Tainted Heart: Five Months AgoEdit
Five months ago…
The chamber was dark. The scent of must, mold and death filled the air. A large skull rested on a pile of bones in the corner, the dead, empty eyes dark and soulless. Cobwebs hung from the dirt and rock walls, swaying in the heat rising from the blood candles. The purple glint of soulshards glowed in the candles’ light from a shelf where a snake lifted it’s scaled head. The souls inside the gems darted about their crystal prisons, their brilliance waning and intensifying as they tried to escape. The nearly silent sound of their screams joined the slither of the snake’s scales as the only sounds in the room.
A hooded and cloaked figure sat at a bench, it’s posture tense, as if waiting. Long, pale fingers moved over a silver-bladed dagger. A ruby adorned its hilt and the fingers traced the channels along the blade. Her husband had once told her they were meant to channel blood away from the hilt of the blade to keep it from getting slick after use. She had reason to know it worked. She smiled and caressed the blade that the idiot Scarlet Crusader had given her so long ago. This was the blade that had killed her sister. This was the blade with which she had stolen Sannia’s future. This was the blade that, only months ago, took the life of her Fel bedamned husband.
He’d discovered her little secret, had come into her chambers while she’d been berating the imp. He’d threatened to expose her. She could remember his face, how it purpled with rage as he’d threatened divorce, how he’d threatened to toss her on the street, calling her Sannia all the while. She would have enjoyed it, if he had been yelling at her bitch of a sister.
Sannia had never deserved the attention she’d gotten, not as a child, not as a woman. Her parents had doted on Sannia – had given her everything that Alizsa deserved. She was prettier, more powerful. She had deserved their love! She had been the one that needed them, not Sannia!
Alizsa cursed. She’d succeeded in stealing her sister’s husband, her riches and power – her entire future, but even from the grave, Sannia tormented her. There was a blast of sulphur and her imp, Begnar appeared before her, scraping and bowing.
“Mistress’s, sister Begnar found!
Footprints trod upon the ground.
Booted steps from burial mound
Body filled with life, profound.”
The imp’s voice cackled madly, it’s rhyming a symptom of the torture Alizsa had subjected it to when first she summoned it. At least the voice was obsequious, as she required. It moved to kiss the hem of her robe and she kicked it, sending it slamming into the pile of bones in the corner. They clattered to the floor, the stale pieces of a childhood friend of Sannia’s sounding hollow in the dead air of the room.
“That bitch! Even now she wins! How?” The imp picked itself up, neatly avoiding another kick by it’s Mistress’s slippered foot.
“Sweet Mistress, pretty Mistress
Sister causing heart distress
Begnar did not tell all
Of Mistress’ sister’s fall.”
The imp laughed, the madness in its voice sending the wretched tones ringing through the bare rafters of the ceiling and shaking a spider from its web.
“Tell me, you wretched clown! Or I shall give you to the Felguard!” Alizsa’s voice snapped and there was immediate silence. This time, she allowed the imp to kiss her hem.
“Pretty Mistress… sister walks
Body decays through the days.
She laughs, talks, family takes,
Never living, life forsakes.
Tiger’s claw, Tiger’s tail
Harbor’s sister, ‘neath shark’s sail.”
Alizsa’s eyes widen, and she laughs with triumph. “She is Forsaken!” Her eyes narrow. “But what is this harbor beneath the shark’s sail you speak of?” She holds her hand up, forestalling words from the imp. “No, don’t speak, little filth. I tire of your rhyming.”
“Tiger’s claw… and tail… and a harbor. You little beast, I should not have broken you so quickly!” She tapped her lips with a long, sharp nail, ignoring the whimpering mass at her feet. “There is a large shark on display in Booty Bay… do you mean there, Begnar?” She grabbed the imp, ignoring the green flames that licked up her arms, and shook him. “No, don’t open your mouth. Nod. Yes or no.”
The imp nodded frantically and Alizsa smiled. She would go to Booty Bay and see what there was to see. She dropped Begnar and strode from the room, plans already forming in her mind.
Tainted Heart: Four Months AgoEdit
Four months ago…
Alizsa sat on a rooftop next to the fish monger’s store in Booty Bay. The stench of the large shark reached her nostrils and she grimaced. It had taken all of her skill to climb the roof and not fall off. Her new silk slippers hadn’t fared well on the rough, salt-eaten tiles and she had broken a nail. It would be worth every effort though, it all would. She just had to verify Begnar’s information. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the imp, she knew it was far too afraid of her to lie, but the fact that Sannia was alive was just –too- unbelievable.
Several people walked into the monger’s, a bald human with a blonde beneath his arm, several trolls. A large Forsaken man sauntered in, his walk a swinging gesture that made him appear to roll with every step. A few more of the rotting corpses followed a large, very intimidating orc. A large, floppy-brimmed hat shaded his eyes and Alizsa snorted. Those savages had no idea of fashion. She patted her intricately coifed hair and smirked.
And then… could it be her? Alizsa narrowed her eyes. The figure’s movement was familiar, that confident strumpet’s strut that drew the eye of every man, but it was too far away. Well, that was easily taken care of. She closed her eyes and concentrated, forming a ball of glowing light between her hands. She had to be careful – there were some that could see her collected magic and destroy it.
She sent the eye down the side of the building, nearly to the water, before allowing it to rise up the stairs, hidden in the shadow of the banister. She paused as the ugly little goblin paced the room below, then darted up to hover in the glare of a torch. Many were gathered here… the Tigers that Begnar had mentioned? They wore claws on their chests and, although Horde and Alliance were gathered together, there was no bloodshed. They gestured to each other and spoke, although she could not hear through the eye. She dipped below the torch, flowing down the wall to puddle in the sunlight near the door.
She carefully looked over every creature in the room. No… none of them could be her sister. A movement in the corner caught her eye. There, behind that wretch of a Forsaken. Yes! Sannia! It –was- her. Despite the dead color of her flesh, the ragged hair, it definitely was Sannia.
Alizsa nearly fell off the roof as she looked at her sister through the green distortion of her magic. It was true. The bitch walked. Well… that would only allow Alizsa more chance for revenge. Her concentration wavered and the eye disappeared. She laughed. It didn’t matter. Sannia’s first death at her hands had been too fast. Too easy. The bitch deserved a long, painful death, because knowing her sister, Sannia would easily find a way to be happy, even as a rotted corpse.
These Tigers appeared to be meeting here and she doubted this would be the last time. She could easily follow her sister and find a way to destroy her – to destroy them. After all, they took Sannia in. Anyone that harbored her sister deserved to die.
A Truth DiscoveredEdit
Nerrok casually strode into The Slow Blade, the Horde-side's base of operations for The Grey Tiger Tong. The muscled orc had a pleasant smile decorating his usually grim features, no doubt on account of the recent rendevous he'd had with his lady-friend he'd been frequenting of late...Visions of her jet-black hair and emerald green eyes flickering within his consciousness as he greeted Kareth, the shopkeeper.
"Nerrok...Letter from Undermine, addressed to the Tiger Master of the Horde. I guess ya might wanna take a look at it...", the orc mumbles, before going about his usual business of sharpening blades and taking care of "company business".
Nerrok narrowed his eyes...The pleasantness of his countenance disentegrating instantly. No wonder Booth had run off, he thought to himself. The paperwork alone that required a Tiger Master's attention would drive one mad.
He took the note, and tore open the envelope. The following is what he read, though before Nerrok could finish reading it's entirety, he lost track of time...Indeed, he lost track of his entire being.
"Za'Baal's work has been diligent. He has come to us numerous times in search of answers for the dissapearance of Su'Jin, though unfortunately we could not provide the solution. He should be commended for his work. He is indeed an asset to The Tong, and should be commended as such."
The note went on in excrutiating detail of how Za'Baal had tried doggedly to locate his lost sister, and the trials and tribulations that had accompanied his efforts. Much sweat, pain and bloodshed had gone into the task of locating Su'Jin, on Za'Baal's part.
As Nerrok's blood-red gaze followed the letters down the page, the crimson hue of his vision became, slowly but surely, icey blue with hatred. It didn't take long for the Hunter to put the pieces together.
He had been tricked. Booth had manipulated him. Indeed, he had manipulated every single member of The Tong itself...Claw, Officer, Vanguard, and Master alike. But his former Tiger Master had tricked him the most of all. He had made him think that Za'Baal, the Troll that had inducted him into the Tong...Brought him into the organization that most resembled the closest thing to a family he had ever had....had been a traitor. Nerrok remembered vividly the early fall day that he had led young Korttie away, so that Booth could shove a knife into the troll's temple. He remembered carrying the body, disguised in an empty fish salt sack, to the far reaches of Stonetalon to be disposed of. If he were a traitor, why would he have searched for his lost Sister with such determination? The clues simply did not add up to what he was told to believe. Anger became Rage in an instant, and Nerrok seized the shopkeeper by the throat...hefting the rather large Orc up by one arm, pinning him against the wall as he hissed out his words, his Blood Fury getting the best of him as he took out his frustrations on the poor fellow.
"If you see that lecherous zombie...You tell me. He has tricked me...You...Us. He is no longer your master....", Nerrok struggles to spit out the rest of his words, overcome with grief. "He is no longer welcome here, nor anywhere within The Tong's juridiction. You tell me...For I will not rest until his traitorous blood is painting these walls..."
With that, he lets the orc down, who collapses onto the floor, clutching his throat and gasping for breath. "I...I will, Nerrok...I swear upon Thrall's honor...", he rasps, knelt onto one knee.
The wounded shopkeeper could not stop the rampaging hunter from tearing the shop apart in anguish. Tables were overturned, blades were jammed into the tent walls...The entire Slow Blade was ruined in essence, thanks to Nerrok's uncontrollable fury at this news.
Gathering his thoughts outside the gate of Orgrimmar, he slowly and silently approached the Zepplin platform. Nerrok clutched the note in his fist....Having never experienced his rage at these heights. How could he have been so blind...?, he wondered aloud to himself.
He needed to see Her...To hold Her...To kiss Her...To feel the warmth of Her flesh against his own, to hear her soothing voice comfort his tormented mind. Anything to calm him down, which only She could, at this point. But before that, he had to get this note to Tai Jiang...To explain to him what had happened. To explain to him how he had been betrayed. Indeed....To explain how the entire Tong had been stabbed, literally and figuratively, in the temple.
With his eyes, the windows to his very soul, colored amber and slit diagonally as the zepplin departed for Booty Bay, the spirit of The Hawk possessed the green-skinned hunter.
The Hunt begins.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Vastly troubled by the last guild meeting, anger wrapped tightly about her mind. Entering into battle, she fought side by side with Deggar, defending the Lumber Mill. Focusing and honing her skills, she gained recognition...and after all said and done, rewarded with an Insigna.
Settling atop the bank's roof, a place she had come to enjoy, her thoughts traveled back again to the last time she saw him. Honing her blades, she carefully applied poison. Could he still be there? Could she take him down for the Tong?-- his power so much stronger than her own.....rage surged again with the word of how he betrayed them all. She didn't understand the details of it, only having gathered from what was said and watching Nerrok, with Tai Jiang reactions.
She had to check. Moving through the city, she made her way out of town. Traveling long and far, she finally reached the destination.. and slipped into the shadows, weapons ready.
A butt of a cigarette flicked in her direction, along with his familiar sarcastic tone. He was here! But yet,-- He had heard her steps. Then she saw him, sitting there. The man she had grown to respect, a mentor in learning the world at large. Her hands tightened on the daggers, the hilts suddenly feeling hot and slippery. Ready for the battle of her lifetime.. yet even now, she recalled his teachings.. if he had wanted her dead, she would have been so already...
He wasn't wearing the hat.
That hit her like a spear through the guts. Destroying all anger and defenses.
She couldn't do it.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Sannia coiled to sit down upon the mattress of her room. Journal in hand, she carefully applied Tai Jiang's gift, wrapping the book cover around the treasure. "Sam", a winter veil's gift from Nerrok, slithered about protectively, forked tongue flickering the very air tasting the quality. Fingers smoothed down the front, before moving to stroke the crimson serpent's spine.
Cracking open the volume, she leaned picking up the quill from the nightstand, swirling it into ink bottle. Should she dare write her secret thoughts? It ached every day she kept things hidden, so precious.. yet the line she chose to walk, grew dangerous. The end would most likely be deadly, if not downright agony. No good could come of it.. yet it is what it is.
She stared at the faded blank page. Thoughts and emotions swirled in her Forsaken mind, torn loves, friendships and developing new relationships. Sam's head poked under her arm, before moving across the open book, going still, blocking her quill. Chuckling quietly, she sighed with a nod, taking that as a sign. Putting everything to the side, she petted her snake, coo'ing softly.
A Tainted Heart: Three Months AgoEdit
Three months ago…
Begnar capered at her feet, eager to do it’s Mistress’ bidding. A mithril cup was caught in it’s flaming hands, the herbal concoction within it bubbling, emitting foul noises and a stench to wake the dead.
Within the glass.
Lives to end.
Revenge to find!”
Alizsa rolled her eyes.
“I should have cut out your tongue, little filth. At least then I could not hear your insane babbling!” She resisted the urge to kick out at the imp, not wanting to spill the potion she’d spent the last month preparing.
“Take that to Sannia. Put it in her water or food. We shall have our revenge, Begnar. She will love him. He has left the Tong and we shall blast two birds with one shadowbolt.”
The imp nodded, laughing, it’s voice grating along her nerves like chain on bone. It did not speak, not wanting to feel it’s Mistress’ anger, but it could not contain it’s laughter. She could be brutal when she was angry. He had been the target of her rage often enough.
“The potion will cloud her judgment, enflame her mind. She shall think herself in love! And, if he doesn’t love her back, it shall only rip her heart the more!” Alizsa laughed, unaware that her cackling sounded strangely like the imp’s. “Think of it, Begnar! A corpse, thinking it still has a heart! I shall destroy them all!”
The imp slipped out, leaving it’s Mistress to her laughter at the thought of her revenge.
Poisoning Sannia with it’s Mistress’ love potion should have been easy. The Forsaken woman was often alone. Begnar slipped into her room, careful to keep it’s flames from setting fire to anything. He danced up on the bed, smelling the peach creams Sannia rubbed into her skin. It buried it’s face in her pillow, bringing the scent into it’s little lungs with a vulgar hiss.
