Siren Song

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Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:48 am

Since the dragon had emerged, he’d felt it.
It was a tickle, most of the time; a niggling itch behind his eyes that wouldn’t go away. It got worse when he looked at the sea, stronger still when his feet touched the open water, and when the sun would set over the ocean … you could almost hear the song from Vash’jir, echoing across the water, echoing back through time- a time when his people hadn’t yet fallen to madness. A time when his people hadn’t taken ill with the infection of demonic magic. A time when his family, while dysfunctional, was his own, and his mother…

He didn’t miss his mother very often. It had been ten thousand years and some, and for all the talk you’d hear about “the heart never heals”- it does. Ten thousand years is a long, long time, and even since he’d regained most of his memories, the earliest things were still a blur. Especially those during the Sundering; flashes of light and noise, screams, memories of fire and blood. It was hard for him to miss his childhood when the only real memory he had of it was watching the grown men he’d known get crushed to a pulp under the foot of some Infernal.
But sometimes, when he could hear the music whisper over the sea, he forgot the blood and fire for a moment, and truly missed his mother. Missed what she could have been, maybe.

Since, y’know, she tried to hunt me down and hand me over for an execution at my oldest brother’s hands.

The idea was sweeter than the memory, but even she’d had her motherly moments, before the demonic influence had warped her. He tried to hold onto those.

Before, that itch behind his eyes had turned into a full-body-and-soul convulsion, a total ransacking of his conscious mind. Unable to quiet the noise in his head, the music had come out of him in apocalyptic verses from ages ago, songs long forgotten and better left unsung. Having conquered his own madness, his middle brother, Sha’tuan, had found him and helped him through the cacophony- but then, day and night, the two of them could feel the one who’d sang the song. It was less like hearing music, and more like feeling the compressions of air from the singer’s voice. And none of it was welcome. They’d known what it meant, to have heard that song again.

She is alive.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Tue Aug 21, 2012 2:54 pm

They tried to ignore it, at first. And at first, it was easy. They convinced themselves it was the stress of war, and the relief of finding one another again- a relief, maybe, but a flood of emotions and thoughts all their own, with the new realities that came with them. All just a little too much, they told themselves, and they buried themselves in their work. Ulthanon went to war, as he always did; Sha’tuan focused on become acclimated to the modern world. Ten thousand years in the skin of a cat made him hungry for the company of others- nay, starved, ravenous! And he had contacted the Cenarions and asked them to help him adjust. They were only too kind to do so.

They threw themselves into their tasks.
And they stayed away from the sea.
But the music only grew louder.

The death of the dragon brought a reprieve. The frustrations and fears of seven years of war melted away into a planet-wide rave that lasted for weeks on end. The celebrations drowned out all else; the sound of a million cheering voices, in a hundred tongues and dialects, mixed together into a blissful cocktail of alcohol and dancing and sex. The concoction swirled and mixed together, steaming and bubbling over until the people of Azeroth collapsed in a collective, exhausted heap and said we have survived.

With their ears ringing for days, it was hard to notice at first. And, to be honest, they’d wanted to believe it was nothing so badly that the sleeping parts of their mind probably convinced them of just that- its probably nothing, it has to be nothing.
But slowly, reluctantly, Ulthanon came to realize that the song had been quieted. Even if he went to the water, and sat with his feet in the surf as the setting sun turned blood red over the distant island of naga, all he could hear was the sound of men working on boats, the crashing tide, and the screaming of the gulls.

We have to see, he had said, We have to go down.
You’re not ready, came the response. She’ll kill you.
We have to see, he said again, I can’t risk dealing with this in another thousand years. We have to be sure.

Breathe, my brother, Sha’tuan had laid a hand on his shoulder, We will find her. But we must both be ready. So, first, we run.

Without another word, they simply left. The Riders would go on without him, for a time- they were used to him leaving for months at a time, only to reappear without warning when the seasons had changed and whatever quarry he’d chased had been run down. So out past the red rooftops of Old Town, out along the canals, through the Valley of Heroes and into the woods of Elwyn. It had been beautiful that day- the sun had come down through the trees in shafts, distinct as it lit up the early morning fog. It had been too long, he thought to himself, since he’d truly gone on a ranging. He had to remind himself to watch his breathing at first, to pace himself for the days and weeks of this that would come, but before he knew it he fell into place next to his brother. Sha’tuan’s dark fur glistened when it caught the sunlight, and he bounded over fallen logs and babbling brooks with ease. Ghost fell in beside them- the wolf had a sixth sense about these things, knew that his companion was going into the deep wilds, and would not be left behind.
Inhale… two, three, four, exhale… two, three four. Watch your breathing.

