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Thread: And something hits the fan alright

  1. #1
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    And something hits the fan alright

    And though I know people at ff.net care a whole lot more about Diplomacy than this, Imma do what I feel like and have another go at Sarah and Dor'ash. This is another one I've looked forwards to writing... but I think it might get those who have followed the series a bit upset >_>

    Anyway...


    For being noon in Orgrimmar, the weather was… just as bleeding sunny and hot as always. Even though Sarah wasn’t particularly bothered by it per say, she had an annoying feeling that she was literally baking. Mostly because the orcs, trolls, tauren and blood elves on the street if possible moved away from her and any other Forsaken strolling about.

    If a blood elf happened to throw her a displeased glance, she responded with throwing them a kiss back. It was amusing, but not her main objective.

    She weaved in and out of the streets of the drag, cheerfully humming – or rather croaking something that vaguely sounded like a melody – to herself as she sought the shops she needed to visit.

    It was a victory, of sorts, having made it this far away from Dor’ash, and for over an hour. She insisted to everyone, including herself, that she was just fine since the events in Alterac a couple of months ago. Still, it was the first time since then that she actually took off on her own.

    On some level it annoyed her. Therefore she refused to think about it, and focused on just getting all the various items on her list checked off. It would be a while until she and Dor’ash visited a big city again, as the current plan was to head for Feralas as per a request from one of the big lug’s druid friends.

    That was comfortably southwards, in her view.

    She entered an alchemy shop, nodding absently to the Forsaken clerk standing by the wall and arranging empty vials on shelves. He nodded back and then ignored her, seeing that she strode towards another shelf of vials with an air of a customer knowing exactly what she wanted.

    There was nobody else in the small shop, and she took her time looking at the vials. She had a specific taste in the size and shape she preferred for most of her brewing projects, and weighed each brand in her hand before making a mental note about them and moving on to others.

    While in the middle of inspecting a teardrop shaped container she heard the sound of dry, slightly clattering footsteps from the door, but didn’t think much of it. Not until she was addressed.

    “Miss Nebula?” a hoarse voice said behind her.

    It didn’t really sound like a question though.

    “Hmm?” Sarah said, glancing around. “Yes?”

    The Forsaken man whose milky yellow eyes met hers didn’t appear to be a soldier, though he wore a set of worn leather armor. The dust covering his clothing, and the simple daggers at his belt suggested a careless traveler. Sarah didn’t recognize him.

    “I was asked to deliver a letter to you,” the man said, glancing towards a corner of the store. The clerk caught on immediately and shuffled away on clicking, skeletal feet.

    Sarah mentally groaned. Messages delivered with any kind of demand for privacy, to her, meant that it was from the Royal Apothecary Society. Orders to run fetch some obscure thing or take care of an errand. She’d gotten considerably fewer of them since she had managed to off her brother. He had loved to send her running across nowhere to serve his fancy, and those experiences didn’t make her any more keen on doing her duty to the Society.

    But she didn’t show her annoyance, and merely followed the messenger to the corner, moving up against the wall so that he could speak to her or show her a written message with his own back to the rest of the world.

    His face was unreadable as he reached for a breast pocket and took out a small seal. He held it between his thumb and pointing finger so that she could see it.

    If there had still been hair growing at the back of Sarah’s neck, it would have been standing on end.

    It was not the seal of the Royal Apothecary Society, but that of the Deathstalkers.

    With all her might, Sarah suppressed the wish to teleport out of there and run to Dor’ash, dragging him off to… no safety there could ever be.

    Her face forcefully blank, she stiffly nodded acknowledgment. The agent before her put the seal back in his pocket and reached for another, this time withdrawing a letter.

    “Special orders,” he said in a voice which was barely a whisper, and yet scratched at Sarah’s ears.

    She allowed herself to raise her eyebrows, but that was all she dared as she took the paper and pulled her arm back. Her hand wasn’t shaking, not when she glanced at it. It just felt that way.

    The crimson wax seal stuck tightly to the letter, but didn’t offer up nearly enough resistance as she scratched it off and unfolded the paper. There was only one word written there, in an elegant yet sharp hand.

    Enough.

    Sarah looked at it for a moment.

    It had been so long, she’d almost managed to start hoping. Surely there were greater things to worry about than one orc having seen something he shouldn’t have in Azshara. Surely after all this time and no whispers about the strange events inside that closed off, small ruin, it should be apparent that he wasn’t one to spread dangerous rumors. Surely, there was no need for such measures.

    But it didn’t take that long to write a simple order. And Lady Sylvanas was not one to forget.

    “Very well,” Sarah said, her voice as even as she could make it. “I’m honored.”

    She folded the letter and cradled it in her hands. A brief second of focus and a murmured spell was all it took – the paper and the message upon it was engulfed in a small, intense flame that even consumed the wax seal. Supposedly, the air briefly filled with the scent of melted, burned wax, but none of the three people inside the shop had working senses like that.

    “Are you here to help me?” Sarah asked, absently brushing her hands against her robe. Ashes clung to her skeletal fingers.

    The agent shook his head.

    “I was only instructed to deliver that message,” he said. “Do you request help?”

    “No.” It came out firmer than she had planned, but then it was too late to take it back. Sarah met the searching gaze roaming her face. “This is a private matter, I prefer to do it alone. I will report back within a week.”

    “That will be expected, then.”

    With that, he turned and walked out.

    The clerk pointedly ignored Sarah as she returned to the shelf she had been perusing before the interruption. She picked out a few of the vials – most of them not the ones she had decided on before – then paid and left the store.

    Most of all, she wanted to rush to find Dor’ash, but she knew he wouldn’t be where they had agreed to meet, not yet. She couldn’t run around Orgrimmar hoping to find him. And if anybody was watching her to make sure she didn’t need help to complete her task, she couldn’t act frantic.

    The heat hadn’t bothered her before, but suddenly it felt as if it stifled her brain, making it even more difficult to think and focus.

    There shouldn’t be a need to think. It was long since she had settled on her plan of action when this day came. She shouldn’t even be surprised.

    She tried to force herself to be calm and looked over her list and the few items that remained, but of course her thoughts couldn’t stay on such useless things anymore. What had been basic supplies for another long journey now seemed like fanciful little knickknacks.

    Still, she went on to get all of them, feeling paranoid that somebody was making sure she did. Maybe it wasn’t unreasonable paranoia though. The messenger could have lied about delivering the message being his only objective. And even if he hadn’t, there might very well be somebody else watching.

    She wasn’t used to assassinations. It was difficult to tell how important this was regarded to be, if she was truly trusted to take care of her assignment.

    If she failed, and lived to be captured for it, whatever punishment her own people could extract on her would surely make her wish the Lich King had successfully crushed her in Alterac.

    And if she failed, and somebody else was waiting to make sure Dor’ash died anyway, it would have all been for naught. He deserved so much better than a Deathstalker’s blade in his back.

    It was with heavy steps that she headed towards the bank of Orgrimmar, where they had agreed to meet up again.

    ‘-‘

    Dor’ash waited for Sarah in the shadows of a building beside the bank. He caught himself straightening up and study any Forsaken female he saw pass by in the crowd of people moving about, hoping that it would be her. It was nonsense, of course, he told himself. There was no reason to be worried about her in Orgrimmar. She’d threaten to set his hair on fire at the mere notion. He had to shake off the last unease that Alterac had left him with, it wasn’t good for either of them.

    When he finally saw her thin form weaving between the other moving bodies he released a small breath. However, a frown appeared on his forehead as she drew closer and he saw the forced, blank expression on her face, as if she was deep in thought. It wouldn’t have made him scowl if it hadn’t been for the uneasy murmur of the spirits, brushing past just in the moment when he saw the look of her.

    As soon as she straightened up and spotted him, though, her face relaxed and she hurried forwards, even ducking under a tauren’s arm to get between two of the hulking oxen.

    “Hey handsome,” she chirped and craned her neck to look him in the eye. “Why so grim?”

    “Hmm? Nothing,” Dor’ash replied, smiling as his frown dissipated.

    “Missed me that much, eh?”

    He just snorted at that.

    She turned to walk beside him as he moved forwards, set on having a drink somewhere before they did anything else. The day was way too hot to start a journey without a drink, even if they would start off with a portal to Thunderbluff.

    The bars were full of people, but not cramped and not very loud either. The heat was enough to make anybody feel like taking it easy. After getting their drinks, they were lucky enough to get a table in the shade by the cliff wall surrounding most of the city.

    “Did you find everything you were looking for?” Dor’ash said as he settled back in his chair.

    All the chairs were made to fit both orcs and tauren if needed. Sarah looked ridiculous sitting on one of them, holding a mug of ale between her thin hands.

    “Yep. But, well…”

    She grunted and made a rolling motion with her head. Her version of an eyeroll.

    “Could your pals in Feralas wait three or four days longer, ya think?” she asked. “I’ve got a job.”

    Dor’ash paused for a moment, but shrugged while taking another drink. Getting to Feralas wasn’t a pressing matter.

    “Where to?” he asked after swallowing.

    “Swamp of Sorrows.”

    At that, Dor’ash gave her a long, not very enthusiastic look.

    “What?” Sarah said. “It’s almost like Feralas anyway. Wet and full of trees and bushes and things that want to eat you. Just different kinds of it all.”

    “But it smells horrible.”

    “You sissy.”

    Dor’ash sighed. He wasn’t too keen on visiting the Swamp of Sorrows, not only for the reason he had given. The spirits there were in constant sorrow still from the loss of the once lush land, and even worse close to the Blasted Lands. But, if Sarah had a job then he expected it to be important to her, and he certainly wasn’t going to leave her.

    “Alright,” he said, only grumbling a little bit. “I don’t think I’ll need to get any new supplies for that, at least. Do you?”

    “Nope, I’m good.”

    “Good, we’ll just refill what we need when we get to Thunderbluff afterwards, then.”

    Sarah nodded. As she stood up after both of them had finished their drinks, she absently brushed her hands on her robe.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  2. #2
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    After getting Dor’ash’s wolf Grey, and Sarah’s unnamed skeleton horse from the stable it was as easy as repacking the saddle bags with the new supplies. Once that was done, Sarah took out a rune from a pocket and held it in front of herself while waving the other hand above it, muttering in a low voice.

    The rune shimmered and crumbled to dust, falling between her bone fingers. At the same time, a glowing hole opened in the air before her, showing several huts clumped together on muddy ground and beneath a heavy, grey sky. Sarah walked forwards, holding her horse’s reins and it clopped after her mechanically. Taking in one last breath of fresh air, Dor’ash followed with Grey close behind. His senses spun for a moment as he stepped right through space to another part of the world, but he was fairly used to it by now.

    The overbearing heat of Orgrimmar was in a flash replaced with a thick humidity smelling of rotting wood and muck. Behind Dor’ash, Grey snorted disapproval. A few guards looked on with little interest as the Forsaken and the shaman climbed onto their mounts, obviously not intent on lingering in Stonard.

    The small stronghold was still a lot more lively than Dor’ash remembered, with men and women of all Horde races moving about. He saw small groups riding off towards the western road, doubtlessly to continue towards the Blasted lands and the Dark Portal. Even as he and Sarah moved away, a new portal opened in the same spot as Sarah’s dissipating one. A group of blood elves hurried out, their hawkstriders following closely.

    Dor’ash rolled his shoulders, trying to relax a bit more as he urged Grey to start forwards. He found it harder to breathe, from the stench and humid air. The murmur of the spirits in the back of his mind was more of a never ending groan here.

    Sarah’s horse moved up beside him, then stepped a little further ahead to lead the way while not too far ahead so that she would have to crane her neck around to speak.

    “I hope you have a good reason for this,” Dor’ash grunted. He didn’t really mean to sound as defensive as he did, but he felt ill at ease.

    “I do, I do!” Sarah reassured him, smirking faintly.

    He responded with a hum and left it at that, letting her lead on towards the small northern road. Very soon, Sarah further pushed his mood downwards when steering off the road and onto even smaller ones, steadily leading them deeper into the swamp. Carefully, they followed the paths as well as possible. Scouts had long since marked up the area by placing sticks in relatively stable ground or by carving Orcish runes on dying trees, but sticks could be fall on their own or be pushed over, and runes could be sabotaged.

    More and more, the swamp turned into an uneven carpet of small islands cut apart by shallow or deep streams of brackish water, forcing them to dismount and lead the horse and wolf across. Crocolisks were a constant worry, but they were lucky enough to not run into any.

    Now and then Sarah bent down or crawled under a rising root to pick some herb or mushroom. She certainly did seem to be busy, and seeing how much she gathered Dor’ash eventually managed to dissolve his dislike for her dragging him out here. There was apparently a lot she needed for whatever task she had been given.

    He didn’t think too much about the fact that after a while, she began to lead them towards the south west.

    They made camp at a relatively dry spot by a couple of large boulders sticking out of the earth. The rocks provided some protection, in case something would try to attack them.

    Setting up a camp fire would be more trouble than it was worth in this soaked land, and besides that it could attract the attention of both murlocs and broken from afar. Dor’ash let Grey hunt his own dinner on the small island, but kept a close eye on the wolf’s pale shadow slinking behind the bushes and trees while he ate his own rations. A few swamp rats the size of small rabbits seemed to be the results. Not the best, but the wolf much preferred fresh meat to the dried scraps that Dor’ash kept in store for him.

    Darkness fell quickly now. As Grey returned and laid down beside one of the boulders to sleep, Dor’ash likewise stretched out on his cold bedroll and pulled a not too dry blanket over himself. It had been a trying journey through the swamp, and he was tired enough to fall asleep quickly despite the uncomfortable circumstances.

    Minutes passed.

    Sarah listened to Grey and Dor’ash’s breathing. Sound asleep both of them, but she waited another little while to be sure that they were really unaware. Once she felt safe enough, she took out a small bottle from one of her bags and soundlessly crept closer to Dor’ash. It wasn’t far, and the small noises she made didn’t cause either him nor Grey to stir.

    Carefully, she pulled out the stopper and reached forwards, holding the mouth of the bottle just an inch beneath Dor’ash’s squat nose. One little breath filled his lungs with the scentless gas wafting out of the container. Sarah watched closely to make sure he only took one more breath, then pulled back and plugged the bottle shut.

    Dor’ash grunted and rolled over in his sleep.

    Sarah’s shoulders fell as she sat back. Now, she only had to wait for the dawn, or for somebody to show themselves.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  3. #3
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Originally things were meant to happen a little differently but then I concluded that it made no sense and rewrote things. So, the ending of the last part goes differently than in the last post.

    If something doesn't make sense in this part, it is probably because it was meant to take place later and there were other things happening in between that are now edited out. I might have missed something though, that's what a checkup is for ;)


    Setting up a camp fire would be more trouble than it was worth in this soaked land, and besides that it could attract the attention of both murlocs and broken from afar. Dor’ash let Grey hunt his own dinner on the small island, but kept a close eye on the wolf’s pale shadow slinking behind the bushes and trees while he ate his own rations. A few swamp rats the size of small rabbits seemed to be the results. Not the best, but the wolf much preferred fresh meat to the dried scraps that Dor’ash kept in store for him.

    Darkness fell quickly now. As Grey returned and laid down beside one of the boulders to sleep, Dor’ash likewise prepared to stretch out on his cold bedroll. Sighing, when he rolled out his blanket he concluded that it wasn’t completely dry thanks to the humid air.

    “You’re not still grumpy, are you?” Sarah asked.

    She wasn’t preparing to sleep, instead settled down cross-legged, resting her staff across her lap just in case something would attack in the night. He could fall in a week-long coma and she would still be there when he woke up, keeping her tireless vigil. He knew that.

    Dor’ash shook his head to her question.

    “Good,” she cheerfully said. “That’d be annoying.”

    “There’s no use grumbling about something like this,” Dor’ash said. “We’ve been through worse.”

    “There you go being the mature one.”

    He just snorted then and laid down, pulling the blanket over himself. Then came the not too surprising conclusion that it wasn’t a very comfortable situation to sleep in. He turned a few times trying to find some repose that let him rest, but it proved difficult. Finally he laid on his back and stared up at the dark, cloudy sky, waiting for his simple bed to warm up properly and for sleep to come crawling.

    After a while, Sarah shifted. A low, scraping sound rose up as she ran a hard fingertip over the length of her staff. The big crystal set at the tip, and the smaller ones dangling from small chains below it, softly glowed in response to her touch.

