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Author: Aerdrienya
Story Index: Index


Aerdri looked down upon the Tauren village from a branch high above. These were the Grimtotem. A rogue tribe that held no allegiances with either the horde or her allies. She surveyed the scene with chaotic flickering eyes. She took in what she saw but her current thoughts were preoccupied with the events earlier in the evening.


* * *


She had wanted very badly to enjoy the grand gathering of the Moonlight Gala. She even spent a good deal of time tracking down what she thought to be the perfect dress, she hoped it would be something no one else had and when she finally put it on she even felt pretty. The scars on her right arm were mostly gone now, she spent a good deal of time tending to them and knew that they'd only be noticed now if she brought attention to them. She had grand dreams of laughing and dancing. She thought of Syl, of her smile and she longed for those days gone by to be real again. She just wanted to be embraced without the feelings or the memories of everything that had gone wrong. But as the evening unfolded she began to wish she had never gone.


It all began well enough, although she could still feel much tension between herself and Syl. From that point on everything went quickly downhill. She watched with envious eyes as Syl laughed and joked with Cynnara. Humilitie seemed very uncomfortable with the crowd and remained in catform, away from the others for most of the time. Therundal's thoughts seemed to be elsewhere as well. When she had approached him he attempted to hide his feelings saying that he was just relaxing for a bit. After a moment he wandered off into the heart of the party. She could almost see the heavy weight he carried on his shoulders.


That however was not the worst of it. Already riding high on feelings of worry, jealousy and loneliness Aerdri was hardly prepared for what had happened next. She made her way slowly towards the others wanting to keep her distance but at the same time she wanted to be able to see all of them.


Through the thick arcane haze that leaked from every mage, warlock and questionable priest Aerdri was suddenly overcome with a sudden surge of fear and anger that nearly made he sick to her stomach. A dark shadow of heart stopping ice slid imperceptivly into the crowd. Passing unseen and unfelt it seemed to billow into an ominous cloud and then it came to a halt just off to her side.


Swallowing deeply Aerdri reached down into the thoughts of the earth below her, readying herself to call upon it in a moments notice. When she finally worked up the courage she slowly turned her head. What she saw nearly caused her to scream out loud. The darkness be clinging to a mere kaldorei. Its tendrils lashing out snatching the very light of life from the air. His shining silvery hair was tied back into a tight tail and seemed to almost glow. The contrast against the blanket of shadow looming over him was so surreal that it seemed to mock its own existence. When she was finally able to focus again on the moment she realized that this tuxedo clad elf was now face to face with Syl.


She greeted him with familiar eyes and spoke at once. "Shan'Do!", she shouted.


To which he replied with a slight bow of his head, "Dorei."


Aerdri's fists clenched together tightly. Her nails bit deeply into the soft flesh of her palms. What madness was this? Her thoughts screamed into the caverns of her mind. She looked around wondering if anyone, anyone at all, could see or feel what now stood amongst them. No one did.


How had he, THIS, gone unnoticed!? Even the wisps and the ancients that supposedly protected them blindly wandered past him as if he wasn't even there. Was Teldrassil so infected with this taint already that it would allow something this horrific to exist within it? Did Syl even know what he was? If she did it could only mean that she too was now as corrupt as he was, but Aerdri could no longer sense the same darkness that that had once been eating away at Syl. Only a slight violet haze lingered around one of her hands now. Surely it wasn't enough to make Syl a slave to the shadows, was it?


Aerdri ground her teeth together in rage. She strained against a nearly overwhelming urge to call down the light of Elune to blast this monstrosity back into the nether.


She didn't care what the reaction of the others would be. She didn't care if she was cast out. She didn't even care if she was struck down in retaliation. She only thought about how Syl would react. Would she lash out at Aerdri in fury for having struck her "mentor"? If she lived would Syl ever even forgive her? Would she even believe her if she explained to Syl what he actually was?


Someone spoke up, "Syl? Who is that?". It was Karnean. She stared the man up and down, her battled hardened eyes taking in all that he was. Finally Aerdri sensed that someone else actually saw that something was very wrong with him. Years of war defending her homeland gave her a sight that seemed to be able to judge a friend from a foe. Aerdri knew that Karn couldn't see the real threat here but at least she no longer felt as alone.


As the night wore on the man that Syl called Storn finally took his leave. Aerdri attempted to follow him but once he had ducked behind a corner she lost track of him... as if he just vanished. Cursing aloud she punched the wooden wall of the closest building and ran back to the Gala. Cynnara was gone, where she went Aerdri never even bothered to ask. Karn and Syl argued with each other about these recent events until Syl finally agreed to speak with them about what was going on.


The five of them made their way to an inn where they could speak together in private as a group. Aerdri thought that finally matters long avoided would come into the light. However all hope for this was quickly destroyed as the energy between Syl and Karn radiated between them like two enemies caught up in the heat of battle. Aerdri herself even made a number of unnecessary remarks that she regretted later. Ther and Tee sat mostly in silence off to the side seeming both confused and uncomfortable as the level of friction in the air decayed even further into petty insults. It all ended with both Karnean and Sylardre exiting the inn and charging out into the drunken city in opposite directions.


* * *


The scene faded to the back of Aerdri's mind and was replaced with enraged animal shrieks that she had heard before. She lept from her branch out onto one that would get her a better few of what was going on far below. Events seemed to replay themselves as Aerdri reached out into the foliage to push it aside.


