Not just a river in the desert

The stories and lives of the Grim. ((Roleplaying Stories and In Character Interactions))
Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:34 am

Mirathendia rode back to the manor, Whisper of Calm warm and solid beneath her. He snorted, stamped and pawed at the ground as they reached the stable. This was not a greeting for Rilasuka's war wolf, nor for Narath. This was wariness, a warning.

An urchin stepped from the shadows beside the stable doors, the child's hair pulled back in a braid, their pointed ears unadorned, their sharp cheekbones smudged with dirt.

Only a child. Familiar, but perhaps in the way that all children were? Mirathendia tried to put a name to the child’s face as she stroked Whisper's neck. "What do you want?"

The child hesitated. "You said I should come, m'lady. That I should tell you direct myself if I heard news of Khelendria, of Shahadra."

Mirathendia curled her fingers tightly around Whisper of Calm's reins. Gooseflesh crawled up her arms. She forced herself to speak. "Whatever news you have of her is stale." She was tired of this, tired of the renewed rumours of her sister. This latest round had started not long after the last foray into Uldir and Mirathendia was weary of it; this round was so much more impossible than the first.

The child shook their head. "But it's not, m'lady."

"It is."

The child stood firmly, insisted, "Artohl saw her boarding an airship yesterday."

The words went through her--Artohl was a name she remembered--and she listened for her sister's laughter. There was only the pounding of her own heart, the gentle huffing of Whisper's breath, and the child's nervous shifting from foot to foot. "Yesterday," Mirathendia said, her voice sounding far away to her own ears.

The child nodded.

"That's not possible."

"He saw her, m'lady. Said she kept looking over her shoulder. Said she looked a lot like you, m'lady, only shadow-burnt 'cept for a streak across her eye."

Shadow-burnt. A streak across her eye. Mirathendia slid from Whisper of Calm's back. The world shifted beneath her feet and the charger pressed against her. "Where was the airship going?"

"Northrend, m'lady." The child's voice was a nervous squeak.

Why Northrend? What could she possibly want or need there? Mirathendia reached a trembling hand into her coin pouch, handed the child four gold coins. "Two for you. Two for Artohl."

The child pocketed them quickly as if afraid Mirathendia might change her mind. "Thank you, m'lady."

Mirathendia nodded and walked Whisper of Calm into the stable.
Once Whisper of Calm was settled in his stall, Mirathendia walked across the grounds. The memory of Syreena, Feyde and Tydrendoriel conversing in the Meat Rack. Who they were before. The way people change. Her chest had tightened as they spoke and her sister had laughed. Had insisted, You’ve changed, too, if only you’d see it.

Mirathendia hurried inside, closed the manor door behind her. A low growl came from the lounge, then Ri called, “Mira?”

She strode past the lounge toward the staircase.

Rilasuka walked into the entryway. “Are you well, my sunlight?”

“I’m fine.” Mirathendia’s arms were exhausted; her head ached and the whispering wouldn’t stop. She walked upstairs, into her bedroom and peeled off her sweat-soaked tunic and leggings, then strode over to the wine cabinet.

A single bottle remained behind the tinted glass; she’d have to send another order to One More Glass. She took the bottle and opened it, poured a glass of Dalaran red.

The drunk one. And Mirathendia didn’t know if that was her sister, or her memory of Rona’zae describing her sister.

Mirathendia downed the wine. It tasted of ash and blood, death and decay. She refilled the glass.

Ri put her hand on Mirathendia’s shoulder and Mirathendia flinched. “Please talk to me.” Ri’s breath was warm through Mirathendia’s hair as she whispered.

“How?” How could she tell Ri what she’d done to her sister? How could she tell Ri about the voices? About the incessant whispering? How could she tell her beloved that her sister was still there, still with her, clinging to her thoughts like a blessing and a nightmare both?

Mirathendia took another long drink of wine.

Ri stroked her thumb against the side of Mirathendia’s neck, said, “One word, and then another, and then another, until you have said all that needs said.”

Mirathendia laughed, choked on her wine and then on a sob. She pulled away from Ri.

Ri lowered her hand, sighed. “You are like a wounded beast who won’t allow herself to be helped.”

A beast? Is that what she thinks of you?

Anger flared hot and wild inside of Mirathendia’s head. Star-shot void blacked out her vision. “I am not a beast.” She flung her glass to the floor and it shattered sending splatters of wine and slivers of glass glinting and dancing through the air.

How dare she.

“How dare you.” Mirathendia turned on Ri, her hands and forearms prickling with pins and needles, fingers and palms burning with Light.

Rilasuka stepped back. “Sunlight…”

“Get out. If anyone in this room is a beast it is you.”

“Mira.” Ri’s voice held the kind of pain that Mirathendia didn’t remember hearing in it before.

“GET OUT!”

Ri inclined her head, closed her eyes. “At your pleasure.” She looked up and backed out of the room, held Mirathendia’s gaze as she slowly pulled the door closed. “Always at your pleasure, my sunlight.”

The door clicked shut.

Mirathendia’s vision cleared and she screamed. She screamed and sobbed and cried until her throat was hoarse and her eyes burned and exhaustion took her.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:35 am

When the lift disappeared upstairs, Tweezle hardly looked up from her project. If it was the company she was expecting, there'd be no problem. If it wasn't then either she needed to recalibrate her security system or they'd be dead before they got to the lab.

When the lift returned Tweezle continued to focus on fastening a seaforium charge to the metal chest plate on her workbench. She said, "Hey pretty."

"I need two things from you, Tweezle Sparkscatter." The sound of Mirathendia Morrowblood's voice nearly caused Tweezle to drop the charge. The paladin was not the pretty Sin'dorei she was expecting.

Tweezle settled the charge carefully onto the workbench and looked up. "Oooh, we've gone full-name formal? To what do I owe the honor?"

Mirathendia stared stone-faced at the goblin.

Tweezle's smile faded and she swallowed, rubbed her hands against her apron. She sighed. "What can I do for ya, boss?"

"I need something to track void energy."

Tweezle cocked her head to one side. Not what she'd expected, though, really, she'd never expected much from the paladin. Mirathendia kept her own council and Tweezle kept her in battle potions; a small enough price to pay for saving her life in Zandalar. "How fast, boss?"

"Now."

"Now?" Tweezle raised her eyebrows, already mentally going through the three buckets of inventory that identified what she had in her lab: finished, not quite done yet, schematic-only. "Right now right this minute before you walk out of my lab?"

Mirathendia clenched her jaw and nodded.

"Can we have an extended slumber-party?"

"No."

Tweezle took off her work goggles and rubbed her eyes. "I might be able to rig something up with what I've got on-hand." She had an arcane tracer she'd built out based on schematics that she acquired from a goblin who'd spent some time out in Area 52. She had a pair of goggles that she used when she was working with nether energies. "It's not going to be perfect. Especially without some fresh void to calibrate against."

Mirathendia held out a vial. Tweezle squinted, set her work goggles on the bench, picked up another pair and put them on. She adjusted them to align them with the arcane implants at her temples, then took the vial from the elf. "That blood?"

"From a Ren'dorei."

Tweezle tilted her head to the side. "Yeah, that might work. Anyone I know?"

"No."

Tweezle looked the paladin over. Something was definitely off about Mirathendia; she stood stiffer than usual, looked like she was trying to literally hold herself together. Tweezle's arcane goggles confirmed that. The Light that was usually a calm aura around the paladin was cracked and jagged, brittle and compressed.

Tweezle swallowed, took a deep breath. "What was the second thing?"

The paladin gritted her teeth, swallowed. She looked toward the workbench.

The extended silence made Tweezle's teeth itch. She turned away from the paladin, set the vial of blood on the table and walked into the back of her lab, dug around until she found the arcane tracer and the schematic for it. On her way back to the workbench, she grabbed her void goggles.

"Take your time," Tweezle said, hoping to goad the paladin into saying something. She wanted to get the paladin out before Oralech arrived.

Tweezle had dug through the workings of the tracer and was putting it back together when Mirathendia finally said, "I need something to stop the voices."

Tweezle stared at the casing on the tracer as she bolted it shut again. "Voices." She flipped the power switch and faced it toward the vial of blood. The mechanism beeped sharp and steady. She swung the tracer away and the beeping became less insistent, until the arc of her movement crossed Mirathendia. Beeping started again. “You get some of that on you while you were collectin it, boss?”

Mirathendia said stiffly, “What do you think?”

Tweezle shrugged. She walked across the lab and the beeping became less insistent. Score one for a flexible design. Tweezle turned it off, brought it back to the bench and made some notes along the edge of the schematic, then she put on the void goggles, squinted at the blood. The vial shimmered and glowed, stars of void energy making a compact galaxy in the liquid. "So for the voices. You what, then? You what some of my home-brew? It's pretty potent stuff."

