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re: Neither Down Nor Feather

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By kiraleen Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #15 on Jun 30, 2011, 12:44pm »
 

“Meia! Meia!”

The shouts merged with the doorbell of Heartjoy’s Confections. Meia looked up from her scroll. Farion stared at her wild-eyed, frantic, dripping wet.

“You have to help him! Please!”

“Help who?” Meia set the scroll down on main display case, hopped off her stool and trotted over to him. She had a suspicion, but suspicions weren’t always right.

“My father. I saw – “ Farion ran his hand through his hair, spraying droplets. “ I had another vision. They’re going to k –“

Meia held her finger to his mouth. Suspicion confirmed. “Come with me, “ she said, grabbing his free hand. The young mage smelled faintly of fish, more strongly of lake water. Obviously he’d put her revelations to the test. She pulled him past the main counter into the work area, toward the back of the shop. “Bring me towels from the necessary, please, “ she told one of the staff. Domme dropped her inventory sheet onto the nearest sack of sugar and fixed them with a hawk’s-gaze.

“What’s going on?”

“Priest business,” Meia replied shortly. It wouldn’t keep her sister’s curiosity at bay long, but hopefully long enough. She opened the office door, prepared to beg, bribe or lie for her parents to vacate it, and was relieved to find she didn’t need to. Hurrah for breakfasts in bed.

“You can save him, can’t you? You – the Outriders – “

The door opened again. Meia whirled to confront the employee with his arms full of fluffy red, gold and brown towels. “Thank you,” she said, scooping them up with one hand and closing the door on him with the other. She flipped the lock and turned back to Farion.

“Calm down. Dry off.” She handed him a towel, flung another over his head. “And start from the beginning.”

“… two days, maybe three, if that shan’do’s correct, “ Farion said fretfully. Despite his tone, he was visibly calmer, if less dressed. Meia had politely turned her back to preserve his dignity while he stripped out of his soaking clothes, dried off, and recounted his vision. Wrapped in the remainder of the towels for a semblance of modesty, Farion paced. “If only I could be sure!”

“Which do you feel is more correct?”

“Two,” Farion replied at once. He shook his head. “Irrational. What do feelings matter?”

“In this instance, quite a bit. You’re dealing with a thing of the spirit, not your usual magic.”

Farion grimaced, conceding the point. “I know it’s dangerous – horribly dangerous -- and you don’t owe me any favors. But I can pay. Anything. Anything you ask. Will you help? ”

“That’s the Field Marshal’s decision to make. And if she agrees I doubt she’d ask for payment.” Or that either Moonweaver would let her. Not that she would, either, if Farion was a friend.

“You’ll ask?”

“You should ask her yourself.”

“How? She’s not here!”

Meia smiled faintly. “Then we’ll have to find out where she is, eh?” She held up a hand. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t tease. I can contact her, and see if she wants to meet you here in Silvermoon or have you brought to her. It will take a little time, though.”

“But my father – “ Farion sighed, closing his eyes. He clasped his elbows. “Thank you.”

“You’re quite welcome. I need to fetch my guild stone. Why don’t you go change? Meet me in the Court of the Sun. Same bench.”

In less than a half-hour Farion was sitting next to Meia in Thunder Bluff. The Field Marshal had found them pretending to watch the participants in the Midsummer fire-games. After a stroll to the festival vendors where they bumped into Efnesien (what a pleasant surprise!) and a dance around the fire-pole in which Kiraleen insisted they join, she had led them in a leisurely retreat from the crowd to an empty stair landing and created a portal to the tauren city. They didn’t emerge in the Pool of Vision’s caves, but the guild-tent proper. Naunet rocked back on her plated heels, one hand gripping her sword pommel. Aneran slouched against the guild’s ‘totem pole’, arms folded, his putative carving knife displayed in a not-at-all casual gesture.

Hate when you do that, Kira,” Naunet grumbled.

“Tell me about it,” Aneran murmured.

Farion looked around in astonishment. “How did you --?”

“I can show you later, if you wish. “ Kiraleen clasped her hands in front of her Midsummer dress. “But now, tell me about your father, please.”

Farion recounted his vision again, in more detail this time. Meia watched Kiraleen pace slowly as he finished. “Will you help, Field Marshal? I … I don’t know where else to turn.”

Kiraleen studied him. “From the description of your father’s garb – I’ve seen the same on human and dwarven lay-clergy -- and the ease with which he carried himself, I’d speculate he’s in Alliance territory,” Kiraleen said at last. "Am I correct?"

"I thought your parents were dead?" Efnesien burst in.

Farion shrugged, shamefaced, "Missing, really. Eventually, everyone believed they were dead. Including me." He sighed, continuing, "Turns out that my father had been badly injured. Highlord Fordring was still in exile and had found him, nursed him back to some semblence of health, and sent him to the Argent Dawn."

"And you knew all this time!? Why didn't you tell me?"

Meia blinked. Farion replied reluctantly. "Because, my father's not a blood elf."

"Then what is he?" demanded Aneran. Farion hedged.

“There’s quel’dorei still among the Alliance.” Efnesien gave Farion a surprisingly sympathetic look. “Not everyone sided with Kael’thas, remember. Given there’s even fewer of them than us, Stormwind is likely the safest place for them to live. Can you narrow down your father’s location? The Alliance has a lot of territory.”

“I think I can offer a possibility,” Kiraleen said slowly. “Like you said, Stormwind is the safest place for high elves. Reesee mentioned the repairs from Deathwing’s attack had been halted for a time. If Farion’s ruins are those destroyed buildings….”

Meia stirred. “There’s a simpler way to find out than guessing. Fledgling.” She turned to Farion. “Would you be willing to try for a more detailed vision? Under my supervision?” Farion nodded, and she patted his hand. “We’ll try when you’re more rested.” And less frantic.

Kiraleen looked to Naunet, then Efnesien. “A rescue attempt of this kind is extremely risky.”

“Farion’s my friend, “ Efnesien said. “And despite the risk, this is feasible. It’d be difficult, not impossible.”

“And what’s a little risk, anyway?” Naunet flashed a toothy, jaunty grin. “This is the kind of work the Outriders were created for.”

Kiraleen nodded thoughtfully. “Go in, grab him, get out…”

“Uh-uh!” Naunet stabbed a bony finger at Kiraleen. “You’re not doin’ this alone!”

“I didn’t say I was.”

Naunet smirked. “Sure ya weren’t. So, you to do the magic, me to bash any heads that need it – “ She fixed her glowing gaze on Meia. “ – you, to keep any ouchies to a minimum.”

Meia tossed her a salute. “Yes, Captain!” Privately she was relieved and worried in equal measure. Naunet was giving her a chance to redeem herself, and she was glad for that. She just wished it was a mission with less chance of going horribly wrong.

Efnesien’s brows knitted in a frown. “I want to go as well.” Aneran stepped away from the totem pole. “So do I.”

Kiraleen steepled her fingers in front of her face, looking at them both for a long moment, then shook her head. “I’m sorry. I need you two to be part of the warlock summoning circle if something goes wrong.” Efnesien frowned, opened his mouth, then closed it with a wry nod.

“Your father’s study? Just like old times?”

Kiraleen smiled at him gratefully. Meia made a mental note to find out just what these ‘old times’ were.

“Why am I always stuck mucking around with the magic?” Aneran grumbled. Efnesien clapped him on the shoulder.

“Cheer up, Aneran. You’ll spend the time kicking your heels on your Field Marshal’s father’s desk while I read and Nesien beats you at chess.” Aneran did not look consoled. Efnesien failed to notice. “Me, Nesien…who else can we enlist for this retrieval back-up?”

Naunet huffed. “I’d say Twinflame, but she’s off helping Norie with her joustin’ and slaughtering penguins. “ The Forsaken’s expression turned distinctly uncomfortable. “’Sides, I’m not sure this secret sneaky stuff is the kinda thing Twin’d be good at. You know?”

