- - by Naiama
August 20, 620
Anyone approaching the little two-story house on the hill may have been surprised to find it empty; the front door's lock was broken open (with a mighty dent in the wood), and dirt had been tracked into the house. The smell of fel magic may still have clung to the walls upon discovery.
Several dead trolls lay strewn about the property, either with stab, slash, or arrow wounds - the only evidence to life.
The forest was a dark, dull ambience between Naiama and her goal. She fingered her bowstring. As Aelannor pointed out, they're just trolls.
With her back straight and tall, she marched back from the city to her home. The intruders would be there, and she would take them down.
Yet a rhythm was starting up in her head. A dull thumping at the very last thread of consciousness that she did not regard.
She climbed up the hill to her home from the side, where Alkan and she had slid down that afternoon, so as not to be seen. Sure enough there were five gangly figures hunched over a pile of wood. They appeared to be using Creel's wood to build themselves a fire. Each had an assortment of armor and weapons; one with leather armor had dual axes hanging at his sides and a bow, another with armor made of red metal, she noted, had a length of rope tied to his waist and a large sword.
But where was the sixth troll?
As Naiama and Alkan had jumped from the upstairs window and hid behind a tree, Sprigg had used her own defenses when she fled. The demon had hit one of the trolls, but it wasn't enough to kill the brute.
She continued to peer over the rock ledge at the blue faces and tusks in the shadows and frowned in concentration. There was one troll, she recalled, that had taken a good arrow to the chest. He was around the corner of the house, she felt, and not dead.
Cautiously, Naiama took her bow from her shoulder and tugged three arrows from her quiver. If she could aim just right, all three arrows would hit a troll.
The trolls babbled strangely with each other in a circle while one of them hit flint for a spark. A trio of arrows caught them by surprise, but only one hit. One clanged and bounced off the red plate of the warrior with the rope, another missed his nearby comrade. The troll who had been hit was only wearing leather, but he reached to his side and snapped the end of the shaft off with a grunt. All five stood and turned toward the hill. Naiama, in her ebony mail, melded with the shadows.
"We waited. Jin'do tell us you bein comin' back," the one in the red plate spoke awkwardly through his tusks as he watched the hill. His ability to speak Common at all alarmed Naiama, but instead of responding she sent an arrow flying straight at him.
He easily side-stepped. His eyes narrowed, and the purple paint around them were as dark circles, deepening the sockets. She had given her position away the same way she had that afternoon. They could see her without a doubt, despite the nighttime.
"Elf, you go wit' us peace-like o' war-like, but you go wit' us." He raised his fist and lifted his large index and thumb. The troll with the bow came from behind him and raised it toward Naiama.
It was then that she decided she really must be suicidal. She fired another arrow and skid down the hill, but this time toward the enemies, not away from them. Her arrow hit the wounded scout, and he howled with the new injury and fell to his knees.
"Come and kill me!" she shouted and pulled out her knives, disregarding the warrior's words.
"Dat not be our task." The red warrior stood where he was, a hand slowly tightening over the coiled rope at his belt.
"Fine," she snarled through grit teeth and flicked her head to the side to see the sixth troll reaching out to grab her around the waist. She thrust out her knife and it stuck into his gut. With her other knife she stabbed through his sternum. He was the one she had shot in the chest earlier, thus he was already weakened. Naiama shoved off his last attempt to grab her, then brought up her boot as she gripped the handles of the knives in his long chest. She pushed and removed the weapons with the force.
"Who says I'm not a killer?" she roared blindly while the troll fell over behind her. The other three circled around her. The red warrior watched, the rope now in his hands.
The two remaining scouts and the archer lunged at her at once, and she released a cry like a wounded tiger when they piled onto her.
Instead of the pain of blades and axes as she expected, her hands were being bound.
"'Ey, shoulda brought a net," the red warrior said quietly. He tied the last knot as a scout jabbed their catch with his bare foot. "No, Kejano, shoulda brought a cage fo' da wild kitten!" the archer cackled. 'Kejano' looked down at Naiama. He reached down and swiped a turquoise finger over a scratch on her cheek from the tackle, then put it to his lip, like tasting a delicacy. He uttered something in Trollish in a tone that was something along the lines of remorse, of missing a great feast. The others nodded and one replied, pointing to the two corpses of their companions. Kejano held up one finger, and to Naiama's horror, the archer unhooked one of his axes. But he stepped over her and headed over to one of the corpses. There was a loud crunch and he came away with a bloody leg of his own comrade.
