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((Warning now. This contains violence and gore, and may just be one of my darkest works. <3 Feathermoon.))
The sun was at it apex and the township of Southshore was buzzing with provincal activity. Local farmers riding their wagons into town, the blacksmithy was cleaning out his forge. In the middle of it all in front of her brand new home, the newest member of the community was doing laundry. Chelody smiled as a soft but brisk breeze touched her cheek. Autumn was running its course, and soon it would give way to winter. A time for everything to rest and wait for the warmth of spring to come and renew them. Autumn was like nature wishing everyone a good rest, sending people away with a vivid display of color and whimsy. But the cool air didn't make it easy to dry clothes, the druidess noted as she felt the long skirt she'd put out to dry on the line. It was still wet, but it provided a perfect excuse to stay out longer on such a lovely day.
The wicker laundry basket the blue haired elf carried was empty now as she hung up the last sock. On the line, linens and clothes fluttered in the cool breeze. There were small shirts, made for toddlers and many of the little people pants had grass stains on them from hard play. Of course there were rows and rows of multicolored tiny socks. Only a few more morning chores to go before she could relax for... about ten minutes. Still, she couldn't help but smile as she looked up at the grand old farm house. It was sturdy built save for a few structural imperfections like the leaky roof, and the stairs with some floorboards that sagged in the middle. Its previous owners she knew, had given it a history of love and laughter that she wished to continue, and with all the support her friends were providing (and carpentry help) it would be alive once more.
"Haha! No one can stop battle princess! I'll stomp you with magical horsie powers!" The small yellow hair girl cawed triumphantly. Chelody laughed, absently smoothing out the front of her flower print skirt she looked to the front of the homestead and smiled. Sitting on the steps was Therondy. The little curly blonde child was madly waving her wooden horse around, battling evil as she always did. At first, battle princess had been an elf, then a paladin, and her latest incarnation was a flying horse.
This was a vast improvement from earlier in the morning, when she'd been too grumpy and sleepy and passed on a hike with Shaila. Still, at least Priscilla would get some quality play time. The little elf was always so shy and reserved compared to her adopted sibling. Chelody winced when she heard the scattering of little toys and crossed over to her daughter, who was smacking them with her wooden pony. Bending down, she leaned over to kiss the fidgeting child.
"Gentle. You'll be sad if you break them." she gently reminded her daughter.
"But they are bad guys!" Therondy groaned, sagging dramatically as if it were the worst day ever. Chelody let out a small giggle and sighed. Well, she was never short for entertainment.
"Even so, sometimes we need to show our enemies restraint too." She smiled fondly, rising up in time to gasp as a bed sheet fluttered free from the line, whisked playfully away by the wind and falling to the road. At first, she'd been concerned that a cart would trample her freshly cleaned linen. However, no carts came- they'd all stopped dead in the road. As had...everyone else. They all just seemed to be standing there. Some were pointing, others just looked confused. Brows furrowed in concern, she swept up her daughter, stepping out onto the road for a better look.
The closest villager was the local waitress, Neema. She was a pretty young human with dark hair and an eager smile. Chelody stared toward her to ask what was going on. A sound distracted her. A high keening whistle as something fell. Her head jerked up to follow the trajectory of the smoking green bomb as it sailed through the sky and slammed through the roof of her house. The sound of wood being impacted by metal, and the subsequent explosion that followed jarred the druidess from her shock. Therondy let out a high pitched wail... and the screams followed.
She whipped back around and finally saw what they had been staring at down the dirt paved path that led from town. Her eyes fell upon a sight she never expected to see outside the confines of Northrend. Across the road, blocking all lanes and seeming to go on forever- bristling figures clad in metal and leather. Pitch black gas masks and hollow reflective eyes. She was vaguely reminded of ants as they seemed to have swarmed over the green grassy hills, carting behind them massive carts bubbling green and expelling nasty looking smoke. Terror choked a cry dead from her throat before it could escape. Instinct took over and Therondy was clutched to her chest. Her Heart thundering in her as she moved to make an escape. Screams could be heard above the whistle of bombs, and Chelody moved to grab Neema with her free hand.
