Topic The Dying of the Light
Harmyone sat at the table, trying to read a book but failing miserably. Her eyes slid over the words as if they were a sheet of ice.
Focus, she chided herself, flipping the page even though she had no idea what she just read. But she couldn’t focus, not easily – her mind kept slipping to horrible flashes of green, her tongue remembering the horrible taste of that vile substance, and that itch that she had, that terrible itch in her heart that would only be relieved with that feeling of the Light on her fingers.
She redoubled her efforts, but it was no use. Her mind wouldn’t settle. She closed the book in a burst of irritation, and she took off outside Mardenholde Keep. The breeze hit her face, and she closed her eyes. The smell of the grass and the clang of the Argent trainees sparring washed over her. It was ok. She was ok. She repeated it over and over, letting her panic and fear unclench from her heart.
The voice came from her left – she turned and saw a Draenei woman approaching her, flanked by a massive cat. She wore the tabard of the Pia Presidium, and her smile radiated comfort.
“Hi,” Harmyone responded. She felt nervous, self-conscious – she thought she would be alone on the grounds. She averted her eyes to the ground.
“You’re name is Harmyone, correct?”
“Yes ma’am,” she responded, staring at the ground.
“Perfect! Sepha’s told me a lot about you. You are to be my squire, and I am to be your knight.”
Harmyone looked up, gasping.
“Really?” The thought of being squired never occurred to her – after all, what good was a paladin with no ability to command the Light? She thought she’d be a ward of the Pia, maybe process some paperwork or keep to the libraries like she did back at the monastery.
“Oh! I haven’t introduced myself,” the Draenei woman said, giggling. Her voice sounded melodic, and the laugh proved infectious – Harmyone laughed as well, her nervousness abating. “My name is Meriste.”
“Nice to meet you,” Harmyone said. The initial excitement of being squired faded into a bundle of doubt. Meriste seemed nice enough, well-intentioned, but what good was a paladin without the Light? How would she fight and train?
“I’m not sure how much good I’ll be,” Harmyone said, staring at the ground again. “I…well…I can’t feel the Light anymore.”
She glanced up at Meriste and was surprised to see the smile still on her face.
“Sepha told me about what was done to you. But just because you cannot wield the Light, does not mean it is not with you.”
Harmyone looked at the Draenei appraisingly – this was the type of talk she heard from some of the Argent trainees. Things they said to appease her, to pacify her concerns with gentle rhetoric but little to no substance. It seemed different coming from Meriste – nothing about her was anything but genuine, but Harmyone distrusted the advice.
“I try every day to feel it. I never do, but I keep trying. Just kind of hoping it’ll come back.”
“I myself have very rarely wielded the Light,” Meriste said to her. “But I know that it is there. Whether it has yet to be unlocked in me I do not know. But there are other ways to channel the Light and to honor it.”
Harmyone gazed at her.
“You’re a hunter?” she asked. Meriste seemed to anticipate her doubt, and she smiled.
“Yes. But the Draenei have always been very close to the Light and the Naaru.”
At the mention of the Naaru Harmyone flinched – she could almost feel the warlock behind her eyes again, whispering in her ear for her to get the spark of a Naaru. She turned her gaze to the ground again, hoping that Meriste didn’t notice anything. Images of her capture, the feel of the warlock combing through her mind while he drained of her of her energy. She remembered then, made the connection, and she spoke to the ground.
“How is how is Azure Watch doing?”
When Meriste didn’t respond immediately, Harmyone looked up. The smile vanished from her face, replaced with a weary look of concern. Harmyone blushed, cursing herself – why did she have to bring that up?
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“It’s ok,” Meriste said, regaining her balance. “Father is safe, though there was a lot of destruction. I go there in my spare time to assist however I can.”
“He talked about it a lot, doing what he did. He’s awful.”
“I’m sorry, but who is ‘he’?” Meriste asked.
“The warlock who took me,” Harmyone said. Meriste blanched.
“The one who took you is the one who attacked Azure Watch?”
Harmyone blinked. She never considered that they didn’t know it was the warlock who took her that did that to Azure Watch. No one ever consulted her about what was going on in the outside world. Maybe they tried to shield her from any additional horror and trauma, but inevitably she would hear the Argent guards or someone else talking about it.
“Yes. He mentioned it quite a bit.”
“Then perhaps we have something in common,” Meriste said, getting lost in thought. Harmyone’s head twinged, again getting that sensation that there was something else up there, competing for attention against her own thoughts. \
“So what will I be doing as your squire?” she asked, trying to refocus.
“Well, we will have to satisfy your requirements for knighthood,” Meriste said thoughtfully. “But the needs of every squire are different. We’ll also have to consider your training.”
Despite the pounding in her head, Harmyone nodded.
“I try training with the Argent guards, but they always take it easy on me. I think they feel bad or something. How can I get better if they are taking it easy on me?”
“A good attitude.”
Harmyone looked at the ground, and then at Meriste.
“Do you think that if I don’t get my Light back, that you could train me to be a hunter?”
“I could certainly show you a few things about the bow and arrow,” she said warmly. “Working with animals is different entirely, but I can show you a few things.”
“I bet you’d have to show me a thousand things to be good at the bow and arrow,” Harmyone said. Meriste laughed, the sound musical and uplifting. Harmyone wished she could be taken away by it, but something held her to back.
Meriste paused, looking thoughtful. “I believe the Sepha said you were interested in the Naaru, correct?”
Harmyone felt her heart thud in her chest. It was true she sought more information about the Naaru. After all, the warlock tasked her with obtaining a spark from one. But more importantly, the Naaru offered a promise that, perhaps, one of them could give her the Light back.
“Yes,” Harmyone said, on the verge of breathlessness.
“Then perhaps, on my next visit, you should accompany me to Azure Watch. You can aid me in assisting there, and perhaps after enough training, I can take you to see a Naaru.”
