Don'tlookatmedon'tlookatmedon'tlookatmedon'tlookatme... Pook repeated the mantra in her head, hoping that whatever powers were out there were listening.
They weren't. Rat bastard powers.
"So! Deirdre Dawnstone, eh?" Captain Arathyn sneered at her. "Guard Captain Deirdre Dawnstone...how are you finding your promotion, recruit?"
This isn't hard, remember the old days...remember working for Cromwell...remember what it felt like to think the world was yours for the taking...
She narrowed her eyes slightly, tilting her chin up defiantly so that she was looking down her nose at him. "It's acceptable, sir."
A slight smirk played at the corner of the Captain's mouth. "Dawnstone, Dawnstone...ah yes, of course. How is your father these days?"
For just a moment, everything inside of her froze and the panic took hold...
"Tell him 'the same as usual,'" a low, reassuring voice said in her mind, supplying the words in Thalassian.
"The same as usual, sir," she said cooly.
"Still dead then? Magnificent. It's good to see you finally put some meat on your bones, Dawnstone, but rest assured that your father is not HERE to look after you now. You're supposed to be in CHARGE of these pathetic wastes of skin, don't forget that," he made a sweeping gesture to the other Bloodwarder recruits, two young men and a woman, who all glared at her with varying levels of hatred and resentment.
I don't know if I can do this... she thought, trying to fight back the anxiety welling inside of her.
"You can do this, just stay calm. I'm right here," Erunamo's mental voice said over the Moonstone.
"What's going on?" No's mental voice said, hints of worry and agitation clearly transmitted by the stones.
Cromwell had been insistent when she'd been in the Brigade that she was capable of being a leader, had constantly been grooming and training her for...well, she supposed to take his place one day. When he left the Garrison, it was her and not Tybilt that he put in charge. Granted, that was mostly because the guards were afraid of Tybilt and he was hardly around, but still. Inside, she felt like she was best suited to follow, but he was convinced she could find it within her to lead...
"Is that how you salute a superior office?!" She snapped, drawing herself up to her full height.
"Officer!" Erunamo hastily corrected her over the Moonstone.
"Officer!" She barked, a sharp glare silencing a half-snicker from the girl.
"Fall in," Erunamo's voice supplied.
"Fall in!" Pook demanded, and the Bloodwarders snapped to attention.
"What's happening?" No growled, his agitation rising.
The Captain half-nodded in approval and then waved a dismissive hand airily. "Report to your new stations, then. Sunblade and Lightwell, you'll be out on the main path. Find a spot nobody's standing in and mind the blood. And if there's a dead body on the road don't just LEAVE it there for Kael's sake, if it's one of ours call your Captain to see about a resurrection and if it's some random nobody come snooping around for the Aldor shove it in a ditch. We have to keep up apPEARances. Fireflare, go take up position with the Arcanists in the North. If they ask to try "just this one thing" on you, the answer is NO. And our new Captain Dawnstone..." he tapped his chin thoughtfully as he eyed her critically. After a moment, a quite unpleasant grin came to his face.
"Overseer Theredis could use a new personal guard, I swear the man just canNOT stay alive for five minutes. You look as though you'll suit his needs...have fun with that." He grinned sharkishly, and Pook couldn't help but blink. "Remember everyone, if the Manaforge gets shut down Prince Kael will have all our heads! Dismissed!" He shouted with an unnatural amount of sing-song cheer.
"I don't like this..." Erunamo growled, and she sensed him moving closer through the shadows as she marched imperiously into the Manaforge. "Do you want me to kill him?"
"Kill who? What's happening?" No asked, his mental voice growing steadily angrier and more insistent.
"NO." Pook thought firmly.
"What?" No asked.
"No killing yet," she amended. "This puts me exactly where I want to be, inside the Manaforge and close to the people running the thing, where I can observe and listen," Pook thought to the Moonstone, rounding the corner.
