In Shadows: Resurrection

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A child woke her up.

Vassannah was mostly unconscious or trapped in deep sleep for six weeks, partly from teas and elixirs, partly from the fatigue of cleric Maloofs deep healing and many surgeries. The one thing she was sure of was how she eventually woke up.

A child woke her up.

She had a faint memory of Reshad whispering

(“Shadows gather … “)

something to her. She also remembered a small, fat bird,chirping, perched on her head. She had barely felt the soft touch of her sisters hand. There had been the feathery touch of leathery fingertips as well. She could remember a stench of death, barely kept back by strong, impossibly old, mogu perfume. She remembered cold fingertips against her face … Zavvie. Zavannah, gently touching and then screaming.

“Don’t you DARE TO DIE VASS! Not you! NOT YOU!!”

(Someone must have pushed the death knight out of the room.)

It wasn’t her sisters that woke her up. It was a child that stirred her into conciousness as she was lost in a stupor, half-drunk and high as a pandaren kite on elixirs, teas and various mind-altering spells.

“Hullo, miss Vee. Uh … Oh, yeah! I’m growing a beard.”

At first she thought it was a dream, like the dreams she had had about her infant years … fleeing from the Legion on some long forgotten world. But the voice was too sharp for a phantom voice. It was there The first thing she saw was Shuannas burning eyes. Then, hiding behind Shuannas shoulder, there was a very frightened but also very brave and very young pandaren. A pepe bird perched on his head. The room was filled with people – Cassanna, Cahanna, Illona, Delvar, Kadghar, the ghost of admiral Taylor, Yrel … so many people. Even Thrall was there, huddled in a cloak that made him resemble not Thrall, but Gul’Dan. She was too weak to be afraid. Then the child stepped out from behind Shuanna and, his hand trembling, gave her a leaf.

It was a green tea leaf.

“Hello.” The child said. His eyes were big and frightened but his body was tense and courageous. “Uh … I can cook tiger steak now, miss Vee! I can’t you know like kill tigers but you know that yangol … tauren … he does it for me. He showed me how to gut a tiger but I kinda barfed. Oh, and thepuppies that Dog made, uh … They like Hao Han. He pretends not to like them but I have seen him throw Mu’Shan bones that they can chase and the he laughs, you know. He says they will keep the virmen away like no problem at all, you know. We miss you, miss Vee. And …” The child glanced, a little afraid, at Zavannah. “And we miss miss Zee too. Even Hao Han does. Won’t you come home please, miss Vee?” The child looked around, then shrank back with a scared yelp as Phylarch tried to smile. “Like … we miss … uh … most of you.”

Then the child took a hurried step back and hid behind one of the pandaren mercenaries. Vassannah tried to recall her name but failed. Instead, she raised a weak hand and spoke. Her voice hoarse, no more than a croak:

“N… Noomi?” She coughed. Shuanna was quickly there, one hand around a tin cup filled with water from Gloomshadow Lake, the other still holding Vassannahs hand.

“Drink this, honey … “

Then a tiny little battle-cry came from the floor. A moment later a small, but very brave, podling jumped up on the headboard of the bed and sprinkled some kind of dust in Vassannahs hair. It was sand, just plain simple sand, nothing magical.

“Dust to dust,” Phylarch mumbled. Then he scoped up the podling in his arms and scratched its petals until the podling fell asleep as if it had been a kitten. “Young pod. Don’t know much yet. It likes you. It bled itself in the cup o’water.”

As the few drops of water gently rolled over Vassannahs tongue she coughed, then felt slightly stronger. Just a tiny fraction of the podlings energies in the water but it was enough.

“This is a strange world,” the child said. “I don’t think Hao Han would like it much. He doesn’t like new things.”

“Noomi?” Vassannah coughed. “No– … What … what are you doing here!?” She winced. “Back! My back … “She looked around, suddenly frantic. “My hammer! They’re coming! The shadow! Thye’re killing them! On the steps of Karabor, they … ” She fell silent, closed her eyes, swallowing hard, now that she could salivate again. “Am I going to die now? Guess it won’t be too bad, after all … Just ask them to make a clean cut. No torture … I … can’t … stand … pain.”

She didn’t die.

In Shadows: A star, descending

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Here they come!” A moment later she’s sprawled on the ground of the trench, panting, yet screaming: “Here they come! Here they come!

Shrapnels of memories in her mind. Another moment:

“Run! Don’t stop just run! Don’t look back! RUN!!!”

Pain.

