“Hey. Pssst. Hey, elf!”
Kade sighed and took a break from fussing with the shackles that his body was dangling from. He could tell they were old just by the corrosion he felt, but it didn’t seem to have affected the chain link’s strength enough to make a difference.
“Yeah? Name’s Kade, by the way. Unless you want me to call you Annoying as Fuck Goblin, what’s your name?”
“Eh, been called worse. Name’s Franzi Felsprocket.”
“Okay, Franzi. Let’s assess the situation. I’m shackled. I’m assuming you are as well. You have any kind of talents that can help us get out of here? You Goblins are known for your ingenuity.”
“It ain’t your lucky day, elf--er, Kade. I flunked outta engineering school. I turned to… other means of gettin’ by, and our kidnappers put some kinda anti-magic voodoo hoodoo in this cell. It’s a no go for me, unfortunately.”
“That’s swell. I’m guessing you want another story.”
“Yeah! What happened to you and your sister after Silvermoon got undeaded?”
Kade sighed again and pulled at the chains once more. “Yeah… hold on…”
Kade sat on a balcony overlooking the entrance to the Sunwell Plateau, his head resting against the wrought iron railing that encircled the ornate architecture. His legs dangled through the bars, where he lazily kicked them back and forth. He was situated on a dark side of the building, shrouded in shadow. His expression was sullen, though his eyes scanned the area below carefully.
He hated Quel’Danas. He hated the Shattered Sun. He hated the Draenei, who freaked him out with the horns and tails and gorgeousness of the women.
He had taken jobs from the Farstriders ever since Silvermoon City was nearly destroyed. He needed something to do. Satherea left him. His sister had run off with the Scryers to the Outlands. His parents were dead. All of his aunts and uncles were dead. The only family he had left aside from his sister was his young cousin, Keillan. His house was gone, as was his family’s legacy.
He, along with hundreds of other Quel’dorei, was alone. No, not Quel’dorei. Sin’dorei.
Sin’dorei. What a stupid fucking name.
Kade’s ears flicked lightly when he heard a quiet noise at the top of the stairs, but did not react until the last minute when he reached back, grabbed the foot of the person that was sneaking up behind him and yanked as hard as he could. The owner of the foot let out a strangled grunt as they crashed to the ground.
“Learn your sneaking, Kei,” Kade grumbled. “Try to leave your jingly jewelry behind. I could hear you walking up the damn stairs.”
Keillan coughed as he stood. He brushed off his leather armor with a scowl.
“You didn’t have to pull me onto the ground!"
“I could have stabbed you in the gut. People you’re sneaking up on won’t just pull you onto the ground. They’ll do much more interesting things that involve blood and intestines slipping out onto your shoes. And speaking of, lose the loud shoes, sounds like you're tap dancing. Take off those damn earrings. And what the fuck did you do to your hair?”
Keillan frowned and carefully removed his chain earrings that travelled up his long ears, then shook his head and ran a hand through his short and tousled hair which was brown with deep purple highlights, his fel green eyes circled with black eyeliner and a toothy grin on his face.
“I had to do something to compliment my new eye color.”
Kade sighed and patted next to him.
“All right. Tell me what you see.”
Keillan settled down next to his cousin and gazed around the rotunda below. There were elves milling about the entryway to the Sunwell, but they were not friendly.
“I see… elves! Oh, there’s a couple humans! And ew… a Dwarf. But mostly elves.”
“Right. Good. Now, concentrate on the elves. Pick one out that looks like he’s doing something apart from the others.”
Keillan bit his bottom lip and squinted his eyes. He focused on the elves as requested, and Kade remained silent as he watched his young cousin. He had initially refused to train Keillan as an assassin, and instead was giving him pointers on stealth and distraction.
He didn’t want Keillan to develop the same bloodlust that he had gained over the many years he had been in the business. Suddenly, Keillan sat up and pointed to the left of the entryway.
“What’s up with that guy? He keeps looking over his shoulder and checking the pathway, like he’s waiting for something.”
Kade clapped Keillan on the shoulder and nodded. “Very good. Yes, that particular elf is waiting for a courier delivering some kind of fel magic stones, which are thought to be in aid of whatever Kil’Jaeden is planning. We need to stop him-- Kei? Keillan? Ah fuck…”
Kade growled when he saw the younger elf land softly on the ground, just as Kade had taught and slip behind a bush. He looked back up at Kade and grinned, and the older elf followed with a practiced quickness. Once he reached Keillan, he reached out and smacked the back of his head.
“Dumbass! Never go first!” He hissed while Keillan frowned.
“Ow! Don’t do that!” Keillan said without taking care to be quiet. Kade grabbed the young elf in a light headlock and covered his mouth with a hand.
“Would you shut up! Sneaking, Kei. Sneak-king.”
Keillan ripped Kade’s hand from his mouth. “You shut up, you-- oh. Hi!”
Keillan and Kade both turned to face a rather dour looking elf in full, shining armor and a wicked looking blade.
“What’s this? A couple Shattered Sun lackeys hiding in bushes? Looks like we’ve got them scraping the bottom of the barrel.”
“Okay, one: We don’t work for the Shattered Sun. And two, we are not the bottom of the barrel, thanks. More like, the oil that sits at the top.”
Keillan laughed and tried to punch the guard in the face, but was stopped by a plate armored hand. The young elf cried as quietly as he could, though that had been enough distraction to give Kade the chance to step around the guard and slide both of his daggers into the sides of the elf’s neck. He yanked the blades out in a forward position, which caused a font of blood to splatter Keillan’s face. The guard fell to his knees, fruitlessly trying to hold the blood inside his body while gurgling loudly.
“Augh! Ew, Kade. I--oh shit look out--”
Kade turned to find another guard jab the hilt of his blade towards his own head. The last thing he knew was Keillan crying out as he was grabbed from behind and everything went black.
