The Travels of Thelarwen

Cute and Quiet. Makes a lot of hand gestures, a bit like Yoda, but less green.

Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Sep 2015, 19:40

The Travels of Thelarwen

Here's a bit of what I've been working on recently while waiting for the WoW urge to return. Something to describe where Thelarwen's been and what she's been doing while she and I have been off the WoW grid.




The Travels.

I walk. The ocean. The desert. The darkness where no light has ever been. The jungle.

How much time has passed? I have lost count. Weeks. Months, more likely. I do not even care.

There is a voice in my head. It draws me away from the ones with whom I have recently surrounded myself. I do not know what it is. The last whisper of the Lich King, a fragment of his doomed consciousness still clinging to his creations? A spirit which has attached itself to me during the myriad of travels and battles I have shared with the priest and druid who are cursed to live in perpetually interesting times? The specters of those I have killed? A spirit of the elements? The whispers of the Burning Legion or the Old Gods?

...The ghost of Susan?...

Or perhaps I have merely gone insane.

It is there. It whispers. It tells me to walk, and I walk. It tells me to stay, and I stay. It tells me to kill, and I kill.

I do not know its goals any more than I am able to recognize its nature. But it drives me. At its insistence I have left everyone behind.

I walk.
What kind of sick individual burns a book full of perfectly good dark arts?!
- Darkscryer Raastok
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Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Sep 2015, 19:41

The Ship.

Board. The voice in my head does not sound insistent, but it is nearly impossible to resist its order.

It would not have been my first choice. Or the second. Or any of the following choices. But the voice directs me to it. The vessel is old and battered, its crew have less than savory appearance. Most are humans, but I also see a few goblins, a troll, an orc. They glare at me while attempting to hide the glares. I ask for passage. I could pay but I will not. Instead I offer to work for the fare. The seamen laugh: my armor is not exactly the most appropriate attire for a sea voyage, and I am clearly no sailor. I step to where three men are trying to pull and tighten a sail, take the rope with one hand and wrench it into position. They reconsider their disposition.

They leave me alone. Perhaps they are afraid of me. I do the tasks set to me without comment, whether it is tightening the ropes, cleaning the latrine or standing watch in the dead of the night. I spend my free time fishing. These tiny deaths help soothe the compulsion that drives every death knight, the need to cause pain and death.

A storm hits. Almost too powerful to be natural. In the flashes of lightning I briefly glimpse the shapes of elementals, enormous beyond comprehension. I have never seen ones this vast. They could overshadow the towers of Stormwind.

The elementals do not care about us. They do not even notice us in their play or war. The ship is thrown from side to side. The ocean's surface rises and falls with the speed and deadliness of an avalanche. I grip a mast, the fingertips of my gauntlets digging into the wood. A giant wave washes over the deck, sailors cling to rigging and railing where they can.

Grasp. The whisper in my mind is sudden and impossible to resist.

The old troll male is torn loose, a massive gust of water carries him past me. I reach out, grab his wrist. I feel bones crack, he screams, I cannot hear him but I see his expression in another lightning flash. I do not let go.

A water elemental towers over us. It engulfs another in a battle? Or an act of lovemaking? Or a game? We are directly between them. For a brief moment, there is only water below, around and above us. The ship is filled with it. My armor is filled with it. The sailors' lungs are filled with it, as are mine. Death smiles upon us and holds out her hand to welcome those around me.

The elementals pull away and take the seawater with them. All of it. Fluids are torn from our throats, vast streams spiral upwards from hatches and cracks of the hull. My armor is bone-dry. The ship finds itself in mid-air, only to plummet down into the ocean which is suddenly a dozen meters below us. I let go of the old man who ignores his broken wrist and scurries to try to save the ship. I pull a rope, tighten another, the sailors work beside me. For once we are all as one.

Then we are out of the magical calm zone and the storm is upon us again. A normal storm, now. Gale winds, huge waves, nothing the crew has not seen before. They strap us down and we weather it out.

We sail in peace after that. The old man comes to me, hand in a sling, and mutters his thanks. They still avoid me. That is fine. But there is less hostility and wariness in their eyes. I seem to have more free time now, which I once again spend catching fish. The crew seems to appreciate this well enough, but they do not try to socialize.

We reach land and pull into a secluded cove. Other ships of similar seediness are there already, others move in or out of the cove. Crews carry cargo around - contraband, clearly. Do not make trouble and I will not be hurt, I am told. I make no trouble. I am left in peace and allowed passage to the shore.

This is where I have been heading, apparently.

Go.

"There is only desert behind this cove," the captain tells me when he sees me pick up my few belongings, "you'll die."

I am already dead. And I have been directed there. I thank the captain for the ride and walk off.

The troll comes to me as I am disembarking. He says nothing, but gives me an amulet made from fish bones. Spikes of long thin cartilage are woven together and fixed with resin-like glue into an intricate flat design that resembles the silhouette of a water elemental. He must have been working on it ever since the storm, I suspect. I accept the gift and head inland, leaving behind the ship, the smugglers and the storms.
What kind of sick individual burns a book full of perfectly good dark arts?!
- Darkscryer Raastok
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Gergel
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Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Sep 2015, 19:42

The Desert.

Sand flies in the hot wind all around me. It enters the cracks of my armor, creaks and crunches. I draw my cloak close around me and walk.

I have been walking for over a week. North-west, the voice in my head instructs, and I head north-west.

The heat is incredible, even for me. In order to feel discomfort from temperature, there must be a temperature difference. I usually do not feel it: my body is almost always at the ambient temperature, and heats or cools as my surroundings do. This heat - left uncontrolled, it would bake me in my armor. I should be losing water. I should be drying into a mummified husk that will forever shamble in this blazing yellow emptiness. Or worse, lie under a dune, dried and immobile.

I cannot allow that. I take a sip of stale water from a canteen. This helps me more than a living person. To a human, the loss of moisture comes in two forms: sweat and breath. I do not sweat. I do not breathe. Much. So the water inside me can only leave my body very slowly through evaporation.

This, of course, adds to the problem of overheating. Sweat is what cools a body. My temperature should be rising to unbearable levels, especially considering the shell of metal that surrounds me. How can even I survive that?

Learn. My companion instructs me but offers no help. What are my options? Douse myself in water occasionally? Unfeasible. Do my best to wait out the daily heat and move during colder nights? Impossible.

Freeze.

I am a death knight. I use frost spells. But these are powerful and short bursts of anti-heat that cannot be maintained for long. Learn, the voice had said. I ponder the nature of the spells. My body overheats and my mind dulls. There is something just behind the veil that surrounds my understanding of my spells.

A thin wisp of cold air escapes my mouth, twirls around my head, inside my armour, across my body. Just a breath of wind. The veil parts. I can see it now. I understand it now. I... survive.

For an entire week I have seen almost no sign of life. No people, no beasts, no birds, no insects. The compulsion grows. I am in pain, far greater than the usual. I barely sustain myself on the odd lizard or a scorpion.