Despite herself, Harmyone gasped. More than the possibility of seeing the Naaru, learning more, she found herself excited that she’d have something to do. It would be a great relief to devote herself to something again. Having a mission, something to strive for – the possibility that she could end the last chapter and turn the page on the next.
“I would be honored!” she exclaimed. “I’ll be ready for the next time you go, you have my word. I’ll have to pack my things, arrange my books, oh and I’ll have my sword sharpened, and –”
Meriste laughed, cutting off Harmyone before she got too carried away.
“There will be time to be prepared.”
“Thank you for being so kind,” Harmyone said finally, meeting the Draenei’s gaze. Meriste smiled, and Harmyone raced off into the Keep. For the moment, one sweet moment, the impending dread and pain drifted from her mind, and she felt excited for the future.
Edited by Malthaes on 3/27/12 9:09 AM (PDT)
“I was wondering when I’d see you come to my door,” Anya said with a bit of a smirk. The golden haired Blood Elf leaned against the frame of her office door. Malthaes offered a smile in return, one that did not even come close to matching the warmth of the former.
“I’m afraid I did not wish to darken your doorstep unnecessarily,” he said to her.
“Do not be foolish. Come in,” she said, gesturing inside. He bowed again, and he stepped over the threshold.
Anyanara Sunwhisper sat behind her ornate desk. Behind her the sun flooded through a large bay window, opening up to a beautiful noon day in Quel’danas. From the window he could see the Sunwell Plateau.
“Please, Mal, sit,” she said, gesturing to the chair in front of her desk. He obliged, carefully adjusting his robes. Anya looked at him, an expression he could only interpret as a calculating one. This was to be expected – she knew him better, perhaps, than anyone else.
“Nice office,” Malthaes responded, looking around at the lavish room. “The Blood Knights are treating you well.”
“It’s modest but comfortable,” she said smiling. “You look to be doing well for yourself.”
“I haven’t quite reached the heights of my previous wealth,” Malthaes replied. “I am on the way.”
“I’m sure you are,” she said with a laugh. She reached into her desk drawer and pulled out a bottle. “Amber wine?”
“Surely you aren’t allowed to offer out such substances for a business meeting.”
Anya smiled broadly, pouring herself a glass.
“Who is to say that this needs to be a business meeting, strictly speaking? We’ve shared plenty of amber wine in our day.”
Malthaes smoothed out his robes again, and then nodded.
“It would be rude to decline,” he said. She nodded, poured a glass, and then held hers up.
“And what do we toast to?”
Malthaes swilled the glass, his gaze drifting towards the Sunwell Plateau. He shook himself and smiled.
“To simpler times,” he said. They clinked the glasses and drank.
After a polite laugh, Anya refilled her glass.
“Simpler times, yes. When I was but a simple priest and you an ambitious mage aspiring to the heights of the Kirin Tor.”
“Simple,” Malthaes repeated. “You were anything but simple.”
“Watch what you say, you’re drinking my wine,” Anya said.
“It was true.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to remember,” she said, looking at him fondly. “You, always paying attention to your responsibilities, industrious, obedient to authority. A mage adept at fire but studying the arcane because your superiors demanded it.”
“And you were the one constantly getting into trouble when you were supposed to be attending to your duties,” Malthaes snorted. “Some priest.”
“I got you into a lot of trouble,” she said. “But it was worth it.”
“We did have good times,” Malthaes responded, sipping his wine. “But here we are. You, an ascending Blood Knight keeping to her responsibilities.”
“And you’ve been the one in trouble lately,” she said, the smile unfaltering but her expression still changed. A heavy silence fell between the two of them, one that suppressed and vanquished the lightness of their nostalgia.
“Trouble, Anya, is a relative term,” he said, sipping his wine. She nodded, the smile now vanishing from her face. There was once at time he would have done anything to maintain the smile on her face, that lightness that gave her immeasurable beauty. But those days passed. No amount of longing would bring them back.
“I believe that, in your circle, everything is relative should it suit your whims. The Modas is quite renowned for their ability to twist and shape reality.”
“An opinion representative of your limited view of the organization,” Malthaes said, sipping the wine. “The Modas wants nothing more or less than the preservation of the Horde.”
“A well practiced line,” Anya said, pursing her lips. “I thought we knew each other better than that.”
“It is the truth.”
“The relative truth.”
“If you insist,” Malthaes said, smirking.
“I do,” Anya said, putting down her wine. “From what I hear, your group is only interested in its own motivations and goals.”
“Awfully cynical coming from you, Anya,” Malthaes responded.
“Is it? I’m afraid that I can’t honestly say one way or another. So many lies and half-truths whisper on the winds that no one can honestly say what’s true of the Modas or not.”
“Then perhaps your suspicion of our motives is misplaced.”
“More likely they are completely justified,” she said. “If you keep your doings shrouded in shadow, chances are they would look unseemly if exposed to the light.”
“Perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree,” Malthaes said, inclining his head. “I do not wish to engage in a debate on the values of my organization when there will, apparently, be no agreement.”
“Values,” she muttered. “Why did you join them?”
“Come now, let’s not engage in a therapy session,” Malthaes said, a cold smile on his face. “We’ve been down this road before.”
“Why not?” she asked. “The Mal I knew and loved would look at what you’ve become and recoiled with horror. Let’s not play games here, you and I. You changed when we came back from Outlands. The things you’ve done since-”
“If we are to engage in unbridled honesty, Anya, perhaps we should adhere to the same standards,” Malthaes said, still smiling. “After all, you are hardly guiltless.”
“I’ve never used Fel magic,” she said bluntly.
“No, you settled on the far less horrific act of brutally tormenting and draining a paragon of Light, a peaceful creature in a Naaru, to maintain your own Light wielding powers.” Malthaes sniffed the air. “Let’s not play with semantics. We both preyed on other creatures to keep our powers. Or enhance them.”
“What we did was wrong, Mal,” she said. “You know it. I know it.”