They had taken her blades and most of her dignity, but she was still quite irate. They tried dragging her through Elwynn forest on a leash, but she wouldn't budge. They tried carrying her, but she flailed and kicked and fell out of their grasp until they tied her ankles. She screamed for help until they had to silence her with a rag as a gag.
In the end, the trolls found that placing her in the arms of their leader, Kejano, stilled and silenced her. Everything about his presence was frightening. His blood-red armor wasn't cold like normal metal, abuzz with some bizarre power. His eyes were motionless and forceful in their gaze, framed by the purple paint. She couldn't stand smelling or looking at him, with his midnight blue hair and sharp tusks.
The party successfully traveled through Elwynn and across the river to Duskwood. They were far from any farm, any path, and only Defias and wolves would be out at this hour. Naiama was disappointed at the slack efforts of mankind to protect others in the Alliance's kingdom. If there were wardens, well, this never would have happened. This never would have happened if she lived a quiet life on Teldrassil. Or even fighting the corruption in Darkshore.
It never would have happened if you hadn't made those choices.
As they climbed the slippery mountains behind the ruined, infested farms of Duskwood, she recalled everything that had led up to this point. She understood fully now. Naiama was bound in more than rope.
At dawn, the temperature rapidly rose with the humidity.
Strange carvings and statues over tan walls surrounded them, with lush green above and below. An insect landed on Naiama's arm, and for a minute, her entire willpower was on making the itchiness subside without use of her hands.
They were greeted at a gate by a female troll Naiama would come to speculate had close relations with Kejano. Her armor was similar and her greasy hair matched his, held partly in a ponytail. She clung to him lustfully - when not holding her spear, and her smile was especially vicious.
When the gates opened, she knew, without any doubt or question, where she was. The heartbeat. The voice.
At first she saw all spread before her -- the path leading down across a bridge, the temple below. If she were not distressed, she would have called it a strange beauty. Not a minute later, she fainted, her eyes blind in red mist.
She awoke after a featureless unconsciousness. It must have been a small mercy, for when she sat up in the hut with the party, the thumping in her head returned. It was so loud that it droned out the ambience of the the jungle, the waterfalls, and the trolls.
A male scout offered her a piece of meat, with charred blue flesh. The devious smirk under his pointed nose made it clear he was mocking her, as well as the gag still around her mouth. The others laughed. They were despicable enough to eat not only their own kind, but their own kin.
An hour later -- or maybe a day, she couldn't tell -- the trolls untied Naiama's feet and took her to the main temple. She stumbled dumbly along the stoney path, hammered continuously with serpentine whispers. She didn't feel she had any sleep, but there was little desire for it in the young Kaldorei. Already pieces of her mind were tearing away. Whenever she thought of Creel, it was hacked down by intruding ideas.
When she looked up to the top of the temple and saw that face...the reptilian face with blue eyes, her knees gave way and she collapsed on the rickety wooden bridge. The heartbeat blared so intensely that her own heart was slowing down, matching the beat. Her eardrums became pained, and she was sure they would burst internally.
The trolls carried her the rest of the way and passed through the temple doorway to place her on the floor. Most of them left, but Kejano and the female troll began to remove her armor. Naiama was in a state of shock, paralyzed, as they unhooked each shoulder, her mail chestpiece, her boots...
The female pulled the secret poniard from Naiama's shoe and waved it in front of her dulled eyes while making "tsk, tsk" noises between her tusks. She also went through any pouches not already robbed, more for a reaction than anything else, and was mostly disappointed by the mere blink Naiama gave her.
They stopped at her undergarments and stood up.
"Elfy woman be so ugly!" the female said loudly in Common, to make sure her victim could hear her. Those words were some of the few she knew. Her blue mouth twisted into a grin around her protruding tusks. The jungle troll's eyes were piercing, made of hardened amber sap.
"Ah know wha' fix her, her ears be too big. Whachoo t'ink, brudda?" she turned to the male in the blood-red armor, holding the huge sword. Kejano simply eyed the female troll in response. She shrugged, then pulled out a jagged dagger from her waist and clasped one of Naiama's long ears.
Bring her to me now.
