So I'm rewriting Tales of a Warrior. New title, new beginning just argh – I apologize, but frankly the first several chapters were a mess, mired in emotional immaturity (like this one won't be, ha!) and I just wanted to restart fresh and not keep fans waiting all over again. I should've just written the damn thing myself instead of piecing together bits and pieces of Skype. So here it is, re-worked, I hope you enjoy.
This chapter is not as long as the original, but I'm much happier with it, by miles. The other chapters I cannot promise to be ridiculously lengthy, I will write and edit until I am happy with how they've turned out.
Always such a lively place these taverns, not so different from the festivals she could remember being held back in Kalimdor, but she found she would never quite grow used to it. There was always an undertone, a scent to the air that she inherently disagreed with. She supposed it didn't matter; these were moments she should enjoy after all...
"Keleria! Need another?" the bartender, William, waved over the singing crowd to her. She merely shook her head, not wanting to bother with raising her voice, and went back to her half empty mug. An acrid amber liquid sloshed quietly inside, it's heady scent thick on her breath. She shrugged and put the mug down, relaxing into her seat; being drunk wouldn't help her later. Her sword might slip and the resulting death would be slow and messy. She did prefer clean kills...
Perhaps leaving now would be the best idea, when the night was still cheerful. It was already 'late' by Human standards and they would stop serving alcohol soon.
"May we sit here?"
Keleria raised a brow, lifting her eyes to meet the curious mercury orbs of another Kal'dorei, much like herself. Long white hair was left flowing down her back and framed her face, half of which was hidden by a white mask that mildly stifled her already soft-spoken voice. Keleria quirked a long brow and inclined her head, silently assuring the other Kal'dorei a seat. The masked elf was joined by a deeply inebriated Human woman who clung to her arm like a crutch, rambling inanely in sentences that were neither structured nor coherent.
"What's your name?" Keleria fixed her gaze on the darkly clad female, curious for conversation and half wondering if she truly cared. Though the stranger did possess rather pretty eyes – others might not agree. They were cold and sharp with focus, but paying attention granted one flickers of doubt; vulnerability. The coldness was a front, that much was clear to the warrior.
The woman's eyes fixated on her a moment, as if judging whether she really wanted to engage in conversation with her, then they seemed to soften briefly, "Ayuri."
Keleria half-scoffed, "a pretty name."
Ayuri quirked a brow at her, eyes wary now. Keleria noticed and waved her hand dismissively, "don't mind me. Idle compliments from drunken warriors should not be taken seriously."
"Drunk?" Ayuri's brows knitted, her voice dropping to a mutter, "clearly you haven't noticed the leech on my arm."
Keleria tilted her head, eyeing the Human as she giggled and sang with her hand quite firmly attached to Ayuri's arm. Wordlessly she got up from her seat and walked over to William, exchanging words and coin before returning with a mug of frothing brew. "Hey, want another drink?" she clicked her fingers, grabbing the woman's attention. She burbled something incoherent and happily accepted the drink, downing it in a few big gulps.
Settling back into her seat Keleria remained silent as Ayuri glared at her, perplexed and infuriated that someone was worsening her situation for absolutely no reason.
Her expression changed when moments later, the Human slumped over, out like a light. Ayuri looked at the woman, prying off her hand, and then switched her gaze back to a smirking Keleria. "What did you just do?"
"She looked close enough to passing out, one more drink would have done it."
"Will she be alright?"
"Alright then, want to get away from here?"
"You seem out of place here."
"What do you mean?"
Ayuri's eyes turned wary again, colder. Keleria averted her own to the Stormwind canals. It was far quieter since the taverns in the city tended to stay open longer than those of small towns. The Trade District was a nightmare to get through, everyone making a mad rush in the twilight hours to gain the last coin of the day. This time was one of the few times Keleria didn't have to kick someone's head to clear the way.
"I mean you seem uncomfortable among humans, so why are you here?"
"I don't know. Do we always need to a reason to be in the places we end up?"
"Maybe not, but you don't live in Kalimdor?"
Keleria quirked a brow, "why?"
"Why should I?"
"Not many of our people willingly take the company of the younger races over their own."
"And what about you? Why aren't you in Darnassus right now, hugging trees?"
"You make that sound like a terrible thing," Keleria's tone was light, even as she avoided Ayuri's accusatory stare.
The Priestess huffed, unimpressed. "See? Even you don't know why you're here."
The warrior cleared her throat, deciding to move away from the subject in light of Ayuri's increasingly agitated state. She did wonder though why there seemed to be so many young Kal'dorei embracing Human culture for their own when Humans had proven themselves young and foolish without failure time and time again. Though she supposed she was not in a position to judge.
They passed a pair of Stormwind guards on the way down the western canals, and they gave to two Kal'dorei a terse 'good evening' before they carried on. Keleria rolled her eyes – she could see them glancing back, watching them as the two elves continued to talk in their mother tongue. "Figures that we would have to learn their tongue out of convenience, but they do not bother to learn any but their own."