“An easy admission to make now that you’ve got your Sunwell back,” Malthaes said. “I don’t remember hearing this trite plea to morality when our bodies were wracked with the pains of magical withdrawal. It’s easy to be condescendingly preachy when you’re living so comfortably.”
Anya sat back in her chair, folding her hands in her lap.
“You’ve changed so much,” she said, her face looking weary.
“Improved, you mean.”
“No,” she said simply. “I don’t. You’re angry now. Spiteful.”
“So why did you come here?”
“I’m requesting access to the Sunwell.”
“What for?” She looked down at her desk, idly looking for a quill that they both knew she wouldn’t use.
“Scientific purposes,” Malthaes responded.
“And when would this be?”
“Sometime in the near future. I’m still collecting some samples elsewhere.”
“You know I can’t give you that access,” she said.
“And why not?”
“Because the both of us know you’re not telling the truth.”
“The truth, Anya –”
“Is relative,” she finished, rubbing her eyes. “The answer is no, Mal.”
“Very well.” He stood up, nodded to her, and headed to the door.
“It was that easy to deter you?”
“Deter?” he asked with a smirk. “Oh no, my dear Anya. I simply see that you are closing the door on the easiest route. I’ll have to find one more difficult. But I am not deterred.”
“It’s not too late to turn back, you know,” she said, a note of sadness in her voice. He turned and met her gaze. She held the face he held dearly for so long that she still elicited a compulsion to soothe her, to hold and comfort her. It was not that she wasn’t strong – he once promised himself he would never let unhappiness afflict her. But things changed, circumstances changed, and they found themselves on opposing sides of a widening divide. She chose the establishment, the stability she believed it gave her. He, however, now represented change, a change that would prove violent and severe.
“Turn back from what?”
“What you’re becoming. I see that you’re wanted by the Alliance. Torture of war prisoners? Ruthless attacks on civilians?”
“You read that from a propaganda rag,” Mal said, waving his hand.
“Perhaps,” she said softly. “But you did not deny doing them.”
He smiled, cold and unfeeling. The warmth they had for one another had faded. She nursed the hope that it could one day return, but Malthaes knew better. His path was the right one, and she, because of her misplaced loyalties, became a relic of the past.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Malthaes said. “With any luck, our next visit will be on more amiable terms.”
“I hope so,” she said. He closed the door behind him, and he didn’t hear her whisper sadly: “But I doubt it.”
Harmyone stepped off of the vessel, the smell of evergreens mingling with the salty tang of the sea. She walked up the road, casting a nervous glance up at the purple tinged sky. Before today, the furthest she had been from Stormwind was Hearthglen. Azuremyst Isle seemed a world away from everything she knew, and that she could not wield the Light made her feel significantly more uncomfortable. The Argents assured her that the island got little attention from the Horde, but as she approached Azure Watch, still recovering from the attack by Malthaes of the Modas, she did not find herself comforted. Indeed, she came across violent green fel rune etched into the ground, still active and desecrating the land, and she shivered.
Her eyes were drawn to it. This was where the warlock stood when he rained fire down on an innocent village. She was surprised to see how quickly everything repaired – though the inn still looked to be worse for wear. But the rune, however – that still oozed malevolence. It as if it gave off waves of heat – she held a hand over it, her stomach turning with nausea. She broke out into a sick sweat – her body tingled with an energy that felt dirty. An acidic taste filled her mouth, and then she heard the voice, whispering to her, utterly malevolent:
I see you.
She felt someone grab her shoulder and pull her back. Spinning, she saw herself standing chest level to a tall, armored Draenei, looking down at her with a smile.
“You’ll want to be staying away from that,” he said, his voice calming.
“I’m – I’m sorry,” she choked out, her body shaking. The rotten, biting taste still filled her mouth. It was all she could do to not give over to the sickness.
“No harm done,” he said to her. “What is your name, traveler?”
“Harmyone,” she said. “Of the Pia Presidium.”
“Ah, we’ve been expecting you,” he said. “Squire to Meriste, correct?”
“Yes,” she said back.
“She sent word you would be arriving,” he said. “I am Exarch Menelaous. Meriste would be here but I believe she is assisting in the clinic duties of your Holy Guard.”
“Right, yes,” Harmyone said.
“She comes here often – I do not expect you to be awaiting her for long,” Menelaous said with a smile. “Come, we’ll leave this dark brand alone and get you some lodging. Is this your first time to Azuremyst?”
“It is,” she said, letting the Exarch lead her away from the demonic rune. The distance improved her condition – already the nausea was subsiding. “It is a beautiful area.”
“Quite,” Menelaous agreed. “When you’re settled I’ll arrange for you to tour the island. It is a beautiful place.”
“That would be lovely,” Harmyone said. “I will need to train however, and assist where needed. I’m sure Meriste would want me to do that even if she is not here.”
“It would seem that Meriste’s ethic has already rubbed off on you,” the Exarch said, nodding. “I feel you will learn much from your visit here. And, as you can see, there is plenty of work to be done.”
Harmyone nodded, her eyes passing over the repairing buildings. Several of them needed grave attention. She spotted a patchwork group of tents. Inside held cots, filled with Draenei with bandages and blankets covering them.
“The wounded?” she breathed.
“Yes, we had quite a few wounded in the attack,” Menelaous said. “You are a paladin yes? Perhaps you can assist in the healing.”
“I’m…I’m afraid I’ve been disconnected from the Light,” Harmyone whispered, lowering her gaze to the grass.
“Healing takes many shapes,” Menelaous responded. “Meriste told me of your condition. What was done to you cannot be undone, though that does not mean you cannot heal. And, in turn, you can perhaps help those who also need healing.”
Harmyone looked back up at the tents.
“The Naaru have not forsaken you, Harymone,” Menelaous said. “This is a dark time for you – but that does not mean you cannot bring Light.”
“I don’t understand,” Harmyone said.
