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Hostile Take Over: Pts 1 - 4
Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:25 am
Pt 1. Escalation((A collaborative effort between myself and Tarq. He wrote the good bits Shit's going down round Krasarang way!))
The rain had been falling for three days straight. Krasarang seemed to see far more than anywhere else in Pandaria except maybe the Jade Forest. Here, it had a very distinct smell, similar to, but not quite Stranglethorn Vale.
It fell onto what had been a dirt road three days prior. Gathering in muddy pools that overflowed and streamed in rivulets to the river and eventually out to sea. It tapped a rhythm on the leaves overhead.
Lorelli didn't even notice the rain anymore. It was just something that was. Like so many things, that's just how they were. There was no sense in getting worked up about it 'cause what the fuck can you do anyway? Wreak some havoc, that’s what.
A Horde supply line that was bringing food stuffs down from the "neutral" town of Halfhill. Getting the information hadn’t required a very long interrogation. The Horde irregular she’d caught wandering a day earlier had been a damn poor specimen. He cracked under the most minimal pressure. Disappointing, really, she’d been looking forward to it. Afterwards she’d just fed the body to the crocolisks. They didn’t seem to mind the semi-freshness of the meal.
The rain continued to fall and she continued to wait. If they were on schedule the supply train should be passing through within the hour. She had no plan, she rarely did, it didn’t matter.
The first thing Lorelli heard were the wagon wheels. They squeaked and squelched through the muck. This was followed shortly by the ground shake of kodo footfalls. Lastly the creak and rattle of armor. Leather, chain, plate. There were no voices. Either they were sullen from the weather or communicating via gestures and hand signals.
The guards marched with their heads down, hoods pulled up against the downpour. The slump of their shoulders suggested they had been moving a while without rest. The scouts, however, seemed to be accustomed to the weather. Or at least they were more professional at dealing with it. The orc gestured to his companion and they headed off in different directions amongst the trees. Their precision suggested they had done this many times over the trip and been working together a while.
Lorelli slid from her vantage point, not even a twig disturbed to show anyone had ever been there. She could barely make out the sounds of the blood elf passing through the underbrush ahead of her. ‘Barely’ was enough; she caught the body as it fell and lowered it the rest of the way to the ground.
The slickear’s companion was a bit harder to track. It seemed he had been working Krasarang a bit and was more familiar with the sorts of things he encountered and how it reacted to his passing. His mistake was the pause of surprise when he spotted her. It was all she needed to slip inside his guard and take him down. She rolled the body into the river no longer overly concerned with the splash it made. There was still plenty more to do.
Lorelli shadowed the carts just inside the tree-line. The protection detail seemed to be made up mostly of green recruits. Some of them still seemed a bit awkward with their weapons as they tried to look everywhere at once and jumped at every sound. The rogue caught hold of a tree branch, she swung herself up and hopped to another branch that stretched out over the road. She paused, barely breathing as some of the bark shook loose and littered the ground but none of the guards appeared to take notice. Slowly she edged her way out as far as her weight would support her.
The front of the first cart was passing directly below. Suspended from the branch by her knees, she only needed a moment to slit the lead driver’s throat. A throwing dagger took care of the driver of the second cart and heartbeats after that the caravan erupted into chaos. One of the kodos wandered off the trail and stuck its wheels fast in a mud filled ditch, it’s fellow wandered into the back of the cart before it. The guards were finally waking to the realization that something had gone very wrong. The beasts, without a live driver to handle their reins began to stomp and whuff driving the guards back from them.
Lorelli dropped from her perch and onto the back cart. The thud of her boots hitting the wood and the shuddering movement of the wagon caught the attention of a tauren female in mail. The rogue jumped from the cart landing on the other woman, interrupting her attempts at spellwork. The shaman dropped into a furry heap, blood seeping from between her armor.
The remaining guard had regrouped and closed ranks around her. The packet of chemicals was already in her hand; from here she’d vanish in a burst of smoke, get out of sight, and come back when an opportunity arose to take the next one. Whittle them down, one by one, from shadows. The way she always did it. The professional way.
They crowded in around her with weapons bristling, shouting brutish war cries, filling Lorelli’s nostrils with the stink of enemy
. The little packet was gone from her hand, and her fingers found the hilt of a killing knife.
The professional way could go fuck itself.