Mirathendia's voice cracked as she said, "Alcohol--" She cleared her throat. "Alcohol doesn't help."

Tweezle turned to Mirathendia and froze. The galaxy in the vial of blood was writ large in the cracks in the paladin's aura, tendrils reaching out, light decaying around darkness.

"Boss, what's going on?"

"What else do you have?"

Tweezle swallowed, took the goggles off and looked at Mirathendia with her own eyes. Sad, frayed, exhausted, tense. The paladin looked all of those things, but there was no indication on the surface of the things her goggles showed her. "Let me look." She walked to the other side of her lab where she did her alchemical work. She filled a flask from her current batch of homebrew and then looked through the vials in the case. She sighed, plucked up a bottle from the back of the case; it was filled with glimmering liquid that seemed to go back and forth between golden-red and silvery-purple depending on how the light hit it.

Mirathendia watched Tweezle as she walked back to her engineering workbench. Tweezle set the flask and the vial down, waved Mirathendia over. She was careful not to touch the paladin. "Okay, the goggles will let you see what the tracer is picking up. Not everything void is visible, right?"

The paladin took the tracer and goggles, put them into the leather pack slung over her shoulder. "And that?" She nodded toward flask and vial.

Tweezle sighed. She held out the flask. "Homebrew. Really, try this first. Little sips. Give it a hot minute. If it doesn't help--and it should, I swear this could knock the thoughts out of a Kirin Tor
apprentice's head--then try this." She handed the paladin the small vial of lustre. "One drop a day. One. And for the love of everything, don't take it if you even think you might be fighting."

Mirathendia let out a small, choked laugh that bordered on hysteria. "No, no of course not." Mirathendia closed her hand around the vial and nodded. She looked down like she held salvation in her hand. "Thank you, Tweezle."

Tweezle nodded. "Sure thing, boss. You sure you don't wanna rethink that slumber-party thing? You look like you could use one."

Mirathendia turned and walked to the lift still staring at the vial.

"Hey, boss?"

Mirathendia stopped.

"You, uh, need any help, just give me a call, yeah?"

Mirathendia stepped onto the lift and it rose up to the ground floor.

Tweezle sat down on her work chair and rubbed her face, then picked up her work goggles and put them back on. This murloc wasn't going to explode itself.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:35 am

Outside of Tweezle's lab, Mirathendia opened the small vial. The contents smelled sharp and slick, a mixture of mulling spice and honing oil, and then like nothing. For a moment, there was silence in her head. And then the memory of Tweezle's insistence that she drink the other first.

Mirathendia sighed, stoppered the vial again and tucked it into the pouch at her hip. She opened the flask, took a long drink and then put it in the saddlebag over her shoulder. The sip burned in her mouth, burned going down like liquid dragonflame, liquid fel flame. If she opened her mouth again, she feared she would breath fire into the air. She swayed and Whisper of Calm bumped his head against her chest. The voices hissed incomprehensibly, nonsense and unintelligible phrases crawling around inside of her skull and scratching along her spine.

She braced herself against the charger, took a deep breath, then fastened her saddlebag to his saddle and mounted. "Let's go."

Whisper of Calm carried her to Bilgewater Harbor and onto the airship that would ferry them north.

As the airship pulled out over the water, Mirathendia took the vial from her hip pouch again. She touched a drop of the glimmering liquid to her tongue. Her mouth went numb first, and a few moments later, the inside of her head did as well. She sobbed in relief.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:36 am

The rogue slipped out of Bilgewater as unnoticed as she'd slipped in, and grateful to be done with this task. The paladin had taken a sharp turn since the night in the stable and the rogue hadn't enjoyed watching it happen. Pain should be decisive and swift, surgically precise, not a drawn-out torment, a festering wound.

A sharp whistle brought her massive raven down to her and she climbed into the saddle. "Stormwind, Ash. Quick as you can."

The rogue tucked in against the bird's back as he carried her to her destination. Wind whipped through her short-cropped hair, stung her cheeks with cold.

Ash perched on top of the cheese shop and the rogue slipped from his back, leaned in and blew her breath through his neck feathers. He ruffled himself, flicked her shoulder with the tip of his beak and she smiled. "Thank you, my friend."

The raven took off again as the rogue climbed down to the street and walked into the shop. "Elling?"

The master of cheese nodded to the rogue, said, "I saw you inbound; they're on their way."

The rogue nodded. "Thank you."

"If you want to wait in the back room, I'll have the boy bring you a cheese plate."

"Again, thank you." The rogue walked past the counter and into the back room of the cheese shop. She straddled a chair and waited, a million questions dancing in her head. She'd spent more than enough time watching Mirathendia Morrowblood and while the paladin had changed quite a lot in that time, the rogue wasn't convinced that the paladin was such a great danger to the whole of the Alliance. A danger, certainly, especially with her connections to The Grim, but the rogue couldn't help feeling something more was at work. The Ren'dorei seemed willing to deal in shadowy ways that put even even the uncrowned to shame.

"Talonblade."

The rogue looked up, a piece of cheese stabbed on the tip of a knife. "Shaw." Her gaze flicked from human to Ren'dorei. "Magister. Your garbage is en route to Northrend." She caught the cheese with her teeth.

Umbric visibly relaxed and nodded. "Thank you."

"We have an operative there to handle her." Shaw held a coin pouch out to the rogue.

The rogue inclined her head to the table beside the cheese board.

Shaw dropped it heavily. "If you'll be kind enough to forget that the Morrowblood family ever existed, I would appreciate it."

The rogue smiled. "My memories cost a little bit more than that."

Shaw sighed, glanced at Umbric. The Ren'dorei nodded. "I will make arrangements."

"Pleasure working with you, Shaw, as always." The rogue inclined her head again to Umbric. "Magister."

The two men left the rogue to finish her cheese in silence and she considered whether their desire to buy her silence about the Morrowbloods rather than just assume it meant that a whisper or two needed to make their way out into the world.
Last edited by Mirathendia on Thu Mar 14, 2019 2:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Thu Mar 14, 2019 1:36 am

Mirathendia felt the cold as she arrived in Northrend. It was the only thing she felt as Whisper of Calm carried her off of the airship and into Warsong Hold. In the morning she'd find a way to infiltrate Valiance Keep and start looking for her sister.

Her dinner tasted of ash and decay and before she slept, she touched another drop of the liquid from the small vial to her tongue.

For the first night since her sister's death, sleep took Mirathendia and kept her in utter silence.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:21 am

Getting into Valiance Keep had proved easier than Mirathendia anticipated. She had dressed herself like a member of the Explorer's League, put on the goggles from Tweezle and used a wrap to hide her hair and the lower half of her face. She could not be less stylish or obtrusive if she tried; none of the Reliquary would be caught dead dressed as she was. Whisper of Calm was similarly dressed down, his elaborate barding traded for a spare saddle and bridle that had not left Warsong Hold with most of the garrison initially stationed there. She’d hidden her sword in her bedroll.

"Business?" the human guard had asked her the first time she approached the gates. Look like you belong and no one will question whether you do. The memory of a childhood tutor surfaced then flitted away again. "Research," she'd replied.

With Ren'dorei crawling around Alliance towns and settlements now, no one gave a slight woman a second look as she walked purposefully through the keep, the dock, and the settlement around them both.

Raze it to the ground. The urge rose like bile in her throat and she swallowed it back down. No, not now, not yet. There had to be someone there who had seen Shahadra, Khelendria, either, both. She couldn't raze the keep until she had answers.

And answers were not forthcoming.

Mirathendia walked the dock for the fifth day in a row, looked through Tweezle's goggles for some hint of Ren'dorei, a void-tear, something, anything that might portend news of her sister. For the fifth day in a row, the goggles showed her nothing and the tracer remained silent when she scanned the world around her.

She walked into the inn. The table in the corner that she'd come to consider hers was taken. She sighed, sat down at a table on the opposite side of the room that left her more exposed than she'd like.

She was four glasses of Dalaran Red in when she was approached. An intense chill in the air reached her first and she looked up to find an ice-blue gaze focused on her. Pale grey lips pursed, then parted. "You're the sister." The voice was a low gravelly one and the statement cut through the combination of wine-haze and Tweezle's luminous liquid.

Mirathendia wished for her sword as she pushed back, stood, her cheese knife clutched in a white-knuckled grip.

The man standing across from her laughed, straddled a chair and rested his hands on the table. "Calm down. You'll draw more attention than you've already attracted."

Mirathendia glanced around the inn. Certainly there were more eyes on her now than she'd like. With her face uncovered so she could eat and drink, her red hair was more visible, and her pale skin more golden than a Ren'dorei's skin was; those glances invited questions she had no desire to answer.