    “What a depressing place I’ve dragged you to,” she said.

    He wasn’t sure if she was just thinking aloud, but she was apparently fully aware that he was wide awake. Of course, she could probably see his open eyes perfectly well even in the darkness.

    “You know, sometimes I think about, if I had lived…” she started, then paused and looked at him. A sneer tugged at the corner of her mouth. “I would never have come here, or anywhere else we’ve gone to. I’d never dared to face off with even a lonely gnoll. I would never have learnt magic, so I wouldn’t have had a chance, anyway.”

    Dor’ash shifted to look at her, wondering at this sudden introspection of hers. From her tone, it sounded almost like a roundabout apology.

    Before he could speak, Sarah lifted her hand from the staff and pointed at his face.

    “I would have been frightened out of my skin if I ever met you,” she said.

    For a moment she seemed to hesitate, then the hand drifted closer and, much to his surprise, she clumsily stroke the back of her fingers against his cheek. Fond as the caress tried to be, there was nothing soft about the feel of her raw bones, lukewarm only because of the warmth of the thick air. One finger clacked against his left tusk, then she withdrew.

    “Silly how that worked out, don’t you think?”

    Yeah, definitely a roundabout, Sarah-esque apology.

    “That you’re grateful for dying?” he muttered, and pushed himself up. Even when they were both sitting, he towered over her.

    “It was unpleasant,” she admitted. “Very, very unpleasant, and it still is sometimes. But I don’t want to imagine never meeting Jonathan, or running away, screaming, when seeing you.”

    It was difficult to imagine, that. He only knew her as she was now, grinning, joking, and save for that time in Alterac, bold as a berserker because she felt she had nothing to fear. Dor’ash tried to picture her as a human woman, staring at him with eyes wide with terror. He had to suppress a cringe.

    “One shouldn’t be grateful for the death of a friend,” he said, but he had to sneer at the irony.

    “We wouldn’t ever have been friends if I hadn’t croaked from the plague,” she replied, echoing his thoughts. She snorted softly. “I would’ve married Adam Hartwell and probably died in childbirth.”

    “You’re so cynical.” He failed to stifle a yawn and let out a loud sigh, blinking slowly. Despite the talk they had held his attention, he was starting to feel very sleepy.

    “I call it being realistic.” Sarah smiled slightly and waved her hand at him dismissively. “Alright, alright. It’s way past your naptime. We’ll be somber again tomorrow.”

    He grunted and laid back down, shifting to find a comfortable position. Closing his eyes, he still laid awake for a while, turning over what she had said in his mind. It was strange to have her open up like that, though it wasn’t the first time. On their way away from Alterac, after a whole day of silence, there had been an evening when she finally cracked to the need to talk about what she had experienced when she laid dying in the snow.

    He couldn’t be anything but touched that after all this time, she actually opened up to him – even if she chose less than stellar moments to do so.

    Minutes passed.

    Sarah listened to Dor’ash’s breathing. Sound asleep, but she waited another little while to be sure that he was really unaware. Once she felt safe enough, she took out a small bottle from one of her bags and soundlessly crept closer to Dor’ash. It wasn’t far, and the small noises she made didn’t cause either him nor Grey to stir.

    Carefully, she pulled out the stopper and reached forwards, holding the mouth of the bottle just an inch beneath Dor’ash’s squat nose. One little breath filled his lungs with the scentless gas wafting out of the container. Sarah watched closely to make sure he only took one more breath, then pulled back and plugged the bottle shut.

    Dor’ash grunted and rolled over on his back, never waking up.

    Sarah’s shoulders fell as she sat back.

    She remained still where she was, watching and listening as Dor’ash’s chest rose and fell.

    In moments he truly slept like, hah, the dead.

    She could have kissed his brow then, and he would never have known about it.

    But she didn’t. All she did was sit and watch.

    His even breaths began to grow shallow.

    Sarah looked away.

    She absentmindedly brushed her hands against her robe, for the umpteenth time. There were no traces of ash left on her fingers, but she couldn’t quite shake off the oily feeling. Odd, that. It seemed such a living thing to sense.

    And inside, Sarah seethed.

    Who are you to tell me enough? You don’t know, you don’t care.

    She couldn’t risk anybody watching from the shadows, to make sure she followed the order. And so, she dragged Dor’ash through a portal and then off into nowhere.

    You don’t know. It’s not enough.

    It was all she could do, in order to shake anyone following them. Magic was the start. Now, Dor’ash’s slowing breath was the final test. She remained silent, watching the swamp with an air of carelessness while really, she was tense as a bowstring. If there were spying eyes, they ought to reveal themselves now, when it seemed so obvious that she had poisoned him.

    She had, of course.

    I can’t. I won’t.

    However, it wouldn’t kill him, either. He would simply sleep very deeply, seemingly dead, and then he’d be fine.

    It’s not enough. But…

    It was her order. A direct order. All she was, the reason she could bring herself and Dor’ash to Stonard, the reason she could fight at all, and the reason she could calmly poison her companion, knowing that he’d survive… it was all thanks to the one giving her that command.

    Enough.

    No.

    It was not enough, and not even Lady Sylvanas could tell her so and be right.

    Sarah gazed at the thick vegetation around her, at the colors she half saw, half imagined. The swamp was a dreary place, but there were flowers amongst the muck, and shining, huge dragonflies zipping about. There was life here too. Though she could see even without eyes, it was as well as she could taste and smell things. And even when it was subdued pleasures, restrained by undeath, she had still wanted so much more.

    But, Dor’ash had seen too much. To the Dark Lady, he was an annoyance.

    Enough.

    A big head bumped against her back, and she looked around sharply. Grey whined, his big golden eyes staring at her as his thick tail slowly swung back and forth.

    Why the heck did he have to wake up?

    For a little while, Sarah stared at him without a word. Finally, he brushed his huge, fuzzy forehead against her chest. He was used to nuzzling orcs; the push almost sent her tumbling to the ground.

    “Arthas,” she cursed and pushed at his neck. “Don’t go sentimental on me. I don’t need this clichéd bullcrap.”

    He backed off a little and she pointed a sharp finger at his nose.

    “You should be biting my head off, doggy. Except you’d get sick.”

    Grey let hear another whine, and his tail slowly swung from side to side. Sighing, Sarah reached into a pocket and drew out a small cloth bag. She pulled it open and shook it, causing a small, dusty cloud to rise up from within and pour down her hand. Grey sniffed the air and curiously moved closer again. When he did, Sarah waved the bag closer to his nose, ensuring that he breathed in the powder.

    “Good wolfie,” Sarah said. “Now sleep.”

    The great wolf stepped back, swaying on his paws. With a dizzy yelp he fell over on the moist ground. He shook his head a few times, but soon it sunk down on his paws and his yellow eyes closed.

    Sarah half-smirked and pocketed the little bag again.

    Now then, both orc and his faithful mount down for the count. If a checking spy didn’t show up now, they never would. Just to be on the safe side, she went about cleaning up the camp, as if preparing to leave.

    As it turned out however, it was a very uneventful day and night.

    That only made her feel a little bit better. The worst was yet to come.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  4. #4
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    For being noon in Orgrimmar, the weather was… just as bleeding sunny and hot as always. Even though Sarah wasn’t particularly bothered by it per say, she had an annoying feeling that she was literally baking. Mostly because the orcs, trolls, tauren and blood elves on the street if possible moved away from her and any other Forsaken strolling about.
    It's funny that the weakest part is the introductory paragraph. The first sentence is awkward, especially for a first sentence, and "Per say" is "per se". In the last sentence can't Sarah feel she's baking and relies on clues from others?
    “Why so grim?”
    Heh.
    Sarah nodded. As she stood up after both of them had finished their drinks, she absently brushed her hands on her robe.
    That's a nice touch.

    After getting Dor’ash’s wolf Grey, and Sarah’s unnamed skeleton horse from the stable it was as easy as repacking the saddle bags with the new supplies. Once that was done, Sarah took out a rune from a pocket and held it in front of herself while waving the other hand above it, muttering in a low voice.
    That wolf has been absent for a while. I'd strike out "unnamed" and "Once that was done".
    It wasn’t far, and the small noises she made didn’t cause either him nor Grey to stir.
    I think it's "or" or it would implicitly be "nor (did it cause) Grey..."

    Anyway, no continuity errors that I caught and I liked that most sentences were syntactically straightforward. It had a good flow.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  5. #5
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Haha, I knew you'd catch the reference, even with a modified word ;) Now just wait for Thomas or Collins to say "I've got friends on the other side".

    To the touch-up mobile once again!
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  6. #6
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Right so... I wrote 70% of this chapter about one year ago and I FINALLY get to post it! Whoo!



    Dor’ash woke up feeling heavy as a rock. At first he worried that he had gotten sick, but once he managed push himself up to sitting and drank some water from his flask he started to feel more alive. Sarah teased him about getting old when she noticed how sluggishly he moved, but while she did so she folded his blanket and tied it to Grey’s saddle. The great wolf kept eying her suspiciously, but remained still when she cooed at him.

    Dor’ash took care of his bedroll, refusing to be that useless. Moving about chased away the last lethargy from his body and once they started off through the swamp again, he felt no traces of it.

    The sun actually managed to slink through some cracks in the clouds above, giving the swamp at least a more pleasant feel about it. The light glittered in the water and on the backs of the many colorful bugs climbing the tree trunks, making them look like little living gems. The whole landscape felt as if it became a bit more lively, greedily drinking in the unusual sunlight.

    But the fact that he took note of the light also meant that Dor’ash considered the position of the sun, and thus started to think about the direction Sarah was leading them in.

    “Where are we going?” he finally asked when it grew more and more suspicious.

    “Well… are you in a better mood today?” she innocently asked back.

    That did not sound promising.

    “Marginally,” he cautiously said.

    “Then, well,” She paused, raising both hands and stretching only her pointing fingers to touch in a mockery of a childishly embarrassed display. “I lied. I need to go to the Blasted Lands.”

    Dor’ash gave her a long, dark look and she wriggled her whole body as if she was squirming under his glare. Her teasing little smile spoke differently, however.

    Finally, he heaved a sigh. Spirits, she had him wrapped around her little lukewarm finger.

    “Fine,” he grunted. “As long as this has nothing to do with the Portal.”

    “I promise it doesn’t. I just need a few spikes from hideously mutated boars.”

    “Good.”

    They started forwards again, but the silence didn’t last long until Sarah turned her head sideways to look at him.

    “I don’t think you ever told me why you don’t want anything to do with Outland,” she said.

    Dor’ash shook his head. There was a reason their adventures had only taken them across Azeroth – and he was that reason. He’d ducked requests coming his way to head there, and always been grateful that his companion had not gotten any orders that would have sent her through the huge gateway. He had never been sure what he would have done if Sarah would have been required to take that leap, if he would have been able to follow her or parted ways right there. Even now, the mere idea of going close to the Dark Portal caused a taste of bile to rise in his throat.

    Sarah never did question it, at least until now.

    “I was just a child when we passed through the Portal,” he said, watching her. “But I remember what Draenor was like. I don’t want those memories destroyed from seeing what’s left now.”

    She didn’t reply at once, only looked back at him with an unreadable expression. And when she did reply, it was merely with a nod and a soft noise of understanding. Then, she turned back towards the road.

    When he thought about it, maybe she did understand perfectly well. Just that her problem with memories was the reverse.

    It took another day to reach the edge of the swamp. They came back to the road leading to and from Stonard, and groups of other travelers, mostly blood elves, passed them by. Every now and again a small group of Alliance appeared, but even with other stray groups of Horde along the path there was surprisingly little trouble. A large part of this was probably due to the blood elves and draenei patrolling the road close to the Blasted Lands, wearing the Scryer and Aldor tabards respectively. The groups were small, sometimes only a pair, and far between, but they served to remind travelers that there were greater things at stake ahead.
    Amazing, really.

    Dor’ash found his unease returning with a vengeance as a hot wind began to tear at the humid air of the swamp, howling down from the mountain ranges above, smelling of sulfur. There were voices in that wind, wailing in pain and sorrow.

    “You okay?” Sarah asked, watching him when he glanced at her.

    “I hope this will be quick,” he growled back, rubbing his forehead.

    “I’ll do my best to make it so.”

    Had he not been struggling to stay calm already, he might have taken note of the cresting of the howl, the warning. However, he interpreted it only as hitting him right then because they left the last of the swamp behind and started up the sloping path through the mountain pass.

    He found some vague justification to himself to look the other way just when they reached the top of the road – glancing at Grey’s reins, checking his own gloves for stains. Just so that he could gather his mind and finally look up at what the Portal had wrought on this side.

    His memories were vague, but the baked wasteland was hauntingly familiar to his eyes. With the red and orange colors it was reminiscent of both Durotar and the Badlands, but those two areas had been created by nature itself. The landscape that stretched before him, cracked and torn, was a disaster where only savage beasts, feeding off of each other, and demons could roam. What meager plants could survive here soon withered to the skeletal branches sticking out of the ground. Travelers of all kinds rode down the road, disappearing into the of heat trembling horizon.

    The wind gave him no rest, neither physical nor mental, drawing sweat from his brow and making his heart feel heavy with guilt, though he’d played no part in the unfathomable crime.

    He was grateful that Sarah remained silent by his side, waiting to let him gather his senses. She only urged her horse forwards when he made Grey move again. Then she took a slight lead, down the first precarious strip of road where the ground fell away beside the path. As soon as they reached a level area, however, she left the road and continued straight into the wasteland.

    For a long while, they rode in silence, but always looking about and guarding themselves against whatever might come at them out here. Dor’ash grew more restless, squinting at the terrain and trying to see some trace of the boars Sarah needed to find so that they could get out of here, but having no luck. The only thing he spotted were vulture feathers and droppings.

    They were getting far too far away from the road for his liking, on top of everything.

    The ground was littered with little rocks, making it tricky for Sarah’s horse to walk straight, and Grey had to thread carefully not to cut the pads of his feet on the sharper stones.

    “It’s better we lead them,” Dor’ash pointed out.

    Grunting in agreement, Sarah slid off her horse. She paused for a moment, while Dor’ash dismounted and started forwards.

    Sarah glanced around, studying the area. Apart from the small stones the landscape was open around them, with only a few boulders and dried up bushes in sight. Enemies would not have an easy time getting close without notice. That was why she lead him here, instead of making her final move in the swamp where anything might sneak up on them from behind the trees.

    She looked up at Dor’ash, stepping ahead of her, his shield mounted on his familiar back. His shoulders, his hair, his arms. His voice, his laughter, his snarls and roars in battle.

    Forsaken… never with you.

    He was already uncomfortable and irritated because of the environment they were in. That ought to make it easier for him too, if he allowed himself to be angry.

    She didn’t stop to lament why it had come to this. She knew exactly why, could retrace every step of the way, and even now she did not regret anything. If only he would not, too. But he was not one to forget, or forgive.

    He probably would not understand. It didn’t matter.

    It shouldn’t matter.

    But if she was honest with herself, it did matter, so much that it chilled her bones. It was a disconnected feeling, however, and it faded when she told herself that it would be over soon.

    This place was nothing special. Just another part of the road she had traveled during the last, precious years.

    No regret. No fear. No sorrow.

    As long as it’s quick.

    This place was as good as any.

    Now.

    She reached out to touch his arm, the air seeming to thicken around her. As in a dream, if she could have remembered how to dream, Sarah watched her own arm stretching forwards, fingers loosely parted.

    Careful now, don’t scratch him like you’ve done before.

    Hah… as if that meant anything anymore.

    Please. You don’t have to understand. Just don’t ask, don’t talk. Just get it over with. Please.

    The sudden brush of bone against his leather gauntlet made Dor’ash look around and stop as he saw Sarah halting her march. She let go of her horse’s reins and studied him with a strange expression on her face.

    “How are you feeling?” she asked.

    “Fine. Why?”

    “No wounds or anything? Not tired?”

    Dor’ash watched her with his fleshy eyebrows rising, unsure how to face these rather suspicious questions.

    “No,” he said, carefully. “Why are you asking?”

    A wry smile touched Sarah’s lips and she shook her head as she spoke and walked away from him, turning around a few paces away. Her horse remained where she left it, still as a statue.

    “I just want to make sure that you’re fit,” she said.

