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Julilee
Julilee
Posts: 124
Joined: August 24th, 2014, 2:13 pm
Julilee

Re: The Price of Strength

Postby Julilee » July 19th, 2015, 5:28 am

My words and thoughts about not trusting Lilliana were completely true, but even so, I wasn’t prepared. How could I have been? We were in the middle of Sanctuary Garrison, surrounded by Horde soldiers, and I was more than capable of taking care of myself.

“I have better things to do than watch you,” I said as we moved down the path to the gate. The cold air made my ears tingle and I rubbed at one absently. A nagging feeling in the back of my mind had me wondering if a headache was coming on. All things considered, I’d been through worse interactions with Lilliana without developing a migraine, so it would just go to show that despite retaining my cool, I’d lost some of the thick skin I’d developed for the priestess. I hoped I wouldn’t have need to redevelop it.

Lilliana stopped walking abruptly.

I frowned, stopping as well. “What?”

“Nothing.” She started slowly moving up closer to me, almost creeping, while staring at me intently.

I was not amused, and especially not when I realized the nagging feeling was actually her. She was testing my mental defenses. With an act of will, I shored them up immediately. “Don’t try me, Lilliana,” I warned her.

“I’m not,” she said, her voice strangely soothing.

I was confused, but quickly realized she was still trying to influence me. I stepped forward. “Cut it out. Now.” I didn’t even put my hand on my sword hilt. Very annoyed though I was, her messing around and trying to provoke me didn’t warrant taking seriously.

But then she stepped forward to close the rest of the distance between us and lifted her hand toward my head. I started to raise my arm to block her reflexively, but it was my left side, my slow side, and she connected first. The physical contact amplified her power, letting her past my mental defenses, and I felt her touch on my mind. Immediately I grabbed her arm and wrenched, sending the priestess to her knees with a yelp.

“Ow! Julilee!” Lilliana yelled. “I’m trying to help! Your head, fucked up!”

The soldier posted nearby along the path looked over, becoming aware of the altercation, but I appeared to have it well in hand between our positions and Lilly’s cries. However, that wasn’t the case. She hadn’t relinquished her grip on my mind. I was furious at the intrusion, and even more, her supposed justification for it. “I don’t need your HELP!” I said vehemently.

I threw her back away from me, but that didn’t break the connection either. I could still feel her in my mind, an incredibly unwelcome presence. On her rump, she looked up at me and almost grinned. “I think you do.”

Her influence was almost sufficient to implant the suggestion backing the words – but I was too angry, too distrusting of her. I would not be swayed. Fighting her will, I drew my sword and pointed it at her chest. “Out. Now,” I said through gritted teeth.

Lilliana’s eyes dropped to the blade and she glared. I felt the strong impulse to drop my sword, but I again resisted. She would realize in the next moment that she was not going to win this. “Not a chance,” I said. “I’m giving you one more opportunity to let go. Or I will run you through.”

Lilliana shook her head. She didn’t try to get up, but she didn’t need to. “No, you are a loose cannon,” she told me.

“I’M a—” I couldn’t believe her. But allowing this to continue on her terms would be what she wanted. I lowered my sword, but only so that she was unprepared when I swept my shield off my back and struck her with it. I saw a flash of Light as she shielded herself, but it still knocked her down.

However, she still did not let go. On the ground, pretending to be helpless, she thrust as hard as she could into my mind. I flinched and reacted, swinging at her again, but she was doing more damage to me than I to her… all of it invisible to any bystanders. I needed to end this, and quickly, yet another mind spike left me reeling.

It was followed by a bright flash and a piercing whistle. I lifted my shield against it, disoriented, and realizing that someone else had arrived. It was Naheal, polearm in hand.

“Weapons down, spells off or I kill the one with weapons in hand as a traitor to the Horde!” he ordered.

I didn’t have the luxury of being happy about his arrival or not, as Lilliana was still pressing the attack, even as she clambered to her feet. And this time, her influence overwhelmed me. I lowered my sword and shield, but not because of what Naheal had said.

