightly.

The tall figure was a troll named Researcher Kali’bane. She didn’t know exactly what organization he worked for, but his tone and demeanor was unlike most trolls she’d worked with in the past.

After the introductions, Acantha dismissed herself and left her with the researchers.

“That woman will be the death of me someday.” Erindar announced before turning back to her. Niashado was a little surprised by the impatience in his tone. “I hope you know enough about shamanism to help us here, Miss. I would greatly prefer it if you were brought up to speed sooner rather than later. If you would - ”

Kali’bane silenced him with a sharp look. “What my… excitable colleague means to say is if you have any questions about our endeavour, we will be happy to answer them,” the troll continued, speaking much more calmlyHe gestured for the elf to retrieve something.

That something was revealed a moment later when a desk and two chairs flew out of door at the back of the ship and set themselves on the deck of the ship before them. At his gesture she took a seat as Erindar took the other. Brushing aside her bluish-gray bangs, she cleared her throat.

“First, I believe I am a capable shaman, but the interesting thing about the world is that it always has more to teach. As a skilled mage, I am sure you are always making new discoveries,” she replied with a smile. “I can only assure you that I will do my best on this quest.”

She was quiet a moment as she gathered her next thoughts. She’d hope Acantha would reveal more details but it seemed this quest was truly up to these two individuals. The draenei couldn’t help to wonder what Acantha was getting out of participating in this quest.

“What in the Light are you thinking going after Archimonde? He is one of the fathers of the man’ari eredar,” she demanded. The draenei spoke carefully and calmly, despite the shock she felt for the objective they were going to partake of. “While your plan is unique and bold, I have my concerns. Many objects of power tend to have magical tracers upon them.

“Eredar are relentless, none more so than Archimonde and Kil'jaeden. Our fear of discovery forced my people to tone down our use of magic. We learned to shield it from outside detection. And after many millennia they were well skilled it and still we were discovered by Kil’jaeden,” she explained. “An artifact belonging to an eredar will be like a beacon shining out in the Nether. They will hone in on it very quickly. Are you prepared for that?”

She brushed her hands through her wet hair and carefully tried to glean something from the troll and blood elf.

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Post  Mammona on Sat Dec 12, 2015 5:33 am

“First, I believe I am a capable shaman, but the interesting thing about the world is that it always has more to teach. As a skilled mage, I am sure you are always making new discoveries.” Niashado smiled. “I can only assure you that I will do my best on this quest.”

Kali’bane smiled in return. Eager enough to please, but experienced enough to know her own limitations. He glanced at Erindar. The sin’dorei returned his gaze with the same indifferent stare. Kali’bane sighed inwardly. If Erindar had a glaring fault (he had many, but none that could be applied to the situation), it was that he failed to really look and judge people. Kali’bane’s teacher and closest friend had schooled him not only in the tools and arts of his craft, but on the art of reading people. Despite being young, the troll was well-versed in both magic and perception. This was why he was able to predict the draenei’s next question.

Niashado fought to remain calm, but both troll and elf detected an air of disbelief in her voice. “What in the Light are you thinking going after Archimonde? He is one of the fathers of the man’ari eredar. While your plan is unique and bold, I have my concerns. Many objects of power tend to have magical tracers upon them.”

Erindar raised an eyebrow at this. Kali’bane grinned. This woman knows her magic.

“Eredar are relentless, none more so than Archimonde and Kil'jaeden.” Niashado continued. “Our fear of discovery forced my people to tone down our use of magic. We learned to shield it from outside detection. And after many millennia they were well skilled it and still we were discovered by Kil’jaeden.”

Kali’bane noticed Erindar tense at the mention of the Deceiver, but said nothing as the shamaness continued.

“An artifact belonging to an eredar will be like a beacon shining out in the Nether. They will hone in on it very quickly. Are you prepared for that?”

Kalibane swept a hand at Erindar, indicating that the blood elf should speak first. The mage leaned forward, all measure of elvish arrogance vanishing. His eyes flashed as he spoke in hushed tones.