People shoved past them. Men, women, all moved in frantic patterns in the chaos. Some even seemed scared enough to run towards the forsaken battle lines... but they were met with brutal efficency. Steel bulwarks slammed into the ground, swords glittering silver in the sunlight were stained red as they cut down those who approached. They were backed by ghouls carting pumps that they used to spray what she could only imagine was toxic gas at others. This wasn't an attack. This was extermination. "Neema, we have to go!" She tugged at Neema's hand, but the woman was frozen, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Oh light" She mumbled, but another desperate tug seemed to pull the girl into action and she turned, stumbling on her feet to follow but losing Chelody's grip. Motion drew Chelody's gaze. She glanced up as she reached. The newest plague bomb descended. The shattered to pieces behind Neema, the explosion sending a torrent of slime out. It coated the girl, and sent globules of goo flying everywhere. Chelody screamed, clutching her daughter, body moving to shield the crying child from the destruction.
The world was pain. Plague acid oozed down the left side of her face, strands of it dripping from cheek to neck, burning diseased kisses into her flesh before dropping onto a bare shoulder and festering there. Therondy shrieked in her arms and she held her tighter. Grateful that she'd been spared. But her functioning eye would stay focused on the woman screaming before her. Her hand was still reaching out to the druid for help, even as the skin from her bones slicked off with the sludge she had been drenched in. Gurgling cries and green liquid pouring from her mouth as she took a shambling step forward. Sick cracking noises followed her movement, and the pretty little waitress fell forward, making a wet splattering sound upon hitting the path and dissolving completely. Chunks of flesh were flung up into the air, painting the druid's sky blue robes with green and red.
Only ooze, bone, and bits of sinew remained where the kind woman with the eager smile had been only moments ago. Chelody took in a deep breath, her head was heavy, weighing down her neck as she raised her eyes to the road out of town once more. The path to safety was guarded by the walking dead. Mericlessly hacking through the living who attempted to flee or surrender. When one cannot move up, the only option is down. Chelody spun on her heels, Therondy held tight. Despite the green haze making the air thick, she moved quickly with her precious cargo. Yet as she ran, she could see others lost and attempting to flee the chaos. She couldn't stop... but she could shout. "Come with me! This way to the dock!" The druidess called out. Some did not hear, maybe some did not believe her, yet a small trail of people began to form as she raced down to the water front.
Edited by Chelody on 12/2/2010 4:03 PM PST
There was not a single boat in sight... and momentarily she had to wonder if someone had gotten the same idea she had. Still, there was no time to think about it. Chelody looked back to see a grand number of... six people crowding onto the wooden planks. A rather rotund, balding man in his early fourties approached her with a wet hack. "Twas all I could gather when I heard you shouting Marm." He motioned to the assembled party before her.
"I hope to the light that you have a plan fer us to escape." He said as another body wracking cough escaped his lips. Chelody stared for a moment, suddenly finding it very jarring to have so many helpless eyes before her. There was an older woman, late fifties being followed by a small girl, possibly no more then six. A young couple clasping hands as they labored to breathe, and a twelve year old boy who looked on the verge of tears as he coughed and sputtered into his hands.
Before, it seemed like she was leading people a million times stronger and more capable then herself. If anything, she was a figurehead at the best of times. Her leadership skills barely factoring into survival. Now... it seemed she had people truly depending on her to survive. And not just survive their injuries. She licked her lips, meeting the eyes of those set to follow her.
"We're going to have to swim. I-I'm sorry we lack boats, but anyone who doesn't feel that they are able to swim, can hold onto me. We must travel until we find a safe shore. From there we can search for help." The young couple and the grandmother seemed skeptical, but did not complain. Chelody looked down to the silent and shaking child in her arms.
