There are currently 0 users and 0 guests online.
User login
Home | Blogs | Lirriel's blog

Shadows in the Valley, Part 4 (Finale)

Lirriel's picture

((This took forever. Previous entries in my blog here and on tumblr!))

Rhiswyn dropped the orc disguise as the rolling hills dipped and curved, hiding her from the village’s sights. Yshul should have been waiting in a small copse of trees that reminded her of evergreens, when the path began to wend its way upwards again.

Felhounds were waiting instead. Three of the magic-eating monsters rushed the priest, the surprise paralyzing her for a moment.

But just a moment.

Roots of shadow sprung from the ground, grasping the trio. They turned their slavering jaws and lashing tendrils on the shadows, depleting their energy. It was distraction enough.

Motes of shadow gathered and burst, taking on the form of dark birds circling the priest’s head. Some of the avian shapes darted forward and splashed against the felhounds, infecting them with a voracious plague. At the same time, a ribbon of dark energy shot from Rhiswyn’s hand, targeting the largest of the hounds. Ripples engulfed its fellows, tearing at their hides as her disease ravaged them internally.

The roots faded, but she had just enough time to reapply them. Rhiswyn summoned her shield against the snapping jaws, using it to speed her backward motion. She blasted the demons’ simple minds, until they were steamy piles on the hillside, their summoned forms fading.

Rhiswyn stood in the road, hands flexing as she tried to control her shaking and let her breathing return to normal. She brushed a sweaty strand of brown hair from her cheek, hefted her staff, and hurried well around the felhound remains to the Draakorium.

************

The village was quieter than it should have been for that time of day. Fey dragons blinked silently from trees and stalls, large eyes following her rush toward the infirmary. Several draenei sat listlessly in their homes and shops. A sour tang hung in the air, and the clouds seemed too low, too dark, and tinged a foul color she didn’t like, casting a pall over the whole area.

Rhiswyn flung the clinic’s door open. The windows were shuttered, crystals dimmed. The children coughed and shifted, quieter even than their sickness warranted.

In the center of the room, D’lina sat stiffly in a chair next to a relaxed, grinning Yshul. “Hello, Rhiswyn. Good you could join us after all.” He indicated a chair next to him as he spoke.

She looked around the room, and the children watching. Rhiswyn smiled at them. She left her staff leaning next to the door and walked forward. She pulled the chair around to face Yshul as she sat. “Happy to be here, dear, despite some trouble on the road. Are we waiting for something?”

“Contact from some friends of mine,” he said. “They’ll help expedite matters. I’m not sure what they’ll make of you, though. The felhounds should have handled such a tasty little morsel easily. Stupid beasts.”

D’lina wet her lips and spoke, her voice high and thin. “Yshul…”

“Shh,” he reached over and patted her forearm. “It will be better to stop running, stop fighting our destiny. We should have done this centuries ago.”

D’lina’s eyes shifted to Rhiswyn, panic behind the glow. The half-elven woman turned her gaze on Yshul, shadows shifting around and under her chair. “So you created the poison berries,” Rhiswyn said. “You made sure the children found them, to expose them to fel energies.”

“The strong ones will be gifted with their birthright, the power promised us so long ago,” Yshul said. His grip on D’lina’s wrist tightened, and the young woman winced. “The weak…well, regrettable, truly, but they have no place in this world; it’s better for them, that way. And it shall bring their parents to our cause, in their anger and pain. It would work better if I could continue to blame the botani or the orcs, though.”

“Why did you go after those children as well?” She tried to send tendrils of shadow into his mind, but it was hard to get a bead on it, constantly slipping from her grasp.

He grinned, his sharp teeth gleaming in the dimmed light. “Collateral damage, really. Didn’t seem to bother you when burned that Blademoon village. Thank you for that; I may still turn it to my advantage, and they were in the way in the end.”

“I panicked,” Rhiswyn said. She kept her face neutral even while the memories of wood popping and raspy voices screaming echoed in her mind. “It was a mistake, one I’ll regret for a long time. They may remind me of an old enemy, but they are not them.”

Yshul shrugged. His own mental tendrils were foul and slimy as they pressed against her defenses, seeking a way past. “As for the orcs, they deserve to die for what they’ve done, what they seek to do. Removing the next generation, and any hope for future ones, so that they vanish entirely will pay off in the end—and I have all the time to wait, that they were wasting with their brief existences anyway.” He smirked, the shadows in the room thickening with an oily taste on her skin and tongue. “You can forget your tricks, priestess; you haven’t the strength or skill to affect me.” The sargerei let go of D’lina and leaned forward. “Perhaps you require a lesson from your elder. Perhaps I’ll use you as you seem to enjoy, before the others arrive.”