“Mother! I want my mother!”
“I know, lass, now hold still.”
“You hurtin’ me!”
“Me savin’ yer life, lass! Hold still! n’ don’t bleed on me jacket!”

Yet, of all the million fragments siphoned through a brain reeling from pain, through all the madness within, there is a single moment in time. Frozen. A calm, old hand … gently caressing her almost naked scalp and for an instant she feels all the light of all the worlds inside her.

We will meet again, child. I have seen it … Vassie. Not all who wanders are lost.

She smiles. Chubby lips in a baby face, looking up at the brilliance on his forehead as the world burns around her. He smiles back. Salvation takes exactly three seconds.

Damnation takes a lifetime.

It’s a very distant memory. It’s so old she can’t actually remember it, it’s more of a feeling … like a faint vibration in some long forgotten hallway of her mind. Draenei learn to not remember. Should they remember they would go insane. Most repress their memories of older worlds. They focus on what is, what is to come, not what once have been. Memories remain, however, stored in the databank of a brain. Deep meditation can bring those memories back. More often they come back when the floodgates of pain opens up. Without safeguards, the memories come storming in. From the very latest to the very earliest. Infant memories, from a time so long ago not even history books can be sure if it ever happened.

Her mothers skin against her chin. The firm but yet gentle grasp of cloth rags around body, strapped to the chest of her mother. The sights and sounds and smells, the feeling of itchy skin from her belly to her knees. She’s wet herself (and something else as well, judging from the smell). Seeing is believing, so she looks up at her mothers face …

“Sssh, sssh.” A smile. “Sssh … “

Caressed as the sky burns.

It burns. A backdrop to her mothers face. Behind the paleness, with it’s piercing white eyes and horns, swept backwards. The sky is a brilliant green. Waves of pitch black smoke billow up against a moon, now turned emerald and red. Slithers of deep purple smoke, burning bright against a velvet sky, splotched with green of all the greens she has ever seen. A single star burns a brilliant white in that sky.

A star, descending.

There are sounds around her. She’s too young to fully understand the words. Instead the words are more felt, than understood.

“Run! Don’t stop just run! Don’t look back! RUN!!!”

Her mothers eyes are wide. Her mouth is nothing but a dark “oooh!” in a face so pale the veins are showing at her temples. Her breath is hot, it smells of spices still. The hair, caught in a tussle between horns, turned grey with age, is white as the snow of a mountain peak. Yet her touch is gentle, as she fondles her baby in her arms and readjust the straps around her shoulders.

Then they’re off. Every step becomes a jolt through both their bodies. Every sound becomes an echo. The hooves on white gravel. The din of something huge, stomping so hard the earth itself trembles. The sky is burning with green eyes. With flashing steel. With black and purple. With light, light so bright she feels a jolt of pain through her head.

The rushing sound of air around her head as they jump. The gurgle of water as they break into a pond. Her mothers scream, louder even than the gasping breath of air.

Vassannah is crying. It’s a mumbling, tiny little sound in all the chaos. The water is cold. She’s so afraid! Her tiny little arms are struggling to break free but the papoose is holding her tight.

“Sssh! Ssssh … “

Dripping water from strands of white hair. For some reason it makes her smile. She makes a cooing sound, then the fatigue of fear takes hold of her and she doze off. Not for long. Soon she’s awake again, but for some reason she knows and feels she mustn’t cry. Not now.

Growling monsters patrolling a burning street. Her mother hunched behind som wreck. A man crouching behind her, his hands gripping the gilded handle of a pale blue … thing. A toy, perhaps. But Big People don’t call them toys.

The world is burning. The star is coming. The male reach out with a hand, black with blood of monsters Vassannah don’t yet have a name for. It grips her mothers neck, pulling her up. Screams. Then – the sound of voices. The words, that perhaps she understands but can’t yet use herself:

“RUN!!! I’ll hold them off!”
“Maraad, no!”
“Run, fool! Run!”

The star descends.

The lament of farmhand Geist: Secrets of the frostweed

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“Tim reporting for duty, ma’am!” Oh, the snicker Thorn always gives me when she sees me … I crouch, even though I don’t usually skitter across the ground like one of the Bad Scourge. Then I make a silly salute. Somehow it always makes people laugh. Especially the Commander. She may be tough. She may be angry. She may scream for more when she’s with Cowan. But she always laughs at the jester, the geist, reporting for duty.