“I am impressed, Niashado. You know more than I would have expected. My answer to your question is complicated, so please listen carefully.”

The blood elf placed a hand above the desk, fingers splayed outwards. “Picture my hand as the Legion. They are massive, and they are many. They hide in the Nether, away from Azeroth.” Erindar gestured to the desk. “If they were to invade, that would be the end of all of us. We got lucky last time during the war, and it was only the combined forces of both the Horde and the Alliance that drove them back. It can be assumed that this may not happen again. The pact between Varian and Vol’jin is tenuous, to say the least.”

Erindar pointed at his index finger. “This finger is Kil’jaeden. Years ago, he orchestrated a plan to bring himself – and the Legion – into Azeroth via the corrupted Sunwell.” Erindar lowered his hand to the desk, so that only the point of his index finger rested on the wood. “This is how he meant to do it. A single point, where he tried to get through the Nether.”

The sin’dorei shuddered. Kali’bane leaned forward, taking over the narrative. “Kil’jaeden and his puppet Kael’thas Sunstrider were defeated and purged from this plane of existence.” He gently grasped Erindar’s wrist and moved his hand from the table. “However, look at the wood where Erindar’s finger lay.” The troll pointed.

A fingerprint still remained on the polished wood. Kali’bane nodded at it. “The Deceiver left behind an imprint of his own black arts when he was banished. The blood elves were able to harness it.” He looked at Erindar. “Are you able to continue?”

“Yes, yes.” The mage waved a hand dismissively, some of his former attitude returning. “My people’s best mages, including myself, were able to reverse-engineer this Legion imprint to its baser designs. It contained quite a bit of useful information, like the knowledge of the artefacts we seek to find.”

“And,” Kali’bane interjected with a smile, “the means to hide them from scrying eyes.”

“It turns out the Legion is no more invulnerable to internal politics than the Horde or the Alliance,” Erindar chuckled. “The Legion leaders constantly bicker for favour and advantage. It makes sense that they would develop ways to hide their strengths and possessions from one another.”

“It also makes sense that the past versions of the Legion’s leaders (like the Archimonde we’re going after) would not know that we possess this knowledge,” Kali’bane mused.

“One can hope,” Erindar spat back dryly, before turning to Niashado. “So, to cut a long story short, we mean to hide the artefacts from the Eredar and the Legion using their own arts.”

“The challenge,” the elf stated, looking straight at the shamaness, “Is obtaining them in the first place.”

The troll stood, stretching and inhaling deeply. “You are welcome on our expedition, Niashado. If you have any other questions, please ask. If not, you are free to go belowdecks and see Acantha. I am sure you have much catching up to do.”


The blisteringly cold winds of Frostfire Ridge whipped across the frigid landscape. The wind slammed against the Horde garrison of Frostwall, creating a myriad of creaks and groans as heavy structures swayed back and forth in the blizzard. The Horde soldiers stationed there were all under cover, struggling to stay warm in the storm, shivering under the Draenor weather.

Except one.

The wind whipped across the broad, furred back of Jodai Thunderhoof as he sat cross-legged in the middle of the storm. Frost gathered on his short, curved horns as his shaggy brown fur was blown about him in a frenzy. He wore nothing but a tunic, relying on the power of his meditation to keep his body from shutting down. His eyes remained shut, his mind repeating the same mantra over and over.

There is no action. There is only the body.
There is no body. There is only the mind.
There is no mind. There is only the thought.
There is no thought. There is only the feeling.
There is no feeling. There is only the being.
There is no being. There is only enlightenment.

Suddenly, the monk’s eyes opened. The cold hit his mind like a sledgehammer, but he ignored it. He stood, shaking snow and ice from his muscular torso. With a snort, he headed towards the garrison supply building.

It was time.

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Post  Izdazi on Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:06 pm

The shamaness quietly took in the plan as they patiently explained it.   Much of it was theory-craft, which was a subject Niashado didn’t particularly enjoy when she’d studied the arcane on Draenor.   But the underlying plan seemed very plausible, even if the magical skill needed to perform it was well over her skillset.  

