The Changing of the Guard

Public forum for the writings of the members of the Order. Here you'll find background stories and other stories written by the members of the Order...

Moderators: Former Council, Seniors, The Council

The Changing of the Guard

Postby Anhagath on Sun Jan 31, 2016 6:05 am

((Just a little something between my two characters. Out with the old, in with the new, except the old is still hanging around and irritating everyone so not really. For those unaware of their link, it was not quite a secret--it's in some of my older stories posted here!))

_________

He was knelt quietly, head half-bowed, his golden eyes trained on the shimmer of the moonwell water that flowed from the raised dish in the hands of the statue above.

Stormcrow.

Shadeseeker was concerned... and rightfully so. “The Naga and Zarill are of the same cloth, Melandrel. They are working together. For the Glory of the old Kingdom and the Light of Lights.” Was Stormcrow brainwashed? Had Zarill indeed “planted seeds in his subconscious,” to flourish into ideologies, as he had hinted?

He wondered if it were true, in a detached, calm way.

The peace within Anhagath, granting clarity, had come from the violence earlier in the day: he had fought side-by-side with fellow soldiers, taking down a Doomguard, and perhaps a score of lesser undead. His flames had seared flesh, his blade bitten bone, and he had returned to the Temple at peace. Such destruction, the complete obliteration of his enemies, brought tranquility to his mind—which had been troubled, of late.

And the odor his flared nostrils had caught there had brought him further peace, even joy. The faintest, sweetest scent on the wind. He had been smiling, when Shadeseeker had come to him, worry etched in her face.

He mulled it all over in his mind with this fresh perspective, this new clear-headedness.

He had told her simply to treat Stormcrow as she always did: to give her support. If he were indeed a traitor, there was little more damage that he could do. The Order had already been betrayed once; they would be ready for another betrayal, regardless of who was at its source. Suspicion, on the other hand, would only ruin him, if he were not already ruined. Drive him further away.

And regardless—had he not suffered enough...? Had Zarill not tormented the elf, and all because of Anhagath? Because of his pursuit of these artifacts, his belief that the Order could have neatly rounded them up before retribution was wrought? At the very least, Stormcrow's suffering bought him the benefit of the doubt—even if his release had, as Shadeseeker had pointed out with a troubled tone, been oddly convenient.

No. Stormcrow had been tormented, he had suffered for their secrets, for Anhagath's cause, and he would not throw him to the dogs. Not yet. Altruistic mage, indeed, he thought to himself, sourly. Regardless, his instincts told him to trust Stormcrow. His quiet, earnest words, his suppressed pain.

Or perhaps it was guilt, a refusal to lay any blame on someone who was essentially a victim of Anhagath's hubris.

Damn it all. Stormcrow was right about one thing, at least—it was Anhagath's fault, entirely. He had spent long hours praying with the Priestesses of the Temple, trying to find the best path for the Order. He had considered capitulating. Handing over the artifacts, ending all of this now. Was it worth it...?

To give up now would be to give the naga powerful weapons to use against their people. Yet they were targetting the Order, now, individually—Stormcrow, the Keeper, even her children. Anhagath had not known, when he had begun all of this, just how dangerous it would get. But “I didn't know” was never an excuse.

He did not hear the soft footsteps padding up behind him, lost in thought as he was, but the sweet scent came to him. He inhaled deeply again, lifting his head, and her voice came melodic and gentle from behind him.

“Is there something I can do for you?”

Anhagath tensed, slightly, then relaxed, turning with a faint, but warm, smile. “No, Priestess... No. Your mere presence is enough, thank you.”

She was smiling back, a soft humor in her knowing silver gaze. “You are certain? At times, it is best to lay your worries aside for another to look over, and I am here to offer the guidance of the Goddess.”

So this was how she wanted to play it...? He dipped his head, faint smile twisting into a good-natured smirk. He tried to control it, glancing up at the Temple entrance—but no, they were alone, or nearly so, only a few acolytes quietly studying at the far end of the Temple.

“I... thank you for your offer, Priestess, but my information would merely put you in danger.” He spoke with stiff politeness, yet there was deep amusement in his tone.

“Ahh. I am told my Order is already targetted by danger. I doubt it would matter all that much,” she replied primly, stepping up and curling her dress beneath her, kneeling by his side. He smiled at her closeness, looking back to the water only after staring at her for a time.

“You are, yes. Does your Keeper recover well...?”

“She does. You have been absent, Moonflame.” There was no reproach in her tone, only gentle, mischievous humor—as ever. As always.

“I have been hunting.” He closed his eyes, inhaling deeply once more, and abruptly he found that there were delicate hands on his, prying away his gloves. He did not flinch, did not even open his eyes. A moment later her hand was in his, soft to his calloused, warm to the touch.

“A good hunt, I hope.”

“A doomguard. A few undead.”

“Not alone.” It was a question, of sorts.

His reply came quiet, gentle. “Never alone.”

“I do not speak of the Goddess, but I suppose neither do you. You attract strange company, Moonflame.”

He let out a short, soft laugh. She was right in that, at least. “I cannot trust my contemporaries, Priestess. What do you expect?”

“A few druids would not have hurt. Demon hunters? Death knights? You had a perfectly good Order right here.”

“You already know why. I suppose they fit you better, then?”

