The Unforgiving Blade - Chapter One
Where The Lines Overlap
The heavy fog enveloping the shoreline of the continent began to thicken in the late evening hours. The zepplin floated lazily towards it's dock in Vengeance Landing as the engines were cut. The crew looked uneasy, but continued about their jobs anyway. Small flashes of light could be seen through the stormclouds from towers that dotted the coastline, and the familiar stench of rotting flesh and over-brewed potions of the Undead apothecaries travelled on the wind. Icy cold rain and snow landed on the deck of the zepplin as thunder lazily rolled through the clouds overhead.
Two figures could be seen standing on the deck, each trying to mind their own business. The cold, salty ocean wind bit at them, and the sound of waves hitting against rocks could be heard nearby. They were both Blood Elves, one man and one woman. This was the first time either of them had been to Northrend before. Each had their own reasons for journeying to the far away land, and each had their own battle scars, some greater than others. They looked off towards the continent in silence, each thinking about the trials to come, however neither of them were thinking of failure.
The man was tall, for an elf, leaning against the railing. His long blonde hair was slung over his shoulder and tied loosely, and his stately gold and scarlet platemail armor denoted that he was a Paladin from Silvermoon. His face was youthful and elegant, almost as if an artist had painted him, shadows dancing across his perfectly smooth cheeks and the gentle curve of his brow. He had a large, gilded sword strapped to his back and his crimson cape fluttered in the breeze.
The woman was short, about a head and a half shorter than the man, and from what little could be seen of her, her skin was pale white, like moonlight. Not much else could be seen because she was wearing a long, flowing black cloak. For an instant, the man suspected her of being a teenager, given her lack of height, but the crewman that collected her ticket didn't seem bothered, so that was unlikely. The man kept glancing at her whenever he could, just to catch a glimpse of her identity out of a nagging curiousity.
As they neared the dock in Vengeance Landing, the young woman walked to an open area of the huge zepplin's deck and whistled. Two long, harmonic tones could be heard, the second higher than the first. They carried on the wind, over the sound of the crashing waves below them and soon the sound of great wings could be heard from nearby. The zepplin was closing in on the dock and from the mist and shadows a huge netherdrake glided onto the deck, it's steely grey eyes glinting off of the dim yellow light given off by hanging lanterns on the deck.
"Kanastraza." The cloaked woman called to the huge drake. In response to her call, it lowered it's body and held out it's wing for it's mistress with a soft huff, allowing her to take hold of it. As if seeing a giant black drake wasn't a shock enough, the young woman's voice surprised the male Blood Elf even more. His brows rose slightly when he heard a hard, commanding voice from such a little thing. It was quiet and commanding and for a split second the image of something beautiful but entirely dangerous came to mind.
The huge black Drake lifted it's wing with ease, setting the little Elf onto it's saddle. A great bell began to toll in the distance, sounding sickly and demented like something out of a nightmare, signalling the zepplin was going to dock. Just then, the wind picked up and swept over the deck and the hood covering the girl's face slipped back, revealing oaken brown hair that looked like silk against pale white skin. The girl's features were that of a child, cheeks slightly rounded, pouty pink full lips, and delicate cheekbones that accented her strangely shaped eyes. Her eyes showed no emotion, but instead they burned with a dim fel green glow. Her long, straight hair waved freely in the breeze as she cast a sideways glance to the man who, for all intents and purposes, had been staring at her. She simply sighed and pulled her hood back up over her head, hiding her face in shadow once again.
The zepplin came to a gentle stop as the crewmen tossed ropes to men waiting on the dock, tying the massive machine to the tower. The girl took the reigns of the massive drake and guided it to the edge of the zepplin, the dirty, dark aged wood of the deck groaning beneath it's weight as if to complain. With a final click of the reigns, the drake reared it's head with a mighty shriek and dove off the edge, it's wings opening at the last second before soaring back up into the sky and gliding towards the shoreline outpost.
The man looked after her as she disappeared into the fog surrounding the town. He was at a loss for words.
The drake gracefully landed on the grass outside of the Inn and tavern in Vengeance Landing, it's massive wings creating a huge gust of wind that caused the heavy wood signs of the shops to sway on their chains. Kanastraza thudded closer to the door, where an Undead man in ratty, decaying clothing was standing under the lantern. He tried to look up at the Elf that was now sliding off of the saddle, but his back seemed to be permanently stuck in grotesque curve like a hunchback. The girl walked up to him and to his surprise, she was actually looking up at him, not the other way around like he was used to.
"My name is Belore Sunweaver. I sent my drake ahead in advance with a message that I'd be needing a room for a while. I trust the payment was sufficiant?" The girl spoke firmly, her face never showing emotion other than disinterest. Dark circles were formed under her eyes from lack of sleep.
"Yes, of course. Your room is just as you specified. It's been ready for the last two days. I have to admit, the circumstances were unusual, what with your drake showing up last week with a bagfull of coin and that letter." The Innkeeper sounded nervous, but tried to smile. It looked more like his lips were curling even farther away from his teeth, most of which were missing or blackened with rot, but it was the thought that mattered. "For the amount of money you sent, you could have easily bought out my little establishment. Are you quite sure you won't need anything more?"
"Just the room, a few bags of food, the listed potions, and a warm, dry place for my drake to sleep." Belore walked over to her drake and started to unfasten the two bags from the massive black and purple leather saddle. They were almost as big as the little elf, and she had a hard time with them, but with some difficulty she slung them over her shoulder and gave her drake a reassuring pat on the shoulder. With a huff, the drake turned and left, walking behind the tavern, the ground slightly shaking in it's wake.
"Would you like some h--" The Innkeeper almost offered his help carrying Belore's bags, but a quick glare stopped him. He graciously lowered his head and gestured towards the door. With as much money as she paid him in advance, for one room and a barn, he could afford to be a little understanding.
The two walked into the Tavern, Belore with some difficulty lugging the saddlebags, and almost instantly the smell of smoke, ale, and cooking meat filled her nose. Her stomache growled loudly. She hadn't had a decent meal in days, and her body was weaker for it. They didn't exactly serve quality food on a zepplin. Two people were sitting at sturdy wood table near the fireplace, eating, drinking and laughing. They stopped and turned as soon as she walked into the room.