“You will. Meriste is a wonderful teacher. She will do you justice. In the meantime, let us get you to your lodgings.”
Harmyone nodded, once again allowing herself to be led away. The glimmer of hope that she nursed blazed a bit brighter, but in the back of her mind she could still hear that voice, the voice of the warlock who whispered to her from the rune.
Edited by Malthaes on 4/4/12 10:42 AM (PDT)
Malthaes stood at the bow of the ship, unsmiling. He stared at the Isle of Quel’danas, his heart beating against his chest. It beat rapidly, nervously, anxiously – each beat a different emotion, each emotion causing his head to throb. Next to him stood a guard, decked out in Blood Knight regalia. Malthaes extended a coin purse to him.
“I thank you for your efforts,” Malthaes said. “You will receive further compensation upon the completion of my task.”
The guard took the sack of coins and nodded.
“This is a lot of money just to get you to the Sunwell,” the guard replied.
“And my materials,” Malthaes said to him. “With no questions or intrusions asked.”
“That might be more difficult,” the guard said. “The security around the Sunwell is heavy.”
“Which is why the coin purse in your hand is so heavy, and the ones to follow as well,” Malthaes responded. “Just make sure that the authorities keep their noses out of my materials.”
“What’s in them?” the guard asked. Malthaes turned his gaze back to the Isle. It took a few attempts of approaching several guards in order to find one willing to smuggle the warlock and his materials in. A lot of memories wiped, a lot of haggling and negotiating. Malthaes treaded lightly, avoiding giving out more details than was required.
“Just some materials for some research,” Malthaes responded.
“Research on the Sunwell?” the guard asked, the skepticism in his voice palpable.
“Research that demands the unique magical properties of the Sunwell,” Malthaes corrected him. The guard made a sound of disbelief. Malthaes felt a burst of irritation, and he yearned to do nothing more than blast the guard off of the deck of the ship and watch the murlocs feast on his remains. But he kept his composure. Why was the guard being so nosy?
“I just don’t get why you’re sneaking into the Sunwell if all you’re doing is research,” the guard said.
“Because everyone has been overly cautious concerning its safety,” Malthaes said.
“Are you going to damage it? The Sunwell?”
The guard attempted to keep his voice even, but Malthaes could hear the desperation in his voice. The guard wasn’t being nosy for the sake of curiosity. He was afraid that his source of power, the thing that kept the addiction at bay, was going to be removed again. Malthaes grimaced. How weak did the guard look now, whimpering at even the slightest hint that something might happen to the Sunwell?
“Damage it? No,” Malthaes said simply. The guard breathed out, relieved. “Just make sure my equipment is undisturbed.”
“Will do,” the guard said, sauntering away, the jingling of the coins fading until the guard was out of earshot. Malthaes breathed out through his nose, fury building in him. When he conceived of this plan, he imagined that he would have greater support. Who wouldn’t want the Sunwell to be more powerful, to grant strength rather than be a bandage to cover the elves’ addiction? But Malthaes could not even broach the subject of the Sunwell without the others sweating with fear and anxiety. It was then that a conversation long passed came to him, one between Malthaes and Thelinna, a fellow Modas.
“I have heard that you seek a spark of the Naaru,” Thelinna had said, sipping her tea. “To what end?”
“I intend on rebirthing the Sunwell as a font of Void rather than of Light,” Malthaes had said, his eyes looking up at her. She was undead, consort to Lord Aziel himself, but she looked as beautiful as a live elf. Her reaction to his plan was that of surprise.
“Truly? That is ambitious.”
“Quite. Imagine how powerful the Horde will be with such a weapon at our disposal,” Malthaes said. Thelinna laughed a bit, sipping her tea.
“The Horde? It would be a powerful weapon for us,” she corrected him.
Malthaes drew his cloak around him, narrowing his eyes. She was right then, perhaps more right than he gave her credit. It increasingly looked like he would have to fight through the bureaucracy to achieve his goal.
He closed his eyes, muttering, and he could see through the paladin girl’s eyes. She stood over the demonic rune at Azure Watch. She was close now. So close to getting the final piece of the puzzle.
Grinning he whispered:
I see you.
He could taste her fear, the panic, the fel traces in her activating near the rune. Finally she was in place.
Soon, he thought to himself. He watched as the boat came to dock, the elves unloading the cargo onto the dock. With a nod to the guard, he drifted off the boat and onto the Isle. He trusted that the guard would take the necessary precautions with his materials. In the meantime, he had work to do.
((I am so sorry, Harm! I had two exams today - I'll be around more tonight and the rest of this week. I'll write up something about what Meri was doing while I had to disappear to study last night. :) ))
((Not a problem! I'll catch you some time when we're both on - no apologies necessary! Just wanted to get the story caught up to where we are now.
Thanks to everyone for your support / participation / kind words. The story is starting to build up to its conclusion!))
Edited by Meriste on 4/16/12 12:16 PM (PDT)
Meriste stayed long enough to ensure that the patients' needs had been met and the infirmary was in order, and not a moment more. Leaving the clinic in the hands of capable healers and guards, she departed for Azuremyst.
Harmyone had already arrived in Azure Watch. She felt guilty that Harmyone had to make the journey alone, but Meriste trusted the others to take good care of her squire and to welcome her with open arms. She had sent notice to Exarch Menelaous to involve Harmyone in the recovery effort as soon as she had settled in and was well rested.
Many hours passed, and by the time that Meriste completed her final flight from Darnassus to the Exodar, it was the middle of the night. She removed the mask covering her nose and mouth, turning her eyes to the sea of stars above her and breathing in the fresh air. How she loved the smell of the azure pines, of the ocean on the breeze. The Exodar had changed over the years as the Draenei worked to repair it, but she would always know it as a place she could call home. The familiar hum of crystals and a melody of Draenic voices welcomed her as she descended into the atrium of the ship.
