A/N: Hey, finally! Chapter ten! With plenty of weird imagery and plot-moving!
The mansion that sat before him was ruined - that, he knew for sure.
He didn't know how he got there. Hell, he didn't even know who he was. All he knew was that everything was enveloped in an ashy grey fog, there was no sign of life besides himself, and there was a mansion that was far too familiar for comfort.
Dilapidated to the point it could barely be constituted as a house, everything was the color of dead wood, murky like a shadow in swamp water.
He felt the wind, piercingly cold, against his skin, and knew he was dreaming. He had to be dreaming; he was alive here. His flesh was a healthy peach color, not the rotted green he was used to, and his breath hung heavily in the air around him, becoming desperate when he tried to see if he could go without breathing.
He couldn't see beyond the fog in any direction but towards the mansion. With no other option in sight, he approached and testingly pushed against the rotted door.
It disintegrated at his touch, leaving nothing but flakes of ash floating to the ground below.
As soon as he entered, the doorway disappeared entirely, replaced by a rotted wooden wall, and the entire parlor he had stepped into filled itself with headless, life-sized dolls. They were suspended by wires wrapped around their arms, and they were all dressed like various common folk, but there was no sign of blood or injury. It was almost as if their heads had been cleanly severed by someone with perfect precision.
Unnerving, to say the least. He looked down, noticed the loose black coat he was wearing, and buttoned it up to fight off the chill that went down his spine. "Where am I?" he asked out loud, not expecting the dolls to answer.
"Who are you to a dead man?"
The voice came from directly above him, but when he jumped and looked up to find the source of the foreign entity, he was alone - save for the hanging dolls. "What's going on?"
There was a quiet trill from his right, the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard. He jerked his head in the direction of this new sound, and looked up the staircase when he heard it again. Finding no other solution - there were no other doors leading out - he took a breath and weaved through the hanging dolls toward the staircase.
As soon as he stopped at the base of the stairs, he heard a fluttering, and looked up to see a little white bird slowly floating down the stairs and towards him. But as he held out his hand to catch it, he soon realized it wasn't an actual bird; it was a bird that had been folded from paper. "Where'd you come from, little guy?" he asked, but the bird was up and flitting back up the stairs by the end of the question. After getting about halfway up, it stopped and turned towards him, and he swore he heard chirping. "I guess I have no choice but to follow you," he mused.
The paper bird bobbed in the air and let out a happy tweet. And so, he slowly started to make his way up the stairs.
The wood creaked sickeningly under his feet, and the wooden walls of the house got blacker and blacker as he went up. As he reached the top, he could actually smell smoke. "You! H-human!"
He turned to see an elf, a frantic expression in his glowing gold eyes; the left side of his face was coated in blood, and his movements were jerky and stiff. The elf stumbled forward, pulling at the collar of his leather armor. "D-do you know Veser? Someone is after him, to k-kill him - they almost got me, too - I need to warn him! Do you know where he is?"
The paper bird had grown silent, turning yellow with the dampness of the air. But the nameless man barely noticed, so taken was he with the elf that stood before him. The voice was too familiar.
The elf, however, was growing more uneasy, and stepped forward, obviously not used to talking to a human. "I-if... it would not bother you, could you... please... say something."
The Deathstalker was quiet for yet another second before, carefully and finally, replying with, "I... I'm sorry, but..."
"We're both dead."
The elf reeled at this, eyes widening, and more blood poured from his head wound until it almost completely covered his face. It was unnerving to watch, to say the least, as the golden eyes turned a vibrant, glowing blue and he turned away, letting out a dry laugh. "I... I had a feeling. Nothing is right here... but I just did not want to believe it. I suppose that other human was right."
The elf didn't elaborate, only shaking his head. "I was so damn stupid."
Compared to the formal language the elf had been using, this sentence was a bit of a shock. But before he could even begin to register the meaning of what he'd been told, the hallway they stood in started to get brighter and brighter; he could feel himself being lifted up, while he watched the floor disappear and the elf sink into the darkness. "Wait!" He reached out, watching his skin be bathed in light and the bird flutter away into nothingness.
"Who would have imagined I be type to deny death...?"
He wanted desperately to get more information, let the elf know Veser was safe, and know about the man he had mentioned. But the light was too bright and, soon enough, he saw nothing but white, and not even closing his eyes could keep it out of his head. Then, he felt himself falling, the jerk of falling -
His eyes slowly opened to fuzziness, slowly sharpening enough to make out the outlines of Hanna's fiery red hair and relieved blue eyes. "Oh, thank the Light you're okay!"