“They seem... kind, and well-bonded. Shadeseeker is a kind soul, the Keeper has a playful side—she is a strong spirit. Their Priestesses are kind, and humorous, and Autumnsky has a rather amusing spirit for one with such a gruff exterior. That Aerandyr you mentioned, he is nothing but polite. I saw no trace of anything you had mentioned.”

Anhagath snorted. “You are a priestess.”

“I am polite. Moonflame.” Her tone, again, held humor, and he opened his eyes, smiling crookedly at her.

“And I am not. He knows this.” Anhagath paused, smile fading. “Do not let yourself get killed, Nara.”

“I make a habit of not dying,” she said, in a mockingly deep tone. She was imitating his own frequently-used phrase, and he chuckled quietly. She smirked at his laughter, a playful glint in her eyes.

"What do you call a--"

"No."

"Do not interrupt a Priestess in the Temple," she said curtly. "What do you call a monster story that goes on far too long?"

She stared at him, expectantly, until finally he rolled his eyes and sighed. "I do not know, Priestess. What do you call a--"

"A drag-on." And she stared--as she always did--with no hint of any emotion in her face whatsoever. Blank. And as he always did, he began to laugh at her ridiculousness, shoulders quaking with it, raising one hand to cover the burn-scarred skin that wrinkled over his face with the laughter. She smiled at him, and he grinned back.

The moment passed, and he was left smiling at her, but the seriousness of the situation was slowly seeping back in.

“...Look after them for me. In my absence.”

“You say this as if you are leaving. I thought you had intended to remain nearby?”

“Look after them for me, nonetheless.”

“You know I will. Why do you think I am here? ...Now be quiet.”

He smiled, and fell still, watching her as she closed her eyes, lifting her face—lit by the moon—to the roof. She began to murmur a soft prayer, and he looked up, too, hand-in-hand with the Priestess. He closed his eyes, and he listened.

Her voice was soft, near-musical, and soothing. As it always was. As it had always been.

“Elune, guide your children, always and now, in their hour of need. Guide this favored Order in their goal to protect this world, and our people. Watch over them as they strike at the enemy, and look after them as the enemy strikes back. Light our path, illuminate the shadows, drive away all doubt, that we may succeed in the name of mercy, and goodness. Aid in their recovery when they are harmed, and keep the light of faith and hope lit in our hearts. So we pray, and may it be so.”

“May it be so,” Anhagath responded quietly.

Naralyna half-turned, fitting Anhagath with a half-absent, half-kind gaze. “It is your turn.”

“My turn.”

“Your turn.”

He inhaled deeply, held it, then exhaled with a nod. “My turn. Very well. Elune, grant those kept apart the strength to continue on as if side-by-side, knowing that both fight on beneath your gaze. May the Keeper recover swiftly, in mind and body; may Stormcrow likewise heal. May Shadeseeker and the Keeper's children remain safe. May Shadeseeker heal well. May you continue to guide us in all things, to protect us when in need, to grant us clarity through your light, and grant us the strength to be your blade and your flame.”

“...Among other things,” Naralyna added softly. “Always the militant. Why not be her mercy? Her guidance?”

Anhagath snorted softly. “I shall leave that to the Sisterhood.”

Naralyna rolled her eyes, smirking faintly as she looked back ahead. She gave Anhagath's hand a squeeze. “Perhaps that is for the best.”

There was a long silence. It stretched on for several minutes, at least, the two elves kneeling side-by-side, hand-in-hand. At length she squeezed his hand again, and then slowly stood. He glanced up, gaze peaceful, though he did not want to see her go—and he supposed it showed.

She looked down at him, and smiled, faintly. “I must see to Kal'tor.”

“Is he doing well?”

She inclined her head, faintly. “He is. Stubborn, as always—but he is. And Shalla'dorei?”

“I have had to convince her not to deliver fish to the Keeper in the Temple. I doubt your Sisterhood would approve.” They shared a smile, and she shook her head.

“Don't give me that look. I'll be back. And-... Some day...”

“Don't say it.” His voice was soft, almost cold. The look she gave him was one of pity, and he hated it. His voice nearly broke as he added, “Please.”

She sighed, softly. “Then I will not.”

She had said it once before, in the past. Suggested, in a sad way, that once his brother was gone, perhaps their lives could change. It had not been an enticement to murder, yet the truth of it had stung him.

“I cannot. I must--... Yet I cannot. You know that.”

“I know. I know, Anha. I would not press you to do it. I-... I just wish things were different.” She paused for a long moment, her sad, sympathetic gaze locked on his pained one. “...May Elune guide all of this to its proper end.” She half-reached out, as if to touch his face, and then dropped her hand, glancing to the Temple exit. “I ought to go.”

Anhagath nodded, and managed a smile. “Then go, Priestess. And may Elune guide you.”

“Elune guide you, Moonflame,” she responded, inclining her head with a broader, more genuine smile.

He could not help it; he smiled back, and he was grateful that none of the Order were present to see the soft, content expression on his face. Let alone Zarill, or his agents.

Anhagath might not see her again for days, or even weeks. There was a reason for that, but all the same, having her so close and yet so far out of reach was-... It was different. He lifted his head, looking up past the shimmering water, and into the moonlight shafting down through the glass ceiling. The peace that gripped him mingled with his joy, and he was, for a time, happy.

_________

Outside, Naralyna Nightwhisper moved with purposeful steps. She moved with the confidence of one with true conviction, true faith. Her head was held high, her strides even and measured, her every movement graceful.