Thorn is my friend. I don’t have many friends, but as Thorn once said when we were sharing a bottle of wine under a tree not far from Eledor: “Call the monster when someone you love is dying”. Then she broke into tears, snorting snot through her wolf nose. Poor woman won’t ever leave her worgen self again, people say. Baros gave her a rose. It’s probably something significant. Perhaps I should give Morissa a bush or something …

You know, part of coming alive again is learning what to feel, all over again. So I wonder about this thing called love … but I’m afraid to ask about it. Come on! I’m a Scourge, redeemed perhaps but still an assortment of bodyparts reanimated with terrible magics and … you know … Why should I love? I don’t fucking know how!

Killing is easy. Love – now that’s complicated.

Truth be told I find it annoying. I shouldn’t think about Morrie as much as I do, but … you know. Maybe I shouldn’t think about it. Maybe I should do what Illona did – walk back and forth and … okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I spied on her, you know. The geist knows (I sometimes thumb my nose when I say stuff like that; it’s a grummles fault, but that was in the past).

Thorn is just one of those people this human garrison is trying to forget. It’s all fun and games, you know. No one cares about a gilnean with an eye patch as long as she, as Lantresor said, “stays in character“. Then all it takes is a bit of bad luck. To quote Vandaam, another misfit – “Violet! Then bam! That motherfucker is punched out!“.

(He said that after inhaling something from a glass bulb … Van showed me, and he learned it from ogres, so … yeah. I don’t know what he meant with “far out“, because I was keeping close to the ground, but I guess it’s a draenei thing. It made my thumbs tingle.)

I like Vandaam. He’s a bit rough around the edges and he slurs his words but that’s because another gladiator cracked his skull once. Vans vocabulary makes Exarch Yrel cringe, true, but at least he’s honest (Van is the only one who beat Maraad in arm wrestling; not bad for someone who was once sorting books and inks). Did you know that Vandaam was a librarian once? Oh yes, he were! He never left Talador, or so he says. Then some ogre came along and all of a sudden the skinny bookworm was turned into a gladiator. He also forgot most of his words. Many concussions, handle it.

Vandaams claws, guys. Those babies takes paper cuts to a whole new level.

Leorahj said so. I never doubt a cat (which is why Barbar likes to sleep in my lap, I’ll tell you about that later). Leo is another misfit, of course. So is Goldmane (they don’t like each other; something about the smell of another male and something about clans, territory and, I think, Lunarfall Inns fish menu).

I’m rambling. I’m sorry. Being a heist … I mean a geist, high … oh my, I think I have to giggle.

Right then! Now I’m back! Oh man, it’s hard work – especially when you try your hardest to be one of the “living”. Breathers, as guard Morissa calls the living. She said, she did, “Tim, there’s three kinds of women here: The bitches, the sluts and the breathers“. Then she lit up a bowl of frostweed (it’s legal on Draenor!) and sort of faded out.

I think Van taught her too. For some reason he like people that’s already dead.

Frostweed is pretty strange. Even my brain lights up from it. Then the world turns blue. And green. And, you know, black. Because I like black. Even though it sometimes looks more like, orange.

But Phylarch, another misfit, calls it was it is: “This is what you get from prime compost, my dear dead friend. Compost, like the bodies you bring me. Ray D Tear was especially pungent..” then Poodles jumped onto my shoulder and wanted salted elekk. Again. For someone that tiny the pet podling sure is hungry! Phylarch showed me where’s the bluest of the blue frostweed grows. Tell you the truth – he grows it himself behind the lumber mill. He’s weird, I know, but his frostweed kicks ass (Vassie told me so, that’s why I got curious and that’s … uh … yeah.)

I don’t think anyone has ever done any research on what weed actually does to a brain that, for all intent and purposes, is dead. Supposed to be dead. Undead, at least. Or … unalive. Not quite dead, not quite living. Just like Master. Just like me.

Just like Morissa.

So here we are. What Thorn said. “Call the monster when someone you love is dying”. Master, my Zavannah, who gave me Morissa … sort of … this thing orange black in my head is making scourge thinking hard … I …

Ah!

I know what will perk the shadow bitch up. Priest, I mean priest!

Frostweed.

– – – – – –
(Master won’t ever let me forget what happened … when she found me and Lantresor. I think it’s called baked. I’m not sure. Lants is a warrior, not a baker. She did say, she did, and Lant giggled, like a girl … she did say:
“Tim? What are you doing? What’s that cat doing on your head?”
“’cause ‘f y’all got a fucking bird on ya ‘ead I can have a cat! It’s my. Right! Aight!?”
“Sober up, you monster. There’s orcs to kill.”

She paused, then sat own beside me. Then she said, flipping her hand in a “gimme”-sign:

“And give me some of that.”)