Ayuri scoffed, "is that supposed to be surprising? Goddess forbid Humans have to adjust for their allies."
Keleria almost felt amused, a cold tilt coming to her lips, "and yet you suffer their presence by being here."
The Priestess muttered, arms crossed, "like I've got better places to be."
Keleria shook her head, "we all have better places to be. Whether we choose to acknowledge them or not is up to us."
Ayuri levelled her gaze at the warrior-turned-philosopher, eyes narrowed in a look of frigid wariness. Before she could question however, Keleria upped her pace to approach a man at the end of the western canals. She sighed and threw up her arms, letting it go for now. It was awkward and unusual; most of the time people avoided her after she wordlessly glared them down from trying to speak to her. That she was talking with Keleria was by chance, that Keleria seemed able to hold an intelligent conversation that didn't burrow into her brain like hungry fire ants was a blessing in elven form.
Her thoughts were promptly disturbed as – for all appearances – a ghost lunged out of a crate to claw in Keleria's general direction. Ayuri tensed, lifting in her hands just as the banshee finished speaking her incantation. Keleria collapsed with a dark miasma surrounding her body, twitching and struggling to move on her own.
Silver light guttered into existence around her hands like a fire trying to light in a storm, only for it to suddenly explode with the intensity of star fire. It surged from her hands and cleaved through the spirit's ethereal body, rending what remained of it's essence until nothing was left.
Dulled bracelets were all that remained of the creature and Ayuri moodily kicked them aside. Turning to Keleria she knelt down and pressed her hands to the other's shoulders, lifting the dark magic from her form. Keleria's already stern face was a mix of indignant rage and confusion. Ayuri tilted her head, "do I even want to know?" she muttered, stepping away.
"Um...you two mind telling me what that was about?"
They both looked to see the elderly man Keleria had approached; he was hiding behind one of the more sizable crates. Ayuri's gaze returned to Keleria, arms crossing as if to underscore the man's question.
The warrior grunted and got to her feet, brushing dust from her robe. "I've been following a paper trail for a little while now, thought of giving up on it but we happened across my next delivery."
A frown creased the Human's already wrinkled face, "you were gonna just let me hang around here waiting for someone to pick this crap up?"
Keleria shot him a glare, "I am not here for these things. I was following a trail."
The man sunk down behind his crate to avoid further scalding from either the elves words or their eyes.
Shaking her head Keleria walked over to the crate the banshee had lunged from. She rifled around a bit and finally pulled out an old looking roll of parchment. Opening it proved to greatly annoy her, if the aggravated growl and hopeless flailing of arms was anything to go by. Ayuri raised a brow - either this had been going on for a while or Keleria was like most warriors she'd met; bad tempered. "Not quite working out the way you hoped?"
Keleria muttered something, it was a tongue that was almost Darnassian but missed several key pronunciations and letters; either way Ayuri didn't catch a word of what the warrior said. "No, no it is not," she sighed, seemingly resigned to whatever this was leading her to, and turned her gaze on Ayuri. "Want an adventure?"
Keleria pinched the bridge of her nose, already losing her patience with the irritating male before her. "Just give me back my armour."
The Human was leaning against the back wall of his shop, arms crossed with a perplexed look at his face. His was quite an average looking face, short black hair and a thick goatee making him rather forgettable. He scoffed, wiping his hands down on his smith's apron. Keleria only frowned in reaction, "weapons too."
"You're crazy right?" the man sneered, "if you'd accepted the gold I offered you would have something to interest me by. But you didn't; so you can just prance out of my shop any time now. I'm sure there's a bunch of bear cubs in Elwynn who need a mommy."
He turned away to sort out some of his stock, assuming the conversation was over, only for a hand to roughly grab him by the back of his shirt. In one smooth motion Keleria hauled the man over the counter and down to the floor, his body hitting the solid wood with a heavy thud. He struggled momentarily, but Keleria was pressing her knee against his groin and he soon stopped. She leaned down until her lips were next to his ear, "give me back my things. Or I rip your throat out with my teeth."
The man whimpered, "you wouldn't...this is Stormwind you elven harlot, I can call the guards on you!"
Keleria levelled her eyes at the man and he turned several shades paler upon seeing those cold orbs gaze down at him. It was only there for a second, but he could've sworn the barely flicker of red danced in her eyes. "You cannot call for the guards if you are dead. What will it be, little man? My equipment or your life?"
Ayuri raised a brow when she saw Keleria walk out of the smith's, idly adjusting a suit of plate armour. It was of fine make, but numerous nicks and scratches showed it had been put through a lot. Two vicious looking swords were holstered on her hips. Somehow Ayuri wasn't surprised by Keleria's choice of weaponry; she didn't seem like the single weapon type.
Approaching the Priestess, Keleria quirked a brow at the sabre Ayuri was perched upon. A sleek female with dark fur and pale stripes, a contrast to her own, a male with white fur and dark spots. Ayuri had gone to the Stormwind stables and picked the large male up along with her own while Keleria grabbed her equipment.