Still clutching the knife, Mirathendia sat down again. She darted her tongue out over her chapped lips. "And what kind of attention have I attracted from you, then?" He didn't wear Alliance colors, nor did he wear the armor of the Ebon Blade, but there was no question in her mind what he was.

Death clung to him and in his presence, the Light seemed even dimmer than it had already become to her.

He raised his hand, flagged the serving girl over. "Honeymint tea for me, please." The death knight spoke without looking at the girl. "And another of my friend's drink of choice."

The serving girl nodded nervously and fled back to the bar.

Mirathendia watched the girl pour another glass of Dalaran Red and waited for the human to explain himself. He made her wait until tea and wine were brought over. He lifted them from the girl’s tray by their rims, set them in the empty space on the table between the two of them. Mirathendia snatched her glass, took a long drink from it to ease the tension screaming in her muscles. The wine clung to her tongue and to her throat as she choked it down.

He watched her as he lifted his mug to his lips, holding it in one hand, frost spreading from his fingertips. He left the other hand flat on the table.

You could stab him. Pin that hand to the table. See if death bleeds.

Mirathendia flinched from the shadowy words twisting around inside of her head. How long had it been since she last tasted the contents of Tweezle's vial?

Maybe it's just you.

Mirathendia choked down another long drink, finishing the wine. The dregs coated the inside of the glass, rolled slowly down like blood on skin.

The death knight watched her, a hint of curiosity or perhaps fascination in his gaze. "You're looking for your sister."


“Do I know you?" Mirathendia felt no hint of familiarity in looking at him, no spark of memory, no sense that she did..

He shook his head.

Irritation flared. "Did my sister?"

He tilted his head and looked away from her; something like a smile pulled his lips. A living person would have been blushing.

Mirathendia pressed her lips together, then muttered, "It figures." Of course her sister was friends, more than friends, with a human. And not just a human, with a scourge-plagued husk that made a mockery of life and the Light. Did she not remember?

Mirathendia realized he was looking at her again, expectation in the set of his shoulders and the way he leaned forward. She sighed. "Someone told me she'd come to Northrend."

He smiled again and this time the expression looked uncomfortable on his face, as though in just a moment he'd forgotten how. "Have you heard of the Forge of Souls?"

She stared at him.

"Soul Grinders?"

Mirathendia looked into her empty glass, waved the serving girl over for another.

"No?" He leaned farther forward, seemed amused, shocked, or perhaps pleased that he might be able to launch into a lecture on something he finds fascinating.

"I have," she said sharply. "What have they to do with Shahadra?"

The death knight sighed, glanced into his mug, then set it down. Steam no longer rose from the top, though it was not empty. "I had hoped you might tell me."

"What do I know of the inner workings of void-addled elves?" Void-addled elves who should be dead. Shahadra could not be out there still. Mirathendia had held her sister's skull. Void-stained. Light-scorched. And yet...

The child's words came back to her, shadow-burnt 'cept for a streak across her eye. Who else could it be but Shahadra? Impossible, but what other elf, whether Ren’dorei or Sin’dorei, could be described like that?

The inside of her own skull itched and prickled.

The death knight smiled. "More, I think, than you want to admit."

Mirathendia stood, swayed. "I must attend to--"

The death knight stood as well. "Allow me to call on you later." He inclined his head, kept his voice low as he added, "Lady Morrowblood."

Mirathendia nearly choked on a laugh. "That might be a challenge." She imagined the welcome he would get at Warsong Hold and though part of her longed to see it--the mess that would be made, the bloody remnants of this arrogant abomination--he knew something about Shahadra.

"Then allow me to pay for a room upstairs that you can retire to. You seem...unwell."

And what will he do to you while you sleep? While you sleep off too much wine.

And again, the memory of Rona’zae's words, The drunk one.

But the whispers were relentless, and this was not her sister, this shadowy insinuation and entendre, Would you welcome it? His sword driving into your flesh?

As though he knew the whispers in her head, he said, "I have lodgings of my own, Lady Morrowblood--"

She hissed, "Don't say that name so loudly. Not here."

And he continued as though she hadn't spoken at all. Perhaps she hadn't?

"--and you will be safe here. Safer, I think, than you might be if you tried to return to your own lodgings in your current state."

"I'll be fine." Mirathendia swayed. Star-shot darkness filtered over her vision and whispers surged inside of her head, nonsense, incomprehensible, demanding warning bargaining tempting promising. She tried to get the vial from the pouch at her hip but couldn't make her flesh obey what was left of her will.

A hand gripped her arm and wrenched her upright. "I think if you'll be fine it will not be under your own power."

He dragged her like a ragdoll to the innkeeper, then upstairs. He flung her unceremoniously onto the bed and left her there to drown in darkness and the steady beeping of Tweezle's machine.

Where are you, Shahadra? What are you doing?

Shhh, Mira. I'm right here. I'll always be right here. Always.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:24 am

The rogue walked into the SI:7 building and made her way to Shaw's office. She rapped her knuckles against the time-polished wood in front of him and he looked up.

Irritated expression melted quickly to gratitude. "Ah, Talonblade. We have a problem."

"We do?" She had her own network of eyes and ears and had heard enough that Shaw's words didn't startle her.

Shaw sighed, rested his hands on his desk, then stood up. "Things have not gone as anticipated in Northrend."

"In Northrend? I thought the war was being waged in Kul Tiras and Zandalar. What's happening in Northrend?" The rogue smiled, added, "Sir." They wanted her to forget anything she'd done had happened; she would make Shaw tell her what he wanted of her.

Shaw's hands balled into fists and the muscles at his jaw twitched.

Say the words, spymaster.

He remained silent. The rogue raised her eyebrows and cocked her head to the side, took a small amount of pity on him and asked, "Is there more garbage that needs taken out?"

Shaw sighed.

"Your house is quite a mess, isn't it. Sir."

"Damnit, Thorne."

"Talonblade," the rogue corrected him.

"I have bigger problems that I need to focus on--."

"Then let this one go.”

Shaw shook his head.

The rogue sighed. “You're like one of the houndsmaster's beasts."

Shaw said, "I can't let it go, and that's why you're here."

The rogue shrugged. "As I have no idea what you're on about--sir--then perhaps you should have one of your spies or assassins deal with the issue. I and my associates are not at Stormwind’s beck and call. You might like to keep that in mind more often." She smiled. “Sir.”

Color rose in Shaw's face and he looked as though the vein at his temple might burst from the effort to keep his frustration in check. "Go to Valiance Keep. Find out what happened to Ailee Tinksprocket." His expression shifted subtly as though he didn't expect that she still lived and the rogue's blood went cold. "Then find Morrowblood and--"

"Get my hands dirty." If Ailee was dead by the paladin’s hand, she'd do it gladly. And slowly. And painfully.

Shaw nodded.

"And you want me to accomplish those tasks in that order?"

Shaw sighed. "In whichever order makes sense once you're on the scene."

The rogue rubbed her thumb against her fingertips.

Shaw walked over to the strongbox, took out a small pouch and threw it.

The rogue snatched it from the air. "You're still paying the bounty when I finish the job."

Shaw nodded.

"Always a pleasure." She turned to the door, looked back over her shoulder and added, "Sir."

She whistled for Ash and a pair of Stormwind guards scattered as the bird landed. She hauled herself up into the saddle, leaned forward and whispered, "Valiance Keep, my friend. I'll make sure you're well fed when we arrive."
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:30 am

Sunlight slashed over her eyes and Mirathendia woke abruptly to silence. She scrambled for the vial in her hip pouch and dipped her pinkie into it, sucked the liquid off, trying to burn away the whispers before they surged back to life.

Her head ached and her eyes felt like they'd been scrubbed with sand. Beneath Tweezle's elixir, her skin tasted of salt and she smelled of many days in the saddle without break.

"Good morning, Lady Morrowblood. I'm glad to see you..." The death knight trailed off. "Awake. I suppose lucid remains to be seen." He held a tray of fruit and cheese balanced on one hand, a mug in the other. He set them both down on the bedside table. The food looked untouched; the mug still steamed.

Mirathendia froze, keenly aware of her lack of weapon and of the enormous sword sheathed across the death knight's back.

"If you're not hungry, I'll eat it as I'd intended to do." He backed away and swung around the chair beside the door so he could straddle it. His icy eyes held no emotion.

"What are you doing?" Mirathendia pushed herself upright, grateful she still wore her clothes though they stank.

He shrugged. "You were unwell. I made certain you were seen to by someone who would not question a Sin'dorei in Valiance Keep."