“And that means your fingers in her mind, Lilly!” Naheal said.

I struggled against the ongoing control. There was no way Lilliana’s will would override mine. There was just no way. But I couldn’t move. Meanwhile, Lilliana turned a deadly look on Naheal and said, “Stand there and shut the fuck up. She’s fucked up. Give me a minute. I need to concentrate or it will get fucked up.”

Naheal readied his weapon, but he hesitated, looking at me.
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Julilee
Julilee
Posts: 124
Joined: August 24th, 2014, 2:13 pm
Julilee

Re: The Price of Strength

Postby Julilee » July 19th, 2015, 5:30 am

Lilliana held a hand out to Naheal to ask him to wait and turned back to me. I felt her touch exploring through my mind, finding where the connections were crossed, where they had healed haphazardly but not in a way that was biologically incorrect. And then she delved in.

I fell into an almost dreaming state as she moved around my mind, beginning to change things. My eyes closed, but I could still hear them talking. It was all distant, like something I was observing and not a part of.

“Explain what you’re doing, Lilly,” Naheal said. He wasn’t intervening yet.

She didn’t respond to him. The priestess touched my forehead, murmuring sweetly like a mother trying to get a child off to bed. I wanted to be furious, I wanted to strike her down, but I couldn’t feel anything. Her presence dominated mine and I was helpless.

“I’m not asking.” Naheal’s voice had steel to it this time.

Something Lilliana was doing hurt, suddenly, and I flinched. I heard Lilliana snap, her voice filled with venom, “Fixing her… Don’t touch me!”

The pain was instantly soothed away, but it left behind a growing panic. She was completely beyond my defenses. She could do anything she wanted to me at that moment. This Grim priestess who didn’t like me, didn’t respect me, and had every reason to hurt me. The horror of being completely helpless caught up to where she’d sectioned off my will in a rush.

I opened my eyes. “STOP!” I shouted, and tackled her.

Lilliana grunted with shock upon impact, her grip on my mind slackening with surprise. She hit the ground with me atop her. I’d dropped my armaments, and my hands went to her neck to throttle her. I was blind with rage, hurt and humiliated, and wanted to kill her, just kill her. Naheal was yelling something but I wasn’t listening. Lilliana was screaming too, frantically.

“Don’t you EVER—” I was shouting.

“You’re HORDE!”

Naheal’s words penetrated through the red haze of rage, and I froze. What was I doing? Lilliana had attacked me, but I was sworn to use no more force than necessary. I was sworn to peace. I was sworn to forgive.

Lilliana was not.

She mentally struck out in my moment of consternation, and regained complete control of me. My will fell away along with my hands. Automatically, I rose to my feet and stepped back.

Then Naheal’s boot connected with Lilliana’s face, sending her sprawling in the dirt. “What the FUCK did I JUST SAY!?” he shouted.

Lilliana caught herself, pushing herself up enough to look at me. She would not be deterred, her bruising face set in lines of determination. Even now I felt her touch resume on my mind, distantly invasive and awful. “I’m… helping… her,” she stated.

Behind her, the guard soldier had finally come over. “What be goin’ on, Commandah?” she asked, eyeing Lilliana and Naheal.

Naheal wasn’t moving. He was looking at me again. Then he looked at Lilliana, who remained on the ground, but far from disadvantaged. Her mental touch was surprisingly gentle, but that just made it all the more horrifying to feel her rooting around, reorganizing, toying with my ability to think, all while I couldn’t do so much as breathe a word of protest. And Naheal was… letting her do it.

This time, I saw it, saw the calculation go through his eyes. He’d wanted me to seek the help of a shadow priest. He thought I wouldn’t do it willingly. He decided that it would be best to just let Lilliana finish what she was doing. He weighed the costs and made the choice.

