Feat of Clay
Writer's Note: While this first chapter is rated T, the story will switch to an M rating upon the second chapter. The T rating is just so everyone can see it now and make note of it when it starts. So let us start.
Chapter 1: Perchance
The paladin was certain that the wind hadn't, and shouldn't, have been blowing as hard as it was. Not from the way the sky had been so clear and the air so calm, moments before he'd leapt down from the cliff top and into the filthy snow. Whether clouds had moved in to cover the sun, the paladin didn't know. His eyes were fully focused on what lay before him.
The ghouls had heard him when he'd landed, turning their distended heads towards him. Slobbering growls erupted from their ragged lips, poisonous saliva hissing on the ground beneath him. Talons that could rend flesh as easily as paper ripped from their fingers a moment later.
The paladin narrowed his eyes, assessing the ranks of the Scourge. Nearly seventy of them.
At least it wouldn't be boring.
"Come, vermin." The paladin said, raising his shining hammer. "I shall expunge your disgusting-!"
The leaping ability of the ghouls surprised the paladin, three of them crashing down on him.
More specifically, his hammer, as the blazing weapon lashed out and battered the Scourge away from the champion of the Light.
"On second thought, you do not even deserve the usual denou-!"
The four ghouls who had closed the distance were cut down by two blasts of holy power, the paladin finishing the last with a crushing blow to the chest, radiant energies erupting from the weapon's impact and exploding through the ghoul, turning its festering innards to ash and ripping any chance of ANY kind of life continuing in its form.
"ON THIRD THOUGHT, JUST DIE!"
The paladin waded into the ghouls, flashes of light exploding from the fray with every powerful strike. Despite the numbers, the Scourge fell in droves to his resplendent strength, the paladin leaving a trail of dead-for-good corpses. When it was over, the paladin stood tall, his armor covered in scratches and foul ichors, his shoulders rising and falling,
The lich had finally deemed to turn away from its ritual, the sickly blue fulgor smoldering within its skull as it saw the paladin. Said paladin felt the temperature began to drop even more, horrendous cold descending on him even as it began to flow into the lich.
His answer was to charge.
The lich thrust out a hand, firing a blast of life-consuming chill.
The paladin thrust up his free hand, a shield of light stopping the blow and dispersing it to nothing. Despite lacking anything on its features that could have showed expression, the lich still managed to pull off a look of surprise.
The paladin leapt and brought his hammer down. The lich shrieked as the weapon caved its skull in, and then both it and the paladin were consumed by a massive blast of destroying incandescence.
When it faded, all that remained of the lich were a few tatters of rotting cloth and a pile of ash that was carried off by the wind. The paladin stood there for a moment, gathering himself before turning around. No more Scourge came to challenge him, and he allowed himself a slight smirk.
"I thank you, my sword and shield, for allowing me to be so great." The paladin said, before he turned back and approached the ritual slab. The night elf tied up on it altered being looking stunned, scared, and cold, though considering the torn dress that made up her only means of clothing, it was primarily the last one.
"It's all right." The paladin said, producing a small knife that he imbued with holy power, the blade cutting easily through the ropes that bound the girl at her wrists, waist, and ankles. "You're safe now. Here. This probably smells something terrible, but it's better than frostbite."
The night elf didn't complain about the fur cloak, bundling herself into it and looking at the paladin.
"Don't mention it. Let's get you back to shelter." The paladin said. "My horse is back up on that cliff…and you don't have shoes. Well, if you don't want to walk in it, I can carry you."
"I…will see…" The night elf girl said. "Er…I don't really have any money…"
"Money? For what?"
"Well…you probably didn't come out here…"
"I go where I'm needed. Per my teachings. By Elune's grace, as you might say. No payment is necessary." The paladin said.
The night elf had no reply, but her eyes and her body language said it all. The paladin glanced inward, debating. How long had it been? About two weeks? Well, if the Light was going to bless him with such bounty, he would hardly refuse it.
"Come my lady, let's be off. We can work out specifies in some place with a fire." The paladin said, putting an arm around the night elf…
The sound of the firework going off caused the priest to jerk upward, nearly knocking his empty wine bottle off the edge of the balcony. He blinked a few times before grimacing. He'd gotten too deep into the fantasy.
The laughter and general noise attracted his attention, and he looked down onto the streets of Dalaran. Even here, in the primary bastion of the offense against the Lich King, Brewfest had reached, and said streets were filled with revelers and partiers, taking precious moments from battling unspeakable evil to have fun.
Including a certain and VERY cute night elf. Who, despite having had a starring role in the priest's thoughts, was in reality leaning into the chest of who the priest assumed was her night elf boyfriend. The priest watched them for a few more seconds before sighing again and turning away from it all, leaning against the balcony.
Maybe he needed more alcohol. Or maybe he needed to go to sleep. Or maybe…
Another firework sounded off in Dalaran, and the priest crossed his arms and sighed again. Maybe he should stop deluding himself with brief visions of grandeur. Momentary evasions of what tortured him, even in the case of his 'partners'.