In Shadows: Fever

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There’s a voice in her head. Actually, there’s two voices. She knows the names of both voices yet they’re displaced. A third voice, never louder than a whisper, keeps to the background.

They are talking about her injuries. She hears her sisters voice, the one who drove Akama off down there in Zangarmarsh, with a sword to his lower back and the growled “Try and turn around, Broken and I’ll run you through. Touch her again and you will Die!“.

Vassannah stirs, ever so slightly. She’s running a fever. Her brain is ablaze with memories and pain. Someone, she suspects it’s Fiona, has given her a tea. It put her to sleep, yet she stirs. Moaning. Mumbling. Squeaking, like the stuffed elekk she made herself one night, lost in memories as she returned to a world that once shattered.

She suspects the timelines are messing with her mind. What once were and what now is – all of it becomes as one in this strange new world. This world that Shuanna, her sister, calls home. Vassannah remembers a picknick, on the foothills of Lunarfall. From far behind them the sound of hammers against wood and stone, the voices of men and dwarves. In front of them the vistas of Shadowmoon. That’s when Shuanna said “We’re home, you know. Someone moved the sofa, but for all intent and purposes this Draenor is our home. The one we left.”

Vassannah smiled. As she smiles right now, tossing and turning in a bed, her belly full of Fionas calming tea. She said:
“This isn’t home, Shu. Home is nevermore.”

Shuanna is easily angered. They quarreled, the picknick was a failure. Vassannah plucked a sliver of pickled Nagrand cherry and then headed off, down towards Embari. There’s no shortage of eager men and women down there, curious about the taste, the smell, the feel of someone from “away”.

Embari is a small town. Being from “away” sets minds ablaze. Mostly with lust. Sometimes with hate.

She also hears another voice. In this room … as Fionas tea makes her spinning thoughts slow down, as the darkness of sleep slowly wash over her.

It’s the voice of the slave they rescued in Tanaan.

The slave, elevated to the status of Exarch. The slave, the same name as someone in Karabor before the orcs came … on the old world. The slave, who then was a chubby little stumbling fucktard everyone made fun of. The slave, who was the constant source of jest and laughter once the populars, and Vassannah was one of them, Found her. Poor stupid Yrel from Embari, a farmers daughter who knew nothing of the Light. Oh how they toyed with her! Poking and prodding and hiding her notes. Giggling and whispering and pulling her hair. Kid stuff.

It’s confusing. As if two worlds have collided. Different times. A faint echo of one time, pounding like a heartbeat inside her head. Another time, as a veil of memories she had hoped to forget, shrouded across time … through time … like fine lines of sand through a glass brightly lit of the past. The present. The other time. What happened to the stones she collected for the dragon prince?

He gave her wings.

The other time. The one that Vassannah, the one she once were, on another world. The one Vassannah that once locked a not particularly good aspirant named Yrel in a pantry because it was fun. When Vassannah was a popular girl. When she dreamt of Akama. When he was a fever not even her fingers could put out. The more she rubbed, the louder she screamed. Until fatigue made her fall asleep, naked, sticky, sweaty. Doodles of her and him in notebook after notebook. Sex is the ancient magic of all – but she’s not a mage.

She’s just cruel. As she once were. The pantry – a haunting shadow in her mind. Cruelty, perhaps something every draenei carries with her, deep within.

She remembers now, as Fionas tea slowly takes hold of her troubled, broken body. She remembers Yrels screams, ringing in her ears as the panic broke free in that locked, dark pantry. The shrieking words of “Let me ooouuut! Let me ooouuut!“.

Cruelty.

Times change. Isn’t that what they say? Timeways colliding. She was shopping spices for a lovers meal one day, down in Embari. Just a few weeks after the wooden pallisade had finally been replaced with the garrisons stone walls as they are now. She passed by a giggling bunch of acolytes, out from school. Fingers stroking fine hexweave velvet, sumptous fur dresses. Someone in the giggling group calling out “Hey Vass wait! What do you think of this dress!?“.

Vassannah stopped and almost said “the color don’t suit you“. But the faces of those girls in front of her were not the faces of the living.

This were the faces of the dead.

She turned hur head then, there in Embari. She saw a young woman dash away towards a jewelry stand, yelling “Who cares!? Oh Liight! They got Blackstone necklaces!“. She watched her younger self run up to the jeweler and start to haggle. The jeweler was adamant and she couldn’t … but she could. So she went up to him, placed a pouch of Azeroth gold in his outstretched hand and said “It’s on me. Gold is gold, right?“.