She moved and blood washed the air in a perfect arc, like a lady’s fan if it could have hung in the air long enough. Fake left, then right, and two bodies collided, heavy fur and gray-green flesh nearly entwined. They were too close for the heavy weapons they carried, and she whipped around them, hearing a shriek in her wake. Somehow her knife had found its way into an unprotected knee. Knives, they had a way of doing that.
She was up and over the top now, a kodo bleating and bellowing beneath her steps. The arrow that might have hit her, in some other world a long long way from this one, thudded into flesh and the beast roared and thrashed at its reins. A dumb, angry animal, enslaved to other dumb, angry animals. That didn’t seem right to Lorelli. Her knife flicked one way, then all of her went the other, and another arrow thudded into the kodo occupying the space where she’d been. It roared and lurched forward, and she skipped along its side, offering a word of encouragement, and then went under and up.
On the other side of the kodo, knives first, an orcish corpse in her wake. A goblin frantically working at his rifle, fear making his clever hands useless. She took one hand, and her boot cracked him across the face in passing. There was a tauren, and a limping troll, and a Forsaken bowman scrambling away from the maddened kodo. From one perspective, there was that, anyway. From another, there was just meat waiting to happen.
Right, then left, then up and over again, and in a wet red flash she made it happen.
It took a long moment for Lorelli to realize she’d run out of targets, and then another one to realize just how short that moment was. From letting go of the packet to standing in the empty forest with her knives dripping, could it have been more than a minute? And for that matter, had she let go of the packet? Where was it, anyway? You couldn’t lose track of your tools, that was unprofessional, almost as unprofessional as–
“Oh.” It was tucked into her glove, safely, where she always kept them. Obviously. Lorelli took a long breath and let it out, turning a slow circle. Nothing was moving except for the kodos, the loose one wounded but hale, stomping what was left of its Forsaken tormentor into the muck. Lorelli thought about it, but what had a kodo ever done to her? Only crazy people killed dumb animals for no reason.
She checked the bodies. They were all good and dead, and that was something; in her experience, you could usually kill either quick or clean, but not both. She was getting better. Maybe not something to be proud of, but, what the fuck can you do anyway? Her job was done – well, almost done.
It took her a moment to ignite the cart in this wet, but soon the flames were dancing merrily across sacks and boxes. She cut the kodos loose, and stepped back. The fire would take the cart with it; hell, it could take the whole forest
with it if it wasn’t for the rain. That wasn’t her concern. The job was done now, and done damn well, as far as she was concerned.
Then again, she had to wonder at this weak gray meat the Horde was sending out on patrol. They’d seemed so slow as to hardly be moving, and even the Tauren had crumpled like wet paper when she got to him. Nobody had any standards anymore, she thought, as she dropped back into the forest, away from her good work. Maybe the next hunt would be better.
Pt 2 - It Gets Worse
Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 1:26 am
((Bear wtih me, things are a little timey-whimey as this is supposed to be a couple of weeks after the one that just went up, but we're trying to move plot stuff along. Once again a huge thanks to Tarq for input and edits!))
The Lazy Turnip was always quiet this time of night. By now most of the adventurers had headed back to the Vale, up to their rooms or whatever other business they had. Four figures sat warming themselves by the large stove and drinking tea or something with more kick.
"'Ey mon, joo hear 'bout da supply caravan dat been lost on its way ta Krasarang?"
The pandaren set his mug down and turned to regard the speaker, "I heard it was just a rumor."
The troll shook his head. "Captain says news like dis be bad for morale. But it be true. Friend o' mine be assigned ta guard it. Neva came back." He leaned back in his seat, reaching his three-fingered hands towards the heat of the stove.
"I've heard others passing through here say a number of patrols have been lost over the past few weeks. All in the same area. Some are claiming there’s an elite Alliance unit stationed down there. Others are claiming highly trained mercenaries. Some say it’s some sort of great creature but the popular theory seems to be that its one single person." The pandaren looked to the hozen barkeep as if expecting him to confirm or deny these claims. The barkeep just shrugged and continued to wipe down the counter as if none of this concerned him. It probably didn’t.
A deep, rumbling laughter came from the Tauren seated just on the outskirts of the group. His companion, a pretty sin'dorei woman looked up from her ledger with an eyebrow raised. "You find something amusing Fend?"