Inhale, exhale.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Tue Aug 21, 2012 6:33 pm

The forests of Elwynn gave way to the moors of Darkshire, the mountains of Alterac and the snowdrifts of Winterspring. Days became weeks, became months. They ran in no specific direction or purpose, save to avoid settlements and towns, and reveled in the solitude of the forgotten places. They ran until they were off the maps, drew new maps, and ran to those edges as well. In some old, stagnant hollows, they found strange tunnels and holes under the roots of swamp trees that pulsed with odd life; wriggling worms and other such decay-feeders alien to the light of day, and upon following these tunnels down into the living earth, emerged elsewhere to find themselves on Kalimdor, though they had only crawled for an hour at most. They did not question this happenstance, merely dusted the remaining worms and such off of them and ran on. Inhale, exhale.

Through deserts they passed, through canyons and upon mesas blasted clean by eons of sandstorms- clean, that is, except for curious outcroppings of worked stone. Etched by languages unfamiliar, they came upon ruined cities ignored by the ebb and flow of adventuring treasure-seekers, built by races long dead. Their temples and statues, now no more than the odd corner or facial feature jutting out from the sandstone ground, bore silent witness to their passing. The three of them -the wolf, the elf, and the panther- ran on. Inhale, exhale.

Wonders, they saw: strange floating crystals that hummed upon approach; cool springs of the plains that flowed calmly against gravity, up into the air and onto rocky outcroppings above; holes in the ground, no more than a man deep, but that held water that shone with vistas of vibrant nighttime skies, even during the day- stars of unfamiliar patterns, nebulae of every color, planets with rings as bright as gemstones- each scene a thousand lifetimes away and yet seemed close enough to reach out and touch, close enough to kneel and drink from.
They ran along the blurred edges of the world, perhaps skirted the edges of reality itself, witnessing the world as it wanted to be, unconcerned of the perception of man, for the sanity of sentient races.
They had given any real perception of time to the wind. Sometimes it seemed they had been running for weeks at a time, with nothing to eat and no sleep, at that same loping pace.
Inhale, exhale.

Yet, without a word of explanation, in the middle of a jungle with trees as tall as the Titans themselves, surely- a fourth was suddenly running beside them. Ulthanon knew him. A fellow ranger, known from years ago, they had hunted together during the Third War. How this man had happened across them was never asked; the greeting was a simple nod of the head, and the pace was never broken.
Others came across them in this fashion: A pair of druids that Sha'tuan counted as friends, a bird and a bear, Tauren, both of them; a she-wolf that Ghost seemed to know, who would, three days later, reveal herself to be Gilnean. Ghost didn't appear to mind. Only when a score or so had joined this pack did the wonders fall behind them, out of vision and gone forever. The landmarks became familiar and mundane, and they came to see they were back in the Eastern Kingdoms, back from... wherever it was they had gone. Inhale...

When they finally stopped running, when they had set to eat as the sun sank low, Ulthanon looked at himself in the reflection of a nearby brook. His beard had grown out and his hair was wild, he was far thinner than he had been, back all that countless time when they had left Stormwind, but his eyes- his eyes shone like the sun and his smile curled up at the edges with teeth sharpened once again, a predatory grin. His legs were strong and his feet were sure, and every fiber of his being sang their power to his soul.

"We have heard the running," the bear said, "More of us leave the known-places; many still remain. We have all now returned, and we cannot ignore that which comes."

"We have trained our legs," Sha'tuan said as the last of the day's light faded, "We must now sharpen our teeth. Weakness will do no one good."

The others nodded in agreement. They would run as one pack, for now. After, they would return to the cities and towns of their people, and the grudges borne of flags and colors would return. They would hunt together, and then they would hunt one another just as ruthlessly. It was a sign of respect.