    The spirits muttered uneasily, and Dor’ash’s fingers unwittingly twitched. Yet it was not a warning, only a… sense of sorrow? As she turned around and faced him, that odd smile remained on her face.

    “When Jonathan and I reported what happened in Azshara, lady Sylvanas felt that perhaps you had seen a little too much about how treacherous Forsaken can be. And then there was Alterac.” She held up a hand to keep him from speaking. “It’s my fault. I should have left you long ago.” Reaching backwards, she idly pulled her staff from her back. Holding it in both hands she planted the weapon in the ground and leaned on it. “I have a direct order from the Dark Lady to kill you.”

    She had made jokes so many times about that subject in the past, but this time, she was not laughing. Only standing there, meeting his confounded stare calmly with her no-eyes.

    “You’re serious?” Dor’ash finally asked.

    “Yes. I can’t ignore an order like that.”

    He narrowed his eyes.

    “You know you can’t defeat me in battle.”

    “Of course.” She smiled a little wider, but there was no trace of joy. “I’m telling you like this just to make sure. Sylvanas voiced doubt about that too, but I assured her I could backstab you.”

    “Wait.” He held up both hands. “I don’t understand! What do you mean?”

    “If neither of us come back, the Forsaken will believe that we both died one way or another. You’re not that much of a worry, but Sylvanas wants it done. You can make it back unnoticed and hide from the Forsaken. They don’t know about Grema and Karg. But I have to follow the Lady’s orders.” She straightened up, letting go of the staff with one hand. “Strictly speaking, though, nobody ordered me to succeed.”

    What she wanted him to do became horridly clear. Dor’ash cautiously moved his feet further apart, fists clenching. Grey snarled uneasily, but backed away when Dor’ash absently commanded him to.

    “I’m not going to fight you,” he said.

    “Don’t be a sap.”

    An alarming, red glow rose up around her fingers.

    “I’m going to attack you now, and I’m going to keep doing so until you pulverize me. Don’t resurrect me or anything stupid. Burn my remains and make it out of here.”

    He leapt aside from the first fireball, but still felt the intense heat through his leg armor as the explosion burnt the ground. She was already preparing a second one, face blank.

    “Sarah!” he snarled, preparing to duck aside again.

    Curse that crazy woman to the Nether and back, he would not fight a friend to the death. Especially not her.

    “You know I wanted you to kill me when that day came,” Sarah said, as if reading his mind.

    “Save you from the Lich King, yes! Not murder you!”

    “The result is the same.”

    He avoided the next fireball, but she followed this one up with a second blast in a quick succession and a badly placed rock almost robbed him of his footing as he ducked. He managed to stay on his feet, but staggered backwards, ankle smarting from the stumble.

    “I’ll give you thirty seconds,” Sarah dully said. “If you don’t get started by then I’m going to turn you into a sheep.”

    “Stop this!” Dor’ash barked, instinctively reaching for a pocket.

    She threw another fireball as if to stop him from what he was doing, but he avoided it and withdrew a small, wooden item. If she wouldn’t listen, then he could at least easily remove her only effective weapon.

    The totem hit and stuck in the ground with a loud smack, and immediately a snake of blue light rose from its base to lazily spin around it. Dor’ash snapped down a second one to the left of his feet just to be on the safe side.

    Although she saw it happen, Sarah still flung her last fireball in his direction. It veered in the air and soared towards the first totem, the magic disappearing into the ground. He hardly even felt the heat this time.

    “Now you listen to me–” Dor’ash started, but Sarah was already bounding towards him, staff raised.

    On a scale of attacks initiated by one who knows it’s useless, this one had to be rated pretty high. Dor’ash caught the staff in one hand and wrenched it out of Sarah’s grip with hardly any effort at all. She didn’t even make a sound, only leaped backwards out of reach before he managed to grab her arm.

    Shaking his head, Dor’ash dropped the staff and let it roll aside, clattering against the rocky ground.

    “You can’t even touch me!” he snapped. “Stop right now!”

    “No,” Sarah said. Still backing, she shook off her backpack so that it slid down into her grip. Then she fished a dark bottle from a side pocket, and flung the bag aside. It landed with a clatter of the various strange items she had kept inside, and now no longer cared about.

    Before Dor’ash had time to realize what she was doing, she crushed the bottle between her hands. Glass shards fell to the rocky ground at her feet together with syrupy, green drops of something. The liquid stained her fingers, and as it hit a pitiful sapling amongst the stones the plant shriveled up and blackened.

    “Trust me,” she said, holding up her hands to make sure he saw the tendrils of smoke rising from the green blotches. “You don’t want me to scratch you with this.”

    Swearing at her insanity, Dor’ash ripped his shield from his back and quickly fastened it on his arm. He couldn’t doubt her sincerity anymore, as much as he wanted to.

    “I know you like that shield.” She waved a smoking hand towards her discarded backpack. “There’s a blue bottle in the small front pocket that will stop this poison from eating through everything.” With that, she leaped forwards and swiped at him.

    He heard a low, sizzling sound when her hand clattered against his shield. That hiss continued too, coming from where he had caught the blow.

    “For cripe’s sake, Dor’ash!” Sarah snarled, hands slicing the air. “This’ll call down half the countryside on us unless you finish it soon!”

    “What are you going to do once it’s destroyed your hands?” he growled back.

    “Bite you, if I’m still moving. I’m like the family dog, remember? Well, now I’ve got rabies. Act like it!”

    With a frustrated growl he shoved her backwards with his shield, for what little that was worth.

    “Pull yourself together!” she snarled, grabbing the upper edge of the shield with more force than he would have credited her for. Her face stared up at him, as intensively as any cornered animal’s. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

    But even as she said that, her other hand shot towards him, past the side of the shield. He acted without thinking, as the little witch must have counted on. His mace seemed to leap into his hand by itself, and he swung it while ducking aside. With a crunch Sarah’s lower arm came loose from her elbow by the force of the blow. It smashed into the ground several feet away.

    She swayed, and a cold fury filled Dor’ash as he saw the smile on her face. He swung again, she didn’t duck, and the mace smashed her other shoulder. The entire arm slipped out of the long sleeve of her robe as she toppled under the blow, pieces of bone raining down after the fallen limb. Sarah followed.

    The grass rustled as she clattered into it, but the rage didn’t let Dor’ash stop there, not with the desperate knowledge that she wouldn’t give up for as long as she could move. Two quick, sickening crunches sounded as he struck her legs through her robe, crushing them above the knees.

    All he really wanted was to make her stop and listen to him. She had to listen, she wasn’t this insane. Spirits, she couldn’t be.

    Growling, he half kneeled, half crouched over her, holding down her throat with the mace for safety’s sake.

    “Why did you make me do this?” he snarled, breathing deep to calm himself. He needed to think, needed to understand.

    The head of the mace pressing against the underside of her jaw made it a little difficult for Sarah to speak.

    “I can’t make a choice between you and lady Sylvanas,” she said, her voice strained.

    He shook his head, growling.

    “You wanted me to defeat you!”

    “I knew you would, all I did was making sure you weren’t taken by surprise.”

    “Pragmatics! Hypocrite!”

    For a moment he was about to raise his voice even more, but then Dor’ash glanced upwards as if to pray for patience. Taking in a deep breath he forced his shoulders to sink the slightest bit. The mace did not move.

    “I don’t want to kill you,” he said, voice deep and low.

    “I have betrayed the Horde. I can’t even slink back to the Forsaken after this.”

    The wind toyed with a thin wisp of grayish hair, making it playfully sway around her ear.

    “You even made sure that I was perfectly fit for battle,” Dor’ash finally said. “The only one you betrayed was your Dark Lady.”

    For a moment Sarah remained silent.

    “Don’t get sentimental, orc,” she said after a little while, her voice sounding odd. “Don’t think I love you or any such bull. It’s only a question of loyalty.”

    She just laid there, face turned to him, blank and waiting. Dor’ash’s fingers tensed around the mace until his arm shook.

    If he left her like this, something else would eventually come along and kill her – most probably in a very nasty way. The demons in the area may even scoop her up and bring her to somebody who could break her will and return her to a state of mindless slavery. If he healed her, she would attack again.

    She truly left him no choice, and for the first time he hated her.

    Another moment slipped by, and he let out a slow, defeated breath. The shadow of a smile on her lips tightened his forehead even more.

    “Any last words?” Dor’ash asked, his voice low and hard.

    “Don’t let Jonathan know about this.” Sarah’s mouth twisted in a non-smile. “If you meet that nutcase Thomas again, tell him to tell Simon I said some sappy crap like ‘get married and spawn’. And you and your damn family stay alive, you hear me?”

    “That I do,” he said, sighing.

    “Don’t forget to burn what’s left of me,” she added. “I’m not of age to go on a date with the crazies around here.”

    He could have replied so many things, but this was what she meant to be her final joke. There was nothing to say.

    Dor’ash reached out with his free hand and touched her forehead, numb determination filling him by willpower alone.

    “May the spirits guide you to the afterlife.”

    “I can find the way on my own by now. Goodbye, Dor’ash.”

    Shaking his head, he drew his hand back and raised the mace.

    A serene smile touched Sarah’s lips as the weapon fell upon her head.

    ‘-‘

    In Stonard, they would speak for some time about that orc shaman who came out of the swamp, something crazed in his eyes but his voice controlled – even as he growled out a demand for a portal to Orgrimmar.

    They were used to warriors returning from the desert in the north and the deep swamp in a state of shock, smelling of death. Yet, there was something else about this one, in the intensity he spoke with the troll mages on guard – not in distress or stricken with pain at the death of whichever other warriors had been lost to the monsters or demons out there. Despite the odd, wild look in his eyes, he moved and spoke with determination.

    And the smell of death rose not so much from him, as from the large, oddly shaped bag he clutched in one hand.

    Orcs are raised to never accept defeat.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  7. #7
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Oh damn, my comment got eaten when my cookie expired. Ah.

    So: Why would Dorash look upward as if in praying? Spirits are everywhere. Don't make him smash her legs because it evokes this. You miss a "to" in the first paragraph (once he managed push himself up).
    The sun actually managed to slink through some cracks in the clouds above, giving the swamp at least a more pleasant feel about it.
    Strike "actually", "some" (why visualize the cracks and their number/placement?) and perhaps "at least" (or make it something along the lines of "even the swamp"). The sentence has too many qualifiers.

    I liked this one and it's a fitting ending (or is it? DUN DUN DUNNNN!). I still think you're at your best with characters, environment and less action-y scenes (without two kingdoms and two alliances weighing down the characters). Good job on finishing this.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  8. #8
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Accursed cookies!

    Anyway... I'll go with some of the suggestions, but Black Knight or no the leg crushing stays for drama. Then again, if every reader starts thinking about the same thing as you, the drama dies anyway... hm. XD

    It could be the end, but there's a bit more. And then because I'm a sap there has to be a happy ending. I'm... kinda scared of it.


    Peace. What else?

    She knew she had been here before, feeling so wonderfully at ease. Nothing could touch her, there was only a sweet nothingness. Some vague memory of such a thing at one point seeming frightening, but… she could not remember when that had been, or what it was about. She may have laughed if she dwelled on it longer, yet there was no sense of it being important.

    Nothing else than this oblivion to rest in, waiting for some time when she, perhaps, would like to leave it.

    After she was brusquely snatched out of it, she could not remember what it had been like.

    ‘-‘

    She did not open her eyes, because she didn’t have any. Somehow, her sight merely cleared, and she stared to the side only because her head slumped that way. Torchlight. Shadows dancing over orange sandstone walls and the ceiling above her. Blue glow.

    … Org… Orgrimmar…? But the blue was unfamiliar…

    How long was I gone?

    But those words of familiarity drowned in the screaming inside her head.

    No! No no NO!

    What…


    The blue glow came from several totems fastened in the ground beside her. No… it wasn’t the ground. There was a border… a stone table? She tried to remember what those totems was for, wondering why they were there – and why she was on a table surrounded by them.

    Disoriented, she tried to move. At first her stiff muscles refused to obey, and she managed nothing more than twitching fingers. She felt… drained.

    Grounding totems. Drawing the magic right out of her.

    What… what?

    The twitching spread to her arms, and she tried to sit up only to find that she couldn’t.

    She was tied down.

    “Ya be awake.”

    Her head snapped around at the voice, and she stared up into a troll’s face. The pale, embroidered robe let her know that he was a priest. Several other big shades stood behind him in the small room, their shadows painting the walls. One of them moved closer, glaring down at her with his jaw set in stone. At the sight of him, a hiss rose in her throat.

    Memories flooded her brain.

    “How could you?” she screeched, twisting uselessly against the ropes.

    “You are in no position to ask me that,” Dor’ash snarled.

    “I told you everything! You should’ve left me dead!” Surrendering to the futility of trying to break free she slumped, shaking her head. “I gave you ample time to kill me.”

    “And why then?” he asked.

    Sarah twisted her head in the other direction.

    “I told you,” she growled.

    “If you could tell me with the intention of leaving me alive, you can tell everyone here. In more detail than you told me the first time.”

    She shook her head again.

    “You can’t do anything to make me talk.”

    One of the other orcs began to growl, but Dor’ash silenced him with a mutter. His huge green hand moved within Sarah’s sight and grabbed her chin, forcing her to turn her head back.

    “I trusted you, Sarah.”

    No reply. Dor’ash continued.

    “And I don’t think I was a fool to do so. You never meant to kill me, otherwise you wouldn’t have told me you had to do it before you even cast the first fireball.”

    “Fool. Fool and nothing but a fool,” she said, bitterly.

    Dor’ash growled deep in his throat.

    “Speak,” he said, voice low and dangerous. “Or I will personally bring you to Sylvanas and question her about this.”

    Sarah’s slumping form went rigid.

    “No!”

    “Why not?”

    Most probably she stared wildly at him, but it was difficult to tell.

    “Don’t you see? If they find out I failed and you know why I attacked you, they’ll come for both of us. Varimathras will make toys out of our souls!”

    Snorting, Dor’ash let go of Sarah’s chin with such force that her head was flung to the side.

    “That will be my problem then. I will not run and hide in fear,” he snarled.

    “You fool!”

    “You keep saying that.”

    He placed both hands on the table, on either side of a totem.

    “You’re not getting out of this one, Sarah,” he said, and the blue glow reflected in his bitter gaze. His voice, however, betrayed nothing. “You can chose between our or Sylvanas’ judgment.”

    For a long few seconds, she looked away in silence. A couple of the other orcs stomped about impatiently. The troll priest had moved away at some point during the discussion, standing by the wall in silence.

    “I should have left you the first time somebody in the Undercity said that you would learn too much someday,” Sarah finally muttered, sagging against the table. “I was selfish. You always made me laugh.”

    “You even killed other Forsaken for my sake, just because I amused you?” Dor’ash said, and his voice was different this time.

    “It’s an unusual feeling for us.” She looked back up at him. “I begged permission to kill you so they wouldn’t send somebody after you, and I swear I never told anyone a word about those two in the Barrens. Promise me you’ll kill me and burn my body.”

    “You will talk, then?”

    Both of them ignored the disdainful “so much for ‘you can’t do anything’” comment from one of the orcs in the background.

    “Only if you promise that you’ll do away with me properly,” Sarah said.

    “Why do you insist on that?”

    “This body fears no pain, but my soul could be tortured for eternity.”

    “Fair enough.” Dor’ash stepped back. “But it is not my place to deliver that judgment.”

    Another orc stepped up beside the shaman, standing taller than even Dor’ash did. Sarah regarded this one with a detached calm she had not been able to keep when her friend grilled her.

    “Speak honestly,” Warchief Thrall coldly said, “and your request might be granted.”

    Sarah’s lips joylessly twitched, but she refrained from commenting.

    “There’s not much to it, Warchief,” she said. “You have heard Dor’ash’s reports about Azshara and Alterac. He saw Forsaken do rather unsavory things. I used strange poisons to get us out of bad situations a few times, too. I can recount them all. What it came down to is that Lady Sylvanas felt, after Azshara especially, that Dor’ash may have had things to tell the rest of you, that she didn’t want to be commonly known.”

    “And the only way to solve that would be to kill him?” Thrall said, but there was a cynical look in his eye. The argument was not too farfetched, much as he loathed to know that truth.

