Trial of the 12 Serpents (In Character)

90 Pandaren Warrior
4350
"The final test of the Temple of Five Dawns is the 'Trial of the 12 Serpents'. Students are never told about the 13th, because they must learn for themselves that hidden fangs await them on their journeys, dripping poison and cruelty alike from every shadow. Only then, once armed in prowess and armoured thus in wisdom, can a student truly be called a warrior." - Master Shang Xi

---

He knelt in the shadow of a great black banner, clutching the skull between his hands like a dead lover. It radiated power -the kind Shun Yin Yao had called "maho"- whatever that meant. The traveler from the Wandering Isle had proven a useful addition to the cult's inner circle, one had to admit; his knowledge of the ancient, long-forbidden magiks of this realm was staggering by anyone's standards, but Orm, son of Zha, was a Shadowmoon clansman -- he didn't need some pandaren filth instructing him in the ways of the Shadow and Flame: It was he alone who had recovered the Skull of Jergosh from the black depths of Ragefire Chasm! It was he alone who had used it to rally and stitch together the scattered remnants of the Searing Blade and the Argus Wake! And it was he alone would soon use it to topple the false Horde by sundering the very foundations of its capital!

He peeled his eyes away from the skull's empty sockets and turned his head from the banner. Sweat gathered at the furl of his brow and slowly dripped down the rough contours of his face like honeyed venom. Shun Yin Yao was nowhere to be seen. Good, he thought, pressing himself up from the ashes to stand before the Moon and Bones, slink away into the shadows, you serpent, and leave this business to me. In place of the pandaren, it was the blood elf, Hymerian, who met his gaze instead.

"My Lord," spoke the elf as he humbled himself before the great orc, "it has been done! Your servants have located the girl called Roma, and have identified her as a suitable candidate for the ritual." He rose slowly from his knees, but kept his eyes safely averted from Orm's own.

This one knows his place.

"The hour of your ascendance is near, my Lord. Soon, the ritual will be completed, and you shall rise from this black pit as a terrible savior to your people! You shall rend the red earth beneath their feet, and bury Hellscream beneath the very foundations of his ill-begotten kingdom! And all eyes shall turn to you, my Lord. And every voice shall call to you. They will call you 'Warchief', my Lord, or they will feel the burning lash of your exalted fury!" Hymerian risked a glance toward the orc's powerful gaze and was met with a look that sent his cowardly elvish eyes darting back toward the blood-stained earth beneath their feet.

Orm smiled a black smile. It slithered its way out from between his broken tusks like a snake, languidly twisting out of its burrow and into the light. "Go then," he commanded, waving the elf away dismissively.

"See to it that she is brought to me within the moon's turn. And do not dare to fail me, Hymerian; I intend to lay a thousand traitorous corpses at the bloody foundations of my new city -- and I won't think twice about adding just one more."
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90 Blood Elf Priest
11830
Whispers and Rumors.
He was looking for her. Again. Which is why she sent off her little shadowy spy.

The Bluff Watcher is used to her presence and politely steps around her instead of through her, as she peers intently into the shadows of one of the tents. Although she supposes that he'd rather not have a repeat of the one time he did accidentally step through her, it was a rather unusual sensation for her part. A playful grin dances on her lips in remembrance of the look upon his face as soon as he did pace through her, he appeared a bit wild eyed and the fine hairs upon his hide all stood on end causing him to look a bit .. poofy. She clasps her hands over her mouth as a giggle threatens to escape her. It's not polite to giggle over that sort of thing!

Shadows deepen and begin to swirl slightly at the base of the tent. Shadows that begin to warp and flow, molding themselves into the shape of a raven. Shadows lazily flow though her form as she extends her arm, beckoning the newly arrived shadow raven to her. It doesn't so much as perch on her arm as merge with her shadows. Her eyes flutter as the images are relayed back to her.

"See to it that she is brought to me within the moon's turn. And do not dare to fail me, Hymerian; I intend to lay a thousand traitorous corpses at the bloody foundations of my new city -- and I won't think twice about adding just one more."

Twilight has fallen when she pulls consciousness back to the present.

So it is true, her warlock is looking for her again. Questions begin to form as she drifts absently in the evening breeze.

Why is he looking for her? Why now? What changed? Does he want redemption or just what she inadvertently took? What is this ritual he spoke of? How does this new orc fit into this? Most importantly, Does she go to him?