Everyone but Farion nodded. Meia caught a brief glimpse of relief in the Field Marshal’s eyes. “Tampa?” she suggested.

“Tampa's running Darnell and Qa’chena through some scouting exercises and not due back for another couple days. Agoris is out in Durotar on her own exercises, and June is… “ Kiraleen gestured vaguely. “Out there somewhere doing ‘diggies’. If either Agoris or June show up or contact us in a day or so, fine. In the meantime, I’ll ask Basile to be the third.”

“Why not call your people back?” Farion leaned forward, catching Kiraleen’s eye.

“We’re watched,” she said matter-of-factly. “We always have been, but under Garrosh, it’s grown more … intense. We’ve already done enough today to attract attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if rumors that we’re aiming to recruit you spring up shortly. I’d rather play off that than speculation that we’re engaging in supposed treason. Recalling Tampa or the others, combined with your visit to Meia, would be enough to make that mushroom grow.”

Never mind, Meia thought, that technically we are committing treason. Not that she cared. Hellscream’s contempt for blood elves was blatant, and despite all the animosity and politicking between the two branches of elves, the quel’dorei were still kin in her eyes.

“I’ll help with the summoning circle.” Farion folded his arms. “I’d go crazy sitting here or in Undercity or wherever else, not knowing. And that way, Aneran can go. Four people aren’t that much more obvious than three, yes?”

Aneran shot him a look of mingled surprise and gratitude. “I can hide better than any of you,” he said as Naunet opened her mouth, probably to object. “And, I’m better at spotting others lurking in the shadows.”

Naunet tipped her head with a grunt, conceding. “This is the first time I’ve heard of this Basile person.” Naunet scratched her chin. “She trustworthy?”

“Very. She manages my parents’ house, and the meadery. She’s helped with warlock summons before. Being asked won’t be suspicious to her, or even a surprise.”

“All righty. Good enough fer me.”

Aneran sighed. “I’m glad everything’s settled, then.”

“Almost settled.” Efnesien stretched, cracking his back. “There’s still the exact timing and location to be determined. Meia, I know you and Farion are going to try more visions, but we should still try more mundane means, especially if you can prove he is somewhere in Stormwind. There has to be maps of Stormwind, it’s just a matter of getting our hands on them. Right now, though, I think we should take a small break. I skipped lunch and I’m hungry.”

Meia grinned. “I bought s’mores in Silvermoon.”

Farion rose to his feet and clasped Kiraleen’s hand between his. “Thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.”

Kiraleen smiled. “You’re welcome.”
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re: Neither Down Nor Feather

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Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #14 on Jun 29, 2011, 11:49pm »
 

The stables behind Old Town were relatively quiet. Most of the stablehands had broken for an early lunch. Xelas stood, resting his chin on his hands as he leaned against a fencepost. Many of the garrisoned knights kept their horses here, as did Xelas. He had come originally to tend Leonard, but ended up helping the stablehands feed and water the lot. Now, he was simply enjoying the late morning sun and the warm, grassy thoughts of the horses in the paddock nearby. One of the horses whickered. Xelas heard the heavy tread of plated boots on the grass behind him. He inhaled deeply, and then began to smile, even before he turned to greet his visitor. It was Duty. Most of the original members of the Argent Dawn had taken aliases or code names when the Order first broke from the Scarlet Crusade. This was mostly to help protect them from being hunted by Inquisition Assassins. Eventually though, they simply became names, whether Prudence, Duty... or Zealous. Duty had long maintained a station out at Light's Hope. It was rare that he came to Stormwind.

"Duty! What brings you so far out of the Plaguelands to---" Xelas' voice faltered as he saw the Argent knight. His eyes traveled from the man's serious expression to the letter in his outstretched hand. Xelas felt the blood drain from his face.

The man's expression lifted momentarily in apology. "Ach! sorry!" replied Duty. "It's not what it looks like. Your boy is safe enough. But he seems to believe you're not."

Xelas's brow furrowed as he took the envelope. It was surprising to have one of the knights serving as a messenger. The thought must have shown plainly in his expression. Duty nodded.

"Aye, one of our other agents from Silvermoon brought this, and insisted that it be delivered by someone who could make you stay put." The aging paladin crinkled a smile, "And we both know I got nothin against sitting on you, if that's what it takes.

The tall hunter snorted with an uncertain smile and broke the seal on the message. He pulled the note from inside and began to read. It was Farion's handwriting, but hurried -- sloppy. There were water marks all over the page as if it had been raining when he wrote it, blurring a few of the words. All of them were legible, and nothing was coded. It was as heavy-handed and blunt as a shout:

"The Kal'Dorei mean to kill you in the ruins filled with dead orcs.
A woman, two assassins and a marksman.
STAY IN STORMWIND!"


Xelas glanced at Duty. "Did the agent say where? Or When?"

Duty shrugged, "Nah, mate. Only that I needed to sit on you for about 3 or 4 days. He was adamant about that."

"I really don't understand this. Why would the elves be targeting me? Scarlets, yes, I could see that -- what few luntics are left. But this?" Xelas shrugged, "Maybe I should go see Fa---"

Duty interrupted him by putting a heavily mailed hand on his shoulder. "You should stay here," he said, firmly.

"All right. Stormwind for the next few days." Xelas raised his hands in surrender. "I'm yours to command. What do we do?"

"Right then!" Duty's face broke into a smile for the first time since arriving. "Which inn has the best dwarven ale around here these days?"
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re: Neither Down Nor Feather

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By Liy Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #13 on Jun 28, 2011, 10:13pm »
 

Strolling aimlessly around Stormwind had been a habit of mine for some time. This was my outlet when I had thoughts to work out. I would tell my mind to make certain that my legs moved forward without bumping into any objects, people, animals, or the like. Everything beyond that was up to my legs’ discretion, as the balance of my mind was required to work through whatever problem or inquiry I had to resolve. Thus I became very well acquainted with the city as I randomly happened upon areas that I otherwise had no reason to visit.

But I never developed an outlet for occasions when I wanted to prevent myself from thinking about something in particular. So I exited the Cathedral of Light and fell into my habit of aimless wandering to help me with the task. But instead of a leisurely stroll, I stormed through the city furiously, barely noticing where I was going, or who or what I bumped into along the way as I tried my best not to think about anything.

This particular thought was appalling. I refused to consider it. I wouldn’t even allow my mind to articulate the notion. But as anyone who has ever attempted to run from an idea knows, like quicksand the more you struggle against it the quicker it catches you.

Kill Xelas.

I winced as the thought assaulted my mind, and grunted loudly as if I had been hit with a club. In a like manner, I stopped and doubled over somewhat, my hand shooting to my head as though to prop it up. With my other hand, I leaned against the corner of a building, my mind spinning. People walking by conspicuously ignored whatever was happening to me, and found a reason to walk on the other side of the road.

I have to. I have no choice.

I stumbled forward again, determined to get away from these thoughts. Each step I took seemed more like an attempt to prevent myself from falling, rather than a deliberate means of transportation.

I can’t!

I have to. I entered a contract, a Cenarion Shadow contract no less.

Xelas is a guild mate. I already entered into a contract with him, one based on friendship.

That contract is fraudulent, as it is with everyone else in the guild.

I know it is… it was… But that was long ago. Things have changed. It’s complicated now.

Nothing has changed. I had a job then. I have job now. Nothing about it is complicated.

No!

I wouldn’t entertain these thoughts any more. If I couldn’t evade them, then I would ignore them.

I’ve always enjoyed crossing this bridge. Very well built, very sturdy. Great view of the canals.

I have to.

Oh, The Protective Hide. That reminds me, I’m running low on eternium thread. I should probably swing by there later on.

I have no choice.

My breathing became labored, and my vision unsteady and blurry. I stumbled off the road into a grass clearing. I started to feel hot, my pulse quickened. My palms began to sweat. My mouth went dry. I could hear my heart pounding in my head.

Kill Xelas.