She liked the people Anhagath had befriended. They were nowhere near as bad as he had insisted—repeatedly. They seemed kind, and decent; willing to act in the face of danger, willing to face a threat on nothing more than faith in his word. She wondered how he did not see that. She thought that perhaps he did not want to.

That would mean that he owed them for their faith.

It was all right. She would pay them back. Goddess willing, she would help to end this; and beyond that, she would guide them for as long as she could. Mend their wounds, perhaps, offer advice and a sympathetic ear, a new perspective. Offer the soothing touch of the Goddess, and a much-needed laugh, now and again.

Her steps turned her along the temple walkway, her shoulders set and her gaze strong. Anhagath could go where he wished with his flights of fancy—it was part of his nature, a part she adored. One moment taking up piracy “just to see what it is all about,” the next assaulting a canyon filled with demons in Elune's name. Joining this Order merely on a whim, to police their Highborne—... But this time his whims had caused damage, even if he had confronted Drakesfire and his ilk. Naralyna wasn't cleaning up after his mess, precisely... It was more that he had found something worth caring for, and he was not the kind who could look after them.

She could. Not single-handedly, of course—but she could offer her aid, at the very least. For as long as it took.

And maybe beyond.
"My favorite color is fire."
User avatar
Anhagath
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:33 am
Character: Anhagath
Realm: Defias Brotherhood
Class: Mage

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Aariam on Sun Jan 31, 2016 10:04 am

I was -glued- to the screen. ^^ I love how natural and good all the dialogue is, Naragath is the best!
Aariam Nightborne, former Keeper of Nature's Grasp.
Avatar drawn by Calisar.

Site/web administrator - any questions about either can be sent to me in a PM.
User avatar
Aariam
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2981
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 7:45 pm
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Character: Aariam
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Rogue

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Landrian on Sun Jan 31, 2016 12:56 pm

I loved this and Nara's awful joke and especially loved Lando's first mention in someone elses story :lol:
One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this
User avatar
Landrian
Councillor
Councillor
 
Posts: 79
Joined: Sat Aug 15, 2015 3:29 pm
Character: Landrian
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Warrior

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Calisar on Mon Feb 01, 2016 1:19 pm

There's a lyrical flow to your writing that is just gorgeous 'as ever, as always'. A genuine delight to read ;)

That joke ^^ <3

Now then... where's that stick of moar hm?

*prods*
"It's silly wrong.. but vivid right"
User avatar
Calisar
 
Posts: 2386
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 11:22 am
Location: Sleepy shires of England
Character: Calisar
Realm: Defias Brotherhood
Class: Priest + Druid

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Anhagath on Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:57 am

Thank you guys! <3
"My favorite color is fire."
User avatar
Anhagath
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:33 am
Character: Anhagath
Realm: Defias Brotherhood
Class: Mage

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Seiya on Tue Feb 02, 2016 2:52 pm

Another beautifully written piece. You have a good way with words that make them seem to flow effortlessly.
Seiya Shadowfury
Jaideth Frostborne
User avatar
Seiya
 
Posts: 204
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:11 pm
Character: Seiya
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Mage

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Edradir on Tue Feb 02, 2016 7:31 pm

A wonderful read. More please! :)
Edradir
 

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Darathir on Thu Feb 04, 2016 2:34 pm

Aariam wrote:I was -glued- to the screen. ^^ I love how natural and good all the dialogue is, Naragath is the best!


This! I do love me an excellent dialogue
User avatar
Darathir
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:19 pm
Character: Darathir
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Mage

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Anhagath on Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:30 am

((Gonna throw another (ludicriously long) "short" story in here. This one's Naralyna and Anhagath speaking after the event tonight and after everyone else has pretty much gone to bed/gone off to do other things. It's just a long ramble and me writing down my own cross-character RP so it's easier to remember. Nothing exciting happens at all!))





"I have a ring, you see, that is enchanted with a Sin'dorei illusion. I had a Sin'dorei guide who knew my secret, and was giving me a tour of the city, in return for me not giving away his true identity in Stormwind." The old mage leaned back, face beneath his princelike crown amused. "As I was looking over the royal courtyard, and in fact gazing upon one of those crystals, a voice spoke from behind me. "I see what you are," it said. "When I turned, there was a Sin'dorei stood watching me. One of your kind." Anhagath turned, eyeing his companion with humor.

"Oh? Amusing. But we can see through that... disguise..." Mentheus Nightsworn peered at him, though Anhagath knew he couldn't quite see. Not in the traditional sense, at least--he could see magical auras with his fel eyes, but he could not see Anhagath's expression past his blindfold. Still, it was his way of saying he was paying attention, and so Anhagath simply continued.

"My heart nearly stopped. He could have called the guards on me, slain me in a heartbeat. He saw through the illusion. But he turned out to be an ally, rather than an enemy, for which I am eternally grateful. To find a demon hunter, of all things?! In Silvermoon, the one day I am there?" He laughed, deep voice echoing through Felwood's half-dead trees, then took another bite of his orange. The demon hunter seemed to think, leaning back in his plain brown robes. He blended in well, there--hardly noticeable past the rotten grass. Anhagath eyed him thoughtfully. "He was the one we rescued, you know."