After all, she is the figment of his imagination.
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90 Pandaren Warrior
4350
"Consider the locust, Weilung; the simple grasshopper: A harmless creature on its own, but from time-to-time, it sees fit to gather with its family into swarms of tens of millions, to become creatures of terror and destruction. They leave behind them desert and desolation. Why do they swarm? It is a mystery. Perhaps, like all of us, they dream of grass and sparkling water - of a safe and perfect land." - Master Shang Xi

He knelt before a great gray wanderer, immortalized forever in stone and stories. The figure sat upon the back of an enormous turtle, and held an umbrella above its head to protect its ancient stone body from the heat of the sun and the erosion of the rain. The image was well-known to Lao Weilung: Liu Lang had been the first of his people to leave Pandaria, long ago. He rode across the seas, they say, on the back of the Wandering Isle, Shen-zin Su, and brought back riches and wonders beyond imagining to the people of his homeland. But then, one day he left and never returned.

Never again would Liu Lang set foot upon the lands of his birth, nor gaze into the loving eyes of his elders and childhood friends. Never again would he smell the tea trees of the Jade Forest blossom after a heavy rain, nor sit and admire the watery calm of Serenity Falls. Weilung had often wondered why anyone would ever make such a decision, but now he was beginning to understand -- There is wisdom to be found on the horizon.

"It is better to journey a thousand leagues," Master Xi had once told him, "than it is to study a thousand scrolls."

Weilung's own journey had carried him from the back of the Great Shen-zin Su to the red shores of Kalimdor, and from the ancient Kal'dorei forests of Ashenvale, where the trees have names and sing tributes to the Dead, all the way across the seas once more to the shrouded lands of Liu Lang's birth - Pandaria. He had seen many faces in his travels, tasted not only new foods, but new languages, as well, battled many foes, and even cultivated new friendships amongst the honourable clans of the Horde. But his journey was not yet complete.

A new foe has arisen, it seems, from the black depths beneath the city of Orgrimmar, where flames and shadow hold their murderous court. It is the Sha of Fury, given flesh. It is maho - the blackest magiks. When the purity of incense and the light of meditation revealed this truth to Weilung, it was then that he swore a sacred oath: that this terrible foe shall never come to know the warmth of our sun rippling across the foulness of its skin.

He took up the blade that Urtogg had crafted him, the Gale of a Thousand Cuts. It was the finest weapon Lao had ever laid eyes upon. The quickness of its edge and the strength of its cut were the likes of which that stories were told. It was a weapon that should, by all rights, belong to a warrior far superior than himself. But it was the gift that he'd been given, and he intended to bring honour to its name.

On the Wandering Isle, it is tradition that Pandarens test new blades against the helmets crafted by their armourers. In this way, one can test both items at once; if either is of defective quality, it will shatter, and the craftsman responsible will know that he still has much to learn. Amongst the orcs, however, Weilung had come to understand that they test new blades against the flesh of criminals and traitors - every cut brings glory to the clans.

Since the Gale of a Thousand Cuts was an orcish weapon, Lao intended to honour it in the orcish tradition.

He turned toward the setting sun, and followed it into the horizon.
Edited by Weilung on 1/16/2013 1:50 PM PST
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93 Tauren Monk
10965
The inn was quiet this time of night. The sort of quiet that always reminded her how much she missed the family. Serainta had left the Faire over a year ago, but she never cut times with them. You never left the family. These were the thoughts she held as she idly shuffled her cards.

The taureness sat at her desk for the night. The old cards smelt of dust, oil, and incense. Slowly, reverently she laid the cards upon the table. Each had a scene printed onto them, though worn and their ink faded they still seemed vibrant and recognizable. She laid twelve down in a crossed pattern.

Her white fur started to bristle as she examined her cards. Their positions, their meanings, their images told a story. They spoke some something to come. The last card showed a tower crumbling down. She fixed her eyes on that one. Something terrible was coming. Her gut told her that it was something far worse than she knew; something bigger than her.

She quickly gathered her cards and got dressed. Her gear was stowed and she took a deep breath. Part of her was thrilled, a quiet part of her that knew this was a chance for her to prove herself. That she was more than just some wandering fortune teller. That she could be the hero she always dreamed of.