The inn was clean and quiet, almost exactly as Meriste remembered it. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the low, soft light as she walked down the corridor to the room her father was renting since their home in Azure Watch had been destroyed. She knocked softly on the frame of the doorway, pushing aside a thick curtain of fabric.
Tolnaar smiled warmly and looked over at the door from a chair next to the hearth. "Meriste." He rose and walked over to embrace her, enveloping her with his massive arms. "It is good to see you, daughter." Meriste closed her eyes, returning the comforting embrace and relishing the deep harmony of his voice, the music of spoken Draenic. For a moment, time held no meaning; she was simply a child in her father's arms.
Tolnaar held Meriste at arm's length, looking at her. "You look exhausted. Come, sit." He motioned to a nearby chair, which Meriste took without hesitation. After a long day of traveling, it was good to rest. She would retrieve She'ahu and find Harmyone in the morning. Tolnaar picked up an apple from a bowl of fruit and tossed it to Meriste.
"How have you been?"
Meriste smiled and caught the apple. He always remembered to keep some around, just for her. She took a bite of the apple and considered the question for a moment before answering. "Much has happened over the last year, but I am well."
"You look stronger." Tolnaar sunk into an adjacent chair and grinned at Meriste. "They must be feeding you right," he teased.
Meriste laughed. "Most of the time. I've learned not to eat Sepha's cooking, though. And they keep me busy - lots of exercise."
"How is Mira?"
"She is well. Her bonding is soon; we've both been very busy with preparations. I'm feeding everyone for the reception, having all the supplies shipped in from Draenor. Wait until you see her dress, An'da. She is…radiant. Simply beautiful." She paused, smiling at the thought of the upcoming ceremony. "We hope that you'll be able to attend."
He smiled warmly. "I wouldn't miss my own daughter's bonding for anything."
"And you? You are well?"
Tolnaar leaned back in his chair and rubbed his forehead with one hand. A momentary glimpse at his true age appeared in the lines of his face and in his eyes, in the silver strands of hair threaded among the black; the familiar jovial smile had vanished. Meriste wondered if she had just now begun to notice, now that she was no longer a child, or if time and the sorrows of life were beginning to take their toll on her father. Perhaps it was a little of both.
"I am doing all I can to keep the villagers safe from further harm. I travel to and from the Exodar, bringing supplies and news from other places to our loved ones. It is difficult…but I am well." The smile returned as aura of strength and composure, a shield to banish the darkness. Meriste smiled, reminded of how blessed she was to still have her father. She knew all too well how many Draenei escaped the horrors of the past as the sole survivors of their families, and even more who didn't escape at all.
"I've come to help, and I've brought someone with me. But I need your help as well."
Edited by Meriste on 4/13/12 12:35 PM (PDT)
"Sepha has charged me with the supervision of a few squires. I've brought one of them with me, a human girl by the name of Harmyone."
"Harmyone." Tolnaar repeated it a few times, trying to wrap his tongue around the foreign name.
Meriste nodded. "She has a strong heart, I can tell, but she needs encouragement. She was taken and tortured not long ago, robbed of her ability to use the Light. We're thankful just to have her back, of course, but…" Meriste sighed, shaking her head. "…she has been discouraged ever since. I want to awaken that strong heart again."
Tolnaar frowned. "Tortured?"
Meriste told her father everything she knew about Harmyone: that she had been an orphan as a child, but had shown promise as a paladin and joined the Presidium; that she had gone to prove herself and was captured; that she was robbed of the very gift that gave her hope, identity - for well over an hour, she spoke. When she arrived at the attack on Azure Watch, Tolnaar frowned deeply, anger in his eyes.
"The same warlock who is responsible for the attack on Azure Watch robbed her of the Light?"
"Yes. She understands our pain, An'da. This is the path to giving her hope again, I am sure of it. And I want to start with the simple things, as you did with me all those years ago."
Tolnaar nodded. "Then we must get started right away."
Meriste smiled. "Thank you, An'da."
Finn ducked his head, the rain in Duskwood intensifying. He made his way through Darkshire, the water sliding down his skin and matting his hair. When he reached the door to a lonely cabin offset from the town, the door swung open. Just beyond the threshold stood Ursula, his warlock contact from the Slaughtered Lamb, looking both surprised and humored.
"I was wondering when you'd show up," she said, yielding the doorway to let him in. He stepped over the threshold.
"I won't linger - I do not wish to soak your furniture," Finn replied.
"Very good, as I am almost never in the mood to entertain," she replied. She sat in a rocking chair, waving her hand over a candle as she did. The wick erupted into green flame. "But I haven't had a chance to speak to anyone since evacuating from Stormwind so...I welcome the disruption. However brief it may be." Finnaeus noted the glint in her eye.
"Then I will get straight to the point. Have you found anything along the lines of inquiry we previously discussed?"
"I have," she said, raising an eyebrow. "Unfortunately for you, I've come up empty handed. I cannot find a single spell, ritual, sacrifice, incantation, or even the smallest anecdote requiring a warlock to use the Light as a reagent or power. It's counter intuitive to the Demonic by definition."
"Damn," Finn said, shaking his head. Another dead end.
"Frustrating, I'm sure," she said, wholly disingenuous and looking bored. "And unfortunately I have not yet come across anything in my line of work that would restore the Light to her. That, also, is decidedly against the nature of Fel magics."
"Designed to destroy but not to build," he said. She shrugged, though he noticed the slightest smirk. "Then perhaps we're coming at this from the wrong angle. If his reagents are not Demonic in nature, then perhaps neither are his motives. If he isn't using the Light he drained from her for some purpose, then he's using it as leverage against the girl. If he wanted to injure the Pia he would have simply killed her. He needs her alive."
"But for what?" Ursula asked. "That is the key point."
"That I don't know," Finn said, finding himself lost in thought. "But it means that we have more time to decipher what he's doing. Thank you for your assistance." She waved her hand dismissively.