If I was able to feel, the betrayal would have killed me.
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Julilee
Julilee
Posts: 124
Joined: August 24th, 2014, 2:13 pm
Julilee

Re: The Price of Strength

Postby Julilee » July 19th, 2015, 5:32 am

The dreaming state fully enveloped me. I lost track of where I was, what was going on around me. I couldn’t even tell if Lilliana was still in my mind or not. I drifted, hearing voices but not making sense of them.

“The Commander all right, mon?”

“Tell me what you did, Lilly.”

“I think I fixed it.”

“Did she ask?”

“No, she’s an arrogant bitch. She would never ask for help, and if it was offered, she will always refuse it. That’s the danger of the strong becoming injured… like men, they never stop to ask for directions and end up lost and FUCKED.”

“She be Grim, mon!”

“The Grim are also some of the Horde’s strongest members in Tanaan right now. I think they’ve earned a little leeway… but not too much, understand?”

“…Yeah.”

“Good. Just remember that we’re all Horde here. If I find out that there are threats to Horde guilds…”

“I didn’t threaten anyone… I came to talk… and I stayed to help.”

“Then I don’t think we have anything to worry about, Lilly. Given the relations between Sanctuary and the Grim, though…”

“Maybe she should be leavin’, mon.”

“Take Julilee to the barracks. I’ll be in shortly to check on her. Gently, now.”

The guard’s touch on my arm roused me. I blinked open my eyes, finding that I was sitting in the middle of the road. I shook off the guard’s hand and staggered to my feet, uncoordinated as though just waking from a deep slumber. Naheal and Lilly were both standing there looking at me, their expressions unreadable. I couldn’t feel Lilliana in my mind anymore, but there was a lingering sense of where she’d been; the inescapable, haunting feeling that things had been moved and altered.

“Go sit down, Julilee,” Naheal said. “I’ll be by shortly.”

“What – what’s—” I shook my head. This was not acceptable. This was so far beyond acceptable that I couldn’t even think about it. Instead, I focused on what I could. There was a problem here, and it needed to be gone, far, far away. “She leaves first. She leaves.”

I reached to my side, but my sword and shield were still lying on the ground a distance away. Lilliana took a step back, watching me warily. She glanced at Naheal. “May I?” she asked him, like he was the one in charge. And he nodded toward the exit.

The guard stepped forward to take Lilliana by the shoulder and escort her out, which prompted some cursing, but the priestess went. I stared after her until she’d cleared the gates. Then I went to pick up my armaments. It was like picking up laundry, automatic. I didn’t speak, and I didn’t look at Naheal, before I turned and went to my office.

Only there did my composure start to crack. I walked over until I stood in front of one of my shelves and stared at nothing. My entire body started to tremble. I had been violated, completely violated. And Naheal…

“There are some lines I won’t cross.”

“I won’t say that I’m not concerned with your safety, but I won’t impose on your freedom.”

“Freedom is the ideal that I hold close to my heart. I’m sorry I’ve been imposing my will on you. That was never my intention.”


He had seen me fighting her, and he had stepped back. He had made a choice for me he knew was the opposite of what I wanted.

And he had followed me. I heard him enter. I knew it was him without looking. I could feel the guilt, the gods-damned guilt, coming off of him, but it was nothing compared to the betrayal I felt. He deserved to feel so bad that he wanted to die. I wanted to die.

The words were so difficult to get out, yet not like they were before. “Why… didn’t… you…”

He laid down an insignia on the shelf next to me. His Knight-Champion insignia, from when he had been a Blood Knight, fighting for Silvermoon. One by one, he gave up all of his ideals, like he broke every vow he’d ever made.

I’d known what he was capable of. I just had never expected to feel the consequences myself.

He turned away, and a sob wrenched itself free of me. I couldn’t control it, covering my face with a hand. He turned back.

“Will the ‘why’ numb the pain?” he asked.

“J-just tell me,” I said.

“I made a choice to put a knife in your back in hopes that the result would be that your mind was healed. ‘Sorry’ will never be enough because I don’t expect that forgiveness will ever come.”