Fend Thistlehoof nodded his great shaggy head, still chuckling. "These scared little girls swapping tales in the dark. Look at how they shiver. One person killing a trained Horde unit? One Ally? Kodo shit.”
The troll and his pandaren conversation partner were eyeing Fend now as well.
"An' jus' ‘oo joo tink joo be?"
"Who I am,” said the Tauren, his voice welling up from the depths of his massive frame, “Is what I do. And I do it better than anyone else here.”
At the look of skepticism on their faces the sin'dorei spoke up. "He is not merely boasting, I promise you. Fend has been my bodyguard for about a year and he was with the army as a consultant for many years before that. I am grateful for his services."
The pandaren seemed disinterested but the troll was studying the Tauren now. "Fend...? Wait, I know joo. Interesting stories dey tell 'bout joo, mon."
"Then you also know I am wholly unconcerned about a pack of Alliance dogs, let alone a single warrior." Thistlehoof snorted and looked back to his drink. “If I see them in my road, I’ll put your fears to rest.”
It had all gone horribly wrong. First the shipment hadn't been ready when they'd arrived at the Silken Fields. Then their goblin navigator had gotten turned around and they'd wandered, completely lost, into the Krasarang Wilds. Kalsine had grown increasingly uneasy as they made their way down the dirt and mud road. When she had shared her concerns with Fend her bodyguard had merely laughed and assured the little party that he was the most fearsome thing they’d encounter on their detour.
What they’d run into definitely fell into the ‘far worse’ category.
Kalsine’s eyes widened as Fend’s head rolled to a stop at her feet, his glassy eyes staring blankly. Her hawkstrider had long since bolted, dumping her from its back and dragging the second strider tethered to it along. However, a lost shipment of five-hundred bolts of cloth was the least of her worries. Their navigator was already dead; she could see the green skinned pile that used to be a goblin out of the corner of her eye.
At first she’d had no clue what had attacked them. Now as the figure rose to its full height Kalsine couldn’t help but get a good look. It was a woman, definitely kal’dorei but her face was masked and hooded. The matched set of blades she carried ran with blood and yet somehow she’d managed to avoid getting any of it on herself.
The full weight of Kalsine’s situation began to bear down and it became harder to breathe.The merchant began to scramble back as her would-be murderer came towards her.
“Please, please, you’ve killed my bodyguard, my goods are out roaming the forest. Claim them for yourself, I’ll even throw in my purse, but please, let me live.” Kalsine’s voice rose on the last syllable fighting against the overwhelming panic.
The kal’dorei shook her head, “Not interested in your gold.”
“Please.” The merchant implored, “We’re civilians! I’ve never hurt anyone, we don’t fight in the war! Our navigator got lost and we weren’t even supposed to leave the Valley. We weren’t even supposed to be here.” She was openly sobbing between the rush and jumble of words. Her assailant seemed unmoved. “We weren’t even supposed to be here.” Kalsine kept gasping between sobs. She closed her eyes and covered her face, waiting for what she knew must be coming.
Why wasn’t she dead yet? The sin’dorei opened her eyes. The other woman was crouched mere feet from her. Waiting. For what?
“You’re right.” The rogue said, “You aren’t supposed to be here.”
The merchant took a deep breath, a brief moment of clarity in amongst the despair and confusion . Something caught her eye, a stray lock of teal hair, the slashes of color down what of the face the mask didn’t cover. The distinct leathers, a wound ribbon of black and red tied off around the hilt of the right hand dagger. A story came back to her, from a friend, who had a cousin, who had a friend. Maybe...
“I’ve heard of you, Fishmonger.”
The mask hid the kal’dorei’s eyes and her mouth betrayed no expression. When her reply came the voice was dark, almost distant. “I haven’t heard of you.”
White hot pain ripped Kalsine’s world apart and shortly she knew no more.
Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 11:29 am
(sweet mother of god, this is good. And it is such bad news for us)
Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:49 pm
((Waiiit, did she just kill people that Keltyr and Dorri know?))
Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2013 12:58 pm
((Somewhere in the planning process Kalsine went from generic belf merchant #6 to friend of Paxie's cousin that was selling the tapestries. I blame Tarquin for this XD))
Pt. 3 - Wolves and Crows
Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:00 pm
“So, what the fuck is a Lowborne?” Farren wanted to know. Nobody answered him, least of all the client. That was all anybody said for half an hour, until he finally tried again, some ways deeper into the Krasarang jungle. This time, Essande fell into ranks with him.