Overseer Theredis had a young woman dressed as a Warp Technician pinned in a corner, leaning against the wall and grinning at her, his long, dark hair hanging over the side of his face, obscuring their conversation but the girl was clearly looking for an avenue of escape. He looked up as Pook cleared her throat subtly, and the Technician took the opportunity to scurry away.
"How DARE you interrupt..." he snarled, and then trailed off as he eyed her, his eyes narrowed in calculation.
"Guard Captain Deirdre Dawnstone, reporting for duty sir," She said neutrally, watching him carefully.
A slow grin started to spread across his face. "My new guard, mmm? I'll have to extend my gratitude to that incompetent Arathyn the next time I see him..."
"I can kill him quietly and easily from here," Erunamo growled menacingly.
"If someone does not tell me what is happening I swear I am coming down there..."
He glided up to her, oozing smarm from every pore in a way that only Paladins and Blood Elves could seem to manage, and took her gauntleted hand, pressing a kiss to the back of it and smirking. "After duty tonight, what say we talk about all the details of your...position...perhaps over dinner?"
"Fuck." She thought hard enough to unintentionally transmit it over the stone.
There was an explosion of mixed anger and worry and anxiety from it, to the point where she had to surreptitiously slide it from her pocket and drop it into her bags to hear herself think. "Everything is fine!" she projected with forced calm as it slipped from her fingers.
Unfortunately out of everything, this was something she had all too much experience with. It just took a slight mental nudge to put herself back in the mindset...
"I'll look forward to it," she purred, narrowing her eyes slightly and matching his grin.
"And so THAT is how I earned my FIFTH commendation for exceptional performance amongst the young men under the tutelage of the Archmage in Silvermoon..." Theredis droned on, waving his arms in a grandiose gesture.
Pook pushed the fish in some kind of unappealing white sauce around on her plate to make it look more like she'd eaten it, trying to force herself to listen instead of just glaze over on the off chance that he was saying something of use. Never before had a polite "So, tell me about yourself" prompted such an unending and detailed torrent of everything they'd done of note since birth, practically. She took another very small sip of the wine in her glass - the last thing she needed to do was get drunk - and took another look around the large pavilion that the Captain and the Overseer got to stay in. As a Guard Captain she got a tent to herself as opposed to a blanket on the ground, at least, but these guys had very comfortable accommodations and servants and everything. At the very thought of the servants one slipped up and replaced the very small amount of wine that she'd taken.
"...and remind me why we're conversing in the language of the savages tonight again?" Theredis asked, and Pook blinked, realizing she was finally being asked a question.
"Ah...I like to practice," she said, fluttering her eyelids and smiling. "And besides, there's something delightfully...primal...about the Orcish language, isn't there?" Her smile widened into a grin and she trailed a fingertip around the edge of her wineglass. "I find it terribly exciting..."
She wondered how horribly false she was coming off, but then, something about a lot of the Sin'dorei women she'd met around Silvermoon struck her as horribly false anyway. The problem was that back in the day when she was slinking about Stormwind, attempting to seduce men to Cromwell's side, even though she never HAD followed through on it she'd had every intent to do so. If she had her say this man would never lay a single finger on her, and that was turning things a bit more complex than she was used to dealing with...
Theredis leaned forward, taking up her other hand across the table they were seated at and started to run his thumb over her fingers...so much for the not laying a single finger on her part. His hands were small and his skin was smooth, almost like a woman's, and Pook had to suppress the urge to flinch and pull her hand back. He opened his mouth to say something, but before he could comment she cut in with, "So, Manaforges...what DO they do, anyway?" She ducked her head and widened her smile, hoping that he'd take her abrupt change of subject and clear reluctance as a sign of shyness.
There was a faint glint of silver wire above his head. She froze, trying with all her will not to blink in alarm, but fortunately Theredis bowed his head over her hand, closing his eyes as he pressed his lips to it. She glared into the seemingly empty air behind him angrily, mouthing "STOP IT!" and after a reluctant pause the wire disappeared into the shadows.