"Something to occupy my attention," she said. "If you find out what this Malthaes is up to, drop me a line and inform me."
"Is that to say that you care about the outcome of all this?" Finnaeus asked, bemused. She smiled, the green light of the candle reflecting in her eye.
"Morbidly curious," she said. Finn paused, nodded, and then retreated from the cabin. A flash of lightning struck overhead. It appeared he had more time to figure things out. Just how much, however, remained to be seen.
((Just caught up on this thread today. After finally reading it all, I regret putting it off for so long! It was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Absolutely astounding writing--inspiring, even. And I'm completely enamored with Malthaes' character. Can't wait to read more! ))
Malthaes sat at his desk, making notations in his notebook. Off center to his right was the crystal orb filled with Nightmare. The substance was expanding at a slow rate, but still fast enough that he had to siphon off extra from the orb. It sparked the idea in his head that there may be other uses for the substance, and since that time he had used it in various concoctions and lab samples. Most of the experiments ended up with the Nightmare essence dissipating, but that was to be expected. He was just beginning to understand its structure.
The experiments were wholly academic at this juncture, designed to give himself something to do while the paladin girl made her way to the Naaru in the Exodar. It was coming soon – he listened in on her conversations, and her hooved beast of a trainer mentioned several times that she would take the girl to the Naaru herself. In the meantime it was a matter of waiting, and being ready for when that happened. And when it did, he –
The doors to his office burst open. He saw the angry look on Anyanara’s face first, and he hitched on a smile.
“Anya, how wonderful to see you,” he said.
“How!” she hissed, her face red with rage.
“I’m sorry?” he responded.
“How did you get a lab and office here on Quel’Danas,” she raged. “I told you that you were not going to get access.”
“I have friends in high places,” Malthaes responded, shrugging. “Your Blood Knights have been most gracious to me. You have them well trained.”
“I’m going to Halduron on this,” she said, jabbing a finger at him.
“He already knows,” Malthaes said smoothly, opening his desk drawer and pulling out a scroll. Anya strode forward and snatched it out of his hands. “It is by his permission that I am allowed to work here.”
“You went over my head?” she said, ripping the seal off of the scroll and unrolling it. Malthaes watched with amusement as she read the parchment. “Impossible…”
“I’m sure you’ll find it satisfactory,” he said to her. “You’ll also notice that the request sent to Halduron was sent on your stationary, with your official seal.”
“How?” she breathed.
“You didn’t think my visit to your office was merely to ask your permission,” he said. “I have deft and nimble fingers, my dear.”
“You son of a –”
“Let’s not lose decorum over an unfortunate situation,” he said, the smile spreading wider on his face. “Suffice it to say that your contribution to my project will echo through the ages. Successful or unsuccessful.”
The glare that she gave him radiated heat. She pushed the chair opposite of him out of the way and leaned on his desk.
“What are you doing here,” she said.
“If you read the memo that you sent to Halduron –”
She whacked the bottle of ink off of his desk. It crashed on the floor, the sound of shattering glass adding to the building tension. The smile flickered on his face.
“What are you doing here,” she repeated.
“I’m not sure I like your tone,” Malthaes said.
“And I’m sure I couldn’t care less what you like or do not like,” Anya hissed. “You betrayed me.”
“Betrayed?” he asked, leaning forward. “I never had your trust, so how could it possibly be betrayal?”
“Completely justified, apparently,” she retorted. “You went behind my back when I told you no.”
“And I was to accept the word of a bureaucrat simply because you say so?” Malthaes said. “You had no reason to deny my request. I told you I would find another way.”
“Impressive that you did,” she said. “Now tell me what you’re doing here.”
“Research,” he said.
“You need to be more specific.”
“I’m not sure I need to do anything of the sort,” Malthaes said, leaning back in his chair. It was odd, almost surreal, the way he enjoyed needling her, making her squirm. He derived satisfaction knowing that he had her in an uncomfortable situation, forcing her to do things against her wishes. It almost felt like –
“Is this some sort of revenge? Are you doing this just to personally spite me?”
Malthaes chuckled, more to himself than in response to her question. She could almost always read his mind. Almost always.
“Spite you? For what?”
“Since when did you perfect being smug,” she snarled, wrinkling her nose. “This version of yourself is utterly contemptible.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. “But you haven’t answered my question.”
“You know what I’m taking about,” she retorted.
“And yet you won’t say it aloud,” he said. He met her gaze, and he could tell that they were both going back to the day they parted ways. “It was you that suggested I turn to the demonic to slake my addiction. Your idea. Every time you suggested it, I said no. I relented for you. So I don’t know why you act as if all of a sudden I am completely repugnant. I did it for you.”
“But it was for your own benefit that you refused to give it up,” she countered. “You continued to practice it. You should have let it go when I asked you to.”
“And why should I have done so, when it made me that much more powerful? Why should I have made that sacrifice? You introduced me to the demonic, against my desires, and then you wished to take it away. You expected me to change every time you fancied a different life for yourself. This is no longer about you, Anya. This is about power.”
“Power? There are plenty who are powerful without the help of the demonic. Admit it – you simply didn’t have the ability to shake the addiction.”
“I am not addicted to fel magic,” Malthaes snapped. “I have mastered it. It has not mastered me.”
“Tell yourself whatever you want,” Anya said, leering at him. “But it was you that chose the dark path that separated the two of us. We both may have used other creatures for our comfort, but I stopped. You didn’t.”
“Not from choice,” he reminded her. “Kael’thas took your Naaru away, and by lucky happenstance the Draenei birthed the Sunwell so that you could continue practicing your Light magic. You didn’t make a grand gesture of sacrifice. You simply let someone else do the work for you.”
“So what? You do this now to prove yourself stronger than me? That you destroyed what we had because you’re more independent?”
“I’m not here for you,” he sneered, and despite her anger he could tell that he struck a nerve. She stood up straight, folding her arms against her chest.