"Well, well! Who's this, Basil? Some little lost kid, come to find 'er parents?" A huge Orc snorted, a jeering grin spreading across his thick face. He was wearing the unpolished iron platemail of a warrior, a huge, gruesome looking black axe leaning up against his chair. His head was shaved, except for a long braid that hung from the back of his head, and two short braids that hung from his chin. He smelled like he hadn't bathed in months.
Basil, the Innkeeper sent the Orc a hushing glance, quickly shaking his head, but the Orc ignored him, standing and walking over to Belore. He stood hunched over, but he still towered over her, grinning down at her in a mocking way. Without saying a word, he pulled her hood down to reveal her face, and Belore didn't move. She just stood still, with her eyes closed, trying to keep her steely composure.
"By da Loa! Basil, ya eyes must be rottin' out! Dis one looks more like a gnome!" The Orc's companion, an aged, drunk Troll, guffawed loudly, and the two howled with laughter. The Troll sported the robes of a tribal priest, however threadbare they may have been, and against his leathery green skin, his crimson mohawk was a stark contrast. Iron bands wrapped around his abnormally short, splitting tusks, and a plain-looking wooden staff laid at his feet.
Belore gently set down her pack and sighed, unclasping her cloak and letting it fall to the floor. As it fell, it revealed leather armor that hugged her body and straps that held dozens of deadly looking knives and daggers, as well as a lightweight leather pack on her back.
The Orc and the Troll never noticed through their fit of laughter, but the Innkeeper backed away slowly, picking up a wooden serving tray from a nearby table and put it between him and Belore, almost like a sheild. Belore calmly put her hands on two sickly, menacing looking fist weapons that were strapped to her hips, waiting for a distraction. It came in the form of the front door opening behind her.
In an instant, it was over. Both the Orc and the Troll went silent as they were easily knocked out. Belore gripped the fist weapons and in a flash of movement she had jumped up, hitting pressure points and pushing over the two men as they fell unconscious. The rest of the tavern was completely untouched except for the spilled ale the Troll had been holding. The Innkeeper blinked in awe as he looked at Belore, still standing on the back of the Orc as she put away the fist weapons.
"That was amazing!" An unfamiliar man's voice came from the doorway, breaking the silence. Belore looked over to see the elf from the Zepplin earlier, his face was in complete astonishment as he stood at the doorway, the door behind him slightly ajar.
"To be fair, they were both drunk. It isn't usually my practice to pick on those with less intellegence than me." Belore spoke stiffly, walking across the Orc's back towards her things, giving a little hop and landing briefly on his thick head, and picked up her cloak from the dusty floor. "Sorry about the mess, Innkeeper."
She tossed the cloak on the back of a nearby chair and picked up her bags, dragging them over to the table in front of the fireplace. The Troll was still sitting in his chair, so Belore gave him a little shove and he fell to the floor with a thud as she sat down in the chair he was sitting in.
"Ahh! Let me get you something to eat, shall I?" The Innkeeper stammered nervously and he hurried towards the next room. Loud shuffling and the sounds of clanking dishware could be heard as he hurriedly prepared her a meal.
"You think we should get them to their rooms? I don't think I could even move that big guy.." The male blood elf called to the Innkeeper, hunkering down and poking the Orc's face absent-mindedly. "Phew! These guys are out cold!"
"Oh, don't worry about them. They're regulars. They're used to sleeping on my floor." The Innkeeper chuckled as he hurried back into the room and over to Belore's table with a full tray of food and drink.
"That reminds me! Do you have any rooms available for the night? I've come a long way, and a real bed would be great." The man stood upright and looked to the Innkeeper with a hopeful look.
"No no, we're all booked up, I'm afraid." The Innkeeper waved him off, kneeling down to mop up the spilled ale. "The lady here rented out the last room avail--."
"He can share my room. I don't mind, as long as it's only for one night." Belore interupted the Innkeeper casually as she took a bite of the bread before her, not looking at either man. "After that, he can sleep in the barn with Kanastraza if no other rooms become available."
Both men were silent, looking at Belore in disbelief. They would never have expected someone to make that offer, especially not a pretty young girl.
"Oh no, I couldn't! It wouldn't be proper." The paladin stammered nervously, blushing profusely.
"If you want to repay my kindness, bring my bags up to the room. I'll finish my meal upstairs." With that, Belore stood lazily, taking the tray of food and ale with her as she walked up the stairs and up to her room, leaving the two men in silence.
"Well, " The Innkeeper started, patting the paladin on the shoulder. "I wish you luck, kid."
The paladin carried the curious little rogue's bags, as well as his own, up the stairs and down the hall to their room. He had no idea what to expect, but his mind seemed to wander to places better left undescribed. He was probably getting the wrong idea, he admitted to himself, but he had never done something like this before! He certainly didn't want to offend the lady's honor, but in some deep, dark place within him, he felt a slight thrill of excitement from all of this. He shook the thoughts from his mind as he reached the door. It was ajar and he could see light inside, but he knocked anyway, to be polite.
"Come on in, I won't bite." A tired female voice came from the other side of the door.
"Are you sure about this, Miss? I don't want to cause you any trouble.." The paladin set the bags just inside the door, trying to hide the fact that he was nervous around women. "People might think less of you for having a man you just met in your room at night.."
"You're very innocuous, aren't you?" She sounded slightly amused as she said that, which caused the paladin to pause. Come to think of it, he was still looking down at the bags..
The paladin looked up to see the little rogue standing by the bed with a faint smirk, sipping the ale she had brought up to the room. He had to fight to keep his composure and keep his mind from wandering once again. Her leather armor really accentuated her figure. She was very petite, but her body was perfectly developed for her size. She was slender, the curve of her hips and the swell of her breasts were quite pleasing, a thought that almost caught him off-guard.
"Here, catch." The little rogue tossed one of her bracers to him and he caught it easily, looking at her quizzically untill he noticed the very faint glitter coming from the bracer, leading directly to her hand. It was barely noticeable, like a spider's thread. It was a very thin metal wire.
"What's this for?" He asked, blinking as she hopped up onto the bed and tied one end to the frame of the bed.
"Tie the other end off at the foot of the bed. I'm going to lay a blanket over it so you don't try anything funny while we sleep." She grinned slightly. "As if you could."