It grows cold at nights. Very cold. I do not mind the chill, its embrace feels like home. I sense moisture deep beneath the dunes. The nightly drop in temperature helps draw it out, as well as to condense the tiniest wisps of water in the air. Sometimes I dig to reach the dampness. Then freeze it, draw it out, gather it around myself. I meticulously gather the icing, which melts into my canteens. It will once again sustain me in the heat of the following day.

I eat a bite of dried meat. I do not hunger, the meat will last for a long time. The times I find a lizard, a snake or a scorpion, I am able to preserve my food supplies even longer.

I lie down on my cloak and stare up into the starry night, until the dawn is upon me and wintry cold once again becomes blazing heat. Then I carry on, ever to north-west.

Sometimes I walk through the night. Mostly I rest.

The second week passes. There is still sand in the joints of my armor, but it has a negligible effect on the hard steel.

The third week begins and proceeds. I see the first signs of higher life. A bird is flying far off in the extreme distance. The fragments of the skeleton of a creature bigger than a human, shining white and polished in the ever-blowing sand wind, lie before my feet.

The birds reach me the next day. Vultures must be rather confused. They sense death. But the corpse is still walking and does not look like it is going to lie down to be eaten any time soon. Still they circle above and around me.

There is another circle of vultures to the west. I change my direction just a little.

On a flat low rock outcropping is a troll. An ancient, wrinkled woman is sitting cross-legged and looking perfectly calm and comfortable, despite the blazing sun, anticipating vultures, and a scrawny canine beast that is prowling around her. She sees, hears or senses my approach, opens her eyes, looks up at me.

I come with the sun behind me, an indistinct shape surrounded by a rippling tatter-edged cloak, shining metal gleaming out from behind the waving fabric. A ghost of the desert, a long-dead corpse, a sand demon.

The troll woman unwraps her headdress which thus far had only exposed her eyes and looks at me without any fear. She eyes me up and down, then waves a hand, beckons to a spot on the stone just opposite of her and makes a sit-down gesture. As I approach, the beast stops stalking the woman and instead turns its attention on me. I do not bother drawing my sword. The canine leaps, I grab it by its throat and break its neck in one motion. The woman cackles and shuffles small bones around in front of her.

My grasp of the Trollish language is vague at best. The woman speaks a dialect. I understand only a few words, but enough to hear the request "sit". I take a seat at the spot that she indicates. She speaks, or rather, chants. I do not believe the words are meant for me. She looks up at the vultures.

What is her goal? To wait for them to eat her? To attempt to eat her? I remember the beast and how gleeful she had been when I had killed it. Not angry because I killed it before it could eat her. Not happy because I had killed it and saved her life. Just satisfied by the beast's death.

Kill.

I look up. The old woman is waiting for the vultures to descend. They are far out of reach of a hand grab. Even a well-aimed stone throw is likely to miss. Not out of range of a death grip spell, however. I raise my hand, yank a bird out of the sky, it drops like a rock and breaks upon our stone platform.

I say a word in trollish. I am unsure what it means, or why I said it. Perhaps it was not I who said the word. "Sacrifice" or "offering".

The old troll cackles again. She rearranges the bones and pebbles in front of her to yet different pattern, looks at the pattern, at me, down again. The woman speaks to me, I only catch a few words but no meaning. She holds out her hands towards my head with the clear intention of removing my helm. I intend to raise my arms to stop her.

No.

My hands drop. She lifts my helm and gets a good look at my face. Her eyes widen and the grin changes, a shade of superiority gives way to a touch of awe. She says a word that even I recognize, despite the dialect and accent. "Ghoul." The word in this context does not mean a particular type of swift rotting Scourge creature as it does in common usage. Instead, a desert devil, a demon.

She speaks quickly. I understand nothing. I lift a hand asking her to slow down. Using my basic grasp of Trollish I say, or hope to say, "I understand little Trollish, I speak less." She cocks an eyebrow and slows down. Speaks to me as if to a child, using simple words and short sentences.

"In your head, <spirit? ghost? evil force? god?>. It orders. You <travel? walk?>. You come to me. You go from me. Go across <big water? lake? ocean?>. Find <unintelligible word>. <Previous unintelligible word> show <truth? reality?>." She notices that I missed something and attempts to clarify. I grasp the word by the apparent meaning. "<Witch? Shaman? Wise-man/woman?>. <He/she> teach."

The woman holds a hand out to me. "Necklace." Does she want payment for her guidance, meager as it is?

Amulet.

I extract the fish-bone amulet from underneath my armour and slip its string off over my head. The woman grabs it, examines it. She nods with clear approval. "You wait. I <change? repair? add?>."

I wait. The trollish witch-woman chants to herself, mumbles spells or curses. Or perhaps she just likes to talk to herself. She extracts fangs from the dead beast, the beak from the vulture, and claws from both. From her bag she acquires what looks like a large vial of thick silithid resin. She molds a piece into a thin roughly circular shape. It should be sticky and difficult to work with, but the woman does not seem hindered in the least. Decades' worth of expertise, I suspect.

The fangs and claws are arranged along the outer edge of the resin disk. The beak goes in the upper-middle. She picks up a little bit of desert sand from our rocky platform and sprinkles it a strange pattern on the lower-middle.

Finally she sets the disk aside, picks up another small piece of resin and molds it into another disk, just like the previous one. She is very, very careful as she sets the second disk on top of the first. The claws, fangs, beak and sand are trapped between them like an insect in amber. Two disks meld into one.

The old troll reaches out, takes my hand, relieves it of its gauntlet. I do not even attempt to protest this time. The witch-woman pulls my fingers towards the resin disk. She points at me, then at the disk and says a word I do not recognize. Then another, I guess a synonym, but I still do not understand. She frowns. The woman conjures a spark on her palm and makes a show of throwing it aside at something, then points at me, makes a spellcasting motion again and finally points at the disk. She wants me to cast a spell. I am not a spellcaster.

The troll scratches her head and very deliberately wraps her arms around herself, shivers heavily and chatters her teeth together, going "brrr, brrr" all the while.

A frost spell. I nod in understanding. She grins with satisfaction at a job well done.

I hold my fingers close to the disk and cast a frost spell. At the same time the witch-woman also mumbles a chant of her own. A breath of cold air and something else meet at the resin disk. The spells swirl and mix and briefly cover the disk entirely in a layer of ice crystals. They disappear almost instantly and the disk... looks different. Solid. The troll picks it up with a satisfied grunt. She digs out a thin drill, makes a small hole through the disk at the top, and threads my amulet's string through it. The string now holds two amulets.

She hands it back to me. As I work on placing it back under my armour as well as replacing my helm and gauntlet, she bounces up from her rocky seat and beckons me.

There is a descending stretch of desert sand behind her. It ends at a line of trees. Behind these is the ocean once again.

"Go. <Spirit? ghost? evil force? god?> guide. Go now."

And she shoos me away, just like that. The troll woman sits down on her spot again and begins chanting, completely ignoring me from this point forward.

I head towards the beach.
What kind of sick individual burns a book full of perfectly good dark arts?!
- Darkscryer Raastok
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Gergel
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Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Sep 2015, 19:42

The Ocean.

I reach the shore in maybe half an hour. Not a single person in sight - human, troll or otherwise. The witch must have come from somewhere, but clearly her village is not on this shore that stretches out so far in both sides that it disappears into haze.