The search for Bluma's father was becoming more perilous and the outcome didn't seem bright, but Bluma had to continue. The last destination to search for his soul fragments was the most unforgiving of all the realms: The Maw. There, she'd be able to restore her father's soul and preserve the anima within him.
This meant leaving her girlfriend behind.
Before separating, Lindsey and Bluma decided to do what they've desired for so long. So, if the worst comes, they knew their love for one another. With the help of a few Night Fae, they held a very tiny reception in Ardenweald's forests.
(Will host an official wedding art event sometime in the summer! That is when they're likely to return home to Azeroth to meet with family and friends :D)
Kade sat, his back pressed against the wall across from his father’s body (“That was not at all dismembered”) (“Thanks, much better.”). His breath was ragged and his hands dripped blood on the ground where they had been sliced up by the broken glass and other sharp items on the floor. He had never felt so much like a frightened child at that moment, even when he was a frightened child. He swallowed thickly many times, trying to keep the vomit that was tickling his throat from his stomach before a female elf burst through the broken door.
Kade sighed in relief and almost lost his control on the vomit in his throat. He called out in a raspy voice to the woman.
“Tallie, I’m back here.”
A female elf in plate armor turned the corner into the back room where Kade was sitting. When she stepped towards him, she held out a hand, which Kade grabbed and winced when more sharp shards dug into the heel of his hand.
“I was expecting to find father in here, not you! I figured you would have run off with Satherea by now-- LIGHT HELP US!”
The armored elf jumped in surprise when she saw her father lying on the ground, and backed up next to Kade.
“Oh… oh Father,” she whispered, her face wrinkling in despair and she looked at Kade. “Come on, we have to go.”
Kade finally tore his gaze from his father’s body and looked up at the female elf.
“Talmera! We can’t just leave… leave him here.”
Talmera shook her head and helped her brother to his feet. “It’s too late! They’re already almost to the Spire, we have to go now!”
Kade clenched his jaw and stepped farther into the back room against Talmera’s protests. He looked around with panic and Talmera followed him.
“Kade? What are you looking for? The store is gone, everything’s gone! We have to go!”
Kade ignored his sister’s cries and reached to the back of a shelf. After a moment of blind searching, he pulled out an ornate box and took it with care. Talmera let out a quiet breath and nodded, then motioned for him to follow.
“Come on, my steed is out-- ah shit!”
Kade and Talmera stared in defeat as they watched undead devour the animal’s entrails.
“Well. Now what?”
“Like I know?” Talmera huffed as she looked around. She grabbed Kade’s arm and pointed across the square at a terrified horse still hitched to a post.
“We’ll take that one, come on!”
Kade tried to keep a firm grip on the box he had taken from the family store. The sounds of screams echoing through the streets as well as bodies being torn apart around them became background sound while Talmera tried to calm the horse enough to unhitch it and get the both of them on its back. Once they were settled, the female elf shouted to get the animal running and didn’t bother to try to avoid moving around the bodies and undead littering the streets, the horse's hooves muffled by the viscera. After a moment of horror-stricken travel, Kade leaned forward.
“Tallie! We need to find Satherea!”
Talmera stayed silent long enough for Kade to press further.
“Talmera! We have to--”
“Kade, she’s gone!”
Kade’s vision swam in front of him and all the sounds of battle went silent as Talmera’s words echoed in his head.
“What do you mean, gone?”
Talmera paused to behead a small group of undead that had surrounded the terrified horse, causing it to rear up and nearly toss the two elves onto the ground. Talmera calmed it down with expert words spoken quietly.
“I mean, I saw her leave! With some other mages. I’m guessing they left for Dalaran! I’m sorry Kade, but you can’t be surprised she left you behind!”
Kade’s jaw clenched and anger burned in his chest. Satherea left him behind. He supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised, though the realization didn’t relieve the disgust at her actions.
“She didn’t make it, Kade! She was with the first wave of guardians and they are all gone. I’m going to make my way to the Spire where we can find some portals out of here!”
Kade didn’t answer, only held onto the box he had taken from the store.
If he survived this and found Satherea, he promised himself he would kill her.
“Okay, okay. Lemme get this straight. Talmera’s your sister?”
“Mmhm. Twin sister.”
“Okay. What does ‘Shindu Fallah Na’ or whatever mean?”
“‘They’re breaking through.’”
“Ahhh that makes sense, sure. What was in the box?”
“It was my father’s. And my grandfather’s and his grandfather’s and blahdeblah. Jewelcrafting and such.”
“Okay. And Satherea’s your… she your girl?”
“Something like that.”
“And she left ya behind? Just like that?”
“What a jerk!”
“You have no idea. Now, can I concentrate on getting out of these shackles?”
“Huh? Oh… oh yeah, sure pal. When ya get a chance though, tell another story. I need to keep my brain sparkin’. Just something less depressin’ this time? Please?”
Kade ran along a roof while the deafening screams from the streets of Silvermoon City below rattled his long ears.
He had known this was coming. He had warning. He should have left when he was told to. But he couldn’t leave his father behind, and wouldn’t let a group of undead… things stop him.
Took his home City being razed for Kade Sunstone to decide to become a hero.
The terrified elf slid to a stop on the edge of the roof he had been dashing across and surveyed his options. He looked carefully at the nearby buildings. One had a roof that was too round, with no place to safely land. Another was on fire, probably not the best choice but might do in a pinch. He rubbed his hands together and sighed, wishing he had thought to put on his gloves before abandoning his house. While he scratched the back of his head, where his hair was matted with sweat his gaze fell on a balcony to the left, encased in wrought iron bars which would lead to another line of roofs he could make his way across. It was a fair distance away, but he had to try.
So he did.