"The valleys of Alterac have never quieted," Ulthanon suggested, firelight playing off the silver in his beard, "Both sides rush past each other as wind. Their eyes see only a flag. We can start there- we can make them see blood once again."
The pack mulled this over, and it was decided. They would share in their feast that night and be kin. They would rain death over the snow-choked Valley as an avalanche. They would sharpen their teeth.

Meat was cooked, wineskins and pipes passed. Recipes for all three were shared as songs were sang of the coming battle, and battles past.

Ulthanon looked down the sight of his longrifle, and admired its accuracy.
...Exhale.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Wed Aug 22, 2012 1:15 pm

Inhaleexhale! Inhaleexhale! RunrunrunrunrunDIVE!
The mortars joined the conversation, and their statements punctuated the battlefield. Their shells screamed down from the skies, crashing through the light cover provided by trees and wooden barricades and blossoming into fire, reds and oranges and pinks rushing out like petals on a tempest, reducing all in their path to cinders. Arms and legs, separated from their previous owners, flew through the air; men screamed and died. The uninitiated cowered and prayed and called for their mothers, wondering why they’d ever come to fight and die in a place such as this.

It was glorious.

If it had been a day or a week, Ulthanon could not tell. What he did know was that a series of clever traps and ambushes had stalled this latest offensive and ground it to a dead standstill; an advance that typically took half an hour had now stretched into days. Alliance and Horde now had to come to terms with the fact that they were here to fight a battle, not simply earn another promotion, and the realization was not a welcome one. But the hunters didn’t mind. The cold mountain air sharpened their senses, carrying scents and sounds on the wind that forced them to strain and listen, to inhale, to think.

The hunters roamed on, when that battle had died down; making their way through the foothills, they had come to the basin-valleys of the Arathi Highlands.
Inhaleexhale! Inhaleexhale! InhalexhaleLEAPTHEFENCEinhaleexhaleSHOOT!
Watch the gromsblood shoot from his lungs and cut into the air like daggers, writhing outwards from his mouth like jagged crimson tendrils. Run, run, leap, jump, shoot; the pattern repeated. Too close for guns, switching to spears. Feel the warmth of orcblood as it arcs out from the halberd's sweeping kiss. Appreciate the legitimacy of this action, of this moment. See it as the only true thing you've said in a week, a month. The setting doesn't matter- The Alliance needs this gold, this lumber, these smithing supplies, these horses. The Alliance needs grain for the horses. Was that a man just then, propping up a wooden cutout of a horse? Are those two men in horse costume, comical X's for eyes, trotting along in near-intentional dis-synchronization? Are there any fucking horses left to fight for? It doesn't matter. All that matters is that, whatever the lies that named this Basin, a true moment has been shared with the orc. I want to rip your throat out with my teeth and wear your blood as clothing. This translates quite elegantly from Darnassian to Orcish.

He felt himself detaching from himself, but either could not stop it or did not care enough to. The nights ended the same, covered in blood and near-delirious from lack of sleep, those of the pack that still survived would run down another animal, the strongest they could find, and feast on its strength. Exhaustion and bloodlust and psychotropics mixed together in an ever-more volatile proportion. A troll he had not known before caught his eye, and he hers; her tribal tattoos seemed to twist and swirl on their own accord in the pale moonlight, and they came to know one another. It was understood that either would drive blades through the other’s chest when the pack disbanded- and as he bit into the nape of her neck, with her dagger-like fingernails drawing blood from his back as she raked him up and down- he considered the possibility that that made their nights together all the better.

It didn’t happen all at once; the bird-druid left first, without a word or a warning, simply decided he was done with the pack and flew away. The bear was not long in following. Next left the she-wolf, feral even by the standards of a worgen, and the troll woman after her. There were no goodbyes, and none were expected.
One of the last to leave was a deader who had shuffled in on his own accord. He had said little to anyone and had not shared in the pack’s revelry, and Ulthanon did not trust him. When the forsaken shambled back into the night, Ulthanon stalked him for a time before cutting him down. The corpse said nothing even as the spear was driven through his gut. Do the dead have emotions, true emotions? Who’s to say. Ulthanon left him staked there, with the moon hanging low and baleful red in the sky, large enough to stretch almost across the horizon. The coyotes sang his dirge.