"Alright, but what is it you normally use this stuff for? It's curious.." The paladin did as he was told, tying the wire to the frame at the foot of the bed, making sure it was tight enough that it wouldn't slip off unless untied.
"Oh, you can use it for a great many things. It can help me climb things like trees, walls.. It can also cut through simple things like meat or flesh. It's useful for cooking and it's nearly unbreakable!" The little rogue grinned proudly. "I'm Belore, by the way."
"I'm Talanis Dawnblade... Wait.." He stopped in mid-sentance. "Belore... Sunweaver?! Is your father Haldron Sunweaver?!"
"Hm?" Belore appeared to muse over this for a moment before she nodded. "Yeah, I suppose that's what you'd call him. Why, do you know him?"
"Uhm.." Talanis just stared at the little rogue for a moment before he got his bearings. "He was my teacher. He's one of the greatest Paladins in Silvermoon."
"Oh, well I never knew him, really. My mother took me away when I was a baby, said she never really felt alive in Silvermoon. More like it was some beautifully gilded cage." Belore shrugged and turned away from Talanis, her head bowed.
Talanis could hear faint movement from her and for a moment, he thought she was going to cry. His mind began to race, trying to think of something he could do to cheer her up. He wouldn't be able to live with himself if he'd made this sweet-looking girl cry after she had shown him the kindness of sharing her room with him. He wanted to reach out to her, rest his hand on her shoulder, comfort her.. And then she looked at him over her shoulder, her expression slightly suspicious.
"You just gunna sit there and watch me undress?" Belore's words made Talanis' heart drop like a stone, and at the same time his face turned a bright red.
"Ack! You could have warned me!" Talanis quickly turned away from her and focused his eyes, and mind, on the wall ahead of him with all his might.
Behind him, Talanis could hear the unbuckling of leather straps, the clank of metal being set down on the table, leather rustling against leather, and then, to his surpise, a heavy metal clang against the floor. It sounded almost like... Platemail? His curiousity got the better of him and he looked.
Belore was standing, wearing only a thin layer of cloth over her nether region, bent down, unbuckling the leather straps that held curved metal plates against the skin of her calf, with more pieces on the floor beside her. Two thin, delicate scars spread down from her shoulder, across her back, and split, one scar trailing beneath the thin fabric, the other curling around her side to her stomach. Talanis also saw what looked to be small burn marks dotting the fair skin of her calves and thighs. Any thoughts were almost instantly erased from his mind. Belore's eyes slid over to Talanis, her eyebrow raised in a perfect arc as he stared at her when she was completely exposed. Sighing, she vanished right before his eyes, startling him.
"Oh! Gods, I'm sorry, Belore." He stammered awkwardly, blushing with embarassment.
"Yeah, I'm so going to believe that." Belore's agitated voice sounded from somewhere nearby.
"I really didn't mean to stare.. It's just... Platemail?" He couldn't form a coherent sentance, he was just grasping wildly for something, anything, that would assuage the little rogue's wrath. He didn't want to upset her, so he didn't ask about the scars. He couldn't bring himself to ask.
"It's not platemail," Belore's voice filled the room once again, and Talanis could hear the rustling of fabric from somewhere behind him. "It's something I made a while back. It'll stop a dagger, and with a few enchantments, it'll block some spells. That's useful in my line of work."
Belore reappeared beside Talanis casually, wearing a long heavy wool shirt that could have been a dress for her, and she walked over to her bags, uncerimoniously dumping her armor and weapons into a bag. Talanis watched her, wondering just what her life was truely like if she had to make such specialized armor like that. Belore turned, almost as if on cue, and looked at him through her dark, heavy lashes. Her long tawny brown hair loose around her shoulders, a few strands of it covering her cherub-like face. Talanis could feel his heart ache suddenly. He didn't know if it was because she looked so fragile and sweet, or if it was because she was his most revered teacher's daughter.. But he felt the strongest need to protect her and care for her.
"So.." Belore began, crossing her arms in front of her chest, giving Talanis a strange look. "You gunna put your arms out, or what?
Talanis blinked, confused. He complied, almost on reflex, and Belore walked over to him, dangerously close, Talanis thought, as he could smell faint traces of her scent. Like thistle blossoms and honey, and the tangy smell of the ale she drank earlier. Her small hands reached up and began to unbuckle the heavy plates of gilded metal that protected Talanis during battle, setting them down on the nearby dresser. Her movements were slow and concentrated, as if the ale was beginning to affect her.
Belore could hear Talanis' breathing change, and she could see the blush plainly spreading across his face, and along his elegantly shaped. She could easily tell he wasn't used to being around women, and she admitted to herself that she rather enjoyed tormenting him, just a little. She pulled the breastplate off of him and set it aside, then she knelt down and unbuckled his legguards and boots, putting them with the rest of his armor as she looked up at him. He stood before her in his rough leather jerkin and pants, the kind paladins and warriors wore under their platemail, looking like he was about to say something. Belore quickly cut him off.
"Don't get the wrong idea." Belore smirked and walked over to the bed, flopping down onto it capriciously, stretching out like a cat with a satisfactory yawn. "I'm not going to hold your hand and tuck you in. I'm going to sleep."
And with that, she rolled over, facing away from Talanis, and pulled the blankets up, hidden behind the make-shift curtain she had put up earlier. Talanis sighed and shook his head. He was such a gullible idiot sometimes. He laid down on the bed gingerly and let sleep take over.
The sun had just set, but the sky was still lit with a blood red hue. Great plumes of smoke could be seen rising from Silvermoon City, the Great Wall near the Shepherd's Gate had all but crumbled to rubble. Huge swaths of undead poured into the city, and fire ravaged building after building. The screams, the sound from the flames and battle mixed together to form a roaring cacophony of noise. A lone little girl stood in a dark alleyway, peering out from behind some of the wall that had broken away from a building nearby. Her almond-shaped eyes were large in shock and fear, partially hidden behind a head of long tawny brown hair.
She was just six years old, and already alone in the world. Her mother had died recently, so she was sent to find her father in Silvermoon City. She had no idea what he looked like, or what his name was, only what her mother's last words had been. He was a Paladin in service to Silvermoon City.