“You don’t ask,” the elf told him bluntly. “You don’t know what they are; you’ve never heard of them. And if you’ve heard of them, you still haven’t heard of them.” Farren didn’t say anything for another good while after that.
Crowfeeders didn’t often work this quiet. The Captain ran a tight crew, but they were sellswords, not the Ebon Blade, and sellswords drank and diced, fought and fucked, and talked most of all. But the client had told them they’d need silence when the quarry was about, and his presence didn’t encourage chatter. A plain-faced Kaldorei, soft-spoken and dead-eyed, shorter than Essande but fearsome strong-looking and strapped all about with blades. They didn’t have his name; all they had was the word Lowborne, and that didn’t mean much to anyone but Essande. And Essande didn’t care much to talk to, about, or around the client.
All of them figured that the Captain was getting well bloody paid behind this one.
When Essande and the client faded off into the jungle to scout for their target, it was Anrid broke the silence. “Four an’ one,” she said to nobody in particular. “All this fer one bad elf?” Farren groaned, and Emma Leir gave her a look that would’ve killed a potted plant.
“You must never say a thing like that, little flower,” Emma told her, summoning the breath to be as condescending as could be. “It’s right alongside What could possibly go wrong? and We have them right where we want them?”
“Yeah, Sergeant Lucas’d slit your bloody nose, he heard that talk,” Farren added. Anrid was new, hired on with the Mists, where the two humans (one living, one dead, but who was counting?) had been at this a good deal longer.
The dwarf shook her head in exasperation, braids flopping. “What I mean is, he needs four o’ us fer the one elf, it can no’ be so simple as all that.”
“You know the rules, darling.” Emma delicately arranged her robes and seated herself on a stump. “No fair fights. Two to one at the least, and in the back whenever possible.”
“But enough about Milady’s personals,” added Farren, drawing a snort of laughter from the dwarf and another withering stare from the Forsaken. Before Emma could respond, branches rustled and Essande solidified with them, towering in metal and leathers, her face set. The client came in behind her.
“We’ve found her,” Essande told them, and that was that. Farren unstrapped his shield, Anrid loaded her rifle, and Emma brandished her staff. Essande gathered them round; she had no rank in the Company, but like any sellswords, the Crowfeeders knew talent when they saw it. “I’ll herd her in. Remember, she’s needed alive.”
“What’re we lookin’ at, works-wise?” Anrid looked curiously at the client, whose smooth bluish face gave as much back as a statue. Essande answered.
“Knives.” She wasn’t much for details, but after an expectant moment she continued. “She’s fast. And she’s been at this a long time. Pin her down quick.” The Lowborne said something to her in their liquid language. “He hopes you can keep her undamaged. You do what you need to do, Rooks.” Essande slipped her blades and nodded to the trees. “Get about it.”
The bark of the tree was scarred. The wound was dark where something, fire, had licked at the skin of the tree and left pain in its wake. This place had lost it distinct sound. All that remained was silence.
There's a young woman standing in a clearing. The trees around her are scarred. She stares at the fragments in her hands, is aware of the arcane energy leaking away, wills them back together.
The scent of blood had driven all the non predators away and with them had gone the predators for want of food. She was the predator now.
Above, the leaves were a crisp and vibrant green, she watched as they swayed in the wind, rustling against each other, a mobbing mass of plant life all struggling to be free of the others. What time was it? Where was the sun? What day was it? Why was it so quiet? Too quiet.
She knows they are coming. To collect her and the pieces. She can hear them. He's sent them but he'd never come himself.
Work. She was working. There was work to be done. Why was the work so important? It was? It was. Of course it was. Something was coming, she could hear them now. Almost smell them. If she closed her eyes she could see them. Enemy. Threat. Death. Blood. It needed to be taken care of.
Maybe she could fight them. She was his best, wasn't she? Fight them and run. Never look back. Leave it all behind. That’s what she’d wanted to do for years now. Could she? How far would he hunt?
There was a rhythm pounding, where was it coming from? Was it growing louder? No, it'd go again. The pounding of a heartbeat?