“Very well. What are you here for then?”
“As I said, research,” he said. “And if you prize the reputation you’ve so diligently cultivated, you’ll stand aside. After all, Halduron believes I am your guest. I would hate to do something that would jeopardize your career.”
“Career or not, I will not let you destroy the Sunwell, or damage it in any way.”
“You make some grave assumptions,” he said, unable to resist smiling. She always was perceptive and smart. She may not know his intentions for sure, but she definitely suspected. It would make the game more entertaining when he won it at last.
“I’m hedging my bets,” she said. “Your research will be unobstructed while in this lab, per the agreement. But you are not allowed unsupervised access the Sunwell. I will personally accompany you every time you wish to visit.”
“Anya, have I really deserved-”
“No more,” she said, holding up her hand. “You have my decree. Research all you like. You’ll schedule an appointment with me each time you go to the Sunwell. Is that understood?”
“I do find you so attractive when you’re assertive,” he said to her, inclining his head. “I’ll consider your proposal.”
“You disgust me,” she hissed. “That you threw away everything to consort with such vile creatures truly means you have lost whatever you had that made you good.”
Malthaes leaned forward, the smile on his face as cold as ever. “I’ve thrown away nothing, Anya. I’ve merely shed what once made me weak, and have taken that which has made me stronger. Now, if you do not mind, I have work to do. Please see to it to remove yourself from my lab. I’ll contact you when I require the Sunwell.”
She hesitated, their eyes meeting.
“Do not believe for one second that my affections for you will stay my sword should you prove me right.”
“I would be disappointed if you didn’t feel that way. Now please. I insist on my privacy.”
She lingered, looking as if she wished to add an additional barb, but then she left.
The door closed behind her, and the smile vanished from his face.
“If I see even a glimpse of your sword I’ll rip your heart out and wear it as a pendant,” he muttered. And then he went back to his notebook.
Harmyone looked up from the pile of cloth she had finished watching. It had taken awhile to rinse and clean the cloth – they had been used as bandages for the wounded Draenei of Azure Watch – and she finally had the fresh batches folded and arranged neatly for use. It was tedious work, but necessary, and it gave her mind a break from wallowing in her own plight.
She saw two Draenei walking towards her. The Draenei woman she recognized instantly as Meriste, her knight and mentor. The Draenei male accompanying her, however, was a stranger. Harmyone felt her heart skipping at the sight of him. He was very tall, taller than even some of the Exarchs in Azure Watch. As he got closer, she noticed his dark skin tone, his black hair pulled back in a loose ponytail. They walked up to her, and his sheer height made her crane her head back. Her mouth hung agape, awestruck. Meriste smiled.
“Harmyone, this is my father. He has a better sword arm, so he will be helping with your training."
Harmyone, unable to compose herself, merely nodded. The Draenei bowed to her, his fists clasped together.*
"I am Tolnaar. Eet eez pleazure to meet."
It took a moment to realize that it was impolite to stare, and Harmyone shook herself. Had she forgotten her manners completely?
"I'm sorry - I shouldn't have stared. My name is Harmyone. It is a great honor to meet you."
Tolnaar smiled jovially at her. "Eez vine staring. I am used to."
Meriste smiled again, noticing Harmyone’s reticence.
"Don't be nervous, Harm. An'da taught me all I know about using a sword. He has a gift for teaching."
Tolnaar laughed, a booming, hearty laugh that, much like Meriste’s smiles, warmed Harmyone’s spirits.
"Meri eez good learner, very much 'elped."
Harmyone nodded, very much aware at how hot her face felt. The two stood before her, speaking to her as an equal, and it occurred to her that she would not be able to live up to the standards of a battle-experienced Draenei.
"I'll try to live up to that. Most of my trainers at the Abbey told me that they needed the Light's blessing just to teach me to read."
Meriste laughed, her voice tinkling like music.
"You should've seen my first attempts at swinging a sword. It was...a sight to see."
"Vaz not bad, only... zmall danger."
"The other villagers didn't seem to think so,” Meriste responded with a sheepish grin. Tolnaar tossed her a smile.
"Only zmall danger."
It was odd listening to them, talking to one another. It loosened her up a bit, but Harmyone couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of jealousy. She never did have a father or mother to train her, to reflect on her childhood and remember with nostalgia. While it was true she considered some of monks and sisters as family, it wasn’t the same as watching Meriste and Tolnaar speak to one another with the ease and comfort of true, honest family. Still, though, the natural comfort of the two was infectious, and it eased Harmyone’s nerves.
"Glad to see I wasn't the only one. It's kind of...well...comforting."
Tolnaar looked at her. "Alvayz zmall danger virst time learning. You zhould not be zhamed."
Harmyone looked down at the ground, lost in thought. She took a breath, figuring that she might as well be honest with the Draenei before they got started with any serious training.
"I was better before I lost the Light.”
She peeked up and saw Tolnaar giving her a serious look, a slight frown on his face.
"Zhe Light 'elps in all vays, but you can be ztrong even vithout. Zhe Krokul are ztrong ztill, zo are you."
"The Light takes many forms. Light can come from within, in more ways than you think,” Meriste added, nodding in agreement. Harmyone quirked an eyebrow, color rushing to her cheeks again.
"You're both right, of course. Though...I don't know what the Krokul are."
Tolnaar and Meriste exchanged a few words in their native tongue. Harmyone watched as they conversed, fascinated that they spoke an entirely different language than her but not surprised by it all the same. She knew from the books that there were many different languages to be spoken, but to see it working, alive – it only proved to her how very little she knew about the world.
Meriste looked at her, sensing her confusion. "In the Common tongue, 'Krokul' means 'Broken.’”
Tolnaar nodded. “Zhe Broken are Draenei 'oo 'ave... lost zhe Light."