The tauren were now gathered in a small group. Three of them struggled with a net filled with at least a half a dozen creatures that Aerdri remembered all too well. They were darter sprites and they were not happy. The net looked as if it was originally crafted to capture creatures much larger than the darters, probably something the tauren used when hunting or in battle against other humanoids that mistakenly wandered into their territory. A few other tauren grappled the wings and necks of some of the helpless creatures that had managed to wriggle free. Instead of taking the chance to flee into the air they had remained to fight off the tauren, standing with their kin, for them it was all or nothing, it proved to be a futile attempt. The tauren all laughed. Without care, they stuffed the poor things back into the net and made their way toward their camp.


Just beyond, Aerdri could see a large wooden cage filled with many more darters. Some of them flapped about wildly. Others gripped the bars, gnawing pathetically at them with their toothless mouths. The rest were either too weak or injured to even join in the struggle.


Outside, a pile of wingless corpses seemed to seemed to stare into Aerdri and begged for redemption. Her molten eyes flickered again, she could feel that rage surging up within her again, it became tears that crept down her alabaster cheeks. Then as one single tear trickled from her chin, the heavens suddenly opened as if nature itself was crying with her.


Before she could even react the scene below once again erupted into violence. A tiny darter sprite, much smaller than the others, burst from some nearby bushes below. A few green leaves trailed after it before the rain pelted them into the ground. The little darter screamed in a high pitched wail as it sped towards the tauren. It's tiny rainbow wings... beating so quickly they were just a blur.


One of the bullmen noticed the cries of the little one, beneath the steady rumble of the downpour nudged his nearest companion, and nodded towards it. Both of them chuckled which gathered the attention of the rest of the band. The first tauren looked to another who appeared to lead them and asked something in their deep language. The leader shook his head in the negatory which caused the first two to smile wider.


As the tiny thing drew within range the tauren swung his long stick catching the sprite squarely and sent it spiraling through the air before it crashed to the ground.


... crashed to the ground.


... crashed to the ground.

...


The rage tore through Aerdri as it carried her along the branch with a grace that would have put the nimblest rogue to shame. Her soft leather bound feet gripped the ancient skin of the tree unhampered by it's now rain slick surface. When she reached the tip the fury in her shot down into her legs and propelled her out into the air above the clearing.


Time seemed to slow.


Each droplet that was cascading to the earth almost hung still as she tore through them. The moonlight welcomed her.


Aerdri struck the ground with such force that a ring of fallen leaves blew out from beneath her. Her velocity forcing her down into a crouch where she remained for what almost seemed an eternity. No pain, no more tears, just a clarity she had never felt before.


She raised her head slowly to meet the faces of the stunned tauren and muttered a single phrase.

"Ana'doreini talah..."


Time resumed it's course and Aerdri unleashed. She swung her stave in a low wide arc that somehow managed to knock two of the massive tauren to the ground. Before the others could even react she thrust her hands upward into the air. The water soaked soil blew into the air beneath the feet of the next closest three. Roots from the surrounding trees answered her silent cry without hesitation and wrapped themselves about their legs. Their bellows were quickly silenced as three simultaneous rods of blazing moonfire burnt away most of their shaggy hair. The pain, so immediate, it rendered them unconscious before they had even realized what occurred.


The original two were now struggling to their knees but went down again as Aerdri charged between them, her stave striking both of them flat in the face. Not hindered in the slightest she almost flew along the ground picking up more speed and barreled herself into the last tauren... the "leader".


The force knocked him back, sending him reeling into the forest floor and Aerdri followed. With one hand she grabbed the long greasy braids that dangled from his chin and yanked hard. At the same time she flicked her stave aside and brought the flat of her palm down into his snout.


Then time slowed again and she saw the fear in his eyes.

Kill him! You saw what they did! You know you want to. If you don't, they'll hunt you down!

Shut up! What do you know?! You caused these creatures just as much pain in the past as these... these beasts have! Probably more!


If you let him live, if you let ANY of them live they'll tell others and when they catch you they'll rip your arms free just like the wings of those things!

Aerdri's eyes shot in the direction of the cage.


Yes, just like them. Is that what you want?! To die? Go on! Kill him and be done with it!

Her eyes flickered back to the tauren beneath her. He sensed her moment of hesitation and some of the fear had subsided. He was already calculating what to do in order to save himself.


Do it! Do it now before it's too late!

Aerdri raised her hand high into the air readying another blow. She exactly where and how hard to strike next. It would be the final blow.

DO IT!

She suddenly tensed and screamed into the rain, "Nooooo!"


Her hand slammed down again into the taurens face but not in the place she knew would kill him. He went limp but at least he had a chance to live. Without hesitating anymore she lept from his chest and threw all of her weigh into the cage. The wood cracked but held so she repeated her assault. This time the cage splintered and Aerdri ripped at it in desperation. One of the sides fell away taking her to the ground. The darters within responded immediately, swarming through the opening out into the trees beyond.


Crawling now, she checked on the other few that remained motionless and realized that her fear that these ones were already dead turned out to be true. Her moment of grief was short lived as a shout from behind her, that was much too close, brought her quickly back to her feet. Whirling about she came face to face with one of the first two tauren whose club was already on a collision course with her skull. The blow connected with her temple and drove her deeper into the cage. Her vision now clouded and full of stars she struggled to call upon nature once more. Just as she felt the spirit of life around her the tauren hit her again, this time smashing her to the ground.


Her sight dimmed further. As she felt herself falling over she managed to make out a large bluish form beyond the tauren. Ever the diligent student Aerdri remembered that warlocks often referred to these beings as Voidwalkers.


Curse me for my recklessness... mother... I'm sorry.

...

Darkness.

Previous: VIII. Release, Relieve, Re-live
Next: X. Vicissitude

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