And there, after all their trials, now strong of leg and tooth, remained the final task.
Homecoming.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:44 am

It will work slowly, so that it will fade slowly.

Faster magic will leave you to drown.

There will be pain.

Time floated in and out on the tide as Sha’tuan plied his craft, altering his brother’s form over the span of days so as to weave his power deep and secure. They had taken up camp by the sea, on some desolate stretch of beach, and as the waves advanced and retreated the druid taught the hunter not to swim, but to fly. A concerted effort would carry him as far as a bowshot as the sun came up; as the moon rose, a single kick would take him as far. High above, the stars glittered numerous in the night sky, unsullied by the lights of cities and towns. They looked down on their efforts with judgment, but whether they approved or not, neither elf could say.

The water came to feel like home. How could he have been so blind? The land was for the slow, for the weak; this medium, that could at once sparkle like diamond and be black as jet, was where he should have been all along. He could hunt creatures of truly fantastic size, here- the great whales of the shallow reefs, and more.
It will fade in time, but beware, his brother had warned, Our fallen brethren walked the same path. You will hear the sea calling you. You will hear other things calling you. You must pay them no heed, for this is not your true self.
As time rolled in and out, he tried hard to remember his brother’s warning. But not too hard. And then came the day when he awoke not on the beach as before, but looking up at the sun from below the waves, and he felt no fear. The water passed through him as naturally as the air once had, and his brother -now taking the form of a giant eel- nodded approvingly.

The surface-side ruins stood taller than any stonework on dry land, so tall that one could stand at their base and look straight to the sky and not see their zenith. They stood impassive in the shallow shoals and seas off the western coasts of the Eastern Kingdoms, covered in sea stars and barnacles, in large part unphased by eons of tidewater. Battalions of naga swam slowly through the submerged hallways, through the open courtyards with their slowly swaying kelp forests, past fallen pillars and columns. If they noticed the pair, they paid them no mind and swam on. But as impressive as these ruins were, the hunter and the druid had no interest in them.
Just as they had crawled under the roots of swamp trees, only to find a world hidden, so too they now swam down past the towering cityscape and into the darkest known regions. A crevasse might be just that, but they seemed to search for a very certain something- and upon finding a crack in the ocean floor, unobtrusively situated inside a crumbling deepwater temple, they swam down. It looked no different than the other fissures, but rather than ending after a mere few feet, it continued down. Cramped and claustrophobic , the fissure wound this way and that, sometimes doubling back on itself, sometimes splitting into other, even tighter branches. The stone was jagged, and would have cut a surface dweller to ribbons, but these elves were no surface dwellers now. They were borne of the ocean depths, and their skins were tough with scales.

The passage continued for an unknown time. Time seemed even more meaningless as they went on, as if they were running once again, and Ulthanon supposed that in a way, they were. But the passage came to yawn into a cave, and into its walls were carved great halls and corridors, flanked by obelisks that dwarfed even the superstructures of the surface waters. In these depths, lightlessness took on a new meaning; the inky abyss seemed to have a movement all its own, and it swirled around them in greeting, but the brothers’ eyes could see even in this soul-blighting dark.

Next to the gaping passageways that could have swallowed Stormwind Keep, it was almost invisible. A small circular hallway, outlined in runic letters from when the elves were still young, no more than six feet in diameter. Even in the utter gloom of the sunken cave-city, the words were still clear to those who could read them.

Zin-Kay’dosa.

House Kaidos.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Thu Aug 23, 2012 5:47 pm

You will hear the sea calling you.
You will hear other things calling you.


Begin the abyssal chorus.

Feel our eyes upon you, surface-son. Feel our hatred. You abandoned us. Do you remember the fire? Do you remember it touching your skin, your soul? We are the stones and sand, child. We are the eyes in the deep, the voice of the lightless tide. Do you see us?

What? Who- no. No. Focus on the hallway.

How does the saltwater taste in your gills, elf-thing? We have tasted it for ten thousand years, it is our blood and bile and breath. We can taste you moving through it. We will taste you when we feast upon you. You will sustain us for an age.

I'm a little tough for eating.

We will keep you alive through it all. You will feel each ripped tendon of flesh as it slides into our bellies.