Harmyone looked up at this, her heart clenching. So this happened before, being stripped of the Light. She knew next to nothing about the Draenei’s history, but it gave her a small comfort to know that there were others out there, like her, who once held the Light and had it taken away. Meriste put a comforting hand on her shoulder, reading Harmyone’s expression.
"Some of the Krokul fell to darkness. Others, regained strength, became saviors of our people. We will help you find your strength again, Harmyone."
"Krokul can be ztrong vithout Light, zo can you."
Harmyone looked up at them both, and she chided herself again. They were right – wallowing would do no good. The only response was to find her strength again.
"I'll do my best to honor your teachings."
Meriste smiled, approving. "That's the spirit." She glanced over at Tolnaar. "Would you like to get started?"
Tolnaar nodded, looking at Harmyone. "You 'ave zword?"
"Yes sir,” she responded. She withdrew her sword from her sheath, gripping it in her hand. It occurred to her that there was nothing remarkable about her blade, but Tolnaar nodded in approval.
"Eet eez good zword. Do you use zhield?" Harmyone blushed at the compliment, and then took the round shield from her back.
"Good, good. Now, stand to vight."
Harmyone took up a basic stance, the only one taught to her at the abbey and at Hearthglen. She dug in her heels, holding the sword out while raising her shield to cover her chest. Tolnaar circled her, moving her elbow, her feet, issuing commands to rectify her stance. But he did so with purpose, never criticizing – it did not occur to her to be ashamed, because she only wished to listen and to learn. He finished, nodding.
"Thank you sir."
He nodded, smiling with reassurance, and then took the shield from his back. He strapped it carefully to his arm, and then lowered it so that it would be at the appropriate height for her.
"Now, 'it zhield."
She blinked, not really anticipating that she would be instructed to swing so fast. In the next moment she furrowed her brow and struck with her sword, the edge clanging against the shield. The huge Draenei barely moved.
Re-gripping the sword, she struck forward, with more force this time. Tolnaar didn’t move, but he grinned. Meriste nodded in encouragement, watching with a gaze mixed with both approval and nostalgia.
She looked at the shield, narrowing her eyes with focus. She swung with such force that she let out a bit of a roar, and the sword crashed down upon the shield. Tolnaar moved back a bit, steadying himself from the blow. His eyes glinted, and he laughed in glee.
"Yez, good, good! You 'ave good arm vor zword."
Harmyone smiled, glancing at Meriste, who had shouted, "Good one, Harm! I couldn't upset his balance for at least twenty tries."
She blushed scarlet, winded a bit from the effort of the blow.
"Thank you - the Argent Guards always took it easy on me. That's the hardest I've swung the sword since I've gotten back."
"Eet eez good to use zword 'ard. Makes arm ztrong, makes body ztrong,” Tolnaar responded. With a nod he unsheathed his sword, rotating it until he found the grip comfortable.
"Are you ready to vight?"
Harmyone looked up at him, her face laced with nervousness. It was all well and good to strike a shield, but to duel a fully grown Draenei without the Light sounded completely crazy. But she didn’t want to disappoint him, or Meriste, particularly since she had done so well so far. She shook the nerves from her – it was time to stop being a coward. She steeled her expression.
"Zhen ve vight."
Harmyone dug in. If he struck she would barely be able to absorb the blow. She put all of her weight behind her shield, waiting for the first strike. But she saw that Tolnaar was doing the same, remaining on the defensive and waiting for her to strike. She wondered how long she should wait, but then she decided to take the offensive. She strode forward, leaning with her shield, and then jabbed out with her sword, testing. Tolnaar deflected the jab with his sword, expertly twisting his own blade so that the natural motion struck towards Harmyone. She panicked, lashing out with her sword, grunting as the two blades clashed. She deflected the blow, but she lost her balance. Tolnaar frowned.
"Use zhield vhen can. Better to block, zince eez beeger." It was a rookie mistake, and she shook herself with anger.
"Of course, you're right." She waited until he reset his stance, and then she did the same. She wondered if she would have to make the first strike again, but then Tolnaar came at her shield side with a sweeping strike of his sword. She grunted, pushing all of her weight into the shield to deflect the blow. Tolnaar backed away, pleased.
"Good! Now, come again."
Harmyone nodded, sweat forming on her brow. She reset her stance, moving forward, once again leading with her shield.
"Know zhe zhape of zhield. Zword vill move vay of zhape." He showed her his own triangular shield as an example. “Because zhield 'az zhape, zword vill 'it and vall off.” He pointed at her own round shield. "Zhis zhield 'az no zhape, zo zword vill 'it and go vhere? You not know. Must alvays vatch, or vill go vhere you not vant. Ready?"
Harmyone reconsidered her own shield. She never thought to analyze her own shield, to use it tactically to move the opponent’s sword. She had always been taught that it absorbs, and to counterstrike when she could. It never occurred to her to be proactive about it. She nodded, taking her combat stance.
The two eyed each other, ready for another round. Tolnaar struck out with his sword, the blade quickly thrusting towards her shield. With a grunt Harmyone pushed up with her shield, angling the strike so that Tolnaar’s blade was forced away from her and him. She pressed her advantage, quickly counterstriking with her own sword. Tolnaar backed up, lowering his shield to block the strike. He had an immensely pleased smile on his face.
"Good! You vatched and knew vhere zword vent. Good!"
Harmyone smiled, winded. She looked at Meriste, who was laughing and clapping with approval. Harmyone turned back to Tolnaar.
"Thank you - Meriste is right, you are a very good teacher."
"You learn vast. You are very good ztudent."
"Thank you, sir."
“Perhaps now is a good stopping point,” Meriste said.
Harmyone wished to continue, but Tolnaar nodded. She set her sword back in her sheath, watching Meriste and Tolnaar exchange a few more words in their language. Hope flickered in her chest – she could learn to fight without the Light, that much she was proving to herself. Perhaps she did not have to get the spark of the Naaru for the elf warlock after all. Perhaps, with Meriste and Tolnaar, she could leave that part of her past behind her.