Goes to hell!
Might be worth
Furrowing that earth!”
It laughed at it’s vulgar rhyming, pulsing it’s little hips as it capered and tumbled over the covers. A sound at the door brought a frightened squeak from its mouth. It hurriedly dumped the potion into the goblet on the night table, tripping over the feminine fripperies as it tried to scamper away. The mithril chalice tumbled from it’s hands, rolling beneath the bed, only to wedge itself against the wall.
Sannia stood for a moment in the doorway, speaking with someone. “What was that?” The rogue turned into her room, looking around suspiciously. Begnar rapidly faded, forgetting about the cup in its eagerness to get away.
A Tainted Heart: Two and Half Months AgoEdit
Two-and-a-half months ago…
The Felfire burned as she gathered it in her palms. Spectral pustules formed on her hands and arms, but she pushed through the pain. They would blister later, oozing toxic magic that would make her wish she were dead. It would be worth it, it would all be worth it if the spell worked. It had become her mantra over the past several months as she toiled, spying on her sister, studying the shadow magics.
Her potion had worked. She’d followed her sister several times, and discovered her meeting with the foul Forsaken male she’d seen that first time in Booty Bay. She hadn’t been able to understand the mush that came out of their decaying mouths, but their actions – those she’d understood. The man wanted her, in his womanizing, domineering way. And her sister… she would give in… and in the giving, would become her own destruction.
A change in the ball of Felfire brought her attention back and she smirked. She was no priest, but she knew a few in the shadows and had bartered for the knowledge of this spell. Darkness danced at her fingertips as Betram stepped from the other side of the fire. He began chanting, his voice harsh in the smoke from her fire.
“Picture her, Alizsa – form her image in your mind. Hold it strongly.”
They clasped hands and the priest shuttered his eyes, their chanting rising above them like sparks captured in the heat of a flame. With a final cry, they cast their combined magic out into the darkness of the night. The compulsion would travel until it met its target. It would strengthen the potion Begnar had given Sannia weeks earlier.
Her sister’s admiration would turn, change. The man’s nature would require he take her without Alizsa’s help. The spell was the final step in sealing their fate. Sannia would be captured, her natural emotions twisted, turned into tools to be used against them – against this new family she had formed.
The love Alizsa had created with her potion would turn to lust. It would be consummated, and they would lose everything. Tearing each other apart, as well as the filth that harbored her.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Air whipped her hair as she raced! The hollow clops of the horse she rode echoed through the streets! Laughter bubbled up and out with sheer joy!
It had been so long since she rode a horse...she had almost forgotten the pleasure it was. Memories flooded her mind, racing her sister 'Lizsa through Northshire forests, ducking limbs, leaping over rocks, splashing their way through streams. Their father had a stable full of mounts, but her favorite had always been Greystorm, a white stallion with a silvery-grey mane and tail.
She pranced the newly acquired beast before Nerrok and Nargesh, as they sat atop a roof, discussing possible recruits. Grinning she turned and raced off, heels kicking in the sides of the bluish equine, folks cursed out of her way.
She wanted speed! To run wild through the lands! While heading towards Undercity, she suddenly pulled up short. Booth sat grinning at her from under his hat, lounging an arm over his own horse's saddle. His quiet easy drawl came approving of her skills. He had always been able to find her, no matter where she was or what she was doing.. appearing out of no where.
Breaking into a bright smile, she returned his greetings. She had missed him terribly and apparently the sentiment was mirrored. He rode with her, guiding and leading her north. They raced and laughed. It was a long journey, this place he wanted to show her.. over mountains and dangerous creatures.. but finally they arrived at the ruins. High Elven history, laid spewn across the landscape. The moon held light over them, stars twinkled as she explored the buildings and docks.
Booth came up behind her, whispering in her ear, holding her there as they gazed out over the waters. Plans and dreams to find sanctity among the heavens. Leading her to the temple, she gave him a Winter Veil's gift.. a white-gold pocket watch, scrolled with the initial B. She had it specially crafted, holding a lock of her hair in the back, and other various details, Booth would enjoy...in the secret chamber. It became one of four things he treasured. A confession followed, professing emotions and admitting loves, his gift to her.
The night turned glorious. In the morning they parted, promises and last, lingering touches faded as she rode back to her home.
A Tainted Heart: Two Months AgoEdit
Two months ago…
Alizsa crouched behind a bush, her eyes locked on the two Forsaken. It had worked! She absently scratched at an oozing packet of pus on her arm, stopping herself as the acid of the magic burned into her skin. Yes, it had worked!
They embraced, flesh hanging raggedly from wrists and elbows – bones visible through skin that had gone translucent with death.
They touched and kissed, cooed as lovers do. She nearly gagged at the thought of that thing’s worm of a tongue in her sister’s mouth, of those long, bony fingers on her body. She shuddered. It was too fitting. She’d killed Sannia to keep her from becoming the duke’s whore, only to send her into the arms of a walking corpse.
She watched a moment more as they began to strip each other frantically. Her stomach turned and Alizsa slipped away, struggling to control her urge to vomit until she was safe.
She’d seen all she needed to see. Her plans would come to fruition. All she need do now was sit back and wait. Destruction would come. Her revenge would be complete.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Dark Lady Help me. So many things have changed in my life.. but the most pressing and dangerous is my love for a forsaken man. He is wanted from nearly every fraction, my company wants him put down and the orc I hold dearly to my heart, has a personal vendetta against this outlaw. I am so torn with the emotions that have come to life, waging war against each other. I have not seen Deggar in ages, and I think he would kill me on the spot anyway, should he ever learn who I am consorting with...or if was given orders to do so.. I do not doubt this outcome.
Sannia stared at the written words, her insides churned and burned hotly, aching, knotting. She felt sick. Conscience sought to slay her emotions. She honestly loved Nerrok as a brother she never had, respecting him greatly, he and the rest of the Tong her family now. Was she as bad as her sister? Keeping the knowledge of Booth to herself? Protecting the enemy? Who could she talk to this about? Who to trust? She had no one, without risking everything. She was scared.
... What to do? Love verses everything else in the world. Could it even hope to survive? How to choose? Dark Lady guide me.
Tears welled and dropped onto the page, spreading the ink into a artful splotch. Closing the book she thrust it between her mattresses, rocking with her arms about her middle. Shoving everything to the back of her mind, her features smoothed, the turmoil, once again, hidden away.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Sannia watched Nerrok test Justyc, wielding weapons, the clashing echoed off the mountain sides. The very air was tangible with Orc Hunter's anger. The new girl was exceptionally skilled with her blades, and blindingly fast. She got several good hits upon Nerrok, hissing out that his fury was making him slow! The battle ended with Justyc taking to kneel, both bleeding badly. She wrapped up the undead woman, then moved towards Nerrok, to do the same. He quickly slapped at Sannia's hands as she tried to bandaged the wounds, and began to rage at Justyc, talking about betrayals, her stomach curled into a hot, tight core of knots. She felt sick, feverish. Nerrok shoved through them, barking out that Justyc was hired..giving Sannia a parting suspicious glance... the pain that surged from her guilty conscience made her realize how much she truly loved their boss Nerrok, as a brother she never had. He was family. The Tong was family. They were an every day part of her life.
In her bedroom, she flung herself to her bed, bare traces of Booth's scent lingered. Nerrok had to know, she thought.. his sense of smell was beyond ordinary. He was the best Hunter in the lands. The undead rarely cry.. yet she found herself sobbing into the pillow, miserable, scared and curled with heartbreaking pain. What to do??! Who to choose? She began to whisper repeatedly, "Dark Lady help me." Please.
A lone figure walked slowly through the haze of Shimmering Flats. The familiar cowboy swagger soon became apparent as she watched him approach.
Whispering softly into her ear was the Dark Lady, standing behind her. Steeltusk snorted at the hem of Sannia's leather kilt. "That one's fate is sealed."
Suddenly a roaring vibrated the very ground! The Lady Sylvanas' arm slipped around her waist, holding her still to wait and watch.
Nerrok burst from the grounds, eyes a brilliant red, glowing horrifically. Anger poured off his skin, blending with the sheen from the sands. Weapons glinted, hurting her sight. He was charging the steadily walking forsaken. Icefang and Steeltusk lunged into action, loping after their Orc companion, all intents of gouging, ripping and shredding flesh apart.
She met Booth's eyes and he gave her a single smile, reserved only for her..his gaze sad and regretful. Then he vanished with a snap of his fingers. The battle commenced, the Rogue Boss's daggers flashed expertly, getting Nerrok into a wicked stunlock, immobilizing... but the pets attacked in unison, from different directions, ripping into Booth's legs, sweeping them out from under him.
Nerrok staggered, blood pumping out of a sliced wound.. there was so much red splattering the white sands of Desolace. Somewhere she heard screaming, a wailing...high keen sound. It was coming from her lips. The Dark Lady's arm tightened, her voice whispering. "You will loose them both. You have only one choice."
It happened in slow motion, Nerrok's lance, glowing thrusted with a murderous intent, piercing Booth's heart, slicing sideways to split his spine, severing nervous systems. The betrayer folded like a rag doll at the Hunter's feet. Weapon pulled out, lifted as Nerrok bellowed with victory, a primal warrior with a bestial fury.
"Go to him,.. one final time." Sylvanas voice echoed.
Released, she ran for the crumpled body...even as she gathered up his broken figure, the light was fading from his eyes.. rattling words came out..'Sannia..' 'The Stars...' Hugging him, she rocked with the loss. A midnight cool touch her temples...emotions, memories rippled, easing.. Booth vanished in a whirlwind of dust.
She looked up to see Nerrok bleeding out. Renewed energy flowed into her legs as she stood and hurried over to him, kneeling. He didn't slap her hands away this time, as she quickly began to staunch the wound, yet it wouldn't heal.. it cut to deep.. treachery, betrayal, anger. His eyes blazed with demon light. Sylvanas gathered his pets, surrounding them in a healing veil, lending strength. He would live, his destiny the Dark Lady hushed, has yet to be fulfilled.
Lady Tattersall awoke with a gasping cry, the dream still visible before her eyes...and the Dark Lady's words haunting the very room. "Choose."
Windows to the SoulEdit
The Previous Night
Taai made her way to the Slow Blade, a pathway which had become familiar to her, though she still treaded cautiously. Nodding to Kareth, she made her way inside the office, making use of Nerrok's renovated cooking space, lightly frying up the fresh trout she caught earlier. He said he was working late, so she made a recipe that would stay edible for hours. Fresh bread, spread with creamy butter accompanied the meal. A flask of rum at hand.
--- When the Hunter finally arrived to sleep, she helped him out of his armor and weapons, setting them upon appropriate racks. During the meal he informed her he needed some time away, he loves her, and not to worry about him. Pfft. Easier said then done. But as her nature, she didn't pry, trusting in him completely and accepting what he needed to do.
Taai tugged him from the meal, and ordered him to lay down on the bed. Strong rogue fingers sought out the knots of heavy shoulder muscles, working and massaging sore, aching areas upon Nerrok's broad back. Once she felt him relax, fingerpads would lightly caress his temples, soothing and easing him into a sleep.
Gazing lovingly down at him, she curled up next to his slumbering figure, sharing the warmth of bodies, wrapping him into a tight hug, sinking peacefully into dreams.
Nerrok burst into The Slow Blade rather violently, the massive orc shirtless, his green skin covered in sweat. Various cuts and slices created by daggers wielded in skillfull hands lined his bare chest and abdomen, though he ignored the pain that came with the oozing blood. Indeed, the sensation only seemed to feed his already-boundless rage. Crimson eyes flared with demonic potency, his fanged maw seemed to be foaming, and bulging veins erupted along his arms, chest and neck, pulsating with the beat of his heart that, in this particular moment, was blackened with pure, unadulterated hate. As he struggled to where his satchels were stored between bouts of blacking out, he had no idea how he had managed to not rip the new recruit's spine out of her mouth and strangle her with it as he tested the mouthy, hissing Forsaken that Sannia had introduced as "Justyc". Her words...Her challenge...Had stoked a fire that had been burning for days, now. Ever since he'd caught wind of Booth's scent...On one of the few people that he would entrust his very life to(Besides his pets)...Gladly allow her to take it, in her hands, with the strongest and most devout of faith. It was still there, on her, tonight. It drove him to frenzy...A frenzy he was just barely containing, by the thinnest of margins.
Kareth, the store's Orcish shopkeeper, having just finished up his nightly chores and preparing to head to bed, turned toward the source of the disturbance...Taking one look at Nerrok and mumbling something along the lines of "Oh, shit..." before dropping the bundle of throwing knives he was set to put on display, and making a beeline for his sleeping quarters. Nerrok ignored him, by The Light's Grace...Gathering up the things of his that he identified as being vital; his weapons, his armor, a canteen...Much like a small child would pack his things up in terrible fear to run away from an abusive parent.
He heaved in ragged breaths as he tore out his comm unit, throwing it onto the ground before turning and sprinting out the doorway like the Lord Kazzak himself were chasing after him. He had to get far...Far, far away...Where no one could find him...Where this beast he was turning into couldn't harm anyone. Even his most trusted companions were left behind, Icestorm, Steeltusk and Ironfang running after him, tireless from worry and seeming in a frenzy themselves as they shared their master's grief, only to lose him in the darkened Orgrimmar streets. The trio of animals would pull up short as he faded from view...Scuttling around each other in a devasted, confused circle, before Ironfang would sit back on his haunches, threw his head back and howled as loud as he'd ever howled.
Icestorm replied by roaring his anguish, and the hulking boar which was Steeltusk stamped his hooves in frustration, squealing and grunting in agony. Even their mental link between their master, the strongest of bonds capable of being forged between man and beast, were severed, thanks to the cloud that had descended upon Nerrok's mind. They eventually returned to The Blade, sulking, where Kareth took to them as best he could...The orc Shaking his head slightly as he silently wished for Nerrok to return, safe, sound and sane...Though he knew even if it were possible...From what he'd seen this night, and what he knew of his boss...It wouldn't be an overnight occurrence.
Not to worry he said.....the next day when she couldn't reach him on the comm., she waged war against fretting and an overactive imagination. Remember to breath. That always helps. Oh, and so does Rum., thankfully there was a healthy stock of it always around the office.
Kareth looked up sharply as the door opened, then let out an audible sigh of relief. It was just the girl.