With the keys to her mechanohog in hand she rushed to her bike. She set out to find someone who could point her in the right direction, hopefully before it was too late.
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It had been over four decades since Thorgrun Ashgrip had enjoyed what was typically thought of as a 'home.' Not since the comparatively peaceful days among his Thunderlord brethren and their holdings overlooking the edge of the Fields of Farahlon. There his family had cared for a hut of their own, nestled into the rocky crags of the mountains. In the cool shade of the evenings a herd of goats would come down to shelter and graze in the small defile of scrub grass that had been the battlefield of Thorgrun and his brothers' young imaginations. Hunting, tending the herd, and caring for the small stable of wolves that was his family's real wealth and service to the Clan - those had been good days.

Since then he had known little but dusty warrior camps, mountain warrens and the shelter of someone else's tent. That and the 'hospitality' of an Alliance prison camp. The most peace he had enjoyed was the five years he called Thunder Bluff home, but even then he and his rag-tag band of orphans had not really had homes. They had enjoyed the favor of the Shu'halo but it had been someone else's tents and land, not been a real home - a holding of their own.

Now though the long years of effort were finally paying off. No longer a train of straggling orphans, his Thundering Hammer had blossomed into a true Clan and they were carving out a holding of their own here on the edges of Azshara. Nestled in the crags and valleys buttressing the northern mountain walls of Orgrimmar and overlooking Lake Mennar, here Thorgrun Ashgrip could finally feel at home.

Just as quickly as the feeling settled over him however, he quickly chased it away. It was a constant temptation - that deep longing to reclaim the restful security that he had enjoyed as a child. He knew all too well though that as soon as one settled into that repose calamity would soon claim all that was cherished and loved. Outside the simple mud-brick hut that was Thorgrun's latest temporary home, peons of the Thundering Hammer Clan and well-paid goblin engineers (too well paid, he thought bitterly) were putting the finishing touches on a simple keep and laying down plans for a barracks and a stables to house the wolves of the Clan. It would not be adorned in the sharp iron and grim steel of Orgimmar's new defenses of course - not yet - but it was an honorable beginning and worth protecting.

The elder Chieftain growled in discontent beneath his wolfs-head helm. Everything was going well. He ought to be satisfied, he knew. Deep within him though his heart was anxious. Each night for the past week he had dreamed of fire-lit subterranean caverns and fel voices carried on the air. The spirits were restless around his new home and so was he. Things were going well for once... and yet... he sensed a brooding threat in the earth beneath his feet.

Thorgrun had just resolved that he would trek down the mountainside to Lake Mennar and see if the elements of water could speak to him of the trouble in the earth when he heard footsteps approaching from beyond the hide-covered entrance to his hut...
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90 Undead Warrior
9715
Nothingness, a blank spot in consciousness that is nether white or black, to have no will of your own. This is something only Noslferatu and his brethren have experienced. In his many years of service to his beloved queen, he began to see that the Forsaken were not so special. Though out the years that brought him to the end of Deathwing he had worked closely with his fellow Horde. He came to know the past of the Orcs as well as the teachings of thier great leader. He began to value unity over race separations.

These feelings he was picking up from the Horde souls moved him to action in a way as powerful as when he was saved by the Dark Lady. As if a mountain could sway in a strong enough wind, his stalwart Forsaken loyalties could not stand to such pure goals. He smelled the sticky, earthy fragrance that the Silverpine forest gives after a light evening rain. After a moment of pondering how to better serve his Horde, he remembered that he had no sense of smell. The smell was just the strongest, simplest memory of a soul at peace, a soul in its most content times. The memory brought on by the new feeling of a true home, a true belonging.

Lore is the key to unity, culture helps us understand the lore, spreading it helps each of us understand the lore of each other. Having this thought in his head led him a small order where he used his newfound fervor to aid them and the Horde society they serve. Among his tasks, keeping the various souls in the society informed of any upstarts.

A soft vibration is felt on his chest under the armor that is nearly completely fused to his decaying body. Noslferatu pulls out the communication device used by society members. A small skull made by skilled Trolls, enchanted by masterful Elves, and retrofitted by talented Goblins. It had just been made to act in such ways when truly demonic forces are at work, or so guaranteed by an Orc Warlock who would not give his name but only his service. Tested on his skull before his leader decided to pay for such service.