The two were sitting quiet, sharing a meal on the outskirts of Whisperwind Grove. The Sin'dorei present had sparked the conversation--he was off in the village, company to two tauren druids. The night previous, Anhagath had found himself rather unceremoniously surrounded by the Horde--three Sin'dorei demon hunters, and an enormous Tauren druid. Luckily they'd been friendly enough--it seemed the shared hatred for demons had given them at least a tenuous bond.
Anhagath never did understand these newfangled "factions." To him, the tauren were ancient allies, and no simple red and blue flags a few decades old would change that. Still, it had been a nerve-wracking moment. But Mentheus had stood by his side--as had a tiny gnome, Sella Tricktrack, that often found her way to Anhagath's location by some arcane mystery he could never grasp. She was like a burr in his hair. Yet the tauren had proven his gentleness by striding over and patting her on the head--and Anhagath had kindly refrained from informing him that, not an hour previous, she'd been bragging about having once killed one of his race.

Tonight, Anhagath and Nightsworn had discussed Silvermoon--its hollow grasp at imitating long-lost glory, by comparison to the ancient and eternal beauty of Suramar, of even Zin-Azshari. And they had spoken of the fleeting nature of these new "factions," this alliance and horde, that the younger races clung to. How it was indeed but a blink of an eye to them; how the Tauren were, in Anhagath's mind, still allies.

He was still speaking to Mentheus when the beating of wings passing overhead drew his attention. Idly his gaze followed a brown and white hippogryph--and then he recognized it, its haughty golden gaze, its shining black beak as it sharply looked over the grove. It was looking for him, he realized.

"May I excuse myself?" he said, standing--trying to hide his haste. The hippogryph seeking him could only mean one thing. He'd left him with Nara, as always; Kal'tor's presence meant that she was injured or in need of aid.

Nightsworn and he said brief goodbyes, and Anhagath found himself hurrying across the paths of the village, slapping his faceplate down. The hippogryph spotted him, heard his soft whistle, and landed; he and Shalla'dorei exchanged brief nods and chirped greetings. Kal'tor didn't exactly like Shalla'dorei--she was too bubbly, too friendly--but he tolerated her well enough, and he was polite to her.

"What is it?" Anhagath asked, and his curtness was that of concern, not of aggression.
"She is-... Well," the hippogryph croaked. "Injured. Ribs. But alert. You asked to know."
"Thank you. Astranaar, still?"
The hippogryph bobbed its head, managing bits of phrases in clipped Darnassian. "She will not. Like you. Arriving."
"To hell with it," he grunted, swinging into Shalla'dorei's saddle. "Tell her to go to the graveyard. You didn't see us here."
Kal'tor knew what was at stake. He said nothing else, simply turning and flying off, ignoring even Anhagath's hastily-tacked on "And thank you."

Less than an hour later, Shalla'dorei--panting from exertion--touched down at the graveyard east of Ashenvale. Anhagath dismounted hastily, foot nearly tangling in the leather straps.
She was already sitting there: quiet, shrouded in white, the faint silver glow around her more than just moonlight. Anhagath hurried to her side, and at once smelled the sea on her, the faint scent of ocean. Anyone approaching would think she was merely tending the graves, or perhaps praying at them, but Anhagath knew she had been waiting.
He paused. Checked himself. Turned, and spent time reaching out with his magical abilities and with his ordinary senses, ensuring they were not being watched. There was nothing that he could sense--no storm crow circling overhead, no nosy Sentinel casting a silver gaze their way. Indeed, he could see Kal'tor some distance off--circling, keeping an eye out for danger, or spies.

"I'm fine, you know. You can stop staring at my back." There was the faintest tone of irritation in her tone, but it wasn't directed at him--that much he knew, after so long with her. There was humor, too, and it overshadowed whatever annoyance she held.
"Good," he answered, approaching to kneel beside her. He lowered his voice so that only she could hear, daring a sidelong glance, daring to meet her silver glow with his fiery gold. "What happened?"

"The Order cleared out an infested section of the Deeps tonight. Shadowcasters. Old god worshippers, I think. Tentacles of darkness, squeezing and throwing, lashing us about, trying to invade our minds--that sort of thing." She made it sound routine, made it sound funny, but his stomach lurched. He reached out to briefly touch her chin, solemn, and she did not protest, though she pursed her lips briefly.

"It is fine. We lost one of them, one I had meant to keep alive, to try and save. It was my own fault. The rest were slain. There are other injuries."
"Your own fault?" he asked, perking a brow. The source of her irritation, then. He looked back down, dropping his hands, not daring to extend their brief moment of vague intimacy any further. If a storm crow DID fly overhead, he didn't wish them to be seen touching, insinuating that there was anything between them.
"Mm," she agreed, nodding. "I should have tied him better, and I had said I did not wish to leave him alone. Sure enough on our exit we found him dead. He had bitten through his own wrists, I presume to kill himself. There may be more of this, too, as I found a letter--"
Anhagath rarely interrupted a priestess. He almost never interrupted Naralyna, but he could tell from the way that she pressed on, her eyes averted to stare at a gravestone, that she blamed herself. That she was trying to avoid the topic. Now he again reached out, this time pressing his left gloved palm onto her forearm, for a moment. She paused midsentence, faltering, turning to peer at him.