The beat of her heart was so loud in her ears. She was certain it would give her away. There was shouting, coming ever closer. He'd never forgive her for what she'd done. She didn't care. Hatred and anger so deep came boiling to the surface, it almost burned. But she grabbed it, held on to it, channeled it. She couldn't run forever. She'd either fight and win or fight and die. Either way she'd fight.
The wolves had surrounded her, their coats a myriad of odd colors. Purples, blues and greys, one of merely bones. Their howling was nonsensical. It made her head pound with the overwhelming need to shut them up. Or was that the rhythm pounding? The colors were fleeing, retreating from the smell of imminent violence.
She moved, and moved, and moved again, and then the wolves had lost their bite. They were circling, still howling. Still bashing themselves against the walls of her thoughts. Beating down the door. If they broke through the game would be done and there'd be no going back.
She would have had the advantage, but the other was among them. All of her attempts to break their organization, he’d counter. She threw caution to the wind and hit them head on. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t elegant. It was brutal and ferocious.
She let the wolves come to her. They moved as a pack and their claws made swiping motions but none touched her.
Afterwards she could not recall the fight. Most of their numbers lay bleeding but she had already been tired and the arcane energy from the earlier explosion was making her ill. She knew what was coming but tried not to think about it. He wouldn’t kill her. Not yet, though sometimes she wished he would.
There weren’t many of the wolves left and she could taste the tang of their blood on the air. The sounds continue to beat at that odd door until suddenly everything snapped into focus. The trees reverted to their natural colors, her attackers formed into familiar shapes. Kal’dorei, humans, a dwarf. Some of them no longer moving.
It was Jaire who showed his face, finally, when they’d brought her down. “You’re coming home,” was all he said to her. Home to Lyas and his rage, doubled now that she’d not only failed him, but tried to hide from what that meant. And worst of all was the part of her that was relieved to be going back.
The pounding became shouting. “Shaw! Shaw!” Her mind was slipping back into its grooves. Were they SI:7? Who had she pissed off?
“I don’t know what you want, but I don’t work for him anymore.” There was a sound behind her and she turned. The shape lunging towards her became a wolf and the door slammed shut and all the color went out of the world. Afterwards, she heard footsteps and shouting, saw them running with their tails between their legs, but she was elsewhere and they were nothing to her.
Broken things. A job badly done. Bodies all about her, the Lowborne sent to take her home to Lyas. There was a curtain down before her, and she could hardly tell: was it today, or tomorrow, or thousands of yesterdays gone?
Then or now, it was the same: they’d come to bring her home. And this time, they couldn’t carry her back; this time, she’d pay a call on Lyas herself. She knew what she had to do.
Emma very nearly didn’t stop running when she heard Essande fall; she was deep into the undergrowth and killing the Sentinel would slow the...other elf by at least a few seconds. But then Emma would be alone in the Wilds, too close to Alliance territory for any Forsaken woman. So she turned back and hovered at Essande’s side.
The disgraced Sentinel was prone in a slick of blood and mud, snarling elvish curses, struggling to get her gory knee under her. “You need to walk,” Emma told her flatly, “Because I cannot carry you.”
“Fuck...you...” Essande growled, and then grunted and heaved, all those muscles flexing under purple-white skin, while Emma watched the woods to see if her second chance was over today. With a hiss that hoped to be a howl, Whitebeam lurched up and crashed against a tree, holding herself up on one leg. The other wasn’t going to be much good for anything. “I need your staff,” Essande said between gritted teeth.
“My magic staff, darling? That I use for magic?”
Whitebeam stared at her. “If that woman catches us, what are you going to do with it that you didn’t do two minutes ago?” That was a fair point; Emma surrendered her instrument of office and, as Essande lurched forward using a thousand-crown arcane implement to hold herself up out of the muck, the Forsaken followed her and watched the woods for some herald of their demise.
None came. They made their slow way through Krasarang Wilds, and even without a functioning heart to pound or sweat to slick her forehead, Emma didn’t trust herself to speak. It was Essande who broke the silence. “Anrid is dead. I didn’t see Farren.”
“Farren is dead,” Emma said, somewhat shakily. Farren had been screaming and trying to hold in his guts when she broke and ran, and the client had slipped in those same guts when their target bore down on him. Farren hadn’t been a good man, but he’d been good to her when she’d let him. Helped her forget she was dead. No more of that, now. “So is the client.”