Mirathendia hesitantly took a piece of cheese, hating the way her hand trembled. She ate it and it tasted of chalk and ash. She washed it down, burning her mouth on honeymint tea. "What do I call you?"

He chuckled, a hollow empty sound. "When you are lucid? You had choice words for me while you were fevered."

Her memory was a chasm of nothing. "What do you prefer to be called?"

"Font."

"Like wisdom?"

He sighed. "If you prefer to be formal, Fontayne."

Mirathendia nodded. "Fontayne, then." She took a half-frozen slice of plum from the tray. The juice soothed her burned tongue, though there was no more flavor to the plum than to the cheese. She forced herself to swallow, wiped the back of her hand against her mouth. "Did Shahadra go to Ice Crown, then?"

"It certainly seems possible."

"Can you get into the Forge of Souls?"

"Maybe."

Mirathendia looked up from her breakfast, such as it was. "Take me there."

That unsettling smile pulled at his cheeks and lips. "Are you well enough to travel, Lady Morrowblood?"

Whisper of Calm would keep her in her saddle whether she was well enough to travel or no. If Shahadra was there, she had already lost too much time. "Take. me. there."

He inclined his head. "As you wish, m'lady. But finish your breakfast. And shall I have a bath drawn?"

She would stink again by the time they got to Ice Crown, but at least she could leave fresh. She nodded. "Please."

He stood, turned to the door, then said, "I believe your machine is dead."

"My machine?"

He gestured toward the floor, then left her alone in the room. Mirathendia reached down and picked up Tweezle's tracking device. Whatever mechanism that powered it, arcane or otherwise, seemed to have burned out. The display would not light up. She gritted her teeth to keep from screaming in frustration.

The serving girl from downstairs brought in hot water for her to bathe. "Will you need my assistance, miss?"

Mirathendia waved her away then took off her goggles, her hood, and her clothes. She was exhausted and shaking by the time she was naked and the water had cooled a bit, but she scrubbed the stink of sweat from her skin. By the time she was clean, dry, and clothed once again, she was even more exhausted.

A knock came at the door, and a soft, wood-muffled, "M'lady?"

"Come in." Mirathendia put the goggles back on and wrapped her hood around her hair, hid the bottom of her face.

"You're ready, Lady Morrowblood?"

"Let's find Shahadra."

He held his arm out to her and she was both infuriated by the gesture--that it came from a human, that he believed she needed help--and grateful for the support.

Whisper of Calm was saddled, though he looked clearly like he'd been taken care of while she'd slept, and her sword was tucked in her bedroll. How long had she slept?

Too long.

The charger snuffled her and she pressed her hand gently to his warm, soft nose. "Shh, yes, I'm fine." He lipped at her palm then looked at Fontayne. Whisper seemed unsettled by her companion, but also resigned. That Whisper hadn't struck out at the death knight reassured her.

Fontayne boosted her into her saddle and when she was settled, he mounted his deathcharger. Mirathendia didn't recognize the colors on the deathcharger's barding, but it matched his armor. He drew his mount around and looked at Mirathendia. "You're certain about this, m'lady?"

"Yes."

He inclined his head and urged his mount into motion. Mirathendia clutched the saddle's pommel with one hand and let Whisper have his head, trusting him not to lose her or Fontayne.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:42 am

Rilasuka crouched in the shade of a tree near what appeared to be a goblin's abode. She'd taken to tracking Mira on the days when she seemed least herself since that night in the stable.

The Sin'dorei who had been so strong, so confident, so certain of herself on Draenor had changed dramatically that night. And more still after she came back from delivering that strongbox. Now Mirathendia jumped at shadows, laughed at nothing, hissed as though someone standing behind her had said something particularly impolite. She cried out through nightmares more often than she realized, and while held by the dark throes of slumber spoke in a tongue that sent chills through Rilasuka. Rilasuka's sunshine was strong still, and bright, but she fought with a level of ferocity that bordered on a deathwish and the brightness faltered.

Rilasuka had seen warriors fight like that before, daring death to take them after they lost mates, parents, children. Warriors who could no longer live with loss but had too much honor to end their suffering by their own hand.

Tracking Mira had become harder since that night, too. For Rilasuka and Narath, both. There were times where Mira's trail completely disappeared--as though she ceased completely to exist--and then popped up somewhere farther away in a place that no person would've meandered to by accident from where the trail ended.

That Rilasuka had been able to track Mirathendia to Azshara had been something of a miracle, really.

Narath sniffed around the building; it wasn't very large, but it appeared to be built into the rock that it jutted from so that smallness might be deceptive. Narath lifted his leg and pissed on a corner, then padded back to the entrance. He huffed, tilted his head back to look toward Rilasuka, then sat and stared at the door, his ears alert.

Rilasuka whistled and Narath whined. The hunter whistled again and Narath reluctantly returned to her. "We wait," she told the wolf. She stroked her fingers through his thick neckruff and he laid down beside her.

They waited through two sunsets without anyone approaching the building. Rilasuka sighed, stood, and walked to the door, studied the mechanism beside it, then gave in and pushed the bright red button.

She waited. A mechanism whirred, but nothing else happened.

She pressed the button again. The whirring continued and an amber light lit up on a console.

Narath growled softly. Rilasuka pressed the button a third time.

A crackling sound came from a speaker and a chipper, though mildly irritated voice said, "Tweezle Sparkscatter. Either I'm not here. I'm busy. I don't like you. Or all of the above. Leave a message or don't, see if I care." A beep followed.

"I would speak with you, goblin, about Mirathendia. I know she was here."

"Yeah? Well you could've said something sooner instead of skulking around out there like a creep. Get in here." The door to the goblin's abode opened. "Come down the lift in the back. And Don't. Touch. Anything."

The speaker cut out and Rilasuka looked down at Narath. The wolf huffed and turned from the door, walked back to where she'd been watching the goblin's home, and laid down, ears alert, gaze on the door. Rilasuka sighed. "Fine."

The door closed behind Rilasuka cutting off the sunlight. Inside the goblin's home, the lighting flickered like firelight but had no warmth. She walked past piles of gear and parts, past a table of open books, and closed books with quills or pencils or springs tucked inside to hold a page.

The lift carried her down and while it wasn't darker at the bottom--was, in fact, better lit--being underground made Rilasuka feel like it was.

Tweezle Sparkscatter sat on a floating chair that seemed to be constructed of mechanical parts and arcane mechanisms. It reminded her, in a way, of a gutted Draenei construct. The goblin appeared to be working on a pair of goggles on her workbench. "You must be Rilasuka. Mira told me about you." She looked up from her work. the lighting on her goggles going from purple to blue, and her eyebrows went up. Her gaze moved up Rilasuka's body, then down, then back up again and Ri felt like she was being appraised for some task or function yet to be spoken. The goblin let out her breath in a slow whistle, then said, "But wow, did she leave out the good bits."

Rilasuka said, "Mirathendia was here."

Tweezle nodded. "Yep."

"And?"

"And what? She was here, and then she left, and now I'm building a new pair of goggles." Tweezle said these things as though they were related somehow, but Rilasuka couldn't make sense of it.

"When was she here?"

Tweezle shrugged. "Time may be money, friend, but, to be perfectly frank--and don’t you dare let this get out--I'm terrible at keeping track of either. Either I've got more than enough and it doesn't matter, or I ain't got enough of either and I'm in trouble and gotta make more. Don't tell the bronze about that, though."

Make more? The bronze? Rilasuka rubbed the back of her neck. "Say something that makes sense, goblin."

Tweezle drew back as though she'd been struck. "That made perfect sense, but I can see you're a woman of a particular constitution and wow am I digging that constitution I bet you've got a lot of stamina to go with those muscles. Shoulders for days, am I right?"

Rilasuka opened her mouth to demand sense again and Tweezle raised a finger to cut her off.

"Mira was here, yes. A couple of days ago, maybe? Maybe longer than that? I had a bit of excitement and don't quite remember all of the details. Like, you know, how long ago it was. You know how it is."

Rilasuka closed her eyes. "What do you remember?"

"Are you two having a little..." Tweezle raised her eyebrows, nodded. "You know. Do you need a shoulder?" Rilasuka stared at the goblin as she continued. "A place to crash? My bed's plenty big enough for the two of us and then some if you don't mind sharing and I've got about five thousand different ways to ehem distract you from your troubles if that’s what you’re after."

"Why was she here, goblin." Rilasuka's voice filled the lab and she curled her hands into fists. The goblin was more trying than the worst-tamed and worst-trained beast and Rilasuka's patience had been worn thin by the hunt that, for all her attempts to take it farther, ended at the goblin's abode.