Usually I have to pay extra for tha- No! The hallway. Gods, focus on the hallway.

An age, an age. Do you see us? We are all around you. We taste you.

Gritted teeth. Tunnel breaks off every few paces; the slightest shimmer of light. Now two. Eyes. Blind in the Marianas dark, motionless.

Blind but we see. We see, we taste.

Bioluminescence; a lone candle for the entire night sky. Still, giant bloated bodies, motionless in the stale depths. Motionless for eons, unmoving, uncaring. Serpentine tails, long as a house is tall. Mouths to swallow a horse; teeth as thin as a quill pen, long as your arm, stronger than steel. Glint in the tide-light.

We taste your fear. Sweet in the salty brine, so sweet, so sweet.

Sweat. More bodies, more eyes. The whispers- they slide past, through your ears and down your spine.

Down you go, down down down. An age, an age. Slide into the belly.

Silence!

Struggle, elf-thing. Fight and rage. We taste your fear, all around, all around.

Suffocation, beyond water and gills. Had the corridor grown smaller? The eel seemed not to notice. How couldn't he notice? If he could just silence the voices- yes, yes! They weren't moving, use the spear.

The spear, use the spear.
The spear can silence the voices. Through the eyes, unblinking, unseeing. Never see it coming. Draw the spear, that one, choose that one. The one with the grinning mouth. Teach him a reason to grin.

Teach, teach.

Grasp the spear, solid in a liquid existence. Hard in the blurry places. Just down the hallway, to the one with the grinning mouth. Never see it coming. Never! Never see it coming, silence the voices. The voices, silence the voices, the one with the grinning mouth! Use the spear! Use the spear! USE THE SPE-

ULTHANON!

Lash-tail around the arm, scales slick but tight. A voice cuts through the darkness, a sonic boom of light. It holds fast, and the darkness skitters away, back down into the antechambers and alcoves, away from the starburst of sound. The mind breathes clear water- stale, but clear of the voices. The eyes in the dark no longer shimmer.
Eel and elf share a look, and their own golden eyes rekindle, and blaze in the dark places. The murk screams in a pitch a thousand octaves above mortal comprehension.
"Ulthanon," the eel speaks, magic granting his voice clarity through the waters, "Look."

Hallway opens to a small dual throne. Two more bodies, motionless in the waters, larger than any of the others. Male and female. One holds a sword, its craft older than races. The other wears a skull as a necklace, a mere blemish against her enormous bulk.
Male and female.
Verilius and Alai'hara.

Brother and mother.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Sat Aug 25, 2012 6:00 pm

The approach had sapped the heat from their hearts. But, compared to the hallways and alcoves, to the giant caves and the snaking crevasse, the throne-waters were a subarctic dagger to a tropical caress. The air would have been pulled from his lungs if his lungs hadn't been magicked by his brother, the air within would have dribbled up and away like thoughts escaping memory. Always through your fingers again, grasp them however you can.

They swam closer, slowly closer, eyes warily tracking the outline of the room. The glossy eyes, huge and white, held no shimmer of life- merely the glaze of abyssal blindness. Nothing moved, nothing whispered; the entire room was entirely still. Not even the deepwater eddies, chilled to a ponderous slush, stirred the waters of the throne room. And yet, there was something, just on the edge of hearing... and then, gone. He'd almost thought he'd heard the rumble of stone. Sixty feet away.
Approaching closer, the noise came again, slightly louder now. The two brothers glanced behind them, but still, nothing had changed. But now- a light? Nothing glowed along the rocks, no animal or plant to illuminate the gloom, but still the room seemed hazy. It appeared like the desert flats at a distance, when heat would shimmer off the dried lake beds and cast a mirage to tempt unwary travelers. Forty feet away.

The two brothers swam closer together now, and drawing closer still to the altered frame of their mother, they feared their heartbeats would thunder so loud as to bring the whole complex down. But she moved not, saw not, gave no trace of awareness. Thirty feet away.

Now they could most certainly hear something. Stone on stone, and now... metal on metal? The shimmer of the room slid into hazy flashes; they could barely make out... what was that? No, it couldn't. That's impossible.