“Thank you!” she said. “Oh I love this stone!”
“I know you do,” she said, then had to turn away to hide her own tears.

Another time. She stands in shadow, naked, she had to flee fast and didn’t have time to dress. She had been dreaming of Akama, her fingers trailing across her body, making her gasp as the fingertips tickled the hairs and then sank in deep. Two fingers, no more than that, slightly spread, the thumb of her other hand gently massaging what she called her button. Then, the explosions. Then, the screams. Then, she had to flee – hide in shadow.

She saw her friends paraded out of the dorm. she saw them lined up on the stairs in front of the temple. Dead bodies everywhere. The pools of blood spreading like water across the once white flagstones. She saw them stripped naked. She saw the orcs cut their hair with knives. She saw their bloodied scalps, saw do whatever they had to do just to survive. For just a few more minutes.

Then they bowed. Then the axes came. Then, just as an orc saw her in the shadows, one of her friends called “Run, fool! Run!”. So she did – she ran, faster than she had ever run before. She ran from Karabor to Talador, pausing only for breath at what people now call Gul’Var. That’s where Maraad found her. He sister was with him, she was so young … so young.

Times change.

Voices.

“The healers feared she was too badly injured,” Yrel said. Her voice low, like how you speak to someone in front of a very sick, sleeping person. Oblivious of the fact that the patient might actually hear, voicing own concerns and fears. “Her spine, they said it snapped like a twig. When she landed, she … ”

“You have good healers,” her sisters voice, Shuannas voice. Tired, the constant haggard tone no matter how she felt – happy, angry, tired, full of food and complacent, horny (there was a “thing” between her and Cowan, a miner). Always that haggard tone of someone who had lost … something. “In the light, we prevail. No?”

“Shu … ” Vassannahs whisper, but she’s too tired to continue. She want to tell her sister she’s sorry, but she’s too tired. Then there’s the other voice. The taunting voice.

(“That one is unworthy of your group!”)

Then there’s a fourth voice. Interrupting. Through the haze of Fionas tea and the lingering effects of deep healing, she hears a slight commotion. It’s confusing.

A door breaks open. Someone, a male voice, shouts “You can’t go in there!”. Another sound – a … squawk!? Then the sound of chairs moving, as if someone stands up fast. In fact, when she hears Shuanna call out “Percy!” she can hear the anger, the suprise.

Then there’s silence. Almost silence. Whispers … too silent to be heard through her foggy ears. She rather feels than hear or see the rustle of cloth against feathers. The quick smack of a beak, as if a bird had made a “tut tut!” sound. The gentle, yet rough, caress of … talons. Wrinkled skin on old fingertips. Long nails. Like when Akama came to her, before the Exodar took off. But it’s not a Broken. It’s just … a broken.

“Reshad! What are you doing!?” Shuannas voice, upset and with that terrifying haggard tone, more sharp now. Vassannah knows that whenever that tone is in her sisters voice she’ll slap her. There has been so many slaps, so many admonished comments, like “This is a Military Compound, Vass! This is not a playground for you to fuck around in! Show some respect to the colors!”.

She’s a tough motherfucker, the commander. Too tough.

“I can help.” the voice says. The rustle of feathers. “Percy! Stop perching on her head! Your not a pepe bird!”

A drilling chirp, someone have brought a kaliri!

“Get out!” Shuannas voice.

“No … ” Then there is a pause. then those rough fingertips with birdlike nails gently stroke Vassannahs temples. She can feel it, she stirs, as if uncomfortable – but she feels at ease. It’s a soothing, gentle, kind touch. The kind of touching someone makes when they’re almost in love.

“Shu … ” she whispers. “help. The shadow …”

Reshads touch is light as a feather as he leans forth and very gently whispers in her ear:

“Shadows gather … “

Speedy’s Corner, part 6

That’s when Naz found the courage to speak. He straightened up, put his fists against his hips and said:
“Now look here!” Then he scoffed. “Right that does it! I’m calling the cops!”

“Do as you please,” Zavannah said. She held her hand outstretched for a few moments but then she scoffed – a lot better than Naz by the way – and turned her horse around. “Fine. Do what you want then, idiot!”
“No need for name calling,” Naz said as he whipped out his arcpad and hit 1-1-9. “I don’t even know … I mean, like – who ARE you!?”

Zavannah didn’t reply. She just tugged the reins of her scary horse and set off up the street in a stride so fast that she left behind a trail of glowing shrapnel from stone and concrete. Naz followed her with his eyes until a voice in his ear said:
“One one nine, how can I help you?”