In the midst of the chaos, dozens of elves wearing red and gold, carrying weapons, ran past her to the wall, screaming battle cries. Some fell almost instantly in battle, others lasted a short while or ran. Grotesque, rotting creatures ran past her, biting, clawing, slashing and tearing anything in their path. The girl could hear the sound of hoofbeats coming up the road, and she ducked down to remain hidden. There, riding up the road into the city was a group of humans wearing ugly black armor that she had never seen before. She had never seen humans before, and she had no idea that they could be so terrifying.
One human in the lead of the group slowed his horse and looked around. He looked mean, almost evil, his dirty ash-grey hair and stark white leathery skin reminded her of a skeleton. His head swivelled this way and that, almost as if he were surveying the progress. When he looked towards the alleyway that the girl was hidden in, the girl noticed that half of his face was rotting, with a foul looking fluid leaking from what she supposed used to be his eye. The girl let out an involuntary squeak of fear and the human's gaze stopped, looking directly into the shadows of the alley. He seemed to be looking directly at her, hidden behind the rubble and peeking through the cracks in the stone, and slowly an evil looking grin spread across his face. The girl's heart threatened to jump straight from her chest, and she felt the need to run deeper into the alley, but her body refused to move. She was trembling too badly, and tears of fear blurred her vision.
Slowly, the human raised his arm and pointed into the darkness of the alley and the girl prayed to any deity that would listen, praying that she would go unnoticed, but her prayers went unanswered. A pair of those rotting creatures left the side of the human on horseback and went barreling towards her. They got closer and closer to her, and she silently screamed at her body to move, to run. Every fiber in her being told her to run, to hide, and the creatures came closer still. Time seemed to slow and she took off down the alley, trying to stay in the smoke and shadows, running through the still smouldering ashes of the rubble, hot coals burning through her dress and searing her legs. She ignored the pain and reached the back of the alley. It was a dead-end, and a huge wall was the only thing to greet her at the end. There was no escape, and the girl could sense the two creatures right behind her. She turned slowly, her eyes wide with pure terror, her heart beating wildly, her body trembling fiercely. There, a few paces behind her, the two rotting creatures stood, looking around, chattering to each other in some gutteral language that only they understood. They were looking for her. The girl backed away slowly, pressing her back against the wall. It was then that she made a fatal mistake. As she was backing away, her foot crunched down on broken glass, filling the alley with the sound of her presence and within an instant, the two creatures were right on top of her.
With one great slash of it's claws, one of the creatures had cut her down. She felt a trail of cold across her back and then the weakness came. She was going to die. She felt the cold creeping through her slowly, and then she felt something grip her head and lift her. She was being carried. Her eyes were barely open, but she could faintly see that she was leaving the alley, her body limp like a doll's, hanging from one of the creature's clutches. Soon, she was brought before the human on the horse, presented to him almost like a prize. The human spoke to the creature with disdain, in a language she couldn't understand, and he looked away in disgust. The creature tossed her aside into the debris and corpses on the side of the road and the girl could feel a bone or two break when she landed on the jagged rubble. The creatures and the human began to walk away slowly and leave her behind. The world began to fade and soon the girl's sight left her completely. She could no longer feel anything but intense cold that had seeped across her body like a thick oil, leaving her with only her ability to hear.
The world around her was quieter now. Shuffling feet could be heard around her, creaking bones and the occasional chattering of those creatures. The hoofbeats of horses were gone, and the fires that surrounded her had begun to die out. Somehow everything seemed to be very far away. Then, gradually she could hear the sounds of marching faintly coming from inside the city along with the sounds of someone shouting orders. Then the quiet was pierced by the shrill cries of creatures that sounded like they were in great pain. She smiled a little to herself, thinking she wished she could still see. The Paladins of Silvermoon were probably marching right in front of her! She had heard great tales of the Paladins on her journey to the city. She had always imagined that they were a great sight to behold, their armor glittering gold and scarlet in the sunlight, like righteous flames.
Again and again, she heard the cries of the creatures, the shouting of commands. It was coming closer. She tried to open her eyes, but they were so heavy. She was starting to feel sleepy as the sound of marching drew nearer and nearer, and then they started to get more and more distant.. Ahh, she thought. They passed me by..
Just then, she heard a man's voice. It sounded like he was speaking to someone nearby, and he sounded distressed. A searing pain screamed through every reach and recess of her body as she was suddenly moved from her perch atop the rubble, and then slowly even her hearing faded away, leaving her with only her pain as a companion as she slipped into darkness.
Talanis woke in the dead of the night. In his sleepy disposition, he faintly recognized the feeling of a small trembling body nestled against his side. Without fully realizing what he was doing, he gently stroked the figure's head, long hair feeling like silk against his hand. He could feel the cool wetness of tears against his chest and heard soft whimpers from the small, trembling figure. Slowly, he woke a little more and realized where he was and who he was with, and reality came crashing into his mind. His eyes snapped open and he froze instantly, his hand on Belore's hip. He looked down to see that the little rogue was still fast asleep, and he relaxed a little bit. Looking over, he saw that the blanket that was meant to protect Belore from him had gotten wrapped around her in her sleep and she had rolled over to him and nestled against him while she slept.
A little smile formed on his lips when he looked down at her. For some unexplainable reason, he couldn't bring himself to move her from him. Instead, he gently pulled a blanket around her shoulders and rested his hand politely on her upper arm. Within a few moments, she stopped crying in her sleep, and her trembling subsided. Talanis relaxed further when he heard her breathing return to normal and he closed his eyes once again, drifting back into sleep.
His sleep, however, was interrupted once again. In the pre-dawn hours, Talanis felt something moving around him, felt a pressure on his chest, followed by something cold against his neck. His breath hitched in his throat when he realized what it was. Slowly, he opened his eyes to see a fierce-looking girl looking down at him, a mean looking dagger pressed to his throat. Belore had woken up, it seemed.
"Oh, good. You're awake." Belore growled low. "Maybe you'll explain to me why you had your hands all over me when I woke up?!"
Belore was perched atop Talanis' chest, her knees pressed into his elbows, holding down his arms. Her hair was disheveled and cascading down her shoulders and around Talanis' head like a curtain. Her woolen nightshirt had slipped down one shoulder, the wide cut of it exposing more than a little of Belore's creamy skin. Talanis couldn't help himself, all he could do was stare at her in awe.