“Stop!” I cried out, falling forward on my hands and knees. I clutched the grass beneath me tightly, breathing hard and willing, pleading for these thoughts to go away. I remained in this state for some time. Eventually my vision cleared and my breathing returned to normal. The disturbing thoughts receded and ceased to besiege my mind.

I looked up and noticed that I had returned to the combat training area of Old Town. Standing in front of me was a wooden training dummy with a low grade skinning knife protruding from it. Its neck was badly damaged with the head dangling precariously, swinging in the breeze. I looked upon this sight for I don’t know how long, then lost consciousness.

It wasn’t a wooden dummy’s head I was seeing…
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re: Neither Down Nor Feather

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Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #12 on Jun 28, 2011, 7:49pm »
 

Verilore was right in sending Farion to the Moonweavers. Although he would have been visiting them in a professional capacity regardless, it hadn't occurred to him to mention his situation to them. The family had always been kind to him since the Third War, believing as most did, that he was orphaned. Had Veri not been in town, he'd most likely have stayed with them.

Unfortunately, Farion's tale of future-flung dreams was met with only slightly less skepticism from the Moonweaver's younger son Efnesien. However, being of a more kindly nature than Verilore, Ef's mockery was purely good-natured. He finally offered to introduce Farion to a friend of the family who might be able to help.

And so it was that Farion finally met Meia Heartjoy. Although Veri had offered them a table at The Dawnlight, Meia had been inclined to enjoy the Fire Festival that was in progress. So they'd sat on a bench, and talked while they watched the festival goers. Efnesien had provided Meia with the details of Farion's dreams, and she had gone to the restricted stacks of the temple library for answers. Much to Farion's surprise, the more authoritative treatises came from a Kal'Dorei source. Still it was a far cry from the window-licking lunatics buried in Verilore's library. It didn't hurt that Meia was pretty and kind and very sympathetic to Farion's distress. The young mage felt assured that he could master these visions with her guidance.

So after meticulously following the mental exercises Meia had provided him with, Farion decided he was ready to deliberately enter a vision. This time, he had rowed into the middle of Brightwater lake, which was considerably smaller than Lordamere. Theoretically, the size of the body of water dictated how close to real-time the vision's "window" would appear. Farion estimated that he ought to see something about two or three days into the future. He had purposefully gotten little sleep the night before and brought his fishing pole -- just in case.

Soon, the young mage was drooping as boredom and weariness worked upon him. He tried to focus on the memory of his father, smiling, happy as when he'd seen him at Light's Hope the visit before last. Soon, the fishing pole tipped out of his slack fingers, and into the lake. Farion leaned forward, trying to catch it. He watched it float out of his reach. When he sat back up, it was dark.

He was no longer in his boat. He stood on level ground. Strange, hulking shapes blotted out the stars. Farion belatedly realized these were broken stone walls and fallen timbers. The sound of waves crashing far below, and the distinct smell of salt air told him he was near the sea. In the middle of the ruins, he could make out the living light of a silver-haired Kal'Dorei woman. The soft glow of her body heat faintly illuminated the low motionless lumps strewn around -- orc corpses. She stood, waiting, with her back to him. Then, she screamed.

For a moment, Farion was confused, seeing nothing that would inspire such a reaction. Then, he saw another figure rounding the corner at a run. Farion recognized it with a jolt. It was his father! Farion's father spied the woman, and halted in his tracks. "You," he breathed. He glanced around the ruins warily. Then, the tall hunter bolted, heading for an opening in the broken wall. A shadow detached itself from the surrounding darkness, tackling him. Both figures tumbled on the ground and came back up, blades drawn. In their combined heat, Farion could see that his father's attacker was another male Kal'Dorei. Then, the young mage realized that his father was not dressed for battle at all. Rather he was clad only in ceremonial robes. The sword he carried looked to have been made for humans. His attacker was covered in thick, supple leather, and his blades coated in glowing runes. The assassin launched a blinding series of attacks, which Farion's father managed to mostly dodge. A few scored shallow gashes, which quickly stained the fine fabric of his robes. The hunter's riposte got in a solid slash across his attacker's thigh, which hampered the assassin. Then Farion's father leapt back, almost clearing the wall, when an arrow struck his off-hand arm, punching through just below the shoulder. Xelas immediately dove back under the cover of the collapsing roof. Suddenly, a second assassin joined the first. Farion, horrified, watched as Xelas stood staring at her for several precious seconds in disbelief. Then both assassins were on him, vicious attacks driving him to where the sniper could get clear shots on him. Farion was screaming, futilely begging them to stop, when he realized he couldn't breathe. The air was so thick, choking him.

Drowning him.

Farion drove to the surface of the lake, frantically grabbing for the edge of his boat. He managed to get one elbow over the gunwale so that he could cling to the side, coughing and retching. Though his mind was still reeling with the horror of his vision, one thought was clear.

He had to stop it.
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re: Neither Down Nor Feather

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By Liy Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #8 on Jun 25, 2011, 4:51pm »
 

The note bore a familiar seal, one that meant official business. The handwriting was familiar to me as well. Steathi was the closest thing I had to a direct superior at the Cenarion Shadow, and I received all my assignments from him. The note read:

Grandmother was asking if you could get a package for her. You can pick it up from Mistress Jasper, who will be at the Blue Recluse all week in the loft. The package is already paid for, so no need to worry.

Cheers,
Uncle Roger


I received the note three days prior to the day I actually decided to pay this “Mistress Jasper” a visit at the Blue Recluse. No need to appear eager. And I’ve always found that it never hurts to keep a client waiting for a little while, just so they understand that I don’t necessarily work on their time.

As the note instructed I went to the Blue Recluse. The place was busy, as it typically is. The loft is usually not as crowded as the lower level, but on this particular day they were both pretty packed. I worked my way upstairs, winding my way through a mostly human crowd.

Common sense suggests that trying to identify someone in a crowded area whom you have never before met, and whose physical description you do not know, would be difficult. But as rational as that sounds, it is simply not true, at least not in these situations. From the moment I entered, I paid no head to the drunk revelers or the laughing comrades trading war stories. I ignored the men and women engaged in their respective courting rituals, as I did the old timer sitting by himself revisiting the memories of his glory days with a mug of ale. Instead, I headed straight to the slender and pretty young Kal’Dorei woman with silver hair sitting by herself, neither eating nor drinking, nor engaged in any activity other than patiently waiting. As I approached, she looked up at me.

“You Jasper?” I asked.

She nodded, acknowledging that this name was familiar to her, and indicated that I should sit.

“I understand grandmother is having some trouble,” I said conversationally as I pulled back the chair opposite her.

“She is,” my companion spoke with a timbre that maintained the casual façade of our discussion, “I’m told that you may be able to assist.”

“Sure, I have nothing but the utmost respect for our elders. How can I help?”

“Grandmother needs a package delivered. She needs someone to ensure that it arrives at its destination and stays there.” Her emphasis on the last few words were accompanied by narrowing eyes and a slightly strained voice. If we weren’t in public, her fist may have come crashing down on the table as well to drive home the point. Clearly she had strong feelings for someone and wanted that person dead.

“OK,” I replied, “Tell me about the cargo.”

“The cargo is very heavy, so it will require multiple handlers. She needs someone to oversee the operation, to make certain the package is delivered.”

“Hmmm… several handlers? I usually work alone.” I didn’t like the sound of this. She wasn’t looking to hire an assassin. She had an entire plan in mind, which required multiple people. This meant that whatever I had to do probably depended on the reliability of others, which didn’t sit well with me. Even if everything went off without a hitch, every accomplice to the deed becomes a witness. And witnesses are a liability.

She nodded, indicating that she understood my concern, and said, “This cargo is very heavy, and it has proven particularly difficult to move. Others have tried before you without success.”

Others had tried? Great. This job just went from bad to worse. On top of everything else, the target had already been worked on previously, unsuccessfully. So now he’s on his guard. That increased the risk factor far beyond my comfort zone. If this were an independent job I would have thanked the nice lady sitting across from me for the pleasant discussion, asked her to send my regards to Grandmother, and walked away.