As does the ocean before me. Apparently I will need to cross it. I suppose I must find a ship again. Shall I go to the left? To the right? The nearest port might be days or weeks away. Well, at least on this shore I am not in danger of overheating, dessicating or hungering.

Raft.

Such an idea is... unwise. If I need to make my way over the ocean, it had better be in a reasonably seaworthy vessel.

Raft.

A raft would be only marginally better than walking across the water on the layer of ice that I can form under my feet.

There is an overwhelming feeling of urgency and singlemindedness. It is not painful. It is... worse. Irresistible. Trying to walk away from this is simply inconceivable. I have never felt this much power in this guidance during the weeks and months of my travels.

So, with my sword and a small hatchet and a lot of strength and patience, I fell trees, cut vines, weave grass and seaweed into a heavy ugly mass of fabric for a sail, and after weeks of work, push a rough raft into the ocean.

My boots dig into the wet sand of the shore as I push the raft towards the ocean. At first it seems it will be impossible to start the vessel moving. Ice forms under my feet, it steams and crackles in the heat, but it nevertheless provides sufficient purchase to make the first push. Once the raft starts moving on the rollers that it was built on and keeps going by inertia, it almost becomes too easy. Ice at the bottom helps move it deeper into the water and then, all of a sudden, it floats on its own.

Go.

Not even a moment to rest, it seems. Well. There will be time to rest on the raft. Rowing, after all, will not be what propels the vessel.

I raise the sail (for the lack of a better word to describe my... construct). The raft heads slowly out to the sea.

Days blend into nights. The shore disappears. Weather, fortunately, seems to favour me for once: wind tends to be in the right direction and not too strong.

This, of course, changes at the worst possible time: in the middle of the ocean. Another storm rises. Not quite as strong as the one I weathered on the ship. There are no giant elementals either. On the other hand, much worse than the previous one, as I only have a small raft underneath me.

I lower the sail and attempt to stow it. A wave washes over the raft. I barely manage to cling to the slippery trunks underneath me, but all of my baggage which has not been fastened to my armour is gone, including the sail.

It does not even matter. Another wave throws the raft into the air. We come crashing down into the valley of water between two waves. This happens a few more times until my luck simply runs out. The raft twists and turns in the air. Bindings break and logs scatter. I try to grab ahold of a log. Or build an island of ice underneath and around me. Or swim. It is hopeless.

Darkness engulfs me and I sink into the unfathomable depths beneath me. No amount of ice I can generate can slow my descent now. Air is squeezed out of my armour, from my lungs, from every cavity in my body. There is only water everywhere. The sensation of an incredible amount of pressure permeating me with water like a sponge is horrendous. It reminds me of my turning, except completely different.

I know that I am still sinking. But I cannot, in any way, sense it anymore. Around me is utter darkness and silence and immeasurable pressure. The very sense of time fades.

For a brief moment this new world around me changes as my boots very gently touch something solid. I have reached the bottom. Has it been minutes, weeks or years since the storm? I cannot tell.

Nothing lives in these incomprehensible depths. No fish. No sea monsters. No algae or bacteria. There is no life nor death on this eldritch ocean bottom, because even the laws of nature do not quite reach down here. These are the depths where the Deep Ones dare not to tread and tell their their children to beware.

I am alone. I have never been so completely alone. I see nothing, hear nothing, sense nothing. Not even the ever-present pain.

I am... at peace. My very thoughts stop. Places, faces, voices and feelings flicker and fade from my memories. I am ceasing to exist. This is a good, peaceful end.

No.

I am no longer alone. It is once again with me. Even down here.

A small pinpoint of light appears at the edge of my vision. I turn my head (or think that I am turning my head) and the pinpoint rotates to the center. I close my eyes (or think that I am closing my eyes) but the light remains. This passenger of mine is not powerful enough to create an actual light down here. It is merely an illusion or a hallucination, but oddly persistent.

Move.

And then I walk. I am aware of the direction, but not the distance. I am aware that I am moving, but I cannot tell for how long. There are mountains and valleys on this ocean bottom. I descend and ascend, or I think I do. The guiding pinpoint of light is stable and always leads me towards a static destination. I try turning and heading in another direction, but the beacon glimmers insistently in the corner of my mind's eye.

Geological eras pass. On the surface, generations are born, live and die. Civilizations rise and fall. The world itself ages under my footsteps. Or so I believe, having no grasp of the passage of time.

Sea bottom changes after a few million years or so. It feels less solid and more squishy. Sediment which has not hardened under the immense pressure. I keep walking towards my imaginary goal. The voice in my head is quiet, it has not spoken to me since I sank. But I feel its presence, if for no other reason then by the ever-present spark of light that guides me.

But what is this? Another light? This one flickers and moves back and forth, and grows larger and brighter. I do not believe I am imagining it.

No, it is real, I discover, as I glimpse something enormous and grotesque behind the light just as it dashes towards me and engulfs me. It is most definitely real. And alive. And apparently hungry. Well, I do not intend to be its next meal. The serenity of eternity leaves me in an instant, and then I do what I do best. There is no room to swing my sword, but metal gauntlets enchanted by fingers with unholy powers flowing through them can rip apart squishy innards just as well. The creature that planned to make a meal of me - well, it only has a very brief and very agonizing moment to regret that plan. Then there is blood in the water. A lot of blood. I realize that in addition to the sense of sight, I have reacquired the senses of smell and taste. I have missed them. Welcome back.

Maybe I am mistaken, but perhaps there is just a bit less pressure on and in me?

I have managed to continue walking for a mere hundred years or so, and then I am attacked again by something invisible. What feels like a giant jaw tries to cut me in half. I pry it open with all of my strength. Something produces a dull crunch and the jaw goes away. There is more blood in the water.

After another aeon or two, my surroundings begin to change. Spots of faint light appear here and there in front of me. Strangely - or perhaps altogether not strangely at all - I have no trouble distinguishing between these lights and my own beacon. My path takes me towards these new illuminated spots.

They turn out to be softly glowing very primitive-looking plants. I have seen something similar in the depths of Vashj'ir. It seems that I am starting to reach a region containing actual life. I notice huge clamshells here and there. There are no fish darting around, however, nor any kind of higher plant life. No matter. I continue forward.

Pressure, of course, decreases so gradually that I do not even notice it. It is obvious that the depth at which I drudge is growing smaller with every footstep. There are fish now. They dart around here and there, eat tiny snails, get eaten by larger fish, these in turn get eaten by a shark that just appears before me and flees at the same instant. At this point I realize that I am thinking and feeling again. As the pressure decreases, sensations return. Including pain and hunger. I have almost forgotten them. The remembrance now is that much more agonizing.

A glow slowly and almost imperceptibly appears from above. It takes me a while to realize it. Daylight. I have apparently moved so very quickly upwards that eternal night is giving way to actual daylight. There is a purpose in my footsteps now, I am all but certain that there must be a shore somewhere nearby. Time, which had thus far been moving at an unimaginable rate, has meaning again. Nights turn into days turn into nights turn into days. I need to eat again, so I snatch out with my hand - a non-trivial task under water - grab a fish and consume it raw. And another, and so on every now and then. It does not matter that each bite also contains water. Water is already everywhere out and inside of me. Interestingly I start to feel how the magicks in my body are firing up again, attempting to assert normality and beginning to expel the liquids from where they should not be.