The trolls glanced at each other. Naiama heard it clear through her buzzing head, and she understood it, sending a shiver down her spine. It didn't matter what language the deep, hissing voice spoke in, it was understood by all.
"It be time, say he," another voice came through the stone room. This one she also recognized, and when she looked to the doorway guarded by two deformed trolls, the familiar figure became visible. She had never seen his face, only the painted wooden mask and the tusks and green hair poking out around it.
The couple bowed their heads, muttering "Jin'do."
Then Kejano reached for Naiama and lifted her roughly up by the arms. This time she lifted her gaze to the tall, quiet troll. He returned it, then removed the rag from her mouth.
"Why?" was the lone cliché word her dry mouth could produce. The sound was somewhat irregular, because she could barely hear herself through the din.
"Da Soulflaya' holds all," the red warrior replied, and for a moment his female companion stopped smirking.
The masked Jin'do nodded his head, which made the blue feathers on his wood shoulderpads quiver. "Child of da Stars, ya true purpose will soon be known."
And so it was. They dragged her to the very top of the temple, where the god himself resided, and threw Naiama toward him like a bone for a hound.
Naiama struggled with the noise in her head, then focused her vision on the giant scales before her. A massive serpent thing made of red, turquoise, and gold. Up and up she looked, and she was overcome with vertigo. Her head reeled so she had to shut her eyes.
Hakkar laughed. A big, booming sound that echoed through the jungle city.
"I accepted your challenge, and I have won. You failed in your moment of pride, Child. Now assk me your quesstions."
Her eyes opened and closed on their own, in a dizzy state of mind. The din was slowly dissolving, so as to better hear him in person.
"Kethinal...where is...?" she whispered hoarsely.
"Traitorous. Treacherousss. No longer my sson. I will desstroy 'him', and all of you will be rightfully mine."
"Father..." Naiama managed to exhale.
Hakkar leaned his snake body over her form menacingly. "Mine. Iss that all? Good, enough ssensseless merccy," the god straightened his upper body then looked to the corners of the temple. "Ssons! Lift up this shell of the Chosen!"
Red windserpents, twice as long as Kethinal, flew forward and hovered over her. They wrapped their tails around her arms and lifted her up. Her body hung limply as she rose in the air, and her feet lost contact with the temple floor. The experience was dizzying, and for the first time in her life, Naiama flew.
She stared at the hole in the Soulflayer's chest, where his massive purple heart glowed and pulsed. It was still audible.
"You will give all obedienccce to me until the day comess for your final ssacrificee. You will be my missionary, my priestess outside the walls of Zul'Gurub. Are you prepared?" he raised an enormous scythe-like nail.
Naiama saw the reptilian face again, and for an instant, her eyes locked with the god's.
Hakkar swung his arm and the black scythe tore through her chest and stomach. A scream ripped from her throat from the agony of being split open. She felt the sons of Hakkar releasing their grip. She was falling, falling, falling...
"Thiss world iss nothing. I am all there iss. You managed to get away from me oncce, but now you sssee the truth. I am the route to immortality, I am the route to the beyond. Your path is my path, your journey iss my journey. "
Naiama was vaguely aware of hot liquid escaping from her body and encircling her in a pool. Then there were Hakkari priests all around her. Tall, gangly shadows putting their magic into her, repairing the shell of a body.
But the vociferous bombardments continued into eternity. They invaded every part of her head, and when she tried to escape them by retreating into distant memories, they followed.
Faces of allies were mangled and contorted into a blur of the unworthy, of those that should either submit or die.
The world was nothing. Her people were nothing. Humans, the Alliance, the Light, Elune, all nothing of consequence unless it could be exploited for the good of the Soulflayer.
All dropped away into a crimson miasma, within the red oroborus, the spinning coils. There was only one purpose.
Jin'do knelt by the elf, his mask a play on his ferocity.
"Da Mastah be wantin' you to have dis gift," he said gruffly and held out a glowing, twisted kris.
Naiama eyed the troll and took the dagger by its hilt, clutching it to her chest.
"What must I do?"
"Da blood sacrifice you nevah made, Child. It must be done wit' dis weapon, enchanted wit' his powah."
"I will give him more than one. I could give him many," she tilted her head within the hood concealing her strange hair and glared past Jin'do the Hexxer.
"He prefer da significant, but you can start wit' da small. Please da Mastah, Child. Go now."
"I will please Hakkar," she stood and exited through the temple doorway where the guards waited.