Krelle entered with a winsome smile, shutting and latching the door behind her. "G'mornin, Kareth! Is Nerrok in? I got news for 'im, and that lazy man's got his comm... " she trailed off. All three of Nerrok's pets where there, whinning at her, clearly agitated. Kareth looked like a man walked a tightrope and Nerrok's armour was missing from its pegs on the back wall.
"Ah," the orc fumbled. "Well, now, Krelle, Nerrok is um, he needed to uh, ... for a few days."
Krelle frowned at him, slowly crossing her arms. The girlish enthusiasm was gone, and she spoke sharply to the orc. "Make sense, Kareth. We're moving on Ratchet. Nerrok needs to be here. What happened?"
Kareth sat down, rubbing his face with greasy hands. He looked exhausted. Krelle stared at him pitilessly, waiting for an explanation. He sighed and spoke more slowly.
"Nerrok came in the other day," he said simply. "He was in a rage. He took his things and left. I've seen it before, Krelle. When he's that angry, he knows that he's a threat to others. He's gone of to regain some self control, and he'll be back. A few days. A week at most."
Krelle was not impressed. "A week, just to calm down?"
Kareth sat, staring at the floor, rubbing his hands absently together as though washing them. "You need to understand, girl. It's not just him... the war was not so long ago."
Krelle nodded slowly. She head read about the great war against the humans, before the scourge. Many orcs, desperate for an edge in the battle against a much more numerous foe, had accepted the taint of the demons in exchange for prowess in battle. They had gained enourmous strength, but had also become berserkers. It was said that the taint could never be fully cleansed... But that had been a long time ago. Years, even. It troubled her that someone she cared about would be so affected by what she considered old history.
"Well, damn," she said softly. Who would lead their forces in Ratchet, and coordinate with the alliance side of the Tong? As much as they all respected the humans, she somehow did not imagine that Nargesh, for one, would be inclined to listen to orders from Tai in the heat of a battle. Especially if he didn't like those orders.
Krelle's gaze returned to Kareth. The orc looked uhappy, but resigned.
"We need him back, Kareth. He has to be here, and functioning, tomorrow. We don't have time for this."
Kareth shrugged his broad shoulders. "He left his comm here, miss. I don't see how you could contact him, since even I don't know where he went to. We'll just have to hope that he comes back in time."
"Hope is for the living," she said harshly in Gutterspeak, quoting her old mentor. Kareth stared at her blankly. "Have his things ready, Kareth. He'll be back. I'll go call him."
Kareth nodded uneasily. He hadn't much faith in mysticism, but it was hard to convince a walking corpse that certain things were unnatural. He sighed in relief as the door closed behind Krelle, leaving him alone with the three pets.
As an afterthought, he took out a battered old sign and hung it from the store's door.
Piss off, we're closed.
Forgotten in a corner, Nerrok's comm broadcast to no-one.
"Frak..." a small voice came out. "... Krelle?" a womans voice asked. "Taai! Oh, Taai, I'm so glad you're on." "What's wrong?" "It's Nerrok! He's run off in an orcish rage and I don't know why and he left his com here and the fight is tomorrow and he has to come back and I was gonna call him with magic but the only guy I know in orgrimmar is a warlock and that would only make him madder cause he's an orc and they go all bonkers over that stuff sometimes kind of like Miss Kennia and he ran off and I don't know where he is!" "Woah, woah girl! Calm down, it'll be allright." "But Taai, he has to come home!" "It's ok, Krelle. I think I know where he is." "... really?" "Yes." "And, you can go get him?" "... I think so." "But..." "I'll get him, Krelle," the voice said with finality. "You get ready for the hit tomorrow. Let me worry about Nerrok." "Yes, Taai. Thank you." "No sweat, kiddo. It's not your job to take care of him." "... okay." "Good." "Taai?" "Hm?" "Is it your job?" ".... We take care of each other. All the tong do. We're a family, Krelle." "Yes. I know." "Now don't you have something to be doing, miss?" "Yes, ma'am!" <click>
Usually Taai left Nerrok alone when he requested, giving him his space and respecting the distance. Over the course of the months of being with him, he had showed her his favorite place.. stating it is where he came to do this thinking. The view had been spectaclar.
After her conversation with Krelle, she knew the Tong would need him for the battle against Rachet.. to help reclaim the town. --Said not to worry about him... yet Krelle said he ran off in an .. Orcish rage?? The rogue frowned, wondering what could have gotten him that riled up.
Gathering up gear, she went to the stables, patting down Swiftshadow's neck. "'tis off ta the Barren's boy. Gots ta find a partner." Whiskey poked his furry head out of her sack, chattering before disappearing back into the depths.
<A small note was left in Kareth's hands, the shopkeeper sighing in relief as he tacked it onto the inside of the doorway>
"I'm back. Sorry for the unexcused absence. Comm's on if you need me.
Sannia missed the posted note, not realizing Nerrok had returned. She wrote up a report on her interview with Ben Arris. She moved to the back office and left the missive propped upon the Boss's desk. She had been meticiulous in bathing, her light perfume of peaches applied, and a new gown donned. Resolved from the Dark Lady's dream, the turmoil inside had quieted, left with only a clear pathway of what yet, had to be done.
Yesterday I met up with one, Benjamin Arris. During our meeting at the Crossroads, the Alliance attacked. In the commotion, we moved our interview up the road apace. I learned and confirmed, he is looking for his sister, A'fre.. <aside note, that is the closest I could come to understanding the name, due to his heavy accent>
I had him skin a lion, larger than himself. He took it down nicely, displaying good skills at fighting. He is amiable. He has my approval, and seeks now only your stamp of hiring.
Taking a huge breath she looked around the office. Dark Lady how she loved the company! Quietly leaving, she made her way towards Booty Bay, needing blue pearls.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Urges so strong to see Booth hit her raw and left her trembling with a hollow pit in her stomach, clenching her heartbeat, crushing. She would wake up, literally in cold sweats, feeling feverish. Dry heaves had her choking as if she were alive still.....
... then the song would burst through the haze.. easing the tightness. Cooling, calming...soothing. She would slump back in her bedding, shivering. Rolling over and grabbing all the pillows she could, soft sobs became muffled. Sheer torture, of a broken heart. She prayed to the Dark Lady, listening for that song of support and strength. Fighting every step of the way.
An Aged Leather Manifest EntryEdit
Moonlight hit the flanks of her skeleton horse, creating a myriad of blue hues. Hooves beat out a furious tempo, as she raced off into the night, seeking to do Lady Sylvana's bidding. Ever since she had that dream, a cloud seemed to be lifting from her sight. Booth sent word to meet him, her conscience flared anew, thinking of Nerrok, Nargesh, Deggar, and even her new found friends of Jagezz, Krelle and Justyc. She knew what she was feeling, but what was she thinking? She betrayed the core of her life, for the love of a forsaken man. What hope or happiness could they ever find? Always staying in the shadows, on the run, fearing for their very lives? Alone?
The Dark Lady was wise, and she threw her faith into the Queen of Undead.
There. Up ahead, his familiar figure. Her heart clenched, stomach coiled and curled with all the secretive, sensual happiness they had found in each other's arms. A silent prayer went up...Dark Lady give me strength, to do the right thing.
Dismounting she went to him, unaware of the feline, silently padding shadow that followed her, or of the warlock's imp- Begnar's eyes that stared unwavering for his Mistress Alizsa.
Embracing, she began to speak, whispering the words that needed to be said. Booth was not happy, frustration in the situation, both their hearts breaking. Star-crossed lovers, she refused to see him dead, wanting him to run, flee, save both of them, for Time was on their side and the future yet unseen. Hours blended as they spoke in hushed arguing, pleading voices.. but in the end, all promises of plans vanished into the reality of the situation. She struggled with emotions, back and forth, but the strength did arrive, strangely enough...actually tingling up her spine, right to the ends of her eyelashes.
She kissed him, one final time, .. lips trembling, lingering... saying goodbye. Tears mixed with pain of a broken heart, that rode with her all the way home, throbbing slow beats, strong urges fought with her mind and heart, almost forcing her to turn around and go back....Then the tingling came again, easing the strain of her shoulders, the tightness of her chest.. soothing.. cooling. She was exhausted, feeling comfortably numb. Falling into her bed, her last thought...bizarre enough, was of an undead Elven Lady, singing softly...the sound haunting, powerful.. wrapping her into a cocoon of protectiveness.
A Fate Worse than DeathEdit
Nerrok sat on a tabletop in the back room of The Slow Blade, clad in his usual armor. Cross-legged with hands in his lap, his eyes were sealed tightly shut as incense burned in their holders, causing wisps of light grey, scented smoke to curl and swirl about him, mingling with the glowing green aura of the steel he was encased in. His eyes didn't open when Sannia opened the doorway and walked quietly, meekly inside...Having to stop outside the building and take many deep breaths as she bravely prepared to face her certain demise with the confessions she was there to tell.
"Nerrok, I-" She stammered. "I ha--...I have something to tell you."
"I know", was his quiet reply. His eyes remained closed.
Sannia nodded, slowly...Her own suspicions confirmed. She holds back the urge to sob. "I have forsaken him, Nerrok."
Silence was the Orc hunter's only answer to this, for a long while. What seemed like an eternity passed before his hands slowly rose, grasping at his helmet as he removed the spiked chain and set it to his side on the desk. Only then did his eyes open. They stared directly into Sannia's own, seemingly past them and into her very soul. She couldn't sustain the eye contact for long. He stood, casually...Making a quiet clicking sound with this tongue. The gesture brought Icestorm stalking into view, the hulking white lion seemingly materializing out of nothingness as he entered, paws falling within the very same path that Sannia's feet had travelled to get her this far.
"You've had eyes on you for quite some time now, Sannia." He paused...And then grinned. He wasn't looking at her anymore. He couldn't bring himself to for the fear of vomiting. The expression was nothing short of chilling. "You must think me quite the fool."
Sannia shook her head quickly, eyes lowered to the ground. "No, Nerrok, never."
Rage was absent from the orc's voice. His eyes weren't flaring with demonic potency as they had been the last time he and Sannia had met, before he took an unexplained leave of absence. Though despite the apparrent lack of anger, another, perhaps more terrifying emotion dripped from every word he spoke, every action he made. Cold, calcuated premeditation was the order of the day. An aura of silent lethality emanated from the hunter...Deadly and predatory. Nerrok was the snake that had coiled around it's latest victim in The Slow Blade that day, preparing to sink his fangs into vital, life-sustaining flesh.
"I think you're wrong. I all honesty, I think I'm a moron. You've had me suckered from day one, after all....", he continued, his words as icey as a Winterspring nightfall. "Tell me, Sannia...How did it begin?"
She hesitated...But began her side of the story. "I went to kill him, Nerrok...I truly did. But when I found him, he...I...I couldn't do it. He kissed me, and...I...", he paused, unable to formulate the words. The urge to run back into twisted arms suddenly hit her, twisting her stomach into knots…Before she heard the sound of The Dark Lady’s voice, singing to her. She immediately calmed down.
Nerrok nodded. "So you continued to see him. Fell in love with him."
Sannia nodded, slowly.
"You knew The Tong wanted him dead. You knew he had betrayed us. And yet you did this anyway. You knowingly threw away your entire life...For a kiss." Nerrok was looking at the ground, now, as he spoke. Sannia's mouth opened as she attempted to reply, but choked on a sudden, unpredicted sob. His words made the gravity of her mistake double upon her shoulders.
"Seems I'm not the only moron in this tent, then", the orc snorted. "So thoughtful of you to come and keep an impotent fool like myself company. Thank you kindly", Nerrok hissed, venom dripping from his words. "Well...Sannia...", he continues, casually reaching over to the desk and grabbing hold of his hunting rifle. He hefted it effortlessly with one arm, and placed the muzzle of the gun against Sannia's face, pulling the hammer back with an armored thumb...The barrel easily as big as her head. He turned it to the side so that he could see at least one of her eyes, looking into it as he spoke. "Give me one good reason....", he pauses at that, having roughly jammed the gun against her face with his last three words... "...Why I shouldn't blow your brains out all over the inside of this hut."
Tears streamed down Sannia's face as she sobbed...Though even with the massive gun pressed against her head, she was able to collect herself and face the music. She stood up a bit straighter as she struggled to reply. "Because it would be too easy. If you let me live, I have to do it with the knowledge of what I've done."
"Hah! Seems the moron is smarter than I thought. That's partially correct", Nerrok exclaimed. He jammed the rifle's muzzle cruelly against her face again, as if he were wishing it were a blade instead of a gun, before tossing it uselessly to the side. "I've got three reasons why I'm not gonna do it. Would you care to hear them?"
Sannia blinked rapidy, too stunned to actually reply.
"DO YOU WANT TO HEAR THEM?" the Orc bellowed, intolerant of her shock. "I might forget them if you don't answer quickly; after all, I am a moron", he spat. Sannia quickly nodded.
"Reason number one", Nerrok went on. "If I do, Kareth over there," Nerrok paused a moment and motioned toward the front of the store where the shopkeeper was going about his business, unaware of the situation in the back of the store. "...will have to clean it up. I'd hate for him to have to do that, if your incredible stupidity happened to be contagious."
Sannia gulped, a solitary tear streaking down her face to collect with those that she'd already shed.
"Reason number two. You're not worth the couple copper pieces that it costs to buy the bullet that would kill you. I'd rather use it on something more worthy."
At that, Sannia's face drained of its color. The hunter's words cut so deep it seemed they had severed her tear ducts.
"And last but certainly not least, I'm going to explain to you just exactly what you have done...Not only to me and my guild", he continued, purposefully not referring to The Tong as "her guild". "...But to yourself as well. You might wanna take a seat. This is gonna be a long story."
Sannia wordlessly obeyed the suggestion while Nerrok took his seat again, along the desk. His place on it elevated him a half body's length above her, and he glared down at her like the merciless judge that he had become.
"Let's start off simple, since we're both such complete and utter idiots", he spat. "Do you consider yourself a good person?"
Sannia blinked a the question...But slowly nodded. "Ye---Yes. I like to think that I am."