    “The Forsaken need the alliance with the Horde, for now at least,” Sarah said. “The warlocks who attacked Dor’ash in Azshara were traitors, but rumors could have turned that around.”

    How strangely easy, a relief even, to tell the truth. This could all turn out to be a dream or a cruel illusion to test her loyalties, and she truly felt that she didn’t care. It was far less painful than fighting Dor’ash had been.

    She couldn’t look at him now, however, when she admitted that his life had not been worth more than a story which he would never have spread around. No, not to her. His life was worth far more than hers. And the Warchief would not allow Dor’ash to come to harm.

    Had she dared to, Sarah would have smiled. She only wondered briefly if Jonathan and her other Forsaken friends would come out alright despite her treason. They probably would somehow, and either way, she was none of their business anymore.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  9. #9
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    I think the last part was a more interesting point at which to leave the story. Dor'ash gets to hear some things but it's not as if he remained silent Sylvanas would go "oh, never mind then". It probably means he's getting a brand new assassin and Sarah gets one for free too.

    It's Christmas!
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  10. #10
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Yeah, ol' Sylvie isn't exactly the kind to just live and let live, heeeh.

    Time for Thrall to work his magic!
    ... no, not that way. Not THAT way either!

    And Dor'ash is a hopeless sap.


    That didn’t make her feel any more kindly inclined towards her queen. Which was why she kept talking.

    “And… the Royal Apothecary Society secretly keep captured members of the Scarlet Crusade and the Alliance as guinea pigs.” She shook her head under the sharp looks. “Kill them from afar if you seek them out, they’ve been used for too many tests. Freeing them would probably cause a pandemic.” For a moment, she paused and finally shrugged. “I don’t know what Lady Sylvanas intends. But the Society sends us to test new poisons on humans as well as the Scourge.”

    She fell silent, and this information sunk in with low growls and exchanged glances.

    “Anything else you would share?” Thrall finally said, every syllable passing through tightly clenched teeth.

    “I can think of nothing else,” Sarah said. “I’m too far down in the food chain to know much. My brother was a high-ranking warlock, but we weren’t close.”

    For a little while, Thrall said nothing. Sarah laid impassive, waiting for whatever judgment would be delivered. It was difficult to know what to expect, and she didn’t dare to look at Dor’ash yet. She doubted that he could pretend to be calm, pretend like her.

    “Listen to me, undead,” Thrall finally said, folding his arms. “Attacking an ally with intention to murder, even if that attack fails, is without question a crime deserving capital punishment. However, it’s quite apparent that you never intended to carry out your orders successfully. I am not without mercy.”

    Sarah lolled her head to the side. Had she needed to breathe, she would have found it difficult at that moment. Suddenly, just sucking in air to speak felt like a challenge.

    “No,” she tersely said. “What makes you sure that this isn’t all a trick?”

    The thing on Thrall’s lips was only a breath away from a tiny smirk.

    “Ah…” Sarah said, and she almost smiled herself. “The voices in your head is telling you the little wretch is too pathetic even for that.” The smile died and she shook her head. “I haven’t got anything to go back to, Warchief. If you’re going to let me leave here, you may as well send me on a suicide mission.”

    “And if you don’t return and report success in killing Dor’ash, won’t the Forsaken look into this matter?” Thrall asked.

    “They’ll do that no matter what I do. Dor’ash is still in danger, all I could bear doing was to warn him. Do you honestly feel that I deserve to live, Warchief?”

    Thrall watched her in silence for a moment. When he spoke, it was with a spark of underlying curiosity.

    “I believe that we’re all rather confused about why you chose to act as you did. It’s not a very logical course of action.”

    It took a few seconds before Sarah replied.

    “We hate the living because our families shunned us as we returned to life,” she finally said. “I had no memory of anything before waking up, until recently. Arthas, how sappy…” She grunted and started again, keeping her voice strict. “I was so scared of you orcs in life, it’s ridiculous. It was everyone’s nightmare that you would someday break out of the internment camps.”

    Somebody growled in the background, but Thrall waited for the rest without moving a muscle.

    “Then I and everyone were turned into something so much more vile than you ever were. Lady Sylvanas made it possible for us to survive after breaking free of the Lich King’s control. Then you took us in despite what we are.” She paused and shook her head. “Dor’ash took me in. But the Scourge would have slaughtered and enslaved me again in a second if not for Lady Sylvanas, and she gave me a direct order. I couldn’t chose between those loyalties.”

    “You know you did chose,” Dor’ash said from where he stood. “Stop trying to delude yourself.”

    Sarah didn’t reply. However, Thrall turned around and looked at the shaman.

    “How would you have me judge her?” the Warchief asked, not unkindly.

    Folding his arms, Dor’ash slowly shook his head.

    “I’m not sure if her insistence to betray everybody proves weakness or strength on her part. But, I believe this all does show that she rather saw me live than obeyed her queen. She’s brought me an awful lot of trouble, but she’s been a loyal ally and friend for many months.”

    Sarah made a weak, tiny sound of protest. When Dor’ash finished his thoughts, she slumped.

    “Leave her alive.”

    Nodding, Thrall motioned at one of the guard orcs. This one, although looking at Sarah with disdain flaring in his eyes, drew a large dagger from his belt and cut the ropes holding her. She pushed herself to sitting, drawing up her knees sideways. The grounding totems still made her heavy and sluggish.

    “Well then, Warchief,” she dryly said, but glanced towards Dor’ash. “You seem to have an undead with no direction at your beck and call.”

    Thrall too looked at Dor’ash with a question.

    “I cannot travel with her from now on,” the shaman said. “That, she has made impossible.”

    No motion or sound showed what Sarah felt about this. Slowly, the Warchief nodded.

    “Very well, then.” He looked down at the silent undead. “I will tell Lady Sylvanas that you attacked Dor’ash and almost killed him, but in the moment of triumph explained to him that you followed orders from a higher power among the Forsaken. Then, he managed to strike you down and made it back to safety, though wounded. I will demand to know who ordered this assault. She will find someone to blame, and know that if anything happens to Dor’ash after this, that will place her in a very bad light. Thus he will be safe.”

    “Thank you.” Sarah didn’t look up.

    “You, however, will have to disappear for both your sakes.”

    Sarah dared a glance at Dor’ash, seeing him close his eyes and bow his head. But she remained quiet, waiting. Thrall continued.

    “The Emerald Circle approached me some time ago and asked for help with a project of theirs. They theorize that the taint in Felwood is similar to the magic keeping undead ‘alive’, and they wished for something better than captured zombies to study.”

    “As you wish,” Sarah said, and she could feel Dor’ash’s narrowed stare at her lack of screeching about becoming a guinea pig for a bunch of tauren and night elves. True that the idea was revolting, but that, like every other emotion, felt so very, very distant to her.

    “Good.”

    The Warchief paused and gazed around, looking everyone present in the eye for a moment.

    “Listen, all of you,” he said. “None of this must, under any circumstances, be made known to anyone outside of this room. No matter what we still need the manpower the Forsaken offer, otherwise the Alliance will be dangerously superior in numbers. Am I making myself clear?”


    Random guard: "But Warchief, I thought the belves were our primary canon fodder."
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  11. #11
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    I’m not sure if her insistence to betray everybody proves weakness or strength on her part.
    What a dilemma!
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  12. #12
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    /target angstbucket
    /empty


    He waited for everyone to grimly nod before he turned to a guard by the door and ordered him to fetch one of the representatives of the Emerald Circle. The other orc bowed his head and left, closing the heavy door behind him.

    A heavy silence fell, but Dor’ash hardly even noticed. He watched Sarah, sitting there still as a statue and staring at her own knees.

    If this was goodbye, it was better than the one she had given him in the Blasted Lands. That only made him feel slightly less bitter.

    He hesitated for a while, wondering if he really wanted the answer, but… there was just something he had to know before they parted ways. Sarah looked up at him in silence as he stepped closer to the table and folded his arms.

    “What am I to you, really?” he asked in a low voice.

    He could tell the guards threw him odd looks, but they would understand too if they knew of the long, strange friendship. He had no idea what kind of look the Warchief might give him, and he didn’t turn around to find out.

    Sarah let hear a soft snort and shook her head.

    “I was fond of Simon. Patrick, not so much. Although he wasn’t quite such a creep in life.” Reaching out, she lightly rapped the back of her fingers against his chest. The motion was weak, but familiar. “You’ve been a better brother than either of them ever could.”

    At that, his grim look finally softened and he touched her thin shoulder.

    “Likewise, little sister.”

    But it didn’t sound right in his ears. It started an itch, that he couldn’t scratch.

    “Hm.” She smiled wryly, shaking her head. “This is where I should hug you or something. Not bloody likely.”

    The door opened and the guard returned, letting in a male tauren and closing the door again. The much taller creature wore a soft brown robe, embroidered with leaves along the sleeves and collar. He bowed his head to Thrall and murmured a respectful greeting. The Warchief nodded back and motioned towards Sarah.

    “She is dead to the world and it must so remain,” Thrall said. “You have my permission to teleport directly to Moonglade with her.”

    “I am very grateful for this support, Warchief, and so is the entire Circle,” the tauren said. His voice was deep and smooth, but every word grated in Dor’ash’s ears.

    The tauren turned towards Sarah, who sat unmoving on the table still.

    “Take my hand, little one,” the druid said.

    Mutely, Sarah slipped onto the floor and stepped forwards until she could touch her stick-like fingers to the huge, three-fingered hand.

    The druid nodded once more to Thrall, then touched his own chest with his free hand. It was not like a mage’s teleportation, with it’s twinkling sound, sprinkle of tiny stars and burnt scent of the arcane. Instead it was a soft hum in the air, like a tree creaking or leaves rustling, and in a wave of gentle green light, the tauren and undead disappeared without a trace.

    So easily, she was gone.

    ‘-‘

    He didn’t need to make many preparations to leave. A journey had already been planned, after all, but now, he wouldn’t complete it. With a steady hand and his face blank, Dor’ash penned a message to his friend in Feralas, apologizing for not being able to come and assist him, and offering only a vague excuse. Being a tauren, he expected his friend would understand. And if there was no understanding, Dor’ash didn’t care.

    Staying in Orgrimmar was unbearable, there were Forsaken everywhere. He couldn’t look at them.

    The only memento he kept, the only thing he had brought back, was her staff.

    It was nothing that could be kept in a bag, and a shaman carrying around a weapon so apparently belonging to a mage would only cause curious glances. The mere idea of that made him want to punch somebody.

    With increasingly rough motions he rolled Sarah’s staff in a large piece of cloth, and tied it up with such hard knots that it was lucky the weapon was made of metal and not wood. Growling under his breath he finished the last knot and ripped the package off the table, then stomped out of the simple inn room and tossed a few coins to the inn keeper as he passed.

    The moment Dor’ash approached, Grey nervously sidestepped and doubtfully regarded his friend. Even if his blood boiled, Dor’ash was not angry enough to treat his mount with the same roughness as he had the staff. Even so, he tied his tings to Grey’s saddle more carelessly than usual, and after sitting up on the great wolf’s back he gripped the reins so hard his knuckles turned pale green.

    He couldn’t urge Grey through the streets and great wall around Orgrimmar quick enough. On the other side only hot winds and the same blazing, unforgiving sun waited, and a long road with little to no distractions to offer any solace.

    Getting to Drakamash Village from Orgrimmar took over two days. It felt like a month. He slept only lightly and briefly, hampered by the knowledge that there was only him and Grey. It would be difficult for most anything to sneak up on them during the night without notice. However, there was nobody keeping guard all night, never needing a wink of sleep.

    There was no familiar stench either. He should have been able to breathe easier, yet that wasn’t the case.

    Finally, during the late afternoon on the third day, he saw the village huts in a distance. Probably sensing his longing, Grey sped up his easy lop without being asked to.

    Coming up the road, Dor’ash spotted Grema standing on her field, hacking away with her hoe. Karg crab walked behind her, taking large seeds from the basket by his belt and planting them in the newly upturned earth. Just as she dug the hoe’s head into the ground, Grema paused and looked around, stopping still for a second before she ripped up her tool and started towards the gate around the farm. Noticing his mother’s sudden change, Karg looked up as well. He hesitated for a moment, but then stood up and rubbed the earth from his hands on his pants.

    The long journey had served to dampen the fury that tore at Dor’ash as he left Orgrimmar, but when Grema came to meet him, tossing the hoe aside and reaching towards him, he had to realize that something was written all over his face. He leaped onto the ground and caught her in his arms, and for a long moment just held her, silent.

    “Alright,” Grema said finally, murmuring into his ear. “Into the house, now.”

    Right then, a simple order was about what he could handle. For the time being, it pushed the inevitable a little further ahead, if only marginally.

    The inside of the hut seemed pitch black at first, after the bright day outside, but Dor’ash’s eyes soon began to adjust. Even while he was still blind, he began to explain, in short, blunt sentences. It didn’t take long before Grema pushed him onto a chair and stood beside him, mutely watching, holding his shoulders.

    Finally, when he fell silent, she leaned in and brushed her forehead to his, slowly, her eyes closed.

    He raised his hand to pull at Grema’s arm, pressing it closer to his chest, clinging to it like a life line.

    At this time, Karg silently left, closing the door behind him.

    The silence lasted, thick with things that needed so desperately to be said. Dor’ash drew breath with great difficulty, forcing the air past the burn in his throat.

    “And…” Grema finally murmured, running her fingers over his braided hair soothingly, “after all that, she’s still such a coward that she leaves you with a lie.”

    “Which?” Dor’ash grunted, pinching his eyes shut. He could hardly breathe, less speak.

    Grema shook her head, her jaw line brushing his temple.

    “Sister?” she said with a soft snort. “She was your daughter.”

    He gave her a pained look.

    “Are you really going to make a grown man cry, woman?”

    “Somebody has to,” Grema replied.

    And he did.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  13. #13
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    How would you top the second sentence before last, after all.

    edit: No "fin."?
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  14. #14
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rigmarole View Post
    How would you top the second sentence before last, after all.

    edit: No "fin."?
    You can't beat a grown orc bawling, after all ;)

    I could end it here, if I could bear it. My only worry is that it'll probably lose some of its impact by being continued.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  15. #15
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    The seasons moved on to autumn, to the Barrens’ hot, dry winter, and Dor’ash didn’t leave Grema’s farm. The spirits no longer called him to the road, to other places where he might be needed. Even if they had, he wasn’t sure if he could have followed. The wanderlust in his soul had withered. Looking to the horizon now, he saw only a strip of land.

    His mace, shield and other gear he put into a chest, to wait for the day when Karg would be of age to serve the Horde.

    For the first couple of weeks, the younger orc remained reserved and still hesitant to approach what the elder shaman’s presence offered. But the last pieces of doubt finally crumbled under Karg’s own understanding that he had gifts that for his own sake ought to be nursed. Dor’ash let it be until the youth asked him about shamanistic training on his own volition.

    Passing on his knowledge to Karg was a new, welcome distraction for Dor’ash. There were many things that needed to be done around the farm and his strong, extra hands were more than welcome, but he dreaded any slow moment when he only had his own bitter thoughts. The moments soon grew mercifully few in between however, especially as the other villagers in Drakamash realized that they suddenly for the first time in far too long had a shaman amongst them, to approach for spiritual as well as bodily ails.

    With some coaxing, despite her protests that she was too old to learn, Grema was eventually also convinced to take part in Karg’s training sessions. While it was true that she couldn’t reach her full potential now, the training could at least stoke some of the shamanistic abilities she’d never had a chance to develop when she was younger.

    All these things filled Dor’ash’s days and left him too tired to lie awake through the nights. Instead, he just drifted off with Grema’s head resting on his shoulder.

    Time dulled the bitterness too. It grew more bearable between every rare time it had a chance to assault him. It would never go away completely, and he didn’t want it to either. That would mean forgetting.

    As time passed, it also seemed that the Warchief’s simple plan to keep Sylvanas from sending another assassin seemed to work.

    Still, that warm winter evening when he saw a thin shadow on a skeletal horse come riding through the village, Dor’ash’s heart near stopped. Not out of fear though.

    He’d been out mending the fence with Karg while it was still light out, and the youth looked up when he noticed Dor’ash straighten and tense. Looking about, Karg easily noted what had the other shaman on edge. They exchanged glances, and the boy hurried inside the house. Dor’ash forced himself to be calm though, and slowly put the hammer and nails away before walking halfway to the house and turning around to face the visitor.