In truth, she didn’t even make it past the first year at the mage academy, but no one here needed to know that.  She wasn’t here for her skills with the arcane.  

Watching Erindar and Kali’bane as they explained the plan did reveal more about her companions.   They both seemed to have a great deal of knowledge and experience when it came to magic.  Unsurprisingly, Erindar carried the haughtiness common among blood elves, although he did make occasionally efforts soften his tone.  She wasn’t sure whether he was trying for her benefit or simply struggling to overcome that trait.

It wasn’t difficult to pick up on the blood elf’s reaction when she mentioned Kil’jaeden.  

He has encountered the Deceiver, she suddenly realized.  He was probably among the those who successfully fought to keep the eredar from traversing the portal into Azeroth at the Sunwell.   She couldn’t begin to imagine what an encounter with Kil’jaeden would be like.  Like many draenei children she’d been educated about the Burning Legion and their history, but the thought of encountering one is… terrifying.   She was certainly not looking forward to the potential for a confrontation that might occur with this quest.  

All the knowledge in the worlds can never prepare one for an actual encounter.  

Kali’bane seemed to carry a quiet humbleness far more naturally then his elven counterpart.  For a troll as young as he, it was unusual.  His skin tone and appearance reminded Niashado of Yevana, a young troll shaman who’d been killed in Silithus.  Kali’bane could have almost passed as Yevana’s older brother.  

With a quiet exhale Niashado pushed the memory away.

“You are welcome on our expedition, Niashado,” Kel’bane announced as he stood up from his crouch and stretched.  “If you have any other questions, please ask. If not, you are free to go belowdecks and see Acantha. I am sure you have much catching up to do.”

The shamaness quietly stood up and nodded to the two individuals.   She still had plenty of questions, but for now her main concerns was at least somewhat placated.  They had a plan and it wasn’t hodgepodge.  There would be more details when they reached that part of the plan.  

“As I said, I will endeavor to do what I can to assist you,” Niashado answered while slinging her pack over her shoulders.  “But, do not underestimate the cunning of the eredar.  While bickering and power struggles certainly do exist among the various ranks of demons in the Burning Legion, it is not as common among the eredar.”  

She looked at each of them for a moment, hoping to see a sign that they would take her caution under advisement.   To some degree, she expected they were already being cautious.  Kali’bane didn’t seem to be a brazen mage and despite Erindar’s sin’dorei arrogance occasionally making an appearance in his demeanor, she was certain whatever his experience was would temper any brashness.  

She could only hope.  Whatever comes, she was committed to their plan.

With a polite nod, the shamaness turned and started to make her way toward the stern of the boat.   She took one more glance around the rocky landscape and the surreal beauty of the aurora streaked sky before going below decks.    

This boat was heavily modified from the ones she’d been on.  But, no matter the world, most sea-going vessels were laid out in a logical fashion.

Like the Stargazer, she surmised.  I wonder if Acantha gleaned any ideas from Captain Charla’s unique ship.  

To her chagrin, her hoofsteps seemed excessively loud as they echoed off the hard deck and narrow walls. Despite the maze-like deck layout of the ship, it didn’t take her long to find the captain’s office.

Niashado dreaded the conversation to come.   Acantha likely knew what a disaster Silithus has been for her.  As if that weren’t bad enough, on their last mission the choice she’d been forced to make to keep the Draenor artifact from their deathknight companion had been very difficult… to say the least.   Not to mention, it had been the first time she’d ever killed anyone.   As far as she was concerned, the fact that it was in self-defense was a weak argument.  There could have been another way.  

And not a few years later I lead my shamans into a battle that ends in a bloodbath for both sides.   Murder, betrayal… every time I go somewhere with you, I forsake my beliefs little by little.  I want to do right by you.  I just do not know if it will ever be right by me, the shamaness lamented as she waited with her hand poised over the door.  

The argument was a moot one.  If they can stall, or even just delay the Burning Legion’s advance toward Azeroth then she had to what she could.   Steeling herself, she gently knocked on the office door.

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