Tweezle's chair scooted back nearly to the wall and she said, "Well you don't have to be so cranky about it. I'm sure whatever's wrong, you'll find a nice, sweet way to smooth it over."

"Where did she go when she left?"

Tweezle shrugged. "She didn't say. Why?"

Rilasuka growled, turned and stalked to the lift.

Narath sprang from the shade, bounded over to Rilasuka as she walked out of the goblin's home. Lab. Both. She sighed. "That was a dead end."

Narath whined.

Rilasuka whistled for her war wolf and swung up into the saddle. "We go back to the beginning."

###

Tracking the Sin'dorei pup from the manor had been easier than tracking Mirathendia. The youngling crouched against the wall in the Silvermoon alley, her eyes wide. Rilasuka was used to disdain from the Sin'dorei, but this one’s fear unsettled her. "You're safe, pup."

She shook her head.

"Narath won't hurt you. Neither will I."

She shook her head again and tried to make herself even smaller than she was. "What do you want."

"I'm looking for someone."

"I don't know anyone," the pup said quickly.

Rilasuka chuckled softly at that. As dirty and terrified as the pup was, Ri might almost believe that. But Narath had followed a scent from the manor stables through the darker streets of Silvermoon, and eventually to this youngling. "But you see people, mm?"

Rilasuka crouched down, put her back against the alley wall. She patted the ground with her hand and Narath whined, laid down beside her with his side against the wall. She scruffed his ears gently then turned her attention back to the girl. "Hmm?"

"I... I see lots of people."

Rilasuka nodded. "And you're clever."

The youngling pursed her lips.

"And good at hiding?" Rilasuka cocked her head to the side.

"Maybe."

Rilasuka nodded, kept a smile from her mouth though she hoped the youngling saw it in her eyes. "I'm looking for a lovely Sin'dorei lady. She is my sunshine and--"

"You don't talk like a monster."

Rilasuka closed her eyes swallowed. "What makes you think I'm a monster."

"You look like one," the youngling said.

Rilasuka inclined her head. She should have expected as much. She tapped her fist against the ground lightly and Narath belly-crawled around her so the pup could see him. "Does he look like a monster?"

Narath's ears pricked forward and his nostrils flared as he sniffed the air, catching the youngling's scent again. His tail brushed back and forth once.

The youngling shook her head. "He looks like a wolf."

"He is my friend."

She looked from Narath to Rilasuka, her eyes wide. "I'd like to pet him."

"He is a fierce hunter," Rilasuka said softly. And at her hand gesture, he bared his teeth.

The youngling swallowed. "But he looks soft."

Rilasuka cocked her head to the side, looked at Narath. "What do you say, old friend?"

Narath huffed softly and hauled himself to his feet. The youngling scooted back again. "Will he bite?"

"Are you dangerous?"

The youngling shook her head, trembling.

"Then hold out your hand to him. Like this." Rilasuka held her hand out and the youngling imitated her gesture.

Narath glanced over his shoulder at Ri and she nodded to him. He padded forward and the youngling held her breath. He nosed her hand, licked it, and Rilasuka said, "Go ahead and pet him. His ears, his neck, not his face."

The youngling pet one of his ears lightly enough that it must have tickled; he flicked his ear back and forth and shook his head. She froze, then pet his neck ruff. A smile lit up her face and she asked, "Is he friends with the lady you want to find?"

Rilasuka nodded. "She saved us both. And then we saved her. Again and again."

The youngling looked up. "Is she lost?"

Rilasuka nodded again. "She lives at the Morrowblood manor."

The youngling gasped and jerked her hand back from Narath, guilt written in her face and the set of her body.

"You've seen her."

The youngling swallowed, pressed her lips together tightly.

"We will not hurt you. Tell me about her?"

The youngling scrubbed the back of her hand over her mouth. "She pays us. To listen to gossip. To tell her interesting things." And the way the youngling said interesting things, the tone she used, those words carried so much of Mirathendia in them that Rilasuka’s throat ached. "To find things for her."

A barb of agony lodged into Rilasuka's heart next to the twin barbs of beast and monster. "What was she looking for?"

"Someone called Shahadra or Khelendria. And her sister?" The youngling looked confused and her gaze darted from Narath and Rilasuka to the opening of the alley.

Rilasuka nodded. "What did you tell her when you came to the manor?"

The youngling gasped again. "Were you watching? I didn’t see anyone else there."

Rilasuka shook her head, nodded toward Narath. "He smelled you at the stable."

"I didn't hurt her!"

"I know."

"I would never hurt her. She's pretty. And nice. And I have a bed for a little longer thanks to her." The youngling's words came out in a rush of guilt and fear and gratitude.

"What did you tell her?"

The youngling licked her lips. "That Artohl saw Khelendria board an airship to Northrend."

"And why did he tell you this?"

The youngling blinked several times, tilted her head. "Because he saw her?"

Rilasuka considered that for a moment, considered Mira's words spoken in her sleep, the destroyed tapestry from the entrance hall. "To Northrend."

The youngling nodded.

Rilasuka sighed and stood. "Thank you."

The youngling's posture went defensive again, muscles coiled, ready to flee.

Rilasuka licked her lips, considered another moment, then asked, "Do you like horses?"

The youngling blinked, then nodded.

"And wolves?" Mirathendia's Frostwolf pup was bereft without her.

The youngling looked at Narath, whose head was level with hers when he stood. She nodded again slowly.

"Would you trade hard work for the certainty of a bed and meals?"

"Hard work?"

Rilasuka nodded. "Learning. And then training."

The youngling opened her mouth, then snapped it shut again. Footsteps passed behind Rilasuka on the main street. Finally the pup said, "I don't know."

Rilasuka nodded. "When you do, come to the manor."

The youngling stared.

"Say good-bye, Narath."

The wolf huffed softly, then licked at the youngling's face until she laughed and tried to push him away.

Rilasuka walked out of the alley, whistled sharply and Narath left the pup and came to her side. "To Northrend, then." What she knew of that place couldn't fill a full page of parchment and that lack of knowledge made her wary.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 12:55 am

Ash landed at the farm outside of Valiance Keep. The rogue ruffled her fingers through his neckfeathers, then flagged down the boy running in the corn. "You know if there’s any carrion about?"

The boy blinked. "Some dead stags off that way." He pointed behind him. "Don't know what got 'em."

Ash let out a gravelly caw and launched himself into the air. The flight had taken a lot out of him, but he wasn't about to let her hand feed him. And truthfully, she was glad of that; he had terrible table manners.

The rogue nodded to the boy. "I'm looking for someone."

"What kind of someone?" Boy was suddenly wary.

"A friend. Little shorter than you. Pink hair."

The boy paled, then took off at a run toward the rebuilt farm house. He staggered to a stiff-bodied stop, stood unnaturally still, then looked back at her, his eyes wide.

The rogue frowned, then ran after him, then past him and stopped inside the door. The place smelled of sickness and she pulled a scarf across her face as her eyes adjusted to the dimness inside the farm house.

The boy came in behind her, said, "Mom says it's not catchy."

She kept the cloth over her nose and mouth and he walked into the kitchen.

"Mom?"

The rogue followed the boy in and an older woman looked up from the pot in the fire. Her gaze swept from the boy to the rogue. "You’ve come, then." There was relief in her expression and in her voice.

The rogue nodded. "Where is she?"

The woman’s gaze flicked toward the back of the house.

Throat tight, the rogue asked, “Is she…”

"Unwell. But it ain't the scourge if that's what y'be thinking."

The rogue shook her head. "I don't know what I'm thinking yet."

The woman snorted. "I'd say she was poisoned, but who'd poison a sweet thing like her?"

"Why didn't you take her to the healers in the keep?"

The woman sighed. "She told us not to. Said it wasn’t safe for anyone else to know she was here. Made us promise her. When she went unconscious and I couldn’t rouse her, I was going to, but I couldn't. I lit'trally couldn't. None of us could."

Oh, you little pain in the ass. "Of all the stubborn--" the rogue cut herself off. "And you couldn't fetch a healer, either."

The woman shook her head, her expression tired and worried and maybe a little bit angry.

The rogue nodded. "Can you take me to the back?"

The woman let out a relieved sigh and nodded. She led the rogue into the room where Ailee was bundled in blankets. Her usually pale-but-rosey cheeks were sallow, her lips cracked and dry and her eyes crusted at the corners. Her breathing came slow and labored and rattly. Her pink hair had been stained with, soot?

The rogue gritted her teeth, sat down on the stool beside the bed. "Ailee?"

Footsteps came at the door and the rogue looked back over her shoulder. The boy held out a bowl of warm water and a cloth. The rogue nodded and he set them on the table beside the bed.