"Ulthanon, look out!" The two brothers dove away as the shimmer solidified; twenty feet now!, through the stone roof of the room it passed incorporeal, gaining definition as it shot past them, losing it again as it streaked down to the floor where it moved through the stone like a ghost. A giant boulder, alight with green flame and trailing a choking black smoke.
They tried to swim back to one another, to draw steel and bare teeth back to back, but they came to feel a current now. How they had not felt it before, either could say, but it came at them now, slow but relentless and gaining strength by the second, pulling them towards the thrones.

Off to one side of the room, the shimmer returned again. Now it was a building, already partially collapsed, and they watched as a flaming comet crashed into it from above. Sound came again. The crack of the masonry, the rumble of the impact, the jets of flame- and the screams of the dying.
The shimmer was all around them now. The ceiling of the throne room was no longer there, replaced with a cloudwrack of black and green, punctuated by pale lightning. The current gained strength. Fifteen feet. Comets broke through the clouds- first a pair, now a score, now a hundred. The skyline reached beyond the walls of the throne room -which had also vanished- off into the distance, a hundred miles away. Burning rocks fell from the heavens like rain. Ten feet!
The giant naga-forms of his mother and brother faded; now they appeared to be the mirage, while the hellscape of a city besieged was solidifying into the reality. Ulthanon's gills withered and dried, falling to the ground. Breath rushed into his lungs, and he could taste the ash on the wind. Sha'tuan's body contorted in pain, snapping first this way, then that way, at unnatural angles until he was an eel no longer and an elf once again.

The throne room faded entirely- the water, the ancient rock, the eyes in the darkness. With it, went the feeling of unreality that had permeated the journey since they'd left Stormwind; the scene before them was solid and ordered, one second after the next. There was no blur here, no shimmer, no wonders unknown. Merely demons of stone and fire, crushing elven defenders underfoot.
As the water faded completely out of existence, the brothers fell from the air, landing on a broken cobblestone street with a crunch.

"Do you see, my son? I told you they would come."
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Sun Aug 26, 2012 10:47 pm

The impact had left him seeing stars, but as they cleared from his eyes, Ulthanon cast a look around him as he tried to get to his feet. He and Sha'tuan were surrounded by masonry that spoke of a style ten thousand years out of date; the flowing curves and soaring thin spires that would typify Sin'dorei craftsmanship ages later. No such towers still stood, however. All had long since crumbled under the rain of chaos, their marble stones strewn haphazardly along their former shadows and covered in debris and blood. To one side, a fallen statue's face poked its head up through the rubble, the rest of its body entombed- a female, some figure from the royal court, perhaps. Another laid off to its side, smaller than the woman's face but only just. An armored figure, with a sword jutting out next to his head, broken off halfway along the length of the blade.

"My sons," a voice came, "How good to see you again. Our family is once again united."
The woman's sing-song cast the stars from his eyes and sent them reeling about his brain, but he managed to get his footing under him and find his spear. Sha'tuan, similarly, was scrabbling himself up, looking to face the voice. They didn't have to look far.

Gaudy silks of reds and pastel pinks, somehow clean even in this charnel house of a city. Her skin was as white as powder, and she stood with such a regal air it was as if she would say How dare these peasants get their blood on my coach wheels after I ran them over. Next to her stood a man who could have been a carbon copy of Ulthanon- but his face was more angular, his skin less weathered, and his hair was jet black. He stood grinning a hungry grin next to the woman, hands clasped over the pommel of a bastard sword resting tip-down on the street.
"No," Sha'tuan said, taking a step back, "No, no this can't be."

The woman looked hurt. "Sha'tuan, my boy, is that any way to greet your fair mother? Come. We have brought you home!"
Home. Zin'Ashari, during the Sundering. Ulthanon's head spun, and he found it even harder to keep his footing.

"Hello again, little brother," the armored man spoke, "I've been looking forward to this even more than mother has."

"Now Verilius, we've spoken about this," their mother cooed, "We brought them here to be together, not to nurse old grudges." Verilius inclined his head, but kept grinning. It unsettled the two newcomers.
An Infernal crashed into a nearby building, but as Ulthanon and Sha'tuan recoiled from the impact, Verilius and Alai'hara looked unphased.
"This- this is a trick," Ulthanon managed, after a moment, "This has already happened. This is ancient history."