There was a REASON she didn't have her Moonstone on her at the moment, beside the fact that her slinky red dress which she'd fortunately been able to access through the Goblin banks in Area 52 had no pockets, and half of it was because the last thing she needed right now was a lecture from Erunamo on what a terrible idea this was and to have to negotiate Theredis's life every other minute. And the other half of the reason...well, the Moonstone picked up on emotions as well as thoughts, and she really, REALLY didn't want to have to explain what was going on right now to No. When it was all said and done and she was home safe and they could laugh about it...or she could laugh about it and he could tug his beard fretfully...she'd give him the whole story, but right now it would only serve to drive him out of his mind.
"Mmm...I have to deal with the Manaforge all day, every day. I'd rather talk about something rather more appealing right now..." He said with a smirk, tugging her hand out to the side of the table and towards him, urging her to stand and come around to him.
She let herself be lead around the table, but when he tried to pull her into his lap she slipped around behind him instead, running her hands over his shoulders. She could practically FEEL Erunamo's glare from the shadows, and she tried to ignore the needling sensation on the back of her neck. "Oh, but it's so exciting...all that Mana crackling and flowing...where does it come from? Where does it go to? And how?" She leaned nearly close enough for her lips to brush the edge of his ear as she spoke, her hands massaging his shoulders and back.
He sighed and leaned into her touch, his eyes rolling back slightly. "It's true, the pressure on me as the Overseer is enormous to keep up that lovely Mana supply...of course WE don't get to use it. Everything goes straight from the land right up to the Keep, for the glory of the Prince," he said with a nod.
She blinked, frowning slightly. "From the land?"
Theredis chuckled and took advantage of her distraction to stand, reeling her in by her arm as he placed kisses progressively higher along it between his words. "Well certainly...why did you think the landscape out here was so picturesque? Netherstorm used to be a jungle, but the Manaforges have refined the process of taking energy directly from the land and turning it into pure Mana...pure power..."
She tried not to outwardly panic as his arm slipped around her waist and his lips reached her shoulder. He let go of her hand and flicked the flimsy strap on her dress and it fell down around her arm, although fortunately the garment itself was tight enough to stay in place.
"But how? And...for what purpose?" She asked, wriggling out of his arms and putting the table between them again in the guise of a playful chase. "What is the power used for?"
He laughed, grinning predatorially as he braced his hands on the table, leaning one way and then the other to see if he could force her to dart in one direction. "Well, the how of it is terribly technical...I wouldn't want to bore you with the details and I'd have to drag schematics out to explain it properly anyway, although perhaps if you're still such a curious little kitten in the morning it can be arranged," he said, lunging to the right and sending her skittering to the left with a giggle that she hoped didn't sound too forced. "As to the why of it...Ah, but that's the Prince's business, isn't it? And not for mere mortals to question..."
"Surely someone as important and powerful as you is privy to the Prince's will, though?" she said, eying him up and down lingeringly, biting her lower lip in a gesture that struck even HER as being cloyingly silly, but his chest puffed with pride and his grin spread even wider.
"Well of course I am...only a few of his most important and trusted underlings are given information like that..." He opened his mouth thoughtfully as if to continue and Pook hesitated, waiting to see what he'd say, but instead he lunged forward again, catching and spinning her, pinning her between himself and the table. Grinning in triumph, he moved his arm behind her and up into her hair, the other looping around her waist to pull her to him more tightly. "I suppose you could even say that in some ways I represent the will of the Prince himself," he said as though she would find this deeply arousing.
Mostly, she found it deeply alarming that she was now trapped without completely ruining and ending her mission right here...but there was NO WAY she was going to let this guy have his way with her, even if it would probably give her access to the information she needed--
Suddenly he groaned softly and slumped against her heavily, and she caught him in a purely automatic reaction as his head fell against her shoulder. What, already? She thought. He hasn't even touched me yet...
Her eyes widened as she caught sight of a small dart sticking out of his neck. Her mind working furiously, she reached back and pushed away the dishes directly behind her, sliding up onto the table a bit as she held him to her, and then waved an arm imperiously at the servants standing unobtrusively around the room. "Leave us, I don't need you all staring at us!" she demanded imperiously, and they quickly filed down the pagoda stairs.