I am no longer an unthinking unfeeling automaton. I am Thelarwen again. My armour is still around me, and my sword is still attached to my back. I cannot remember what it had been, all that time in the depths, but I must have retained enough self-sense to hold onto my most precious belonging: my weapon.

Something much larger than a fish swims past me. I glimpse a somewhat humanoid body and huge fish-eyes. It is gone in an instant. A few moments later another appears and makes a few circles around me.

It is unmistakable. I have encountered a murloc.

Murlocs do not swim deep. Murlocs do not swim far from shore.

Murlocs tend to want to kill and eat anything that is not another murloc. A small attack force regrets the unwise plan quickly. Survivors swim away in panic, while the corpses of their less-fortunate comrades float upwards. I see sunlight flicker from their scales and just a bit higher, the waves on the surface of the ocean.

I can see the surface.

It now only takes an hour or so to reach the shore. Rock turns into sand under my feet. And then I climb out of the water like a metal-clad monstrosity. Seaweed from the shallow waters near the coast has draped all over me. I am a horror story sea-monster from the lightless deeps.

But of course it seems murlocs tend not to read horror stories very often. I have one last challenge ahead of me. A huge, massive murloc stands in the water's edge between the sandy shore and myself. A school of smaller ones has gathered behind it, they gurgle excitedly to probably cheer for their champion.

The huge murloc hefts a spear in one hand, a trident in the other. I draw my sword and toss aside most of the seaweed that covers me. The spear flashes in the air. I dodge as much as I can in the shallow water and sand which still prevent easier movement, and the thrown spear glances off my shoulder armour. My opponent lets out a ululating “urglemurglemurgle!” and then lunges at me. I parry its trident blow with my sword and attempt to follow through with a riposte. For an incredibly huge walking fish, the murloc is surprisingly nimble. It draws swiftly back and the tips of my sword fail to even graze it. But it has left a different opening: one that allows me to make a quick jump out of the knee-deep water and into more maneuverable wet sand.

I need all the advantages this provides me, because the murloc is already closing in again with its trident. There is a nasty clang and a crunch. Two prongs of the creature's weapon have penetrated my armour which clearly has been weakened by pressure, time and salt water. I feel one of the tips penetrate between my ribs and the other through my right shoulder. The third scrapes along a pauldron, doing no damage. Just as quickly, the murloc yanks its weapon free and jumps back before I can even raise my blade.

If this continues, I am in trouble.

Will I meet my second death at the hands of a mere murloc?! Really?! I am a death knight. Time to start acting like one.

Wet sand crackles and freezes under my boots. A patch of ice spreads slowly around me, despite the tropical sun from above and hot sand all around us. The murloc dances back and forth at the edge of the frozen sand. I heft my two-handed sword in my injured right hand and twist dark powers in my left.

The creature screams with surprise as a necromantic death grip pulls it from its safe and secure prowling spot and right up to where I am already winding up a mighty blow from a two-handed sword. The murloc thrusts its trident into my chest. My swing makes a blue-glowing arc in the air which continues almost unhindered through the fish-man's thick neck and all the way to the other side.

My chestplate is good, solid Argent steel. The sharp prongs pierce the steel and its points jab into my chest, but the trident fails to penetrate any deeper.

The murloc falls over with its head rolling and bouncing across the sand. Its companions have lost any and all will to cheer and run away in panic.

And then I hear the laughter of several people behind me, followed by an applause. I turn around. At the edge of the shore, where sand meets jungle, stands a group of half-naked trolls, grinning and clapping at me.
What kind of sick individual burns a book full of perfectly good dark arts?!
- Darkscryer Raastok
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Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Sep 2015, 19:42

The Island.

Seven large, healthy and rested trolls versus one injured and tired death knight. Hardly a fair fight. I pity the hapless trolls who would make a mistake of attacking me.

I boast, of course. But another battle is not on today's itinerary, it seems. The head troll is a massive, muscular specimen that nevertheless does not reek of corrupting magic like the overinflated berserkers I am used to encountering on Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. No, his bulk comes from entirely natural and well-trained muscles. The only smell I sense coming from him is a pungent stench of murloc. His skin is green with a light hint of blue with a few tattoo lines here and there but not overly much. He and his comrades are wearing kilts made of dark green scaly leather that I suspect had once belonged to murlocs. I cannot be certain, but their necklaces, bracelets and other adornment might also be made from murloc claws and teeth. And of course there is no mistaking the strings with small shrunken and stuffed murloc heads which circle their necks and waists.

Most of the group carry spears and tridents. One, a muscular female, has a long and sharp-looking machete hanging from her belt. The head troll lifts his large trident - longer than the one belonging to the now-dead giant murloc - in his hand. He holds the shaft from the center, turns it horizontal, extends his hand holding it and lets it drop on the sand very demonstratively and expressively. The others relax, hold their weapons casually at their sides and rest their tips in the sand nonthreateningly.

The expression is clear. Even though I do not understand the language, I do recognize the calm, friendly tone that the lead troll uses to address me. I lift my sword in my hand, hold it horizontal before me, and let it fall on the sand next to the spear.

The trolls laugh and spread out. Several wander over to the dead murloc, go "ooh!" and "aah!" and make appreciative gestures towards me. A few others slink off along the coast, to do some hunting of their own, I suspect. The huge leader picks up his trident to clean it, and I do the same with my sword, wipe it clean and attach it to its resting place on my back.

Next he picks up the murloc's trident and sticks the murloc's huge head on top of it as a grisly trophy. Then he hands the weapon to me. All this is accompanied by a one-sided conversation that I do not understand at all. The dialect is so different from the Amani speech that I do not recognize any words.

He is clearly aware that he cannot communicate with me. I believe he is only talking to express his calm and friendly tone of voice and peaceful intentions. Then he points at himself and intones a word. "Mulai."

The troll looks at me expectantly. I think he is introducing himself.

"Thelarwen."

He looks slightly confused. "De… ra… ra… n?"

A bit too difficult and unfamiliar for a troll mouth. "Thel."

Mulai grins much more widely now and nods. "D'el." He turns his body halfway and points towards the jungle. "'Ey D'el! Yu weh!" Clearly he wants me to follow. His comrades are already around us. Two carry the headless corpse of my kill, three others carry a smaller dead murloc each, and the last one brings everyone's weapons. The hunting party is ready to return home and they are inviting me along.

Go.

It has been a while, voice in my head. Yes, I will go. I was planning to follow them anyway.

We walk in the forest for a few hours. Vegetation is thin and the ground is easy to traverse. It is a pleasant enough trek. The trolls talk incessantly amongst themselves. Every now and then one looks towards me, gives me an acknowledging and encouraging nod or a friendly word. I catch a glimpse of respect from their eyes. Maybe it has something to do with the ease with which I am handling the heavy trident and its murloc head.