Their mother waved a dismissive hand. "Time is fluid, my beautiful wayward son. I simply grew so lonely without you both..." she wiped away a tear, Was that faked, or is she actually crying?, "I had to reach out and bring you both back to me. To us."
"What? How did you- why?" Sha'tuan could barely manage a complete sentence, and his voice was pained with confusion.

"I've had... many years to think of what went wrong," she said, turning to look out over the cityscape, "More than anything I regret pushing you two away. But all of that can be undone, now!" She turned back to them, a hopeful smile across her face. Verilius, meanwhile, just kept grinning, teeth barred. "I've conjured for years, and finally, I've brought us all back to the last time we were all together! Just before the city sank. Just before Sha'tuan cast his... spell, over Ulthanon, to make him forget." Her voice lost its conciliatory tone, just for a half instant. She regained her soft composure immediately- but it was there. "We can be a family again."

Sha'tuan fumbled for words, flailing his arms against the absurdity of it all. He could only splutter his disbelief, and looked to Ulthanon poignantly for help. Ulthanon, for his part, pursed his lips and was silent.

"Will you join us, my sons?" Alai'hara slowly came towards them, placing each foot carefully as if the world might cave out from underneath her. "Will you come home?"
"Home," Ulthanon whispered, shaking his head. His mother stopped, smile broadening, and extended her hand gingerly. He looked out over the crumbling towers, the burning buildings, out to the coastline not a mile away, it waters wracked with the coming storm.

A thousand things flashed through his mind, each quick as lightning- some were vile insults to cut at the soul, others grand speeches to show his mother her error. And yet, when he opened his mouth, he spoke simply.
"I have a home. And I will return to it."

His mother's smile faded, turned into a crestfallen frown, and her gaze shifted to Sha'tuan. The druid, still too overwhelmed to speak, merely gave a weak nod and shuffled to Ulthanon's side.

Alai'hara's frown turned into a twisted snarl.
"I extend you my hand, with ten thousand years of amnesty, and you spit on it?"

There- just briefly, there was the shimmer. Across her face, down along her neck- and then it was gone, but Ulthanon was sure it was there. What was that?
While he was thinking, Verilius was next to her again. For the second time, he had not actually seen the armored man move. How was that possible?

"I will not be spurned twice!" Their mother screamed, "You reject your blood for a second time, so be it!"

It was all the two brothers could do to jump away from the stream of green lightning that flew from her palms, tearing through the ground and tunneling down into it. Verilius was already airborne over top of him, sword raised for a killing slash.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Fri Sep 07, 2012 4:23 pm

Ulthanon had seen men fight before; men who redefined the boundaries of swordplay, blurred the lines between it being a science and an art form. Verilius, on the other hand, arced his sword before him with the same ease as a river flows downstream. It was all he could do to avoid being sliced into streamers- he tried to search for a weakness in his brother’s defense, but there was no weakness. He simply advanced with a closeness that rivaled the distance of a shaving razor, never faltering in his steps, never relenting in his intensity or speed. Within seconds, Ulthanon decided the better use of his spear would be to use it as a pole to vault away from his brother. He didn’t even have time to feel cowardly for running- he just ran.

Sha’tuan fared no better. Alai’hara lashed out with a power unspeakable, her green lightning obliterating all in its path. It didn’t just blast at the crumbled masonry, it nullified its existence, burrowing through the ruins and into the ground in jagged tunnels. Just after every strike, a strange sound filled the air- the crackle of a thousand miniature popping fireworks mixed with the buzzing of countless insects. Sha’tuan had no power to stand against this onslaught, no animal form to take that would survive. All he had was escape. He took the shape of a jungle cat for the balance and speed, praying it would be enough. He didn’t even have time to feel confused anymore- he just ran.

Ulthanon saw his brother darting around the corner of a crumbling stone wall. He planted the butt of his spear and leapt over to him, hoping to- he didn't even know what he hoped for at this point, but being togeather couldn't possibly be any worse than being apart. As he landed, another wave of green lightning melted the wall between them and their mother. On came the firecrackers and the buzzing, and there! As the two of them ducked under its disintegrating caress -just-, the world around them seemed to bubble up like a painting in a housefire. The effect was discrete- certain parts of his field of vision became convex while others retreated concave; the world seemed darker, toned in shades of blue; a shiver of cold ran down his spine.
And then the lightning passed them, the bees stopped their buzzing, and the painting of the world became flat once again.