I took deep breaths, trying to calm myself. I almost didn’t hear his words. I’d asked, but I didn’t need to hear them. I already knew.

“I just allowed one of the worst things that I can imagine,” he said quietly.

“Naheal…” I said.

All of my memories with him formed a chain, leading up to this point. From our times together as children, to being told he was dead, to meeting him again and not realizing who he was, fighting side by side and arguing and fighting side by side again, to the moment we realized who we were to each other, and the one kiss we shared before I realized that was not where I wanted us to go, settling back into a close friendship. All of the memories, so bright, but I understood now had always held a shadow that I’d never wanted to see. All the things Naheal had done, that I had explained away, or forgiven him for, every ruthless act from making Shokkra kill Telerian to more, they completed the chain, they made what had happened today make sense, and it changed everything.

“You know how I said I’d never want you to leave permanently… I was wrong. Leave. Never come back. I never want to see you again.”

The door clicked shut on the last word. He’d already been leaving.

I sank to the floor and sobbed.
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Julilee
Julilee
Posts: 124
Joined: August 24th, 2014, 2:13 pm
Julilee

Re: The Price of Strength

Postby Julilee » July 22nd, 2015, 7:33 pm

Kex’ti didn’t return until late that evening. I got up only to lock the door, having the sense to not want any of those I led to walk in and see me like this.

I kept going over and over what had happened. What could I have done to protect myself? How had I failed? What would stop it from happening again? It was so much worse than getting beaten by Kallavan. I’d raised my shield to clash with his sword. I had fought with everything I had. Lilliana had stripped me of my will, and she and Naheal together any pretext of choice on my part.

And I didn’t even know if all she had done was what she claimed. The horrible possibilities crept over me as in tandem the sun crept downward in the sky and my quarters slowly darkened. I could tell that words once again were coming to me normally, but… What if Lilliana had looked at my thoughts? My memories? What could she have seen of my most personal moments? And… what else had she changed? What if she had altered my memories? Or imbedded impulses or fears that would cripple me? She could have even planted the seeds that would change my personality, that would unravel the ideals I upheld. Why wouldn’t she, an enemy of everything I stood for, do any of that, given the opportunity?

I couldn’t trust myself anymore.

And Naheal’s betrayal had proven at the same time that I couldn’t trust anyone else. Not only was I not strong enough to protect myself, but the people I thought cared about me would let me be hurt. I may as well have been a helpless child again, let down by those I trusted, those I needed. I had spent my whole life working toward never being that child again, and making sure no one else was either, in any way, shape, or form, and I had spoken truly when I told Naheal I couldn’t rely on anyone else. I couldn’t, because then I would be hurt. I had known it was true before Naheal. But a part of me had still hoped I was wrong.

I sat with my arms wrapped around my legs, not getting up to remove my armor or light any torches. I kept trying to find a solution, the path I had to take to protect myself. It didn’t matter how long or grueling it was; I could endure, knowing one day I would win. But I couldn’t see it.

I even tried telling myself that everyone gets hurt sometimes, that it was inevitable and I just had to accept it; but I couldn’t. I couldn’t accept this. The violation had been too great. I had survived my body being broken. I couldn’t just recover from my will and trust being shattered.

Utter helplessness consumed me. I couldn’t protect myself. But I couldn’t trust anyone else. What could I do? What was I supposed to do?

I had never felt this way, or if I had as a child, I had suppressed it. I’d had to. No one had ever been there to rescue me. But I’d decided I would never need rescuing, and had taken every step to ensure I wouldn’t. What could I do, now that I did?

The understanding came slowly, as the acceptance did. I needed someone. I couldn’t do this by myself. I needed someone, very, very badly. Even though trusting other people had always gotten me hurt, there was nothing else that I could turn to.