Nerrok Hmmmm'd. "Interesting. Alot of those in The Tong ask themselves that question every day. We do some illegal things here and there, for the sake of profit. But there is a code we live by. We avoid civilian casualties, we don't go raping and pillaging. We try to stay as clean as we can even though sometimes we all get perhaps a tad dirty. The vast majority of what we do comes from taking advantage of the fools that want to keep throwing fuel onto the fire that is this stupid Horde/Alliance conflict. Am I making any sense? Please let me know if you're unable to keep up...", he snarls. Sannia nodded sadly, her eyes lowered.
"So you say you're a good person. I see. Well. Let's look back in time, shall we? You were here when Booth was the Tiger Master? You worked under him? With me? Please let me know if you didn't. I'm a moron after all, you could have just been one of my imaginary friends", the hunter spat, tangible hatred flowing from his mouth like a river of acid.
Sannia nodded again, every word she heard chopping her down another inch. "Yes...Booth was...the first I met whenever I awoke."
Nerrok's lips curled into a sneer, at that. "How sweet. Well. He was your boss. He kept kinda tight-lipped about everything when he wasn't around, correct? Kinda secretive?"
Sannia nodded again. "Ye---Yes. He'd come up behind me sometimes, usually startle me, but...I didn't really question where he was or what he was doing when he wasn't around."
Nerrok grinned wickedly as he leaned forward, fangs glistening malevolently. "Well let me clarify some things for you, Sannia. I was Booth's Vanguard. His "Right hand", so to speak. I knew what he was doing, when he wasn't with us. Most of it, anyway. I’m sure there’s a lot of things that even I don’t know about him."
Sannia tilted her head to the side curiously, wondering what the orc was getting at.
"...And you say you are a "good person". Would a "good person" fall in love with a cold-blooded murderer? A man who took young, innocent, corruptable young girls, much like yourself", he empasizes this, pointing a large armored finger at her as he speaks; "...and shoved them neck-deep into sex-trafficing rackets? A man so vile, so evil, that he's wanted for crimes so heinous, so unthinkable, that every major city and most of the smaller ones across the entirety of Azeroth, want him killed on sight?”
Sannia's eyes went wide as saucers, and the breath left her lungs.
"...And you call yourself a "Good person". The lips of such a man have been pressed against yours. The tongue of such a man has slithered its way inside of your mouth. And whatever other activities you two filthy traitors participated in....His taint has stained you. You'll never be able to get that taste out of your mouth, no matter how hard you brush your teeth", Nerrok grinned. " I'd go into more detail but I don't really feel like vomiting right now. History repeats itself, Sannia. And if it were to be a gauge of how your "lover" was likely to think, you were just another easy lay before he drugged you and carted you off to whatever clan of Blackrock orcs or orgres or whoever the fel he barters with, to be used and abused just like all of his other victims. And you loved him! Hah!"
Sannia gagged, dainty arms wrapping around herself as she shivered uncontrollabley. It felt as if a thousand maggots were crawling underneath her skin, the feeling of disgust unable to be shaken from her.
"Let's continue", Nerrok spurred onward, mercilessly. "You told me a story a while back, about your sister. She stabbed you with a knife...Made you rise as you are now. Took your life from you, and your husband to be. Correct?"
Sannia nodded, overcoming her grief for a brief moment to hiss in anger. "Yes. She stole everything from me."
Nerrok grinned again, though this time it was a gesture of mock-amusement. "Well well well! We have ourselves quite the pickle here, now don't we!", he bellows. "She stabbed you, her sister, in the back...And now you, have stabbed your entire -family- in theirs! You're no different than she is. You have become that which you hate."
Sannia's eyes went wide again. She shook terribley with rage and despair, fingers curling into her palms...And yet she could not deny the words!
"I bet that tastes good, doesn't it...", Nerrok mused, tilting his head slightly to the side as he looked down at her. "On top of the filth that your loverboy left on those pretty little lips of yours. You've baked yourself quite the cake here, darlin'."
Sannia glared at Nerrok, though the gesture was entirely void of threat.
"Glare at me again. I dare ya. I haven't even gotten to the best part yet." He would pause, then...running his tongue along his fangs as if in thought…Genuinely savoring her agony. He let her stew on that for a while, before he continued.
“I’m not gonna kill ya. I’m gonna keep you in The Tong. And I’m gonna protect you from the wrath of All the other Tigers and Tiger Masters. This entire situation stays between you and me, even if it means I end up getting the axe down the road because of it.
Sannia gasped in pure shock…Unable to do much else, at this point.
“And that will be your punishment. You will die every time they smile at you. You will die every time they help you with whatever you need. You will die with every gesture of love and kindness they give you. And yet you will live…to suffer the torment of your betrayal eternally.” Nerrok’s words were heavy, cold and final.
The last of the air Sannia had been struggling to keep in her lungs deflated, her shoulders slumping in utter, miserable defeat.
Nerrok looked down at her, solemnly. “You wish you were dead now, don’t you.”
Sannia nodded slowly, her voice distant, as if she were speaking from somewhere far, far away. “I already am.”
The orc nodded. “Then my job is done.” He went silent for a moment before he spoke again. “Stand up.”
With a tear-stained face and a sleeve that was soaked with them, Sannia came to her feet. Her face, her eyes, were deadened…Almost completely drained of the very will to live at the guilt of her decision and the sentence that Nerrok had levied upon her. The orc stood as well…and for the first time during this meeting, the icey features of his rugged face softened, the change barely noticeable. His eyes, too, seemed void of life and vigor. Indeed it seemed to take every ounce of strength he had in him to simply stand up and take a single, solitary step toward her.
He thought idley to himself as he silently attempted to think of what to do next. He thought of the dragons he’d slain, the demons he’d killed…The thousands upon thousands of hostile enemies that had died by his hand. He thought of how many times his physical and mental strength had been tested to the brink of death, a mere thread away from leaving this world for good. He thought of every trial and tribulation he’d ever been through; and none of them, without a shred of doubt in his mind, had been as hard or demanding on him as tearing into Sannia as he had just done. He could see it in her eyes, how he had destroyed her from the inside out. The trap had been sprung…the damage had been done. It was the toughest thing he’d ever had to do in all of his years of living: Slaughtering his kid sister’s spirit.
It was because of this that he wrapped his large, armored arms around her and hugged her in a tight, genuine embrace. Sannia’s eyes went wide and the dam immediately broke; she broke out into a flood of fresh tears and sobs, repeating “I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry….” And begging for forgiveness over and over again. Nerrok let her get it out of her system…and while she desperately sniffled against his shoulder, he whispered quietly into her ear.
“Sannia…Everything I’ve said to you today is true…and I stand by it. You’ve got a very long, hard road to travel…a very deep, dark hole to climb out of. You will have a shadow following you from this day forward. Nature is my sight and hearing, Sannia…If you stray from the path that I have set you on, I will know.”
The undead rogue’s lithe body continued to shudder and shiver in the hug as she sobbed, nodding, listening. Nerrok continued.
“You say you’ve already died, today. Well…So did I. But I’m giving you a chance, Sannia…I’m letting you walk that road. I’m letting you climb out of that hole. I’m letting you bring me back to life…” Nerrok stopped, lowering his head slightly before releasing her from the hug. “Don’t let me down….Again…”, he concluded, his voice barely audible as his eyes drop to the floor.
Sannia nearly collapsed onto her knees after Nerrok’s arms left her. She shakily closed the distance once again, her voice breaking as emotion overtakes it. “I---I won’t, Ne---*sniffle*---Nerro—ook…Th-ank yo-u…”, she sobbed, placing a gentle kiss against his unmoving cheek before turning, and making her way out of the hut as best she could.
Nerrok stood there for quite a long time, after she’d left…Content with the silence as his eyes never left the hard red earth that made up the shop’s floor. A lone tear slid down his cheek…The solitary drop of liquid having refused to fall, until that instant. It made it’s way down to his chin, hanging there for a brief moment before disconnecting, and hitting the dirt at his feet…Mingling with Sannia’s own.
A Goblet FoundEdit
The Crimson Snake, Sam.. slithered in and around Sannia's bedroom, hunting anything edible. His forked tongue flickered, sampling the air, detecting all sorts of strange and wonderful scents. Some extremely familiar, other's less unknown. Dust churned, cobwebs broke as the serpent made his way under the bed, coiling around a forgotten cup.
Slitted eyes shifted, fel-magic tingled, lingering a sharp distaste along the roof of his mouth. Hissing, he quickly wove outwards, inadvertently dragging the gem-encrusted goblet with him. Sannia glanced down from atop her mattress, where she had been working the leather hides. Frowning slightly her voice drifted, "What's wrong Sam?Mmm?"
Reaching for her pet, her world spun into sharp focus. Memories flared to life, of Ballrooms, guests laughing, toasting and drinking... the chalice upon the floor, was one of her family's heirlooms!!! Frowning deeply, she quickly snagged it off the ground. Where did this come from?? She never brought back china from her home! Breathing quickened as her thoughts rolled, questioning...Someone had to have been in her room.... but her family crystal?? Who... The goblet clattered from her suddenly numb hand, tumbling with a quiet, heavy clang of pure silver. Her upper lip snarled, as her eyes burned with anger. There could be only one. Alizsa. "'Lizsa. What have you done...now?"
Sitting weakly, she stared at the cup, trying to puzzle out why it was there, how it got there, and when. She could only think of one person, who might be able to give her more clues.. A Hunter, with a keen sense of smell.
A Goblet PassedEdit
Krelle flipped idly through the worn pages of the Orcish text. The rain was hammering down on the wooden walkways outside the Booty Bay office and she'd decided to put off business for a day. The kettle on the stove was hot, the windows were shut against the storm outside, and she had curled up in a large leather armchair with an old book about the Orcish invasion through the Dark Portal.
All in all, she was feeling rather cozy when Sannia opened the door to the crash of thunder.
Krelle marked her place with a bit of string and arched an eyebrow at her fellow rogue. Sannia, with a great sigh, had crossed the room and flopped into the matching armchair on the other side of the small table. Her snake had followed her and it nosed at her foot but she seemed not to notice it. She stared instead at the red glow from the open stove.
"How are you doing today, Sannia?" Krelle asked with just a trace of irony.
Sannia sighed again. "Poorly. Dark Eve to you, Krelle… it is miserable outside."
The girl nodded. "Truly. I'm catching up on some reading," she said as she flipped the book closed. The story was very interesting, but it seemed like Sannia wanted to talk. Oh well. The book won't go anywhere, she thought as she put it down on the small table. Nerrok had ordered her to keep Sannia's betrayal a secret, and to treat her as if nothing had happened. She disagreed with his decision but would respect it anyway, which left her in the position of feigning a friendship she no longer felt.
Sannia nodded absently, clearly preoccupied. Krelle's eyebrows twitched up again. "What's got you so down? And, does it need killing?" she asked in a joking tone, trying to perk her up a bit.
Her comment had the opposite effect. Sannia pressed her lips together, her face going pale in anger as she clenched a fist. "Aye. It does," she said through clenched teeth, and her snake darted under her chair to hide.
Krelle paused, taken aback. This was new. Well then… "Ah, lemme getcha some tea, San… I put a pot on earlier, and I always find a nice warm cup of tea helps me to calm down and plot a murder properly." Krelle rose from her chair and went to the stove, giving Sannia a moment to regain her composure. She kept her tone deliberately light - not to mock the other Forsaken, but to try and shake her out of her mood. Killing in anger was often sloppy. Best to be rational about it.
Sannia sighed again, her anger fading as she passed a weary hand over her eyes. "Thank you," she managed as Krelle handed her the hot mug.
"Everything's a bit better when you're warm," she said as she sat back down. Krelle kept her face pointed at her own mug, as though she were absently staring into it, but kept her gaze on Sannia, trying to gauge the rogue's mood. The woman was holding her cup stiffly and her hands were shaking. Sam, Sannia's snake, had slithered out from under her chair and was now rubbing against Krelle's leg. She gave the snake an absent smile as she silently watched her co-worker. Sannia had a faraway look to her eyes and her head was tilted slightly, as though she were listening to something. Gradually she calmed herself down, and finally took a sip of tea. She let out a long breath, and gave her head a shake as though to clear it.
"So…" Krelle prompted.
"I found something last night," Sannia finally said. "Or rather, Sam found something." She looked down at her snake, frowning absently. At the mention of his name, he slithered back across the floor to her.
"Found something, eh? Where'd you find it?"
Sannia's frown deepened as she pet her snake. "Under my bed, of all places."
Krelle twitched an eyebrow at that. "I'm gathering it's not a sock that you'd lost a while ago…"
Sannia glanced over at her, clearly wondering how much to say. Krelle watched her covertly. Sannia seemed to make up her mind about something, and spoke again. "Nae. I can't figure it out… I don't even know who left it there - though my mind keeps coming back to one single person."
"The person who needs killing, I presume?"
Sannia's eyes flared angrily. "Definitely."
"Easy, San," Krelle said soothingly. "We'll kill him. No worries."
Sannia half turned in her seat, reaching into her satchel with one hand and pulled out an elaborately carved goblet. She set it on the table between them, staring at it as though it might leap up and bite her. Krelle slowly set down her own mug and reached for the goblet. Wordlessly, she inspected it. It was a heavy piece, an ornate, formal wineglass made entirely of silver. Small gems were worked into the pattern adorning it and a decorative "T" was at the center of the design.
Sannia watched her inspect the thing. "It's not a he."
"She will die, then," Krelle said casually, carefully replacing the goblet on the table. "So why would someone leave this under your bed?"
Sannia kept a wary eye on the cup. "That is a chalice from my family's home. I do not know how it got under my bed… or why." Sannia glanced to Krelle, but the young Forsaken was only staring at her mutely. She continued. "My sister… killed me, bringing me into this life. She is the only one I can think of who would have access to the goblet… but why would she have put it under my bed?"
"Sending you a message, maybe?"
"But what message? And why not place it upon my dresser? Or mail it?"
"Well. It's much creepier to find something in your home - it would mean that someone had gone there without you knowing. Although if she were trying to scare you, then she wouldn't have hid it, she would have left it somewhere obvious…" she trailed off, her fingers beating a soft staccato on the armrest.
Sannia nodded her agreement. "I don't understand the why of it. But I want her dead. Her name is Alizsa… Lizsa for short."
Krelle nodded, her attention still on the puzzle of the goblet. She reached for it and examined it more closely, tapping on the various surfaces, scratching at the gems with her nail and giving it a shake. Sannia watched the inspection mutely. Finally Krelle sat it back down. "It's not bugged or wired."