“Uh … Nothing. Forget about it.” He hung up, slapped the pad shut and stuffed it in his pocket. Right at that moment the caravan of undead bikers passed him by on the street. Cars scattered as the bikers rolled up the street, police vans slowly following in their wake.

Then.

Over the din of rumbling ancient hogs and tricycles, another thunderous sound rolled down from the north. A dustcloud of exhaust fumes and road debris built into a stormfront of yellowish smoke, rolling down the lane as if it was a living thing, like one of the Ashenvale oozes he had seen on the FaVi. Out of the dust and smoke, as if pushed through a roaring veil of powerful engines, trucks appeared. First one … then two … then more, and more. Dusty steel. Smoke-stained chrome. Trucks, flatbeds, covered, tankers. Red, black. Some had skulls and horns mounted to their hoods. Others had naked orcs or unicorns painted on their sides. Some wore the ancient – and not particularly politically correct – Horde symbol on their doors. Others had strange name tags spray painted across the side of their hood; Vindicator Rexxar Krewe, the Exarch Brownies, Uthers Orcs, Mulgore Truckers, Thrall’s Ballin’ n’ Rollin’ Trucking Gang. Horns blaring, a rythmic “mooo-moooo-mooaaaah!”. At least a dozen heavy duty trucks lumbered down the hill towards the bridge. They drove slow, as if they wanted everyone to notice they were coming. The very ground shook as they advanced.

The front vehicle, a black- and red truck with a giant dragon skull painted on the side and the message DEATHWINGS BEHIND Y’ALL! on the hood, passed by roughly where Naz was standing. then it stopped. It took some time for it to come to a halt. It was a big truck. Gears grinding, breaks screaming. A giant black cloud of smoke shot out from the eight exhaust vents. Behind it, all the other trucks came to a halt, fender to fender. Gears grinding, engines idling with a sound of predators of steel and saronite, growling. Waiting …

The dust settled. Naz took a scared step back. Through the hazy air he saw bikers stop and get off their hogs. He saw the cops scurry out of their vehicles, hiding behind wide open doors, weapons drawn. He saw people on the street stop and stare. Some ducked for cover but most appeared not to understand what was going down … not even Naz could figure it out. So he just stood there, as a prime target for whatever was going down.

The passenger door to the point vehicle of the truckers caravan opened up. The air cleared up, but slow, the dust settling like snow on cars and trade carts. He saw an orc emerge from the truck. The truck driver, a rather old woman with white hair poking out from under an oilstained cap, raised her hands. She was heavyset, at a first glance fat. At a second glance she had the kind of body you just knew could lift a tractor tire without hardly breaking a sweat. Then she spoke, her voice hoarse from years of shouting and smoking:

“I come in peace, lordaeronians! We wish no war today! Mista paliicemon! Put doo-oown ya wepa’s! I jus’ … ” She lowered her hands, slowly pulling off her cap in the motion and shook her long, white hair free. It was braided, many braids, adorned with tiny beads of colorful glass and skulls carved from ancient bone. “I jus’ wanna see ma son.”

“Mom!?” Naz swallowed hard. Then he stumbled backwards until he leaned against the iron fence around the schoolyard, slowly shaking his head in disbelief. “What … I … wh’yadoin’ere!?”

“Ya call me,” his mother said, glancing at him for a few seconds before her old, brown eyes returned to first the bikers, then the cops. She called out: “No war today, lordies!”

A scraggy biker stood up from behind the rusted bike she had been crouching behind. She couldn’t straighten up completely, her skin too tight. Still, though her body was emaciated, she moved with a certain pride as she stepped out into the street, raising her hands. Chains dangled aroundher waist. She wore a sawn off shotgun in a holster on her hip and two rifles crossed on her back. Leather, denim and pieces of metal dressed her, from head to toe. She wore heavy boots on skinny legs, clad in rough leather pants, torn and worn so that her joints of elbows and knees poked through the leather. Her knees were nothing more but raw skeletal joints, fused together by blackened ligaments. It was a very old undead. Very old. Her voice was no more than a croaking as she called out:

“Dark lady watch over you all! Lordaeronians! Mount up!”