The rogue took her gloves off, tucked them into her belt, and wet the cloth, dabbed it over Ailee's face. She wasn't convinced Ailee had been poisoned--most poisons didn’t look like this--but she also wasn't convinced it was illness. Something was off about either answer. "Come on, you stubborn little shit, wake up."

"Em?" The gnome's eyes remained closed. "Promise..."

"The hell I will. I am not promising you anything other than an ass-kicking," the rogue hissed. "You're going back to Stormwind, and you're damn well going to survive the trip so after I kill the paladin--"

Footsteps behind her cut her off again. The woman stood in the doorframe. "Are you takin' her to the keep?"

The rogue glared at Ailee who was shaking her head. "Yes."

"We have a cart. If you want, I'll have the boy fetch it."

The rogue licked her lips, nodded. "Thank you."

The woman left and the rogue focused on the gnome again. "I'm going to kill you when you're on your feet again for being a pain in my ass and making me come back out to this Light-forsaken wasteland."


###

The rogue walked beside the ancient mare that the boy had hitched to the cart. He rode on the mare's back and Ailee was bundled in the cart bed. The rogue plucked two gold coins from the pouch at her hip, handed them to the boy. "For you and your mother. For your help."

The boy's eyes went wide and he pocketed the coins.

The guards stopped them at the keep and the rogue flashed an SI:7 insignia. Now was not the time for subtlety, not with Ailee's life on the line. "I need a medic and a transport to Stormwind."

The guards glanced at each other and she hissed, "Now."

Inside the keep, the medic looked Ailee over and shook her head. "I've never seen anything like this. I can't tell you what it is, but I can tell you that it's not the plague; thank the Light."

"Can you help her?"

"I don't know."

The rogue balled a hand into a fist, dug her short nails into her palm. "Can you keep her alive between here and Stormwind?" Shaw would have someone in Stormwind able to save her; he had to.

"I can try."

The rogue stared, gritted her teeth.

The medic sighed. "That's the best I can pr--"

"Don't promise anything." The rogue glared at Ailee. "Just... do what you can."

"Transport's ready, sir." The guard looked past the rogue to the medic. "Do you require anything else?"

"A helping hand is always appreciated." The medic was diplomacy and tact where the rogue could not bring herself to even be witty.

With the guard's help, the medic and Ailee were bundled into the back of a boat slash flying machine. The contraption made the rogue's stomach clench to look at. "She's fast, an’ safe!" the dwarf pilot insisted. He slapped a thick hand against the motor covering and it rattled; two huge plumes of smoke spewed from the exhaust pipes.

The rogue nodded. "Get them back to Stormwind in one piece; that's all I need you to do."

The dwarf nodded, gave her a thumb's up, and climbed into the pilot seat. "Faster 'n you c'n say Bob's yer uncle." He pulled his flying goggles down and the engine roared.

The transport skimmed across the water, bounced half a dozen times, each bounce a little longer, and then finally took to the air.

Please survive. When the transport was out of sight, the rogue walked back from the docks and made her way to the inn.

She took a seat at the bar and caught the eye of the serving girl. The rogue plucked another gold coin from the pouch at her hip and danced it back and forth across her knuckles then flipped it into the air and caught it in her palm. She held it out to the serving girl. "I need something strong, and I need you to tell me a story or two." She skimmed her gaze around the room, leaned her head in close and said, "Somewhere quiet, if you can get away."

The girl's cheeks flushed and she said, "Shift's over at sunset. If ye've got time til then."

The rogue nodded. "I have time."

The girl smiled. "I'll be back wi'yer drink."

"Thank you."

The rogue knew what the girl expected, and understood why she was startled when the rogue straddled a chair and pulled out a leather-wrapped deck of cards.

"No'the kind of story I was expectin' y'wanted from me."

The rogue smiled. "We'll get there. If you're actually interested in that."

The girl blinked and shrugged. "I don' much care how y'wanna spend th'time yer payin' me for, but yer not one I’d turn away from a’soft mattress an’a naked tussle."

The rogue chuckled. "Tell me a story, and we'll see what happens." She unwrapped the cards; rifled through them. Each was a miniature illustration she had made. On the top of the deck was the most recent, a portrait of Mirathendia Morrowblood.

"Have you seen her?" She held it up.

The girl took the card and studied it. "Ah dun think so. We get th'cassional one wat's got purple hair. Not that kind o' red. Not those kind o' eyes, neither." She offered the card back.

The rogue slid the card onto the bottom of the deck. "And have you seen a void elf here recently?"

"Ah cannae say for certain. It might be tha the waif in th'goggles and hood were one. But she looked a lil rough t'be an elf, if y'ken wha I'm sayin."

The rogue drummed her fingers against the top of the deck, then shuffled through the cards until she found the one of Ailee. She flipped it so the serving girl could see it. "Have you seen her?"

The girl reached for the card, but the rogue drew it back. The girl shrugged, leaned forward and looked at it. "No, na'her. But her ma, maybe?"

"Her ma?"

The girl nodded. "She were a'delight. Ha'the whole common table laughin' the two nights she were 'ere."

"Was the waif at the common table?"

"Nah. Sat by'er self in the corner."

"Did she talk to the gnome at all?"

The serving girl shook her head. "Nah. Th'gnome was a handful o' days gone, maybe more’n ‘at, when I first saw th'waif."

The rogue set the illustration of Ailee on the top of the deck and wrapped the cards again. She leaned back, looked at the ceiling.

"Y'okay, there?" The serving girl cocked her head to the side.

"Is the waif still around?"

"Had a room for a handful a’days, but I dinnae see ‘er much. An’ then she left."

"Alone?"

Girl shook her head. "Left w'a guy. One o'them frosty types if y'ken what I mean."

"A death knight?"

Girl nodded. "He might'a been pretty once, but them frosty ones." She shuddered, shook her head. "No'for all the money in the world. He was th'only one not laughin' the first night tha'gnome were here." She took a deep breath. "But you?"

"But me?"

"I'd do that for nothin'."

The rogue shook her head. "Even if you wouldn't remember it in the morning?"

"Ah dun think I'm likely t'forget you."

And that's why the rogue carried a vial of brain-fog in her belt along with her poisons. She set her cards aside, smiled, said, "You're sweet."

The rogue left the serving girl exhausted, satisfied, and unlikely to remember anything that happened from sunset to sunrise. Maybe that satisfaction would linger. A stack of coins on the table beside the bed glinted in the candle light.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:31 am

Fontayne drew his mount up and Whisper of Calm slowed, then stopped. The landscape was covered in shadow and Mirathendia couldn't decide if twilight had come already, or if it was the shadows of Icecrown throwing everything into darkness.

Shadows don't move like that, Mira.

Mirathendia ignored her sister, told herself that she didn't feel Shahadra at her back, holding on, the two of them fitting uncomfortably in one saddle and riding as they did when they first learned how.

"Well?"

Mirathendia jerked her gaze toward Fontayne again. "Well?"

"You look in need of rest, and this is as comfortable a place as we'll find before..." He trailed off and glanced up at the ice-covered glacier and the citadel above.

"We should press on." If her sister was there, Mirathendia needed to know, needed to find her needed--

I'm not there, Mira. I'm right here. I'm always right here. And I can't give you what you need.

Mirathendia made cold stiff fingers loosen their grip on Whisper's reins so she could retrieve Tweezle's elixir. In the dimming light, in the lengthening shadow, in the swirling void that reached and stretched all around her, the contents of the vial were so much less than they should have been. She twisted the stopper out, dipped her pinkie in, and sucked the liquid from her finger. Her chapped lips were rough against her skin.

Sweat. Horse. Frost. Ash. Decay.

She tried to conjure up a memory of the Sunwell and could not; she tried to find the Light, but it was shattered and broken and flaking away.

Mirathendia gritted her teeth, stoppered the vial again and shoved it back into her pouch.

Fontayne sighed, dismounted. "One more night will change nothing. Come." He closed the small distance between his deathcharger and Whisper, reached up to her. "I will make us a fire, find us a rabbit."

The world tilted around her and she clung to Whisper's saddle pommel. "Very well."

"Put your hands on my shoulders." Fontayne's command took her by surprise. She opened her eyes, unaware she had closed them. Her knuckles ached and her fingers clung to the saddle, reins loose against Whisper's neck.

Mirathendia nodded, forced her hands to relax. He took her by her waist and she braced trembling hands on his shoulders, trusting him to get her to the ground.

He sighed. "Sit there." He pointed to a smooth-worn rock that might be mistaken for a chair.

Mirathendia sank down gratefully onto the rock. It still held some warmth from its time in the sun and her body drank it in needily.