But this job came directly from the Cenarion Shadow, the underground organization that hired me to kill a mid-level Darnassus government official, and then threatened to expose me if I didn’t join their organization (but that is another story entirely). I couldn’t just turn them down. Besides, if the Shadow were involved in whatever plan was being put into play, then it would be prepared and executed professionally. This put my mind at ease somewhat. I still didn’t like it, but I was assured that my life and freedom would not be put at risk, or at least no more risk than my profession usually warrants.

I considered all of this quietly for longer than is usually considered polite when engaged in conversation. Eventually the lady across from me cleared her throat and suggested, “Maybe we should take our business some place less public, Old Town perhaps?” She must have assumed my hesitation implied discomfort with our surroundings. I started to assure her that this would not be necessary. If there is one thing I like about Stormwind, generally speaking no one cares who you are or what you do. But then it occurred to me that she might be uncomfortable discussing the matter in public, so I agreed. Whatever puts the client at ease…

Leaving the Inn, “Mistress Jasper” almost collided with a human male as he entered through the same doorway she was using to exit. Her eyes narrowed and followed him as he apologized briefly and continued on his way. “Disgusting insects, humans,” she practically spat out the last word with an unusually intense degree of disdain. She returned her attention to me, apparently expecting some kind of affirmation. I almost wanted to argue the point, not because I have any special affection for humankind. Sure, generally speaking they are short-lived, short-sighted, simple minded, and they smell a little. And I really didn’t care to be in their company. Or at least, that’s how I felt when I first arrived in Stormwind several years ago. But I had grown accustomed to living among a mostly human populace. They weren’t that bad. But I wasn’t here as the Kal’Dorei advocate for humankind, so I just grunted something non-committal that conveyed agreement.

We arrived in Old Town, and proceeded to the south end, where combat training took place. She gestured towards one of the training dummies. I looked at where she indicated, thinking at first that she had brought me personally to point out the individual she wanted assassinated. This would have been a very bad idea, and if she had done this I would have abandoned the job immediately, Cenarion Shadow or not. But all I saw was a training dummy. I looked at her inquisitively. She looked back at me meaningfully and nodded in the direction of the training dummy.

“Go on,” she said.

Then it clicked. “You’re kidding,” I said as I realized that she was absolutely serious.

“Just a small demonstration, so I know that we have the right person for the job.”

“The right person… for what, lumberjacking? What’s a wooden training dummy going to prove?

“Please,” she replied, “Just humor me.”

“This is embarrassing,” I murmured under my breath. But I decided to play along. If she wanted to see something impressive, I’d put on a show for her. So I very visibly stepped into my own shadow, and almost instantaneously reappeared behind the training dummy. Then with my skinning blade, using all of my strength I stabbed it in the seam that joined the arm to the neck. The neck of the dummy cracked loudly and splintered, leaving the head hanging loosely from the body by what little wood remained. I left the blade in the dummy for its dramatic effect and vanished into the shadows, reappearing by her side a few seconds later.

None of this, by the way, bears even the slightest resemblance to the manner in which I would carry out a job. I generally try not to use exotic Shadow maneuvers when I work, preferring instead to operate in environments that permit a less complicated form of movement – like walking. Also, if my killing stroke ever needed more strength than is required to lift a dagger, then it would either mean that my blade is dull or I missed a vital point. And, of course, I never use my skinning knife for such things; I simply refused to dishonor the tools of my trade on a pointless exercise like this. I certainly never leave the murder weapon behind. Lastly, if I ever needed to vanish immediately after killing my target, it’s because I was spotted as I committed the deed, which would mean I was careless.

But all of this was lost on “Mistress Jasper” who was mesmerized by the sight of a low grade knife sticking out of a badly mutilated wooden neck that was attached to a dangling wooden head. I surmised that it wasn’t a dummy’s head she was seeing as she stared at it with deadly cold eyes and one of the more unnerving sinister grins I had seen in some time. “You’ll do,” she said.

Wonderful, I thought. “Wonderful,” I said, “Who is it?”

She snapped out of whatever grotesque vision she was imagining. “Who?” she asked, a little bewildered.

“The mark, my target,” I motioned back to the dummy, “Who is it?”

“Oh,” she replied hesitantly, “You don’t need to know. We’ll give you the time and place where he’ll be with a descr-“

“It’s non-negotiable,” I said loudly, speaking over her. I wasn’t bluffing either. No way I was getting into this without some understanding of the person I was facing. I don’t work without first doing research and reconnaissance on the target. Does he cast nasty fiery spells? Is she a healer? Is there a demon constantly by his side? A tiger? Does he have a mistress? Does she prefer to pick Twilight Jasmine or Firebloom?

She bit her lip and looked at me for an extended moment, then said, “He is presently at the Cathedral of Light, praying,” she said with a healthy dose of scorn, “You won’t miss him. He’s probably the only Kal’Dorei inside.”

Good enough. I accepted the job and we parted ways shortly after this, agreeing to tie up what few minor details needed to be worked out at a later time. Then I headed straight to the Cathedral of Light to get my first glimpse of the person whose demise I was tasked to oversee.

To say that I was unfamiliar with the Cathedral would be an understatement. I had only visited once before a few years back when I was nearly fatally wounded in battle. Fortunately for me, I was in the company of two guild mates who were themselves initiated into the Church of Light. Cayreth had managed to heal my wounds to keep me barely clinging to life while he and Xelas transported me to the Cathedral. There I remained for weeks, mostly unconscious, recovering from my wounds. Recalling this incident wasn’t pleasant, and walking through the grand entrance to the Cathedral only made these unwelcome memories more vivid. I planned to leave as soon as I captured a good mental image of my mark, then wait outside for him to leave. And if I managed to overhear his name, all the better.

I crept through the halls without a sound, cloaked in shadow so I was unseen as well. The place was eerily quiet, so moving discreetly was not as easy as one might suppose. But I’m a professional, so I can do these kinds of things and make it seem easy.

At the end of the hall knelt a figure, who appeared from a distance to be Kal’dorei. As indicated, he was in the midst of some kind of prayer or meditation. As I approached, I noticed just how enrapt in this spiritual exercise he was. I might not have needed to be so quiet. It even occurred to me that this would be an opportune time to do the job, right here and now. But my employer was very specific that she wanted it done on her terms, and at her time. So I dispelled this thought as soon as it arrived. I did, however, take the opportunity to move in a little closer to get a better look at…

“Xelas!” I blurted out the name before I could stop myself. The sound of my startled voice reverberated throughout the Cathedral Hall, taunting me for a long drawn out period of time. Not exactly the kind of subtlety that I was hired for.

You would think that someone as deeply engaged in prayer as Xelas had been would appear at least a little bit surprised when his moment of quiet contemplation was disrupted by a loud exclamation of his own name. But he remained prostrated for several moments afterwards with his eyes closed as though he intended to conclude some thought, mantra or prayer before addressing this intrusion. He then slowly opened his eyes and deliberately stood upright.

Thoughts went racing through my mind. What would have happened if I had decided to kill him right here. Obviously he was far more aware of himself and his surroundings than he appeared. Several had tried before and failed, Jasper said. I knew this about Xelas. In fact, he was notorious among those in my world for successfully evading multiple assassination attempts. It is unusual to survive one attempt from a competent assassin. Two is almost unheard of. And then there’s Xelas. They probably all underestimated him, as I nearly did just then.

Xelas turned and smiled warmly, “Hello Liy.”

I was still mentally off balance by this unnerving turn of events, and couldn’t think of anything better to say than, “Uh…. Wh- What are you doing here?” Stupid question. Where else does Xelas spend his time?

“I often come here for prayer and meditation,” he grinned widely as though I were joking around with him. He was well aware that I knew how frequently he attended the Cathedral of Light. How could I have utterly failed to put this together? Several had tried before and failed. Probably the only Kal’Dorei at the Cathedral of Light. Damn it! Who else could it have been?

“What are you doing here?” he asked in return, politely indulging whatever game he supposed I was playing.