The sun is dropping towards the evening when we reach the edge of the forest again. There is a large village ahead of us. Hundreds of trolls, according to my quick approximate guess. It does not seem warlike - no spiked walls, armed warriors or the like. Just men and women and children going about their business. Children are the first ones to notice me. A squealing crowd gathers in a flash. None of them look hostile or fearful, I see only amazed and joyous gazes. They surround me completely, touching my armour and sword and trident, pointing at the murloc head trophy. For a moment I am forced to a standstill because I simply cannot move for fear of stepping on someone. But Mulai barks orders and the crowd disperses somewhat to let us pass.

Mulai yells something towards the village. A few moments later, as our party continues towards it, we see an old woman making her way towards us with a determined expression on her face. Where most other villagers are content to stand and gape, she has a target: me. Or Mulai. Or both.

The old woman exchanges quick words with the hunter leader. She eyes me up and down and I see an expression of recognition. Then she turns towards me and, to my utter surprise, addresses me in simple, heavy-accented but completely understandable Common.

"'Ello womon! Welcome ta da village. Ah be Niljan."

That was unexpected. I manage to introduce myself. "Thelarwen… Thel."

Niljan senses my confusion. "Ah be visitin' big lands. Meet da Horde. Learn Orcish. Learn Common. Good, eh?" She cackles with laughter. "Come, D'el. Mah son Mulai say you be killin' big-big murloc alone." She eyes the head and the body. "Dis be mighty good work." The old woman seeks a word briefly. "Honourable. You be comin' wit' us, sit, rest, eat! Take off big iron armour!"

I should mention that I am still wearing my helm. A human - strange creature by itself - is one thing, but a walking corpse might not make a good impression on the natives. "I… Thank you, but I would rather not remove my armour," I tell the woman carefully. She peers into the eye-slit of my helm and a new, knowing look appears in her wrinkly expression.

"Aha. Ah get it. Come ta mah hut den, D'el. Ya be wet an' wounded, ya be needin' healin'."

Truthfully, I am indeed. I would like to sit in a secluded spot, take off my armour to clean it and myself. But obviously not in this unfamiliar village full of strangers. But the old woman with an unusually strong grip has grabbed my hand and is already dragging me away. Mulai snatches the trident with the murloc head from my hand and apparently goes to plant it in a spot of honour. A dozen children try to follow us, but a few stern words from Niljan make them change their minds and run off.

As we walk, I ask the question that has been burning in my mind since I emerged from the ocean. "What year is it?" How long had I been down there? The Horde still exists? Either they have survived for millions of years or…

Niljan tells me the year and the month. I am dumbfounded all the way to the hut. According to her, my journey under the waves had taken just a little more than half a year. Not aeons, not millennia, not centuries, not even decades.

She sits me down in the middle of a medium-large tent. I cannot help but notice that this tent, and every other, appears to be made of patched-together murloc skin stretched over a wooden frame. There are bottles and jars and bags everywhere. Everything reeks of murloc. I glimpse pieces of murloc bodyparts - eyes, scales, organs, tongues, things I do not even recognize - among shrunken heads, fetishes and masks. It seems Niljan is a local wise-woman or shaman.

The old woman does not give me much time to examine my surroundings. She pulls my helm off despite my carefully timid protestations.

"Ya be dead womon, eh?" she says. "Don' worry. Ah been ta da Horde. Seen lots dead pepal walkin'. Ya be lookin' good." She pokes me in the nose. "Nose not be fallin' off. Don' worry. Da village won' mind."

I suppose they have some contact with the Horde and have therefore seen the Forsaken. Most of these look indeed worse than I do.

"A'ight. Get ya armour off. Big holes in armour. Big holes in ya, need healin'. Ah do good voodoo!"

"No. I am sorry, I will not take the armour off," I tell her very carefully.

Niljan shakes her head with a disappointed look on her wrinkly face. "Fine. Dat be ya loss. Still gon' try ta heal ya but ah have ta stick da voodoo in holes. Hurt less if ya take da armour off. No?"

She proceeds to smear a greasy substance with an overwhelmingly fishy (or rather murloc-y) smell onto a stick which she inserts into the holes in the shoulder and chest of my armour. I do not know the exact condition of my wounds below it, but experience shows that they should be already healing. The grease still stings quite a lot.

A golden-green glow appears in Niljan's palm which she lifts towards my chest. I stop her hand instantly. "Please. No holy magic."

The woman shakes her head again. "Ya not da first dead womon ah heal. Probably not da last. Not gon' hurt ya."

It feels not unlike a druidic healing spell, but it is nevertheless not quite nature magic. In any case, it definitely helps. The sharp pain recedes and only the dull ever-present one remains.

"Good. Now come ta da village, eat, rest. We gon' speak 'bout da ding in ya head tomorrow."

That was unexpected.

As Niljan had predicted, none of the villagers are obviously hostile towards my undead state. I notice a number of them keeping their distance and whisper amongst themselves, but just as many wave and smile at the great murloc-hunter.

The head of the murloc I had killed has been stripped of flesh and is now just a skull on top of the trident. There are a few teeth missing, I notice. Perhaps someone decided to make a necklace. I am fairly certain that the flesh of that murloc, as well as those killed by the hunters, is cooking in several pots and roasting on spits. I must admit that the smell is indeed quite good.

We eat, drink, rest. The trolls go to their huts to get their sleep. Both Niljan and Mulai offer me a guest mat in their hut, but I decline respectfully. Instead I sit on a rock by the seashore and let my mind go blank as I watch the moon go up and down again. No vengeful murlocs attack under the cover of the night. No demons, undead or beasts dare interrupt the murloc-hunters' slumber.

In the morning my hosts go to their daily tasks. The old witch-doctor beckons me to her hut. Clearly it is time to discuss the presence in my head.

"Spirit in ya head, it powaful. Ah not know name. But ah feel da powa in it. Need mo' powa an' a special place ta get outta head. Ya have a ding of voodoo on ya? Amulet? Fetish?"

I show her the two amulets I have gained over the course of my travels. Despite the storm and the depth of the ocean, both are entirely intact and look as good as the day they were made.

"Yes. Dis be powaful voodoo. Give ta me. Ah gon' put mo' voodoo in. Den ya ready, go free da spirit. Ya go ta Stranga'dorn jungle. Big secret. Deep in jungle. Da spirit guide ya, ya find secret. Den da spirit go free. Ya carry it well, it maybe give powaful reward."

"How will I go to Stranglethorn?" I have no idea which way to sail, even if I had a boat. Maybe the trolls will lend or sell me one.

The witch-doctor laughs. "No worry. Big ship gon' come in week, mebbeh two. We trade wit' goblins. Dey bring ship, bring stuff, we give stuff. Ya go on ship, go ta Stranga'dorn."

So I must wait. The presence in my head seems to accept this, it does not compel me to move faster nor find an alternative way of transportation. Niljan takes the two amulets, shoos me away from her hut and gets to work with her incomprehensible murloc-based voodoo.

Mulai has taken me under his wing. He and his hunting party - whose membership seems to change every day, often including women and sometimes studious teenagers - drag me around their island, show me their best murloc-hunting and fishing spots. Occasionally I wander off alone, sit on the shore of a stream and stare at my fishing bobber. Sven comes to mind. I wonder if he is doing well. Perhaps I will see him again some day, and we can fish together like we did so long ago.