He did not believe it was a genuine threat for it had only been a few days since the work was done. But, he felt like it had been too long since something sinister had happen under the Warchief's nose. He thinks there might be something amidst but nothing as evil as the skull might suggest. No, he decides that there is not enough information to start warning the others. He would do some research first, starting with that Orc. Even if nothing is wrong with the device, then he might find other signs for concern as time moves toward the unseen event.
Edited by Noslferatu on 1/20/2013 7:42 PM PST
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90 Pandaren Warrior
4350
"A good lord is rarer than fine weather, Weilung, because spring is inevitable each year. The good lord who values wise counsel is the rarest sort." - Master Shang Xi

With one hand holding back the hide-covered entrance to the hut, the warrior knelt down and ducked inside. The warm yellow sun upon his back must have made him seem like half a shadow to Thorgrun, but if the chieftain of the Thundering Hammer Clan was startled at all by Lao's unscheduled arrival, he certainly showed no sign of it.

The orc had the look of an animal caged, Lao thought -- of a beast, ill at ease within walls of stone and thatch and civility, who yearned to howl, and ached to hunt, and dreamed of nothing so sweet as the freedom to roam beneath the moon with his naked feet upon the naked earth.

“Lao,” growled the shaman from beneath a mask of wolfs-hide and bone. “I thought you might come.” Thorgrun looked up from a brazier full of smoking fragrance, and motioned across a darkened room full of old banners, worn tools and parchment scrolls beyond counting, toward a small leather pouch lying on the floor just beside Weilung's feet. “Toss that here."

"Of course," the warrior nodded. He lifted the well-worn bag from its dusty resting spot by the entrance and dutifully placed it in the orc's ready hand. "Forgive me, chieftain, but ... you said you thought I'd come?" He narrowed his eyes for a moment, puzzled. "Why?"

Thorgrun fixed his gaze again toward the brazier, still smoking. "The spirits show me many things, Weilung." His words now seemed as heavy as an anvil; the sudden sternness of the chieftain's tone suggested that a hard kind of frown now lurked beneath the wolf's savage countenance. "... but even a blind man could see that there's something troubling you."

The orc shook his head, as if in disbelief.

"... that there's something troubling everything."

Lao felt suddenly embarrassed; the warrior had learned many things during his long years of training at the Temple of the Five Dawns, and many more under the private tutelage of the great Master Xi, but neither deception or a working knowledge of the spirit realm were among them. After a long moment, he began to apologize for his naivety, but Thorgrun cut him off with a sharp raise of his hand.

"Come with me, Lao." He tucked the old leather pouch into his swordbelt and motioned toward the hide-covered exit to the hut. "I intend to explain everything, but first, you and I must convene with the spirits of Lake Mennar; their knowledge runs deep, and I fear we have need of the deepest sort."

As Weilung peeled back the great tanned door of the hut, the chieftain of the Thundering Hammer Clan turned back toward the interior of his chambers. He fixed his wolfish gaze upon the far corner of the room, where shadows gathered against the still-flickering brazier.

"Are you coming, Roma? Or did you think I didn't notice you there?"

Gloom itself seemed to pool together and take form before their very eyes. All at once came the sound of a young woman's voice -- faint, as if it traveled on the very edge of hearing. It seemed to echo throughout the room, rising up from everywhere at nowhere at once.

Lao reached for the Gale of a Thousand Cuts, but Thorgrun stayed his hand.

"That won't be necessary."

" ... Yes," came the voice again, clearer this time.

"Yes, I will come."
Edited by Weilung on 1/29/2013 5:44 AM PST
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90 Undead Warrior
9715
A small flame flickers violently before burning out at its end. The sound of a mild breeze howling against the cracks of a crypts entrance and the turning of paper are the only indications of life in the small dark room. The Forsaken warrior continues to write his correspondence without the light the candle gave, for he never really needed it in the first place. Some time passes before he feels the need to light another, the contents of his letters too concerning to be bothered by the small elements that sometimes comfort him as they had in his living days.

Nos looks outside the entrance to the crypt and sees the greenish overcast sky with some faint starlight, the common sky for an undead land like the Tirisfal Glades. It had been just over a day since he found out by the Orc Warlock that the warning was true and deeply sinister. He sought out other informants of dark matters and found no true leads to the demonic warning he was receiving. Now he sits back down at his broken table to finish the last of his letters.

With all his letters sealed by wax with the emblem of the unbeholden on them, he blows out the candle and heads for Brill to mail the correspondence to his last contacts who might know anything about what's to come. One to the master of the Order of Midnight, one to the leader of a Tauren clan in Thunderbluff, and one to the Chieftain of the Thundering Hammer Clan. He holds each letter to his forehead before dropping them one at a time into the mailbox.