When I heard the key in the lock, all I felt was relief.
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Kexti
Kexti
Posts: 36
Joined: November 30th, 2014, 9:34 pm
Kexti

Re: The Price of Strength

Postby Kexti » July 22nd, 2015, 7:38 pm

It was the first time he’d seen her cry. Or, really, seen any deep moment of weakness. He held her in his arms, as they lay curled up in the dark of her office. Various people had come and gone from her door, but he had kept the light off. Parts of her armor had been removed piecemeal, but small components hung loosely from her.

The steel dug into his flesh, but he had waited for Julilee to sleep before removing the armor, and setting it in its places on her shelf. She’d look it over later. The monk had gone to their bedroom, and pulled several blankets back into the office, wrapping the small elven woman with them, choosing not to move her while she slept.

He hadn’t been around much, lately. When he’d returned, he had learned, in all of her pain, of the events of Lilliana’s brash efforts and how Naheal abetted them. He wrapped the blankets around Julilee, and wiped a bit of sweat from her upper lip and forehead. Her hair, recently cut short, was still growing long; he tucked it back behind one of her ears, as much out of habit as to keep her tidy. She smelled like sweat and metal. An underpinning of her soap was drowned about but the anxiety-scent of uneasy quiescence, the heady, earthen tang of distraught sleepers.

The monk slipped and arm under her back, and cushioned her, as the pair sat in the dark. He wondered why he hadn’t moved to carry her to bed. Kex’ti watched her as she slept, fitfully. Unlike her unconsciousness while she’d healed from Kallavan’s attack, he let her dream, and held the mists back. He knew he wasn’t an expert in mental magic, but he knew enough to understand that she needed time to process the experience. He could dull the pain, help her rest, but he knew Julilee. He understood that she needed time to work through things on her own. The best way to help her was simply to be there. It wouldn’t be long before she’d recover; he knew that much.

The monk watched her aura swirl in her dreams. It was unbalanced, and the hard lines of energy along her chi pathways bled and swirled where they were usually so pristine and clear. He thought about her. He watched the small fractions of her aura bunch near her injuries, and watched the energy twinkle as it swirled outward from her navel towards her hands and ankles.

He saw the bright red of her mind at work, the fine traceries interwoven with strands of amber and crimson processing her ordeal, the thin gray lines of despair stemming from her chest to her shoulders. The deep blue of her resolve echoing, ever persistent underneath it all. The gray surprised him. The slow fade did not; the forked green and red of her dreams banishing the doubt and fear.

Kex’ti took a deep breath, and assessed his own colors. They remained mostly the same. Had he been able to study himself in such a way, he may have found them different, though he doubted there was truly much of a change, no matter his efforts.

He began to meditate. He’d always analyzed people; what kind of meal they wanted, which room they should be put in based on their predisposition to argue or love, how far they’d traveled and how kindly they would treat him; the small wounds left unhealed from previous bouts, whether an attack was a feint or a coup de grace, the individual’s mastery of the various schools of magic; whether someone was nearsighted, the flaws in their form, what taunts would work, which truths would sting, the jokes which brought smiles, the stories which brought sighs.

Her ears twitched, and she rolled her lips inward and upward, the bridge of her nose creasing. Kex’ti ran a pair of fingers through her hair, the tips of his digits just touching her scalp. She relaxed slightly. And so did he.

***

She woke, shortly before dawn. Speechlessly, she nuzzled his throat. He started, and kissed her. Together, they gathered the sheets and went back to bed. Julilee slept. She fought, briefly, to go back to her desk. Kex’ti had convinced her to sleep for another hour, under the promise of bringing her a cup of coffee and several of the ledgers she had been studying for Tanaan logistics.

After another four, he woke her. They got up an hour later. Side by side, they passed a barely-touched plate of sausage, and two cups of green tea, filled occasionally from a brassy, steaming pot Kex’ti had put over the fire. When he went to get the coffee, he found her back at her desk in the office. He coughed, once. And then, again. She noticed him almost spill the coffee, and watched him steady himself with a smirk.