And then a ship appears on the horizon. Troll children notice the sail immediately and cause enough of a ruckus that the entire village is promptly roused. Burly and surly goblins begin to ferry goods back and forth between the ship and the shore. With the help of my last gold coins (miraculously surviving in the satchel that also used to house my amulets) I manage to strike my usual deal with them: I work for passage. Good fortune is with me, their next destination is Booty Bay. The captain estimates that it will take only a few weeks with good winds.

On the last evening, Niljan calls me to her hut again.

We sit face to face, with a stone slab between us. My amulets lie on it. The two separate items have been joined, one above the other, by a latticework of what look like murloc claws and teeth. I realize that this is what must have happened to the missing teeth from the skull of my murloc. Now their lower ends have been inserted and melted into the resin disc, while their sharp tips hold the fish-bone lattice in their circle, where it has been bound very tightly and strongly with what looks like very thin sinew. Murloc, no doubt.

The witch-doctor points to the now-singular amulet. "It be done. Big powa in da amulet now. Ya go ta Straga'dorn. Find secret temple. Den ya free da spirit."

She looks at me, deadly serious. "Keep da amulet safe. Rememba dis: bad dings happen if da amulet get broken. Da moment when da spirit leave ya an' be free, da spirit voodoo be tied ta da amulet. Da spirit go free, den amulet be not'in."

While the amulet is in my possession, I must guard it with my unlife and keep it safe. Otherwise something terrible will happen to me, the spirit and the world. I pick it up from the rock. It tingles my fingers even through my gauntlets. Something reaches out from me and through me and binds itself to the amulet. My passenger getting ready to depart, manifest and be free.

"Rememba what ah said," Niljan tells me even as I step on the goblins' boat to make my way to the ship and to sail from this island. "Da moment when da spirit move from ya, da amulet need ta be safe!"

She continues staring at me with her unfathomable expression as the boat departs from the fish-man-hunter island shore. Many villagers, including Mulai, wave at me and yell good wishes in their tongue that I have only barely started to grasp after these weeks. I do not know if I will ever return here. But I think I would like to.
What kind of sick individual burns a book full of perfectly good dark arts?!
- Darkscryer Raastok
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Gergel
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Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Sep 2015, 19:42

The Jungle.

I do not count the days, but I recognize weeks as they pass by. First by ship, then on foot. The journey to Booty Bay is utterly uneventful. The weather is fine, wind is at our back, the ship shoots across the waves at excellent speed with its sails billowing. I notice the goblin crew moving with doubled enthusiasm. Clearly we are nearing the home port.

And soon we pull into the large harbour. The captain tosses me a small bag of gold coins. Such an unusual gesture of gratitude from a goblin must mean that I have been working far more vigorously than expected. The money does indeed come in handy in the port. I can purchase a new pack, a few supplies and a bit of food. Then the presence in my head drags me towards the jungle. I do not even have time to repair my battered and punctured armour.

Go. Move. Hurry.

One would almost believe that it is in a rush to get to wherever we are heading now.

The "wherever" is apparently in the deepest, darkest, most secluded part of the jungle. I move through bushes and around massive trees. My traversal consists more of climbing up or sliding down than actual walking. Unpleasant plants impede my progress. Vines I can cut through, thorny bushes only scrape against the steel around me, the darts shot from within the blooms of beautiful orchid-like flowers ricochet off or fall down harmlessly. Once something huge, green and slimy engulfs me and attempts to swallow me whole. Even as its digestive juices attempt to deal with an iron overdose, winter comes early to it. Frost magic permeates my body and armour. The giant flesh-eating plant withers and falls apart.

Animals are no better. The deeper I go, the more snakes I see slithering around. Some attempt to bite me and only end up with broken fangs as a reward. Others figure it to be a good idea to strangle me. I am a death knight with a compulsive need to regularly cause pain and torment to living creatures. The constrictors find this out the hard way. If they are less lucky, I rip and slice them apart before they even manage to attack me. If they are more lucky, they might get their coils around me, which I then tear apart.

Then there is the occasional big panther or an ape. Interestingly, these higher life-forms often tend to take a good look at me, then decide that discretion is the better part of valour, and slink away back into the jungle. The ones that do decide to try their luck, find it running out rapidly.

Only birds and insects do not seem to be interested in me.

My armour is covered in unmentionable substances and in a terrible shape. Bent and twisted from the attacks, as well as my ordeal at the bottom of the ocean. Punctured by murlocs, gouged by claws, compressed by snakes. Corroded by acids, rusted by water. Still, it must make do until the end.

I am not allowed rest. The spirit - as Niljan had called it - in my head is hammering against the back of my skull almost constantly now. It yearns to be free. I sense a hidden anger and hatred. I suspect it wishes to exact revenge on who or whatever had stripped it of its power and forced it to hitch a ride with a mere twice-mortal death knight. Its desires drive me forward towards an unknown destination. At least we are completely and utterly certain of the direction.

The ground underfoot becomes wet. Soon we wallow through a muddy bog. My boots start sinking into mud.

Ice. Hurry.

I could not use the Path of Frost to cross an ocean, but a swamp is somewhat easier. Water and mud freeze under each footstep I take. Instead of crawling through ooze and slime, I am able to walk on top of the terrible stinking and sinking surface.

I glimpse a hydra in a black lake through the twisted trees. It either does not notice me, or decides to ignore me. I return the favour with gratitude.

Finally the swamp turns into a bog, which in turn returns to being a jungle. Travelling is slightly easier, but only slightly. The passenger in my head still urges me along constantly. It feels as if it is suppressing my compulsion and pain. Perhaps a promise of a reward to come, or perhaps a way of keeping me intent on moving.

The jungle grows sparser. Massive trees diminish, smaller trees spread apart. Walking is easier and faster. I encounter a river, which I cross on a raft of ice. As I step onto the other shore, a gargantuan crocolisk torpedoes out of the water. Its jaws close on my legs and midsection.

I offer a silent thanks to the Argent blacksmith who forged and repaired my armour. Even in its weakened state it offers enough protection that I am not immediately bitten to pieces. Steel plates creak frighteningly under the pressure exerted by the crocolisk’s jaw muscles. The creature does not have any more time to increase its damage. I stab it directly in the eye with the twin blades of my sword. A necrotic surge turns the crocolisk’s brain into mush. The jaw relaxes, I pick myself up and press deeper into the following jungle before the creature’s comrades have a chance to continue where the first one failed.

It is the next day that an overwhelming feeling of jubilation floods all of my senses.

We stand in front of a stone statue of Trollish design. The carvings have been erased by time and moss, but the sense of recognition I feel from my passenger is unmistakeable.

Path. Up.

There is indeed a stone-paved road which leads through a gap between rows of trees. There are vines and bushes everywhere. I might have missed it if the voice in my head had not warned me. Now that I have noticed it, I can follow fairly easily.

There are more of these statues. I see a few un-eroded pictures of what look like dreadful battles, beasts and rituals. Strange huge rock formations stand here and there. Each has a face hewn into it, every one more grotesque than the other. We are getting close to our destination.