Belore noticed his unmoving eyes and followed his gaze directly to her exposed breast. She growled and jumped off of him, dropping the dagger on a table and fixing her shirt, covering herself as she glared intensely at Talanis.
"Bel--" Talanis quickly came to his senses, but Belore was already savagely digging through her bags and strapping on her armor as quickly as possible, whipping her hair up into a ponytail, pointedly ignoring him, which annoyed Talanis. "You were having a nightmare and crying in your sleep!"
"If you ever tell anyone.." Belore rounded on him, but she never finished her sentence. Instead, she just turned and left the room, still strapping on her weapons. Talanis sat up on the bed and tried to process what he had just seen. Were those tears in her eyes?
Belore stalked down the stairs and into the tavern. She could hear two men talking and the clinking of dishes and mugs. Walking into the room, Belore saw the Orc and the Troll she had knocked out last night, and when they looked up and saw her, they froze, their faces growing slightly pale. The Innkeeper looked over and dropped the mug he had been cleaning with a soft thud, his eyebrows arcing high.
"Innkeeper, prepare your worst cot and oldest blankets and take them to the barn where my drake is staying. The Paladin will be staying there tomorrow night." Belore said to the Innkeeper over her shoulder as she casually strode over to the large board with the Wanted posters. She browsed through them for a moment and decided on the ugliest, meanest looking Alliance human she had ever seen and ripped the paper off of the board.
"Yes, Miss. Of course." The Innkeeper stammered nervously and watched Belore as she walked over to him and slapped the poster down on the worn wooden counter in front of him.
"How much is the reward for this Alliance fool, and where do I find him?" Belore asked, her tone icy cold.
"Oh, Miss, he isn't Alliance, he's a Vrykul.." The Innkeeper informed her nervously. "He's one of the most violent beasts in Howling Fjord. I don't know if you'll be able to handle him alone, even with how skilled you are.."
Talanis walked into the room and saw Belore shoot the Innkeeper a glare. "How much?"
"Tw-Two hundred gold coins, Miss.." The Innkeeper studdered, his eyes widening. "He can be found in Skorn. A village, up the path from the Lift, half a day's walk."
The Orc and the Troll sat silent, staring at Belore in awe. They had never seen someone intimidate the Innkeeper before.
"That'll do fine." Belore said, turning and walking towards the door. "I'll be back by sunrise tomorrow."
Belore walked out the door, slamming it behind her and disappearing into the morning mist as she walked out to the barn.
The room was silent for a short while, and then the Innkeeper, the Orc and the Troll looked directly at Talanis. The Innkeeper was the first to speak.
"I guess last night didn't go well?" The Innkeeper blinked, his expression shocked.
"It wasn't like that!" Talanis said defensively but a blush still threatened to creep across his face.
"Whatever you say, boy." The Innkeeper dismissed him. "But I suggest you catch up to her and keep a sharp eye. She's going to get killed out there if she's alone."
Talanis groaned softly, grabbed a large loaf of bread from the Orc's table and jogged out the door to the barn.
Belore was already in the barn, strapping some bags to her drake when Talanis got there. The barn was dusty, straw and sand littering the floor. Talanis walked into the dim light, behind Belore and spoke.
"I guess there's nothing I can do to stop you, huh?" Talanis asked, looking mildly concerned.
"Why would you bother? You hardly know me." Belore shot back, giving her drake a gentle pat and changing her tone for her drake."Kanastraza, lower for me, will you?"
The mighty drake hunkered down and extended it's wing as much as it could in such a cramped space. Belore climbed up onto the saddle and took the reins.
"Hardly know you? Your father talked about you every day! His eyes would light up every time he mentioned your name!" Talanis shouted.
"That's funny, because I haven't seen my father since I was six years old! I'm sixty now! I'm a fully-grown elf! And have I heard anything from him in the last fifty-four years? No!" Belore's voice grew louder and more annoyed. Her drake seemed to get more agitated as well, shifting it's weight and swishing it's club-like tail behind it anxiously. It was then that Talanis did something decidedly stupid.
"Even if I can't stop you, I'm going with you!" Talanis boldly walked up to the drake.
"Hah! I'd like to see you try! Kanastraza doesn't let anyone but me ride her!" Belore laughed wryly, but Talanis didn't give up.
Talanis walked up ahead of the drake and stood two feet away from it. Her head rose up, eyeing him like he was going to be breakfast, her sharp claws digging into the old wood beneath her and splintering it easily. Talanis stood his ground, looking directly into the drake's deep grey eyes.
"Kanastraza, " Talanis spoke quietly, never breaking eye contact. "May I join you and your mistress? I only wish to protect her."
The drake reared up, spreading her wings as much as possible, her wings touching the walls of the barn on either side, flexing her great claws. Belore almost fell off of the saddle but quickly held on, her expression shocked. She had never seen her drake like this before.
"Kana, what are you doing?! Don't kill the idiot!" Belore cried, but the drake ignored her mistress, rearing farther and farther untill she was at her full height. Something in the drake's eyes instilled a deep fear into Talanis, but he still didn't move. His arms were spread and he was rooted in the same spot.
In a flurry of movement, the drake dove for him, fangs bared, a mighty growl emenating from it's throat. Belore shouted to her drake to stop, but was ignored once again. Talanis turned his head away and closed his eyes, wincing and waiting for the pain. And then, all of a sudden, everything was still.
Talanis opened his eyes after a few seconds and looked around. All he could see was a pair of huge silver eyes, staring directly at him, only a few inches from his face. He could feel the drake's hot breath against his face. The drake huffed at him in seeming approval and pushed on his chest gently with her muzzle, catching him off-guard and scooping him up.
"Whoa! What are you doing, Kana?!" Belore cried like a child throwing a temper-tantrum. "He's not actually coming with us, is he?!"
The drake paid no mind and dumped Talanis onto the saddle behind Belore uncerimoniously and huffed once again before she trotted forward and pushed open the great barn doors with her muzzle and walked outside into the early morning mist.
After about an hour, Belore was sitting forward in the saddle, her elbows resting against her drake's neck, still fuming. The sun was up fully now, and the mist had burned off in the morning sunlight. Talanis shifted uncomfortably in the saddle and tried to find some way of holding on so he wouldn't slip off and fall to his death.
"Uhm.. Belore, I don't suppose there's a special way of holding on to this so I don't fall..?" Talanis asked nervously. "There's a decisive lack of handles back here..."