Then something in me snapped, and Xelas my longstanding and trusted guild mate became a dangerous threat – a target marked for assassination who knew my identity. I stepped towards him, as deliberately and slowly as he had risen from prayer. I locked my gaze with his, mine as cold as his was warm, and heard myself say, “Mind. Your. Business. Return to your prayers, for all the good it will do.” I spat on the floor at his feet, and turned from him.

What was his response? I imagined him hurt, looking after me with great sorrow, wondering helplessly why I would speak in such a way to a friend. I imagined him becoming incensed, fists clenched and nostrils flared, fighting back the urge to charge me for defiling sacred ground. I imagined him shaking his head in resignation, shrugging and returning to his prayers, having long since given up trying to figure out why I act the way I do.

What was his response? I don’t know. He said nothing, and I didn’t look back.

I walked away, lips pressed tightly, making certain that one foot stepped in front of the other at a steady, even pace. It was all I could do to keep my legs from shaking and collapsing under the weight of the last few moments.
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Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #7 on Jun 25, 2011, 9:51am »
 

Silvermoon -- the newly risen star of the Sin'Dorei. Farion had to admit that as cities went, it was beautifully manicured. Every evidence of the generally messy business of living was meticulously scrubbed, trimmed, polished or otherwise forced into a carefully designed and pleasing asethetic. Anything that couldn't fit and couldn't fight back was eliminated.

In a way, he hated it. A lot.

Which wasn't to say he didn't enjoy himself on the rare occasion he came to the city. On the contrary, it was one of the few places he could truly indulge his most secret vices, as he was about to, now. Farion was actually in town to purchase some silk for a commissioned set of robes he was making. He'd stopped in to see his long-time friend, Verilore, whose family were minor nobility. However, he as he had hoped, Veri's family insisted he stay with them during his visit in Silvermoon. At some point, Farion managed to corner Verilore to ask if the warlock knew anything about oracular visions or prophecy. Veri had scoffed at the notion, leaving Farion reluctant to press his questions, however he at least offered Farion the use of his family's small, personal library. Farion had spent nearly the whole night going through tome after tome, looking for references on anything relating to hydromancy or other methods of far-seeing and prediction. A few treatises touched on it, but it was clear from other writings that the authors were considered mad at best, and stupid at worst. Farion could see why Veri hadn't taken his query seriously. His search had left him tired the next morning. Farion had no inclination to return to the family library.

So instead, he did the next better thing. He asked the house servants to prepare him a bath. Even in the poorest Sin'Dorei households, baths were much, much more than cold dunks in a lake or river, or splashing under a spigot in the town square, or standing in a tub in the kitchen (which is what the innkeeper in Brill usually provided). Veri's family was in no way poor, so it was all Farion could do to resist the temptation to indulge in the most luxurious options that the servants presented him with. Instead of wine and trays of food brought from the kitchens, he asked only for warm, spiced tea and a biscuit with sweet, creamy butter. The four servants who normally attended the bath waited patiently until Farion remembered that he was to choose at least one of them to attend him. He actually wanted to send them all away, but knew that would be perceived as his seeing some flaw in their persons or service. The two men and two women stood, eyes downcast, awaiting his next direction with perfect demeanor. The young, golden-haired woman at far end of the line allowed herself a quick glance to Farion's face before resuming her proper posture. That one. Bravery enough to dare a look meant that she might be persuaded to act like a person and not a piece of furniture. Farion nodded to her, and the others quietly made their way out of the bath chamber to attend other duties.

As soon as they were gone, he turned to the servant. "First things first, I want you to look me in the eye. Secondly, I want a conversation. I get enough zombies back home. Lastly, this is very awkward for me. Servants aren't a part of my typical day. I just really, really want a warm bath with as little fuss as possible. Can you do that for me?" For a moment, the girl didn't move or say anything. Farion feared he had not chosen as well as he'd hoped. Then a small smile curled her lips as her eyes flashed to his face with a clear, bold gaze.

"Absolutely," she replied. "If my lord is ready?" She moved to help him with his robe, but he forestalled her, mumbling something about managing on his own. With some obvious effort, she schooled her features into a semblance of bland neutrality as Farion fumbled with the tie on his robe, getting tangled in the sleeves, before finally shedding it and handing it to her. Then, with some awkwardness, he stepped into the bath and eased himself into the water with a sigh. The young woman filled an ewer with warm water, gently tilting Farion's head back as she poured it through his hair. The steam from rising from the water curled and hung low in the room, diffusing the early morning light from the open windows above. Farion leaned back, sinking deeper into the tub and allowing the water to come up to his chin as he closed his eyes.

He let the heat from the water seep into his muscles for a few minutes, and then asked, "So, what is your name?"

The woman took a handful of soft, perfumed soap and started working it into Farion's scalp. "Elonia, if it pleases my lord," she replied. Farion snorted.

"Doesn't really matter if it pleases me or not. It's your name, isn't it?"

Elonia's tone was still cautious, "It is, my lord."

Elonia continued to run deft fingers through his hair. "My name's Farion. No need for the 'lord' nonsense." He sighed again, blissfully. "And oohhhh, gods, I don't think I've had this much hot water in one place in months!"

Elonia smiled, her tone warming, "Well then, Farion. How is it that you've been denied a decent bath in all this time? Or servants," she added with a hint of mischief.

Farion opened his eyes, "Mmf. I'm apprenticed to one of the Forsaken in the Undercity. They're not big on servants or baths unless it involves embalming fluid." Farion chose not to acknowledge hinted question about servants. His universe was complicated enough without "servants" or "friends" or any of the other euphemisms that were popular among the more polite Sin'Dorei.

His thoughts were interrupted by the heavy flutter of wings. A crow came flapping into one of the open windows above the tub. As it landed on the window sill, it overturned a small ceramic pot that held an ornamental plant. The pot smashed against the side of the tub, spilling dirt, shards, and the plant into the bath water.

Farion jerked in surprise, sitting up. Behind him, Elonia gasped.

"Did I hurt you, my lord?"

Farion glanced around at the still-pristine tub. Then he looked up to the window above which still housed the plant. His brow furrowed. "No... no you did nothing wrong," he replied absently. "Although I thought we had agreed you would dispense with the 'lord'."

He turned to Elonia, who looked confused. "We did?" she replied.

"Yes, you're Elonia, I'm Farion, and we aren't bothering with with titles?"

The woman shook her head, looking bewildered.

"You're not Elonia?" asked Farion.

"No, I am," replied Elonia, looking faintly incredulous. "But we've barely spoken my... Farion."

"You didn't just ask me about baths and servants?" said Farion.

Elonia paused, "No, I started to wash your hair. You leaned back and seemed to nap, so I didn't say anything."

"I'm going to---" his voice trailed off at the sound of flapping wings. As before the glossy, black bird lit on the ledge above the tub. This time however, Farion's hand shot out, saving the ceramic pot as it fell.

"Nice catch," mumbled Elonia, still baffled.

"I have to talk to Veri!" said Farion with growing excitement. He stood up, fumbling his way out of the tub, still covered in suds. Elonia scooped up a towel, trying to hand it to Farion as he headed for the door. A few moments later, the hurried slap of his wet feet returned. Farion pattered up to Elonia, handing her the plant and exchanging it for the towel which he tucked around his hips. Then he dashed back out.

Downstairs, Verilore was reading at the breakfast table, when Farion burst in. "Veri! Veri!" he said with loud excitement, "I had one!"

The elegant Sin' Dorei curled one side of the scroll down so that he could better view the sudsy, dripping elf adjacent to him. "Oh really?" he said mildly. "Should I be demanding that you share?"

A shadow of confusion crossed over Farion's features for a moment. "Huh? No... no-no-no, I had a dream that came true!"

Verilore made a small sound of disappointment, "Pft. Tedious," he replied, singsong, before allowing the scroll to pop back into place before his face.