    He squinted at the sinking sun, and the creatures coming up the short path from the fence gate. The horse’s hooves brought up small clouds of dust, smacking into the ground hard and slow. It moved mechanically, uncaring about the insects fluttering about the bits of raw muscle still stuck on its bones.

    The rider matched the mount, skeletal hands grasping the reins in an iron grip. The thin figure, the robe slouching around too little flesh, and the mage’s staff on his back created an image so familiar and painful that Dor’ash’s chest constricted. Even the stench of decay was the same.

    But it wasn’t her.

    Dor’ash wondered at the time it had taken for him to show up. Then again, keeping a low profile could only serve all of them well.

    The horse stopped a few steps from the door, and the rider slid down on the ground.

    For a little while, the visitor and the orc just watched each other.

    “Jonathan,” Dor’ash finally said.

    The sky flared red and purple behind the mage and the horse, the beautiful colors a mockery to their very existence. Jonathan didn’t reply.

    “I’ll only tell you if you mean no harm,” Dor’ash said, as calmly as before.

    “You wouldn’t kill her.” Jonathan spoke so quietly that even Dor’ash’s sharp ears almost failed to catch it. “You’re too soft.”

    “Orcs don’t take treason lightly.”

    Jonathan’s hands curled into fists, but he didn’t move otherwise. It’s difficult to meet the eyes of somebody who never blinks, especially when a foul yellow glow makes it almost impossible to tell where they are looking. Dor’ash still managed for several seconds before he half turned and gestured.

    “Come in.”

    He backed, keeping an eye on the silent mage the entire time. If need be he could signal to Grema and Karg. They both stood further inside, cautiously watching the events unfold. A totem hid in Karg’s massive fist – Dor’ash knew the boy would be able to quickly throw down and activate its grounding powers if need be. They trained that especially for this moment, knowing the time would come sooner or later. Karg’s training had taken him far beyond the time when placing and calling spirits to a totem had been difficult.

    Only seconds passed before Jonathan’s hard feet clattered against the porch. He walked stiffly, ignoring all but Dor’ash.

    After a quick glance at Karg to make sure the boy was keeping an eye on Jonathan, Dor’ash turned away even more and crouched down to open a chest by the wall. From it, he withdrew a mage’s staff, its slumbering magic sparking to life at his touch. The crystal adorning the tip and the smaller ones dangling from chains along the staff’s upper end glowed as Dor’ash walked back to Jonathan, holding the staff out with both hands.

    Jonathan didn’t move at first. They stood as statues, the scene frozen while the crystals kept lazily pulsating with light.

    “She didn’t want to do it,” Jonathan finally said.

    His voice was even. One still alive would have cried, would have mourned, but he either felt too little emotion or kept himself in a steel grip. When he reached out, palms held up, it was a slow motion.

    “Neither did I.” Dor’ash placed the staff in Jonathan’s hands. The weight caused the thin arms to dip, but a moment later he pulled the weapon closer to himself.

    “I can’t take this,” Jonathan dully said. “It’s too much of a risk that somebody will recognize it and start wondering if I was in on her stupidity.”

    Dor’ash watched in silence as the mage half turned away, stroking the large gem on the staff with one finger. It created a small, screeching sound.

    “Thank you for telling me,” Jonathan added. “I haven’t told anybody else about this place and I won’t. She wouldn’t have wanted that.”

    “We appreciate that.”

    Nodding slowly, Jonathan curled his bone fingers around one of the dangling crystals, as if preparing to rip at least that off and keep as a memento. But Dor’ash’s next, even words stopped him in mid-motion.

    “Do undead truly love anything?”

    Jonathan spun around with his face twisted into a furious snarl. The crystals on the staff flared up as he slammed the butt of it into the floor. On the other side of the room, Karg fell into a hunch and rammed the grounding totem stuck. A blue glow immediately rose up around it. Dor’ash knew he was out of reach for its protection, but he felt no fear. The spirits softly hummed.

    “You greenskin bastard!” Jonathan shouted, and from outside came a few nervous squeals from frightened hogs. “After all she did for you! You still think so little of us?”

    Dor’ash held up a hand, and though Jonathan’s fury didn’t subside, his shrieks faded to a hiss.

    “I never would,” Dor’ash said, voice low and growling. “She is precious to me as well.”

    “I ought–”

    Jonathan’s snarl died on his lips, his brain catching up with that one small, crucial word denoting not past, but present tense. The yellow eyes widened, staring up at Dor’ash. Tightly clenched, bony hands slacked against the staff, causing the crystals’ glow to fade.

    When Dor’ash backed a few steps, just to be sure nobody listened outside, Jonathan followed – moving as if drawn by a string, the expression frozen on his face. He still stared just like that, watching in shocked fascination as the shaman pressed a finger to his thick, green lips.

    “She is someplace where nobody will find her,” Dor’ash murmured. “But she is alive.”

    For a short moment, Jonathan kept staring at him. His bony shoulders sunk, and his grip slackened until he almost let the staff slip out of his grip. That seemed to jolt him awake as he straightened, tightening his hold again.

    “How…” he said in a hoarse whisper.

    “The Warchief decided.” Dor’ash left it unsaid that he himself had the final say. Even so, he doubted that Thrall would have judged differently.

    Jonathan didn’t answer at first, a small, thoughtful frown on his wrinkled forehead as he stared straight ahead.

    “It didn’t happen like I heard it, did it?” he finally said. “That she almost struck you down?”

    Snorting softly – though he had known that was the lie that had been decided on – Dor’ash shook his head.

    “She did her damndest to make me kill her, though,” he said.

    Jonathan sighed and rolled his head, like Sarah had used to do instead of eyerolling. He might have eyes, but as noted, they weren’t very visible under the glow. Muttering something under his breath, he ripped off one of the crystals from the staff and carefully pocketed it.

    “Thank you, for everything,” he said as he handed the staff back. His tone was distracted, and he hardly even glanced at Dor’ash.

    Without another word, Jonathan turned and walked out. Dor’ash followed him, resting the staff against the wall.

    Jonathan paused with his hand on the horse’s neck and one foot set in the nearest stirrup.

    “Offhand… I’d say I always knew she loved you more, but that’s just silly,” he said and hoisted himself into the saddle.

    “Pah. Well, there was that time when she asked to have my babies.” Dor’ash managed to smirk, even if Jonathan’s words truly, deeply hurt. In his heart he knew the mage was wrong, but arguing it would be pointless.

    In the end, she had always chosen to travel with her pet orc instead of her lover.

    “Ah yes, your little fiasco in the Wailing Caverns, correct?” Jonathan tilted his head. Now he grinned. He was very good at grinning, always had been. “Didn’t she rather ask you to have her babies though?”

    “Now that you mention it, I think you’re right.”

    They exchanged glances, and then Dor’ash tapped a finger against his temple. Jonathan mimicked him, smirking fondly. Neither of them mentioned how much they missed her.

    Over a year later, when Dor’ash heard about what happened at the Wrath Gate and the following battle to free the Undercity, he felt a dark sense of satisfaction. He didn’t even feel bad for wishing that Sylvanas would have fallen in the battle.



    Shortest chapter ev0r. Well, not entirely. Let's say shortest chapter since I learned to actually write well.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  16. #16
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    I can appreciate a denouement (blame Tolkien). Though "the beautiful colors a mockery to their very existence." reminds more of Moorcock, right? Are you continuing this? It calls for at least a different "book" or story in your case. Which ought to start with Sarah, probably.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  17. #17
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Starting a new story to follow this one does in a way feel more natural, however I don't have enough material for more than two more chapters :/ The last bits will also close up the tale quite nicely.

    I hope.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  18. #18
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Hey, have a little more confidence.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  19. #19
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    I'm afraid people will think I've jumped the shark, though the ending has been written for at least a couple of years so I've always known it would be as it's about to. :P
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  20. #20
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Shall I cue mysterious music?
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  21. #21
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Play it, Maestro!
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  22. #22
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Everything will be okay

    (A medley of this was one of the first hits for mysterious music, but the execution lagged.)
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  23. #23
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Ehehehe... I wonder how long I've had most of this written.


    A few months after that one visit from Jonathan, Karg turned eighteen. Old enough to serve the Horde, he took off from Drakamash Village on Grey’s back, outfitted with the gear Dor’ash had given him.

    At that point, there were already rumblings about a war campaign in Northrend, but half a year would still pass before it was made official and preparations started. Even so, well aware that the Horde and Alliance would sooner or later turn towards the northern continent, both Grema and Dor’ash discussed it with Karg before he left. Luckily, Karg was smart enough to understand the scope of the danger, and though he also knew that he might be needed, if he went there before gaining battle experience and hone his skills, he’d only be cannon fodder. He might be young, but he was not brash.

    Besides that, there were things in Kalimdor that he had wanted to do for a long time.

    He headed towards the cold north, but not Northrend – only towards the distant mountains.

    For three months he was gone, writing dutifully every other week. His letters were never long, just enough to let Grema and Dor’ash know that he was doing well, and what he was seeing. They all knew why he wanted to get closer to Hyjal. His father had died fighting the undead forces lead by Archimonde.

    However, the young orc had another thing on his mind as well. That was not something he mentioned to anyone, though.

    ‘-‘

    It was nearing noon. Dor’ash stood in the shade behind the house, chopping wood. The heat made him sluggish, but it was something that needed to be done at regular intervals to make sure there was always a stock. The Barrens might be hot enough to make warming fires unnecessary, but they still needed firewood for everyday cooking.

    There were a few more things he wanted to tend to during the day, so he settled on only chopping a few more. The axe dug deep into a thick piece of wood, and he raised the tool again with the wood stuck on it, preparing to bring it down on the block.

    The spirits’ voices rose up in a joyful whisper, a promise of somebody they recognized and missed returning.

    Dor’ash finished the swing and the piece of wood split in half, falling to the ground while the axe stuck in the block. The orc let go and looked around, grinning wide.

    In his last letter, Karg had written that he was nearing the northern border of Ashenvale, on his way home.

    Just as he moved towards the rounded corner of the house, Dor’ash heard Grema call his name. He broke into a run. She came to meet him, grinning and laughing as she swung around to rush alongside him towards the fence.

    It was just a distant shadow trailed by a cloud of dust at first, but as it came closer it transformed into an orc on a great wolf. The neighbor farm’s young children noticed too and came running, yelling and waving at Karg as they recognized him, calling others to step outside to see what all the commotion was about.

    Drakamash was a small village, but it did see its share of travelers since it lay around one of the roads to and from the Stonetalon Mountains. Lately, even the odd Alliance mercenary dared to pass through instead of going in a wide arc around it, if they felt neutral enough. It had been some time since the Warchief and Lady Proudmoore put everything on its head, but it said a lot that it tentatively reached even a small outpost like this one.

    It was however very unusual for the village to see one of its own children return, as the few who left home after coming of age had so far joined the army and stayed with it – or died fighting for it.

    The neighbors poured through the gate of Grema’s farm and gathered together with her and Dor’ash as Karg got closer, laughing and waving back. He rode through the gate and leaped off Grey to catch his mother in a big bear hug. Dor’ash smacked his stepson’s back and was about to get a grinned greeting in return, but just as Karg turned his head, Grey tackled Dor’ash to the ground and slurped his long tongue all over the orc’s face.

    It took a long time before the laughter died down once Dor’ash managed to wrestle the wolf off himself, and even longer before Karg had finished all the greetings and promises to come visit and tell everyone about his travels. Finally, however, the neighbors dispersed and the little family could go inside, where Grema set about finishing the stew she had been preparing for lunch. It was almost finished, so all she had to do was put more firewood in the stove to heat it up properly again.

    Karg pulled off his backpack and put it beside him on the floor as he went to sit with Dor’ash by the table.

    “How was Winterspring?” Dor’ash asked with a smirk.

    Karg gave him a pained look and grasped his own upper arms by the plain memory of the cold.

    “By Thrall, how did you survive in the Alterac mountains?” he said, shaking his head hard. “At least up there,” he waved his hand at the northern wall of the house, “there are hot springs.”

    “You get used to it after five or ten years.”

    Dor’ash laughed at the expression on his stepson’s face.

    “At least now I understand why you’ve got the blue tint.” Grinning, Karg poked at the older shaman’s hand that rested on the table, and laughed when he was swatted aside.

    Grema dropped a wooden bowl filled with stew in front of each of the two men, then went to get her own.

    “Freezing your toes off isn’t very honorable,” she said as she sat down between them. She gave her son an appraising look. “I hope you didn’t stand still long enough for that to happen.”

    Karg got the hint, and with a grin he described the still expanding Everlook and the great amounts of people aiding the pilgrims towards the holy summit.

    “I want to go back there,” he said, a distant look in his eyes. “It would be worth it to work with the night elves for a while if it meant they would let me into Hyjal.”

    “Even when it’s so cold?” Grema said, but her smile was not quite as sarcastic as the words implied.

    “Damn the cold!” Karg snarled, and all three of them laughed.

    Dor’ash didn’t comment, but he reflected on how that never would have happened in his travelling days. Now, an orc could actually consider the possibility that night elves would learn to trust him. Even with the returned King of Stormwind being who he was, the Warchief and Lady Proudmoore’s marriage and all that followed had created bonds that, while frail, were present.

    A warm silence settled after the laughter. They ate, not wanting to let the food get cold, and knowing that there would be time for more talking later when they were not hungry.

    Yet, Karg looked into the stew as if trying to divine some truth from it. His thoughts were elsewhere, his movements sometimes impatient.

    “What is it?” Grema finally asked.

    At first, it looked as if the son would deny that something was on his mind, but then he carefully put down his spoon and reached for a pocket in his shirt.

    “I thought we’d eat first, but…” With small, careful motions he produced a folded piece of paper from a pocket, tugging at it so lightly it seemed he feared it would break. “Father…”

    “Mh?” Dor’ash murmured, curiously.

    By orcish tradition, becoming Grema’s mate had made him Karg’s father in spirit, but the young shaman seldom used that title. The word hung between them somewhat uneasily still, even though Grema smiled.

    “I spent some time in Felwood on the way back,” Karg said, looking down at the paper as he turned it over. It looked delicate in his huge hands.

    Silence fell, where one could hear each breath.

    “I… introduced myself in the Emerald Circle camp.” He held out the letter. “They asked me to wait for a few hours and then gave me this. It’s for you.”

    Dor’ash’s spoon hit the stew with a thick splat.

    His hand did not shake when the paper passed to his grip, but it would not have surprised him if it had. Grema touched his arm, leaning closer as he opened the letter, baring the short text to their eyes.

    It had of course happened that, during their travels, he and his companion sent off letters or messages to one or another person for whatever reasons. Her careless, scratched handwriting had been the source of more than one smirk and bony slap. Every single letter of every word looked as if a bird had stepped in ink and then walked across the paper several times.

    Now his gaze practically ate up every piece of the text, disregarding the horrid handwriting completely.

    Hello, old fool,
    They tell me young Karg is passing through Felwood. I assume you’d like to know that I’m still moving and aware. I am.
    After much work my lungs are functional, although breathing isn’t working out all the time. That’s about it. The nelves insisted I get a pair of fake eyes because the empty sockets and the blindfold gave them the creeps. Sissies.
    I know you’re reading this, Karg. Remember to stay away from Azshara. It’s not worth it.
    Grema, don’t let my pet get bored. He gets ideas like “hey, let’s try this shortcut through the ooze-infested grove” when he’s bored.
    Dor’ash,


    The scratches in deep blue, midnight oak ink looked lumpier after that, as if she had paused for so long that when she wet the pen again, the color had begun to thicken.

    I am well.
    -Sarah


    He reread the letter several times, wondering at how she could have so little to say to him after so long.

    “I’m a bit tired after this first trip,” Karg innocently said in the background, “so I thought I’d stay here for a while before I take off again.”

    Dor’ash looked up at him, thoughts whirring in his head.

    “So… you could have Grey back for week or two?” Karg said.

    “If you’re silly enough to ask me if it’s alright that you go,” Grema said, taking hold of Dor’ash’s chin and turning his face towards her as she regarded him with a wholly serious look, “I’ll break your nose.”

