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Shadows in the Valley, Part 2

Lirriel's picture

The beauty of Blademoon Bloom was not lost on the half-elf priest cautiously navigating along the streams and down the flowery paths into the heart of the growth. The dangers inherent were not to be ignored, either.

Rhiswyn had already been warned about the large pink flowers that would emit a noxious gas to put someone to sleep, to await pick up by the botani. Fireflies moved in languid arcs through the air, focused around short pillars lining the pathways. In the shadows off the trail, mandragora hissed and splashed in the water. The air was thick and heady with floral smells and spore bursts, and the loamy scent of fertile earth.

She headed for the trees nearer the center; tall, twisting, lit from the inside with spore and firefly glow. As she closed in on one of them, what she took for a mossy tree moved into her path, a spear in its long limbs. It growled, a rattley, wood-grinding, clacking sound. Its face was a carved mask, regal, strong, and long in features. Its eyes were violet and narrowed at her. Tiny branches grew from its limbs and shoulders, leaves and flowers sprouting from the soft green wood. Larger, longer leaves wrapped around parts of its frame like a cloak, and a kilt. Vines twisted up its solidly built body. Her head came to the base of where its ribcage would be, if it were made of flesh instead of plant.

Rhiswyn held up her free hand. “Peace! I am a healer, and want to talk—assuming you can understand me…?”

“Yesss,” it hissed. “But why should I speak with meat?”

“Because this meat wants to ask questions,” Rhiswyn said, smiling. Her charms were probably lost on this creature, though. “Let’s not be hasty, dear.”

The botani frowned. “What questions could you have?”

Rhiswyn took a jar of berry samples from her bag. “I want to know why these berries have been poisoned. Why are the younglings of the village being harmed?”

The botani headtilted, its neck creaking. “Come,” it said, turning away and heading down the path toward one of the tree houses.

Rhiswyn took in a deep breath and followed, gripping her staff. The botani led her into a wide, brightly lit tree. Inside, other botani worked, green nature magic swirling around their limbs and the half-grown bodies of smaller botani. They lay in mulch beds, covered in leaves and vines and fertilizer. Their own greenery was withered, their bark brittle.

“Our young are also sick. We are not making our young sick, what do we care about meat young?”

Rhiswyn frowned, stepping closer to a bed to examine the young botani. “Have you determined a possible cause?”

“Darkness. Foul. Since the orcs began their burning, the soil is tainted, the food grows ill.”

“Could the taint have spread to these berries?”

The botani reached down and plucked the jar from her hand. It sniffed the fruit, violet eyes distant. “Most plants are always poison to meat, or never. It does not change. I do not know these fruits, but the foulness is there.”

That was puzzling; she would have to ask D’lina or Yshul later. Perhaps the draenei had brought them from a previous world, if not Argus itself. Yshul had only said that the berries had been there since the village’s existence, and she had assumed that meant they were native.

The botani nearly threw the jar back at her, uncaring. “You seek to end the foulness?”

“Indeed, dear. My profession is well suited to dealing with corruption, particularly where it harms others.”

It rumbled in thought. “Then we will not use you for food or new young yet. Find the foulness. Stop the spread in the young—botani and meat alike. Restore the balance.”

Rhiswyn nodded, suppressing a shiver. “Then I’ll be leaving. Just point the way…?”

The botani began walking, back out of the tree and into the overgrowth once again. Rhiswyn followed, unwilling to lose her erstwhile guide. Assuming it didn’t lead her farther in, anyway.

They passed by lumps of mossy mulch, the smell of decay strong enough to make her gag. Something meaty had died, recently. ‘Stay focused,’ she told herself. ‘Probably a riverbeast, now being…processed…’

She caught sight of a horn-covered neck and grimaced. A talbuk. Shame; the creatures were among her favorites on this alien world, racing across the plains. She paused, looking again. No; that was definitely a scrap of harness.

There was a moan from the next mound. The botani passed by without a second glance, but Rhiswyn hesitated. She looked at the botani walking ahead, and as another muffled moan came from the moss, she brushed back the covering with the end of her staff.