"Put your arms around my waist." Belore sat up and held the reigns, not looking back at her passenger.
"Are you sure..? I don't want t--" Talanis began, but Belore grumbled a few colorful phrases under her breath and reached back, grabbing his arms, wrapping them around her waist tightly. Talanis was pulled forward by this, his face resting against the side of her neck. The scent of her caught him by surprise once again. Thistle blossoms and honey. Talanis almost couldn't breathe. His cheeks felt hot, and he knew he was blushing. Her tiny form fit against his body almost perfectly, and he couldn't stop his mind from wandering. But before long, a village came into view through the dense forest on the horizon.
The drake flew a ways closer, closing the gap between them and the village, and Belore's sharp eyes could see smoke rising from what looked like campfires and a forge. This was going to be a tough one, alright. Belore couldn't help but grin as she clicked the reigns and the drake dove down into the trees. Talanis clung to Belore, shutting his eyes tightly. They landed a short distance from the village near a crystal clear stream and Belore slipped off of the saddle and immediately began looking at the dirt around the stream, checking for something.
"What are you doing?" Talanis asked, slowly lowering himself from the drake's saddle.
"Quiet." Belore spoke softly, kneeling down and looking at what appeared to be fresh tracks on the shore. She stood and sighed, walking quietly over to Kanastraza and patting her neck lovingly. "Alright, friend. This place isn't safe for a drake to be for very long. Head into the forest to the south a good ways and I'll meet up with you."
"What do you mean? What did you see?" Talanis asked puzzled. All he could see on the ground was dirt.
"There are fresh tracks on the shoreline here. Judging by the size of them, the Vrykul are huge. We'll have to be careful from here on out." Belore grinned deviously as the drake behind her extended it's great wings and took off, wheeling towards the forest to the south.
"And you're smiling because..?" Talanis asked, an eyebrow raised.
"Because this looks like fun." Belore answered simply as she began rummaging through a small pack she had tied to her thigh. She retrieved two small glass vials with a silvery liquid swirling inside of them and handed them to Talanis. "Here. Potions of invisibility. They only last a short time, but if you're careful not to draw attention to yourself like an idiot, you'll be fine. You'll even be able to see me with it."
"Really? That's pretty useful. And you just happened to have these for when you decided to work with someone?" Talanis asked, stowing one of the vials in a small pocket in his breastplate and uncorking the other.
"No, sometimes I sneak up on my mark and sap them, make them drink that, and watch as they run around trying to get the attention of their buddies." Belore answered calmly and pulled the twin daggers from the sheaths on her hips and vanished into thin air.
Talanis just sighed and looked down at the potion in his hands lementably, then quickly drank the strange liquid in one gulp. Within a few moments, the world around him lost it's color, and everything around him appeared in various shades of grey. Belore was standing right in front of him with a sly grin as if to say "Welcome to my world.".
Belore crept through the brush silently, with Talanis trailing behind her as quietly as he could in his bulky platemail armor. He certainly wasn't dressed for this sort of thing. Belore stopped and looked back to see Talanis stepping very carefully to avoid even the smallest leaf and twig and rolled her eyes.
"Come on, Blondie, I'm not sitting around all day while you learn how to walk." Belore whispered to him, and continued further through the forest. Talanis tried to pick up the pace, but he flinched at every twig that snapped beneath his feet, thinking he'd get them caught or worse.
Within a few slow and very stressful minutes, the village wall came into view. It was about twenty feet tall and made from rough logs buried in the dirt, their tops cut into crude spikes. Belore knelt down held up a hand to stop Talanis from venturing any further while she silently crept forward to inspect the wall closer. A few feet from her, there was an archway made from branches that had been lashed together with ropes. There was only one guard standing watch at the archway, which made Belore grin like a giddy child.
Belore moved back to the shelter of the forest where she had left Talanis and she took his arm and together they moved through the brush to a spot directly in front of the archway. Talanis peered through the bushes and his eyes widened when he saw the Vrykul guard. The guard towered twice the height of an elf with crude steel armor loosely strapped to it's body. The guard duel-wielded huge hammers that looked to be the same height as Belore herself, and he was heavily muscled to swing those giant hammers with ease. Talanis looked at Belore, shaking his head silently, but Belore ignored him, grinning.
"You wanted to see how that wire worked, right?" Belore whispered to Talanis, pulling the wire from her bracer and tying it to one of her throwing knives. "Well, I'm about to show you."
Belore knelt down and picked up a heavy stone from the forest floor and crept to the edge of the forest. She made sure the area was clear of other Vrykul and then lobbed the rock with all her might. It landed with a resounding crack down the wall, away from the archway. The Vrykul Guard took off toward the noise. He was fast for how big he was, but Belore was faster. She jumped out of the woods behind him and threw her throwing knife towards him. It went exactly as planned. Talanis watched as the throwing knife whizzed past the guard's head, bounced off of the village wall and wrapped the wire around the guard's neck. Belore braced herself for the pull and reflexively yanked her bracer back with all her strength and the wire tightened itself and jerked the guard back. Belore then hurried over to the guard and dropped a small powderbag onto his face as he was clawing at his neck to breathe. Only when the guard stopped moving did she unravel the wire from his neck and retract it back into her bracer. She then grabbed the guard's wrists and pulled him towards the forest brush, covering him in leaves and sticks so he would remain unnoticed by passersby. Then she walked back to the path along the village wall with a branch full of foliage, erasing any traces of a struggle from the dirt path. Turning, she tossed the branch on top of the guard and walked back to Talanis.
"Is he dead?" Talanis whispered to Belore as she walked towards him, hips swaying like a cat, with a playful grin on her face.
"Nope, " She shook her head and giggled. "Sleeping like a baby! It'd be pretty great to watch his buddies yell at him when they realize he was asleep on the job when one of their own gets assassinated."
"You're pretty evil, you know that?" Talanis sighed, shaking his head, following her towards the archway.
"I know," Belore responded, peering through the archway with a faint grin. There were minimal guards, and she could easily distract them long enough to sneak past them. "But that's what makes me fun to work with, isn't it?"