    He could have felt a little put off by them teaming up against him and not even giving him a choice. He saw no reason to be annoyed, though.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  24. #24
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    The travails of a family guy. Though I'll wait until they meet to make up my mind which is the better cut off point
    if he went there before gaining battle experience and hone his skills,
    Honing. Or just use the past tense.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  25. #25
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    Guess we're about to find out about the cut off point, ey Rig? :D


    He left the next day. Waiting longer would have been unbearable.

    As Dor’ash came to tie his packing onto Grey’s saddle, the wolf yipped and wagged his tail like a delighted puppy. It wasn’t that the wolf disliked Karg, he obviously didn’t. However, he had a special bond to Dor’ash, and he could also sense his old friend’s excitement for the journey.

    “Strange to see you off like this again,” Grema murmured with a soft laugh as she pressed her forehead to his.

    He squeezed her shoulders in his hands, then turned to Karg. There was too much gratitude in him, for such a simple, thoughtful thing from both of them, that Dor’ash couldn’t find the words for it. He was normally never at a loss for words, but this was too great. The way Karg softly grinned at him, though, told him that it showed on his face.

    Then, he rode off.

    He hadn’t been on the road for over a year. It felt odd, to feel the cool morning wind blowing around his ears while Grey bounded forwards beneath him. Odd because, echoing Grema’s parting comment, he hadn’t really thought that he would travel like this again. That had been fine with him. Not that he hadn’t sometimes missed all the things he had seen, and all the things he might never see. Yet, it wouldn’t have been the same anyway.

    There were some changes in Ashenvale since last he had seen it. He noticed it even as he neared the border. There were still guard towers, but apart from those of orcish design there were also tall, square shaped towers rising up, made of carved wood and in night elven style. The Warsong clan soldiers were nowhere in sight, replaced instead with tauren and night elves wearing the tabard of the Cenarion Circle. They let him pass with merely a few nods.

    The leading deeper into Ashenvale seemed a bit broader than he remembered it, too. Other travelers passed or came down the road as he continued on, but none bothered him whether they were Horde and Alliance. Still, he was wary and followed a larger group of trolls and tauren along the way. Over the next couple of days they continued towards Felwood, replacing the crisp, fresh scent of the nightly forest with the thick scent of decaying plants and murky, slimy water.

    It took the better of another day to reach the Emerald Sanctuary. While the other travelers prepared to rest and restock what they could and the druids might offer for their continued journey, Dor’ash approached one of the tauren druids overlooking the outpost. The bovine creature watched him approach with Grey at his side, and murmured a soft, questioning greeting.

    “My name is Dor’ash Coldbane,” Dor’ash said in a low voice. “Do you know a woman named Sarah Nebula?”

    The tauren slowly blinked once.

    “And why do you seek this woman?” he asked, in a low voice as well.

    “I am her honor brother.” It felt wrong to say that, but if Sarah had ever mentioned him it was probably with the title she was comfortable with.

    Nodding, the tauren started to turn away.

    “Wait here,” he simply said and walked off to duck into one of the wood huts making up the sanctuary.

    A few minutes later he returned together with a night elf. Dor’ash’s brow creased with a thoughtful frown as he watched the tall, violet-skinned man approach. There was something about him that tugged at a distant memory.

    Something seemed off with the way the night elf looked and moved, as well. His cheekbones were more rounded than on any other of his kind Dor’ash had ever seen. When he walked, the steps made little sound but the motions were lumbering and heavy, and the way he swung his arms, while slight, also added to the peculiar image.

    It was not within his realm of expertise, but Dor’ash did know that a druid who spent too much time in animal form began to take on some features from the animal.

    This one looked like…

    “After your son’s visit, I wondered whether you would come here as well, Master Coldbane,” the night elf said in Orcish, pressing his palms together and bowing from the waist.

    And those palms had been slick with blood and he had so clumsily dried his mouth on his upper arm before offering his help to a small war band of Horde.

    He looked like a bear.

    It took a moment before Dor’ash managed to conquer the surprise enough to speak.

    “What, you?” Nothing else seemed appropriate.

    ‘Fuzzik’ straightened, chuckling softly.

    “I don’t think I ever did tell you my name back then,” he said. “It is Shamar.” He looked a little more serious. “We know that Miss Nebula is supposedly dead to the Horde, and so we cannot risk that somebody only claiming to know her is allowed to see her. I would recognize you, of course. When your Karg came here, he only said that he was your stepson and nothing else. Sarah herself decided to write a letter when she learned of that.”

    Dor’ash slowly nodded. He appreciated the caution, but he was still reeling from the surprise of seeing this druid again. It wasn’t so strange, of course, that one with Shamar’s past would work only for a neutral faction.

    The night elf asked him to follow, and together with the tauren they headed towards the back of the sanctuary, starting up a small path on the mountain. Grey had no problems following it, as it was wide enough to let the tauren walk without any greater trouble.

    “I’m not sure if I want to know,” Dor’ash said after a little while, “but since you are here, what about Deran?”

    Shamar’s lips twitched, and he looked both amused and pained all at once.

    “He is elsewhere right now, but he also serves the Circle,” he said, then sighed and gave Dor’ash an embarrassed look. “Would you believe he knew all along that I was a night elf? I must admit I was mortified to find out.”

    “Really? I never would have thought that he was that perceptive,” Dor’ash innocently said, and almost bit his tongue off to keep from laughing.

    “Neither did I.”

    They continued along the path. Now and then a large, feline shadow flitted between the rocks above the path. Felwood was no safe place, and the druids had ample reasons to protect their small strongholds.

    Finally, the road turned around a corner of the cliff and beyond that stood several sturdy, night elven buildings set on a fairly level part of the mountain. Unlike most other houses in the same design Dor’ash had ever seen, though, there were very few open walls and large windows. It was much like in Cenarion Hold in Silithus, where the stinging, salty sand and clouds of insects had to be kept out.

    The size of the place made Dor’ash wonder how many more projects the Emerald Circle had going. Then again, saving Felwood was no light matter.

    Guards, both tauren and night elf, patrolled the path closer to the houses, but moved aside when greeted by the druids showing Dor’ash the way. One of them exchanged a few words with Shamar, then in a cloud of smoke disappeared and reappeared as a leopard bounding towards the settlement.

    They first took Grey to the stables, where sleepy nightsabers laid curled up on one side of the building and peacefully rumbling kodos on the other. Grey was given his own box, closer to the lizard creatures than the cats for safety’s sake. While Dor’ash trusted his wolf to behave himself, he wasn’t convinced about the cats.

    It was difficult to walk calmly at this point, and not let his growing impatience show. Such a thing was unfitting for a shaman, but knowing that he would see Sarah again soon after so long was almost too much to bear. At the same time as he missed her, a niggling unease settled in his gut. The spirits gave him no gentle promises, as agitated in this cursed landscape as in the Blasted Lands.

    If Shamar and the tauren noticed Dor’ash’s state of mind, they didn’t show it. They lead him towards one of the larger buildings, the one the leopard had hurried to.

    A female tauren with deep brown fur, dressed in a green robe, came to meet them as they climbed the stair. She waved at the others to leave as she bowed her head in greeting towards Dor’ash.

    “Welcome, Master Coldbane,” she said while the other druids walked off the same way they had come, with brief goodbyes. “I am Meeva.” When Dor’ash returned her greeting, she continued, “I am in charge of overseeing Sarah’s physical state. You could say I am her caretaker. If you will follow me…”

    She started to lead the way, her hooves steadily clopping against the wooden floor.

    “Caretaker?” Dor’ash repeated as he fell into step beside the druid.

    “I don’t like the phrase ‘guinea pig,’” Meeva said, her soft lips curling in distaste. She sobered. “Sarah takes part in experiments, but she did volunteer.”

    It made Dor’ash wonder how much the druids knew about the events that led Sarah to come to this place. Just as well if they didn’t, though. As long as they never mentioned it to outsiders, in case it would reach ears that shouldn’t hear about her not being dead.

    “Now, Master Coldbane, I would like you to know that even though there hasn’t been much progress in this project,” Meeva continued, “there have been some cosmetic changes.”

    Dor’ash frowned, confused.

    “What do you mean?” he asked.

    Meeva shook her head and stopped by a wooden door just like any other.

    “It’s a symbolic thing more than anything else, I just don’t want you to be surprised,” she said.

    She knocked on the door, and softly called out.

    “Sarah, you have a visitor.”

    All of a sudden it was difficult to breathe.

    Under Meeva’s hand the door swung open, slow as if through water, the soft swoosh of air moving too loud in Dor’ash’s ears.

    “What?” said a pale shadow curled up on the corner of a simple cot, looking up sharply.

    Blond, shoulder-length hair rustled at the movement, and a needle fell from pink, almost white fingers to dangle from the thread it was fastened in. The half finished whatever-kind-of-garb-it-was slipped out of the other hand’s grip and tumbled over her lap onto the mattress.

    Dor’ash blinked in disbelief, and a pair of grey, dead eyes stared back at him.

    There were no bare bones visible between patches of rotten flesh. All those holes had been repaired, and instead of a green hue her skin had a cold, pink color. Though still thin, her body didn’t look like it was caving in under its own weight anymore. At least, not any of what he could see, as she wore a simple pale robe.

    He only needed to look at her for a second to sense how wrong it all was. She didn’t look any healthier than before. She looked fake. Like a doll that could move.

    “Breathe,” Meeva said as if from far, far away.

    Sarah drew in a wheezing gasp, but then held it as she sat stock still, staring straight at Dor’ash. He couldn’t speak either.

    “Breathe out,” Meeva said, sighing.

    Sarah did, and then she didn’t draw another breath. Again Meeva sighed and stepped into the room.

    “Why don’t you stand up?” she kindly said. “He’s come quite some way to see you.”

    Obedient as an automaton, Sarah did as she was told. Apart from that, she didn’t even acknowledge that she was listening to the tauren. The cloth she had been stitching fell onto the floor. Dor’ash half expected Meeva to tell her to pick it up, and Sarah to mechanically abide. He was rather relieved when that didn’t happen.

    Uneasy with the thought of observing Meeva give any more dumbly obeyed commands, Dor’ash managed to find his voice.

    “How are you, Sarah?” he said. It sounded idiotic to his own ears. There were thousands of things he wanted to say, and that was all that made it out.

    More than anything, he wanted to ask what in the Nether they had done to her.

    “Oh, eh, I wrote that I was well, didn’t I?” she blurted. At least her voice sounded mostly the same. Catching on to his staring at her, she looked down at her left arm and brushed the healed skin over her elbow. She grimaced. “All this? It’s going… sort of alright, I suppose.”

    “If you wish to hear the scientific terms,” Meeva said, then continued without giving Dor’ash time to say no, “although we have had some success in restoring some of Sarah’s bodily functions to a state that at least resembles ‘life’ so to speak, there are still issues that lead to failure. We still need to work out such things at keeping the respiratory systems active during periods of no observation.”

    “I forget to breathe unless they keep reminding me,” Sarah translated with a roll of her head. “Not that I need to.”

    “Yes you do, what little we manage to restore in your body dies if you can’t keep it up.”

    “Mmrf. I have to breathe but my heart isn’t beating properly. The logic, it bleeds.”

    In that moment, she sounded like herself again, and her rebuilt features slid into place to fit her old expressions. Dor’ash’s heart lurched, relieved, disbelieving, and disturbed all at once.

    “It’s training,” Meeva said with a sigh. She cleared her throat and smiled at Dor’ash. “Regardless, I am certain that the two of you have much to talk about. I will leave you alone.”

    With that, she left and closed the door behind her.

    Dor’ash met Sarah’s gaze. She fidgeted, then looked away. Silently, she bent down and picked up the fallen cloth, dropping it on the one chair. That, the cot and an empty table was all the furniture in the room.

    He had no idea where to start. He didn’t know how he could start.

    How could it be so difficult? But she looked so different, acted so different. She might look somewhat like she had done those two times he had seen her soul, but her voice seemed to be the only remnant of her that he could recognize.

    “Sit?” she finally said, plopping down on the side of her bed.

    He went over and sat a little ways away from her, studying her all the time. Desperately searching for something else that was familiar.

    “I should have know… when I wrote,” she said, glancing away and back and away again. “But I have some manners, and Karg was there…”

    She trailed off.

    “Are you really well?” Dor’ash said.

    “Fine.”

    It was a lie.

    “How do you deal with the elves picking you apart?” he asked.

    “I am but a humble servant of the Warchief.” Saying so, she threw out her arms and gazed at the ceiling. That was familiar, but the movements had a sluggish way about them.

    “You punish yourself.”

    “Nonsense. I let them do the job.” Her hands sunk back into her lap.

    He looked at her, wondering if those dead eyes really made the elves and tauren feel any better at all. There was no emotion in them, not even when the eyelids and tiny muscles in her face moved around them. Blind. Cold.

    “You traumatized me, but you probably saved my life,” he said.

    “I messed up. Amazingly. That’s all there is to it.”

    Neither of them spoke for a moment, until Dor’ash shook his head.

    “I’m not angry at you, Sarah.”

    “That’s nice.”

    An unnatural, heavy silence fell between them. It should not have been like this. They both knew it.

    “Jonathan sought me out,” Dor’ash said after a few seconds, and watched her not move a muscle. “He wanted to know if I really killed you.”

    Silence.

    “You should have lied to him,” Sarah finally muttered.

    “You must have seen your own kind light up with hope sometimes.”

    “Seldom.” She turned her head away. “Very seldom.”

    He watched her for a little while, seeing her chest heave and heard the rasp of forced breath. The body probably didn’t even know what to do with the oxygen.

    Did he regret coming to see her? Perhaps. Not sure what he had expected, but sitting in this awkward air was slow torture. Maybe it would have been better to let the last memory be of that cell deep inside Orgrimmar, and her final smile.

    He was in half a mind to stand up and leave, but perhaps she heard it in his breathing because suddenly she turned towards him completely. Unseeing eyes gazed up at his face, and somehow she saw him, not through those cold, artificial orbs stuck in her head but in some strange, magical way.

    “Don’t go. I have nothing to tell you.” He had never heard her voice so low and seen her look so vulnerable, thin shoulders halfway to her ears. Not even that time in the Alterac Mountains. This was something else. “Nothing worthwhile ever happens. No one here has a decent sense of humor.”

    Dor’ash may have been about to get to his feet, but every nerve involved in that motion fell back as he heard her, looked at her. Had she always been so small?

    “Don’t they speak with you?” he asked, softly.

    “Yes,” she grunted, face twisting in a grimace. “But they take me way too seriously when I reply. I’m bored, Dor’ash.”

    It was not a childish whine, but a plea. Never, ever had she begged for anything in the past, except for when playing a weak and frightened girl to confuse enemies. This was nothing like the theater. One with so much power inside, craving an outlet – one such, trapped and closed in, who had to keep feeling that her life was worth striving for against that dark whisper in the back of her head, and she was now fading into the dullness of her situation.

    Dor’ash looked at, not into, her eyes.

    “Can you take those out?” he asked, waving a finger horizontally in front of her face.

    “Hell yes.” The two words rolled through her mouth, relished like a delicious treat. A matching look remained on Sarah’s features as she reached for her own face.

    As she leant forwards to catch the eyes in her hands, Dor’ash withdrew a thin roll of bandage from one of his small bags. It was one of those things he kept, had always kept, just in case.

    The two small glass balls rolled and clacked against each other in Sarah’s thin hand, an uncanny sight until she dropped them in a pocket. The healers had obviously spent some time on her face, restoring sunken flesh and the eyelids which now hung against nothing like a pair of meaty curtains.

    She only smiled wider when Dor’ash wrapped the bandage around her head, covering the hollow eye sockets like her old, often lost leather mask had done.

    “Much better,” he said, tying a secure knot at the back of her head. Then he smirked, straightening. “And by the way, I suspect that the problem rather is that people here have a decent sense of humor, and you don’t.”

    “Bah, those wimps wouldn’t know a good ol’ case of gallows humor if it jumped up and ate their face.” She straightened up, shrugging her shoulders. “Come on, give me some juicy gossip. Even hearing about Grema deciding to burn your old pants will cheer me up.”

    “She usually cuts them up and uses them to make bedding for the pregnant sows,” he said, sighing at the memories. He had liked several of those pants, too.

    “Oh, the humanity!”