Fontayne unloaded her bedroll first, and then his. Whisper of Calm snorted, eyed the human as he picked up a rope and moved to hobble the horse. Whisper tossed his head, danced away and Fontayne shrugged. "As you please, beast." He left his own deathcharger unbound and gathered wood, then lit a small fire.

Mirathendia held her hands toward it and stared at the flickering twisting dancing flames. She was aware of Fontayne watching her, aware of the way he cocked his head.

And then he was no longer there. She wasn't aware of him leaving, only that she was alone, and that the darkness was tight and thick around her. She was aware of the cold in every joint, on every exposed bit of skin. She was aware of her breath steaming in the air, of the ache in her lungs, of time eating slowly at her insides, rot and decay writhing beneath her skin.

"Eat, Lady Morrowblood."

Mirathendia jerked back from the sound of Fontayne's voice. "What?"

He was near, but not too near, not improperly close, and he offered her a staked piece of flesh heated in the fire, charred in some places by the flames.

She forced herself to smile. "Thank you." Her hand trembled. The rabbit--or whatever it was--tasted the way everything else she ate tasted. She forced herself to chew, to swallow. She choked on the second bite and Fontayne offered her a mug. She drank it and the cold jarred her from the haze that had settled around her. She licked her lips, took another sip and looked past the fire at Fontayne. "Why are you helping me?"

"Helping you?" He held another chunk of meat over the fire.

"Taking me to the Forge of Souls."

He looked away from her and into the flames.

"Are you looking for Shahadra, too?" The thought of her sister being with him turned her stomach and she took another long drink from the mug.

"I have my... reasons," he said finally. He stood, walked away from the fire into the darkness.

Mirathendia forced herself to finish the meat she'd been offered, finished the contents of the mug, and crawled into her bedroll. Whisper of Calm whuffled through her hair and stood near her.

He's not good for you, Mira. This isn't good for you. You need to go home. Her sister's voice was far away, shot through with incomprehensible whispering, atop a rhythm like a stuttering and struggling heartbeat.


###

Fontayne shook her shoulder. "Come, Lady Morrowblood, it's time you woke. We have a long way and little enough daylight."

Mirathendia tried to pull herself from his grasp. "I'm awake." But she wasn't sure that she was.

"It will be a hard ride to make our destination before twilight settles."

Mirathendia sat up, pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. Her lips were so chapped and her mouth was so dry. Her eyes and lashes were crusted with sleep. Or tears. Perhaps both.

Fontayne looked down at her. "We could take another day?" Was that derision in his voice?

Mirathendia shook her head and dizziness made her clutch her bedroll. "No. I need--"

"You are determined." Fontayne turned toward his deathcharger. "Or perhaps it is not determination, perhaps it is only stubbornness."

Mirathendia gritted her teeth and got herself up from the ground. She shivered.

Go home, Mira. Please. Please don't do this.

Mirathendia fumbled for the elixir. The vial was nearly empty. She opened it and tilted it upside down letting the last of it drip from the glass lip onto her parched tongue. She stoppered the empty vial and put it back, walked slowly to Whisper of Calm's side. He whickered, nosed her gently and lipped at her hair. She pushed his head away and he stomped a forehoof. "I'm fine," she told him firmly.

Fontayne helped her into her saddle. His hand lingered on Whisper's neck and his expression was calculating. He said, "Stubborn, I think." His hand slid away as he turned to his deathcharger.

"Determined," Mirathendia whispered, clutching the pommel with both hands.

You're a fool. Go home. You need to go home.

"Shut up," Mirathendia hissed.

Fontayne looked back at her, nodded, then set off toward the walls of Icecrown Citadel.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 1:58 am

The rogue walked into the keep openly, her SI:7 insignia displayed to stop questions. The general looked up when she rapped her knuckles on his desk in the command room. His gaze flicked to the SI:7 insignia and he pursed his lips. "What does SI:7 need all the way out here?"

"I need an arcane communicator."

The general sighed, nodded. "Are you staying at the inn?"

The rogue shook her head. "I'm staying right here until it's in my hand."

It's amazing how quickly the military was to acquiesce to a request when the alternative was an assassin with a pair of sharp blades taking up space where they were not wanted.

The rogue took the communicator and attuned it to the SI:7 communication network, contacted Shaw. "Ailee is being returned to Stormwind."

Shaw sighed.

"Make sure she's alive when I get back."

"What?"

“She doesn’t need a box. Not yet.” The rogue relayed how she'd found the gnome and the state she was in, and that sent her back to Stormwind.

"So the general knows SI:7 is there." Shaw sounded irritated.

"You don't honestly imagine that the general thinks his keep is free of your eyes and ears, do you, Shaw? After what happened here before the Wrathgate?"

Shaw sighed. "What else do you have for me, Talonblade?"

The rogue licked her lips, looked across the keep from her perch atop the highest tower. "You know anything about the Ebon Blade taking an interest in your garbage?"

"What?"

"I didn't think so."

"Are you telling me the Ebon Blade is--"

"I was asking you a question, Shaw." The rogue frowned. Was that a war wolf riding back and forth along the ridge? Were the Horde going to bring their war to this front, too? There had been uneasy--she hesitated to call it peace, but peace--with the Horde in Northrend the past several years. And it had been quieter still since so many soldiers had been sent to Zandalar and Kul Tiras.

He sighed. "I've had no word from Mograine or anyone else in the Ebon Blade since the Broken Shore. What makes you ask?"

"Your garbage left the keep with a human death knight a couple of days ago." There was still just the one war wolf. The rogue pulled out her spyglass. A brown-skinned orc woman sat astride the wolf. A large grey wolf, scarred at the hindquarters, stood with her.

"I'll reach out," Shaw said, his distaste not quite hidden. "Make some discreet inquiries of the Ebon Blade."

"You do that." The rogue stood slowly, careful to keep her balance on the tiled tower roof. "I'm going to follow a hunch."

"Thorne?"

"Talonblade," she corrected then she killed the connection to SI:7. She re-tuned the communicator, sent a detailed message to one of her storytellers with explicit instructions, then thumbed it off and tucked it into her belt pouch. She whistled for Ash and leaped from the tower roof when he banked past, grabbed hold of the straps on her saddle, and pulled herself in place as he compensated for the additional weight.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 2:07 am

A massive raven swooped over the top of Valiance Keep, flew out over the water, then circled over the ridge where Rilasuka looked down at the Alliance. Narath growled low and Rilasuka took up her bow, nocked an arrow, followed the bird with it as it skimmed near the ground a distance away claws extended. It hopped once, and then took off again winging higher, never quite in range.

The hunter scanned the area, frowned, then turned back to the keep. Narath prowled back in the direction the bird had disappeared and Rilasuka gave a sharp whistle. The wolf returned to her side, tilted his head back and sniffed.

The wind shifted and Rilasuka smiled, called out, "I can smell you, human."

"Then there's no reason for me to keep up appearances, hmm?" The human woman's voice came from behind her, closer than Rilasuka would have expected. Narath growled low and long. "You're Rilasuka."

Rilasuka swung her mount around to face the human, drew back on the bowstring.

The human stood with her arms spread, both hands visible, both hands empty. "If I'm mistaken, then I'll apologize for troubling you and be on my way."

"Why do you know me, human?"

The woman laughed. "That's a question with an interesting answer, but I think you and I might have a mutual interest worth discussing first."

Rilasuka narrowed her eyes, loosened the tension on her bowstring slightly. "What mutual interest could you and I have, human?"

"Morrowblood."

Rilasuka drew the string taut again. "What have you done with her?"

The woman's posture remained loose but ready. She was a predator looking for prey to toy with. Not an immediate danger, but certainly dangerous. She shook her head. "Not me, I'm afraid."

"Speak plainly, human."

"Talonblade. Though I suppose I'll answer to human, too." She smiled slowly. "For now."

Ahh, there was the threat. "Speak plainly, Talonblade."

"The Sin'dorei was here."

Rilasuka snorted. "I knew as much."

The rogue nodded, then said, "She's not anymore."

Narath growled, took several steps toward the human woman. Rilasuka clicked her tongue and the wolf stopped. "Where is she?"

"That is what I don't know. According to my sources, she left a few days ago with a death knight."

Rilasuka considered a moment, said, "Thank you, human," and loosed the arrow aimed at the human's torso, reached for a follow-up.

Faster than a person should be able to move, the human was no longer in the path of her arrow, and there was a weight on her back, a hand in her hair, the cold press of metal against her skin. "I was being polite, orc," the woman hissed in her ear.

Narath growled and Rilasuka's war wolf danced beneath her. Rilasuka steadied him with her legs. The human hung on, that grip on her hair tightening, the blade held steady at her throat. Rilasuka's nostrils flared and she grunted. "What do you want?"

"You tracked her this far, yes?"

"Yes." Rilasuka shifted.