“Yes.” Essande’s knee wasn’t much actively bleeding anymore, but there was no question that it was going to be a wreck. The target – the elf that wasn’t quite an elf – had hit the ground behind her, come up running, and left a single vicious slash across the back of the Sentinel’s leg. Important things were no longer functioning there.
“Tell me about the Lowborne,” Emma said.
“Because Anrid and Farren are dead.” Essande snapped a glare at her, and it was fearsome even now, but Emma was already as afraid as she could get in one day. “And because I’m asking you nicely, darling, and because that thing’s still out there.”
“Thing.” Essande snorted, and then laughed. “That’s amusing, Milady. You see what you have just seen, and you’re still worried about the Lowborne.” She shook her head, laughed again, and then the staff slipped and she sprawled back down in the mud. Emma would have laughed, but today, nothing could amuse her.
They waited while the Kaldorei righted herself, sitting on her arse in the jungle, staring at the dismal wreck of her good right leg. Essande finally looked up at her. “I do not know much of the Lowborne. Nobody does. It’s just a name – they’re the right people in Darnassus, that’s all.”
“I didn’t know the Kaldorei had criminals.”
“Only very good ones, and very dead ones.” Essande, on the other hand, could just about always be amused. “She used to work for them. The client’s chief, a man named Lyas who we will never want to meet, heard about what she was doing and wanted her home.”
Emma squatted down, entirely unconcerned with how unladylike that was. “And what was she doing? Essande, who was she?”
“You didn’t recognize her?” Essande started pushing herself back to her feet, leaning heavily on the staff. “I thought you knew all about right people.”
“Not the kind that let themselves be eaten by Sha!”
“Which is amusing,” Essande replied, “because one would think those are exactly the people you should be most aware of.” She took an exploratory step, her arm crooked around Emma’s staff, using it as a makeshift crutch. “That was a Wildfire Rider.”
“Oh...oh shit.” Emma Leir, as a rule, did not curse, but there were extenuating circumstances. “We need to tell the Captain. We need to tell him right away.”
Essande didn’t bother answering, but took another step. Then another, hopping along, and with the dead wizard nervously shadowing her, began the long slog back to the land of the living.
Hostile Take Over: Pt. 4 - Low
Posted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:57 pm
((A huge huge HUGE thank you to Tarquin who wrote this amazing bit of fic. Always so good!))
It was good, Lyas decided almost immediately when he heard the screams, that he had never been afraid to die.
Some people in the trade used that attitude as a bluff. His predecessor had been one of those, and that worthy had died begging and wringing her hands, afraid after all. But Lyas...the druids had told his parents, as a boy, that there was something missing, some essential piece of Kaldorei nature. Fear, he had learned, was part of it. And so when the shrieks came echoing down his tunnels, between his roots, out of the long dark of his fastness, he wasn’t afraid.
In fact, part of him had been expecting it. The reward had outweighed the risk, but not cancelled it. He had done the arithmetic, seized the opportunity, and trusted in one of his best to do the work; and of course, planned for the worst. If Aspar couldn’t bring Loreli Tymara home, perhaps she’d come home on her own.
It would’ve been better, of course, if she’d come alone.
Someone else screamed, ending in a familiar kind of wet gurgle. Lyas calmly rose from the floor and considered his options. Running wouldn’t serve; even among the scum of Darnassus, a leader who fled the field could expect little welcome. And if memory served, he was lucky if eight of his were in the tree at this time. Too many out and about his business, and of the ones Tymara and her new pack had not yet killed, some likely could not be counted on. So it was up to him, and him alone, which suited him well enough.
Lyas made his preparations, moving deliberately, taking his time. He knew every inch of the tree and the world its roots sheltered; knew how many steps it would take her, even charging headlong at the head of whatever ravening monkeys and exile lunatics she’d brought, to reach his sanctum. Time enough to prepare one bolt, slick and stinking with enough venom to fell a kodo. He hoped not to need it, but if it came to it, it would give his guests pause.
It wasn’t Loreli Tymara who first crossed the threshold, nor any of her Riders, but one-eared Hyothen, who’d had the door. Or most of him, to be exact. The brawny corpse dropped on Lyas’s immaculate pine floor with a wet smack, and Loreli padded in holding his head by the one remaining ear. “Your man dropped this,” she purred, and tossed it forward, bouncing bloodily over the corpse.