"I'll deal with Mother," Ulthanon breathed, "You handle Veri."
Sha'tuan didn't have time to respond. No sooner had the words left Ulthanon's mouth did Verilius appear leaping above them again, up and over what remained of the wall, his balde once again raised high in the same downward slash as the first. He landed where Ulthanon had been a moment earlier and embedded his sword in the ground to the hilt. Before he could pull it free again, the wind was knocked from his lungs as something slammed into his back like a battering ram. It sent him sprawling and he hit the ground awkwardly, too awkward for as skilled a swordsman as he was; his frame seemed unaccustomed to lying prone, and he jerked this way and that as if he only knew a set number of bodily positions. When he did finally manage to get his feet under him, he whirled around, graceful once more, his face still unchanged from its smirk- though oddly strained. He turned to see a massive brown bear, six feet at the shoulder, with the dot-in-crescent birthmark of a Druid of the Claw. The creature stood over the jutting hilt of his sword, out of breath but sure, and it grinned back.
"Leave the boy," rumbled the wall of fur and teeth, "You are mine."
Verilius snarled and charged.
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Re: Siren Song

Postby Ulthanon » Fri Sep 14, 2012 1:12 pm

"You failed your brother!" Alai'hara sneered, snapping her hand in one direction and then another, casting her crackling death as though dismissing an unwanted servant, "You were supposed to bring him back to me! He was mine! He needed you to bring him back to me and you failed him!"
She saw Sha'tuan's form race behind a crooked archway and she threw both hands into her exertion, melting reality away at the seams. The shadowed figure escaped just in time, but she saw him again to the right- again her lightning blistered through rock and stone, again her wayward son managed to avoid the death he deserved.

"You abandoned us to the bottom of the ocean!" There he was again, even more to the right, at the base of a two-story building that was somehow mostly intact. “Ten thousand years we spent without you! How could you do that to your family? To me?!” Her voice was a shriek now, her composure lost, and spittle flew from her mouth almost as aggressively as the crackling green death flew from her fingertips. A sudden jolt of movement on the second story of the building, just a shift in the window, and then his figure was above her, streaking downward, spear extended for the kill.

---

A thousand hopes flooded his mind as he leapt outward from the balcony- he hoped he would see the surface world again, he hoped his brother would fare better against Verilius than he had. Mostly, though, he just hoped his mother wouldn’t be able to conjure her lightning and boil his essence away into nothing more than vapor. He saw her expression, a mixture of shock and confusion; he heard a battle cry and realized it was his own. Her hands were still at her sides, he couldn’t have been more than a few feet away from her now- he thrust the spear outwards, his aim unerring, this would be the end of it-!

Time seemed to slow down, though his vision remained somehow unaffected. He felt his spear impact against something, combating a barrier and failing to penetrate it; a veil of golden light, more intricate and delicate than gossamer webs, flared into existence not a foot away from his mother’s face- but however fragile it looked it would not yield. He felt each individual stuttering scrape as his momentum carried him forward, sparks flying up from the point of his blade, hanging near motionless as if they were stars. His mother’s look of confusion remained, but now he saw it- confusion, but not worry. She had nothing to fear from him.
He tried to shift his weight, throw more force into the blow even as he skidded along the barrier, but he could not move fast enough. He doubted it would have mattered even if he could. His heart sank as he felt time speeding up again. He had caught her completely unawares and it had meant nothing. There could be no victory against her.

His momentum carried him along the last vestiges of her shield and beyond, sent him crashing to the ground behind her as time snapped back into its normal pace. He tumbled head over heels, barely holding onto his spear, finally coming to rest in a shower of dirt and masonry dust atop the face of the regal statue.
“No!” He heard- was that panic in his mother’s voice? He looked up, saw her advancing on him, face now contorted with fear. He didn’t know why she hadn’t torched him into nothingness, she’d certainly had a clear shot, but whatever the reason he wasn’t going to take death on his belly. He gripped the shaft of his spear, still disoriented from the fall and his perception of time, and drove his weapon into the ground to push himself to his feet.

Alai’hara screamed.
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