Flustered, Farion gesticulated helplessly, "But, no, Veri! This was..." he sighed, deciding that he should go back to the beginning. "So I was in the bathtub, and the servant girl was washing my hair."

"Mm-hm... better," replied Veri, still reading. "It certainly explains your interesting ensemble."

Undeterred, Farion continued, "And I fell asleep. I dreamt that a bird knocked a bowl-thing off the window."

"Aaand, we're right back to tedious," mumbled Verilore.

"No, listen, please, Veri. A few minutes later, the bird really came and knocked it over!"

"Was it the pink one with the gnomes on it?"

Farion looked relieved that it seemed Veri was finally engaged in what he was describing. "Yes!"

"Did it break?"

"No," replied Farion. "I managed to save it."

Verilore crinkled his nose. "Pity. It's hideous, but it's mother's favorite. I don't think anything short of complete world annihilation will part her from it."

"Look, Veri, Something is happening to me and I don't understand it!"

With a look of feigned shock, Verilore curled the scroll down. "Oh gods... not puberty again?"

"Veri! Be serious! I really need some help here," begged Farion.

Finally, Verilore relented. "Fine, fine. My advice is for you to ask the Moonweavers when you go to buy your cloth. They know lots of people."

"But, don't you know lots of people?"

"I do," replied the pale-haired warlock, "however I might as well introduce you to a school of frenzies, and then let harpies have the scraps." Verilore set the scroll aside, giving Farion his full attention. "I'll tell you what. I'll reserve a table for you at The Dawnlight. It's quite good, but out-of-fashion at the moment, so it won't be full of frenzies and harpies. It's not a contact, but it's at least a pleasant and reputable spot to meet someone who doesn't think this is as ridiculous as I do."

"That's perfect, Veri, thank you," replied Farion, gratefully. "You're a prince among... princely things."

Verilore had picked up his scroll and gone back to reading. "I know," he said, preening. "Now, shoo. As interesting as your outfit is, Mother will bludgeon you to death with her little pink gnome pot if she catches you dripping on this rug."


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re: Neither Down Nor Feather

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By Liy

Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #6 on Jun 18, 2011, 8:12pm »
 

The might of Darnassus was behind her, or at least certain elements of it – some very powerful elements. Resources were no longer an issue, and Ashriel was able to make all the necessary arrangements and recruitments, save one.

No plan is flawless, and even a flawless plan might be executed imperfectly. This was not acceptable. She needed insurance, a backup. She needed someone outside herself who would ensure the job was done right, even if everything else fell apart. Unfortunately for Ashriel, she had exhausted her own personal network in making arrangements for the actual plan itself. So she turned, once again, to her benefactor.

Shandris seemed impressed by the younger elf’s prudence, particularly in light of their previous meeting. The Feathermoon General had expressed concern that Ashriel might not master her hatred of their shared enemy. Despite her annoyance at the suggestion that her self-control was imperfect, Ashriel understood that personal matters were, by their nature, more risky. They inspired feeling, rather than thinking. In taking this extra step, Ashriel guaranteed to both Shandris and herself that the mission would not fail in a moment of blind rage. The young elf also suspected that the assistance Shandris was providing would have further instructions if Ashriel demonstrated weakness of any sort. She gave a mental shrug, What will it matter? So long as he dies, what happens to me will be of little consequence. She wasn't entirely sure she believed herself, but it was enough. Shandris told Ashriel that one of her associates would be contacting her shortly. When asked how Ashriel would know this person, Shandris replied with a small, dangerous smile, “You’ll know.”

That was several days ago. Ashriel was starting to wonder if perhaps she had already seen Shandris’ contact, but missed the cue. She had wandered in the open, waited in secluded corners, combed the rooms she had taken at the inn for any messages or letters. Nothing. She had been reduced to pacing around her sitting-room in growing frustration, mind going over everything she'd seen that might have been a clue. She had almost resolved to pay Shandris another visit, when her ruminations were abruptly interrupted.

“Savandan.”

Ashriel froze into place, startled and unnerved. Her father's name was spoken softly in a deep baritone voice, almost a whisper but more like a low rumble. She reflexively prepared for combat, as though the name itself were a threat. But then she saw the speaker seated on a chair in a dark corner of the room in front of her. That she hadn’t noticed him at all until he spoke unnerved her, deeply. I secured this room myself! Consternation quickly became vexation. Ashriel disguised her shock with a haughty lift of her chin, as she examined her unexpected guest. He was Kal’Dorei, and significantly larger than most males of his kind with broad shoulders and a muscular build. Long silver hair was tied back behind his head, and his eyes stared aimlessly ahead of him, as though he were looking at nothing.

"That name died a long time ago," she replied. Ashriel folded her arms, glaring at the man. A shadow of a smirk passed across his features. Ashriel realized that if the bearer of that name had truly died, the elf before her wouldn't be here and neither would she. “Who are you?” she demanded.

He didn’t respond, but turned his head slightly so that his gaze, although still unfocused, was at least pointed in her direction. His expression, on the other hand, was clear and spoke volumes. It was condescending and incredulous, and conveyed that he would not entertain irrelevance, or questions that she already knew the answer to. This was Shandris’ contact. His name was not important. Neither was she.

Ashriel swallowed, her mouth gone suddenly dry, “Yes, well I need someone reliable, someone who can make certain the job is carried out. How do I know-“

“Shadow,” the other said laconically.

Ashriel did not immediately comprehend the significance of this solitary spoken word. In fact, she was becoming more annoyed at the lack of conversational skills demonstrated by this intruder. But then the importance of the word penetrated her mind. Shadow.

The man before her was an agent of the Cenarion Shadow. Among the Kal’Dorei the Cenarion Shadow was not quite a mythical organization. But it was very close. Everyone knew of its existence, but very few had dealings with it, and even fewer personally knew any of its associates. No one outside of the organization knew its motive or purpose, although some had mistakenly compared it to the SI-7 of Stormwind. While it frequently worked in tandem with the Darnassus government, particularly after the events of the Third War, it was nevertheless an autonomous organization, acting according to its own priorities.

And yet, while the intrigues and inner workings of the Cenarion Shadow were largely a mystery, its reputation for employing the most ruthlessly efficient assassins was common knowledge even beyond the realms of the Kal’Dorei. Ashriel considered this as she regarded this silent visitor, and said, “Are you the one who will be assisting?“

“No,” he replied flatly, and handed her a small note and a sealed, addressed envelope, “The note is your instructions. Send the envelope to our agent in Stormwind. Meet her there,” he added, pointing to a name scrawled in one corner of the envelope. And with those words, he departed.

Ashriel stood in place, not looking after the taciturn visitor as he left. She felt very uncomfortable about the entire encounter, and more than a little angry. This is my plan. My mission! Yet, he had started with the initiative, and the situation was soon out of her hands. For the first time, she felt uncertain about the entire operation. But then she reassessed the current state of things: Not only did she have the backing of high ranking Darnassus officials and more resources than she would ever need, she now had the support of the Cenarion Shadow. Before this, years of work and planning were finally lining up perfectly, and success seemed all but assured. Now, she had secured that assurance.

It almost made the idea of traveling to Stormwind bearable. Almost.
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Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #5 on Jun 12, 2011, 2:42pm »
 

Farion sat on a bench outside the inn at Brill. Although he had taken a second room to function as a workshop, he preferred the outside daylight to work on seams and other delicate needlework. So it was here that the messenger from the Bulwark found him.

The familiar Forsaken had ridden up on a skeletal horse. Not bothering to dismount, she handed an envelope to Farion. "For you," she said, curtly. "Get there when you can." Farion knew that Danelle was usually abrupt and just a little surly. Nothing in her posture or bearing suggested the matter was urgent. It had been roughly a week since Farion's meeting with his father, so it would be unusual for him to call again so soon. Farion broke the seal and read the careful script. Surprisingly, though, the note was indeed from his father, wanting another meeting at Light's Hope.