Belore pulled a little black ball from the pouch on her back. It was about the size of a chicken egg, but it was perfectly round and a glassy black color. She tossed it through the archway and into the village and when it hit the ground, it exploded into three different colors of smoke. Belore grabbed Talanis' hand and yanked him through the archway and into the village while the guards were distracted by her smoke bomb.
Smoke quickly filled the area, each color mixing with the others, forming new colors to create a perfect screen for Belore and Talanis to slip through. Even if the guards had been trained to see rogues in stealth, their eyes would be too busy trying to sort out all of the colors to notice the faint glimmer of a rogue slipping through the smoke. Belore and Talanis snuck through the smoke, weaving through the shouting guards and into the village. A crowd had gathered around the gate, so the pair was able to get through most of the small village before the smoke bomb was put out.
The village was simple, most of the buildings were made out of long slabs of wood and logs, dirt roads were carved out of a hillside, starting from the heighest point and winding all the way down to the bottom of the hill, reminding Belore of snake trails. At the top of the hill, there was a building that was larger than any other in the village. Wooden support beams had been carved into ornate likenesses of dragons and there were no trees or bushes around the building for cover. Belore scanned the village quickly and pulled Talanis towards an old, dilapidated looking building about half-way up the hill. The foundation on these houses had been raised up from the ground with just enough space for the two to crawl down under the dusty wooden hovel.
Belore looked to Talanis and put her finger up to her lips, telling him to be silent, and then she soundlessly crawled over to a crack in the floorboards above her. Peeking through, she saw that the room above her was completely coated in dust, and spiderwebs hung heavily from the rough wooden furniture. It was the perfect place to hide untill after dark. Belore crawled back to Talanis and smirked. He looked silently dismayed that they were in such a dirty place. Belore tried not to giggle as he pulled spiderwebs from his hair and tried to clean some of the dust and dirt from his face.
"Don't worry, Blondie. We're only going to be here for a little while. The sun should go down soon. After that, we can head up the hill to meet our mark and we'll be on our way back to the Inn." Belore whispered to him reassuringly.
"Good. When we get back, I'm going to enjoy a nice long bath. I swear, your "training" is just as tough as your father's." Talanis whispered back with a wry smile.
Belore shook her head with a grin and settled into the dirt and waited. After a while, she looked over and noticed that Talanis was sound asleep. She was lucky he was a silent sleeper. Sighing, she crawled over to the opening of the foundation and peeked out. The sun had almost completely set. Belore crawled back over to Talanis, covering his mouth with her small hand before shaking him awake. His eyes snapped open suddenly and he grabbed at her hand, but when he realized it was her, he settled down.
"Come on, Sunshine. Time to go kill someone." Belore whispered with a smirk. Talanis noticed that there had been a change in her eyes now that the sun had set, but thought that maybe it was just the lighting.
Once the sun had set fully, the two slipped out from beneath the house silently, staying behind the rows of buildings as they made their way up the hill to the top. Within a few minutes, they had made it to the edge of their cover. Belore stopped and looked around, memorizing everything.
The huge building was a longhouse, something they must have used for their leader. There were no windows, so there was only one way in. The front door. Outside, there were three Vrykul guards carrying an assortment of weapons, but almost no armor. How very arrogant, Belore noted. They were standing on either side of a dirt path that lead up to the front steps of the longhouse.
"Hey Blondie." Belore whispered over her shoulder to Talanis, not looking at him, instead, pulling a length of wire from her bracers. "Try to follow me with your eyes as best you can. If I look like I'm in trouble, don't wait, just start your prayers to the light. If you're too slow, I'll die."
Before Talanis could say anything in response, Belore took a few steps towards the longhouse and then vanishing into a cloud of shadows, only to reappear a second later, behind one of the guards. It only took a few seconds, but Belore's movements were too fast for Talanis' eyes, and then she finally came to a stop. She was crouching behind one of the guards silently, one hand held up to the level of her head. None of them had even noticed her, but she looked over her shoulder at them. Talanis could see her face, her eyes blazing with the bright green glow, her demonic grin. It sent chills through him, but he was also afraid that she would be found out. He had to start the healing prayer! He brought his hands up, however as he moved, she moved as well, her grin widening as she brought down her arm in one great arc. Talanis had forgotten about the wire. Within that one second, all three guards had had their exposed throats slit by a seemingly invisable attacker. Belore jumped back silently as they all fell forward at the same time, their lifeless bodies colliding together before they hit the ground, muffling what little noise could be heard.
Belore motioned for Talanis to move closer as she crept up the stairs to the longhouse, moving as silently as a shadow. She slipped something shiny from the bag on her back and held out... A mechanical squirrel?!
Talanis' jaw dropped when he saw it, but he hurried to catch up with her, making as little noise as he could in his clumsy platemail. Belore wordlessly gestured for him to stand on one side of the heavy double doors, and he obeyed her, placing his hands on the handle as she knelt down and wound up the toy, readying it. They counted to three silently and then Talanis pulled the door open a crack and Belore let the toy go. It skittered into the room and then began to release a noxious looking purple gas. Talanis quickly shut the door and he and Belore moved away from the door and off to the side, remaining stealthed and unmoving.
Within seconds, there was a muffled shouting from inside the building, followed by intense, repetative coughing. The doors burst open and five towering shapes ran from the building, purple smoke billowing out the door.
"We have ten seconds before we have to run." Belore whispered into Talanis' ear, her voice almost drown out by the five coughing Vrykuls. "If I go down, don't wait. Run south. Kana will find you."
Talanis nodded and began muttering prayers to the light, and a protective light surrounded Belore as she ran up to the confused Vrykuls. He was there! Belore's mark was there, in the center of four guards. Belore dove, sliding through one of the Vrykul's legs and then timed her jump perfectly. She jumped and hooked her hands into her mark's breastplate, balancing her feet on the hilts of his swords on either hip. Before he could react, Belore had already wrapped her wire around his throat and pressed one foot to his chest. He looked directly at her grinning face, eyes widening and began to inhale for a shout, but Belore kicked off of his chest, beheading him with the wire in a matter of seconds. He was dead before he hit the ground. By that time, the four guards had noticed her and had raised their weapons. Belore was crouching on the corpse of her mark and grinning up at them. In that second, she vanished in a cloud of smoke and then appeared hanging from the back of the guard nearest to her, her blade firmly lodged in his throat, and then she vanished again, and then appeared on the back of the other guard, one after another, untill all four were down.