Lyas’s first thought, unexpectedly, was how glad he was to see her. Not everything was missing, after all; as a child, he’d lost his father’s finest nightsaber roving, and when it came slinking back four days later, his heart had given the same painful end-over-end turn. It was still Loreli, unmistakably, arch smile and thick hair and tigrish walk and all the rest. His second thought was, well, he supposed it had to be whatever he had instead of fear.
Because it wasn’t her after all.
“Please don’t move any closer, my dear,” he said, voice calm, smiling pleasantly. He gave her a little wave with one hand; the other was holding another crossbow. “While I have longed to see you within arms reach, you do understand my caution.” He kept his eyes directly on hers, looking for her tells. Not watching her shadow coil up behind her, or crawl across her arms and reach for Hyothen’s body...Lyas shook his head fractionally. “Where are your new friends?”
“They didn’t come.” Loreli folded her arms, and her shadow folded into her, climbing up her breasts and wrapping her neck like a cloak. Her arms were dappled black with dried blood, but surely it couldn’t all be blood.
“Just you.” His mind raced. Before, he’d aimed to delay and deceive, to make himself of use to her human running dogs, and to use every moment to split them apart. To do, in short, what he had been doing to Darnassus for hundreds of years before most of her Wildfire Riders were even born. But now...”I’m sorry, my dear. If I had known it would be this easy, I would simply have asked.”
“Oh, you did.” She paced sideways, restless as a cat in a cage, that shadow melting and flowing with her. It wasn’t hers, he could see now; the dim echo of Loreli Tymara hung extended against the wall as it ought to. The blackness that blanketed her wake was something else entirely. “You sent me someone I knew. Letting me kill Aspar, was that a present?”
“Well, Loreli, I was not expecting you to kill him. Although, in fairness, I did not expect you either to come quietly.” The crossbow tracked her as she weaved back and forth across his chamber, apparently unconcerned. Or perhaps simply unaware. He’d seen Loreli bluff, and fancied he could call it when it came. This was something else. “But here you are, so his failure can be forgiven.”
“Here...I am.” She stepped up with shocking suddenness; one moment half-turned away as if studying the branchings of the root wall, and the next looming in front of him, hands flexing at her sides. Lyas kept himself from firing the crossbow, merely twitched it towards her. She made a point of looking at it, then back up at him. “What are you going to do with me?”
What, indeed? was a question that Lyas had been asking himself for some thirteen years. His Loreli, his, toiling for soft, shrunken little rodents across the ocean. Taking her pay in child’s silver. Moaning under some milksop collaborator. It had made him rage, and retch, and reach his hand across the sea to bring her home. She’d evaded him, and gone where he could not find her, and now at long last she was back. And he had no idea what to do with her.
“What will you do if I put down my bow, my dear?” he said, by way of a starting gambit. Her smile was not comforting.
“I guess I’ll kill you, Lyas.”
“Well, that does not leave me a good many options, Loreli.” He waggled the crossbow just slightly for emphasis. “So we appear to be at an impasse.”
She bared her teeth. Lyas did not care to call it a smile. “Until I get tired of you pointing that fucking thing at me and make you eat it.” He took a long look at her now, really looked; not watching her for the signs of movement or approach, but simply for his Loreli Tymara. The weapon he’d sharpened, the woman he’d owned, as much as one could own a person. Which was entirely, if you did it right.
The realization chilled him, sent a thrill through that same empty space that would’ve held his fear if he’d had any. Loreli Tymara hadn’t come alone after all. In fact, if she’d come with all her Riders in tow, boasting and drinking and dying like flies in fall, he might have been safer after all. He might have been able to make a wedge between them. But not between Loreli and this.
“You’ll never leave Darnassus alive,” he told her, and as he said so, he pulled the trigger. He wasn’t really surprised when her hand blurred into motion; faster than she’d ever been in life, faster than anything close to natural. The bolt stuck halfway through her palm, and she looked at it curiously, almost admiringly. Like a new ring on her finger. “Neither of you, Loreli. You or...whatever you’ve brought to my home.”
“Oh, Lyas.” Something terrible stretched her lips and shadowed her even teeth, pooled in the corners of her mouth. “I haven’t believed you for hundreds of years. Why should I start now?”