"Why didn't you stay, then?" he asked quietly. It would have sounded harsh to anyone else, but she offered him a faint smile, knowing that he was simply picking up on what troubled her.
"There were screams ahead. Possibly someone else in danger. And to split up-... We had been ambushed once already. We had to press on, and the Keeper did not want to leave me behind."
"And you would have done?"
"Anha," Naralyna began, lifting her gaze to him. It was a warning, serious, but he shook his head equally sternly.
"You know you did what you had to do. I know it, because I know you--and I can tell it merely by looking at you. Hindsight means nothing. Had you split, what if you had been killed...? What if the untied madman had leapt on you? What if you had indeed been ambushed?" He looked at her, the faint worry in his face--even behind the mask--saying it all.
She thinned her lips, staring at him briefly. "Anha. I know all of this. It is a wound, nothing more. Once perhaps I would have wondered why there was no good ending to his tale. Once I would have justified it, and said it must have been Elune's way to give him mercy. But I think even his soul was forfeit to the darkness. It is a wound, and it will heal with only time."
Anhagath eyed her, and he felt sudden sorrow fill him. She was grieving for this stranger--as she often did; her heart was warm, and tender, and ached for even the villains in this world, despite her pragmatism. And there was nothing he could do to lessen her pain. So he spoke plainly, knowing that there were some wounds that another being could never understand. Knowing that sometimes, only company, and care, could bring comfort.

"I wish I could share some of your burden." At this, at least, she smiled, the warmth finally returning to her face.
"You are, merely with your words. ...You know..." And the hint of mischief entered her expression.
"...No."
"I knew something was up..."
"No, Nara..."
"When all the murlocs appeared..." She flashed him a grin, silver eyes glinting, and he sighed with resignation, and waited.
"...It all seemed fishy."
He groaned, turning to flop limply down in a quiet clank of plate armor, collapsing on his back in the little graveyard. He stared up at the sky, and he found her peering down at him a moment, later, half-grinning.
"Why must you wound me so, Priestess." His tone was faintly melodramatic; he lifted one hand weakly, letting it drop onto his chest. She widened her eyes, as if in realization.
"Perhaps I shall be arrested, and given a trial for it."
"What?" He peered up at her.
"For this in-jury."
"...Please stop." He dropped his head back against the grass, sighing up. For a moment he was reminded of simpler times--times back before the Shen'dralar had slipped back into their world. Times when he had lay just like this, on his back in the warm grass of Ashenvale--in considerably less armor--with Naralyna sitting beside him.
And the similarity wasn't lost on her. She settled beside him, smiling, comfortable in this ancient tradition of theirs.

For a time--a brief few moments--they were simply silent, content in one another's company. Then he spoke, again.
"Aside from the fish and the old gods, how are you finding the Order?"
"They are good people. Each with their own problems, though those will remain between myself and each of them."
"Of course." And he meant it; he might be curious about some of them, but not enough to even consider asking her to breach that sacred privacy of a Priestess and those she tended.
"Mm. For the most part I am simply trying to bind them closer together. Some of them are in pain, in some way or another, and their Priestess, too, seems too much in her own pain to have taken steps to rectify it. Or perhaps she does not think it her place."
"Perhaps she does not wish to pry."
"Perhaps."
Naralyna tended to pry. To poke, to prod, to find the festering wound--no matter how painful--and try to mend it. Anhagath knew this, and really, he agreed with it. But he also knew that it wasn't always the Sisterhood's way. More often, the Priestesses waited for others to come to them--though there were those, like Nara, who tended the community as if it were a living body, seeking out injuries to mend.

"There is one thing."
"Hmm?" He shifted his golden gaze to her, relaxed; he lifted one hand to brush over the ribs she was half-holding, gently laying his palm there.
"You know Valande Winterfall, yes? You and Nightborne, I think, apprehended her? After a betrayal of some sort."
Anhagath stiffened, somewhat, and the grim set of his face spoke volumes.
"What happened...?" Naralyna asked, peering at him earnestly.
Anhagath sighed. He rolled upright, pulling his hand away, sitting a few feet away from Naralyna.
"She betrayed us in Eldre'thalas. Told the naga we would be arriving there. I had words with her extensively even then--I asked her loyalties. Told her that if I found she was at fault, I would hunt her and kill her."
"You are certain she was of her own mind...?"
"I was then. She seemed completely composed, bar an insistence that we turn over the relic we sought to the naga."
"And?"
"And I found that she had had our actual guide likely slain in cold blood, and took their place. Let five sentinels have their throats slit and be tossed thirty feet down to their deaths. What else was there to do, but end her? She is a liar, a snake-tongued killer. We tracked her down, and we captured her. Questioned her, with my intent being simply to find who had sent her, and kill her."

Naralyna thinned her lips again, keeping her eyes locked on her mate's face. He removed the faceplate, shaking out his wild hair, a little, flaring his nostrils in a sigh. She didn't approve of cold-blooded murder--not like that. She believed in rehabilitation, in forgiveness, in mercy, in redemption. But she had come to believe long ago that the Goddess guided Anhagath every bit as much as she guided Naralyna. That his actions were prompted as much by the greater good, and faith, and a good end to it all, just as much as any Priestess's.