She waited until the last of the footsteps had faded and then growled to the room in general, "TELL me that that wasn't poison..."
"A sleeping solution, he'll be out until morning," Erunamo's voice said in clipped, hostile tones behind him as he stepped into view, his eyes flashing as he looked at the unconscious man. "You have what you needed now, I should just kill him."
"I don't!" She said, letting go of him and allowing him to flop to the ground. "I still need the schematics he was talking about, and I still need to find out what Kael is doing with all this! I can get him to tell me, I know it!"
"There are other ways!" Erunamo retorted angrily. "Or were you actually planning on sleeping with him to find out?"
"Of course not!" She hissed. "Now, it's true that I didn't have a SPECIFIC plan to get me out of that situation right that SECOND, but I would have come up with something..." As she spoke, she eyed Theredis on the ground. After a moment she raised her eyebrow in sudden inspiration.
She started tugging on his hands, trying to get him back to his feet. "I have an idea. Help me get him back to his sleeping quarters downstairs, try and make it look like he's walking..."
Erunamo stared at her for a moment, but then disappeared, invisibly pulling him upright and supporting much of his weight as Pook ducked under his arm. She smiled a bit to one of his personal servants as they passed. "Too much to drink, too much excitment...you can leave us alone for the remainder of the evening."
They tossed him on the large round Sin'dorei style bed once inside and the door was discreetly closed. "All right, take off his clothes for me? And get him covered up," she said in a businesslike fashion, clapping her hands together.
Erunamo stared at her. "What?"
"Well I don't want to see him naked! And you're a guy! Just help me out, please!"
Erunamo sighed and rolled his eyes as he tugged the prone Overseer's robes over his head, grimacing as he pulled off his pants and rapidly tossing his blankets over him. And then he blinked at Pook, who was sliding into bed next to him, pushing the straps of her dress off her shoulders and hiking it high around her thighs.
"WHAT are you doing?"
"In the morning, I'm going to convince him that we had a night of passion together so torrid and full of drinking that he can hardly remember it. And then he'll show me where the schematics are, and maybe fill me in on Kael's plans!" She smiled brightly.
Erunamo flinched, clearly restraining himself, and then looked away with a low snarl. "Fine. But when you DO have your information? I'm killing him."
"Fair enough," she said, nodding as Erunamo disappeared, slipping back into the shadows.
She sighed, edging away from Theredis in the bed and pulling the blankets up around her chin, settling in for what was most likely going to be a sleepless and uncomfortable night.
Pook stifled a grimace as Overseer Theredis patted her on the rear as she passed on her patrol through the Manaforge. Not much longer...not much longer... she repeated to herself, forcing a giggle and a grin. He'd been absolutely insufferably smug since he'd woken up next to her the other morning, and it was only with repeated insistences that she'd be late for her shift that she'd escaped without what Theredis at the time had called "Round Two." And the work had gotten even more difficult since then, with snickers and glares behind her back from the other Elves at the facility in various states of resentment and amusement at the supposed method she'd chosen to "further her career."
Gentle prodding about the schematics and Prince Kael's plans had elicited vague promises, though, and soon enough she managed to sidle up to him without being overheard in the alcove where he preferred to watch the procedures at the Forge from.
"Well hello there..." he said with a grin as she traced random shapes on his chest with her fingertip, fluttering her eyelashes at him.
She bit her lower lip, grinning in return. "Hello yourself...you've been terribly busy lately, I'm starting to get LONEsome..." She pouted dramatically.
"Is that so? Mmm...well, I suppose I'm almost due a break, perhaps you'd like to adjourn back to my office?" He leered.
"That would be lovely," she purred, trying her best to fight back the disgust rising in the back of her throat.
On the way out Theredis turned to one of the other guard captains. "We're going to be taking a break, take over the main patrol in the Forge area. If it gets shut down, Prince Kael will have all our heads. Also, if you could arrange to have that issue with the leak looked at? That would be top priority," he said, waving a hand dismissively.
"Right away sir," the guard growled, glaring in Pook's direction.