“Oh no ye won’t!” a cop called out. At first no one saw who he was. Then the dwarf, wearing a dark blue uniform with a gilded cap perched on a mass of red hair, stepped out from behind a vehicle. His beard was braided into a single rope, tucked in between the third and fourth button of his jacket. He hoisted his considerable belly up with a short yank at his leather belt, heavy with pockets and pouches and gun holsters. Then he took a deep breath and let it fly through his walruss moustache. He started to move, walking closer to the scene. Sfter a few steps, he stopped and shot quick glances and the scene. Surveying, no doubt. “Well now … I figure on of yer owns us all an explanation. Ma’am.” He nodded at the orc, turned his gaze at the scrawny undead and nodded again. “And ma’am.”

“Dey be summon’d,” the orc said. “Like me be, offica’.”
“Turning and turning in a widening gyre … ” the undead said. She chuckled. “the falcon cries to the falconeer … ”
“Names, please,” the police dwarf said. He made a slow gesture with one hand, halfway raised. A lowering gesture. Behind the dozen or so police cars, the Stormwind officers slowly lowered their guns. A few of them straightened up from behind their covers. Some stepped out into the street.

It was a completely surreal moment.

As Naz looked around he saw the same confusion he felt. Just what in all the fel fires of the nether was happening!? Why had his mother showed up – now of all times!? And the bikers!? He supposed this would be a great moment to faint, but try as he might he couldn’t. Instead he raked out a fellie from the pack and lit it. His hands were shaking.

Then …

In shadows: Fragments

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Kaahen was stacking boxes when he for a second looked up, nothing unusual about it, just the way you sometimes take a quick look around. Eyes usually trail off against something high, perhaps to see what position the sun or the moon is in. Perhaps to bless your mind with a short thought of ‘We came from there once’. It’s just the way some people act. Then …

He didn’t take his eyes off her. Not even as he moved away from the heavy boxes, whiping sweat from his brow with a small, blue hankerchief. Not even as he said “Yo, Pea, check her out!”.

“What?” Peelah said, slightly irritated. They were behind schedule. The clean-up of the Karabor harbor was taking a lot longer than anyone had anticipated. Moving boxes of broken dark armors and weapons dropped by the orcs was just one of the chores. The piles of junk metal scattered around the harbor was slowly shrinking but it would take at least another week to finish up the clean-up completely. No one on the cleaning detail enjoyed their work; rotting blood and pieces of meat had fused to broken metal. The stench of death from those salvaged armors made them sick. “Quit it, you lazy elekk. Get a move on!”

“What’s she doin’ up there, girl?” Kaahen took a few steps forward, not taking his eyes off the woman high up on the parapet. She was standing on the very edge of it, slightly rocking back and forth with her upper body, arms limp down her sides. He shot Peelah a quick glance with the words “That one.”

Peelah looked up, still holding a heavy box of damaged guns in her hands. Then she dropped the box with a short, terrified gasp. It slammed into the pavement with a dull clang.

“It’s one of ’em from Tanaan!” she said, stepping forth but stopping after three steps, one hand raised to shade her eyes from the glare of the defense crystals up on the parapet. They were hidden from her view from this angle but the shine was still creating a mock sunset against the blackened shadow of the parapet. “Damn it, I know her!”

“You sure?”

“Never seen anyone prance around in clothes like those. It’s like underwear. They call it mageweave, the outsiders I mean.”

“What’s she doin’ up there?” Kaahen said. His eyes returned to the parapet, the woman was almost nothing but a shade of black against the purple glare of the crystals.

“Oh no … ” Peelah made a short, squeaking sound. “Oh no!”

Then they saw the woman up there take a single step forward. Mid air she crouched a little, flailing with her arms. They heard her scream. It was a short scream.

She slammed into the stairs leading down to the harbor with a dull thud.

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****

“We had healers close by,” Yrel said. “Work detail healers. A lot of sharp weapons and metal left behind, you know. The workers are careful but accidents happen. If not for them she would surely have perished. No one can understand why she did it. She is, after all, a hero.”

“So am I … ” Shuanna sighed. She took Vassannahs limp hand in hers and squeezed, ever so gently. “Yet not a single day go by, Exarch …Without the thought to end it all. A single step. That’s all it takes.”

“You mean … She didn’t, she … ” Yrel turned her worried gaze at Vassannah, sighing. “She didn’t fall.”

“She jumped,” Shuanna said. Her tone was too rough, too hard. It didn’t convey what she actually felt but she didn’t want to break, not now.

“But – why?”

“I don’t know … Did she leave something? A note? Anything?”

“No.”