"And what happened?" she asked, at last, quiet.
"She had a pendant 'round her neck. Dark magic. I destroyed it, but I saw visions, first--visions of others wearing the same pendant, or perhaps other pendants linked to it. And they were in turn linked to many of those involved in the Order's previous issues--its near downfall, in fact. Ravencrest's descent into shadow, I think. Stormleaf's mother's corruption, so I am told--I didn't recognize her in the vision, but it was explained to me later on. And Darathir Drakesfire, naturally. There was a male I did not recognize, too, purple hair. A Highborne, I imagine."
Naralyna waited, quiet. Some strange thread of dread was winding its way through her--some sense that this story's end was going to change things. To make things... bad. She almost asked him to stop, told him she didn't want to hear the rest--but she couldn't. She had to know.
"Anhagath... She wasn't already wounded, was she."
Anhagath nearly tried to argue, to justify it, but in the end he merely looked Naralyna in the eye, looked at her gentle gaze, the horror she was trying to conceal, and nodded. "Her burn wounds are my doing."

He watched, then.
Watched as she tried to control her anger, as rage briefly contorted her face, outrage, indignation. The anger of the protector, the guardian, the mother--protecting the helpless. She didn't speak, simply sitting there, her silver eyes aflame.
Waiting. Waiting for any explanation of his that could possibly justify Valande's torment--her permanently-mangled flesh.
"She may have been pretending madness. She had elaborate letters and maps on her person claiming it part of a scheme to end the naga. But a link with Drakesfire...? To let her go without punishment... I could not. I was going to end her. Redemption, however--as you like to believe in--would be possible, had she merely been mind-controlled. And so--when she would tell us nothing; when she acted mad, and shrieked and laughed... I told her that I would punish her. That I wished her to remember my face each time she looked in the mirror for the rest of her life. Remember those whose lives she took through her betrayal. The sentinels who plummeted to their deaths at the nagas' hands. And I burned her. And then we took her to the dens."

Naralyna stared at him, jaw clenched. And still, he continued.
"If she is truly innocent, then this punishment absolves her. It is done, and she may move on. If she is guilty--if she is guilty, then it is not nearly enough."
The Priestess bowed her head, staring down--but it was not in submission to his logic, no. It was an attempt to wrest control of herself from her emotions, for the second-... No, third, time that day. "You tortured her."
"Yes." His answer was calm. He believed he was right.
"Explain again how you think this is okay."
He hesitated then--paused at the cold thread in her voice, yet he knew she was genuinely asking. Her mind was likely spinning at the information, and she couldn't pluck reality from her own thoughts, and so he explained again--as requested--without any tone.

"Were she innocent, controlled by this pendant, her guilt will crush her--unless she has already been punished. This was her punishment. This was the only way I could release her alive, without my conscience--without the memories of those dying Sentinels--tormenting me. It was this, or kill her, Nara."
The priestess lifted her gaze to his, and her eyes were white fire. Her voice a soft growl of grief and rage.
"She is tormented, Anha. She cries, and screams; she sobs. Another Priestess--a Darala--tortured her further. Brought an arcanist, a Winterfire or... Or Winterflame, down there to rip into her mind for knowledge. Shadow magic, for someone already tormented by it? I could not even give her a blessed pendant; she began to scream at the sight of it. Saying she was watched through them, that the Goddess can no longer see her. She doesn't wish to -live,- Anhagath. Her face is ruined, her spirit in agony. You have -broken- her."
Anhagath frowned, both at the description, and at the mention of the arcanist. "Her break was not my doing-... The Sentinels let a mage... hit her with shadow?"
Nara nodded, and she looked away--and he realized, abruptly, that she was crying. Rarely did she shed tears--she was a pillar of strength in his life, and the sight immediately distressed him. He reached out, but she shook her head, looking out at the silver shimmer of the lake. "Sh-she... She doesn't exist. This Darala. We argued--... I went to the Temple, to make sure she wasn't allowed in again. Nobody's ever heard of her. She claimed to be from the Temple, but nobody's ever heard of her."

"Did you warn the Sentinels of this?"
"Yes-..."
"You realize it may be Drakesfire. The arcanist, that is--or one of his. I can see no reason the Temple would send any mage down there, let alone one who delves into shadows."
Nara just nodded, looking away, wiping a stray tear. She didn't seem embarrassed by it; rather, she'd had a very long, trying day, and again, she was grieving for a stranger... or a near-stranger.
For the pain he'd caused.
He sighed softly; he was at the source of this. Yet he still believed he'd done the right thing, in the end--to let Valande simply walk away had been absolutely out of the question. And to murder her-... It had not felt right, either. But what if he had been wrong?
"Anha, that's why I wanted to tell you about it. I thought you'd know more about them."
He stared at her, watched her half-slumped, not the upright pillar of strength he knew but something exhausted and miserable. "I've never wanted to embrace you so much as in this moment," he said quietly. "I am sorry I cannot."

Someone might see. The idea itself sent another shock of grief through her--the fact that they could not simply have a normal life. Yet a moment later it steeled her, and she nodded, rocking back a bit and sighing, sitting up straighter. "The thought is enough, and I certainly have enough memories of it to know it would bring me comfort. So I will imagine that you have."
He smiled faintly, but the pain did not leave his own gaze. "I will imagine that I am."
"But you have caused pain, Anhagath, and I will try to mend it but I cannot undo what you have done! It is not a gift, to torment someone like this. It was not your place to mete out justice-..."
"If it was my place to mete out justice, then Darathir Drakesfire would be long-dead. The only reason he is not--"
"Is that he was seated beside a sacred moonwell, I know. What does that tell you?"
"Naralyna-... I have done what I thought was right. I will always do so. I am sorry if I turn out to have been wrong, but I do not think that I am. Perhaps she would have never entered your care if I had not wounded her so. Perhaps she would have died, or remained in--"
"Do not speak to me, please, about fate and the Goddess's plans." She had a weary tone, and he inclined his head, falling silent. He knew her argument against it: beginning to talk about fate, and divine intention, was to slip into a dangerous mindset. Hell, he agreed: to justify sins with "the Goddess wills it" was a very slippery slope. In fact, just recently, hadn't a madman justified murdering a bound, unarmed prisoner of war with the same justification? And hadn't Anhagath condemned him equally?