He took some long steps backwards and hopped up and down until he felt his limbs slowly lose their tenseness due to fear and fatigue and pushed himself forward on the balls of his feet in a quick sprint. Once he reached the edge of the roof, he had a brief feeling that what he was doing was a very bad idea but it was too late to do anything about it. As he launched himself towards the balcony, his arms pointing forward, then back to aid his projection, he wished that along with his gloves, he would have thought to use the bathroom before running from the swarm of rotting creatures but it was a non issue at that point. His heart clenched as it seemed he would miss the railing and plummet into the group of meat eating monsters below, the palms of his hands barely pressed against the cold metal and his fingers immediately followed, grabbing on at the very last moment.
He grunted as the pain travelled up his arms, and the air was forced from his lungs by the impact. He held on for a moment to regain his grip. After a moment of concentration and even breathing, he was able to swing his body enough to flip up onto the balcony and regain his path. He knew his family’s jewelry store was nearby. He ran for a few more minutes until he could see the building. It was heavily damaged, but not on fire yet.
Kade let out a relieved sigh, which he didn’t keep for long as he slid down a roof, hopped onto an outcropping on the side of the building next door, jumped and landed quietly on his feet, his legs bent to soak up most of the impact and rolled his body to take the strain from his knees. He hopped back up to push himself forward again and hurried across the street, though the amount of undead were fewer than elsewhere.
Seemed like even evil creatures weren’t fond of Murder Row.
Kade looked over his shoulder while he slid to a stop in front of the store to make sure he was still relatively safe and slipped in through the broken door. He looked around the looted and dirty front room and called out.
The soles of his boots crunched over shards of glass, metals and gems while he made his way through to the back of the store, still calling out for his father. After a moment of searching and gagging at the horrid smell of rotting body parts and other unidentifiable odors, he tripped and fell onto the floor, his wrists and knees shredding from the impact on the broken pieces of merchandise. He turned his head and found his father, propped up against a counter.
“Father! Come on, we have to go, now!”
Kade wrapped an arm around the man’s shoulder, only to have the upper half of his body separate from the lower half. Kade shouted and backed away on his rear end, his hands becoming even more ripped up by the sharp pieces on the ground.
“Whoa whoa whoa-oh! This is gross and depressing! I thought you said this story would be exciting!”
Kade sighed and continued searching for a weak point in the shackles he was currently hanging from. He turned his head to the wall on his left and squinted through a wide crack in the concrete which allowed him to see enough of his neighbor to know she was a Goblin.
“Hey, I figured this would be exciting. The near extinction of the Quel’dorei race and all. I’ll think of another story to tell--”
“Hey, I didn’t say that, ya long-eared galoot! But, leave out the dismembered fathers this time. Geeze.”
Cori had had several days to think, think about her conversations with Hackley, about where she truly wanted to go after her training.
But mostly, she thought about her nightmares.
Of scaled creatures with red eyes and gnashing teeth, and claws ripping and tearing.
Screams echoed in Cori's mind, of anguish and pain and fury and despair, it burned in her skull until she was no longer able to remain at rest.
"I just wish I could figure out what it means Janus. . ." Cori murmured, running her fingers across the lizard's scales. Janus merely responded with what could have been considered a growl and a purr.
"Any ideas where we could go next? We've done all we can for Darkshire, but Hackley seems adamant that we're not ready for Mount Hyjal," said Cori. Janus growled softly at the mention of Hackley's name.
"I really wish I could understand you, it'd make it much easier to tell why you dont like so many of my friends," Cori replied, smirking slightly.
"But. . . Maybe you are on to something, Naturae did say she believed I'd enjoy Teldrassil, so perhaps I could make my way over there," Cori said pensively.
After a few more moments of deliberation, and some nudging from Janus, Cori was finally on her way to Rutheran Village.
"Cori! By Elune I cant remember the last time I saw you!" Cori jolted up with a start as Naturae's voice reached her ears.
"Oh uhm- hello again-" Cori smiled.
"Oh and who's this!" Naturae dropped down to Janus' eye level, inspecting his teeth and claws with intrigue.
"This is Janus, my lizard," Cori said, smiling.
"Hes precious!" Naturae cooed, Janus purred.
"Hes a little narcissist is what he is," Cori said, snickering.
"So I assume you're done with the Eastern Kingdoms? Have you come to help with the Cataclysm?" Naturae asked as she stood back up.
"Maybe eventually, for now I'm still only equipped for minor threats," Cori said.
"I see. . . And what of this?" Naturae took a necklace given to Cori by Hackley into her hands.
"A gift, from Crawford Hackley," Cori said, raising an eyebrow.
"This is from the black dragonflight- this. . . Who is this Hackley?" Naturae said, hurriedly tearing the necklace from around Cori's neck.
"Hes one of my friends- I've written to you about him! He- hes been helping me control the void whispers-" Cori said, voice now shaking.
"Cori I dont think he was helping you control them, I think he was trying to help them control you," Naturae said.
"Come on- we need to get you somewhere safe to clear your head-" Naturae grabbed at Cori's arm, making her way towards the hippogryph roost.
"Theres plenty of spots in Teldrassil for you to rest, just focus on happy thoughts for now alright?" Naturae said as the hippogryph took off. Cori merely nodded, closing her eyes and trying her best to push the screams away.
Cori never really asked questions, they rarely had safe and happy answers.
Instead she simply slipped away as she felt the touch of night elf magic ebbing away the pain in her mind.
"Cori. . . It's time to wake up. . ."
She wasnt sure how long she'd been asleep, only that she felt much better now.
"I think you should rest for a while, completely, you're in no fit condition for quests and tasks," said Naturae.
"I- suppose you're right," Cori said softly.
"You dont have to stay in bed, but if I catch you firing arrows before you're ready I will tie you down," Naturae warned. Cori nodded.
She waited a while longer before she finally left the building.
Teldrassil truly was gorgeous, sprawling trees and creatures all across the landscape.
But what she noticed most was two shimmering forms in the distance, one green, and one red.
She approached the creatures slowly, able to make out the cat-like forms of two nightsabers.