****

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She’s lost in a sea of rage. Shadows gather. Tendrils of smoke ripping her skin open. She’s screaming. Brilliant light fuse her wounds. A storm of flowing water splash around her as shamanistic magics conjure forth what is needed. Someone is screaming “Adds! Adds! KILL THE FUCKING ADDS!!!”. A claw rips the head off a dwarf just a few steps away from her. She can hear it; ripping skin and flesh and muscles, it sounds like paper torn to shreds. There’s no scream, just a short cry sounding like “glub!”. Then the dull sound of already dead meat dressed in iron, hitting the floor.

Writhing shadowy tendrils of black, grey and white smoke. Forming into abominations of living shadow. Living anger. Even the windswept yellow grass turns grey. Someone is roaring at the top of his lungs and flails against the forming shadows with massive axes, one in each hand although the weapons are supposed to be swung with two hands. Someone shrieks but then she realize it’s not a shriek, it’s the staccato sound of missiles. Brilliant blue light whips through the air inches above her head. She seees the arcane missiles slam into the hulking form of darkness, exploding. Pieces of darkness torn from the living death in front of them.

A hozen, mad with rage, leaps from the corner of her eyes, slamming into her body, toppling her. Then someone lean forth and traps his neck in a whip – a succubus, giggling. The hozen becomes mesmerized. She sees his penis grow hard in an instant. Then pustules forms on his skin, all over, from head to toes. He stumbles away, screaming, vomiting, dying from a horrible, painful plague.

She scrambles to her hooves but she can’t turn around. Frozen in place. If she turns around she will see it – she don’t want to see it. All around her hozens, emanitions of rage, shadows living – all around her. Death. Bodyparts. Screams. One by one of the mercenary outfit succumbs. Slautghtered. Tortured. Incinerated. Rage.

Living rage all around.

She sees a nightelf woman being dragged away by tendrils of smoke. A swarm of maddened hozen leap onto her body, ripping her limb from limb. Skewering her on a polearm, from the pussy to chin.

Mad shrieks of absolute insanity.

She sees a hozen paint his face with blood. Human blood. Licking his fingers, pieces of a once proud paladin still hanging from the monsters claws.

Rage, everyone consumed with Rage.

Rage. White hot anger, out of control. Burning every coherent thought to a crisp. Like a steak forgotten on some skillet.

“Yes! YES!!! You rage sustains me!”

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Then she’s alone. For a few moments she just stands there. She’s crouching down, but she won’t bow down. Too proud. Won’t bow, don’t know how. Not even in front of the Prophet – Never Ever Bow To Anyone. Show your neck and it will be severed. She saw what happened when the orcs assaulted Karabor. She saw the slaughter. She saw what happens if you bow. Never. Ever.

NEVER AGAIN.

The shadow looming behind her … before a brilliant light fills the world and she hears herself shriek. An out of place rallying cry.

“FOR KARABOR!!!”.

Somehow the survivors picked up their failing courage … Then later, the Shado Pan found them, days after the battle, stumbling like broken beggars across a windswept plain.

Most of them were probably mad.

Not even the Yangol dared to attack them. Eyes still burning with the deep, deep terror of having faced your primal rage – and survived. She was close to death.

They all were.

She had never been that close to death, not once.

Until now.

In shadows – how it began

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Sometimes when I’m frantically trying to meet deadlines, my brain decides to … go wild (I don’t handle stress that well these days, not since a complete burn-out some ten years ago). So, instead of sleeping I’ve been preocupied these last couple of sleepless nights with an incessant whisper in my mind. A muse found me. She also found me in a not particular good mood, since I really don’t have time for head canon stories about my characters. But there you have it. I did tell my muse a rather strong “Do you fucking mind!?” – but she didn’t. I think my muse is sort of one of those cute anime girls who would … never mind.

I’m going off on a long adventure here. The basis is my shadow priest, Vassannah. As most characters these days she’s woefully forgotten and spends most of her time managing total noobs with an iLvl way above her own. Followers, that is. Imagine that, huh? The heroes of Azeroth are nothing more than project managers these days.

Still, I have to give her something, so I gave her Illona. I don’t know how many parts there will be. Probably a few. But the idea is simply too good not to put down on “paper”.

Her backstory came back with a vengeance one day, when Akama sent her a letter. I imagine she opened it with trembling hands and a breath stuck in her throat because now her “teen” love would … but, alas, he thanked her for killing some orcs. Bastard.

No. This is not a shipping story. There is, however, sex and curse words involved. Be warned if you don’t like that kind of thing.

Big Sis, Shuanna, has her demons – from Icecrown. Adopted Sis, Sharenne, has her demons – from Darkshire. Vassannah has her demons – from Pandaria.

This is what happens when a shadow priest can’t escape the grasp of the Sha and becomes lost …

In shadows.