They sauntered down the road back to the pagoda, where what served as the Manaforge's office was situated between the sleeping quarters of the Overseer and the Captain. There was a sudden flurry of activity behind them at the Forge itself, shouting, the sounds of a pitched battle, and Theredis sighed. "The Aldor. Will they never stop sending their lackeys to pester us? The other guards will take care of it..." he slipped an arm around Pook's waist in what she could only guess was supposed to be a reassuring manner.
Once inside the Overseer shut and locked the door firmly behind them, grinning at her suggestively. As he started to reach for her, though, she went to the paper-covered desk, looking at the large sheet of plans spread over it. "Oh my, are these the schematics for the Forge? How exciting! You know, I've been thinking about taking on a more technical position..." she said, looking them over.
"What's wrong with the position you have right now?" He smirked, slipping behind her and running his hands up and down her hips.
"I'm just curious!" She said, "playfully" bumping him away with her shoulder with enough force to send him reeling a step back.
The schematics were indeed highly technical...but it was no matter. She didn't have to understand them, she just had to get her hands on them somehow, then it was Magatha's problem to try and figure them out. One thing she did notice, though, looking at the plans...
"All this power...it goes back to Tempest Keep?" She said, tracing the lines of power covering Netherstorm like a spiderweb in an inset diagram.
"To Tempest Keep, and to the Prince," Theredis said, turning her abruptly and lifing her onto the desk with a single motion, holding her hips in place as he leaned into her.
"I just don't understand, what's it all FOR?" she mused, trying to move away from him which only managed to put her more off-balance.
Theredis sighed with a slight frown. "Do you really want to know?"
She couldn't suppress a wide grin. "Oooh, yes! It's so exciting!"
He slipped his hand against the back of her neck, murmuring into her neck and her ear as he pressed kisses into her skin between his words. "Tempest Keep isn't just a floating castle...it's mobile. The Draenei escaped from here in part of the Keep called the Exodar. Prince Kael'thas is going to drain the entire Outlands of power if he has to, and then..." He sighed again. "Then he's going to take the Keep back to Silvermoon, and use it as a staging point to conquer Azeroth. For the glory of the Sunfury throne."
Pook stared at Theredis, frozen and blinking. "That's...that's..."
"Horrifying? Madness? Maniacally evil?" Theredis supplied helpfully, and then took advantage of her shock to draw her into a firm kiss.
She was so shocked, in fact, that she hardly noticed the sharp jab in the back of her neck.
"You know, it really is too bad that you had to know these things. I was having a lot of fun toying with you," he said with a much more unpleasant smirk than she was used to seeing on him as he pulled away.
"Wh...what?" She said, trying to slide off the table and get to her feet and finding that her legs wouldn't quite support her. She pressed her fingers to the back of her neck and they came away with a spot of blood as she stumbled to her knees. "What did you do...?"
"It isn't as though we haven't had spies trying to infiltrate the Forges before, but you by far are the worst trained, least prepared one we've encountered yet," he said, rolling up the schematics in a businesslike fashion, shaking his head at her in disappointment. "I would have dealt with you that first night, but first we had to ascertain your potential value as a hostage. But as it turns out you don't seem to work for any governmental office an any kind of official capacity...and that makes you mine to do with as I please," he grinned, looking her over.
"But...how..." she stammered, finding that words were starting to get to be hard to form.
"How did I know?" He laughed, opening a drawer and taking a large folded envelope from it, tossing the contents in front of her. Papers about Deirdre Dawnstone, handwritten letters, and what looked like an exact image of her pinned to a page. "Please. First of all, you didn't match the pictograph we had on file for the unfortunate Miss Dawnstone except at a passing glance. Then we started to get worried communications from her mother, fretful that she hadn't checked in yet."
He kneeled down in front of her, holding her face firmly as he smudged her cheek with his thumb, revealing a hint of the blue stripe underneath the concealer. "You speak Thalassian like a Darnassian who learned the language by reading bad romance novels, you are as subtle as a Tauren on an icy pond, and you apply makeup like a whore in training in a place you people call Goldshire."