Both seemed to take notice of Cori almost immeadietly, slinking over to her, tails relaxed and ears perked with intrigue.
Cori merely stood, feeling secure, aware that the creatures wouldnt cause her harm.
Instead, the cats simply buried their heads under her hands, purring and sniffing at the pockets of her armor.
"Well, you two need names dont you?" Cori said, smiling. The cats each purred.
"How about. . . Roman," Cori said, looking at the red spectral nightsaber, who purred in return.
"And Remus," Cori turned to the green nightsaber, who purred as well.
Cori smiled as she watched the cats approached Janus, each exchanging smiles and a variety of purred and growls as communication.
"Well, I suppose we should rest, hm?" Cori said. Her companions turned to her and purred in agreement, and so she began to head back to the inn, all to relieved to no longer have the screams and anguish of her allies clouding her mind.
Kade stood in front of the mirror in his bedroom, struggling to get a tie on.
He hated ties.
He hated why he had to wear ties.
He hated Satherea’s parties. Everyone playing dress up, but their lives were empty. All they desired was to show each other up when they’re all the same. They flaunted their fortunes and statuses, which never impressed him, it never had. He could never tell anyone apart, and would forget their names as soon as he heard them.
He was Satherea's arm fashion, and so long as there was ample amounts of bloodthistle and food he could keep his glowering eyebrows in check and find something to enjoy during another painful evening out. Sometimes he even sent his young cousin Keillan as a replacement with Satherea, which she never appreciated but he didn't care much. Keillan always loved a good party.
With a growl, he ripped the tie from his collar and moved to start again when the doorbell rang. He sighed and called out.
“Sath? There’s someone at the door.”
After a moment of nothing from Sath, he threw the tie on the ground and walked over it on his way out of the room. He skipped down the stairs of the house he shared with Satherea in the heart of Silvermoon City. It was more ostentatious than he really cared for, but she had paid for everything so he didn’t care much.
When he reached the door, he wrenched it open. When he began to ask what this unwanted and annoying visitor wanted, he inhaled sharply when he saw who it was.
“... Daestra? The fuck are you doing here?”
Daestra stayed silent and merely handed an ornate box out for him.
“Kade. Please, we need to talk. May I come in? Or we can just speak out here, it’s no problem.”
Kade’s eyebrows furrowed and his heart immediately clenched.
He knew why she was here.
He stepped aside to give room for Daestra to enter, and she did so quickly. Kade made no move to offer a seat or anything to give this visitor comfort and she seemed as if she would rather be elsewhere. She brushed a lock of hair behind her ears, and Kade noticed her hand was shaking.
“Well? What is it? What is this?”
He began to open the box, but Daestra put her hand over his.
“You’ve heard what’s been happening in Stratholme?”
“Yeah, sure. That prince burned it down.” He replied and leaned his head to the side. “You came here to tell me this?”
Daestra bit her lip and jerked her chin at the box, letting him know to open it. He did so, slowly and closed his eyes when he saw what was inside.
"A small group was sent to try and clear the city, as well as look for survivors. They never returned so Stormwind City sent a larger group, which I was a part of. It was terrible, Kade. A nightmare."
Two years after the time he spent in southern Lordaeron, he sent Denise a gift he made for her; a cuff bracelet that was intricately designed with one side holding a filigree in the shape of an elf, and the other of a human. They were both reaching up and holding a round gem. It was dark purple with golden swirls. He knew what it meant, as did Denise. He picked it up and opened his eyes.
“She’s gone then.”
“Well. Thanks for bringing this to me.”
He gently placed a hand on the small of Daestra’s back and led her out. She stopped on the porch and turned around.
“We found her body, Kade. She was on the floor of her flat, holding a ceramic vase. It was the only thing that hadn’t burned in the horrible fires that had been set. She wanted it to be found. She wanted it to be returned to you.”
Kade just nodded and shut the door slowly. He lifted the bracelet from the box and studied it, his lips trembling. It was loved, with parts of the metal worn down while it rubbed against her skin. He closed his hand around it and moved to close the top when he noticed an envelope in the back, almost unseen. He took it out quickly and set the bracelet back in the box while he walked over to a chair. He sat and opened the envelope with shaky hands. He immediately recognized the handwriting as Denise’s, though it was lighter and written with a shaky grip.
It has been so long since I have written and I apologize for that. The years were not kind to me. I have lost my husband to a failed heart, and my two sons to this sickness that is moving through Lordaeron.
I am alone.
I would do anything, Kade, to see you again. I can scarcely remember your face. Your voice. Your touch.
Yes, your touch. You know I could feel you. I know you never believed this, and that was something I came to accept.
I have never stopped holding guilt in my heart. And now I am old and wrinkled, sick and tired. I wish to see you, but I would not want you to see me. I am sure you are still the handsome, rogueish elf I knew, while I have withered away.
I am returning your beautiful gift, Kade. I fear I am near the end of my days. I never took it off, even on my wedding day. Even when my children were born. When I wore it, I could always feel our connection. I wonder, did you allow yourself to feel it as well?
I wish you the most satisfying life you can have. I wish you love, if you have not found it, though I can be certain there are many women chasing it.
Please lift any anger still resting in your soul about me. I must rest in peace, and I fear my own soul will never rest if any anger remains. I know that is much to ask, but it will be the last request I will ever have.
Kade leaned his head back when he finished reading the letter in a failed attempt to somehow keep the tears welling in his eyes in place. The thought of Denise laying on the floor of her home, alone and waiting for the flames to take her raked his heart. He hated himself for a brief moment for never going back to see her, no matter how much she had asked. She still asked after she met the man she would marry. She wanted him to meet their children. She had only wanted him in her life.
He refused by never responding to her letters, aside from sending her the bracelet. There had been no note attached.
He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and stood up, turning to make his way back up to his bedroom. He stepped on the tie again on his way to his dresser and opened one of the drawers.