She wished she hadn’t, as her stomach heaved. The draenei trader who had carted her to the Draakorium stared up at her with one eye; the other had a vine growing through it. More vines pulsed and writhed against and into his lavender skin, now greenish and wrinkled.

The first night they had set up camp, he had set his wolf on watch, the talbuk grazing, and as he lay down, he had set up a small, crystal holo display. Laughing children smiled and waved in the soft light. “My grandchildren,” he had said, proudly. “They are the last I see before sleep, and the first I see upon waking, no matter where I am.”

He tried to say her name, but the vines growing from his mouth in place of his tongue didn’t allow normal speech.

“New young are not your concern. Only the foulness,” the botani said, paused ahead, a glower on its mask-like face.

Rhiswyn could not move. The overgrowth was far away; she shivered instead with the winds of Icecrown glacier. The bodies of Argent, Horde, and Alliance soldiers lay scattered among the torn, icy ground. Nerubian carapaces and burst eggsacs dotted the landscape. The smell of gangrenous decay was overwhelming, as was the smell of burning flesh as they consecrated their fallen to the Light—and attempted to keep them from undeath.

She turned to give instructions to her nurses, and saw motion on the field. “Survivor!” She called, heading that way. Rhiswyn was almost upon it when she realized that she had been so very wrong. The abomination that rose pulled more limbs and torsos into itself, becoming an amalgamation of her colleagues, her friends, her lovers. It flailed at her with a tauren’s hand, but she ducked, calling on the Light. A pillar of golden-white fire crashed through the clouds and splashed on the monster, making it scream in a dozen voices—some of them she recognized.

The screaming continued now. Her own voice, rising in anger. The burning smell now was that of foliage, not bodies. Wood shrieked and popped as she summoned more and more Light-fire, hands burning white as she smote the botani swinging its barbed spear at her. The smoke grew thicker, shading the feeding grove—and the Shadows gathered around Rhiswyn.

Darkness struck the botani, its greenery withering under a devouring plague that worked much faster than the foulness afflicting the children. She threw all her rage, grief, the memories of Icecrown—and the image of the old trader’s holo display—into the botani’s alien mind, warping and breaking it under her pressure. Flames licked at her staff, her clothes—the smoke was overwhelming—Get out…

******

The rangari who came to investigate the burning forest didn’t know what to make of the smoke that hurtled itself away from the rest, suddenly reforming into an alien woman who fell to the ground, coughing and sobbing. She was scorched, her tight clothes tattered, and she’d lost her staff along the way, but she clutched her sample bag, and one other small object they were not able to pry from her bruised hands: a soot-covered holo display.

While the bulk of the rangari worked to contain the fire—noting grimly that it had taken a small colony of the Blademoon botani with it—one of them soothed and hushed the alien female, wrapping her in blankets and carrying her on an elekk to the Draakorium.

Comments

Seler's picture

(( Great as always! Since

(( Great as always! Since Rhis is always (or at least every time I'm around) flirty and light-hearted during in game RP, I love to see her in more serious situations.))

Lirriel's picture

((Yeah, in social situations,

((Yeah, in social situations, Rhis has an image to maintain. And while she sees no point in being false to who she is, group gatherings are no time for being a downer or super serious most times. One on one, though, and she tends to get a little more serious many times, if someone needs an ear or advice. And it's not like she comes to many MeddleGoon runs into danger zones!))

Jormund's picture

((Wait wait wait... did

((Wait wait wait... did Rhiswyn just went Anakin Skywalker on a botani colony and burned it down?? Because of a memory trigger??? ... uh... huh... that's... well... huh.))

"When there is a will there is a way"

"Lead? Me? Nope, no no no no. Bad things happen when I lead. People die and I appear somewhere in Horde territory... with no pants!"

Lirriel's picture

((Maybe. Possibly. I mean.

((Maybe. Possibly. I mean. She hasn't set foot in Gorgrond cuz the description she got of the botani made her think "just like the Scourge" where they consume or convert anyone alive. So um.

Let's move that to "Yes, yes she did. Definitely. Oops."