As he walks south to catch the next Zeppelin bound for Orgrimmar, he looks up to see the moon peaking through with dim light and hopes. He hopes that one of these well informed and connected souls will know what is happening and who is doing it. Perhaps others are searching for answers as well.
Edited by Noslferatu on 1/29/2013 1:27 PM PST
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93 Tauren Monk
10965
The sound of the bike’s engine still rang in Serainta’s ears. Her hands felt soft from the constant vibration of that thrumming heart and the rough roads that traveled through the steering column and into the handlebars she had grasped for hours on end. She had known others who lamented at these byproducts of her chosen form of travel. She relished in them, old friends who travel down old roads with her. Today to Orgrimmar.

Her cards still gave her no further clues on what was going on. They remained stubbornly silent about whatever it was she sought to prevent. Part of her doubted she saw anything at all, it was this quiet voice in side her that she feared. Was it just doubt, or was it her insight telling her that she was just a fool after all.

The taureness walked her bike to the Wyvern’s Tail and locked it up. The tavern was mostly quiet, not surprising for midday. A few coins bought her a meal and a drink, something to calm her mind. She cleared her mind while she ate, focused on the food, her drink, the scarce other patrons. She silenced that inner voice and began to focus.

There were only a few options open to her. The few coins in her pocket limited her ability to hire a shaman or warlock. Her migrant nature prohibited her ability to hold onto contacts. She missed the Family more; they would have been able to help her. A sigh escaped her and she pulled out her deck.

She changed the question in her mind. No longer was she focused on what the problem was. She could get to that eventually. Her mind fixated on the fact that she needed help figuring this out. She needed a direction, a heading for her pursuit. The cards seemed like they moved with her hands rather than in her hands and she lay the cards down. Three cards in a slightly curved line.

The first showed a young girl wearing jester’s garb. She wandered, her eyes closed playing on a flute. Serainta nodded as if the card spoke to her and moved to the next card.

A priest stood stoically. He had one hand raised to the sky, one hand grasping a book to his side. Two initiates stood by his side, their heads dipped in prayer. Serainta set her jaw and looked to the next card.

A man on horseback rode through a crowd. He looked valiant, and the crowd seemed to be cheering for him. His figure was the only thing really obscuring a blinding sun behind him. Serainta stood and walked back over to the counter with purpose.

“Ya mon?” asked the toll barkeep, boredom tinting his voice.

“Is there a powerful shaman about here?” the fortune teller asked seriously.

“Plenty.” The troll picked up a bottle and started to dust it off.

“Any that you know of?” Serainta tried to impress the urgency of her task. The troll didn’t even bother to respond and just shrugged. The tauren shifted from hoof to hoof for a moment while she looked back on her cards.

“This better be important…” she said under her breath as she up turned her coin purse onto the counter. It was not impressive but the four gold, seven silver, and fifty six copper was all she had left.

“This is all I can offer. Do you know of any powerful shaman?” she asked again, almost pleading.
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100 Troll Shaman
7635
“This is all I can offer. Do you know of any powerful shaman?” she asked again, almost pleading.

Something stirred beneath the snow -
something gone, but not forgotten.
Something heaved, began to grow -
No longer dead, no longer rotten.

Something rose up from the ground,
Shook away the dirt and frost.
Something left its fune'ral mound,
to seek new life, among the lost.

Something turned toward the seas,
set one foot before the other.
Something ached, began to wheeze -
"Just one step, and then another."
Edited by Matsujin on 1/29/2013 5:32 PM PST
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90 Tauren Warrior
12305
Tor sat under the shadow of a large tree. He had hit the mine the bad ones where digging on the south eastern coastal area of this new land. After slaying as many workers as he could find, he had felt the rumbling in his belly and grabbed whoever he could carry and took off into the wilds where he now sat feasting.

One of the small things with the oddly sized heads twitched, Tor looked up from the half eaten uman and grabbed the small thing by the leg, before swinging it against the tree behind him violently a few times for good measure. Tor then placed a rock on top of it in case it tried to move again. He was sure it was dead now but then again, he thought it was dead when he grabbed it before, so he had better be safer this time.

As he returned to his meal he started to get a familiar feeling. Strange and unknown
information flooded his mind, this was the dark one putting orders in his head, orders from his master. Places, names, objectives, Tor never really knew what they meant but they would give him urges to go new places and kill or break things there. Tor never understood any of his orders but Tor was not good for those sorts of things, Tor was good for kill and break and master was good for plans.

Tor saw the familiar red land, a mountain, a lake, a hut, cards, a bear man in armor, an orc in dark robes like the dark one but not the dark one, an orc with shaman powers but not master and a shadow that moved on its own. The images made no sense to Tor but they never did, he would simply go where he felt he should, and he would know what to do when he got there... usually.

Despite this Tor found himself wondering if he would be killing any of the people he had seen. Where would he kill them? would one of the others help him kill them? would it be easy? would it be difficult? what would they taste like? maybe they would feed him? what would that food taste like?

Tor started to stuff his things into his travel sack. The small one didn't fit so he had to cut it in half and leave some behind. He then Turned to the small pink skinned thing in the tree behind him and yelled at it a bit. It was looking away and had its fingers in its ears, it didn't like to look or listen when tor ate. Just when Tor was debating throwing something at it, it fell from the tree and transformed into the dragon he would ride on. Tor knew it didn't like him but it was fast and strong. Tor climbed up onto its shoulders.

"You fly red cliff place now."

Tor felt a deep sigh before the dragon took off into the sky.
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90 Blood Elf Priest
11830
She gives her chieftain a wry look before staring at her raven and answering tartly. "That's enough of answering for me. Never do it again." A wave of the hand and her raven melts back into the shadows.

Between a thought and a heartbeat she's drifted to the two men. "I have questions, many questions and I am unsure of what actions to take." Whatever direction and destination the two men go, she obediently drifts along with them.

Without waiting for acknowledgement she begins to rattle of a barrage of questions, faster than a master of the Arcane can fire off missiles.

"How did you know I was in the tent? Was it because you speak with spirits? Does that make me a spirit? I've never been called a spirit before. Shamans and Priests cannot bind me. Am I related to a Spirit?"

There's a slight pause as her mind switches topics, though no pause for breath.

"He is looking for me again. Do I go to him? I am supposed to guide him, I should guide him. But he does not want me, he never did. I was nothing but an inconvenience to him, a voice to cause him unwanted, unneeded emotions. Why would he be looking for me again after all this time? What does he wan-."

She stops abruptly, her words and her drifting. "Oh. This won't end well."
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Together the three of them wound their way through what would one day be the holdfast of the Thundering Hammer Clan. Dusty footpaths well worn by heavy wooden wagon treads and the constant pawing and stamping of beasts of burden criss-crossed the sheltered dell, slowly fading away into the retreating tree line. Overhead the tan hull of a goblin zeppelin brooded over the valley, its bloated shadow dangling countless spider-leg rope lines down to the valley floor.

As they passed the shadow draped scaffolding of the soon-to-be stables a black shape darted out from beneath its skeletal eaves and bounded across the patchy turf. It was several handbreadths taller than Lao, and he started at its rapid approach. In less than two leaps it was upon them and suddenly he regretted leaving his sword behind.

The shadowy apparition that floated along behind them dispersed with a whoosh and Lao Weilung, who had been trained his whole life to place duty before personal safety, to honor one’s elders and whose personal disposition demanded action leapt to defend his Chieftain. Too late he watched in dismay as the giant mass of matted black fur, gleaming teeth and razor claws bowled over the hulking Orc shaman and went rolling across the valley floor with him in its grasp.

Thorgrun’s walking staff went flying through the air as the black worg careened into him and Lao snapped it out of mid-air as he pivoted to follow the direction of their tumbling melee. He was caught short however by a sudden bellowing laughter that thundered up from beneath the knotted pile of green and black as it scuffled through the dirt and grass.

“HA HA HA, Grip!” Thorgrun roared from beneath the Worg, “You villian! Is this revenge for me dousing you this morning?!” He had the beast’s great, slavering jowls pinned between his bare hands, fingers knotted in the fur and was fending off the animal’s shows of affection.

Lao watched in wonder as master and companion traded growls and rubbed against each other’s faces. Thorgrun ran his thick fingers through the fur around Grip’s neck and ears and twice buried his head in the animal’s musky fur. At last, the ritual seemingly satisfied, the Worg backed slowly away pulling Thorgrun up as the elder shaman held fast to the beast’s mane.

“Alright old friend,” Thorgrun said to his mount and battle companion, “I suppose you’ll want to be coming with us then?”

He was answered with a jubilant bark, and favoring his young Pandaren warrior with a lopsided grin Thorgrun Ashgrip turned back to the forest’s edge and began walking side by side with the Worg into the trees. Lao looked back to see Roma rematerializing - still muttering as if her constant stream of conversation had not stopped even as she had vanished - and reminding himself that in all new experiences there were lessons, he followed the retreating forms of his Chieftain and the Worg into the shade of Azshara’s golden-red wooden halls.

Slowly the frenetic sounds of construction faded behind them and were replaced with a heavy blanket of quiet forest noises. As they wove their way through the trees and occasional rock outcroppings Lao noticed the subtle signs of recent Thundering Hammer patrols. Broken branches, trampled underbrush and notched trees all spoke of the ceaseless watch that the Chieftain had ordered on the outskirts of their new home.

Once they even passed the fallen body of a Kald’orei scout, left propped against the tree where she had fallen. Three savage black arrows with iron fletching still sprouted from her chest as a warning to any others of her race who might dare intrude into the land that Lao’s new adopted Clan had claimed. They had all known of course that their charge to subdue this corner of Azshara for the Horde would not be without contest, but thus far their presence had elicited little more than skirmishes with scouts and the rare raiding party from the west. Still the body was a chilling reminder that this small party of four, without weapons or other real gear of war, was not altogether safe here in the wilds that the elves had called home for thousands of years before the Horde had ever arrived on these shores.

For his part Thorgrun passed by the grim scene without seeming to note it. He and Grip kept pace with one another, leading the party continually north and down the sloping countryside until finally they could all hear and feel a change in the air. The forest sounds began to be amplified, as if by a subtle echo, and beneath it all murmured the low lapping sound of a nearby shoreline.
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They wound their way through a series of broken remains - ancient Kal’dorei architecture left to crumble along the lake’s edge. Its magic was long since extinguished though some locals spoke of elven spirits or perhaps remnants of the Blue Dragonflight still haunting the area. Cold tendrils of mist and fog clung here and there to the ground, but apart from Roma’s shadowy form nothing substantive appeared.

Grip’s ears twitched as they walked. His nose was held high, sniffing the air for danger and Thorgrun watched the animal closely as they proceeded down a final embankment to the water’s edge but the small party encountered nothing more than the occasional errant squirrel between the ruins and the lake.

It was obvious as soon as the party arrived that the waters were troubled. The lake’s surface was broken by clashing whitecaps across its entire breadth, and in its midst a swirling vortex churned downwards.

“See,” Roma chattered. “Nothing good. Nothing good at all.”

Thorgrun leaned against the great black Worg for a moment, steadying himself as if unbalanced by the tumult before them. Lao stood wide eyed, gaping at the sight. It did not take the skills of a shaman to see that the spirits of water were in turmoil.

Thorgrun reached into his leather pouch with his left hand and produced a leaf wrapped bundle which he dispensed into the blackened palm of his right fist. The black strips of oily flesh that were deposited there blended in against the backdrop of his ruined right hand, only the glistening outline of the ragged pieces seemed to give them any definition. The old Orc breathed softly into his palm and muttered something unintelligible before taking one of the fleshy strips and stuffing it into his mouth, wedging it between tooth and cheek. Grip whimpered and backed away slightly from the edge of the lake as Thorgrun turned and offered one of the other pieces to Lao.

“Keep this in your mouth. Suck on it for the oils while we walk.”

Lao could smell a pungent, rotten fish aroma wafting up to his nose even as he took the bit of flesh from Thorgrun’s outstretched hand. His nose wrinkled as he stuffed the offensive item into his mouth, confusion and curiosity warring within him. The taste was just as rotten as the smell, but Lao had tasted a number of unsavory dishes since coming to Kalimdor. The real discomfort here was that the thick oil was steadily coating his tongue, causing him to wonder absently how long it would take to wash this particular flavor out of his mouth.

A more pressing question drove this one out though as he watched Thorgrun step once more towards the water’s edge. “Where are we walking to?”

“To the source,” the aged shaman growled without looking back, and just like that he had stepped out onto the restless surface of the lake and was walking directly towards the vortex at its center.

Lao inched his way to the water’s edge. Feeling the spray of the white-capped waves on his ankles and toes he hesitated. Beside him Grip whimpered again and shivered - clearly unwilling or unable to follow his master’s lead into the tempest. A dark shadow flitted past him from the treeline - Roma floating effortlessly out across the lake - and then at last he put fear and wonder aside and followed his Chieftain out onto the surface of the water.
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The last leg of their journey passed like a dream. Lao Weilung, traveller of three continents and student of many lands strode across the waters as though walking through a wind-swept field, always a stone’s throw behind the Shaman and the Shadow, never completely confident in the magical power of the foul tasting flesh in his mouth.

At last Thorgrun stopped, just short of the edge of the whirlpool that now dominated their whole horizon. Reaching to the cord of leather straps around his waist he felt for and retrieved one of the many talismans hanging there. A smooth, tan column of stone, two handbreadths long and carved on one face with a strange rune surrounded by undulating, deep-hewn lines. Through the midst of the fist-sized column were bored a series of holes. Strange leathery grey strips dangled two to three feet from each side of the holes and an assortment of smallish bones were hooked, tied and intertwined along their length.

Thorgrun gripped the totem in his charred right fist, holding it towards the vortex, and as he kneeled along the horizon of the churning waters he dipped his other hand into them and began to chant in the harsh, growling tones of his native tongue.

“Ang’thazak gunnosh ujut, lok’aurmak valrim regor,” the shaman’s voice intoned. The words rolled through the air with a substance that Lao could almost feel in his chest. The sound of Thorgrun’s voice felt like a leaden weight tugging the Pandaren downward into unconscious oblivion. For a moment he felt the waters lapping at his ankles and thought he might suddenly begin slipping into the depths, the efficacy of the oily reagent on his tongue somehow lost - but looking down he saw that he still stood atop the waves.

As he peered into the depths however, now Lao saw something else. The murky waters began to clear and somewhere in the vast reaches below he thought he saw fires spring up. Rivers of flame snaked into view and were attended by flitting shadow shapes dancing or else fighting in the glow of the firelight. Beneath the undulating sound of the chant he thought he could barely discern their shadowy cries. He leaned forward to try and see more clearly what vision was playing out beneath his feet, but then the waters occluded and the cavernous grey depths of the mere returned to their prior tormented state.

When he looked up next he saw that Thorgrun had stood and turned towards him. The wizened Orc chieftain was retying the tan stone totem into the straps at his waist and staring directly at his young vassal’s face.

“You saw it too then,” Thorgrun said, his voice still resonating with ritual intensity. “Ragefire Chasm burns once more.”

Lao shook his head, not entirely understanding. “The fissure beneath Orgrimmar? But I thought... your histories say it was cleansed.”

“Yes,” Thorgrun nodded, “Twice now already we have routed the demon worshippers from beneath the city but for days now the Earth has groaned in torment beneath our new Hold. At first I thought it was simply a result of our labor there but now the waters have shown me the source of their trouble and ours. Cultists have returned to the shadows beneath our great city.”

“Then that is where my path leads,” Lao replied firmly.

Thorgrun nodded gravely as he moved to stand directly in front of the Pandaren warrior. The Orc’s injured right hand came up and rested heavily on his shoulder. Rheumy eyes bored into Lao from beneath the elder shaman’s wolfs-head helm.

“Yes Lao Weilung, you must go but beware,” Thorgrun’s gravelly tones grated. “Any time you are faced with one of these cursed cultists always be wary my young warrior - for just when you think you have cut the head off the snake then you will find that there was always a demon lurking in the shadows behind him.”
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90 Undead Warrior
9715
The sound of metal being beaten into weapons sound through the air along with the noise of Horde voices singing in the chaotic sounds of Orgrimmar. Nos walks the streets of the warrior city as he has done a fortnight now. He roams around because he knows something important is going to happen here. He knows not the time or place but can feel that others might soon arrive.

Nos has waited for a reply from his contacts whom he mailed two weeks past. One replied that she would offer her guild to the cause if a cause for their aid was needed. Another he would find out three days past has meet the final death. The last most important letter has yet to have a response from the most respected guild chieftain among the Horde, Thorgrun.

Nos looks to the night sky and can see that there is something red to the tint, something sinister in the sight of it. He half mindedly searches for a Pandaren who he herd might be on the trail of this dark and evil thing happening. Only Weilung could shed light on his path, only he can lead Nos on the direction he should take.

As he turns from the sky and heads into the depths of Orgrimmar, he looks to all the shadows, searching for a sign that he is on or off the correct trail. He decides that he should wait in this part of the city for at least a week more. In hope that someone or something will guide him.
Edited by Noslferatu on 2/23/2013 1:32 PM PST
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