And then, once we push through the next bush, we meet a troll.

Evil magic radiates from its gigantic hulk. Where Mulai and the murloc hunters had been bulked by training, hunting and a healthy diet of murloc, this creature seems to consist solely of twisted muscle which has been enhanced by unnatural concoctions and dark voodoo. Bony spikes have ripped out here and there through its tattooed skin. The very skin itself has ripped apart in places, exposing black glistening muscle.

It does not attack me.

The giant troll falls on its knees before me. It bows deep until its forehead touches the pavement in front of my boots. I do not understand the rumbling words it says, but I believe it is praying to the being I have carried here from across the world. Its deity.

Amulet.

I open my backpack and hold the amulet in my hands. The claws, fangs, fish bones and resin seem to vibrate and hum with power. Small purple sparks crackle between its various pointy parts.

Gauntlets.

My gloves fall to the ground. I hold the amulet in my bare hands. The trollish monstrosity has lifted its head but is still kneeling before me. It holds out its arms, both larger than my entire body. Its huge fingers touch the far edge of the amulet. For such a massive thing, the way it feels the amulet is incredibly delicate.

Tips of murloc teeth pierce the troll’s skin. I would have assumed - no, I can see from the wounds in its body that its skin is incredibly thick and tough - but each of these tiny punctures draws a speck of blood.

In this instant I glimpse several normal-sized withered trolls staring at us from ahead on the path. Priests of the deity in my head, no doubt. They begin a low chant. There is no time to examine them. My hands move on their own. The being that rides me now moves them purely through its own will. I touch the points of the murloc-claw lattice on my side of the amulet, they prick me, draw blood.

Then, a massive, agonizing, overwhelming surge of power through me. I scream towards the sky. The troll roars in unison. Something unnatural flows through my head and body and out through my fingertips. The feeling I am left with is of devastating loneliness and emptiness. As if I had known the touch of divinity - and lost it forever. My legs falter. I fall on my knees, then on my hands. I want to vomit, but nothing comes up. Ground swirls and comes up to meet my face. There are dull metallic clangs and scrapes as my entire body convulses on the ground.

The troll is in little better shape. It is still on its knees and holding the amulet, but it is rigid and twitching uncontrollably. The ugly face twists and seems to reshape itself. Black eyes mist over, go gray, then green, then settle on deep glowing purple.

"I will be free."

The voice is slow, low and terrifying. It comes from the troll behemoth’s mouth, but it is not uttered by a mortal tongue.

"You have done well, tiny thing. One step remains. Stay here. I will go up. I will be free. And then I return..."

Its purple eyes are full of pure malevolence.

"... With your reward."

I am still on the ground. My bare hand touches the blade of my fallen sword. Its runes glow blue and cold. Its steel, unmarred by water, blood, acid, pressure or monster bones, shines in my eyes. It is my runeblade. A part of me. A fragment of my very soul.

For a brief moment I glimpse the face of Niljan.

"Rememba dis: bad dings happen if da amulet get broken."

"Da moment when da spirit move from ya, da amulet need ta be safe!"

She wanted me to keep the amulet safe. To keep the spirit safe.

Did she? This... horrible thing before me. Did Niljan truly want it freed?

Did she, in her wisdom, give me a hint that would aid me in case I did not wish for this dreadful presence loosened on the world?

The possessed troll stands up slowly, turns and tries to walk up the path. It is being puppeteered by something that is clearly unfamiliar with the strings needed to move this new body. The creature sways and stumbles.

My hand grasps the blade of my sword. It slices into me. It drinks my blood. Then the blue runes flash red and in return a surge of power floods into me. My vision should be red, but instead it is blue-white. Despite the pain, fatigue and dizziness which still overwhelms me, I am ready for battle. I hardly even notice that I have leaped to my feet and grasped the hilt of my sword. There is a roar, whether from my throat or the trolls or both, I do not comprehend. The huge troll’s face twists in surprise and then anger.

"Puny fool. No matter. The quicker you will die."

It swings at me. I duck under the clumsy arm and close in. There is no time to do battle. Already the other trolls are yelling and closing in. I must end this in a single instant with a single stroke. The entire being of the entity Thelarwen Lockworth is behind the thrust of my runeblade.

The tip of the sword runs through the troll’s neck. Its two blades slice past either side of the windpipe and spinal column. Arteries and veins are ripped apart. There is a crunch when the sword penetrates between two vertebrae and severs a big part of the spinal cord.

A horrible, inhuman cry rises from the throats of every troll I see. It is their turn to fall on the ground and lie there twitching and gasping. The massive troll sways from side to side. There is no more danger of being crushed by its blows. Nothing controls its limbs anymore. Time seems to slow as it teeters on its heels. With a dull resonating thud, it lands on the ground on its back. My sword is still sticking out of its neck. Blood pools underneath it, but the thing in its head is still keeping it alive, though it should already be in death throes.

Its bloody lips snarl. "You... You have accomplished nothing! I will be free and then you will know such agony that even your undead masters could not dream of."

The burning pain I had felt before is now just a dull ache in every single nerve in my body. I climb the fallen troll’s chest, grasp the hilt of the sword that had been pulled from my hand, and yank the metal out with a squelch. Black blood oozes down the twin blades. I think I have a snarling grin on my face when I swing my sword to cut down every single troll priest in the vicinity, many of whom have not yet even managed to recover from the blow they had been dealt through their deity.

When I look at the fallen god’s face, I see a touch of fear in it. It gurgles through the dying throat of its host.

"I... was wrong. I wanted to kill you. I see my faults clearly now. Please... help me... Save me, and I will reward you... beyond your imagination. I swear this."

One hand of the troll still grasps the amulet. I step on the fingers with my boot and force the palm open. The amulet lies there, still glowing with purple sparks.

"Just... let me enter you... once again. We will go... up... to the altar... There I will be free... and you will have... whatever you can dream of..."

Wisps of purple seem to ooze out of the dying troll’s eyes and stream towards me. I feel my mind being invaded.

"Never. Again."

I draw the cold power of a Mind Freeze spell into the palm of my free hand... and use it on myself. The pain in my brain is like a giant icicle being rammed through my skull. Whatever shred of power the god-entity had tried to use against me is pushed back with a nearly-visible force.

"You cannot... kill me! I... will be back... Some day. It is... inevitable! Serve me now... in this moment... Take the amulet to the altar... and be rewarded. But if I... return... without your help... I will have my... vengeance!"

I insert the tip of my sword between the amulet and the troll’s palm, lift the little thing and drop it in the middle of the creature’s chest.

"Rememba dis: bad dings happen if da amulet get broken."

"No! Think... of what... I could do... for you! Money!... Power!... Armies!... Strength... to kill... any enemy!"

Its life is fading. I must act now.

"I can... give you... back your life! I can... bring back Susan!"

"She. Is. Dead."

I stand on the troll’s chest. I lift my sword high above my head with its blade tips pointing straight down.

All of the strength of my body, my soul and my sword goes into this blow. My runeblade strikes the amulet in the center. The unnaturally resilient construct of bone, sinew, tooth and resin shatters, but the sword just keeps going through the troll’s sternum, heart and lungs all the way to the hilt.