Farion nodded to Danelle, "I'll go arrange transport immediately." The Forsaken tossed a bag filled with other envelopes to him. Farion peeked inside. "Mail call?" Danelle grunted an affirmation. Farion was saving her a trip. Farion crooked a half-smile at her. "They'll be out there in a couple of hours," he said. Danelle grunted again, waving a dismissive hand at him as she turned her horse back toward the Bulwark.

The dark-haired elf chuckled, folding up his needlework. When he had first met Danelle, he had assumed, like most breathers, that she didn't like him. It was only after years of acquaintance and discussions with friendlier members of the Dawn that he had come to read her differently. On the contrary, she liked him as much as she ever liked anything. Had she not, the encounter would have gone much differently. Likely as not, she would have simply tossed the envelope at him and left. She wouldn't have spared grunts, let alone a spoken sentence, and she certainly wouldn't have entrusted Light's Hope mail call with him. Besides, it meant that he would be returning to the Bulwark to give her back the mail pouch. Farion chuckled again as he slung the mail bag over his shoulder and started the walk to the Undercity. Women.

Sometime later, Farion dismounted from the gigantic bat that had flown him from the Undercity to Light's Hope. He dropped to the ground, landing lightly on his feet. Then, he surreptitiously adjusted himself. I know why they call these 'riding pants', he thought with a grimace. Farion realized that it actually might be time to make some new ones. While he was of an age to be fully adult among the Quel'Dorei, his body was still growing and changing as might be expected of a young Kal'Dorei. His Quel'Dorei mother had stamped her features most strongly upon her children such that Farion had drawn little notice in the many years he had edged around the great Sin'Dorei Houses. It would be troublesome if he grew much more, though. He was already tall for a Quel'Dorei, he would have to start crafting spells to hide himself if he started to approach his father's stature. He had already been considering the small transformations used by nearly every noble -- fixes to a nose a little too wide, or an unsatisfactory arch to the brows -- any myriad of purely cosmetic changes to satisfy a culture of insatiable vanity. That his education in the arcane rendered such magic accessible to him made the notion all the more appealing. He would use it to maintain the more refined look expected of a Quel'Dorei, even as the nature of his body began to demonstrate the more rugged features of his Kal'Dorei parent.

He had just started to thoughtfully scratch the coarse stubble along his jaw when he saw his father standing in their customary spot, leaning against the back of the inn. Farion broke into a smile. The smile faded however as he drew closer to his father. A large, ugly bruise purpled one of Xelas's eyes, as well as a series of scratches along the cheek that looked as if he'd narrowly dodge something spiked or an animal's claw.

"What happened?" Farion breathed in hushed shock, as he moved to embrace his father.

Xelas hugged him close a moment before drawing him around the back of the inn. He seated himself beside the small firepit that the inn maintained, and gestured for Farion to do the same.

"Do you remember the dream you mentioned the last time you saw me?" asked Xelas.

Farion nodded, "Aye."

"Tell me about it."

Farion recounted the vision, which still remained clear in his mind's eye. Xelas listened without interruption, rubbing his thumb along his jaw, absently. When Farion finished, he continued staring into the fire for several seconds before speaking.

"You say I rode in on a gryphon? Matilda, yes?"

Farion answered without hesitation, "Yes. And the orc cut you from your harness."

Xelas pursed his lips. "I rode Leonard yesterday, into precisely the battle you described. However," he held up a finger to forestall Farion's interjection, "I almost flew Matilda." The Kal'Dorei hunter studied his son's face carefully. "Is this possible, boy? Have you started seeing things that may yet be?"

Farion's mouth worked silently for a moment before he shook his head, "I don't know." He shrugged, helplessly. "None of my teachers speak of such things, even in theory. I don't know if that's because they think it's ludicrous or dangerous."

"Have you had any other such dreams since?"

"Well...no," replied Farion. "Then again, I haven't been fishing since."

"If you could harness such a gift, it would be... amazing," said Xelas, with growing excitement.

Farion waved his hands in denial as he shook his head, "But, I don't know that I have any gift. One dream is just... coincidental."

Xelas bowed his head, acknowledging his son's point. "Speak to your teachers. Visit libraries. See what you can discover. Let me know if anything further develops. But as always..."

"Stay on the fringe. Stay safe," finished Farion. With a mischievous twinkle, he gestured to Xelas's battered face, "You're one to talk, old man. Try to take your own advice, hey?"

Xelas's eyebrows rose in surprise. Then his expression warmed as he drew his son into a hug. "Be careful, boy. I'll see you soon." He turned and began walking toward the flight master and stables. The tall Kal'dorei paused, glancing back over his shoulder, "Oh and see to this," he said, brushing the backs of his knuckles along his own jawline before wagging a finger at the young mage. "You're starting to look scruffy." He winked at Farion before resuming his easy gait toward the stables.

Farion watched as the stable-hands brought Leonard out and assisted his father into the riding harnesses. He was still plucking thoughtfully at his chin long after the silvery hippogriff had launched itself and his father into the sky, speeding away south, towards Stormwind.

He sighed as moved toward the flight masters, himself. He had a lot of research ahead of him. In the meantime, a decent barber might be in order.
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Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #4 on Jun 11, 2011, 11:19am »
 

The General of the Sentinel Army circled the seated elf, assessing her with a critical eye. She had an exotic beauty, shorter and more delicately drawn than most of the Kal'Dorei around her. Her waist-length silver hair, and slightly gold-hued eyes seemed common enough, though. She had clearly passed muster with The Cenarion Circle, though the growing laxness of their recruitment did not impress the General.

"You don't seem much like him," said Shandris.

The girl smiled sweetly, though her eyes remained calculating and cold. "I should hope not," she replied.

Shandris sat on the edge of her desk, trying to peel back the layers of self-control that this little creature before her had swaddled herself with. Every glimpse deeper only showed darker and darker shades of the seething hatred that drove the silver-haired elf seated in her study.

"You understand that this cannot be done in half measures?" Shandris eyed the young woman sternly. "The task that I am placing in your charge must be executed perfectly and completely, without hesitation or mercy. If suspicion falls our way, it could potentially mean war with the humans, and we cannot afford this. Feathermoon and Darnassus will disavow any complicity in this should you fail. Do you understand?"

Once again, the younger elf gave a chilly smile. "Completely."

The elder elf still felt uncomfortable. "Tell me, why do you want to kill him?"

The young woman tucked a strand of silver hair behind her ear. "He squanders his gifts and his birthright to live among inferior races. He is an oathbreaker, who has rejected his people and mocks his kin. He is a living insult to all things we represent. Why wouldn't I want to kill him?"

Shandris hardly disagreed, but she also knew the nobility of her feelings regarding the matter was tainted by a pride that did not always reflect the ideals of harmony and balance her people embraced. The raw emotion rolling off the young elf in front of her warned of a dangerous passion, and a prolonged exposure to the Fleeting Races too early in her life. Yet Shandris felt that if something were to be done, it must be done soon. The star of the man she wished to see dead was rising. He was gaining power quickly, and if she waited until the slow pondering of the Sisters and sundry Councils finally gave her leave to dispose of him, she feared she would be unable to do so.

"Still," replied Shandris, "these are matters of pride, and seldom worthy of such extreme remedy. Why should I want to kill him?" Shandris noted a flicker of annoyance pass over the lovely features of the young woman. It was clear that she believed pride was ample reason enough to kill. However, she was also clever enough to recognize that Shandris wanted assurances that the girl would be able to recruit others whose loyalty did not depend on coin. They would share the concerns of their people, and be willing to die for it. Pride alone would not win them.

The young woman paused, head cocked, almost as if listening to something distant. Then, she replied, "He is dangerous. The power of the Kal'Dorei coupled with the foolishness of the humans could be catastrophic. That he disdains us and our ways so deeply -- it is not unreasonable to fear that he will lead the humans against us one day." Then, her eyes narrowed as she gazed pointedly at Shandris. "We have only to look at what the friendship with humans earned the Quel'Dorei."

Shandris raised an eyebrow. The girl had echoed her own concerns almost verbatim. Perhaps she was even better suited for this task than Shandris had at first thought. Still, this meant she would have to be more careful to quiet her thoughts and feelings in the young woman's presence.