In the back, there was a small hidden compartment. When he opened it, there sat a stack of letters, all signed by Denise. He placed the last one on top, then closed the drawer slowly. He leaned his hands on the dresser and stared at himself in the mirror, his eyes empty. He grabbed a tissue and blotted the skin around his eyes to try and hide the tear stains and jumped when he heard Satherea call his name.
“KADE! We’re going to be late! Where are you?”
Kade cleared his throat and stepped back over to the tie, yanking it up from the floor.
“Give me a moment, Sath. Still trying to get this fucking tie straight. Dunno why I have to wear this shit anyway…”
Kade growled when a knock sounded and stomped over to wrench the door open. He found Denise standing in the hallway, her posture straight, her expression hard to recognize and his throat tightened. They stood, staring at each other for a long moment until Kade made a motion for her to enter and smirked.
“Feels like we’ve done this before. Except not really.”
Denise stopped when she got to the middle of the room and clasped her hands together. She remained silent and just watched while Kade finished packing his possessions. The elf jumped slightly when she finally spoke.
“Believe me when I say this, Kade. It was real. Our connection. Please, just listen--”
“No. Not going to listen to anymore of this shit.” Kade responded evenly. “You all treated me like some kind of doll, making me do all these things for you. You all could have just told me, you know. I would have played along.”
Denise shook her head and turned away. Kade barely caught a smirk on the young woman’s lips until she spoke again.
“While I was hanging in that void. Alone except for that creature and the woman who conjured it, I was certain I was going to die. That it would suck the life from me as it did to my mother. Who you met, of course. Sarina watched that happen, you know,” Denise turned back to face Kade, her eyes glimmering with hatred.
“She watched as my mother was taken to Light knows where and did nothing. All I heard from the cellar was her horrible screams, and my father’s shouts when he broke into the house and tried to save her. They both failed and Sarina escaped. I wanted nothing more than to tear that elf apart, and leave the meat for the dogs.”
Kade’s eyes widened at Denise’s words and he inhaled slowly.
“Look. I get it. Okay? Vengeance and all that shit. I work for vengeance. It’s what pays my bills. But that doesn’t excuse what was done to me.”
Denise nodded and looked at him pleadingly. “Once I knew you. Once I was connected to you, I knew you were the one that could help. All I wanted, Kade, was to be able to truly feel you. You have to believe me--”
“I don’t have to do anything, now that I know everything around me is real. Also… why all the fighting? Why was I constantly getting my ass kicked? That would have been nice to have been taken out of the fantasy you girls made for me.”
Denise cleared her throat. “We. Well, we all figured out what… how you see yourself. One thing we saw the strongest was your love of combat and… assassination. How much it pleased you. So, we all made that happen. And it wasn’t easy, you know. Manipulating all those people--”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Denise, I killed people--”
Denise raised her hands. “No. There were priests or paladins nearby to rescue anyone deathly injured.”
Kade threw his arms up in defeat. “Of course there were. Because you guys had it all planned out.”
The angry elf zipped his bag closed with gusto and slung it over his shoulder. He stepped quickly over to the door, but Denise was able to grab his arm at the last moment. Kade stopped but didn’t pull his arm away.
“It was real, Kade. You can hate me, be angry as much as you need to be. You know it as much as I do. Love doesn’t have to be just physical--”
“Love? That’s what you keep saying. Who was it, Denise? Who was there in place of you? Or was it just like an assembly line of women wearing your face? I mean… well. An assembly line of women does sound kinda-- okay sorry. I--”
Kade’s eyes opened wide as he came to a realization. The morning after their first… lovemaking? Session? He had no idea what to call it, but he remembered Cedine’s face and teasing when he appeared downstairs. The way she avoided looking at him in the chapel. He remembered that she had become anxious around him near the end.
“It was Cedine.”
“Yes. But, it was only her. We all made the... decision.” Denise whispered and looked down.
“That’s great. At least now I know. Maybe I’ll look her up when I get back to Silvermoon, see if anything we did stuck with her.”
“Oh, Kade. Please. Tell me we’ll see each other again. After a time. I want to see you after we’ve both…”
Denise sighed and raised her head. “I’m sorry. It shouldn’t have been this way.”
“That’s the first true thing you’ve said.”
Kade turned and walked out the door, almost defeated when Denise didn’t protest. He made his way down to the main floor of the inn and stepped through the portal. He stood in the familiar architecture of the Silvermoon spire and closed his eyes.
He was not planning on leaving Silvermoon City again. Maybe ever.
Kade stood with his hip leaning against the windowsill and his arms crossed. His jaw was clenched to the point of causing pain, but he kept his stance while he listened to Daestra explain the last month.
“Let me see if I understand this. My apologies if I haven’t gotten this straight in my head.”
“Of course, Kade,” Daestra murmured, standing across the room from him. She held a dejected expression on her face while she continued speaking. “Take all the time you need. I’m certain I can answer any questions you might have.”
Kade pushed himself from the windowsill and began to pace back and forth while cracking his knuckles. He tried to begin speaking a few times before he was able to form the words.
“You asked me here to find a connection with Denise, because she ended up lost after chasing the creature. The ‘entity’. And you,” he pointed at Daestra, who answered with a small flinch. “You orchestrated the whole thing. Am I getting it right so far?”
“Why go to all this trouble, Daestra? Why not just find Denise on your own? With the other priestesses?”
“Because then the entity would have found a way out of the space Denise trapped it in. Into Lordaeron. And if it had, all of the girls would have been taken in by the Church as accomplices and they did not deserve that.”
“Okay. So Denise is some fancy priestess. That’s news to me. And here I thought she was some demure young woman who has a thing for elves.”
“Well. Both parts are right.”
Daestra laughed weakly, eager to lighten the situation but Kade was having none of it.
“And what is your part in all this? Why help a bunch of women fucking around with Shadow magic?”