"Erru...Errunamo..." she tried to gasp, but her lungs just wouldn't take in the air she needed. She fell forward onto one arm, struggling for breath.
"Is that what he's called, the Rogue you've had following you around? That at least surprised me, although it became obvious that you had unseen help after I was drugged into a stupor. He was dealt with a short time ago..." He frowned slightly and took a communication device from his robes. "The Rogue WAS dealt with, yes?"
"Yes sir, there was a Kal'dorei Rogue just like you said there would be," A slightly tinny voice replied from the communicator. "Got the jump on him...he...GET ANOTHER MAN ON THERE! Sorry sir...it took about a dozen of us to get him pinned down, but they're all kind of piled on top of him now and we think he's starting to get tired. He didn't have a chance to contact anyone that we saw, sir."
"Good work, Captain. Keep it up," he said, his eyes fixed on Pook as she put a hand to her chest, trying desperately to make her lungs work somehow.
"As for you, that's an ingenious little poison concocted for us by the Apothecaries...fascinating allies, the Forsaken, and so much to offer." He said with a truly horrible grin, pulling her to her feet and laying her over the table, starting to slowly tug off one of her gauntlets. She tried desperately to move, to protest, to yell and scream somehow but found that her body wouldn't respond. All she could do was stare dully at the ceiling as a horrible burning sensation started throbbing through her muscles. "It induces a state just like death, so much so that only if you knew that the subject had been affected by it would you know that they were not in fact dead. For a few hours, while the poison works its way through your system and kills you with agonizing slowness, you will be fully conscious but unable to move or respond in any way. Able to hear and see and feel everything, but completely helpless..."
She tried to fight the panic welling inside of her, then tried to use the panic to fuel her efforts to fight against the deadness of her limbs. They didn't so much as twitch. Her other gauntlet was pulled off, and Theredis pulled her face towards him, drawing her arm up and kissing her limp palm with his other hand. "Isn't that simply the most awful thing you've ever heard of?" He said, his eyes gleaming malevolently. "But like I said...nobody is coming to your aid. You're mine to do with as I please...and it will be the last thing you ever heard of."
A short time ago...
Erunamo slipped around the corner, scowling and gripping the hilts of his daggers as Theredis lead Pook out the door. The office...he was pretty sure he knew where that was. He could probably get there befor--
There was a bright flash of light, a torrent of flaming arrows fired into the wall near where he was. He easily avoided them, but...
"There!" The Guard Captain shouted, pointing at his shadow, and before he could reach the pouch of reagents at his belt to toss a pellet at the ground and disappear Sunfury guards dove at his shadow from every angle. He stabbed the first in the throat easily, and he went down with a gurgling sound. His arm came around in a sweeping arc, catching the cheek and the eye of the second, and kicked the third with all his strength directly in the chest, sending him reeling into two others. Arcanists stood at the outskirts of the circle around him that soon formed of people reluctant to charge in and be the next to be skewered, setting the ground alight with arcane fire. He tossed a dagger at one and clipped her in the ear as the dagger sank into her hand, and she stopped her casting with a wail.
"Charge him all at once, you fools!" The Guard Captain bellowed. "Don't be such cowards!"
There was a moment's hesitation as Erunamo gritted his teeth, narrowing his eye and glaring at them with deadly purpose, and then glancing towards the door. They had obviously been expecting him to be there...had only he been found out, or did they know about Pook as well?
He didn't have much time to ponder it as the entire group of guards leapt at him as one. He buried his dagger firmly in the chest of the nearest one, snarling as he viciously stabbed the man next to him as well, catching him in the shoulder, but a wall of bodies and hands dragged him to the ground, pinning him under a sheer mass of weight. He fought with all his strength and managed to cause the pile to sway dramatically, guards struggling for balance and purchase, but he couldn't get his hands back under him to reach his poisons or reagents either.
He wasn't about to call for help...but at the same time, the heated emotions of battle, of a struggle, had already been picked up by the Moonstone he was carrying.