"Therondy, mommy is going to turn into the happy seal now. I need you to hold onto my back -very- tightly, okay?" Big brown eyes met hers as the child nodded before she was placed upon her mother’s back. The happy seal... it was a name she'd come up with when she'd startled the human girl with her first change. After a few tricks and some initial giggles, it had just stuck. Now the happy seal had to save the day.
"Come on, if they notice us out here we're done for." She was the first in, the coldness of the water hitting her chest like a ton of bricks before she was coated in a layer of fat and fur. The others followed, grandmother and grandaughter taking ahold of her skin to stay afloat. They started out at a slow and steady pace, the humans not grasping to Chelody for support were far slower than she would have been on her own. It was difficult for the druidess to hold back but she did it anyways. Her eyes remained focused on the water ahead of them, unable to bring herself to look back. Forcing her ears to remain deaf to the screams and sounds of battle that chased at the group's heels, drving them foreward in a bid to survive.
It felt like they'd been swimming for at least a half an hour when the first sign of trouble went up. "Walt?" The matronly woman grasping a flap of loose skin gasped. The noise was taken up by others, and everyone in the water stopped to frantically look around for the older man who had gathered them all. Yet there was no sign of him. Just the perfectly clear water rippling around them as if he had never been there at all. The couple swimming not far behind her began to panic. The young man going so far as to search the water around them. He surfaced within moments.
"I don't see him... light help us, he must have drowned." His wife let out a terrified whimper. "Oh poor Walt..." She whispered softly.The kindly older woman at her side leaned to Chelody's ear, speaking softly. "Dear, we can't keep on like this. I think we've gone far enough. Perhaps we should head for shore?" The druid paused to think for only a moment before nodding her ponderously shaped head.
"Alright, we're going to go to shore and find a safe place to wait this out. Ah- we need to all stick together and help each other out, okay?" They all nodded in agreement, floundering and tired bodies attempting to move as a unit. Slowly but surely, they were starting to make their way for the shore. Sensing relief up ahead, the young boy began to increase his pace, swimming past the group with little effort. He wasn't burdened with children and the elderly. Chelody gasped as she saw him approach the shore. How had she not seen this?
"W-wait." The seal barked, struggling to move up closer to the child. The fog that had slunk down from the mountains made it hard to see him, shrouding the boy's form as he swam closer to shore. As they approached she could see his silloute within the shroud of mist. Everything seemed to fall silent for a moment. He was there... and then he was not. As quickly as he'd gone to shore, the boy was yanked from it, a chain appearing from seemingly nowhere to wrap around his scrawny frame. Not so much as a sound escaped as he was dragged away.
They couldn't afford a sound. It nearly tore her heart out to do it... but she swam back, away from the shore. "T-the forsaken are... oh Ysera save us- they are patrolling the shore. We need to keep swimming." At her side, the grandmother silently sobbed, and the young man holding his wife's hand coughed. They swam and swam... and that cough didn't go away. Chelody found herself having to completely stop to wait for the pair several times as they tried to press on. It reached a breaking point when he latched onto a fin, practically dragging the seal over as he fought to stay above water. His wife eventually came to their aid, feebly attempting to hold the larger man up as she cried.
"Please- you have to help him! Faldn was trying to help others e-escape. He breathed in a lot of the gas. H-He won't be able to swim for much longer!" She never could refuse a cry for help, but the druid's strength was flagging rapidly.
"Hang on, I promise we'll find safe land soon, t-then we'll get you all treated and better." She softly pleaded, allowing the husband to take hold of her. She only sank a little, her muzzle just above water. The tenous equilibrium could not hold however. Soon it became not a matter of her strength, but of his. Without hands to grasp his, or a way for weak hands to hold on, he began to sink and in desperation tried once more to throw himself atop her, grunting and coughing violently. From Chelody’s back, Therondy let out a distressed scream. This time... he wasn't trying to save himself any longer. He was reaching for her daughter. It was his wife that intervened however. She let out a distressed scream, her hands grasping his. "Faldn, what are you doing?!" None of them expected him to turn on his wife. Blunt teeth sunk into her fleshy shoulder staining the water red. She screamed again, but was pulled under by the newly created ghoul.