“Because Sarina needed to be stopped. Denise’s parents were killed because of her. Because of what she introduced to Denise’s mother. This was all her, Kade. All of this darkness because she read an old tome.”
“You didn’t answer my question. Why you? And more importantly, why me?”
Daestra began to pace, much like Kade had, while she chewed on her bottom lip. After a moment she shook her head and inhaled deeply.
“Denise called out to Evangeline when the entity first took her, but it almost used that as a means to escape. It hooked on to the shared power the two of them had. We needed someone that had no connection with the Light, or the Shadow. Someone that could be…”
She trailed off and sighed.
“Manipulated? Used for this game? Am I getting warmer?”
“No, you’re completely correct, Kade. That’s why I chose you. I remembered you from school. You think I was always in the arcane studies room for homework? I was waiting for you, every time. You were the only boy in school that gave me what I wanted without doing it just to get a piece of my parent’s status. You hated magic, so I never had to talk about it with you. You were refreshing, Kade. And when you kept hopping from girl… and boy… so nonchalantly, I remembered that. You have no boundaries and I knew that would work for this.”
“Hey. I have boundaries…”
“How did you do it, then? If Sarina and Denise were trapped with that thing?”
“Kade. I am a mage. I can do things like image manipulation. I would simply give myself, or one of the other priestesses Sarina’s visage for a time until I grew too tired.”
“So all of it was you. This whole time.”
He thought for a moment about Sarina. He had always figured her strange way of acting towards him was just part and parcel to her life as a noble woman and he knew how completely insane those within that lifestyle could be.
It was Daestra at Margwyn’s wedding. With her father when they left for Capitol City. How did her father not know? Couldn’t he tell? He was realizing now that it was likely because it was never the same women acting as her. After a moment, he inhaled sharply and whipped his head around to look at Daestra. When he spoke, his voice was low and defeated.
“Who was it when I thought I was with Denise?”
“Who was it, Daestra?”
“Kade, please. It was necessary. We had to have a strong connection between your minds and we found it. She knew who you were. Your appearance. Your mind. She worked so hard to find what she could use--”
“‘What she could use?”
“Kade. I’m so sorry. But. It worked! Better than anyone could have guessed. It was so difficult, trying keep the world around you how we thought it should be."
"And what gave you all the right? What does that even mean? How YOU thought it should be? Fuck's sake, Daestra. So everything. Everything was made by you."
"Yes," Dastra whispered. "You have no idea how difficult it was to--"
"'Difficult'? Oh, so sorry that creating--"
Kade stopped as he remembered what the creature was talking about before. It had known as well. It had watched everything. And probably got off on it. Daestra clasped her hand together and looked at Kade, her eyes begging for his understanding.
"Denise is safe and Sarina is in the hands of the Church. We won. And it’s because of you.”
Kade coughed, trying to cover the fact that he was beginning to cry.
“Just give me a portal to Silvermoon. I need to leave.”
Daestra approached Kade and tried to place her hand on his shoulder, but he stepped out of the way at the last moment. Daestra pressed her lips together and looked away before she pulled something from a pocket in her robes.
“All right, Kade. Here. I will get your portal in about an hour while you get your things in order.”
She held out a velvet box that jingled with coins. Kade’s payment that was agreed to when this farce first began. He stared at it, then with a flash of his hand slapped it over to the wall where it exploded open with force and the coins fell from the box in a glittering avalanche. Denise gasped and covered her mouth with her hands.
“I don’t want your fucking gold, Daestra. In fact, I don’t want to see you, ever again. And if I do, I will beat you until you can’t take it anymore.”
Daestra shrunk back, with tears streaming down her face. She looked over at the gold coins that littered the floor and tried to pick them up, but her hands were shaking too heavily.
“I’ll get the portal going.”
Kade turned sharply and slipped from the room. He swallowed his tears as he returned to his own room to pack up his possessions.
“I need to get up and help the others.”
Denise’s voice was thin and raspy as she struggled to stand. Kade shook his head and held her up.
“Yeah, that’s not happening. You’re stuck with me, sorry.”
Denise sighed, chagrined. She gazed over at the battle, which had grown quiet and desperate while the priestesses struggled to keep the creature locked down. Daestra had conjured a protective bubble around the women, but it was obvious that she was losing her control of the arcane power she was wielding. Kade watched as it seemed Denise’s hands and eyes began to swirl with Shadow magic unbidden, and he grabbed her arms to turn her body towards his.
“Denise. They’ve got it. You’re exhausted and dehydrated and I will not allow you to go out there--OOMPH!”
Kade coughed as he was projected back against the wall and slowly slid down to the ground. He shook the stars from his eyes and inhaled sharply at what he was seeing.
Denise, completely surrounded by Shadow magic, levitated towards the other priestesses, who were beginning to look the worse for wear. He could hear their protests, though they didn’t try to stop her. She stopped briefly and turned her head to look at Kade. Their eyes locked onto each other and the elf briefly felt the connection they had from before and he suddenly knew this is what Denise needed to do. He turned his head to look at Sarina, who was still unconscious. He felt a tinge of hatred that wasn’t his own and his heart ached for the young woman heading to the battle.
He watched, helpless as the other priestesses stepped aside to let her in. They bowed their heads, the hoods from their robes shrouded their faces enough to seem like circles of void energy. The creature was tightly bound, though it was still fighting strong. It stopped shrieking when Denise approached and was silent for a moment until it began laughing.
“What is this? The daughter has regained her strength. A little too late, unfortunately.”
Denise kept silent and raised her right hand. The creature shrieked once more, this time feeling like it was an infinite sound crossing through every imaginable existence. Tendrils of Shadow mixed with Light encircled the creature and it was lifted up, then yanked back towards Denise. It struggled and lashed out with power of its own, though the young human seemed to be unaffected.
“En'othk uulg'shuul. Mh'za uulwi skshgn kar.”