There is a humongous roar of power, terror and energy. A tremendous blast of wind radiates out from around us. It rips huge jungle trees out by their roots. It tosses the corpses of troll priests like rag dolls. Stone statues shatter into a myriad of shards and scatter forever. Purple fire shoots out of the dead troll’s eyes and mouth, dances in the air and is whisked away by the wind.

Then it is calm again.

There is just myself, my blade and the huge corpse under my feet. It seems to visibly shrink and deflate. Something nasty bubbles all around it and seeps away into the ground, where, I suspect, nothing will ever grow again. The fragments of the amulet are dull and dead. They, too, liquefy before my eyes.

It is over.

I can go back to my own life again.




Epilogue.

I have been away for less than a year, but the world has changed enough to be barely recognizable.

The Burning Legion is invading. Demons are everywhere. My sword and skills have not been needed this much since the fall of the Lich King and the Scourge.

The Argent Crusade has been dealt a terrible blow. Highlord Tirion Fordring is dead. Many, too many, of my comrades-in-arms have lost their lives upon the Broken Shore, trying in vain to halt the demons’ advances. I wonder if I should have been with them. Maybe I would have turned the tide. Or maybe I would have died alongside them, another nameless corpse in fel-seeped battlefield.

Strange new tidings move in the word-of-mouth of the Crusade. Some say the time of the Crusade is over and that we will join the Silver Hand. Some say this, and that only paladins would be accepted. Time will tell if I still have someone to call my comrades.

I ask about Florence Silsbury. No one has seen her in many months. I visit the places where we used to go together, where I knew she liked to spend time, but Florence is nowhere to be found.

I ask about Sven Chambers. He has been missing for even longer, ever since I was last in the civilized lands. There are no news about him.

Once I notice Lilandris and Aroona in the distance. I leave them to their doings and travel the other way.

I carefully inquire about Adrenus. Our intrepid adventurer has often been seen dragging yet another hapless group of adventurers into strange, wondrous and terrifying adventures. But he has not been seen for several weeks either. I hope he did not find that ultimate battle against some half-demon half-ogre half-troll half-silithid half-tuskarr half-mogu half-dragon undead lightning-enchanted one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater.

My armour is in shambles. The things I have battled during my travels have taken their toll. I go to see Adrian Jaxon, an Argent armourer in whom I have placed much faith and trust.

Adrian looks at me and covers his face with a palm. "I didn’t think I’d see the day when you come to me with your armour in so bad shape that even I can’t really do anything to help. And you are still ali... undead... in it. Sheesh. Well, on the other hand it just goes to say that I make damn good armour."

He pokes a finger into one of the many new holes. "Yeah. Don’t think there’s any more value in this except scrap. I’ll need to start from scratch. Awesome. As if I didn’t have too much work on my forge already, what with the demons and whatnot." He grumbles but I know he is a good man and will aid me selflessly.

While he ponders about the forge, I look around the storage area. Adrian has collected and created many interesting items over the years. Most of them weapons and armour, of course, but I also see intricate iron flowers with actual veins etched into their leaves and blooms, horseshoes (including a giant one that could fit a pit lord), cooking utensils, locks, hinges and so on and so on. One display catches my eye. An armour stand is set up just next to the door to the forge. On it sits a full set of black-and-red plate armour. The metal seems to be unpainted. The red stripes appear to be inside the very metal itself.

"Adrian. What is this?" I inquire.

"Oh, that’s just a prototype. When I first got my hands on that strange fel-iron-without-the-fel from the weird Red Portal that appeared a few years ago, I thought I’d see how it can be shaped into armour. Well, I kinda-sorta miscalculated a bit. That alloy is so damn strong that I can make plate that’s half as thin as our common steel, yet a quarter tougher. But with that suit I made the plates to full normal thickness. Oh yeah, it’s strong as hell, probably can handle an elekk falling on it, but it’s way too heavy. Hardly anyone can move in it. So it’s sitting here, reminding me to use the Draenor iron properly."

"May I try it on?" I ask.

"Yeah, but..." Adrian laughs, "Yeah, you’re way strong, you could actually manage to take three steps in it."

He gives me my privacy as I remove my old, broken armour and slip into the draenic iron armour. Adrian is correct, the pieces weigh considerably more than steel or saronite. Yet the fit is almost perfect and as the pieces have been built according to normal Argent specifications, all the hooks, catches and fastenings are in the accustomed places. The helm allows me a fairly good field of vision, even compared to my usual one. It takes far more effort than normally to move in the armour.

I flash back to my youth when the farm girl I used to be first tried wearing the plate of the Argent Dawn. It took me weeks and months to learn to wear it. I think I can manage to do this again.

"Adrian."

He appears from his forge and eyes me up and down with an expert look. "Wow. That’s pretty good. Hey, you did manage to take three steps in it!"

"I would like to wear this armour," I nod to him. Plates creak in an unfamiliar way as I move.

"As in, this ungodly pile of iron? You nuts?" He sighs. "Of course you’re nuts. Think you can actually move and fight in it?"

"Yes. I must train and build up my strength, but I am certain I can make use of this."

Adrian grins. "Well, if you’re wearing this thing, we can send you up against a dozen pit lords and you’d hardly get a scratch. And no one but no one will be able to give you a hug strong enough to lift you off the ground, ha-ha-haa!"

The blacksmith pokes me here and there. "I’ll have to adjust this and that and the other thing and this bit here. Should take me a few days at most. Stick around."

And so I do. We test out the fit several more times. Each time it feels more natural than before. It even seems slightly lighter, but that is merely me becoming accustomed to it.

While Adrian works on one piece or the other, I carefully engrave and etch Argent insignia into the plates. Rumours about the future of the Crusade are not good. And this black metal reminds me of the past. So I create the insignia of the Argent Dawn, instead of the newer ones of the Crusade. Adrian notices this, no doubt, but does not comment. He also is a remnant from the old days.

In the end I put on my new set of armour that fits me perfectly. I help Adrian around the forge, lifting heavy metal pieces and swinging a massive hammer as he directs me to build pieces of what look like siege engines. This sort of work builds my strength rapidly. Working inside my new metal shell allows me to grow fully accustomed to it. When time comes to battle demons, I will be ready.

After several weeks pass, I am ready to travel back to Stormwind. Perhaps I will sit in a quiet spot near the Blue Recluse again, see old familiar faces or someone new. Perhaps those I care about will return to me.

Only time will tell.
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Topic/Postby Tormeron » 20 Sep 2015, 11:42

Intriguing!
Lilandris wrote:Liandrix' words not mine, but Tormeron is a god apparently. Probably a bit like Loki.

serendipity wrote:Reason: Potato.

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Topic/Postby Gergel » 13 Aug 2016, 22:53

Almost a year later, and the fourth part is finally posted.

About damn time, if I do say so myself.

This should really get finished by the time Legion comes around properly. Hopefully the final two chapters are a bit easier to write.
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Topic/Postby Gergel » 18 Aug 2016, 20:28

One to go. And a bit more. Phew.
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Topic/Postby Sven » 18 Aug 2016, 22:56

Enjoying it so far :-)
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