"I am sorry. I simply meant-... That perhaps it will work out for the best. That no other path felt right."
Nara lifted her silver eyes to his gold ones, staring, for a moment. Then she spoke softly. "And did this one?"
He considered. And he met her gaze, and he answered truthfully. "Yes."
She could do nothing more than simply nod back--and for a moment, despite the risk, she shuffled forward to lean against him. And despite the risk, he looped an arm briefly around her shoulders, and half-embraced her, quiet.
Still, he looked around--and still, there was no one to be seen. No one spying on them.
"I ought to get back."
"You stink of the sea."
"Thank you. I'll wash. I was passed out in seawater."
"...Underneath?"
"No. Simply bound there, by a kraken-like tentacle, a shadowy one. It squeezed too hard, and I passed out."
He frowned, and leaned forward, brushing his nose against her forehead, inhaling her scent--not the seawater, but the smell of her. "I am glad you are all right. For the most part," he said softly, and his other hand briefly found her wounded ribs, again. She winced, and leaned closer against him, and he looked out over her head, back to Astranaar.
"Me too. ...And what about you, Anha? What have you been up to?"
"Slaying satyr. Training. Meeting with Sin'dorei fel-users in the depths of Felwood." He said it for shock value, a faint hint of amusement in his tone, but she smirked.
"Demon-hunters, again, Anha, really...?"
"By chance, I assure you. And there was a druid with them, so it does not count."
"That-... Is not how that works." She chuckled softly.
"Of course it is." And his own tone was faintly haughty, mocking.
She shook her head. "Your apprentice coming along well? Do you have plans for the next few days?"
He turned, and she found him rummaging in his satchel, pulling out a smaller satchel, undoing its buckle. "She is well, and yes, we are going to be training tonight. I wrote a song about Felwood."
"You did?" She enjoyed his music--he had sung opera many thousands of years ago, briefly and as a hobby, before more adamantly pursuing his career as an arcanist. His voice showed it--and the soft side of him, the poet, the wistful dreamer, showed through his song. He often wrote poetry, and it was one of the things that had drawn her more closely to him. She wrote, too, and sometimes they had shared their creations, and then spoken about their inspirations deep into the warm light of dawn.
"I looked upon the ruins, and saw what they had once been--in my memory. I saw the rotting wood, and remembered when it was still vibrant. It pulled at me."
She smiled warmly, and gestured for him to go on.
He smiled back at her, and cleared his throat, and in a deep, clear, stage-trained voice, he began to sing.

For a time, the beautiful tune carried over the lake, even--melancholy in its sadness, its source seeming to emanate from the forest itself, as the sound echoed distantly over the waters. Perhaps some of those in the village might hear it, but luckily, no one came to investigate its source.

"The lingering songs she did sing, O Sun;
Gold-gilded lyrics drifting through trees.
The emerald carpets' delicate dance
As they sigh and they sway in the breeze

None know why she left us, O mother, O Sun;
Left her lyrics cloaked all in black
Left gentle song to a funeral dirge
And it seems there is no going back

Intricate roots now long-rotted to hate
White marble fallen to dust
I wonder at what we might see in this fate
Why we think that we do what we must

Silver leaves darken in green mist-filled sky
What once was a paradise, lost
Summer's sweet song now a death's cry
To the cold fall of winter's dark frost

The beasts' eyes with madness,
The trees empty of breath,
The forests that shielded us,
Abandoned in death.

In darkness the sun ventures not to these lands,
But one gaze still looks down, sad and true
Pale eye sees the desperate, final last stand,
Silver moon's glance brings hope anew

They come, in small numbers at first, to be sure
No reckless endeavor here
In the slumbering forests of long-ago summer
There are those who still do not fear

They come and they tend it, a garden of love
And from sickness they do not shy
For this splendor eternal they look up above
Druids' hope the white moon in the sky

A paradise lost the wood will remain
And yet still it lives on, as things do
In the hearts of those who cleanse the stain
In the hopes that one day it's born new

Perhaps in time, the sparkling leaves
The birdsong returns and
The gently-lit breeze

For now one may look at the splendor long-lost,
What they see varies, vast in scope
A warning, a hope, a challenge... dead moss
Or one may look to those who hold hope

One may look at the forest decayed and see pain
The sins of the now dead-and-gone
Or they may see the courage in those that remain
And in these souls, summer lives on."


Nara listened, and smiled; it was sad, a miserable tune, but in his own way, Anhagath was singing about hope. But the song, the aching sadness, resonated. She sat, for a time, letting the melody drift through her mind, mulling over his heartfelt words. "Thank you," was all she said, at last. And he smiled, and held the page out. A copy, then, for her. "You know, the Order is gathering to share poetry. Perhaps you could..."