    He told her about what had happened on the farm, then about the village. About how he found himself called to help the people living there whenever somebody was sick or troubled. Told her every little funny everyday tale he could think of. More serious matters too, as when the elderly, gloomy blacksmith of Drakamash finally admitted to him that he had been a warlock in the olden days, brash and arrogant, dreaming of becoming a member of the Shadow Council.

    Sarah was not a silent audience. She came alive under his gaze, soaking up every word as if they were a rejuvenating nectar, throwing back more or less respectable comments and sniggers at every turn.

    “Nowadays you go somewhere else to get your hoe fixed, huh?” she said about the story about the blacksmith, jabbing a finger at his arm.

    Her fingertip was no longer sharp, but the skin and flesh felt squishy. He half expected the bone to cut through, but it didn’t.

    He shook his head, and she made a disbelieving sound.

    “I only thought about that for a bit,” he said in an overly huffy tone. “But most of all, he regrets all of it and told me in confidence. I can’t judge him.” A pause. “And also, he’s the only blacksmith within five miles.”

    She laughed then, so hard that she slumped against him. It was a brief touch, she straightened up almost immediately as if realizing her mistake. He didn’t comment.

    “You’ve gotten lazy, if you’re prepared to let a warlock fix your broken tools,” she said.

    “Karg took Grey as he left home.”

    “So? Run along as a wolf then.” She swept her hand out, wiggling the fingers downwards as to emulate something running. Then the hand swung back and she slapped it against her mouth with a dramatic gasp. “Or… you’re getting old!”

    Snorting, he poked at her shoulder. It had been so long that he didn’t remember how much strength he could use, and so he did it only very lightly. She still swayed as if shoved, but clearly for show.

    “You watch your manners, young lady,” Dor’ash said.

    “Yes, mama.”

    Both fell silent after that playful nickname left her lips. The quiet lasted only a heavy, pregnant second.

    Grema had called Sarah a coward on this matter. She proved it to be true.

    “They said you introduced yourself as my honor brother,” she said, grinning as if nothing had happened. The healers had even mended her teeth – still yellow at best, but no longer chipped.

    Part of him wanted to protest, make a jab about what she had just called him. Confront her.

    Still, he had indeed named himself that. It was so much easier to explain.

    He let it drop, not keen on risking that awkward atmosphere returning.

    “That was your idea, if I recall correctly,” Dor’ash said. He lightly rapped his knuckles against her shoulder. “Yes, that makes you an honorary orc.”

    “My life is complete.”

    He was still a little taken aback when she scooted closer and leaned against his arm.

    “Sarah?”

    “Alright, fine,” she grumbled. “I missed you. Happy?”

    For a moment he watched her unmoving form. She still had no body heat, feeling as lukewarm as the air around them. When she got this close, he also caught a faint, familiar scent. She wasn’t exactly rotting, but the body was dead. The smell wasn’t unpleasant to him. He reached around her back and gave her a gentle squeeze.

    “Yes.”

    Her fingers twitched, hand raised, paused, sunk back, and then finally came up and pressed against his chest. Dor’ash’s heart tightened, swelled and constricted again. He wanted to gather her up and carry her away from this place where she was only miserable. But he couldn’t do that. Being allowed this moment of comfort had to be enough.

    “I’m sorry I made you so upset,” she muttered. “I really screwed up.”

    Dor’ash had to swallow to be able to breathe.

    “Apologizing? Really now…” he managed, eventually. To a degree the surprise was genuine. Still, somehow his tone remained calm.

    “Yeah, yeah, mock me, just do it…” She made as if to move away, but he tightened his hold of her shoulder just the slightest bit.

    Her face turned up towards him, rebuilt eyebrows knitted and mouth tight. A small smile stretched Dor’ash’s lips.

    “I meant that, I’m not angry at you,” he said.

    A stray, stringy lock of hair fell over the side of her face, and she probably couldn’t even feel it. He brushed it behind her ear with his thumb. It was a clumsy motion. His fingers were so large. Before, he’d never have done something like that because he knew she wouldn’t want any of that mushy stuff. She might have allowed it, because it was he who did it, but she would have given a heartfelt grimace or sarcastic comment.

    But back then, they had the never ending road ahead of them. Now, they had so little. She didn’t lean into his touch or smile, but she didn’t protest either.

    “You know I could never stay angry at you,” he added.

    “You’re such a teddy bear.” A slow, long snort escaped her nose and she glanced away for a moment. “I guess… I can say I’m not too angry at you for not leaving me dead.”

    “But you’re unhappy here.”

    His good mood evaporated with that obvious fact. In essence, it was his fault for egoistically not letting her have her wish. Just to make himself feel better.

    “I am, but…” Her small hand caught one of his fingers and squeezed. “I don’t think I deserve this, but I’m stuck here. And if they can find some kind of cure for demonic taint through their experiments, then–” She cut herself off and scoffed. “Screw it, I don’t care about that. But I can write to you now, right? And you will write me back?”

    He looked at her with no little disbelief.

    “I would have written you back before too,” he pointed out.

    “I couldn’t write to you before you wrote to me,” she said. “Or, well, Karg came along.”

    He was about to ask why in all spirits’ names she would wait for that, except for fear of being found by possible spies.

    But then again, why hadn’t he written her in this past year? Letters could have been safely delivered through the Emerald Circle.

    The ugly truth was that he had been angry. And he could see that she hadn’t written because no matter what she said, she had been punishing herself. Her questions now were those of a prisoner wondering if they were pardoned.

    Of course she was. How could he not forgive her the moment he saw her?

    He nodded.

    “And I’ll come back to see you, too,” he said and half-smirked. “Not telling you when. It’ll give you something to counter the boredom with.”

    Her grip of his hand tightened.

    “Smashing, but you’re not going yet, are you?” The question blurted out very quickly.

    “Of course not,” he said, his voice rumbling deep in his chest. It helped to keep his heart from breaking.

    She visibly relaxed.

    “Good. Now…” She straightened up and grinned. “Tell me all about Jonathan. You said he showed up.” She sighed dramatically.

    “There’s nothing much to tell,” Dor’ash said, sobering as he recalled the bitter mage. “Well, he took a gem from your old staff. He misses you, I think.”

    “Such a romantic… he always was like that, the silly princess.”

    Dor’ash was very, very close to telling her that Jonathan had a dark secret which he had been terrified about her finding out. But that nickname had always made the orc wonder if maybe she knew. On the other hand, Jonathan had never recoiled when she called him that.

    “Why don’t you tell me about him, and you, instead? You never did talk much about that before,” Dor’ash said, then grunted as he realized that restrictions were in order. “Without any squishy details.”

    She cackled.

    “Aww, you’re such a prissy.” A chortled snort escaped her and she grinned. “But there aren’t any ‘squishy’ details, not anymore than us making out in public. You already saw that.” She grinned even wider. “He’s… lacking, so to speak.”

    Then she broke down laughing as he gave her a long stare.

    It was an absolutely beautiful sound.



    Who, me? Trying to be a tear-jerker? Perish the thought!
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  26. #26
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    So inhumane, torturing Sarah and turning her to an android. Or womanoid, I guess. Then again, normal Sarah would find that funny. I bbet all this research on killing someone's personality has leaked out in the real world and you can buy it for the low price of $99.99 in six instalments.

    Anyway, good one.
    Guess we're about to find out about the cut off point, ey Rig? :D
    I know you know. ;)
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  27. #27
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    ... yeah, more stuff that's been done for years. The next chapter has been half-done for just as long, will see when I get around to finish it.


    He stayed the night, in Sarah’s room, and they talked until he finally fell asleep. She was still sitting curled up by his side when he woke up. Of course she didn’t say good morning. She just cheerfully said that he still snored loud enough to scare an ogre.

    Meeva showed up with some bread and cheese for breakfast. Smiling, she declined Dor’ash’s offer to pay for the food and the fact that they let him and Grey stay over the night.

    He felt he couldn’t impose on the kindness of the druids, however, and by late noon he reluctantly concluded that he ought to leave. Sarah didn’t protest, but her face became blank for a moment. She caught herself quickly, though, and gave his arm a light punch.

    “And don’t worry about me,” she said. “I’ll be much better now, I promise.”

    It made him feel a little better.

    Shamar showed up to follow him down to the sanctuary again, returning Sarah’s inevitable “hiya, Fuzzik!” with a snort and a half-smirk.

    Dor’ash didn’t expect her to hug him good-bye this time either, and she didn’t.

    But she did stand by a window and watched as he walked off.

    Dor’ash looked over his shoulder briefly, raising his hand as their gazes met, hers perfectly noticeable despite the blindfold. Smirking slightly, Sarah waved back. She remained by the window, watching him walk down the path together with Grey and Shamar. Too soon they disappeared among the rocks.

    Silently, she leaned against the wall and kept gazing out, slowly and erratically drawing breath. There was a soft clip-clop of huge hooves behind her, but she didn’t turn around.

    “Do you feel better now?” Meeva said, her deep, soft voice warm like a mother’s.

    It took a moment before Sarah answered, but finally she slowly nodded. The tauren woman’s lips stretched, and she reached out to brush one of her huge fingers against Sarah’s shoulder.

    “Come on,” Meeva murmured. “Better put your eyes back in.”

    “Mmh.”

    Sarah absentmindedly reached up to the back of her head, pulling the knot on the bandage open. Even as she did so she didn’t move otherwise, still watching the road below. The pale cloth slipped downwards, but she caught it before it fell and held it to her face, breathing. She couldn’t feel any smell, but that wasn’t the point.

    Without comment, Meeva watched and waited.

    It didn’t take long – after just a second Sarah lowered the bandage and slapped it over her shoulder, then reached into a pocket and withdrew her artificial eyes.

    “Do they bother you?” Meeva asked.

    “Not really,” Sarah said. She tilted her head backwards, pulling at her eyelid with one thumb and pointing finger so that she could stuff one of the orbs in. She had to struggle with it for a bit, unused to the motions. She seldom cared enough to take them out normally.

    Grunting, she finally succeeded and went on to the other eye.

    “They seemed to bother him, though,” she muttered.

    “Yes well, as finely crafted as they are it shows that they aren’t real,” Meeva conceded, bending down to inspect the offending trinkets. The way that Sarah could see without eyes fascinated the tauren greatly. Somehow she always stuck the two orbs back in just right, too.

    The sound of clopping hooves and bare feet against the floor made both of them look up. Sarah pulled the bandage from her shoulder and gripped it in one hand, face unchanging as three male night elves, all with a golden glow to their eyes, appeared in the doorway. A male tauren followed them, but a couple of steps behind.

    Two of the elves wore green robes adorned with leaves and embroideries of the same, just like the male tauren and Meeva. The man they flanked, however, wore a more intricate robe and shoulder plates created to resemble grey, petrified leaves. His skin had an odd color, so lightly red purple that he looked almost pink. It certainly did not go well with his teal green hair and beard.

    “Ah, Archdruid,” Meeva said, bowing her head in greeting.

    “If you’re quite done wasting time that could be used for research…?” Fandral Staghelm said, the gaze from his narrowed eyes moving between the two women.

    They spoke Darnassian, as did everyone when Fandral and those with his views of language and culture were around. Usually, the members of the Emerald Circle, like the Cenarion Circle, made do with a mix of Darnassian and Taur-ahe, with rare bits of Common and Orcish mixed in when they really had troubles making themselves understood to each other. By now, Sarah had heard enough of the elves’ language to at least understand some of it, although she wouldn’t place a word of it in her mouth.

    Discussions with the Archdruid were not too difficult to follow, though. They always sounded pretty much the same.

    “Please, Archdruid,” Meeva said with a splinter of annoyance in her voice. “If we assume that we’re curing a sickness, we ought to treat Sarah as a patient. Visitors are hardly blocking the road.”

    She received a very hard look from the glowing, golden eyes. Seeing that Fandral was distracted, Sarah took the chance to stuff the bandage into the same pocket as she had carried her eyes in minutes ago. One of the other elves watched her do so, but didn’t say anything. She made a mental note not to tease him in the future, at least for a day or so.

    All such things, the last that still offered a shred of amusement, had seemed so very droll too lately. Not now, though. Looking up at the others in the room – she always, always had to look up – Sarah cheerfully clasped her hands behind her back.

    “Be what it may,” Fandral said to Meeva, waving a hand at Sarah, “my time is precious and I don’t appreciate having to wait because our test subject is busying herself gazing out the window like a lovesick girl. You knew very well that I would arrive here today.”

    Meeva opened her mouth to speak, probably intent on politely pointing out that Fandral was known to prefer travelling during the night and they hadn’t at all known that he already arrived. However, Sarah placed a hand on the tauren’s thick, furry arm.

    “No, no,” the undead woman said in Common, “don’t anger him unnecessarily.”

    With great alarm Meeva and the other four of the Emerald Circle watched as Sarah turned towards the Archdruid. They had to restrain themselves from leaping at her to stop her as she curtseyed, arms and hands gracefully bent outwards from her sides.

    “My deepest apologies for letting you wait, Master Staghelm,” she said, straightening up again. “I assure you that I remain your most faithful, skinny guinea pig drenched in black magic.”

    “Are you mocking me?” Fandral icily asked, replying in Common for the occasion.

    Behind him, the tauren stared at the ceiling. The elf druids remained silent, although they shared an uncomfortable look. Meeva stared at Sarah, probably saying a mute prayer to the Earth Mother that the next few words wouldn’t be too scandalous.

    The mental plea fell on deaf ears.

    “Oh no,” Sarah sweetly said. “If I was mocking you, Sir, I’d ask how you’re doing with the efforts to prune the demon infestation in your orchard.”

    “Ah, ha, ha.” The Archdruid slowly intonated each syllable. “Very clever.”

    The left elf decided that this was an excellent time to step forwards and usher Sarah towards the door. She smiled every step of the way.

    Again there was so much she didn’t want Dor’ash to know, but right then she didn’t mind the elves at all.
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  28. #28
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    Look how well-behaved was Sarah for her visitor. Her first visitor, that is.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

  29. #29
    Alpha-Female of the RPGC Staff Weiila's Avatar
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    A couple of months and several letters after Dor’ash’s visit, Sarah’s time ran out.

    That morning, while healers hurried about in the laboratory, she stood unusually still and quiet, just staring at the table in the middle of the room.

    It was familiar in every detail, every vein, every scratch into the stone hard wood. Every burn mark from that time when the Archdruid decided to perform a different kind of experiment and had her blasted with moonfire until concluding that no, it seemed she couldn’t faint. Meeva’s serious talk about showing respect, afterwards – and especially, if she had to call him “that pink moose,” please to not do it when he could hear her – had been almost as annoying.

    If Sarah had ever slept, that damn table would have haunted her dreams.

    And it reminded her of that other table, made of stone, that she had woken up tied to in Orgrimmar.

    She would have wanted to destroy it. That would have been the first time in ages she even used magic. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to bother. The table had been there for the whole time she had spent with the tauren and nelves, so it might as well be there to the end.

    Meeva had given her an odd look when she asked the tauren to have the table destroyed after today. Still, after a little while there had been some understanding in the tauren’s eyes.

    Kind old cow.

    The lab didn’t usually have that many people in it, but for the past few weeks it had been pretty crowded. After all this time, somebody in the Circle had finally performed a convincing enough diplomatic tap-dance to have Staghelm agree to more outside help.

    Being dissected by a few draenei, orcs, trolls, dwarves and humans wasn’t that different from having nelves and tauren try to take her apart to see what made her keep moving.

    Watching a troll and dwarf loudly and enthusiastically discuss priest healing techniques and theories – with heavy accents, wrong word choices, stutters, hand motions and translators trying to be quick enough, due to the language barrier – was just about the most bizarre thing Sarah had ever seen.

    Almost interesting, even.

    Too bad they all came together and decided that they would try something that got everyone terribly excited. Except for the part where it would most probably just kill her once and for all. But everyone seemed to agree that they had done everything they could think of already.

    In other words, she’d offered what she could to their science, and now she was expendable. They were all too polite to say that, but Meeva had been visibly upset for several days, and not only because of the risk.

    At least, Sarah knew she wouldn’t have to lie on that damn table, staring up at the ceiling while somebody sliced open her belly and discussed how interesting – and utterly illogical – it was that her stomach was working, but her heart didn’t beat and her liver was just a shriveled lump.

    She’d written a letter, just to be sure of course, and given it to Meeva. And Shadow help that kind old cow if she let anybody except Dor’ash see it.

