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Author: Aerdrienya
Story Index: Index

The satyr's head split open.

Thick crimson life spattered against the damp wall of the tainted cavern. The body fell with a surreal slowness, as if the flow of time had changed. Some call it passion.


Her mind filled with worry... filled with rage.


Aerdrienya clutched at her right arm as the now familiar pain shot once again into her head. Down on one knee, head bowed, her face twisted in a screaming blend of agony and blood lust. Cheeks moist with both tears and sweat, the familiar silvery glow of her eyes now seemed to steam, as she stared at the lifeless husk before her. Blood and wiry hair matted across it's wide eyes as it stared into the nether of death that would soon claim whatever soul it might have had.


Lashing out, Aerdri, tore a round medallion from its neck and then punched it hard in the face with the same hand.


Her lips curled back as she spit through clenched teeth, "Give your master my regards filth!"


From behind, there came a familiar hiss. To many who had come here before, that hiss was the last sound they heard before they died. Aerdri's snarl quickly became a crooked smirk, as she turned her head slowly to meet the naga's eyes.


The serpentine witch muttered something, with a thick tongue and mouth full of saliva. Completely incoherent. Then it hissed again and moved forward. Hands outstretched as if craving to gouge out eyes or twist a head clean off.


Aerdri glared deep into the vertical slits of the hate-kissed eyes.


"Ha!", she shouted at the top of her lungs. "HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"


The naga froze immediately.

Aerdrienya cast her gaze just beyond the creatures shoulder and of course, the naga instinctively turned it's head as if expecting that this Kaldorei may not be alone.


It was all the hesitation Aerdri needed.


Both of her hands slammed down, planting firmly into the wet sand, and slightly slimy, floor. Her back rippled. Once, twice... on the third her skin erupted in a silky violet wave. Her once elven features melted away in just a fraction of a second. A silvery crescent rune flared up brightly from each shoulder. The light danced along the uneven walls like moonlight across the surface of a pond.


And then, all was dark again. Only a faint glow hummed from the natural crystals embedded in the walls. What once had been a naga there was now only a large vicious cat. Beneath it's paws lay a bloody unrecognizable mess.


A warm pink tongue darted out from the cat's maw, across it's nose and teeth, cleaning away the blood. It's ears perked up suddenly. There was distant movement from within the tunnels and faint whispers in the same cryptic tongue the naga witch had used only moments ago. Without hesitation the cat melded into the shadows near caverns edge and crept along in silence deeper into the natural twisting complex.


* * *

“Aerdri!.... Aerdri child, where are you?!”


The small girl either didn't hear the voice or had simply ignored it. Fully focused on her balance as she hopped from the bank of the tiny stream onto a flat raised stone. These stones were scattered about in various spots, but right where she was now seemed to be the best spot to cross over to the other side.


She could see a number of very tiny fish making a meal from the fuzzy growth that covered nearly everything below the surface. She thought of the conversations they may be having about the best places to eat and swim, the journeys they've been on and what dangers may lie further up stream.


Crouching down she reach into the tiny bag she always carried, which contained all of the mysterious artifacts she had gathered during her many adventures, and pulled out a tiny willow branch. She poked into the water near the small gathering and at first, as she expected, this startled the feasters causing them to dart off in all directions. She kept still though and in a few moments, one by one they returned with a curiosity. They inspected this new addition to their buffet table as if determining whether or not it was a threat or perhaps if it was a suitable enough decoration. Almost as soon as they had sampled it's surface for new foods they quickly decided that it's taste was not to their liking and went back to picking about through their “normal” salads.


Aerdri smiled and gently pushed the stick into the bottom of the stream until it stood on it's own.


“My gift to you”, she said to them, “May it bring you peace, happiness and full bellies.”


She didn't wait long enough for a response from them before leaping quietly to the next stone.


Beyond, on the opposite bank, the grasses were long. The trees there grew closer together and a thin veil of mist always seemed to be present along their roots. It wasn't a spooky mist like the kind that rolled in from the ocean or the thicker kind you'd see in a swamp full of mud and crocs. It was sort of...... magical. That was the best word she could think of to describe it. It wasn't at all cold... nor was it warm. In fact, if one were to close their eyes they'd never even know it was there at all. But when you looked at it, it just felt right. Like a favorite blanket that protected you while you were dreaming.


For the last leap she imagined that she was a frog, and landed on all fours in the soft grass. Caught in the moment she peered about and after a pause let out a tiny sound that a frog such as herself would make as it declared a victory. Then she giggled and rolled over onto her bottom.


Staring back at the other side, it seemed a whole world away now. Another life time in which there lived a very different little girl. She tugged at the ends of her long emerald hair out of habit and realized it had become quite wet. Most likely while she was investigating the small feast.


Reaching into her bag again she drew out a string that she had found earlier woven through out the eyelets of her uncles fancy shoes. He won't miss it she thought and probably would have given it to her anyway, had she asked. But he wasn't around at the time and her newest adventure could hardly wait for him to return.


Shrugging to herself she pulled her hair back into a not-so-neat tail and squeezed a bit of water from the ends. Then she popped up to her feet and skipped off into the foliage, still not hearing (or ignoring) the voice that belonged to her father.


* * *

Aerdri....


Aerdri child, where are you?!


The large cat had just been about to leap from the shadows into the face of it's next victim when it suddenly faltered. Nearly slipping headlong into the light, the attack would have been ruined, and most likely would have given the goat-legged monstrosity the few seconds it needed to cry out for help.


Slowly crouching down and easing back into the depths of the shadows, the cat shook it's head as if some irritating insect had landed on one of it's ears. For a moment the rage subsided and in that moment a new voice could be heard. No, not a new voice, and old one.


Aerdri, what are you doing? Have you lost you're mind? Do you remember what you're doing here? Or even where HERE is for that matter? Take a look around... remember anything now?


No! Go away! I want to be me! I want to be free!

Free? Free from what exactly?

Free from you! You don't belong here. You never did.

Aerdri...

You want to control me. Keep me in check.

Aerdri......

You pretend to be me... you wear a mask, and pretend to be kind and gentle and try to fool...

AERDRIENYA!

What!

Where is Syl?

I don't even know who....


Then it all came back. In a violent rush. Pain, once again tearing... tearing it's way up her... up her paw and lashing out into her mind. Greens, orange, purple.... mist. Swirling and stinging and screaming it's way through her veins.


You need me! If I were gone you'd be nothing but an animal, either as a cat or a Kaldorei, it doesn't matter. I am what makes you you now and I am all that the others ever see! Would you so freely cast me away and in turn abandon those you call friends.

I.... I....

Go! Go now and find Sylardre!

I can't....

One paw slipped from under her and she toppled onto her side. She couldn't see or hear anything. Only the colors and the voice. She just wanted to run away. From this, from her body, from everything.


Fine then... you are doomed... and so is your friend. The warlocks and their acolytes will feed her piece by piece to their demonic servants. But they will keep her alive... and awake... so that she will feel every slice, every tear. Her body slowly being consumed while she watches and they will laugh.....


Aerdri suddenly screamed out. Her thoughts blasting into the meld.

“Syl! Where are you?!”


That was what she said... only what she heard was the piercing yowl of a large feline in terrible agony.


The colors suddenly receded and the darkness quickly took their place. The darkness was neither cold nor warm. It was like a favorite blanket that protected you while you were dreaming.


In her final moment of consciousness she realized that she wasn't the only one that heard the scream.

Previous: III. Family
Next: Unusual Visitor

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