Sannia blinked. "I hadn't thought of that… There wasn't anything else under the bed but a few dust bunnies."
Krelle leaned back in her chair, drawing her legs up beside her. "Alizsa eh? Wait, are your parents Forsaken too?"
Sannia shook her head. "Not as far as I know. I went back but couldn't find anyone. I have been trying to find my sister since I woke, to repay her for her "wedding gift." It seems that I should have tried harder."
The small rogue raised an eyebrow at that. "She offed you on your wedding day? Wow that's cold." Although it makes sense, I guess. Lots of confusion and bustle and whatnot… hm. Actually, a wedding would be a great place ta kill someone...
"It was an arranged marriage," Sannia said, interrupting her thoughts. "I never met Lord Farlington. Actually, she… it was the night before. We were getting ready for bed. The guests were to arrive the next morning - there was to be a feast. I was brushing my hair, when I felt a sudden sharp pain in my back. I looked up and saw Lizsa in the mirror, standing behind me, grinning… She pulled out the.. And I… " she faltered.
Krelle let out a low whistle, impressed. "Wow. Why'd she kill you anyway? If uh, you don't mind me asking," she added hastily.
Sannia shrugged, looking down at her hands as she idly toyed with her loose knuckle. "I honestly don't know. I think that she wanted to marry Lord Farlington… she always wanted whatever I had."
"Hmm," Krelle murmured. Jealousy. That works. "Back to the cup!" she said, and started ticking off points on her fingers as she spoke. "It wasn't left there to send you a message, since you apparently weren't meant to find it. Now, if it wasn't meant for you to see, it must have been meant for some other reason - I doubt that someone had a tea party under your bed."
Sannia was listening intently. Krelle continued. "It could have been planted as a bug of some kind, but that begs the question of why on earth someone would use this cup. If I was going to bug someone's house, I'd use an object they'd never look twice at. Plus, it's not wired. It could have been enchanted to allow someone to overhear what was going on, but any other object could have served the same purpose."
Krelle leaned forward as she spoke. "The fact that it's a personal item you'd obviously recognise hints at the idea that maybe it had to be, for their purposes. I'd guess magic, targeted at you specifically." She flicked the cup lightly, making a thin ringing sound. "I'd get that checked. You may have been enchanted," she said as she sat back in her chair, picking up her mug once more.
Sannia was staring at her. "But… I haven't used it or drunk out of it since the last ball at my home…"
Krelle shrugged, wrapping her hands around her warm mug as curled up among the cushions. "I dunno how enchantments work. Maybe it just had to be something you had used, or belonged to you." She eyed the goblet, curious. "Wonder what it does," she mused aloud. Or more importantly, how long it's been there.
Sannia looked puzzled. "I don't feel enchanted. I mean I don't have a third eye or…" she trailed off, looking nauseated.
Krelle sipped her tea, coolly weighing her companion. "Wouldn't have to be obvious," she murmured. "I've heard lots of stories of enchantments. There was the orc who was driven mad, and killed his whole family, claiming they were demons. There was the man who gave all of his money away… the troll who killed himself…"
Sannia was gaping at her. "Truly?"
Krelle nodded. "Sure."
"How awful. Why would folks do that to somebody?"
Krelle stared at Sannia incredulously. Is she serious? Sannia stared back at her, a look of innocent befuddlement on her face. Krelle bit back a sarcastic retort and spoke slowly, as though explaining something to a child. "Because you hate them?"
Sannia flinched back a bit, hunching over her cup. "My sister. That is the only person I could think of that hates me so."
Krelle managed not to snort derisively. "Well, the cup-thing fits with your sister. Does she practise magic?"
Sannia looked up quickly. "Yes, she does. Used to. She had always been dabbling in it. My mother used to complain about the 'poor company' she kept."
"Hmm. Not to stereotype your whole family, but let me hazard a guess that she had a lot of money and free time?"
Sannia nodded. "Aye. We were extremely well off. But I was constantly chaperoned."
Krelle blinked behind her mask. "Wasn't she?"
"Not as closely, I think. I never really paid much attention to her…we were never close. I would usually occupy myself… riding, painting, sewing, cooking. Then of course the outings in the park, services at the church… those glorious shopping sprees for gowns," she reminisced, smiling.
Krelle listened silently.
"I was the oldest," Sannia continued. "My family was counting on me to find a good husband. My dowry was larger, to attract the right kind of suitors, and my mother always encouraged me to go about town and 'make myself seen'. Our family had hit upon hard times. My marriage was to save them."
"How would you save your family by marrying someone?"
"Lord Farlington. Sure you'd heard of him?" Krelle shook her head and Sannia explained. "He was the most eligible bachelor. Handsome, and beyond rich. With our marriage, I was to give him an heir. Good bloodlines." She frowned then, looking back down at her hands. "I… found out that he married my sister, the next day."
"Ooo. Hey wait. Really? Isn't that a little quick? Even for an arranged marriage, shouldn't his family have waited for yours to have a funeral or something? Or do humans do things differently?"
"I am not sure about the funeral part… but I think she took my place, saying she was me."
"Ahh," Krelle nodded in undertsanding. Clever. "So your folks tried to keep the good catch eh, and covered it up? Must have been a private wedding. Your friends would have known it wasn't you."
Sannia nodded mutely, looking troubled. "It was a very private wedding."
Krelle, however, had already moved on and was now puzzling over something else. "Weird," she said to herself. "She won. I mean, she offed you, stole your man… why would she try to curse you now?"
"I honestly do now know. Unless… unless she didn't know I had become Forsaken? Maybe she only found out recently?"
"Ah, that would explain the delay," she agreed. She opened her mouth to ask why her sister wouldn't have just killed her, but decided against it. Instead she glanced at the cup, saying only "She must really have a hate on for you." Maybe she was afraid to move directly against Sannia because of her ties to the Tong? She ought to have taken back her cup, then.
"But I never did anything to her to deserve such hate!"
"Maybe she was crazy," Krelle shrugged, indifferent. "Signs point to a lot of weirdness in your family, from where I'm sitting."
Sannia looked deeply troubled. "I need to stop this. Her hatred pbviously knows no limits. I do not want her hurting anyone associated with me."
Krelle quickly took a gulp of tea, hiding her face behind her cup. "That'd be a shame."
Sannia flinched slightly.
Krelle drained the rest of the tea and set it down, in control of her features once more. She gave Sannia a friendly smile. "Tell you what. Why don't I take it to Orgrimmar? I know a warlock in the Cleft. He could tell if it was cursed."
"Oh, Krelle, would you do that for me?"
"Sure, Sannia," Krelle said as she rose, giving the rogue a sunny smile. "After all, you're just like a sister to me!"
Back to the SourceEdit
"Calculated risks?" Nerrok repeated with a wry grin.
"Well, sure," Krelle replied. "Gnomish technology, y'know."
They were lounging on bearskins by the firepit that Nerrok had dug into the back of the Slow Blade. He had returned from Outland - and brought her a real demon skull as a keepsake! - and Krelle was catching him up on recent news. The big orc nodded, his new armour creaking as he reached for his third glass of rum. Krelle approved of his new mail suit. The spikes and demon skulls decorating the shoulderpads where, she thought, especially impressive.
"If you've been working on it, I ain't worried about it," he said firmly. Krelle nodded as well, taking a drink from her mug of wildberry juice. She was pretty sure that an explosion would be the worst that would happen. Pretty sure.
"So, you said you had other news?" Nerrok asked pleasantly.
Krelle gave him a quick look before she continued. He seemed pretty mellow. "Yeah… Well, now, it's an interesting thing…"
Setting down her mug, she rose and crossed the room to her traveling pack, unlaced it, and pulled out a small iron chest. Using her lockpicks she popped open the clasp and took out the heavy silver chalice that Sannia had shown her earlier that day. Sinking back down to sit by Nerrok once more, she rolled it casually across the floor between them.
"Wassat?" Nerrok asked as he picked it up.
Krelle spoke softly. "I'm pretty sure it's a demonically charmed object that has been used to curse Sannia for the past several months."
Nerrok had been peering closely at the goblet and gave it a suspicious sniff. The taint of demonic magic was still on the thing, and with a disgusted sound he flung it across the room.
"Hey! I still need that," Krelle protested, scrambling up to run after the rolling goblet. "It's gonna lead us back to her sister!"
"Her sister?" he asked incredulously.
Krelle made a face as she locked away the slightly dented goblet and returned to her seat. "Yeah, lemme explain. Apparently, her sister, who hated her and eventually killed her, is some kinda warlock. She used that old chalice - it used to be Sannia's - to channel a spell or cast a spell or something. That's what Gardok says it is, anyway. He said it was the 'focal point of a powerful compulsion'."
"So Sannia's been cursed… for a while now? A curse to … what? Be a moron? You think this has something to do with her and Booth?"
Krelle shrugged. "Gardok said that the compulsion would have been aimed at an object, or a person. It coulda been a love spell, type thing."
Nerrok was flabberghast. He stared at her blankly as his mind processed this new information.
Krelle continued. "My clever plan is to look up her sister and ask her. With knives. But… assuming this is what it looks like, then yeah. Sannia might not have really been retarded and disloyal - just uh, weakminded or something."
Nerrok snorted. "You speak as if they are not the same thing."
Krelle shrugged. "They're not entirely synonymous."
Nerrok nodded slowly, pouring himself another large glass of rum. "Charm or not, it's gonna be awful hard to look at her the way I used to. But if what you're saying is true… Hm. Maybe I oughta wait 'til we find out what this sister has to tell us before I make up my mind."
"I agree. Definitely needs to be checked out - but still. Food for thought."
"Apparently her sister had hidden the cup under her bed. Weird eh?" Krelle shook her head in disbelief.
"How'd she find her? And why Booth?"
"Good questions," Krelle agreed. "I'll be sure to add them to my list of things to find out before I off her."
"Either it was one helluva good guess, or this sister has had eyes on not just Sannia but all of us for a long time."
"I know. It's an unsettling thought."
Nerrok picked up his pickaxe, sighting down along the thick wooden hilt as he hefted it a few times. "Kinda pisses me off," he said quietly.
A slow grin krept across Krelle's face. "Did you wanna help..?"
"Well. If this sister, warlock, whatever the fel she is… if she's been watching us for a while, she might have a trick or two up her sleeve. You might not wanna go alone."
"Very true. Plus, yknow - it's always nice ta have company when you're doing something that takes all day." Krelle grinned wickedly, her hand going suggestively to the skinning knife at her belt.
Nerrok grunted with a nod. "If it turns out she did, and forced Sannia into the arms of that sum'bitch by some sorta hoodoo felmagic crap… I bleed her slow." He glowered fiercely at the fire, his hands tightening on the haft of his pickaxe. Krelle coughed politely. His looked sharply at her, then grinned, relaxing a bit as he replaced his pickaxe on the ground. "We bleed her slow. Excuse me."
Krelle nodded with a crooked smile. "S'only fair. Frankly, I'm surprised her sister didn't just kill her. This chick sounds like someone who's terribly impressed with how evil they are. Maybe they're both feebleminded."
"No kidding. And a major pain in the ass. How'd you find out about all this? Sannia?"
"Yeah, mostly. She was in a snit about it after she found the cup."
"You talked to her? Boy, if only I had been a fly on the wall for that conversation…"
"Ech. You didn't do me any favours, tellin' me ta still be her friend an' all, but it's not so bad I guess. Lets me practise."
Nerrok smirked at her and she made a face at him, spitting out her tongue. "Anyway," she continued. "I ran into her at the 'Bay office. She told me 'bout the cup an' her sister, so I took it here to get it looked at," she nodded towards the door, and the Cleft of Shadow that lay beyond. Nerrok was not a fan of the warlocks who shared the lowest valley of Orgrimmar with them, but Krelle had found it useful to cultivate a kind of business relationship with one. Gardok was greedy and unscrupulous, but he wouldn't cheat her again. She was confident that the information he'd given her about the chalice was accurate.
"What do you still need the cup for, then?"
Krelle grinned, sitting up straighter as she explained. "This is where it gets clever. The cup wasn't the source of the power for the spell, see, but just the channel for it. Gardok said that the lock who cast the spell must have had some hoodoo circle drawn in virgin-blood on the floor or something. I dunno what they write with," she added at his smirk. "Anyway! The cup is linked to the circle, see? So we can follow the path of the spell back to the place where the ritual was performed. The best thing is that Sannia's still acting all spacey, so the spell is probably still in effect!" She sat back a bit, grinning maliciously. "Five gold says we find her sister dancin' naked on some runes."
"Gonna make 'er eat 'em," Nerrok muttered thickly, his eyes slightly glazed from the successive shots of rum.
"The runes? Sure. We'll have all night," she snickered.
Nerrok shook his head slightly. "You're enjoying this eh?"
Krelle paused, considering that. "Well. Yeah. I like catching bad guys. Anyone who fraks with the Tong oughtta die. So, yup. I'd say this is the highlight of my evening."
Nerrok nodded slowly as she spoke. "Well said."
A soft, almost hesitant knock sounded at the front door of the shop. Krelle sprang up to answer it, glancing over her shoulder at Nerrok. He gave her a nod, and she opened the door.
Gardok Felweaver stood awkwardly in the doorway. He nodded to Krelle, but his eyes darted nervously to Nerrok as he spoke. "The scrying pool is ready, Lucky. If you bring the goblet down we can get started."
Krelle grinned tightly. "Good. Just let me -" she started to say but he shook his head, backing up a pace uneasily. Nerrok's lion had started to growl, a low grinding sound in the back of his throat. Krelle glanced back. The firelight cast dancing shadows across Nerrok as he stared malevolently at the warlock at his door. Krelle looked from the hunter back to the warlock and nodded quickly.
"I'll meet you there," she said, and shut the door in his face.
They debarked from the blimp at Grom'Gol Base Camp, speaking quietly in the private language of the Tong as they moved towards the stables.
"So he tracked her to… where?" Nerrok asked as he fastened his gauntlets. The effects of the rum had faded now, and his eyes were sharp as they scanned the moonlit camp.
"Sannia's old house, in Westfall. You know where it is?"
"Nah, but if she's dancin' on demonic runes like you think she is, then… She won't be hard ta find."
Krelle smirked as they approached the stablehand. "Guess we'll see."