Shandris snorted, "It's a pity you aren't my own daughter."

The woman feigned a tragic expression, "But alas, I am all but an orphan."

Shandris gave her a slow smile.

"Well then, welcome to the family," she replied, standing. "See Adoran, my assistant. He will provide you with the means to carry out your task." She walked around her desk and seated herself, immediately immersing herself in paperwork. "No need to trouble me with the details. Just bring me word that Stormfeather is irretrievably dead." The General glanced at the girl, "Normally, I would ask for proof, but in this case... there should be none," she said, pointedly.

The girl bowed low and formally. "It will be as you command, Great-Aunt."
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Re: Neither Down nor Feather
« Reply #3 on May 29, 2011, 1:30pm »
 

Light's Hope had grown over the years since Arthas' overthrow. It had sturdy stone walls, and several buildings to house the Argent knights who kept peace in the small frontier town. Still, Farion's father preferred they meet in their usual spot around the back of the Inn. Farion had been watching the traffic coming and going from the flight masters all afternoon. Which pretty much meant he was watching the grass grow as he awaited his father's arrival. In the distance, Farion spied a white speck in the skies. He shaded his eyes and watched the flier approach. Eventually, he could make out that the huge, silvery-white beast was one of the Argent hippogriffs. He smiled. He didn't know of many who kept such a creature outside of Northrend, but his father did. Soon, both beast and rider had settled onto the ground where the handlers could take the animal away to care for it.

Farion's smile broadened into a grin at the sight of Xelas, who had dismounted from his white hippogriff, Leonard. Xelas handed the reigns over to the stabler along with some coin to ensure that Leonard's large appetite wouldn't be an undue burden to the Order.

The two elves embraced in greeting. Xelas then held Farion at arms length, examining him. "You look very well, Cousin," he said. "When I got your message, I was afraid something was amiss, so I came as quickly as I could."

Farion nodded as they began walking to their customary meeting-spot. "I wanted to assure myself you were all right after seeing you in that fight. I'm glad to see you've hardly a scratch."

Xelas smiled, looking puzzled. "Fight? What fight?"

"The one at the dwarven village. With the orcs?" prompted Farion.

Xelas's puzzlement deepened. "Cousin, I have been in no fights lately, save some skirmishes with the Twilight Hammer. Were you water-witching again?"

Farion's mouth worked silently for a moment. "I-I thought I was. I could swear it was a vision... not a dream."

Xelas gave him a sidelong glance. "Were you awake?"

Farion faltered, growing uncertain. "I... no?"

His father chuckled at him, "Well then, Cousin, I think you have your answer."

"But, no!.... It didn't feel like a dream at all!" Farion felt his face heat in embarrassment. He'd dragged his father all the way out here because of a dream? "I'm...sorry. I just wanted to know that you were well."

Xelas squeezed Farion's shoulder gently. "It's all right. Sometimes it's nice to see you when there's nothing awful happening in the world."

Farion felt his chest loosen, and smiled at his father in return. While he was still embarrassed and a little concerned that his ability to See had become unreliable, he had to agree that an evening spent just talking about fish, or flowers, or common friends would be marvelous.

"Come" said Xelas putting his arm around Farion's slim shoulders, "I think this warrants sitting at an actual table with real wine, eh?"

"Aye, Cousin," replied Farion, grinning. "That it does!"
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Neither Down nor Feather
« Thread Started on May 26, 2011, 4:24pm »
 

Farion sat in a small rowboat on Lordamere lake. He had wedged his fishing pole between one of the oars and the side of the boat in anticipation of an armada of fish, which weren't biting. The wan sunlight of Silverpine forest usually filtered through a perpetual haze that covered sky so close to the Plaguelands. Today, though, the sun bordered on bright. Its warmth, coupled with the quiet lap of water and gentle rocking of the boat had Farion drowsing. After nodding-off for the fourth time, the young mage finally gave up and settled himself into the bottom of the boat, resting his back against the gunwale. As his head lolled for the fifth time, it finally came to rest on his arm which draped over the side of the boat, fingers trailing in the glassy lake. His limp body twitched once in a fitful stutter, before finally succumbing to sleep.

He awoke some time later when his little boat bumped against the shore. He blinked into the golden, evening sun in confusion. He didn't recognize the shore at all. He sat up, looking in all directions, trying to get his bearings. He must have floated all the way across the lake! Still, it was odd and troubling that he could not see the ruins of Lordaeron in the distance, anywhere.

The wind started to pick up, and Farion glanced at the cloudless sky. Cloudless? The clear sky overhead was a dome of darkening amber and azure. He realized the light was all wrong. He ran his fingers through his dark hair, combing it from his eyes. The wind plucked at his clothes and continued to whip his hair until it flagged in a dusky banner behind him. Yet, all around him, the water and trees were completely still. It was then that the young mage recognized that he was in the landscape of a vision. Gingerly, he stepped from the boat onto the surface of the water, without a ripple. The air had taken on the more pearlescent quality he recalled from his other visions, but had a curious golden tone that he had never seen before. The land sloped sharply down to meet the water of the lake, but Farion cleared it in the effortless manner of a dreamwalker. It was then that he began to hear the sounds of battle.

A few hurried, blurring steps brought him to the edge of a small hollow. Within it, there were several low buildings and stoneworks built into the hillsides. Hulking green-skinned attackers bellowed and hewed at the small sturdy defenders. It took Farion only moments to recognize the combatants as orcs and dwarves. A large shadow passed overhead, accompanied by the beating of broad wings and the grating roar of a gryphon. The beautiful creature swept low, allowing her rider to assess the battle. Farion recognized the tall, lithe form leaning in the saddle, dark hair and sharp features, so like his own. Farion stepped forward to get a better view, and saw clearly as an orcish archer made Xelas his target. Farion desperately wanted to cry out a warning to his father, but he knew he was only a spectral observer -- a ghost -- voiceless and without substance in this state. However Xelas seemed to sense the danger and leaned away as the orc let loose his arrow. It missed the elf, but cut the harness instead, sending the Kal'Dorei tumbling some fifteen feet onto the ground below. Instantly, the orcs were upon him, but he was snatched away in a flash of golden light to where a gnome stood on a hillside, his prayers mending those near him.

Farion did not recognize the faces of those who fought alongside his father in defense of the dwarven town. But it was clear that they were not unknown to each other, and fought as a disciplined, lethal group. Yet as effective as they were, several times Farion found himself watching with clenched fists as his father became the target of two or three orcs at once. But Xelas never faced them alone for long, as his allies quickly closed to relieve the beleaguered hunter. Eventually, they drove the invading orcs further and further outside town, until at last all had fled or died.

The young mage moved closer to assure himself that his father was all right. As he did, he saw the Kal'Dorei hunter sweep the town with his golden gaze, pausing with an almost quizzical expression when he reached the point where Farion stood. A Worgen, noticing the hunter's taut posture and focused attention immediately tested the air.

"What do you see?"

Xelas continued to stare straight at Farion for several more seconds before shaking his head and looking away. "Nothing," he replied and then chuckled, "Just jumping at shadows."

"And well you should!" replied a green-eyed woman nearby, with a smirk.

As the group joined her in quiet laughter, Farion felt a sudden jolt at his back, pushing him forward a step. The scene before him blurred, contorting, and was gone in an instant.

Blinking, he sat up in the boat which had run aground. Twilight had arrived at Lake Lordamere. He stepped out of the rowboat, taking care to beach it properly. He wasn't far from where he had chosen to fish. There was a small village of murlocs nearby, but their sentries eyed Farion warily, having learned sometime back that many of the Sin'Dorei were not to be trifled with. They would likely leave the boat alone. Farion retrieved his fishing pole. As expected the line was empty of either fish or bait. With a sigh, he secured the line, and began a quick jog to the Undercity. He wanted to get out to Light's Hope Chapel and contact his father as soon as possible.
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