Denise began a chant with those words and the other priestesses followed quickly. Kade covered his ears as his head began to pound and he pulled his knees up to his chest. He heard the muffled cries of the creature and watched with bated breath as Denise began to overtake her target, her hair floating up around her head and a halo of Light ripping apart the Shadow magic she was wielding. Kade had to sacrifice his ears for his eyes as the space became a font of Light and all the other priestesses ripped their hoods back and switched their words into ones that warmed Kade’s chest instead of causing it pain. Daestra had moved to the side once her part in the attack was done and she was tending to Sarina. The mage had the elf’s head in her hands and turned to the group.
“If you’re going to do it, do it now!”
Denise reached out her hand and began to pull energy from the creature, much like it had done to Kade. Dark images danced across the area until it began to shrink and seem like it was being sucked into the ground while Sarina began to come back to life. Her back arched and a deep breath filled her lungs as her limbs flailed. Daestra leaned back as Sarina’s filthy and broken nails nearly sliced the mage’s cheeks while she kept hold of the priestess’ head. As the creature, still protesting as the horrible words it spoke faded into nothing, all of the priestesses turned towards the small group on the other side of the room.
Denise arrived first. She floated over Sarina and Daestra, her face shrouded in an even mix of Light and Shadow.
She had never looked so beautiful to Kade, especially when she leaned over, picked up Sarina by the neck and lifted the squirming elf up off the ground.
“Denise! This isn’t the way! Sarina needs to meet her own punishment. It’s not ours to give. We need to hand her over to the Church.”
Evangeline stepped forward and gazed up at Denise with a sorrowful expression.
“Please, Denise. Don’t fall prey to your anger. Trust in the Light.”
Denise looked down at Evangeline, unblinking with a stony expression while Sarina choked in the young woman’s hand. The entire room was silent aside from Sarina’s struggles until Denise allowed the elf’s body to fall onto the ground, which it did with a satisfying thud. Sarina huffed with pain but seemed to realize that was where she needed to stay.
“All right,” Denise started, her voice both quiet and commanding at once. “Bring her to her punishment. I will have no part in it from this moment on.”
She turned her gaze to Kade, and her eyes lost the anger they had held just moments before.
“Will you take me home, Kade?”
“Kade! Bring Denise over here. Watch over her and Sarina!”
Kade blinked in surprise at the voice and turned to face the source. His mouth fell open as the person who had spoken pulled her hood back and revealed that she was, in fact, Daestra.
“Okay, I know we have precious little time but what the fuck?”
Kade strained to keep hold of Denise’s body, who had started to squirm as she began to regain consciousness. He made his way over to Sarina, who was being pulled down by two hooded priestesses.
“You’re right, no time. Just go over there.”
Kade just stared at Daestra, who avoided returning the look and concentrated on the creature that was currently shrieking in the middle of the round space. Kade winced as his head started to feel like it was being inflated and he was afraid it was going to explode. As he approached Sarina and the other two priestesses, he placed Denise on the ground with careful movements. He tried to brush her crusted hair from her cheeks until one of the priestesses, who he recognized as Evangeline pulled his hand away.
“There will be time for that later, Kade,” she murmured while Sarina’s body was placed on the ground next to Denise. The stricken elf’s breathing was shallow and uneven, her eyes lacking the blue arcane glow of her people. “She’s in bad shape, but I need to get back with the others.”
Evangeline nodded to the other human priestess (Maira! That’s her name. I knew it started with a M.) and they both hurried to where their group was forming around the creature. Kade watched the priestesses and Daestra as they formed a perimeter and began to chant once more.
Bright flashes of Light caused the creature to shriek with anger and pain, which caused it to collect itself and fight back. In an instant, a tendril of Shadow shot forward and pierced one of the elven women directly into the chest and lifted her. The tendril snapped her body and the result was loud enough for Kade to hear. He watched in horror as the priestess’ body fell, broken nearly in half, with a dull thump on the ground. Two of the priestesses reacted quickly, throwing their own attacks at the creature which bound it and caused sizzling smoke to waft up and it wailed in a deafening call.
A barrier of Light surrounded the broken body of the Shadow’s victim while Daestra used her arcane talents to move the body from the field of battle. She was then laid next to Kade and the other two women. Kade looked down as his chest clenched at the sight of the priestess’ broken body, her face frozen in pure terror and agony.
The anger accrued from the creature’s attack empowered the rest of the priestesses, who suddenly abandoned their Light powers and switched immediately to Shadow. The creature, confused and agitated reached out again, only to be shackled by its own powers. The six remaining priestesses began to slowly close in on the creature, who was fighting against their Shadow magics fruitlessly. The horrible shrieking that came from the creature as it began to fail against the priestesses’ attack caused Kade to stand and feel for his daggers, which were still strapped to his hips. He took two steps forward when he suddenly banged face first into an invisible barrier and flailed backwards.
“KADE. I told you to stay with Sarina and Denise!”
Daestra was readying a spell, and looked annoyed that she was having to interrupt herself to keep Kade in check.
“I need to concentrate! Stay there!”
The barrier slowly faded, but he listened to Daestra’s order. He looked back over his shoulder at the two weakened women and sighed. As he stepped over to Denise, she began to slowly waken and murmur. Kade crouched down and slid his arms under her body with a careful gentleness. As he pulled her close and her head fell limp, he finished brushing her stiff hair from her face and his heart thumped painfully.
“Denise?” he whispered over the din of battle. He looked back over his shoulder to see the priestesses nearly finished containing the creature and slowly turned his gaze back to the semi conscious woman in his arms.
“Denise?” He said again and held her close while he shut his eyes. “Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you.”
Kade’s eyes flew back open and he looked down. Denise was slowly beginning to regain enough strength to lift her head, though her limbs were still weak. “I can hear you, Kade. I’m so tired.”
“I know, Denise. We’ll get you out of here.”