The human shifted as well. "From the manor?"

How did the human know that? "Yes."

"Then I want a truce. And a travel companion with your particular skillset and drive."

Rilasuka considered her situation, then grunted. "I hope you are a sound sleeper, human."

"You couldn't be that lucky. Orc."

The grip in Rilasuka's hair loosened and the blade slid from her throat, a sting following it's path as skin opened easily to it.

The human landed on the ground, crouched, looked up at her. "Don't worry, I have the antidote. And I figure you're big enough it'll take a little while to really be a problem."

"Antidote."

The human smiled. "To the poison on my blade. Call it insurance. Wait here, I'll be back with a horse and some supplies."

The human vanished while Rilasuka stared. She reached up, touched her throat, brought her fingers away and saw blood. The cut was shallow, but itched the way it shouldn’t had it been an honorable cut. She growled and Narath let out a whine.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sat Mar 30, 2019 2:22 am

Mirathendia couldn't feel the cold as the wind tore through the canyon. Shahadra's arms were tight around Mirathendia's waist and she begged and pleaded, then yelled and raged until she was incoherent and her voice became Ghuun's chaotic whispers and her arms were tendrils of corruption and the air tasted of decay and Mirathendia's lungs filled with ash and rot with each labored breath.

Stubborn.

Was that Shahadra? Fontayne? Rilasuka?

Ri. Oh, Ri, I am so sorry.

"We're nearly there." The death knight's words were torn away by the wind.

Mirathendia nodded. She didn't have enough breath to speak.

Daylight dimmed to twilight and Whisper stopped. A horn sounded, the wail long and low. In the distance a rumbling came in response.

"Come, Lady Morrowblood. The Forge of Souls awaits."

Whisper of Calm balked, danced back. Mirathendia rested her hand on his neck. He felt like fire against her skin. "Shh, come on." We have to find Shahadra. Her sister was no longer holding onto her. She was alone again in her charger's saddle.

Whisper of Calm refused to take another step no matter how she urged him. He danced backwards, and she could coax him forward again, for a moment, before he balked again, danced back again.

"It seems we must finish the journey on foot." Fontayne’s cool words were laced with impatience.

Mirathendia stilled Whisper of Calm once more and looked for what might be unsettling him. The air around them was thick with frozen fog. She could barely see past his nose. No wonder he didn't want to continue.

Fontayne slid from his death charger and his boots made the strangest sound as they touched ground. The clang of metal, the crunch of bone. He took his weapon from its sheath on his deathcharger's saddle and looked up at her, an unmoving statue, no offer of assistance.

Fine, then. She would do it without his help. She didn’t need it.

Stubborn.

Mirathendia licked her lips and dismounted, landing hard on the ground in a crouch to keep from falling completely. She caught her breath there and forced herself upright, stood on trembling legs, reached for her sword from Whisper's saddle and slung it across her back.

Breath steaming in the air, she said, "After you."

They walked through the icy fog and the air heated slowly until Mirathendia felt she was trying to swim through blood. She coughed and her lungs felt sharp and jagged inside her ribcage.

The fog fell away and became steam, became smoke billowing up from unholy jets of flame. Metal clanged against metal and the undead worked below. Ahead of them, held aloft by chains and metal bridges, the forge seemed unreal.


There are some places the Light should not go.

Shadows twisted and flickered through Mirathendia's thoughts, hissing whispers of damned souls filled her ears. And she felt a pull, a certainty of the direction she was meant to go. "Shahadra," she whispered.

"Why you?" Fontayne stopped just outside a massive arch and looked back over his shoulder at her.

"What?"

"Why you?" And this time, the question was filled with anger.

Mirathendia stood gasping for breath. The heated air was oppressive and did nothing to warm the chill that had sunk deep into her bones.

"Why. Not. Me?"

Laughter, low and deep, rumbled up from the bowels of the saronite-scarred earth.

Fontayne looked around, then shouted, “Why her? She still draws breath!”

Prove your worth.

He turned on her and screamed, the sound an echoing death-wail. He swung his massive sword around toward her. An unholy plague sliced through the air and the tip of the blade cut through her cloak and her tunic and her skin.

Mirathendia staggered backwards, fell to the ground and scrambled to unsheathe her own weapon. Her muscles burned and her lungs couldn't take in enough air. Her head swam.

Fontayne held his hand out. Shadow and decay writhed in the air, twisted around her throat, filled her struggling lungs. He pulled her to him, forced her to the ground and the weight of life was more than her joints and muscles and bones could bear.

No. No, she would not die at this human's feet.

Stubborn.

A cacophony split the air, rose up from the bellows, spilled out from the forge, erupted from inside of her own skull. A chiming of shattered crystal, a screech of rage, a wail of denial, a roar from a rotting wave of corruption and decay as it swept over the world and dug deep into the earth.

Stubborn.

She would not die by his hand.

Stubborn.

She reached for the Light and felt the last of it flake away as she swung her sword. The blade connected, she knew because it became far too heavy, became impossible to keep hold of. She staggered back, gasping for air that was too cold, that was too hot, that was thick with smoke and steam and not enough to fill her lungs.

She would not. Die. Here.

Stubborn.

The word drove her, pushed her. Bone crumbled beneath her hands and feet, and then she was in the snow, staggering, sprawling, ice scraping mercilessly over her cheek and temple and forehead. The cold wrapped around her and she felt it.

She reached for the Light again, but there was none left.

Stubborn.


She reached for her sister, but Shahadra was too far away.

Stubborn.

She closed her eyes. Beneath the howl of the wind she heard the crunch of footsteps on ice.

And then there was silence.

And then there was not even that.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

Mirathendia
Member
Posts: 70

Re: Not just a river in the desert

Unread post by Mirathendia » Sun Jun 16, 2019 6:34 pm

Talonblade looked through the flames of the cooking fire. The orc was worn down by the poison, it showed in her color, in the way her eyes watered.

"You're wondering whether I'm strong enough to kill you." The orc met Talonblade's gaze. The fire there wasn't just a reflection.

Keeping the orc in the feathered edge between helpless and useful was a dangerous game; Rilasuka was resilient. The rogue had to grant the orc woman that much. Suspicious, too, she and both her wolves, which only made it more difficult. And she was smarter than the rogue had expected. She should have known better than to assume the quiet one would be less intelligent, less trouble.

Talonblade smiled, shook her head. "I'm fairly certain you are. Maybe not with that at the moment." She inclined her head toward the massive bow. "But you've got big hands and my neck is dainty in comparison."

The orc grimaced and Talonbade laughed. Her throat still had bruises and the orc had a freshly poisoned gash across her hip to show for that attempt. "Why don't you just send him at me, hmmm?"

The silver-furred wolf padded into the firelight, licked the orc's fingers. Rilasuka shook her head. "He does as he wants."

"No. No, I'm sure that's not true at all." Talonblade eyed the beast again. She wasn't certain she could take him, and worse, she wasn't certain she'd feel no remorse if she could and did.

The wolf laid down on the ground beside Rilasuka, his ears alert, his eyes closed.

The rogue peeled a bit of marmot flesh from the charred corpse beside the fire. "I think," she said, before putting the meat in her mouth. She chewed, swallowed, then continued, "That you need me as much as I need you."

The orc snorted, scruffed her fingers through her wolf's neck ruff.

The two of them had spoken little as they'd tried to pick up Mirathendia's trail, and when they did, the orc noted that the paladin wasn't alone. Talonblade hadn't bothered sharing that tidbit with the orc. Death rides with her. had been Rilasuka's warning.

Death. The rogue thought back to the way Ailee had looked and wondered if death only rode beside the paladin, or if it rode within her as well. The medic had said Ailee wasn't plague-infected, but if there was some new plague? If the death knight carried it and had infected Mirathendia with it? Perhaps the paladin had done them all a favor by riding off into the frozen wastes with him. Though so many whys chased themselves through Talonblade's thoughts.

If it was some new plague, then she'd sent it into the heart of Stormwind. A sick feeling twisted in Talonbade's gut, and she reminded herself that the family hadn't been plagued. The serving girl hadn't been infected.

Talonbade focused on her current task. Find the paladin and deal with her. She looked back at Rilasuka. "Afraid of what you might have to do if you're alone when you find her?"

The orc stiffened, clenched her jaw. The wolf growled low and the rogue wasn't certain if that was meant as a warning for her, or for the orc.

Talonbade nodded. "I see." She looked back into the fire, took a deep breath. "If it comes to that, I'll make it quick." After I get answers.
The Grim: Mirathendia Morrowblood | Tweezle Sparkscatter | Nahmiri
Blood Moon Rising: Rilasuka | Nethendia | Nahedrie | Merralynnia

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