Rhiswyn sighed and rolled her eyes. “Oh, I’ve never been threatened like that before. You pig.” She ran a hand through her hair as he scowled and rose. Her manicured nails—chipped and cracked, would have to fix that later—pressed briefly on a spot just behind her right ear, a barely noticeable, slightly raised scar on her scalp under the brown locks, where the shaving of a black dragonscale was affixed to her skull.

As Yshul’s tainted shadows lashed against her mind, a vision of glowing red eyes in a dark, reptilian face superimposed itself over Rhiswyn’s vision for an eyeblink. Yshul’s head snapped back, his momentum faltering. Rhiswyn grinned as she stood. “Saw him too, dear?” she asked—and spun to kick in the side of his knee.

He shouted as the connection made a satisfying crack; no one ever expected priests to go for the physical attacks first. Yshul lurched forward, grabbing Rhiswyn’s arms in a bone-crunching grip. She couldn’t both dodge him and maintain a mental assault, and he was much larger than she was, in a relatively small space.

Yshul used that size advantage to drag her to the floor with him as his knee gave out. He bared his teeth and wrapped one of his large, rough hands around her throat. “Meddlesome half-breed bitch. I’ll make your death slow, and none will doubt the strength given—“

D’lina slammed a chair on Yshul. In theater productions and many holo films, chairs broke—but a piece of furniture built to support a grown man’s weight usually doesn’t break as easily as people do. Yshul was stunned, falling to the floor. The mental connection broke. Rhiswyn shoved him away with D’lina’s help, grabbing the other woman’s offered hand to scramble to her feet.

“W-what now?” D’lina asked, looking between the groaning, swaying Yshul and the staring children. The sargerei was already pushing himself back up.

Rhiswyn kicked him in the side, just under the ribs. He cried out and fell again, cursing. “Children,” Rhiswyn ordered, raising her voice. “Please do turn around, heads under blankets and pillows. Now.” She cast a levitate on Yshul, making his groggy attempts to rise even more awkward. It also made it easier for her to grab him by the hair and drag him behind one of the privacy screens. D’lina bustled from bed to bed, ensuring the children complied—and avoiding seeing anything herself.

“You…pasty little…whore…I’ll…”

“Yes, dear, I’m sure,” Rhiswyn said, slamming his face against the alchemy table’s leg. “Really, your insults are simply pedestrian. You would never have made a terribly good villain in the long run.”

She kicked him onto his back and straddled his torso, resting her forearms on his broad chest. Rhiswyn smiled sweetly. “But don’t worry, dear; I’ll save you the future embarrassment. Now, look at me…” With her shadow powers bolstered by her Black Prince’s old gift, along with the beating he took, he was less able to resist. His glowing eyes widened as they stared into her blue ones, endless pools darkened by shadows that came ever nearer until they were both swallowed, screams muffled by the dark.

************

The air of the Draakorium was clear again, and the fey drakes called and chattered, scales rippling through all the colors of the rainbow as children dodged through their legs and tails. The laughing adults made the kids take turns at pretending to be the alien priest defeating the evil sargerei.

Vindicators from Karabor destroyed the berry bushes while anchorites followed Rhiswyn’s instructions to finish curing the fel sickness—she had gleaned the details from Yshul’s mind as she had torn it apart.

“The other sargerei will not come now,” the grizzled vindicator captain said. “We will maintain a watch here to be sure.”

Rhiswyn nodded. “I was afraid they would arrive before you did, dear, but Yshul might have been bluffing—or his death was known. Which is a tad disturbing to consider.”

He nodded. “You have our thanks, for your actions. The envoy sent to the Shadowmoon village says that they extend their thanks as well. Their children should mostly recover, though some damage will perhaps remain.” He looked down at her, dark brows drawn together. “Curious, that you would think to send the cure to them as well. We are at war.”

“We are at war with the Iron Horde and its warriors, dear. Not with the sick, elderly, or children who never fought, or committed any of the crimes Ner’zhul and his followers perpetuated by calling on the Dark Star.”

He studied her for a moment, and then nodded. “Just so. Now, I must check on the perimeter, but I am told that the fey drakes have a gift for you, in thanks for what you have done for their young, and the people here.”

“Lovely. I should be getting back to the Dragoon garrison, but I have time enough. I did come here to see the drakes initially.”

The captain laughed and went on his way, leaving Rhiswyn to visit the majestic, gentle beasts on her own. They were like dragons, but not; like the sprite darters of Azeroth, but not.  They were, however, warm and affectionate, their curling tails wrapping around her waist in thankful embrace. When she left the village on the back of one, flying over the valley’s wooded hills and grassy meadows, she carried a youngling with her, tucked happily against her chest to eventually grow into her own color-shifting companion, light reflecting off its brilliant scales.