He put the useless bow aside. Maybe if he kept her talking, some of the Lowborne would regain their courage. Not that it was likely, but it wasn’t in his nature to just give over and face the end. “You idiot,” he said, fondly. “Do you have half an idea what’s become of you? For I do not, and I have always known better than you.” Her face twitched and boiled. “Half an idea. A quarter of a plan. A little dribbling inkling of a clue-”
Loreli’s hands were on his throat then, fast enough that he’d have given her even odds if he still held the crossbow. The bolt was still poking through her right palm, digging into his neck. He felt the ridges of callous along her fingers and thumbs. The first she’d touched him in more than a dozen years, loose enough that he could still draw a breath. “What are you going to do without me, my dear?”
“Get some fucking peace and quiet.” Her face filled his vision, an impossible leer, and now he had a good look. Loreli Tymara writ in ink and anger, and in the crevasses and crannies where no lines should be on that smooth face, the shadows of something impossibly ancient. Too many eyes. Too many angles, and a mouth gaping with fury, swallowing her own smooth face whole.
Her hands tightened. The agony was indescribable, the crack of bone all-consuming, and for a moment, Lyas’s vision shifted radically, as if he were viewing the world at an angle. Loreli Tymara, halfway upside-down, and the furious creeping thing that rode her; and then–
Re: Hostile Take Over: Pts 1 - 4
Posted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:36 pm
((In case you were wondering what Annalea's been up to with the shadowy stuff Kyr's been handing over...))
It hates her.
It hated the bag of meat that scooped it up and stoppered it in this vial. It hated the other bag of meat that carried it away from the field of lovely ragefearpainhatedeath and shoved it into a pack next to a jar full of eyeballs. It hated the tall skinny bag of meat it was passed off to, the one that smelled of whisky and smoke, distrust and deceit. It could have used those things, maybe, but that bag of meat handed the vial over to this last one, and it hates her most of all.
She’s not a creature of hate, not truly. She’d be more malleable in some of its litter-mates’ hands. Doubt, she has, and despair. Violence and anger in spades.
But what is it, if not a piece of a greater whole? All of those things can be twisted toward hate -- coaxed and soothed, or wrenched like a weed from the ground, like a neck in a murderer’s hands, oh yes.
She is not looking, so it tests its prison for the hundredth time. It licks up the sides and tries the seal, but no. She’s reinforced it, woven magic into the very wax.
It hates her a little more as it sinks back into the puddle of itself.
Her back is still turned. Other shadows -- weaker, lesser shadows -- skirl around her. She sings as she works, a dirge whose notes not only penetrate the glass walls of its vial, but make them vibrate in time. The motion transfers from the glass to the liquid shadow, and it’s as though she’s making it dance. It can’t stop it. It can’t stop it and it hates her even more.
It coils itself up and rears like a cobra in its cramped space, gives itself a hood and a flicking tongue, strikes the glass but still can’t shatter it.
She will make a mistake. She’ll have to. She’s spent hours down here in this dim smelly room, peering into its depths, prodding at it with her paltry magics. It’s nearly touched her mind a few times, so close so close but when it did she laughed at it.
And put it back in its cage like one of the fat mice that are its companions.
It needs to be patient, to bide its time and wait for her to slip. She craves knowledge, caresses secrets the way the tall skinny bag of meat holds its lockboxes (oh, it’s watched them both, looking for a wedge to drive in when it’s free), and that kind of obsession leads to guards let down. It only needs a heartbeat.
She’s turning now, so it lets go of the snake form and becomes, once more, a puddle of oily black in the bottom of the vial. It will bide its time, find the moment where she’s distracted, and--
There’s a crystal in her hand, wrapped in her shadows. It knows the facets of this thing, remembers how the Mogu used them to demand loyalty from even the most willful opponents. It -- or its siblings, or its parent -- might even have taught the Mogu how to do it.
And now it’s in the woman’s hands, and she’s driving her shadows through it, and they are reaching for the vial. For the first time while the woman is watching, the liquid hate recoils, pressing itself against the rear wall of its prison.
But it can’t get away. It has nowhere to go.
It hates her, oh yes, but now it fears her, too.
Re: Hostile Take Over: Pts 1 - 4
Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:35 pm