Slowly, the Deathstalker sat up, blinking. Images were coming in clearer now: Toni, shifting back into human form and fixing her ponytail with hard concern in her eyes; Veser, exhausted and sitting with the head of his mace firm against the ground; Conrad, with his cloak draped up and over his head, leaving only red eyes reflecting in the light. "Is everyone alright?"
"Us?" Hanna blinked, surprised. "You're the one that got possessed, I should be asking -"
"I'm fine." Alexandros cut him off, looking at him pointedly. "Are you?"
The redhead flushed and laughed. "Haha, yeah! I'm fine! Why are you asking?"
The Forsaken merely stared, raising an eyebrow in a silent 'really?' before turning back to Veser. "Veser."
The half-Naga jumped, looking up with weary eyes. He was tired, there was no doubt about that. "Uh - yeah?"
"He was looking for you. He wanted... to warn you." Alexandros didn't want to bring up such a deep wound so soon, but he knew that if he didn't say anything now, he never would. "Someone killed him. And... apparently, they're after you." The half-Naga slowly lowered his head, and was silent. "But... it would be a lot safer if you came wi..."
He cut himself off at the sniffling.
For a good moment, it was the only sound; the sound of a boy who had just had his world shattered. Finally, he looked up, eyes closed and tears staining his face, with a sound that could only dare call itself laughter. "Fuckin'..."
Hanna bit his lip, and started to say something, but Veser waved him off and stood. "Is there anywhere you guys need to go? I think it's safe to say you're too interesting to just let walk away. So..." He paused, swinging his mace at his side. "I'm just going to hang around you guys for a while. Okay?"
Hanna looked at the rest of his little team, as if for permission. When no one objected, he shrugged. "Well, if you want, you can totally come with. But are you sure? I mean, you can stay and get all your thoughts together or something."
"Nah." The half-Naga sniffed again and looked back, with a snarky grin. "I mean, yeah, I wanna grab somethin' first, but otherwise -" He spread out his arms. "This is it."
Hanna stared at him for a moment. Then, a look of understanding came into his eyes. "Alright. You can meet us at the portal, okay?"
Veser just waved as he embarked on his own personal journey.
"Are you sure you want to bring him with?" Conrad asked, eyes on the ground to keep himself inconspicuous. Elves were running to and fro, rushing orders to the Sentinels placed by the gates. They were all still quite jittery about the attack, it seemed. "Seems like he's got a bit of baggage with him."
"Don't we all?" Hanna replied, smiling and clapping a hand on Conrad's shoulder. "Besides, he looks like he can take care of himself pretty well."
"But right after... whatever just happened back there?" Toni slung her armor over her shoulder and raised an eyebrow.
"I'm sure the only thing on his mind right now is to get the hell out of here. And I know the feeling enough to sympathize, so I'm gonna help him." Hanna shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets. "What about you, anyway? Since you got what you need, are you just going to head back to Gilneas?"
Toni actually contemplated this for a minute. "Seems like a smart thing to do. But I think I can trust it to flight mail." At the raised eyebrows she got, she smiled and laughed. "What? He had a point, you're too interesting to just let go. And I don't mind a little adventure."
"Ugh," Conrad groaned, daring to put his head in his hands. "At this rate, you're going to get an entire group behind you."
The Deathstalker at Hanna's side wanted to say 'I think that point's already passed', but checked himself and instead asked, "Where are we going next?"
"Well... we can't stay here. We got lucky that those guys let up on the attack so easily, but they might come back. So... I'm thinking we should make a break to Outland. Just for a day or two." Hanna avoided everyone's eyes as he relayed his plan, and seemed to tense his shoulders. He knew what question was coming next.
"Who were those guys, anyway?" Veser completed the whole process as he approached, adjusting a strap across his chest that kept a harpoon on his back; he'd heard at least the last bit of conversation.
Hanna was quiet, and sighed. "They're called the Scythe of the Order. They're, uh, just a bunch of fanatics that really don't like the fact humans can use rune magic. I've been doing a good job of avoiding them for a while, but... I guess they found me."
"I guess so," Veser replied, a bit sarcastically. "So, where in Outland? Shattrath?"
Hanna nodded, straightening up and practically glowing. "Have any of you guys seen it? Light, it's beautiful - oh man, especially this time of year!" His eyes widened in realization. "Man, we really lucked out - on the timing, not the attacks."
"No duh," Toni muttered, lightly shoving him with her elbow with her eyes sparkling just slightly. "Lead the way, o mighty leader."