    Sarah figured that if he still had that uncanny ability to sense when she was near death, he’d need some comforting words. Her actual death would probably make a bigger impact on his poor, fuzzy green heart.

    “We are just about ready,” one of the night elf druids announced.

    With a shrug, Sarah reached up and took out her eyes, handing them over to somebody standing conveniently close. That happened to be one of the female vindicators. She looked taken aback for a moment, even as she automatically took the offered eyes.

    “You must be sure that you don’t have any other artificial things on you,” the draenei curtly said as Sarah started to pull off her robe. “There must not be any disturbing elements.”

    “Yes, yes…” Sarah grunted.

    They had gone over this already several times. She had not eaten for three days. Her stomach was probably trying to consume itself, if it hadn’t already. They had even cut her open twice to make absolutely sure that nobody had forgotten some dissecting tool within her body during any earlier experiment.

    Several of the healers politely looked away when she tossed the robe aside and went to climb onto the table. It was like they only cared about her nakedness until somebody took out a scalpel.

    “Everyone ready?” the female vindicator said. She put her hands on Sarah’s shoulders as the undead laid down. The pale blue claws scratched at the restored skin.

    Other blue hands grasped her arms, and her ankles. The healers gathered, nodding grimly. They would only have split seconds to take over for each other and do their parts, apparently. Sarah had pretty much stopped listening in the beginning of the explanation, when she was told – in more complicated terms – that she would be blasted with pure Light until the fel magic animating her was seared away. Considering it was so deeply ingrained into her body, well…

    But of course, they wouldn’t do it to kill her, they would do it in a planned manner that just might leave something behind of her spirit for the shamans to call back and then blah blah blah.

    She was, when it came down to it, fine with dying. There would never have been any other end to her current circumstances, and she had always known that. She could die knowing that Dor’ash really had forgiven her.

    It was just that being flash fried by space goats was such a stupid way to go.

    “On three,” the draenei holding Sarah’s shoulders said. “One, two–”

    And Sarah’s world exploded with white hot flames tearing her every fiber apart.

    She thought she might have screamed.

    ‘-‘

    “Can’t get any kind of ore for a decent price these days,” Ba’kor said with an annoyed sigh and shake of his head. “Everyone is hogging what they have because they think we’ll be running off to Northrend any day now, and then the prices will rise even more.”

    While speaking, the blacksmith held up the shovel Dor’ash had brought him and felt at the chipped edge with his thumb.

    “Not many travelers coming this way nowadays either,” the shaman agreed. “But if anyone stops by our farm I can see if they’re penniless enough to go rob the goblins at Boulder Lode for you.”

    They exchanged a smirk, but there was an uneasy edge to it. Nobody doubted that the Scourge was a threat that needed to be dealt with, however, the Horde’s (and Alliance’s) forces were already taxed after the many battles in Outland. Who knew what awaited on the frozen reaches up in the north?

    Only a complete fool would press for an immediate attack, but from the rumors reaching the village, there was no shortage of overly keen would-be heroes in the army and out of it who wanted to throw themselves into the undead-infested white.

    Well, Thrall was certainly not fool enough to send troops there blindly, but…

    “I’d appreciate that,” Ba’kor said with a slightly wider smirk, then sobered. “But, I’m gonna have to give you a lower discount while things are like this.”

    “If things are that bad, you don’t have to–” Dor’ash started. He was cut off by a decisive wave of the old blacksmith’s hand.

    “Want none of that,” Ba’kor said, his voice a deep yet not unfriendly rumble.

    Dor’ash softly snorted, and nodded. It would be ruder to argue.

    Being so much older, Ba’kor deserved respect, yet even if the former warlock had stopped tip-toeing (as much as an orc ever does) around Dor’ash, he still treated the shaman as a superior. As one who had not disgraced himself.

    “I appreciate–” Dor’ash started to say.

    The spirits murmured uneasily, and even as he tilted his head sideways to try to listen, they rose up in a swelling choir, confusion flaring in their voices. He saw Ba’kor open his mouth and quickly close it again, then taking a step back as if to get out of the way.

    Then Dor’ash no longer heard the spirits, nor did he see the inside of the blacksmith’s workshop. All he knew was Sarah’s scream, surrounded by other voices crying out. He cared not for the others, though they were strange enough to garner a vague bewilderment in the back of his mind.

    It was only her cry that stood out, that was the loudest, agony twisting her voice and he could only listen. For an excruciating eternity nothing else existed.

    The other voices changed, becoming raspy and desperate, weakening – but at the same time, Sarah’s turned from tortured to furious. She drowned out the others, crying out one last time like she had done in the past when throwing herself into a battle with unknown outcome.

    And then there was nothing.

    Only silence.

    A bucketful of water right in his face returned Dor’ash to his senses. Coughing and blinking he struggled to push himself to sitting, until Ba’kor grabbed his shoulders and hauled Dor’ash upwards. Somehow the shaman remembered how to move his legs so that he could keep his balance on the floor. He couldn’t sit straight, though, leaning forwards with his hands pressing against his aching head.

    “By Thrall, what did you see?” Ba’kor asked, gripping Dor’ash’s shoulders so hard it hurt. It barely registered.

    “Huh,” was all Dor’ash could answer. He had meant to say “hear,” but what came out didn’t sound right.

    The flesh of his entire head and neck tingled and he felt too dizzy to dare move. A feeling not unlike the one following stupidly being talked into sharing a pipe with a tauren shaman.

    He moved his hands to his ears when Ba’kor shifted. Even the scratch of the blacksmith’s boot against the ground was too loud, and his voice thundered through Dor’ash’s head. The words were far too noisy to make sense at first, but after a moment Dor’ash managed to process them.

    “I sent my grandson to get Grema,” the blacksmith said.

    Dor’ash blinked. He hadn’t heard that happen, and come to think of it, any orc would know better than to rudely awaken a shaman from a trance by tossing water in his face.

    “’ow long w’s I out?” he grit, rubbing his forehead.

    “A few minutes longer than any vision should take, so I figured you were just unconscious.”

    He nodded, absently. The tingling feeling swept down his arms and chest in a fading wave, dissipating along the way. He couldn’t put a name on what he felt. His head buzzed too much for him to even consider asking the spirits for answers, and even so, what little he sensed from them was nothing but confusion.

    If he had heard what he thought he had heard, then… and yet, her final cry had been one of defiance, not of pain or fear.

    He couldn’t say what it had actually been he heard.

    Quick footfalls came from outside, and then Grema rushed in followed by Ba’kor’s young grandson. At least when she started asking questions, it didn’t seem as painfully loud as everything had been a minute ago.

    It took a while until he managed to convince all three of them that he was fine, at least enough to be able to leave together with Grema. Though he desperately wanted to talk about it, he could not do so while anybody else could hear. His undead companion was long dead to the Horde, even to those he considered friends.

    Though the walk back to the farm was short, it stretched on and it was a relief to be able to go inside and turn to Grema inside the kitchen.

    “I think I heard Sarah–” he started, then paused and rubbed his forehead. Grema’s hands cupped his face and she looked into his eyes when he raised his head again.

    “What?” she said in a low voice. She knew well the only time he had heard Sarah cry out through the distance.

    “I don’t know.” Dor’ash slumped down on a chair. A headache was steadily gaining power. He struggled against the painful throb in his head, and as best he could described what he had experienced at the blacksmith’s. “I don’t feel… and yet, she could be dead.”

    Grema was silent for a moment, stroking his hair.

    “If she is,” she finally said, “you heard her go bravely, didn’t you?”

    He slowly nodded, but it didn’t soothe his twisting emotions. If he had known to mourn, then it would have helped a little bit. As it was, however, he felt too uncertain to know how to deal with anything.

    Grema pulled out a chair and sat down with him. Grasping one of his hands, she slowly massaged it with her strong, calloused fingertips as they kept talking for a while longer. Even if he could not completely sort out his confusion, it worked to calm him down somewhat. Afterwards, he thought about how as a shaman, he ought to be better at handling such things, but curing soul sickness in other people seemed so much easier than curing oneself. It was one of those things one needed help with.

    There was nothing they could do except wait for news. The Circle had to let them know if something had happened, but with no little dread Dor’ash knew that it could take a week or more. He thought about trying to use far sight to see the research facility, but it was too far away, he understood that well. The idea of running there as a spirit wolf popped up more than once too. But if somebody would ride to Drakamash with a message, that would be quicker and if he took off on his own, he would certainly pass a messenger by without knowing it.

    The day wore on in a daze, but Grema helped immensely simply by making sure he kept himself busy so that he couldn’t spend too much time brooding.

    As the hours crept on through the afternoon and evening neared, they went about harvesting turnips in the fields.

    When the spirits suddenly called out, Dor’ash nearly dropped the half full basket of vegetables he had been lifting.

    Look. Look!

    He twisted his head around and squinted towards the deepening orange of the evening sky. Noticing his sudden stop, Grema turned as well.

    It looked like any regular bird in the distance, but it flew forwards in a straight line, with purpose. Growing out of the distance, soon it also became apparent that it was very large for a bird, with deep golden feathers.

    It made a magnificent sight until it swept down over the farm, let out a harsh cry, and crashed as it tried to land in the field. It probably would have broken its wings had it not transformed into a tauren when it became apparent that the landing would be a disaster. Instead of hitting the ground as a ball of feathers, the druid hit the upturned earth and rolled gracelessly before coming to a halt. By then Dor’ash and Grema were almost by him, reaching out to check if he was even still alive.

    They struggled to help him get to his hooves, and he tried to help though his limbs trembled from overstrain.

    “What–” Dor’ash started, but in the same moment he saw the now very dirty Emerald Circle tabard the tauren wore. Either way, he got no further because two furry, three-fingered hands grabbed his wrist.

    The tauren’s fur hung heavy with sweat and he struggled to speak before finally finding his voice.

    “I’ve been flying for–“ the tauren rasped, gasping for breath. Despite his obvious exhaust, excitement shone in his big, dark eyes as he stared into Dor’ash’s. “Master Coldbane, we’ve done it!”

    Dor’ash blinked. The strange words didn’t make sense, at first.

    Then it clicked.

    As if from far away he heard the tauren jabber on, and Grema curse in surprise. He took hold of the tauren’s arm.

    “Bring us there right now!” he demanded.

    Laughing and babbling between harsh gulps for air, the tauren grabbed Grema’s offered hand and all three of them vanished from the yard. In retrospect it was stupid to ask somebody that excited and tired to cast a teleportation spell, but they were lucky. Also lucky in that that their hogs were of a sturdy kind and could take care of themselves for a couple of days, but right then there was little concern about that.

    Evening had been falling over the Barrens and Drakamash Village, but in Moonglade it was always midnight. Wisps floated through the air and the mist rising from the waterfall reached all the way up to the wide wooden balcony the two orcs and their guide reappeared on. Two male night elves in brown robes, adorned with the same symbol of the Circle that the tauren wore, waited there. Although they visibly tensed at the sight of the orcs, there was no distaste on their faces.

    “Has she said anything more?” the tauren asked, grinning at the two of them as he heavily leaned against the balcony railing.

    They actually smirked just the slightest bit.

    “Yes,” the one on the right said in Common, hiding his mouth behind a hand. “She has repeatedly expressed discomfort and a wish to pass on.”

    The tauren half winced, half laughed and looked at the perplexed orcs.

    “You must understand,” he hastened to explain. “She is not as much reanimated as reborn. Her body is extremely weak.”

    “I feel sick as a dog! Take your fresh air and shove it!” came a familiar, yet different, voice from the main building.

    Dor’ash’s gaze flew to meet Grema’s, and they hurried up the terrace with the tauren and elves following. The tauren woman Dor’ash remembered as Meeva walked towards them through the huge, mostly empty room above, carrying a limp, humanoid body wearing a pale dress. She smiled towards the orcs, deaf to the grumbles from her burden.

    “Sarah!”

    The complaints ceased and the small woman’s head turned, the motion twitchy – she obviously tried to, but could not move as quickly as she wanted.

    Pale face, no hair, lips parted and eyes – living eyes – gazing out in disbelief beneath heavy lids.

    “Oh bugger…”

    Then her lips closed and spread in an exhausted smile, and she sluggishly lifted one hand from her stomach.

    “Careful,” Meeva gently said. “She is like a newborn.”

    She had not needed to warn them. Dor’ash grasped Sarah’s hand as if it had been a precious twig. A thin layer of warm muscles squirmed against his fingertips when she wriggled her fingers.

    “What, I wasn’t good enough when I smelled, is that it?” Sarah muttered, but she smiled weakly.

    Her voice had lost its dry, hoarse note. This was a voice that sounded alive, and a sharp eye could see, upon her throat, the flutter of her pulse.

    Grema looked at Dor’ash, and gently smirked as she saw him at a loss for words. She spoke for him instead, touching Sarah’s bare head. So close, it was apparent that she didn’t have eyebrows or eyelashes either. It made her look alien, lizard like, but yet far more familiar than she had seemed when rebuilt and still undead.

    “How do you feel?” Grema asked.

    “Horrible,” Sarah said, scrunching up her nose. “Weak and heavy and– stop grinning like that, it’s not funny.”

    Exchanging a look with Dor’ash, Meeva carefully handed Sarah over to him. She was like a bag of sticks, hanging limply on his arms – but there was no scrape of bone, and through her dress he felt flesh which did not feel as if it would slither away if pushed at. With a grunt she tried to straighten, leaning her head against his arm.

    She looked between Dor’ash’s face and Grema’s hand, which held hers in a light grip.

    “Were you two always this warm?” she murmured.

    Hearing her ask that, Dor’ash finally found his voice again.

    “You feel warm, too.”

    “Heh… living is overrated.” She grimaced, but she didn’t mean it.

    “We’re certain that you’ll regain most of your strength, it will just take some time,” Meeva said.

    Letting out an annoyed sound, Sarah sunk back against Dor’ash. The voice of one of the elves made him glance about.

    “We need to watch over her for a while to make sure that she is well,” the purple-skinned man said, his natural default of stoic pride cracking up in his triumph. “But she should be fine. We have good hopes of saving Felwood with the same methods. We just need to perfect it, it was extremely tiring and complicated.”

    Dor’ash nodded absentmindedly and turned back to Sarah. Later, he would want to know how they had done it. For now, he just wanted to look at her together with Grema, and spirits help anybody trying to take her away.

    Sarah raised a shaking hand and turned it over in front of her face. Flesh and skin covered what had once been skeletal fingertips, and blunt nails were growing.

    “My blood,” she mumbled, smiling as she bent and stretched her fingers, “it’s sort of… tickling.”

    Although he saw it coming with some surprise, Dor’ash hoisted her up higher in his arms just as her hand fell and a sob wracked through her weedy body. The others moved closer in alarm, questioning her about pain as she fisted his shirt, tears slipping over from her cheeks to his skin.

    “No… no, I’m… goddammit, don’t you ever tell–” She clumsily snaked one arm around Dor’ash’s massive neck. A squirm let them all see that she smiled despite her sobs, shaking and vulnerable and ashamed… and happy. “You…” She peered up at Dor’ash through the tears. “You smell like a pigsty.”

    He stared at her for a moment, then burst out laughing.



    ... yeah I think I just alienated at least three of my regular readers. Please do turn off the Sue-alarms though, things aren't quite as peachy as they usually are with "teehee I retconned my Forsaken!"
    New fanfic quote:

    "I am indeed a spy, milord, but not for the enemies of Mordor or the Master. Instead, I serve a different master, a group called the Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Milord, have you ever heard of 'fanfiction'?"
    "Aye. A particularly odious form of sorcery, by all accounts."
    /.../
    "Yes. And have you heard of 'fangirls'?"
    "They are but a legend! A fearful legend, but a legend nonetheless."
    -Architeuthis of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum and High Nazgul of the Ringwraiths
    From "Intelligence Briefs for the PPC: The Beginning" by Architeuthis


    Quote Originally Posted by darkling
    Orochimaru has joined the Baby-Sitter's Club.

  30. #30
    Double Trouble Rigmarole's Avatar
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    I am connected to the internet sporadically these days, but I keep this in mind.
    She sensed intelligence behind this rigmarole, but it was meaningless to her.

    ...those who regard me as effete, arrogant, distanced. [Interviewer: All of which is true, of course.] [Banville:] Of course!

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