"Dear light no. He’s become one of them!" the matron exclaimed, moving closer to the children. Chelody stared horrified as the new ghoul thrashed in the water with his former wife. The woman's screams were soon submerged. There was nothing they could do as, streaming blood and bubbles, both sank.
In exhausted silence they were forced to continue forward. Their original number reduced to four. Death continued its awful march, and no matter how sweetly she talked, or how much she begged, the druidess could not stay death's hand, and in the end four became-
"Druidess, I can't hold on any more. I beg of you, get my granddaughter to safety..."
The little girl coughed blood as the poison gases did their work inside her...
Chelody found herself unable to restrain cries of pain and agony as she struggled stay afloat. Everyone. Everyone was gone! When it mattered the most, she couldn't save anyone. The splash of her fins against water almost caused her to miss the first cough. She stopped dead in the water.
"T-Therondy? Sweetie?" A shuddering gasp, followed by a horse cough was the only response the small girl was able to give.
"N-no. No. Hold on, just hold on for Mommy! Therondy, please!"
80 Gnome Rogue
Shaila walked down the moonlit road, hunched over slightly as she carried the precious bundle in her arms. She was tired. Her hair was messy, she had bags under her eyes, her limbs were aching and her stomach empty. She looked down at the bundle in her arms, the night elf toddler she had taken with her on her hike. Priscilla, Chelody's firstborn child. Chelody had encouraged it and Shaila was all too happy to oblige, eager to see the small elf interact with the natural world.
Shaila closed her eyes for a moment, then shook her head and recommitted her sights to the road ahead. Chelody. Her encouragement of the hike had likely saved the lives of both Shaila and Priscilla. They had been coming back from the hike, and had reached the top of a hill in view of Southshore. Shaila's knees had gone weak at the sight, and it had been all she could do to prevent a wail from escaping her lips. Priscilla was still too young, and had seemed delighted at the sight of the vibrant green gas covering Southshore. She had pointed with amazement at the terrifying sight of the Forsaken and their catapults. The catapults and their operators were hanging back, waiting for the gas to disperse. Forsaken soldiers were surrounding the town, hunting anyone who would dare to flee.
She had wanted to dash to the town. Nearly every fiber of her being was screaming at her, "Rescue Chelody and Therondy!"
But her legs wouldn't move. She knew she couldn't do anything of the sort, not with Priscilla with her. It was only when she had decided to move in the opposite direction, to take Priscilla and run, that her legs would move. That's what she did, then. She turned away from Southshore. She turned her back on any hope of rescuing Chelody and her other daughter. She had left them to die.
She had been walking the road ever since, constantly staying alert for further mobilization of Forsaken forces. She couldn't rest, for she was fleeing from a force that needed none. She could only keep walking until she came to Hillsbrad Fields, the only other human settlement in Hillsbrad. She...
...fell to her knees, her eyes widening with despair evident in them. Hillsbrad Fields was destroyed, all that remained of the buildings being charred ruins. It seemed that where the Forsaken had destroyed Southshore with plague, they had seen fit to destroy Hillsbrad Fields with martial force and fire. Forsaken were still there, carting in vats of plague and materials for building.
Suddenly there was a shriek behind her, and Shaila whirled around only for her very blood to chill. An echo of Northrend. A flash back to Icecrown, dark angels grabbing soldiers and carrying to their doom, dropping them off the highest ledges of the Citadel to the cold, corpse ridden glacier below. A val'kyr. The Forsaken had recruited val'kyr. And this one saw her.
She ran. She ran towards the only place she could go. Further into Forsaken territory, the dark forest of Silverpine.
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