Fel, considering what he was slotting the night elf in place of, maybe he should just get around to diving head-first off the balcony and solve all his problems.
Or maybe he should just admit that even that wouldn't work.
Fantasy. It's a dangerous thing. It tints your viewpoint on reality, and can make it seem less…wondrous than it is.
But reality in and of itself…sometimes it cannot satisfy. And for some…it offers little to recommend itself. If anything at all.
You see this priest? That's me. My fantasy. My reality.
This is my story. But before it really starts…
The wind howled anew, as it did so much, and so often, over the frozen lands of Northrend. The long cloaks of the stumbling figure did not seem to offer much protection from it, the blowing snow swiftly covering the lost adventurer's tracks as it dragged itself on. Whatever it sought, save escape from the terrible cold, was unknown.
Whatever had driven it out to begin with…was likely the greatest, and last regret the adventurer might have, as the thundering footsteps were loud enough to root the figure to the spot. Turning a cloaked head up, the adventurer stood where it had frozen as the magnataur emerged from the storm.
How the beast could see so well in the cutting ice-cold gale, who could say. Perhaps it just ignored it, like it ignored the frost on its form. Perhaps it merely focused all its attention on whatever had allowed it to find and track down the figure.
The wastes of Northrend devoured all but the strongest. For the magnataur, life was eat or be eaten, and it had found its meal for today, as it brought up it's arm and rammed down at the adventurer with its spear-like club.
The adventurer barely managed to dodge, turning at the same time and taking off, the cloaks flaring from the impact shockwave and the ever-violent winds. How much fear and desperation drove the figure to surpass its natural limits was unknown, but the magnataur was driven by even deeper and more primal urges, not to mention the fact that it had a considerably longer stride.
The chase was brief, as the adventurer tripped and fell onto its face with a violent crash within the space of twenty seconds. Before it could rise up, the magnataur was on it, seizing its form in one massive hand and dragging it up.
To the sky, the form shrieked. The noise, however, was not fear.
It was a word.
The white blanket had blended in perfectly with the snow, forming just another dismissible lump.
The raptor that erupted from beneath it was anything but dismissible. Despite the lands beneath its feet being called the Dragonblight, the man-sized dinosaur was about as far away from home as it could possibly get. Runes alit on the beast's red hide, providing it with the heat it needed to operate in such terrible cold, even as it charged headlong beneath the magnataur.
The magnataur finally made an overt noise, that of a thundering bellow of pain, when the raptor's talons tore into the back of its front right leg, the dinosaur ripping through most of the muscles even as said pain began registering for the Northrend titan. The leg buckled, and the magnataur fell forward, its grip loosening on the adventurer…
The figure broke free with one burst of strength. If the magnataur could have seen within the hood's shadows, it would have seen the small smile that played across the female's face, even as she reached within her robes and withdrew the gun from within. Crafted from carefully interlocked pierces of blue metal, the adventurer set the walnut stock against her shoulder and fired, the bullet exploding from the weapon and throwing the adventurer backwards even as said bullet tore into the magnataur's body.
The adventurer landed on her back, rolling with the momentum and doing a backwards no-hands springing flip, landing on her feet as she aimed and fired again. The magnataur bellowed and tried to smash his enemy, only to be reminded that the raptor was still beneath him as it tore into his stomach. The massive creature shifted its weight, trying to get his free hand around the vicious creature beneath him, but the hunter was faster, her hands blurring as she inserted a projectile into her gun, aimed, and fired. The tranquilizer hit the magnataur's arm and immediately went to work, sinking fingers of numbness into the beast's muscles. Despite this, the magnataur managed to grab hold of the raptor; said tranquilizing shot, however, kept it from doing much more than tossing it away.
The hunter got the creature's attention with more bullets, the small but potent shots ripping into the magnataur's body. The magnataur brought his weapon up and slashed it towards the hunter. The hunter leapt as it did, spinning in an arcing dodge over the weapon and firing another shot as she did. Landing on the ground, the hunter rolled and came back up, taking a knee and firing two more shots. Despite all the wounds, the magnataur advanced, bringing up his weapon.
The raptor returned with a vengeance, leaping up and sinking fangs and claws into the magnataur's side. The colossal hybrid bellowed and turned on instinct, trying to get the savage animal off of him.
When its hindquarters swung around, the hunter was up and sprinting. With one mighty leap, the female was in the air herself, landing on the magnataur's back and running across its body. Before the magnataur knew what was happening, the female was at its torso.
It did not fire its gun into the magnataur's spine. Instead, she tossed it high into the air, and with one firm pull, yanked herself up onto the magnataur's shoulders while she reached behind herself.
The hand-cannons she withdrew, in contrast to its main rifle, were red, gold, and silver. Green light shot down their barrels as she thrust down her arms.
Burning, agonizing shots erupted from the twin barrels, tearing into the magnataur's shoulders and head. With a final roar, it dropped its weapon to try and grab the hunter.