“I know you will.”
She pressed her face into his chest as her arms weakly embraced his abdomen. He rested his cheek on the top of her head and held her close, the sounds of the battle that encompassed the room faded into the background as his body warmed with relief as she rested in his arms.
Kade struggled while it suddenly felt as if he had just ingested a bucketful of water before being drained. He watched as everything from the past few weeks was pulled from his mind in some kind of macabre dance and he tried to shake his head, though his body remained still.
He was helpless, and it was apparent it had saved what he wanted to keep from getting ripped from his mind for last. The creature floated up to look into his eyes.
Kade almost gagged at the odor that infiltrated his nostrils. It was obvious now that whatever this entity was had been using Denise’s mother’s body as a decaying suit to move through this realm. The face seemed to melt as it spoke, and the eyes were gray and crossed.
“You are delicious, Kadence.”
Kade was finally able to shake his head, and he spoke through a clenched jaw.
“Don’t take it. Everything else you can have. Not that.”
As the creature leaned its head back and laughed, the horrid sound echoed through the empty space.
“Oh. Ooohhh… is this what you wanted to save?”
The creature waved its hand and images of the time he’d spent with Denise flickered in front of them. Kade nodded.
“Yes. I’m going to need something to jerk off to.”
The creature snarled.
“Oh, you just love being insufferably pithy.”
“I really do.”
The creature continued its torture as more images of Kade and Denise’s time together danced across the circular area. Kade fought and struggled, cried and vomited until he managed to move his body independently once more. He felt a hand around his throat tighten and he struggled to breathe.
“Did you love her?” The creature asked, loosening its grip enough to allow him to speak.
“I loved what we did.”
The creature smiled, revealing teeth that were black and rotten. “But you can’t love her.”
The creature released its grip on Kade’s throat and his head dipped back down as he coughed.
“I have this annoying feeling, Kadence. That somewhere, deep down in this fleshbag I am wearing is a faint protectiveness for that young woman.”
It floated over to Denise and stroked her face almost lovingly before grasping a handful of hair and yanked her head up. Denise whimpered quietly and Kade growled.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what? This?” The creature jiggled Denise’s head back and forth a few times until it released the firm grip of the young woman's hair. Denise’s head wobbled as it fell back into place.
“If you manage to escape, none of this will have happened. Not even the passionate embrace of young Denise here. Does this anger you?”
“Only in that I’m guessing I won’t be getting the two million gold I was promised.”
“That’s likely correct. Also, you’ll probably be dead.”
Kade chuckled and tried to look at Denise again. He felt his ears droop as he studied her near lifeless body. He drew in a sharp breath between his teeth as he failed to keep tears from falling.
“All right, let’s be done with this.”
Kade grunted as the creature began its torture once more. It didn’t falter this time and pulled the stricken elf’s passion from his heart like drinking from a straw. He tried to battle, to keep himself bottled up but he was failing. Then, in one flash of thought his mind began to clear.
What was he good at? Keeping himself bottled up. Ever since the feeling of slashing Mathasar’s throat at the behest of Satherea he had been talented at keeping what he felt at any given time tied up inside him. No one save for Talmera had known him as deeply as Mathasar. He growled low in his throat and opened his eyes wide in time to see the creature’s dead grey eyes narrow in confusion.
“What is this?”
The creature hissed angrily and floated to Kade. His head jerked up when he felt a chunk of his hair being grabbed. He gagged as the creature pressed its nose against Kade's.
“You cannot resist me. All that will happen is your tortuous death, my little elf.”
“Yeah,” Kade coughed. “It’s either you stop or I die. You’re not getting what you want while I still breathe either way. Though, admittedly I’d rather live.”
The creature snarled and yanked Kade’s hair with angry firmness until some locks tore from his scalp. His vanity caused him to yell out in protest.
“Oh come on!”
The creature huffed and returned to its previous position. The room fell silent as it lifted her arms to pick up where it left off until a whisper wafted through like a fresh breeze, though the words caused a shiver to travel down Kade’s spine. Words he was familiar with filled his ears and instantly cleared his addled mind.
En'othk uulg'shuul. Mh'za uulwi skshgn kar.
The creature bellowed and swiveled it head around. It glared at Sarina’s prone body dangling from the shackles and glided over to her. As the creature leaned its head to discover the source of the whisper, Kade shivered again when he heard the words, this time from Denise’s position. The creature shouted and turned once more, its mouth falling open and stretching much like it did before Kade woke in this place.
“What. IS. THIS?”
It screeched loudly and all the elf wished he could do was cover his ears. Kade looked over at Denise and knew the whispers were coming from her.
He knew her voice. He knew every part of her, every movement, every scent her body held. He released a couple shaky breaths as he felt his shackles start to loosen. As he began to turn his wrists in small circles to find a weak spot in the bindings, suddenly the whispers began to strengthen with different voices uttering them. The weakest began with Sarina, whose head was still limp though her lips began to move with the words.
Then things happened quickly. While the creature was screeching through its extended maw, the whispers became shouts and screams as bright portals appeared around the room, causing the the angered Shadow to cover its eyes with an arm.
There were seven portals, and through each one stepped a woman from Sarina’s group of priestesses, all hooded with Shadow swirling around their bodies. Denise and Sarina stirred and began to whimper quietly.
“Well, this is unexpected.” Kade mumbled as the shackles broke free and he fell to the floor while the creature continued to shriek. He stood as fast as his numb legs would allow him and once he regained footing he rushed over to Denise just as she was about to fall face first onto the cold ground. He reached out quickly and managed to catch her and cradle her body in his arms. Her head hung back limply as she whispered once more.
“En'othk uulg'shuul. Mh'za uulwi skshgn kar.”
Kade blinked and swallowed thickly. He suddenly knew the meaning of every word, and whispered in response.
“There is no light after death. Only a place where even shadows fear to go.”