Nerrok led Talon out of the stables, pausing to speak softly to his raptor. Krelle reflected that they were a formidable looking pair. The thick armour plating gave Talon the look of an ambulatory war machine, and when Nerrok was mounted on his raptor the aura of impending violence surrounding the two was almost tangible.
Talon trotted over to where she stood waiting. She reached up to take Nerrok's hand and the big orc lifted her effortlessly into the saddle in front of him, where his saddlebags rested when he travelled. She probably weighed less than his packs would have.
"Let's get movin," Nerrok said to his mount, touching his heels to the raptor's flanks. Talon roared eagerly and broke into a bouncing run.
The jungle passed by on either side in a blur of foliage as the raptor raced along old paths. Krelle almost whooped in joy as the raptor leapt from a cliff to land, still running, on the mossy ground below. As serious as the evening's business was, she was confident that they'd be able to handle one lonely warlock, so she enjoyed the mad dash through the jungle, up the beach, and into the lands of the humans.
They slowed when they reached Longshore, keeping off of the paths and roadways to avoid the humans in the area. As they approached Westfall they dismounted, Nerrok sending Talon off to hide himself in a nearby copse of trees. The two tigers proceeded on foot, moving surprisingly silently despite the heavy armour Nerrok wore.
"So," Krelle said softly as they paused on the edge of town. "I don't speak Common… should I stay inconspicuous? Or would you like a hand with the questioning?" she asked, a faint ironic smile playing across her lips.
"Up to you, Squirt," Nerrok responded seriously. "This is as much your beef as it is mine. If she's doing what we think she's doing then she's frakked you just as hard as me."
Krelle rolled her shoulders under her armour, thinking. "Yeah," she said finally, her hand absently moving towards her skinning knife. "Maybe I'll help…"
They climbed to the top of a nearby hill for Nerrok to have a look around. His red eyes turned momentarily blue and hawk-like as he focused carefully on the ruins below them.
"There," he breathed, pointing with his chin to what had once been a fine estate.
Krelle peered at the destroyed building closely, catching a hint of movement among the ruins. She faded into stealth as she drew a heavy sap from her belt.
"Let's go in quietly," she whispered. "I'd rather not get interrupted."
Nerrok nodded and the two moved cautiously into position.
Alizsa wandered about the ruins of her old home, cursing the imp as it wound itself in and out of her legs, nearly tripping her. She knelt at a glint of silver, digging out a half-melted spoon. She smoothed her fingers over the spoon’s rough, warped surface, wiping away time's attempts to destroy it. She held it up to her eyes and grimaced at her pocked reflection.
“Begnar, come here little filth! Take this... it may have been Sannia's. Anything of hers we can use for another spell." She tossed the spoon to the imp, pausing a moment to look around what used to be her home. She closed her eyes, remembering her childhood, the unfairness of it all. "I'm glad it burned... glad it lays here moldering in this backwater field.”
Nerrok and Krelle approached the ruined house slowly, carefully. They could clearly see Alizsa from their vantage point along the road, noting that she seemed to be alone, and from what Nerrok's eyes could tell, unarmed. "Go in slow, Squirt."
Krelle nodded, fading into the shadows. She moved silently, each step placed with precision, her sap heavy in her fist. She used the landscape, the ruined walls of the house to remain unseen, sneaking up behind the warlock. She stood behind Alizsa, pausing thoughtfully. Krelle could kill her now, she knew that, but Nerrok wanted to talk with the woman first.
The imp capered and laughed, banging the spoon on the old chimney. Krelle watched, shaking her head. She had a bad feeling about this. With a philosophical shrug, she swung hard at the base of the woman's skull.
“Begnar! Stop that.” Alizsa cursed the imp, her vile words cut off by a sudden, sharp pain. She stumbled to her knees, holding her head tightly. She fought the unconsciousness that beckoned, feeling her body sprawl forward. Her skirts tossed above her knees, baring her thighs. She closed her eyes, concentrating on breathing through the throbbing in her skull.
With a casual wave of his hand, Nerrok called the rogue off, sensing the desire in the child to kill the woman at her feet. Krelle nodded and moved away, gesturing to the imp who had run to pet it’s Mistress’ knees. They ignored the creature’s maddened keening as Nerrok moved toward Alizsa. He was a hulking figure that blocked out the sun. His armor made no noise, despite it’s bulk. He squatted near Alizsa’s head. “Evening!” His voice was enthusiastic as he spoke in fluent common.
Alizsa pushed to her feet, stepping back from the huge orc, her voice arrogant, despite the tears of pain on her cheeks. “What the Fel do you think you’re doing here? Scat!” She made shooing motions at them, fully believing they would turn and go. “Begone!”
Krelle muttered in her guttural Forsaken tongue, it’s tone clearly a threat. With casual ease, she swept her foot out, kicking Alizsa in the back. The warlock went sprawling again, scraping her palms on the ash and dirt encrusted stones.
Nerrok’s eyes glinting in amusement as he held a hand up to Krelle. “Easy darlin’. Settle down.”
Krelle grinned maliciously, but backed off a step, meeting the furious warlock’s gaze. She remained where she was as Alizsa backed up against the remains of a wall, and spouted at her in common. She didn’t understand the word the warlock threw at her, but imagined it was something along the lines of “bitch.”
Alizsa looked from one to the other. Her hands curled into feral claws at her sides. “Begnar! Deal with them!” The imp cackled, the green fire surrounding its body roaring into life. Orange flames gathered in its hands.
Nerrok sighed quietly and unslung the huge rifle from his back. Why were these things never easy? In a blink, he had the weapon shouldered and aimed squarely at the imp. He stomped his foot, sending the skulls and teeth lining his belt, jammed onto the spikes of his shoulder and helmet, chattering with the force of the movement. They were all from demons far stronger than the imp before him. He stood with confidence. The little imp and the warlock wouldn’t put up much of a fight.
“Call him off,” he ordered the warlock, never taking his eyes from the target.
Krelle, grunted in the Orc language, keeping her eyes on the warlock. Nerrok had her back. “"Aw, just ace 'im chief. Like we'll get anything useful outta the imp."
“I know what I’m doin’, Squirt. Trust me.” He held the gun steady, knowing Krelle would keep the warlock under control.
Alizsa’s eyes darted from Nerrok to the imp, then back. She hadn’t understood their words, but she had never needed to understand when it came to getting what she wanted. “I will not, you misshapen cretin!! Begnar, attack them!!”
The imp laughed again, dancing between them, a blur of green and gold flames. It faded in and out of their plane, using the Nether as a defense as it casually cast fireballs at them both.
Krelle vanished into the shadows, dodging the fireball, using her agile rogue’s body and her small stature to her advantage. Nerrok cursed as the fireballs singed him inside his armor, the steel magnifying the heat to painful levels. He roared, moving forward to punt the little bastard with a swift, mail-clad foot. Begnar gyrated, thrusting its hips at the orc as it danced out of the way. The orc was fast, but the demon had had practice at avoiding kicking feet.
Alizsa pushed herself up the wall, calling her own magic to her as the orc concentrated on Begnar. Her hands glowed with darkness, as if the Nether opened itself within her palms.
Krelle’s feet danced around the firepit, her voice calling to Nerrok. “Yep, she’s crazy, chief!” She pulled a heavy canvas sack from her packs, ignoring the warlock for a moment as she concentrated on the imp. She moved cautiously, keeping out of Nerrok’s firing pattern as the orc regained his balance. She heard him curse as he once again leveled the rifle at the imp then fired shot after shot in an effort to silence the demon. It only laughed, its body going transparent as it faded in and out of the Nether.
The rifle clicked empty and Nerrok paused to reload the clip. Krelle darted in, dragging the bag over the imp’s head nearly to the ground. She shoved her body forward, tumbling over Begnar and pinning him to the ground. Begnar screetched piteously, calling out to Alizsa to help him, interrupted by Krelle’s pummeling fists.
“I think it’s got a deathwish, Chief! Can’t say as I blame it, being stuck with her.”
Alizsa took advantage of their focus on Begnar, loosing the fully charged shadowbolts at Nerrok.
Krelle, meanwhile, took out her sap, wrestling with the struggling bag. It began to heat beneath her hands. With a curse, she shoved her knees into the little demon, pummeling it with the blunt weapon. Ashes formed on the bag as one of its horns rip through the weakened material, slashing at Krelle. She took aim and viciously sent her sap down, aiming for the base of its horn. The fires fluttered and died.
The shadowbolt to the chest took Nerrok by surprise. The force of the dark magic slammed him into the ruined chimney. Brick and rotted timber showered over him. He dropped to one knee, allowing the rifle to fall. His eyes turned crimson with rage and he leveled them at the warlock
Krelle stood, giving the bag a final kick before she pulled a loop of wire from a pouch at her waist. She hog-tied the imp tightly before looking at Nerrok, then Alizsa. “Aw, you dumb bitch. You’ve made him mad.”
Alizsa ignored the walking corpse, chanting, funneling her power into the red flames on her hands. It was a difficult spell, a powerful one. It would feed on their souls, latching on like magical leeches even as it burned them from the inside. She forced herself to concentrate, needing to guide the magic to its target. “I will burn you both! I will send you to Fel for harboring that undeserving bitch! I saw you! I saw youuu!”
Krelle cursed, tossing down a sac of flash powder, vanishing again in a puff of smoke. Alizsa turned to focus on Nerrok, madness flickering in the back of her eyes as she continued to shovel magic into the spell. The rogue moved around the failing wall, always watching, always looking for her opening. It would come, and she would be ready.
Nerrok rose to his feet, throwing one of his axes to the ground. He slipped the larger of the two from its holder on his back. He turned the weapon sideways, so the flat of the blade faced the warlock. Wielding it like a baseball bat, he charged. His grin was feral when he saw her eyes widening with fear. She loosed the magic, desperately, knowing her spell wasn’t at full strength. It flashed out in cascading flames, connecting with the axe’s blade, licking its way down the haft. It was searching, searching for a soul to burn.
Nerrok swung, ignoring the pain coursing down to his hands, burning them inside the steel. He connected with Alizsa’s belly, just as the pain became too much. The axe fell from his grip and he stepped backward, hesitating less than a second. He watched as the warlock crumpled. She curled around her belly, the wall the only thing keeping her upright. Tears gathered and fell as she struggled to breathe, the flames of the spell still biting at him from within. It hurt. He could feel it burrowing into him, tunneling deeper within him. The pain did nothing more than to fuel his anger. He dove toward Alizsa with a roar, barreling his broad shoulder into hers and bringing her to the ground.
Nerrok let her feel his full weight, hundreds of pounds of enraged orc and armor pinning her to the ash encrusted rock. His eyes burned with a feral fire and his fingers curled around the warlock’s slim arms. He trembled with the need to break those arms, to hurt her until she screamed.
Krelle reappeared, pulling another loop of wire from her vest and bound the warlock’s wrists. “Easy boss,” she cautioned, recognizing the killing rage for what it was. She grabbed a fistful of the human’s hair, keeping her head pinned to the ground with her weight. Alizsa, still gasping for breath, struggled weakly, cutting her wrists on the wire with her attempts to escape.
“You okay there, big guy?”
Nerrok blinked. Krelle’s words pulled him from the haze. He took several deep breathes and pushed off the warlock. “What the Fel is WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? GODDAMNIT!” Krelle’s eyes went wide as Nerrok yelled loudly.
Alizsa swung her feet from the screaming orc, obviously terrified. Tears scored her cheeks. She spit at Krelle. “You Scourge bitch! Take your hands off me!” She glared at the child, then at Nerrok, her eyes glowing with pain and insanity.
Krelle grinned maliciously, a spreading of dark, dead lips to bare sharp teeth. She pulled her skinning knife from her belt, placing the point beneath the warlock’s right eye. “Tell her ta settled own boss, or she’ll start ta lose bits.” A drop of blood welled from beneath the knife.
He stared at them for a moment, fighting the urge to let Krelle go to it. “Stop struggling, or you die.” The words fell simply from his lips in the common tongue. The warlock stilled, the blade with it’s sharp kiss all she could see. She rolled her eyes to glare at the orc,
“I dunno boss. I don't think she quite grasps the situation. If you'd put yer foot on her chest ta hold 'er down, I could explain it more clearly,” the girl offered.
Nerrok took a long, deep breath, stripping his gloves off. He eyed the second degree burns that lined his large, green hands. He nodded slightly to Krelle before leveling his eyes on Alizsa. "I'm not gonna tell you again. Stop...Moving."
Krelle tightened her grip on the human’s hair, dragging the knife suggestively along her forehead just below the hairline. "Up to you human, but you'll look silly when I've scalped you." Her grin was hungry. She could imagine the skin slicing beneath her blade. She licked her lips.
Fury rode Alizsa hard. She was too crazy to stay frightened long. She panted, the rise and fall of her chest and the fine tremor through her limbs, her only movement. Her eyes rolled madly as she looked at them. She swallowed, then suddenly relaxed, her face undergoing a change from rage to meekness. Her body went soft, helpless. “I'm sorry... it's just... you frightened me... please don't hurt me. A woman has to protect herself in the wilds of this world… you understand, don’t you?” She looked hopefully at Nerrok, ignoring the grunting coming from the Forsaken.
“Man, the whole family is full of terrible liars," Krelle muttered.
Nerrok nodded slowly to Krelle, ignoring the oozing wounds that covered his hands. He looked down at the human, his fingers curling and uncurling, breaking open the blisters with every movement. He struggled for control, breathing deeply. When he no longer felt the warlock’s slim throat between his fingers, he nodded again. “Ah, I see. How clumsy of me. Well, since we've got that out of the way, how about an introduction? Name's Nerrok. That one that's got you by your head, her name's Krelle. Excuse me a moment."
Krelle grinned at the human as Nerrok introduced her, recognizing the sound of her own name. "Well hi there, stupid."
Nerrok quietly, casually, stepped away from the warlock, making his way over to where her imp lay in the sack. He picked it up and carried it over to the chimney. Looping the neck of the bag around his blistered hands, he swung it like a mace, savagely slinging it repeatedly against the brickwork. It smacked against the stone with dull thuds that gradually turned into a wet, sickening sound. Green blood soaked through the sack as the imp was pummeled into blood and bits of flesh, bone and organs.