By the end of the day, the monk looked across the table at the Commander.

“Why do we not go on a survey mission?”

The black-haired elf smiled, sealed a document with a wax press, and walked towards the shelved armor.

***

She stumbled through the underbrush, determination as much of a support as his own staff. He’d fought in Stranglethorn, and scaled the waxwater paths of Skettis. Jungle was no stranger to him, but he remained certain that this jungle’s strangeness was overwhelming, even beyond the savagery of its inhabitants. Or even more than the snaking tendrils of fel corruption, burning the ground black and sky green. He’d long dismissed it as a trick of the light: his sword was absorbing the taint of the surroundings, and his own alchemy had unearthed several useful reagents from the dissected fish of the rivers.

None of this concerned Julilee, who used her shield to clear aside brush; her sword to cut through the thickets of the copse. He had taken her to several vantage points, and already they had skirmished with a dozen Fel Horde legionnaires. It was with equal pride and curiosity in his eyes that he watched the Commander.
She wasn’t a novice, and he wasted no time with exposing her to the thick of combat. She was the person he trusted most. And he trusted her to fight, and stand her ground against even these most deadly of foes. And that trust was vindicated as the pair battled. Even though Julilee was skilled with a blade, he knew bringing her into the thick of the melee wasn’t an act of recklessness; it was an act of revelation. The Commander always fought hardest for the things she’d seen for herself.
The benefit of getting to vent frustration and stress, he thought as she slammed the edge of her shield into the throat of a charging orc, was a beneficial perk. The fel orc reeled, and the Commander twisted her stance, letting his momentum do most of the damage. Orcish nerves were resilient to heavy blows, but the combined force of the impact, followed by the subsequent shove to the ground, was more than enough to quell the berserker.

Her shield found its way between him and the enemy’s blades and claws. His fist and kicks drove foes off guard for her sword. The monk’s blade parted flesh of fel-corrupted wolves, even as his mists sealed and rejuvenated the blows which managed to score the elves’ own.

The dance was violent. The orcs who’d drunk too deeply of the corruption breathed their last under the sword and shield of Sanctuary. Others, who might find a brighter future, were returned to Vol’mar for trial. Her aura blazed. Red, blue, and gold.

Even over the reek of the jungle, she smelled alive. Sweat and iron. She wasn’t known much, for her smiles. Nor was he, particularly. But he caught more than a few glimpses, despite the poison which surrounded them. He would fight for more than just her. But what she symbolized, the woman, her guild, and her actions, were more than enough individually for him to raise his weapons and weave his spells.

The two stood at the peak of the Throne of Kil’jaeden. It was a moment of respite, even as Gul’dan’s forces rallied. The ether sickened him, even as he felt the pain in his leg and the wasting inside of him bloom ever wider. He sipped from his jug, and he watched her eyes in the viridian darkness of the mountain. She had focused on the Citadel. She confused him, even though he felt deeply for her. Perhaps, in another life, the Light would have called to him more loudly than the shadows he inevitably found himself drawn to. In this second world, mayhap he could’ve discerned the specifics.

But the only second world here was Draenor. The only second chance he’d received was a purple and golden tabard on his breast.

“One week, and we’re breaching the gates and heading in,” he said.

“I don’t know about Gul’dan. Not a lot, anyway. But from what I’ve heard, I know he must be stopped.”

She turned to look at him, her hand moving a lock behind her ear. She smiled.

“And I know you’ve been doing a lot to make sure that happens. You know I don’t trust some of the people we’ll be working with. But I trust your judgment.”

She kept a straight face. She had to.

The monk smirked back.

“I think I’ve earned that much. But it’s everyone who’s helping. We have a world to save. Nobody can do that alone. At least I cannot.”

The pair were quiet.

“From ashes we rise, Julilee,” said Kex’ti.

The Commander nodded. She hoped that, in six months, the mountain they’d be standing on was Kun-Lai. She looked up at the soot and bits of falling rock, and imagined it was snow.

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