The hunter leapt forward as the hands came up, spinning around as she dropped her guns.
Her main rifle fell into her arms, even as she crashed down onto the snow. With a grunt, she poured all her power into the gun, aiming it directly at the magnataur's now completely-exposed chest.
The red lance of power blasted a plate-sized hole directly through the magnataur's chest, slicing right through its heart and spine like it wasn't there. The magnataur couldn't even let off a final cry, instead jerking back before collapsing to the ground. The raptor pulled itself free in mid-fall, sprinting away a few feet as the corpse crashed down. When it settled, the reptile looped back and headed towards the hunter.
"…heh. Chak'ken, tubor ri." The female said, rising to her feet. The raptor nosed at her with a purr-like noise of affection, and the hunter brought an arm up and hugged the dinosaur's head close a moment before gesturing with her own. "Dyneese."
The raptor turned and stalked back over to the magnataur corpse, its jaws shooting out and tearing a lump of flesh from the creature's chest. The dinosaur, despite it's focus, didn't even flinch as the hunter raised its rifle and blew off most of the magnataur's head with one final shot. With the creature's death confirmed, the hunter walked forward, searching the creature's corpse before she came up with the necklace-like length of finger bones the magnataur had in his possession.
"Suneeri." The hunter said, looking at the bones before tucking them away. Swinging her gun onto her back, she reached up and pressed on a certain part inside her hood, undoing the magics that kept it up and from being blown back or knocked askew before pulling it down to her shoulders.
Troll women had something of a bad reputation in certain circles. Whether said reputation was deserved, and how it applied to troll society, most never found out. Whether the troll's soft features and small, almost cute fang-tusks would mark her as unappealing in her kind or not, only the trolls knew, and they didn't talk about such things. By human standards, though, she would have been considered exotically appealing, maybe even gorgeous in the correct light. Her skin was a light blue, in contrast to the darker purple-blue of her hair, which flared up from her scalp before descending into several braids that rested on the troll's shoulders. Wiping sweat from her forehead, the troll reached into her cloak and withdrew a vial.
"Lok'tar!" The troll said, speaking in Orcish instead of her native Zandali. Swinging her head back, she drank from the vial with great satisfaction before approaching the corpse. Magnataur blood made a fine addition to some in-field meal sauces…
"LOK'TAR!" The orcs and trolls echoed, all raising their mugs and tankards to mirror the action the female troll had told them of. She raised her own and they all slammed them together before consuming the contents, one of the male trolls indicating for the bar maid to bring more of whatever they were drinking.
"Ga'ten, ga'tah!" The troll female said, reaching into her armor and producing the necklace of bones, slamming them down on the table as her group roared its approval of her one-woman triumph over her foe. In response, one of the male orcs slammed his fist down on the table, immediately launching into his own story. The troll female retrieved her prize and tucked it away before settling back to listen.
Across the city, from his balcony, the priest watched her. Unlike her contented expression, reveling with companions and the glorious rush of victory, the priest's face could be called introspective at best.
So much had changed…and yet the most memorable parts had not.
When one of the trolls, as part of the most recent drink exchanges, made a clumsy pass at the female, the priest felt his guts clench. The female troll shoved it off, producing more laughter at the table. The priest swallowed, wondering if he should keep watching her or stop torturing himself.
She wouldn't want to remember him. Why would she?
Not everyone was like him.
The priest closed his eyes, leaning on the balcony for another ten seconds before he shoved off, heading inside to his room. Sitting on the bed, he stared at the wall.
Maybe he should just leave Dalaran.
Maybe he should grow a set (ha, right? NOW?) and just re-introduce himself at the right time. They hadn't exactly parted as enemies…
No. It was ridiculous. All of it was ridiculous, and even more so, in this city that was both united and divided. The priest suspected the divides were far greater than anything that united them.
The story of his life.
He didn't see the troll female glance up and note that he was gone. Her companions did not notice the slight tilt of her head, the moment of her own introspection. When it passed, she returned to her celebration.
The priest, meanwhile, produced a small container and shook two green pills into them, dry-swallowing them before he laid down on the bed.
His sleep was restless, but at least it was empty of the nightmares.
Some people achieve their dreams. Become everything they wanted to be. Are everything in their reality as they are in their fantasy.
This will not be the case here. Not with me, anyway. My reality is not one many would envy. But it's mine, even if this particular voice is only mine just for now. Just to tell this.
My name is Ninos. Ninos Silverstream. Her name is Kaileni, and I think I've been cursed to love her.
Listen to my story.
Listen…and tell me the truth.
"I remember black skies, the lightning all around me
I remember each flash as time began to blur
Like a startling sign that fate had finally found me
And your voice was all I heard
That I get what I deserve
So give me reason
To prove me wrong
To wash this memory clean
Let the floods cross the distance in your eyes
Give me reason to fill this hole
Connect the space between
Let it be enough to reach the truth that lies
Across this new divide."