Belore could hear shouts from down the hill and she turned to Talanis, who was standing there dumbly, mid-prayer. She stooped down and grabbed the head of her mark and shouted to him, stealth be damned.
"THE POTION WORE OFF, YOU IDIOT! RUN!"
Talanis blinked for a second and then turned, taking off down the hill towards the south, towards the forest and away from the shouts. Belore took the head, blood still pouring from it's neck, and ran in a different direction just as her persuers made it up the hill and quickly found the blood trail she had been leaving. And then she vanished, packing dry leaves and dirt onto the neck of the severed head, staunching the bleed and slipping it into a leather bag, sprinting towards the south.
A few minutes of hard running and Belore came across a clearing. A large outcropping of grey rocks sat in the center, and atop the rocks sat Kanastraza. Belore ran to her and clamored up onto the saddle, throwing the bagged head into an empty saddlebag. Just as she looked up to try and find Talanis, a horn sounded a fair ways away. Belore's heart dropped momentarily.
"Oh, come on! That idiot got caught already?!" Belore grumbled and gave Kana a gentle kick and she took flight, clawing at the skies as she gained altitude.
Flying in the direction of the horn, Belore quickly found Talanis. He had been captured. He was thoroughly tied up and was being carried on the shoulder of a rather burly looking female Vrykul. Belore just shook her head.
"Alright, Kana, lets go get the idiot." Belore sighed, and Kanastraza dove through the air, aiming her deadly claws at the female Vrykul. In the blink of an eye, Talanis was being gripped by Kanastraza's claws as they flew off into the night.
Talanis was dropped, from a short distance, into a wagon full of hay near the tavern. Belore landed Kanastraza gracefully and slipped off the saddle easily, unhooking the light saddlebag with her fare on the way down. Reaching inside the bags, she gripped the matted, bloody hair and pulled, looking at a head that was at least five times as big as a human's.
"Blech. These guys are hideous.." She grumbled and stuffed the head back into the bag, tying it up.
"Arg! Belore, where are you? Come help me up!" Talanis cried from the cart full of hay.
Belore chuckled and walked over to the cart, reaching in and grabbing Talanis' arm, hauling him up. He pushed himself up against the side of the wagon, shaking hay from his hair. Belore hopped up into the wagon and grinned at him, tossing the bagged head into his lap.
"Well, you did surprisingly well tonight, Blondie." Belore said with a little smirk. "I'm almost impressed."
"Yeah, and I've come to the conclusion that you're not only evil, but you're totally insane." Talanis grumbled, looking up at her and remembering the demonic grin he'd seen on her face, and the smooth, fluid way her body moved when she was attacking. Even though he'd never willingly admit it, something stirred in a dark, primal place of Talanis that he'd never known of before.
"I think that's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me!" Belore laughed, patting Talanis' head like he was a kid, then her expression changed to something darker, more like a challenging smile. "So, do you want me to untie you, or are you okay like that?"
Talanis hadn't even realized that he was still tied up. When he finally understood her question, a blush covered most of his face, making him look that much more innocent. Belore just laughed and pulled a dagger from her belt and cut the ropes.
"Well well! I see you two are still very much alive!" A raspy voice came from behind them and they turned to see the Innkeeper, Basil, leaning up against the corner of the tavern under the lantern.
"Yeah, we made it." Belore grinned. "Even Blondie here survived."
"Hey!--" Talanis objected, but he was cut off by the laughing of the undead Innkeeper.
"Oh? Well, I'm impressed! And it's still before midnight, too." The Innkeeper smiled, walking over to the cart and offering his hand to Belore to help her down. "So? How did it go?"
"It went wonderfully. We got in, got the head, got out, nice and clean!" Belore took the undead's hand and jumped off the cart, taking the bag with the head inside it and slinging it over her shoulder.
" 'Nice and clean'? HA! I feel like I haven't bathed in weeks!" Talanis grumbled, hauling himself out of the bale of hay and jumping out of the cart. "Please tell me you have hot water!"
"Of course, sir!" The Innkeeper began. "However.. there may be one problem.."
"Eh? What's that?" Talanis asked, looking at the man as Belore pulled the tie from her hair and let it loose, pulling some leaves and twigs from her hair.
"There's only one bath tub, I'm afraid.." The Innkeeper smiled nervously, scratching his head with a bony hand.
Belore looked up at the Innkeeper with a flicker of suspicion and then looked away, stretching luxuriously.
"Ahh! Oh well. You can go first, Blondie. I'm not that dirty, so I think I'll have a drink first." She turned to the innkeeper with a lazy smile. "Got any spare hand towels? I got blood and dirt all over my hands earlier and I don't want to dirty your mugs with it."
"Of course, Miss. Right this way." Basil gestured towards the door and Belore walked into the tavern with Talanis and Basil in tow.
Of course, the Orc and Troll were once again in the tavern, sitting at the table by the fire. They gaped at Belore as she walked into the tavern, as if surprised that she was completely unscathed, and even moreso when Talanis followed her. Basil went behind the wooden counter and began to prepare two drinks.
"So, Basil, about that reward money." Belore grinned, knowing that the Orc and Troll were gawking. She opened the saddlebag and pulled the head from it's depths, setting it down on a ratty looking serving tray and angling it so that it was looking at the two men.
"Ah, yes of course, Miss Sunweaver." Basil reached down and pulled a canvas bag from the floor beneath the bar and set it before her. "Two hundred gold pieces, as promised."
"Could I see your hand for a moment, Basil?" Belore asked innocently, reaching into the canvas bag and counting out some coin.
"Oh.. Alright.." Basil looked confused, but held out his bony hand, the skin dried and peeling away from the bone. Belore just smiled up at him innocently and placed thirty gold coins into his hand. Basil's eyes widened and he looked at Belore quizzically. "What's this for, Miss?"
"It's your commission." Belore said matter-of-factly and grinned, leaving the head on the counter and stuffing the bag of gold into her pack as she walked across the room to the table in front of the fireplace, leaning down and snatching away the Troll's drink and wandering lazily towards the stairs.
"Oh!" Belore turned and looked at the Innkeeper. "You may want to show Talanis where he can bathe. I do believe the Princess is starting to fret."
With that, she went up the steps, leaving the men in the tavern in silence..