Krelle ensured the warlock watched, smirking as the human cried freely. She didn’t buy it, oh no. Alizsa sniffled, moving her hands slowly. Let them think me weak, she thought, unable to keep the crafty gleam from her eyes. She closed them, gradually drawing power, draining small amounts of her health to replenish her magic. Begran will be back… it’s spirit has gone to the Nether. It will reconstruct itself and return to me. It knows it’s punishment will be worse if it doesn’t.
With a final thump against the chimney, Nerrok threw the sack down. He stomped on it viciously, his boots grinding the grisly contents into smaller, wetter pieces. He turned back to Alizsa, towering over her as he placed the same boot against her throat.
Thinking Nerrok was going to kill her, Alizsa screamed, desperately calling down a shower of fire to batter at the orc and forsaken, struggling to pull her hair free from beneath Krelle. The child dropped her dagger, grabbing the woman’s head as the fire rained down on her.
“GODDAMNIT” Nerrok yelled, trying to shield Krelle with his larger bulk.
Krelle screamed, slamming Alizsa’s head against the stone ground. The fireballs came to a sudden stop as the warlock lost consciousness.
The child panted, peeking up cautiously. “Ow,” she whispered, her voice small. The thin leather armour on her back was scorched through, and the stink of burning hair filled the air. Nerrok cursed, stripping off his armor as it began to glow with heat. Flames danced over it in several places and he stomped until the flickers died.
Krelle sat back slowly. “Holy crap, Nerrok, she's totally deranged.”
“No shit she is.” He spat, putting out a final fire that smoldered in the grass.
“Think she can cast spells with no eyes or hands?” Her voice was serious as she reached for her dagger. Nerrok tilted his head, considering the question as seriously as Krelle had asked it. He was damn tired of getting charred.
“I dunno. You got any tourniquets with ya?
Krelle fished around in her pockets, pulling out a long leather thong. “This’ll work.” She began to cut the leather in two.
Nerrok sighed, shaking his head. He rubbed his eyes with his blistered paw. “Hold on a minute. As much as I’d like to torture her and cut off her limbs and whatnot, if we kill her like that, we’re no better than she is. I wanna hear what she has to say first, before we do anything permanent. I wanna get to the bottom of this shitstorm.” He ignored Krelle’s incredulous look. “A lot’s riding on it.”
“Yeah but she ain't gonna answer unless we calm her down.”
“Cutting her hands off and gouging out her eyes is gonna 'calm her down'?”
“Hells yes!” Krelle stated. “Is there anything she could tell us at this point that would convince us to not kill her? What was she screamin' at you when we got here? She sounded like she recognized you.”
“I don't know! that's what I'm trying to figure out. So until I give the order, please, stand down.”
“A’ight.” She shoved the thong back into her pocket. “Let me blindfold her at least? I’m pretty sure you need to see stuff to cast things.”
Krelle nodded and pulled a cloth belt from her pack, wrapping it twice around the human's head, covering her eyes completely. She tied it tightly. “Wanna bandage your hands before ya wake 'er up? They uh... smell like cooked meat.”
Krelle frowned down at the human. She looked over at Nerrok, her voice turning soft, like the child’s she’d been. “My back hurts…” The rogue moved to tie Alizsa’s feet as Nerrok bandaged his hands. The woman moaned, but Krelle could tell it would be a few more minutes before she gained consciousness.
Nerrok narrowed his eyes and studied the warlock at the sound. He nodded. He offered a red potion to Krelle. “Drink this.” He cupped an uncracked vial of smelling salts in his other hand.
Krelle drank it down grimly, her back straightening with relief as the healing potion worked its magic. She resumed her position on Alizsa’s hair, grabbing her dagger tightly. Nerrok knelt at the warlock’s side, cracking the vial of salts and waving it beneath her nose.
Alizsa’s whimper crawled up her throat before she could bite it back. She tried to blink, but something was pinning her eyes closed. She tried to thrash, but the pain in her abused body exhausted her quickly.
Nerrok didn’t give her time to fully come to, hoping the truth would be more likely to come out in her disoriented state. “We know who you are, we know what you've done. What we wanna know, is why."
Alizsa panted, sagging into the crumbled grave of her family’s home. Her voice was breathy with pain, but filled with venom. “I don't... know what you're talking about. I... didn't do anything that... the bitch didn't deserve!"
Krelle held on grimly, recognizing the tone if not the words. Nerrok growled. “You’re not answering my question.” His voice was calm, controlled enough to elicit terror in the warlock. “What did you do? What was the goblet for?
Alizsa wailed. “I don't know what you're talking about!”
“The cup. You know about the cup? You have to. It's how we found you.”
Alizsa tried to nod, whimpering as her head threatens to explode. “Yessss.” Her voice was a hiss, the madness they’d seen in her eyes escaping through her mouth. “Yess, it was hers!”
“What was it for? What did you do with it?” Nerrok’s eyes remained on the warlock, even as Krelle looked up at him, wondering at the shift in the woman’s tone.
Alizsa laughed, the sound of snake scales, of spiders in the walls. “Potion... magic potion cast... Revenge for the past... first death too fast! Love... love for the fool! He was only a tool!” She writhed, her fingers curled into claws as she cackles.
Nerrok closed his eyes, slowly opening them. They were icy and cold, despite the burning crimson color. He pressed his bandaged hand about her throat, casually applying pressure enough to make the warlock wonder. She gasped, panicked, trying to scratch at him with her bound hands. “Stop… talking… in… ridd… “ He paused as her insane words sunk in. “You made her fall in love with him?”
Black flames flicked at the warlock’s fingers, but her voice turned reasonable, hinting at a soft, velvet sultriness. “Of course I did. I wanted to hurt her... make her suffer.” Krelle nodded nervously at her hands, drawing Nerrok’s attention to them. She motioned suggestively with her knife, her eyebrows going up in a silent question.
He shook his head at Krelle. “Hmm,” he said casually. His eyes narrowed, then widened as he silently weighed Alizsa’s confession. The warlock had planned well, had nearly destroyed Sannia. The scope of her plans surprised him, considering her madness. “You do realize you didn't just screw with her, when you did this, eh...?"
Alizsa licked her lips coyly, her body arching sinuously up to press against his hand at her throat. “Yesss... you people harbored her... she would have found happiness, a life... you all needed to die too. Don't you see?”
Krelle grimaced in disgust. Nerrok stared down at the woman, resisting the urge to shudder. He held his hand steady. “Huh. Well. I guess that answers my question. I'd ask you how to break the spell, or reverse it, but...I think I got a pretty good idea how to do that, myself..." His voice was quiet menace. He ran a tongue over his tusks, looking toward his discarded axe.
"Nerrok. What's she saying?" Krelle caught his gaze.
“She’s saying...that she put a spell on Sannia to make her act like she did...and she knew she was gonna mess with us by doing it. We were helping Sannia out, so we had to die too.” He sighed, his voice heavily laden with sarcasm. “Pity. I was just startin' to like this chick.”
“Don't even go there, chief. How'd she know about Booth? And us? Are there other people in on this, watchin us?"
“I dunno. Let's ask the audience.” He looked down at the human, converting back to common. “So you did this all by yourself, eh? Impressive.” He purposefully baited her, stroking her ego. “Somebody that thinks the way you do, I might have a job opening for ya if you were interested.”
Alizsa smiled, her voice the sing-song innocence of a child. “I paid a shadow priest to help with the second spell... paid him in pleasure, and pain... His poor little heart burst open in my bed...” She pursed her lips with mock regret. “I was a bad girl and gave him a potion... the blood leaked out of him all over my sheets. Momma's going to be so angry...”
Nerrok blinked repeatedly at the warlock. She sure was a creepy little beast. “Yep, she's workin' alone,” he wasn’t sure what else to say.
Krelle breathed a sigh of relief. "By the light. I was afraid we'd have to do this again."
Alizsa turned her face toward the orc’s voice. “Will you help me? She yells so loud... will you make her stop yelling?”
Krelle ensured her grip was secure, recognizing the sound of madness. Nerrok grimaced, shaking away the feeling of insects crawling over his skin before he spoke. “Sure, sure, I’ll help ya. Just… eeaaahhhh, answer my questions and I’ll hook ya right up. Promise. You said two spells? What was the other one?"
He murmured quietly to Krelle, “Hoooolllyyy shit this girl’s off her rocker.”
Krelle nodded. “Quite the family.”
“Ah huh. I’d hate to meet Uncle Bob.”
Alizsa pouted, bringing her hands up to knuckle her eyes through the cloth before nibbling on it. “I wasn't s'posed to be doin' 'em... momma never lets me play with the fire. But I cooked up a pretty potion for the goblet... my friend, Begnar took it to her... And then... my friend and I... the one who died? He and I sent out a second... ohh, mommy would spank me so hard if she knew. He called it 'mind control'... he tried to... to do things... but, I killed him! Don't tell on me, please?
"What was it? mind control? who? Sannia?"
“MMhhmmmm.” Alizsa nodded pathetically, like a puppy trying to please it’s master. “The man said my potion wasn’t strong enough. He said I had to do two spells to make sure they took. That those icky corpses have strong wills.” She pouted, her lips curling prettily
"Alright. Mom, check. Potion, check. Mind control, check. Sex with a dead priest…, “ he shuddered, “check. Wow."
Krelle looked up at the big orc, arching an eyebrow at the expression on his face. She’d never seen him quite so flabbergasted. “So. She did it. Alone. Was there anything else we wanted to know, or are you talkin' to the channeled spirit of her mom now?"
Alizsa’s head flicked, focusing on Krelle as clearly as if the warlock could see her. “Mommy? I'm tired and my head aches... will you take me to bed, please?”
Krelle looked down uneasily. “Nerrok... she's talkin at me..."
Nerrok motioned for Krelle to back away as he stood up and slowly started backstepping toward where his rifle lay. "Yeeeaaaah...I'm sure she's not too far away. Just as long as uh, Uncle Bob doesn't show up...I think we're cool...," he said, slowly stooping to pick up the gun as his eyes never left the crazy warlock. Krelle slowly released Alizsa’s hair, grabbing her knife and scooting backwards rapidly.
Alizsa’s face crumpled, her mouth opening in a rictus of hate and madness. “You’re not my mommy!” She rolled to her knees, swaying as her head threatened to rip off. She screamed, her entire body beginning to glow.
“What the FEL...” Krelle ran over to hide behind Nerrok’s bulk. “Kill it!”
Nerrok grabbed his rifle, the fresh clip comforting him. He pumped the adamantite shells into the chamber. “Look in my pack, Krelle. Goblin Rocket Fuel canister. Get it.” Krelle scrambled over, quickly finding the canister.
Flames licked up Alizsa’s body, the red conflagration burning fissures into her skin. Inside lay darkness, a glowing, roiling mass of power.
“About that job…” Nerrok called to her, shoving Krelle behind the chimney. He leveled his rifle, bracing it as he took aim at her head. “The position’s been filled!”
A wave of fire raced towards them, bearing down on them like a zeppelin in a tailspin. Nerrok gestured for Krelle to throw the canister. She did, using all her strength. The canister hit the wall of fire with a stunning explosion, just as Nerrok’s bullet took the warlock in the forehead. The flames whipped over them, knocking them to the ground. There was silence for a moment as the warlock fell. Then, the air rushed back toward her, sucking the rocket fuel fumes with it. The final explosion deafened them, tumbled the chimney over their heads as the earth shook. Nerrok ducked Krelle beneath him as the very air around them burned.
Their hearing returned slowly – the soft sound of incinerated flesh and bone pattering on the stone and Nerrok’s discarded armor. Krelle looked incredulously at him, her hair still smoking in places. The dreadlocks crumbled into ash as she moved her head. She raised her blood-covered hands to brush them away. “Spicey….”
Nerrok slumped down, his back resting against the wall, blinking. “Well, that didn’t go anything like I’d hoped.” Krelle shook her head and half fell into a seated position beside him.
Nerrok stared at her and repeated her question, “So…?”
She leaned forward, scrubbing her hands through her hair. Bits of charred dreadlock, ashes, and warlock pieces fell in a rain before her. “So what does this make Sannia? Aside from a huge pain in the arse?” She quirked a little grin at him.
He shook his head, obviously having a difficult time trying to formulate a constructive thought to add to the conversation. “Well. Let's look at this logically….”
Krelle looked up at him, then unfastened an inside pocket. She passed him the flask. “Liquid logic.”
He waved his hand. “No, no… I’m fi…” he looked around them, then grabbed the container. “Y’read my mind.”
They sat for a time without speaking, listening to the crackle of burning grass on the other side of the wall. Soon that too fell silent and the almost oppressive quiet of night-time countryside lay upon them. Part of Krelle told her they ought to run for it, that the humans of the area would surely send the watch to investigate the explosions in the hillside… but most of her was dead tired. So she sat. Surely the watch wouldn't be too eager to get here…
Nerrok finished the rum in the flask with a sigh. Ashes stuck to his sweat-covered skin, and several large welts were already swelling up where the blasts of fire had hit him.
Eventually, Krelle broke the silence. "Right. So. Sannia?"
Nerrok passed a bandaged hand over his eyes, trying to force his brain to work. "Crazy's dead. Her spell should be broken, right?"
"Uh, yeah," Krelle agreed, sitting up straighter as she also tried to concentrate. She absently held out her hand for her flask. "That's what Gardok told me."
Nerrok handed the empty flask back. "So Sannia shouldn't have any feelings left for the one guy in this ENTIRE WORLD that she shouldn't have fallen for and expected to go on living, right?"
"Well, one would assume. It's not like we can ask her. 'So, Sannia, still crushing on the Grand Betrayer?'"
Nerrok snorted derisively, clearly not in a mood to be put off. "Like hell we can't. You said yourself, she's a terrible liar."
"Hunh. That's true," she agreed. She paused then, unsure of how to phrase her next question. "That's not what I meant though. Um," she started, idly poking at the pebbles below her.
Nerrok spoke softly. "I know what you mean."
Krelle nodded, relieved. "So?"
"If it wasn't her fault, how can we blame her?"
Krelle sighed, slumping a bit as she leaned against his arm. "Ech. What a frakin' mess…"
"I mean," Nerrok continued. "If this settles it, the only thing I have a problem with her now would be… Not telling me her sister was batshit crazy."
Krelle laughed weakly. "Truly. Dock her pay - that's important info."
Nerrok closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the cool stone of the wall. "Need ta do more thorough background checks on employees…" he mumbled.