"No, no. But you write something. Write for me--write of me, and of the Moon. And sandals."
"...Sandals?"
"You like sandals." He grinned at her, briefly, that boyish cockiness returned, and she shook her head with an exasperated smile.
"It's only because they're a shoe-in for best footwear."
He stared at her for a moment, lowering his head to look at her from beneath lowered brows, smirking. "...I am going back to Felwood."
"I don't think the wisps would approve."
"What--... Oh ELUNE ABOVE, Nara!"
"Fell... wood..."
"Yes I got it, thank you." He turned, hauling himself into Shalla'dorei's saddle.
"As in, cutting lumber--"
"YES." He turned, shaking his head, and for a moment she simply grinned at him. He grinned back, and clipped his faceplate back on.
"Try not to lose control of your pyromancy while you're there. Then it would be fire--"
"Nara!"
"Firewood!"

Anhagath turned, groaning loudly, Shalla'dorei breaking into hysterical cackles--barely able to lift herself into the air.

The last thing Naralyna heard were the shrill, highpitched shrieks of a hippogryph crying "FIREWOOD! ...FIREWOOD! YEAH!" The voice rang out over the lake, and then faded into the trees, leaving the priestess shaking her head fondly.

"Elune guide you, you old fool," she murmured, smiling.

And soaring over the forests north, the old fool in question was murmuring back. "Elune guide you, Priestess, for your sense of humor cannot."

Naralyna sat for a time, quiet, looking down at the graves before her. She had Order members to tend--and, perhaps just as importantly, she had Anhagath's mess to mop up. She still wasn't happy--at all--about his treatment of Valande. He'd said he'd wanted Valande to remember her betrayal each time she looked upon her scars, but what about Naralyna? Each time she looked at Valande, she'd remember the cruelty her mate was capable of--the cold ferocity.

It didn't frighten her. But it certainly disheartened her. Valande wasn't a demon, no matter what Anhagath saw. She was misguided--a broken soul, a tormented spirit, needing mercy and love, one who might never recover from the brink of madness.

Or was she?

Was it Anhagath who saw clearly, rather than she? Perhaps Valande was cruel, and manipulative, and Naralyna was simply more easily misled.

Or perhaps Anhagath had been right, but was no longer, and it was time for Valande to recover.

Or maybe they were each right, in their own way.

"Should not. Stay, here," Kal'tor was croaking at her. His golden gaze, so stern--ever the grouchy soldier, so much like Anhagath himself.

"Oh, come on then," she sighed, lifting herself up. The hippogryph lowered one wing, and Naralyna rested against his thick-feathered neck for a moment. Then he was walking back to the town, the Priestess half-leaning on him. Her ribs still hurt. Her ability to call upon Elune's healing had faltered--perhaps due to her grief, her guilt, at what had befallen the prisoner. But it had frightened and frustrated her.

She was glad Anhagath had come, in truth. Saddened and distraught by his news, certainly, but glad he had come. She felt brighter after his presence, stronger--as if his fire had rubbed off on her.

"Thank you, Kal'tor," she murmured. The hippogryph nodded, a stern bob of his raven's head.
"Do not forget. Bath," he instructed.
She smirked at him. "Yes, sir."
He let out a soft caw, something like a laugh--dry amusement. Ever the soldier, indeed, yet he cared for her well-being. With a gentle pat on his beak, she made her way down to the water's edge to bathe, to get the stink of seawater from her clothes and hair for the second time that week.

First, murlocs in a bear suit; then old god shadow tentacles.

...What in Elune's name would be next?

She shuddered at the thought.
"My favorite color is fire."
User avatar
Anhagath
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:33 am
Character: Anhagath
Realm: Defias Brotherhood
Class: Mage

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Darathir on Tue Feb 16, 2016 8:05 am

Anhagath wrote:he had sung opera many thousands of years ago, briefly and as a hobby, before more adamantly pursuing his career as an arcanist


:D :D :D This should be mandatory in all arcanist training, powers up them incantations.

Very nice once again, I -love- those song lyrics especially. Do you have a melody for it?
User avatar
Darathir
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:19 pm
Character: Darathir
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Mage

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Aariam on Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:00 am

Aariam twists and turns on her bedroll, frowning as the voice carries into the village.

"Fucking kids".

She buries her face into the pillow and attempts to find sleep once more.

--

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I adore Naragath. Aariam wants what they have so badly. :(
Aariam Nightborne, former Keeper of Nature's Grasp.
Avatar drawn by Calisar.

Site/web administrator - any questions about either can be sent to me in a PM.
User avatar
Aariam
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2981
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2009 7:45 pm
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Character: Aariam
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Rogue

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Landrian on Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:26 pm

A nice story Narawhl I like the relationship between Anha and Nara.

But.....Nara better keep Lando's secrets or else.... :twisted:
One man scorned and covered with scars still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars; and the world will be better for this
User avatar
Landrian
Councillor
Councillor
 
Posts: 79
Joined: Sat Aug 15, 2015 3:29 pm
Character: Landrian
Realm: Argent Dawn
Class: Warrior

Re: The Changing of the Guard

Postby Anhagath on Tue Feb 16, 2016 7:50 pm

I do not have a tune in mind! Something relatively slow, deep, almost a dirge I would think but melodic? Suggestions welcome!

@Landrian--it's covered in the story! She said she won't tell, gawh!

Also, thanks, guys :D
"My favorite color is fire."
User avatar
Anhagath
 
Posts: 159
Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:33 am
Character: Anhagath
Realm: Defias Brotherhood
Class: Mage


Return to ∞ The Ancient of Lore ∞

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron