Topic Of Dawn and Blood [Closed RP]
Edited by Benoite on 6/21/13 6:40 PM (PDT)
But not with your eyes.
Keep your head down.
But say it is not so.
“Hold your head high.”
And what do we say? What do we say of the Light?
“We were abandoned.”
After they took her father away and brought him back smiling, the Magistrate came for her next.
It was her mother who stood between them with her pretty golden hair spilling everywhere in a way unfit for company.
“Please,” begged her beautiful mother. “Please, I beg you, she is only a child.”
“I swear,” said her mother, dropping to her knees in her gossamer gown, “I swear I will raise her right, Magisters. I swear it by ... I swear it by the honor of our people.”
So they took her mother in her stead, but before they did, her mother held her so tightly that little Benoite’s cheek was bruised by her mother’s collarbone.
The last time Benoite heard her mother’s true voice, her mother whispered to her, “You have no Gift. Do you understand? Never use your powers. Never let them see. Never.”
When her mother came back smiling like her father, she sang all her words like a nightingale.
“Hold your head high,” chirped her beautiful mother.
Before--before that time, her father had given her anatomy lessons. Together in his lab, they had taken apart the flesh and bones of creatures great and small. "Steady hands, Benoite, steady hands. Watch. Don't just look, darling, you must watch."
The patience and precision of the art stayed with Benoite. The girl had a knack for tracing the veins of things, of problems, of people, of cities.
Knowing the anatomy of things meant she knew what was coming--and what to avoid. If she was diligent, if she was exact, she found pockets of liberation in a life of otherwise keeping her head down.
For example, there was dawn. Benoite was well versed in the intricate paths to follow in order to avoid the eerie hum of the sentries and the swift march of the Guardians. For a city so devoted to the worship of the sun, the rest of its citizens were ever slow to rise with it.
Benoite relished sunrise with personal letters or a book. She usually had the Court fountain all to herself. Hide in plain sight. That had been a lesson from her mother.
There was so much to read now that she had full access to the Royal Library. Easily the biggest collection within the Horde, the Library was a joint venture with Undercity. In a culture so fixated with the arcane, the Royal Library was one of the few venues through which the uninitiated of her kind could find respectable work.
It had taken Benoite too many sleepless nights to count, but now, Benoite Dawnsong was the Royal Library’s youngest Assistant Archivist to date.
Benoite couldn’t help but to feel a little proud of this accomplishment and the job certainly came with perks. First and foremost, she was allowed to travel freely to Undercity. As a fully qualified Archivist, she could travel to any Horde lands without passes from the Magistrate. She would even get to visit places like Dalaran. How Benoite longed for such freedom.
But accomplishment begot attention and too often in this city, attention begot downfall. As she shifted through her mail, Benoite flinched when she came to a letter sealed with the red and gold insignia of the Magistrate. She willed her hands not to tremble as she opened it.
She was being summoned to her first official visit to Undercity by none other than Ambassador Sunsorrow.
It was hard to face the day when she knew she would not sleep that night.
Edited by Benoite on 6/15/13 7:15 AM (PDT)
She learned to be good at holding her head high. She wore the right gowns and coiffed her hair just so. She took a potion every day to lend a greenish tint to her otherwise offensively blue eyes.
When the young scribe entered his office, Ambassador Sunsorrow eyed her with an approving hum. “Ah, my little scribe. By the light of the sun, child.”
“The sun guides us,” Benoite replied as she dipped into a curtsey. “You asked for this lowly one, Ambassador?”
The ambassador rose from his desk and walked right up to her, close enough to startle. “My dear,” said the man, resting his hand upon her cheek, “you look more and more like your mother with each passing day.”
Though her blood rushed to her ears, Benoite stood still as the ambassador’s hand wound into her hair, gripping just a little too hard. “It’s a pity, of course, about your coloring,” he drawled.
She had her father’s pallor along with his raven hair. In many ways, Benoite was so unlike her sunkissed mother. Yet, there was something of her mother’s unparalleled beauty in the delicacy of the girl’s bone structure, in the sweet smoke of her voice, and the way she moved like a song of lament.
Benoite spoke evenly, softly. “I am honored that the esteemed Ambassador Sunsorrow remembers this lowly one’s mother.”
The ambassador released her and returned to his stately desk. He left her standing so that he could continue to eye her up and down. “A clever child. They said you were a clever one, my dear.”
“You flatter me, esteemed Ambassador.” Benoite looked up at him briefly through her lashes, then looked down at her prettily slippered feet again.
“But you know what else they said, child? Would you like to hear what’s at the very top of your file?” The Ambassador opened up a blood red folder on his desk and gestured grandly to the top leaf of parchment.
“I am here to serve, esteemed Ambassador.”
“It says here, no aptitude for magic.”
If he had hoped for a reaction from her, he was disappointed. The ambassador closed the file and leaned back in his chair with a creak of fine leather. “But the thing is, little scribe, I do remember your mother. Quite well, I might add. I remember everything about the illustrious, Light-blessed Priestess Dawnsong.”
Benoite remained still. She did not take her eyes off the intricate beadwork of her slippers. The Ambassador continued, his voice as honeyed as ever. “A pity that you, my dear, did not inherit her great powers.”
Benoite dipped into another curtsey. “It is my humble hope, esteemed Ambassador, that I can still serve Silvermoon’s interest to the best of my limited abilities.”
The ambassador laughed, a rich baritone that seeped into tapestry-lined walls of the room. “Oh, you clever, silver-tongued child. Yes, yes. Serve our beloved Silvermoon’s interest. That is precisely why I have called you here today. Come, come closer.”
Benoite looked up. She smiled. She held that smile and moved to the ambassador’s desk. With a snake smile, the ambassador spun his chair away from her as he threw a large envelope her way. She caught it--barely.
“Congratulations, my dear. You are now officially a full-fledged Archivist-at-large of the Royal Library--on loan to a distinguished colleague of mine as a personal assistant. You will be traveling more than you are used to, I believe. All the documentation you’ll need are inside. That is all.” He dismissed her with the flick of his hand.
Gripping the envelope with white-knuckles, Benoite had the presence of mind to speak, if not to curtsey again to the high back of the ambassador’s chair. “You honor me too much, esteemed Ambassador.”
“Ah, one more thing, Archivist Dawnsong.”
“Anything the esteemed Ambassador wishes. I am here to serve.”
“You are to report to me weekly, with anything of interest that my distinguished colleague dabbles in. I do so like to know how my good friend fares. You are dismissed.”
Only when she was back in her modest rooms in Silvermoon did Benoite give into her nerves. She was surprised by her tears. She had not wept in a long time.
All that she had been through--all that she had done as the daughter of traitors--all that she had done to hold her head high--would be tattered, a rain-drenched white gossamer wing. There would be nothing but talk of that Dawnsong girl promoted to Archivist after a closed-door meeting with Ambassador Sunsorrow.
At night, as the dream realm refused her, Benoite thought of her mother, ablaze with Holy light. In the quiet dark of her bedroom, Benoite Dawnsong chanted her mother’s battlecry like a prayer. Words that she herself dared not breathe too loudly.
“The Light does not abandon its champions.”
Beneath a blood-red sky with a single, grinning quarter moon, voices screamed and armies collided. The frigid air became thick with the mist of blood and the ring of metal, the roars of the furious and the flamboyance of spellwork. The combatants were absolutely identical, fully armored with thinly slit visors, wielding jagged weapons of ancient design. In a valley of snow they clashed, the din of battle echoing through the land like the peal of metal thunder.
He strode amidst them, the harvester in his field.
Wrapped in plate and spines, brandishing a weapon in each hand, Liore Bloodwing screamed with hatred and madness, tearing into any and all who dared test his rage. Each sweeping, dancing motion revealed a master at his craft, every step and every strike resonating with a deep, old power. Tested through centuries of violence and tempered in the fires of war. Over the orchestra of carnage, his voice sang the strongest.
Five armored soldiers threw themselves wildly in his path, countless hundreds rushing to follow. With three abrupt movements, Liore cast them each to the sand, broken. His weapons spun in his hands like the wings of a gyrocopter, his deathstrokes more agricultural than martial. Incandescent with rage, he screamed his hate and pressed onwards.
There. In the back.
The gold and the white armor. The leering, hauntingly beautiful golden mask.
Liore slashed a shirtless brute from head to knee, raising his filthy sword to point at the Sin'dorei poised at the back of his army.
“Asimenios!” he shouted, pain and hate casting his voice through the valley.
“Asimenios! I have left them all to the crows and judgement's blade! Now you, traitor! Now you, demon!”
Golden Asimenios rolled his shoulders in laughter, clear and mad. As the battle raged around them, he could not seem to be bothered to even take part. Instead, he merely tilted his masked face upwards into the sky. Searching. Pondering.
Liore Bloodwing followed his greatest foe's gaze, to the moon overhead. It was not a moon at all. It was a face, massive and disfigured, beautiful and young. Recognizable at once. The weapons fell from his armored hands, and he sunk to his knees, his mind refusing to fathom what his eyes reported.
She smiled down at him, as she had before. One eye twitched violently and unnaturally to the side, and she opened her mouth and drowned them all in blood.
He awoke with a shriek, throwing his arms over his head and very much upsetting the orange cat that had been his companion in sleep. Nearly toppling from his throne, Bloodwing stared frantically at his surroundings, his fragile sanity delaying any ration. The long, steepled hall. Rows of pews stacked and pushed against scroll-laiden walls. The dozen or so Undead staring now at him with mixed concern and eagerness.
Inquisitor Liore Bloodwing had claimed a cathedral in the ruins of Lordaeron, above the Undercity proper, to serve as a convenient outpost and headquarters for his work in the Eastern Kingdoms. It suited him, the musk and the dark, but more importantly it suited his agents. The Guttersnipe Brigade had been cast from the Horde-recognized military, functioning now as his private army. It had been two years since he had taken the Brigade, who had been left behind with supplies and deemed unworthy for combat, into Northrend and they had followed him since. Such was their law. Should he ever fail to be worthy leadership, they would pull him to pieces and follow someone else.
The cathedral had seen redecoration since they invited themselves in; Liore waved away the stares of his agents and glanced about the great hall, taking in the small details. Anything to chase away the nightmare. That was how it worked. Keep the mind occupied. There were no borders or walls sectioning off his thoughts. Everything melded together as one whole. Every thought, every sensation, every memory, they all knocked and twisted together like some demented, timeless whirlpool. It made in him a great detective. It made in him a madman.
Edited by Liore on 7/13/13 10:49 AM (PDT)
The old elf eyed the long scrollwork hanging from ceiling to floor, emblazoned with the stylized L of Lorderon, set in black over the blood red of the Horde.
It was built in old Lordaeron style, to humble its common visitors with size and ostentation. Hundreds of candles lined archways and curved walls, statues of saints and priestesses finished in marble and staring judgmentally down into the hall. The Forsaken craftsmen had broken off marble arms, replacing them so the statues covered their faces in shame, tears of blood snaking down their perfect cheeks. In the back of the cathedral proper, beside adjoining rooms that functioned as conference and offices, sat the throne, upon which he now slouched. Confessor Gideon had, in a time before Lordaeron's tragic destruction, conscripted for himself a ceiling-high chair, of the finest Tirisfal oak, lavish with scrollwork and twisting spires. Over one shoulder, the likeness of a nude woman would smile down upon the Confessor, over the other an armored angel of judgement, frowning diligently.
The throne remained the only original and unmolested piece in the entire cathedral, and it had functioned for some time now as the Inquisitor's bed.
One leg looped over a perfect armrest, Liore calmed his thoughts and turned his stare down at a very agitated cat. His only living companion scowled in the way that cats have, meowing a single plaintive meow.
“I apologize,” Liore mumbled, his tenor tattered with age and weariness. “You are fortunate, you know. To dream of mice and fine cheeses.”
“...or of clawing his way down the tapestries. Or of leaving furballs in our boots.”
The Forsaken approached him with a bald head, a lopsided smile, and a silver tray. Each morning, the Snipes cast dice to see who would approach him with foodstuffs and the day's intinerary. With the luck of a skewered fish, Curly had greeted the Inquisitor three times this week.
“Has he,” Liore responded, sitting upright and taking the tray with a grateful nod. “And here he was, singing me his innocence and greatness. For shame.”
The fat orange tabby did not seem too ashamed at all. It had already settled down on the single carpet stretching the length of the cathedral, a paw slanted over its snoozing nose.
Curly stood by patiently, running dead fingers over his bald head. A nervous habit. He had news. It could wait until after breakfast.
Breakfast was a bowl of processed wheat flakes and a cup of kafa. The Snipes made for excellent soldiers, but between them could not rub enough bread together to make a bread sandwich. The Inquisitor took a spoonful of dry flakes and sipped from his cup. He wouldn't pour the one into the other, like some uncivilized lowborn. He gestured for Curly to proceed.
“Cutter and Lucky have closed the Felrian case. Your council was accurate; it was the youngest responsible for all those fires. He has been detained by the Silvermoon guard, and awaits trial. Warlord Gorreck sends his thanks for the use of our scout unit-”
“Yes. They turned the tide in taking the SI:7 operatives in Krasarang. The Warlord has also sent a percentage of the spoils, some gold and weaponry.”
Liore chewed and sipped, nodding thoughtfully. “See Mercy is given the lot. I expect a report on the Warlord's disposition- What is the hour?”
“Nearly dawn, dreadlord.”
“I expect Mercy's report by noon. What else.”
“High Inquisitor Lugenbrau has asked for your insight in a case. He has diverted all information to us, and would appreciate your immediate attention. The details are on your desk. Also, you've received a letter from Ambassador Sunsorrow.”
Straightening, Liore swallowed. Sunsorrow. The last time they had spoken was at a courtesy gala for some charity drive. The good ambassador had called into question whether the Bloodwing house had any true noble lineage. Lio responded by suggesting that Sunsorrow's own lineage had more sheep in it than Sin'dorei, and there was a brief fight. The ambassador's nose never really looked the same.
“What does our friend Sunsorrow want?”
Curly smiled his lopsided smile, rubbing his head like some magic totem. “You're to be sent a secretary. An Archivist.”
She had intended to wear black for the occasion, a simple traveling gown cut from sturdy linen, but Ambassador Sunsorrow wished to wrap her up properly for delivery. The blood silk gown adorned with golden filigree came with a note in sprawling script that read, “My warmest congratulations again on your promotion. I look forward to a successful partnership.”
When Benoite lifted the dress gingerly out of its box, she found a small velvet pouch. She tipped its contents onto her palm and her lips hardened into a taut line at the sight of ruby drops, two for her ears and one the size of a silver coin hanging from a golden chain.
Armored in gems and clinging silks which reeked of the Ambassador’s perfumes, Benoite studied her reflection and thought of dilapidated statues of saints, nothing left of once-whole women but half-limbs, the curvature of breasts and hips beneath wet-drapery.
Why was it that this world butchered its women so.
She had worked too hard to be a paper-pusher for the likes of an Inquisitor.
The word was acrid on her tongue, filling her mouth with a metallic taste and stinging her throat with bitter salt. She had heard too many tales of dark rooms with harsh lights, of vicious men who inflicted all the pain they no longer felt unto others.
Would he be so very terrible, this Inquisitor? Bloodwing. Where had she heard that name before?
She needed to set off soon. Her fear couldn’t keep her from being punctual. Though she had packed up just about nearly everything she owned, it still didn’t add up to much. She had just one trunk to take with her to Undercity. Even these small rooms in Silvermoon would no longer be her home.
She left her keys and a note for the landlord on the foyer table. She also left a letter for the apothecary to direct her shipments of cosmetic eye-tinting potions to her new residence. She hoped the landlord would be kind enough to post it for her with the afternoon mail.
As she dimmed the lights of her rooms one last time, she recited a silent prayer for the spirits she left behind.
Edited by Benoite on 6/15/13 9:40 AM (PDT)
The portal to Undercity left her breathless, but the cathedral was only a short ride away. As she approached the graveyard of the once holy grounds, Benoite dismounted and walked her rented hawkstrider by its reins. It was hard for her, still, to not to give in to such sentiment.
By the iron-wrought gate of the looming building stood a lone Forsaken. What remained of her appeared to be female. In her skeletal hands was half a squirrel, still fresh from the looks of the vivid blood dripping onto the earth.
“Well met,” said Benoite, dipping her head slightly.
The Forsaken nodded back and returned to her snack. “Well met, elf,” she said in between bites.
Benoite looked away politely as the undead woman sucked bits of squirrel gut from her razor-sharp teeth cut from ghost iron. The Forsaken sighed with contentment and said, “You Ben Dawnsong?”
“That’s a boy’s name, Ben is.”
“Benoi... Nevermind. It’s quite alright.”
“You sure don’t look like a Ben. At any rate, I’m Daisy.”
Daisy’s one semi-good eye rolled around in its socket to study Benoite. The hollow socket of the Forsaken’s skull was stuffed with peaceblooms.
“You sure you’re a Ben? I hope you’re lying so boss will let me eat you.”
Benoite bit her bottom lip, uncertain of what to say.
Daisy said, “Follow me. Leave your chicken and your bag. One of the boys will take care of it.”
“I’m afraid the hawkstrider is on loan and needs to be returned to Silvermoon.”
“It will be taken care of. Follow. Boss is waiting.”
Though she said to follow, Daisy lifted her chin towards the doorway to gesture Benoite inside first. The razor-toothed Forsaken wasn’t about to expose her back to a stranger. Benoite smiled and said, “How kind of you,” and passed through the threshold first, wholly unprepared for what hit her.
Benoite had always been privy to spirits, rather, they were drawn to her--even those most could not see, too faint and far removed from this world. Over time, Benoite had learned to keep them at bay. They usually let her be if she treated them much the same as her kin. Avoid eye contact. Do not loiter.
But here, in the cathedral that the Inquisitor and his Forsaken had blasphemed a home, all the ailing souls entombed in its masonry came to her at once, the worst off pleading for reprieve, the boldest begging for benediction.
Sister, they called. her. Sister, please. Have mercy.
Bless us, Sister. Send us into the Light.
As they bombarded Benoite with the chill they had harbored for centuries upon centuries, the walk through the echoing halls stretched into epochs. Benoite struggled to keep her spine straight and her hands from trembling. Daisy turned her rolling eye on her several times, though the Forsaken said nothing.
Bless us, Sister, bless us, bless us.
At the heart of the ruined cathedral sat the distinguished Inquisitor Liore Bloodwing, sprawled on his dark throne with the leonine grace of a mad king. He looked too lean, too frayed around the edges to have been feasting on game and sleeping on silks. Indeed, this palace of his was a different sort of grandeur than what she had expected.
Daisy saluted him and said, “Found Ben, boss. Though she don’t look like no Ben I ever seen.” The Forsaken shuffled into the shadows, but would not dismiss herself unless he did. There was still a chance that the newcomer would become a meal.
The air was too thick with ghosts and with each breath Benoite felt her lungs fill with frost. The edges of her vision blurred from the throbbing pain in her temples. Nonetheless, Benoite dipped into a curtsey with the grace of a queen. She just wasn’t certain if she could rise steadily again.
For now, she kept her eyes down on the mossy stonework as she spoke. “Glory to the Sin’dorei. The esteemed Ambassador Sunsorrow sends his warm tidings and hopes that this lowly one may be of some service to you. I am honored to meet the distinguished Inquisitor Bloodwing.” Her voice cracked only on the final note of his name.
She had looked into Liore Bloodwing’s statuesque face just briefly. What she had seen in the turbulent storms of his eyes chilled her more than the Inquisitor's cathedral full of restless spirits.
Invisible and cold as the very apparitions haunting young Benoite, silence crept over the cathedral. The din of rattling armors, the parchments snapping like sails in a breeze, the murmur of plot and preparation; save for the clicking step of her heels against thin red carpet, all had come to a complete and utter stop. The tapestries, before fluttering with activity, now hung dejectedly, as if leaning in to observe the disturbance for themselves. The cat opened one thin yellow eye, his ears flicking forward.
It was his default expression, permanent said the menders, terminal said the nobility. The stoic frown cast his debonair features into a state of perpetual, professional indifference – which likely saved him at this moment.
THAT dress. THOSE jewels.
When the silence broke, it shattered, like the mutilated stained glass of the cathedral's ruined windows.
The command was nearly inaudible, so low and menacing his tone, but it did not require a repeat. Bodies moved as quickly and quietly as death, adjacent doors slamming shut. Some of the forsaken fled with Daisy back out the front. She glared at the intruder's back, sneering vengefully as she pressed the massive double doors shut.
A discerning eye would notice the ghosts too had fled, returning to the walls to look upon the Inquisitor with horror.
Rage, black and thick as bile, surged through his throat, rising in pitch and frenzy with each clicking step Benoite took towards his throne. It shone in his eyes, like the Legion's hellfire glimpsed in some magister's emerald scrying orbs. His fingernails creaked as he grasped the throne's arm-rest; his jaw cracked as it tightened beyond healthy capacity.
Another nail for my heart, Sunsorrow? Another and another. You soon will have little room for more.
She hovered closer, some perfect spectre clothed in his late wife's finery, each fluid movement as poised and timeless as memory itself. An angelic sculpture of a girl, cast from snowy marble and set in resignation. A searing brilliance, clothed in mourning, and adorned with raven black hair. Benoite shifted into a curtsey so naturally, he didn't even notice she had.
The fury ebbed, leaving behind only a hollow, forlorn emptiness. She did not know she tormented him so. How could she? He sighed through his nostrils, casting a hand through chin-length hair, slicking the golden threads back into short ringlets. The storm before the calm, not a fine way to make an impression.
Liore Bloodwing straightened and stood, his head angled fractionally to peer down at her from the tip of his nose. He was tall and lean, powerfully built. Not a single scar on his body, save a recent gash that ran parallel beneath his eyes over the bridge of his nose, staining his pale flesh with a blur of crimson.
In fact, he had expected someone a bit more... unappealing. Someone like old Judas, to tut about his records and yell at the Snipes for mussing his books. Someone old and wizened and liver-spotted and cantankerous. Judas emerged from the fog of his memory and slithered unbidden into his thoughts; the old Annalist would be shamed to see him so diminished...
As he inspected Benoite's bow, practiced with such humility as to seem contrived, he remembered his manners and began hunting about the throne for his shirt. It had seen fit to abandon him sometime before he had finally nodded off, no longer willing to suffer the wine being dribbled upon it. He fetched the fine, dark garment and pulled it over his masculine torso, to conceal the blood red series of tattoos lining his right shoulder and arm before a curious eye could glean too much from them, tucking the tails into his dark trousers.
Thus covered, he placed a fist on his hip and rubbed at his unshaven cheeks with the other, his intent stare still fixated on the girl. He steered his mind away from her attire, seeking out her eyes to do so.
“You have rehearsed this... flattering soliloquy to near perfection, My Lady Dawnsong, but I must wonder how many of those words you truly believe.”
A hand gestured for her to straighten, the other coiling behind his back as he stalked barefoot from side to side.
“I have little use for glory, and less for the Sin'dorei (he pronounced the word with a disdainful hiss), Ambassador Sunsorrow is a !@#$%son that breeds with his steak before having it cooked, and dear girl the only thing distinguished about Inquisitor Bloodwing is the stain he left on his family's name!”
Liore paused, his back to her, a finger dancing in the air. A conductor gathering his thoughts before some ancient, forlorn symphony.
“I am flattered, Benoite Dawnsong, but I am not honorable and you are not lowly.”
He twisted halfway to pin her with his baleful, poisonous stare. Searchingly, revealingly.
“So tell me please, in your own words, why you've intruded upon my lair.”
Edited by Benoite on 6/18/13 10:06 AM (PDT)
The night air of the ruined cathedral carried the scent of funereal flowers. Under the high vaulted ceilings, the mad king lifted a veil of ancient spirits from the moonlit girl by the might of his black rage. And though he beckoned for her to rise, she allowed herself a spell longer at the feet of his throne.
In the moment of silence, she listened to the boldest of the nearly departed who had gathered there, a small chorus who refused to blend back into the walls. They whispered to her, a breeze just beyond the Inquisitor’s reach.
He will break off your arms, Sister. He will cut off your hands. He will use them to catch the blood he draws from your eyes with his blades.
All the while, the Inquisitor’s razor-edged alto cut through the ghostly rustlings, speaking of things like truth and belief. And then--
I am not honorable and you are not lowly.
When she did find the strength to rise, he had already turned away from her. She studied the musculature of his broad back and thought of the marks on his flesh she had seen when he had been bare, flashes of red embroidering the span from shoulder to arm.
Scars? And one wound still fresh on his face. What beast had been fool enough to sink its claws into the sinew of him? Where was its hide, now, if he had deigned to salvage as much?
Suddenly, his eyes were on her again. The way she felt exposed in his presence had little to do with the daring cut of her dress or the way the Inquisitor left his shirt half-unbuttoned.
His gaze bore through her like a fine silver needle and she was certain, as the spirits were, that the dust of her gossamer wings would splatter on the tapestries of his walls.
You are not lowly.
Then why was it that she felt so small?
“I beg your pardon for this lowly one’s intrusion, distinguished Inquisitor.”
And though he held her, pinned and withering under glass, she would not open for him like some sweet fruit. No drawn-out sighs about free will or lack thereof, no teary rant about her oppression.
“I come bound by duty. It is my honor to serve one so illustrious.”
She would not meet his eyes. Not now, not ever she could help it. He would not have anything from her in her own words, this Inquisitor Bloodwing who spoke like a liberal but carried himself like an emperor.
Her mask was unwrinkled, still as stone. Benoite Dawnsong did not pout. She would recite the hollow words she had learned at the altar of creatures like Sunsorrow, like Bloodwing.
“It is my hope that I will be of some use to you, distinguished Inquisitor. Though I am young and my skills are limited, I shall do my best to please you.”
One had to wonder if she could sing with such a sweetly crooning voice, tinctured with something beyond hardness or sadness. It begged for a dimly lit stage, the clinking of crystal glass, air thick with cigarette smoke.
As if to listen, a murder of crows curtained the roof of the cathedral, making the Inquisitor’s cat restless. With a string of meows, it dashed between the ceremony of the two elves, weaving itself around Liore’s feet. As the cat, distinguished in girth, stretched up against the Inquisitor’s leg and began to paw at a loose thread on his person, Benoite dipped her head down even further to hide the twitch of her lips.
After all, the prophecies of spirits had to be taken with a grain of salt. In the breath of relief, Benoite wondered if Sunsorrow would want to know about that comment regarding his affection for steak.
A knock came at the grand doors of the chamber. Poor Curly had cast another bad throw. When allowed entrance, he stooped into something resembling a bow and rubbed at his parchment pale head as he spoke. “Dreadlord ... Archivist ... Dinner is served.”
Edited by Benoite on 6/18/13 10:02 AM (PDT)
It became apparent at once why steak had been on the Inquisitor’s mind. The bowl of Mystery Meat, straight out of a can, was utterly unfit to be served at the richly carved dining room table that had hosted wholesome meals of holy men and women.
Benoite moved the gelatinous, gray mush around on her plate, but could not bring herself to taste it. Though they sat at opposing ends of the table, she could see that the Inquisitor had not made much progress on his meal, either.
In spite of the entree, there were vestiges of wealth that betrayed the Inquisitor’s lineage. The night’s slop had been served on bone china with silver cutlery. His Snipes had even made a centerpiece, a chipped crystal vase full of femur bones.
They would have been roses--or lillies in the life he had lived once. He must have been surrounded by equally beautiful women bejeweled, silk-swathed, and perfumed for his attention. Grand parties that broke with sunrise--had he danced, once, this man who held so much vile in his eyes?
Devastating. Devastating was the word that came to mind when she observed the hard line of his jaw, the fresh cut that adorned his face.
In the golden glow of candlelight and with a generous glass of wine, a more tender-hearted girl might have imagined their meal to be more fanciful and their silence to be a comfortable one. She might have cleared her throat so that he would look upon her and fluttered her inky lashes.
With some prescience, the Inquisitor looked up. Benoite started and looked back down at her plate, pushing around the mystery muck with renewed gusto. She was here to work. Her first order of business would be to hire a cook.
She thought of abandoning this guise of a dinner and asking to get started straight away. But it was her first night in a new place she would have to learn to call home. She was tired and at least in the presence of this man who frightened her as much as he fascinated her, the cathedral’s spirits were kept at bay.
So, though she was not entertaining flights of fancy by candle light, Benoite sipped at her wine and let herself sink, just a bit, into the leather-backed chairs.
The pouting murderer and the veiled Queen dined in the desecrated hall of a kingdom overthrown by regicide, while minions of Death watched on in a plague of silence.
The notion struck him as dramatic. A scene, perhaps from one of Istvaan Questor's strident sonnets, or a watercolor spattered into life by Landerson's crooked claw. But unlike these pieces of fiction, he mused while daubing his pouting lips with a kerchief, there would be no hero.
No, the only fleeting act of heroism tonight is her stoic tolerance of this rubbish.
What am I to do with her...
As his silver fork described a Pandaren kanji of goop on his plate, Bloodwing glanced miserably across the long table at his flawless guest. A picture of servitude, she adverted her own gaze and labored over her own masterpiece, braving the occasional nibble to appear grateful. From the straight shoulders to the slight tilt of a porcelain throat, she was perched like a swan, amidst a pool of bullfrogs.
He found he could not look upon her for very long. Something in the hollow pit of his chest would kick and protest, and he would find his throat closing. Too familiar. Was that it? Or was it shame, shame that this gentle creature should be so disgraced by sitting at his table, surrounded by his blasphemies?
This one deserved a night on the City, locked on the arm of some fanciful gent, to be twirled and dipped and treasured. Her file, glimpsed before her arrival, listed no known associates, no history of youthful indiscretions, no family, nothing. She was a ghost-swan, ignoring the bullfrogs splashing about in the muck, patiently pecking a dinner unfit for an pigeon.
Dinner was not a drawn-out occasion. He did not eat much of his serving. He'd taken a roll and weighed it experimentally, before smashing it down on the table. The hearty wood threatened to splinter; he entertained the thought of fashioning it to a rod and flailing some fool's helmet in. Shameful.
Tisking twice, he summoned the cat and leaned down to set the nearly untouched bowl on the floor. Ser Sulliven Blunderpuss trotted over with unadulterated enthusiasm, a state that evaporated after a preemptive sniff of the mysterious glue. He tilted his pink nose and stalked away with a snuff, to vomit his outrage in some unfortunate soul's boots.
Glimpsing the marble indifference of Benoite's face, Liore swallowed hard and straightened. He summoned his courage and fished for eye contact, keeping his tone as formal as she would please.
“I've much to attend to, Ms Dawnsong. I am not certain of what use you hope to be -you are an Archivist; I suppose there are files and caseworks to be sorted- but you are welcome to walk among us as you please. We will arrange a bedroom for you, as seems to befit a lady. The one adjacent my study will suffice. If you require anything...”
And here his voice sharpened just a hair, directed at their invisible, lifeless audience.
“The Guttersnipes will attend you as they attend me, bound by old law and the contract of blood.”
Unanimously the chorus of the Forsaken responded, threatening to shake the ceiling loose with its joint echo: “The bonds of Old Law ne'er shall break! The Letters of Blood ne'er shall dry!”
Liore Bloodwing sipped from his wine and gestured with a swooping hand. And there you have it. With an awkward nod to his solitary guest, he placed his kerchief on the table and rose to stride into some adjoining room. The Snipes shuffled listlessly in the dark, staring raptly at the small-boned girl that could so effortlessly disarm their Dreadlord.
The Inquisitor brooded in his study, a brief room with a timeless masterpiece of a desk planted in its center. Moonlight trickled through the tall, shattered windows.
What was he to do with her.
The manner of a servant girl, the posture of a priestess. There was an air about her he could not comprehend. A solemn repression, harrowing in its depth. Observant, she was. Efflorescent green (though from their darker corners he suspected alteration at play) eyes darting here and there, low as she kept them. A learned habit, or a practiced one? What use had a ghost-swan the manner of the courts? An Archivist. The youngest, in fact. Floating unnoticed behind the change of guard, perfect nose tilted in a book.
Before quailing candle-light, Bloodwing shaved with a half-empty basin and a short dagger.
What was he to do with her.
If he pressed her flesh with screws and cranks, he if twisted limbs and peeled back snowy sheets of skin, she would still advert his stare and whisper praise. Distinguished Inquisitor. It would torment him less if she WERE simply mocking him. It wasn't a platitude; he would have sampled the disengenuity instantly, a flavor common enough on the wagging tongue of his bloody people.
Turning away from a shattered old mirror, Bloodwing dimly recalled the night his fist had ruined it.
What was he to do with her.
Duty, she said. He had his own. An Inquisitor of Lordaeron. The Queen's anti-venom, scouring away disease and toxins from the ruined streets of her Kingdom. Was the girl here to assess his work? Was she here to hinder it? Liore doubted that. She was capable of subterfuge, certainly, but did not seem the likely candidate. Assassination was not quite out of the question. Who better to send, than a creature that could rouse and calm the storms of his old hatred without even speaking. There are worse ways to go.
Pinching an oiled rag, Bloodwing polished and squinted down the barrel of his revolver.
What was he to do with her.
“Hay boss I think yer girlfr-”
Liore twisted instantly and shot Curly in the head. The weapon's report thundered through the stone of the cathedral, the forsaken man's body flung through the doorway and sprawling in a heap on the main hall's floor. Pouting deeper, the Inquisitor raised his smoking revolver upright, blinking with irritation and adrenaline.
Curly grunted and drunkenly gathered his feet, a contrite expression written on his dead face and a fingertip exploring the new hole in his skull. He sheepishly paced back to the doorway form which he had been jettisoned.
“We have a lady amongst us,” Liore admonished him in a growl. “You will practice knocking before you enter.”
“Y-yes Dreadlord,” the soldier responded, bowing his head. A nasty grin started to twist his lipless teeth; they always loved displays of violence, whomever the victim. Liore laid the gun on his desk and gestured impatiently for him to proceed with what he had come to say.
“Dreadlady Dawnsong's affects have been quartered in the master bedroom, as you've ordered. Daisy plucked up some fresh sheets and down, some pillows too.”
Curly hesitated while he plucked something from inside his bald head. Bony fingers flicked away a small shard of bullet, the saronite ammunition clinking on the stone floor. “Will SHE really be staying with us?”
“Yes. What did you call her?”
“Daisy? You know-”
Impatiently: “Our guest.”
“Uhm. Dreadlady Dawnsong?”
“Yes. I do not understand the title.”
“She's yer property, boss," Curly explained, as if to a yearling at Academy. "That puts her under yer contract. Old laws apply.”
That couldn't possibly end well.
“Do not test her. That will be -my- engagement. Now begone,” The Inquisitor finally grunted, pinning the Guttersnipe with a withering leer. Thoughtfully, he tapped the side of his blonde head with the still-smoking barrel of his silver gun. “And don't forget to knock. Spread word.”
Secluded again in his study, Liore diverted himself with his work. The implications of Benoite Dawnsong could wait.
Was that a gunshot?
Perhaps the Inquisitor had thrown a dinner roll at one of his Forsaken. Benoite considered going to check on him, but he had seemed eager to escape her.
He was probably fine.
She listened for the low hum of his voice and Curly’s cackle to trickle through the stonework before she returned to the inspection of her new quarters.
He wouldn’t know it, but it took her breath away--the bed that was in itself a mansion of four dark columns, and on it, bridal linens--freshly laundered and so fine that the fabric gave at her slightest touch, whispering in a gentler way than the spirits in the bedroom walls.
Before a cook, before a letter to the Ambassador, before collapsing in that glorious bed, before anything, there was this that she had to do.
“I won’t be needing anything further this evening,” she said to the court of Forsaken who had taken to trailing her around. They lingered in the hallway by her room. She knew not why. Perhaps the flower-eyed Daisy had told them that the girl might become a meal yet. “Thank you for your services today and for the hospitality you have shown me,” Benoite added before closing her bedroom door.
Along with gifts for the Inquisitor, Ambassador Sunsorrow had sent her a wardrobe designed to torment her employer, each gown worth more than an Archivist’s month’s salary and more jewels to drip from the snow white of her flesh.
Benoite wasn’t entirely displeased with the finery. She owned few articles of clothing, fewer still that were luxurious enough for the company of nobility. But having just undressed from her dreadfully perfumed gown, she wasn’t after any more formalwear this evening. The garment she sought came from her own bag.
The robes she unfolded carried the humble scent of rosewater. They were pure white in a way unique to blessed fabrics and the silver trimming at the hems were more than ornamentation, they bore holy rites. The cut of the gown was antiquated and modest. Few Sin’dorei living today would recognize the uniform of the old Order.
These were her mother’s vestments.
Gone were the ruby drops from her ears, her throat. Benoite brushed down her inky hair and braided it simply. The way she felt when she donned the cloth was perhaps akin to the sentiments of a warrior suiting up for battle.
Of course there was still an ensemble of the Snipes when she opened the door. Hollow and rotting eyes swept over her nude face, her simple dress. “If you’ll permit me some time alone to wander the premises?”
She was surprised when they listened.
And though she was, indeed, left alone, and though she was a portal apart from Silvermoon, Benoite still trembled from the audacity of what she was about to do. Surely they would not find it suspicious, with a shawl covering her, her white robes could easily be mistaken for a simple nightgown.
And even if someone caught her, there were no laws against even an Archivist with no magical aptitude simply praying.
The chapel of the grounds was in worse condition than the rest of the cathedral. She walked the center aisle almost completely stripped of blood red carpet, touching each dusty pew she passed.
With the ancient dust on her hands, she knelt before the altar.
She closed her eyes.
And the darkness filled with Light.
With their departure, the spirits shed the last of their sorrows. The rain began with the change of the air in the cathedral, cold hard drops that bled through the summer heat. The night would be a cold one.
Benoite wasn’t sure how much time had passed, she hugged her shawl close and hurried back to her rooms. As she cut through the central chamber, she started at the sight of the Inquisitor on his throne.
She was frozen until she realized that he was asleep. She let out her breath slowly and smiled politely as Curly came to her and bowed.
“Dreadlady,” he said, “are you lost?”
“No, I’m fine, thank you, just returning from a walk.”
“Very well, Dreadlady.”
“Archivist or Benoite will do.”
“Is there anything else you require, Dreadlady?”
“Miss Dawnsong, even.”
“Shall I escort you back to your rooms, Dreadlady?”
Benoite bit the inside of her cheek. “No, thank you. That will be all for the evening. But ...” Benoite paused, her eyes drifting to the throne. “Should you not wake him?” she asked.
Curly rubbed his head and said, “Why would I wake him?”
“So that he may retire to his quarters.”
“This is where he sleeps.”
“He ought to sleep in his bed.”
“That is his bed.”
“I see.” Benoite hesitated a moment longer before shrugging off her shawl. Finely-woven cashmere, the shawl was light and soft in a way that suited its sky-blue color. It had been a present for herself when she’d been made Assistant Archivist. Had it really only been days ago? Was this truly her first night here? She felt she had borne ages at this cathedral.
Her slippered feet fell silently upon stone as Benoite walked to Liore Bloowing’s dark throne. She tucked her shawl over the Inquisitor’s bare chest. The cold rains drummed on against the high glass windows. She shivered without her covering.
And while the Inquisitor fretted over what exactly he was to do with her, Benoite added another item to the top of her rapidly growing to-do list as she returned to her room.
Furnishings first. Then, a cook.
The warm halls of the sun-lit mansion trilled with the stringy notes of the harpsichord, as untalented fingers danced over its polished keys. He was out of practice, but she hovered over his shoulder, purring encouragement.
“Press, do not poke. Look between your hands, love. Hm-hm!” Amberley Bloodwing laughed blessedly.
“And what is so funny?” Liore smiled the one, genuine smile he reserved just for his bride. He struck the wrong notes, his attention so divided.
“Focus, focus. You're like a cat in the window. Watching a bird zip back and forth!”
Another peal of laughter bubbled through the hall. Through his soul. “We cannot -all- while away the hours fawning over this... this torture device!”
The Bloodwings laughed. She rested her bare, silken fingers over his, guiding them with the nimble grace of a master pianist.
“If you practiced music as thoroughly as you did the sword, love, you might not find these lessons so terrible.” The gentle coo of her voice threw off his concentration again. More mis-struck notes. The composer would be cartwheeling in his grave.
Liore refocused with near physical effort, the ruffled sleeves of his fine shirt swaying as his fingertips sought out the complicated chords. “I am an indifferent artist, it would seem,” he admitted finally, under-toning the sentiment with an unappealing flat. He tilted his head to smile at her, and she radiated, tut-tutting with a perfect finger.
“Art informs life, dear-heart. It reveals curiosity, discovery, and perspective.”
Young Liore Bloodwing snorted and trolled out something discordant and mindless, his serpentine eyes flickering with mischief over his wife's petite frame. “Am I one of your students, profess-"
In a heartbeat, she had -changed.-
Golden Asimenios had taken her place, resplendent in his metal limbs and armored skirt. His bare torso rippling with power, his sneer concealed beneath a perfect golden mask. Layers of silver knives sprouting out the back like some facsimile of hair. Liore lurched back in horror.
“You...” he rasped.
Asimenios touched a silencing, golden claw to Liore's lips, before pointing across the day-lit hall.
Amberley now hung from chains over a deep, terrible pit. Hooks pierced her shoulders, her blood flowing in ribbons down her white dress. It dripped steadily below, into the open mouths of the madmen and horrors lurking below. They scrambled in their abyss, pale and malformed hands stretching to reach her. She dangled silently, her face frozen in agony and fear.
He could not move from the pianist's seat. His body rejected him. Thrashing and screaming, he fought to rip himself free, but ghastly golden hands erupted from the floor, denying him. Asimenios stepped nearby.
“Play me your melody, kin-slayer. Play me your song. Lets see if you can even do -that- for her.” The golden figure rushed beside him. The golden mask pressed cold against his face, Liore could feel the evil and the hate radiating from beneath. It did not numb his agony. Sweet Amberley... Darling Amberley...
Liore shook as he began the song anew. A convulsing finger struck the wrong note, and the chains dropped her an inch.
The pit of fiends writhed with moist anticipation.
Golden Asimenios loomed over him now, as horrible as the day they parted. Liore looked up to glimpse the slits in the perfect mask, yellow eyes bereft any sanity or hope.
The harpsichord began its haunting melody anew. Laboring, young Bloodwing rubbed his tears with the shoulder of his fine shirt. Another mistake, another inch. Amberley moaned as the chains jostled her so violently.
“Let her be! She's done nothing to-”
“Hasn't she?! She pays for YOUR SINS, kinslayer. She suffers STILL. While you sit upon a throne.” Asimenios spat the words as he posed, godlike. “Play your song.”
The harpsichord's black and white keys had also transformed, into a barber's razors. His fingers began to shred and bleed as he played to the best of his ability, but the errors were starting to add up. Amberley sank further and further. The creatures raved in their pit, clawing at one another. Climbing one another, filthy nails swiping the air beneath her dangling feet.
There was nothing left to his hands now. He beat the keys with what remained.
My fingers tremble
her lips move silently
one last I love you
crush my resolve again
Amberley Bloodwing fell into the awaiting mouths below, and her husband awoke with a scream.