Krelle smiled her crooked smile up at him. "I'll write a memo."
"Do that. Put in on the fridge."
"Beside the to-do list? 'Buy Rum. Kill Booth. Fix Gutters'."
Nerrok snorted in laughter and she reached up to pat his shoulder. "Rest yourself, fearless leader. I'll go get yer mail." She rose and walked around the remains of the wall to where Nerrok had ripped off his scalding armour. Slowly, she gathered up the scattered pieces and brought them back to where he sat. With a little "hup!" she dropped the armload into a noisy pile beside him. He cracked one eye open at her, then sighed and got up.
"So, you wanna head down to the Bay?" she asked him as he strapped on his chest piece, wincing. "Shake her down and finish off this whole thing?"
He grunted his assent, leaning against the wall as he bent to straighten his greaves.
Krelle stood patiently, surveying the scene. "For the record, Ner, that was pretty messed up."
"Now you see what I've been dealin' with," he said in a low voice. "What if I had given Sannia the axe? Without us followin' through?" With a sharp jerk, he snapped a fastening shut.
Krelle stared at her feet as the weight of his words hit her. Sannia would be dead. She would have killed her own sister… for nothing. The unfamiliar sensation of guilt twisted in her gut, and she hated it - she hated the way it made her hate herself.
Nerrok strapped on the last piece of his armour, rolling his shoulders and stomping his feet to get it all settled in place. He looked at the downcast girl beside him and shook his head with a sigh. "It's done with, now. Guess we got 'lucky' eh? Course that seems to be the trend when you're in on things…"
She smiled weakly, but shook her head. "No. I wanted to kill her, to be fair. You get credit here - your instincts about her were right." She shook off her mood, shoving the inconvenient feelings away until later. Standing straighter she managed a mischievous grin. "Course, the cup thing was lucky, and Crazy being here too, so I'll take credit for those…"
Nerrok smirked at her, but the smile slid off his face as he looked around the charred ground. "Batshit crazy…"
Krelle nudged a bit of charred metal with her foot. The canister of rocket fuel. "A better use for fuel was never seen."
"Heh. You and Talula aren't the only ones that know how to use that stuff, ya know. Comes in handy."
"Oh well, if you're just gonna blow stuff up with it, sure…It's for sure dead, right?"
Nerrok's eyes went to the remains of the corpse. "I dunno," he said, unslinging his rifle. Ever prudent, he pumped a few more rounds into the charred husk. Krelle flinched at the sharp retorts that echoed off the nearby hills.
"I, uh, think that's good, chief."
Nerrok gave the corpse a suspicious look, firing off one last shot before nodding and slinging his rifle back over his shoulder. Krelle sighed quietly and sunk down to the dirt, determined to sit until she absolutely had to move again. Nerrok gazed up into the sky at the sound of a bird's cry and whistled sharply. The small silhouette circled the ruins several times, flying lower at each pass until he was flying straight at Nerrok. The big orc lifted his arm and the bird flared its wings, settling on the gauntleted fist.
"Keep an eye on that thing for us, eh Nightsky?" he asked it in a soft voice. The bird fluttered away, perching on top of the old chimney. He nodded once and turned to Krelle, giving her a knowing eye. "You wanna walk, or would you like Talon ta carry ya…?"
"No, no, I'm fi-… uh. Yeah. Maybe just a short ride."
He snorted at her and she smiled ruefully. Talon trotted towards them with a rhythmic jingling at a second whistle from Nerrok. Catching the reins of his raptor he turned to the little forsaken.
Mutely, she held out her arms to him.
He picked her up from where she sat on the ground, placing her on her perch at the front of his saddle. He cast one last glance about the battlefield and nodded before smoothly pulling himself up onto his mount. Exhausted, burnt, victorious, the two Horde rode westwards towards the ocean.
Sannia was lost in the dark cave. Stalactites dripped poison on her and snakes writhed at her feet, biting her legs as she passed them. She staggered blindly through the cavern, trying to follow the haunting sound of singing, but the singer always eluded her. The world shook and spun, the darkness shattering about her. She was on a vast grey plain. The singing stopped.
With a terrified gasp, Sannia sat up in bed as her eyes flew open. She sat, panting, trying to remember the nightmare even as it slipped from her mind. With a small groan she swung her legs over the side of the bed, her head sinking into her hands. She felt as though she had just run a marathon, and it was only midnight. She rubbed her face and sighed, then closed her eyes and listened, trying to feel the comfort of the Lady's song.
She frowned. It was silent.
Her com whispered to her from her night table. Was someone calling her name? With shaking hands she replaced the earpiece.
"What?" she managed. She rubbed her eyes again, trying to shake off the effects of her night.
"Eh? Sannia? You there?" The voice was Krelle's and it carried that peculiar rhythm of someone who was riding a trotting mount. "Obviously you're there," she continued before Sannia could reply. "I can hear you. Where are you?"
"Me? In Booty Bay - up on the second floor. Why, what's wrong?"
"Ugh. Stay there. Make tea. Nothin's wrong. Nerrok and I are comin' over."
Sannia frowned, confused. Nerrok wanted tea? "Is everything ok?"
"Yeah," Krelle sighed. She sounded completely exhausted. "Peachy."
Nerrok's voice came to her over the com. "We're on the way, Sannia. Make sure you spike that tea nice and hard."
"Right," she said, getting up to put the pot on. "Rum, with a glance at the tea. Gotcha." Bewildered, she threw on a dress and puttered about to get ready.
Krelle was miserable, unable even to enjoy the raptor ride along the winding paths of Stranglethorn. She rode in silence, her exhaustion magnifying her guilt as she dealt with the novel problem of trying to wrestle with her conscience.
Krelle's world was in many ways a child's world, drawn entirely in black and white. When she had thought that Sannia had betrayed them, it was simple. Sannia was no longer part of her family. Her feelings didn't matter, her life was worthless and her very presence was an inconvenience. But now that Sannia was re-instated as Official Family Member in her mind she felt a crushing guilt at all the vicious things she'd said and thought about her. It was illogical, but it didn't matter. Sannia was a sister in her family again, and she couldn't reconcile that notion with how she'd been behaving.
She would apologize, she decided as she and Nerrok rode into the Bay. Then Sannia could forgive her and they could go back to being friends. It would be like it had never happened.
They found Sannia upstairs, as she'd said.
"Hey, Sannia," Krelle mumbled as she tracked mud into the room. "Oooh. A bed…"
Nerrok said nothing but went straight to the table, sitting down on the low bench with a heavy clinking of chain mail. Krelle's gaze kept going back to the bed. It had been a day or two since she had last slept, and the blankets looked soft. Absently she undid her heavy belt, letting it and her twin daggers slide to the floor. Her singed shoulder guards and charred leather vest followed as Sannia closed the door.
"Rum, and tea-with-rum," Sannia said, gesturing to the two cups on the table. "What happened to you guys? It looks like you got into a fight with a dragon."
Krelle brushed some ashes off of her soiled shirt as she sat at the foot of the bed. "We, uh… yeah," she faltered.
Nerrok spoke. "Close enough. Raging psychotic bitch, dragon… same thing, more or less."
Sannia raised her eyebrows at that. She felt like a wrung out rag… but these two looked just as bad. "Let me get my bandages, I'll patch you up," she offered, going to her chest by the bed.
Nerrok looked towards the door, sensing the approach of his bird. He went and opened it, letting Nightsky into the warm light of the room. Wings flared as the loyal creature perched contentedly on Nerrok's shoulder. Nerrok removed his helmet and sat again, taking up his drink as Sannia looked Krelle over.
"Sannia, I'm too tired to get up again," the girl said. "C'mere."
Sannia nodded, standing in front of Krelle with her bandages in one hand. She opened her mouth to ask where she was hurt but froze instead as Krelle leaned forward, wrapping her arms about Sannia's waist and hugging her tightly.
"I'm sorry," Krelle said softly, her voice muffled by the soft cotton of Sannia's robe. "I'm really sorry, Sannia, I didn't know. I'm sorry."
Sannia cast a confused glance at Nerrok, but he merely watched in silence. Sannia wrapped her arms around Krelle, letting the wad of bandages fall to the bed and relaxing as she returned the hug. "Shhh, it's alright," she said, smoothing back what was left of Krelle's hair.
Krelle looked up at her, and Sannia was surprised to see how much naked emotion was written across the girl's usually mask-like face. "Really?"
"Of course," Sannia said softly, not really sure what she was talking about. She wiped a dark smudge of something - blood? - off of Krelle's cheek. Krelle sighed a deep, shuddering sigh and let her arms slide back to her sides, relief evident on her face.
"Oh. Good." she said, and flopped backward onto the bed, one arm thrown across her face. Sannia looked at her, too tired to make sense of it. She turned to Nerrok to find the big orc watching her with his piercing gaze.
"You feelin' a little different in the past hour or so, Sannia?" he asked.
She shrugged, not sure what he meant. "I was trying to sleep… something woke me. I feel tired… drained. Like I could sleep forever."
"That's not exactly what I was talking about Sannia," he rumbled. He was too tired, too pissed, and not nearly drunk enough to pull punches in this conversation.
Sannia stared at him, then looked to Krelle, then back at the orc. A few things were clicking together slowly in her tired mind. She took in the burns and soot stains. "…Raging bitch?"
Krelle spoke from under her arm. "We found your sister," she said, making Sannia gasp. "Oh. And I know about the Booth thing."
The surge of anger at the mention of her sister was swiftly replaced by the rush of shame at her actions. So, the others knew. It had only been a matter of time, really. "I see," Sannia said, trying to sound dignified. "Well.. I only request that I get to kill my sibling before you kill me with a thousand -"
"She said she put a hex on you," Nerrok interrupted. "Cursed ya, hoodoo'd ya, whatever."
"Your sister was totally crazy," Krelle mumbled.
Nerrok nodded. "Batshit crazy."
"Oh yeah, like crying for her mother crazy. Siddown, it's a story."
"Hold on a minute," Nerrok said. He wanted one specific piece of information. He wanted it now, not later, and then he wanted to go have a bath and go to bed. Or maybe just go to bed. He looked at Sannia and tried again. "You should be feeling a little different… You said you're tired."
"I'm exhausted, and I don't even know why! And the Dark Lady's song has stopped."
Nerrok squinted at her. "I would think that a certain… "veil"… should have been lifted. Or do these things take time?" he asked, glancing to Krelle.
Krelle sighed. She was too tired for this. She leaned up on her elbows and gave Sannia a swift boot to the ass. "Do you still love Booth?" she demanded. Sannia gaped at her as she shrugged at Nerrok. "What? I'm tired too."
He nodded to her. "I would'a done it but you're closer."
Sannia was staring at them. "What?"
Nerrok scowled. "Don't make me ask you, Sannia. Just spit it out, yes or no."
Sannia stared at him, her thoughts racing. Krelle took her silence for confusion and lifted her foot again, prodding Sannia with the sole of her boot, a poke for each word as she asked "Do - you - love - him - girl - god - damn!"
"No!" she cried, and meant it. Her eyes went wide as she explored her feelings. "I told you, I have forsaken him... No, I do not," she said firmly, and felt like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. The crushing urges, the desperate need - they were gone! All that was left was memories.
Krelle let out an explosive sigh, sat up, and started tugging off her filthy boots. "Well, good. Your dress is dirty, by the way, I think you sat on something."
Nerrok nodded silently. Picking up his helmet, he rose to his feet and went to the door. "Thanks for the drink," he said over his shoulder, and disappeared into the night.
Sannia stared after him in confusion then turned back to Krelle who was already crawling up under the covers. She brushed the mud and ashes off of her dress absently.
"Y'owe him a thank you, ya know. I owe you more sorry, so I'll stick around," the girl said as she made herself comfortable.
Sannia sat on the foot of the bed, bewildered. "What happened tonight? Please make sense of this for me. What did he do?"
Krelle sighed, leaning against the headboard as she rubbed her face. "Nerrok? He refused to let me kill you when we thought you'd betrayed us all for Booth-love." The girl looked down, contrite. "I uh… sorta offered. I guess he knew you better than I did. I'm sorry I misjudged you." She said it simply and honestly.
Sannia flushed deeply, looking down at her hands. "He is a good friend," was all she could manage.
"Your sister used that cup you found to enchant you," Krelle continued. "She cursed you to love Booth. And then when you wouldn't go, she used a mind control spell to force the issue."
Sannia blinked at her. Krelle pressed on, wanting to finish the story. "We tracked your batshit crazy sister down tonight. She exploded at us several times, but we managed to get her down and wrestle out some answers. She was… impressively powerful."
Sannia nodded, looking a bit dazed. "Aye, she hangs out with the Scarlets. I've been looking for her for months though - how did you find her?"
"Through the spell. A warlock helped me track the origins of the curse, using the cup. It's magicky," she said, waving vaguely. "Anyway, we entertained each other for a bit. Then she spilled the beans. Then we killed her. Woulda saved some for you, but uh - she kinda forced the issue."
Sannia stared at Krelle, taking in her singed appearance, then nodded gravely. "Then it is over."
"Almost over," Krelle amended, then said with a trace of her usual grin, "I still have to grow my hair back." She rubbed absently at the patch of burnt off hair at the back of her head.
Sannia slowly rose from the bed, her eyes distant. Despite her exhaustion, her mind felt clear now. Her heart soared as she finally understood her freedom from the dreadful compulsions. The crushing guilt that had accompanied her feelings was also gone, and she was filled with the warmth of relief. Maybe… she could forgive herself.
Krelle watched silently, not intruding on the other Forsaken's thoughts. Eventually Sannia turned and made her way to the door. She paused in the doorway, looking over at the girl curled up in her bed. She smiled then, a warm and genuine smile that made Krelle respond in kind.
"For what it is worth. Thank you," Sannia said simply.
"It was nothing, ma'am," Krelle responded ironically, waving the fingers of one hand. "All in tha line o' duty."
Sannia inclined her head respectfully, then quietly closed the door behind her as she left.
Krelle smiled, glad that everything was fixed. What a weight off her mind. Tomorrow she would be able to focus all of her attention on the problem of the coms.
She looked down at herself, nestled in Sannia's bed, then back up at the door. For some reason, she was pretty sure that Sannia wouldn't be needing her bed for the rest of the night.
The little rogue curled herself up in a cozy ball and promptly fell asleep.