The Priestess quirked a brow, "I didn't know it was a thing to store your equipment at a smiths."
Keleria grunted, climbing into Brushal's saddle and patting his pale hide. "It's not. Let's get going."
The ride was quiet and they quickly weaved their wave through Elwynn forest, cutting corners on the paths and generally just trying to make the journey as short as possible. Keleria's paper trail was leading her to the logging camp at the far eastern end of the forest. Ayuri couldn't help but wonder why the humans were not having one of their own follow tedious things like this, instead of having a Kal'dorei do it.
Maybe they were just happy to have the other races do their work for them.
They reached the camp with little fuss and Keleria was quick to dismount and approach an elder looking man outside his house. Ayuri remained atop her sabre, idly stroking Shayo's ears when she gave a bored yowl.
Keleria handed over the same piece of paper that got her attacked by that banshee and Ayuri carefully watched the man when he fumbled with a pair of glasses to read it. He eventually nodded and gestured to the upper floor of his home, where Keleria just threw her arms up in obvious frustration. The man seemed to chuckle at this, and Ayuri could almost feel him chiding her for such impatience. If he brought up the wisdom of age she would not begrudge Keleria for headbutting him.
However the warrior moved into the house and Ayuri frowned, slipping off Shayo's back. She hurried up the path, just reaching the old man, when the shriek of a banshee cut the air. But it wasn't the kind that disabled everyone that heard it, more like a death cry. Hurrying inside Ayuri found Keleria walking down the stairs, one sword in hand and a weather-beaten journal in the other. Her sword for that matter had a weak red glow around the edge that was already fading, looking harder at it's surface revealed an enchanter's runes. Keleria must have had them enchanted to be effective against unnatural things.
"What is that?" Ayuri asked abruptly, crossing her arms.
"You know what I mean."
Keleria was peering down at it with a quiet look of unease on her face, as though she'd found something utterly vile written within the pages. "The one who wrote this, the other pieces of paper are missing pages from this journal, his journal. Stalvan Mistmantle."
Ayuri tilted her head, searching her thoughts a moment before coming up empty, "is that name supposed to mean something?"
Keleria sucked her teeth, "putting it all together with his other pages, yes. He let his jealousy corrupt him into a monster, murdered the girl he supposedly loved and then everyone else around him." The warrior's face was etched with a very troubled and disapproving look of anger. This was bothering her a lot more than she was letting on. Ayuri let her arms fall to her sides, "well, do we need to do anything else or are you just going to stand there like someone told you the Goddess does not love us?"
That seemed to snap Keleria out of her apparent shock and she shot the Priestess a glare, "you should know better than to speak light of something like that."
Ayuri appeared ineffectual, "you were staring at that little thing like it did you some terribly traumatic wrong.
Keleria shook her head, brows furrowing, "nevermind. This needs to be brought to Althea in Darkshire. She's the one who sent me on this damn paper trail in the first place..."
"Stalvan!" Althea's eyes glimmered hotly with furious indignation. "I didn't want to think he actually still lived, or rather existed, among us anymore. But it explains the activity around Mistmantle Manor," she paced back and forth before the two elves, searching for words. She couldn't spare any of the Watch for this, they were stretched thin enough. Coming to a stop she faced the two again, "I need you to finish this."
Keleria nodded, having fully expected it, "we'll make sure he stops terrorizing the people here." Ayuri promptly looked around, as if trying to find the person who apparently gave away her right to speak for herself.
Althea nodded thankfully, but kept her expression strictly professional, "thank you."
Turning away Keleria observed the rest of the dreary town, shrouded in mist and shadow as it was. It if wasn't for the uncomfortable feeling of dark magic in the air Keleria would have felt quite comfortable in the little town.
A hand knocked her shoulder plate, drawing her attention to an annoyed looking priestess. "We'll take care of it?"
"You had other plans? I suppose you had some thrilling party to be at?"
"Not the point."
"You were honestly not going to help me?"
"Again, not the point."
"Why are you even arguing? You have nothing better to do so let's just get this over with..."
The oppressive atmosphere of Duskwood could only ever get worse the further away one moved from a town or light source. It's shadowy boughs and night music unnatural as vile creatures prowled the undergrowth.
Mistmantle Manor was no exception, dilapidated walls and a collapsing fence – once used to keep vermin from a small plot of farmland – did nothing to stop undead feet from trampling the once fertile earth. The ghouls were shambling about, groaning and growling amongst themselves and aimlessly wandering until they either ran into something or just decided to change direction. Occasionally one would dribble, fit or just wildly scratch at the ground or surrounding trees like they had done something terrible to the fetid beasts.
It was here that the shadows proved to be a familiar advantage as Keleria and Ayuri melded into it near the manor, watching the group of undead with wary eyes. Keleria already had her blades out, held ready at her sides while they crouched to further minimize the chance of detection. "Ready?" Keleria uttered, not taking her eyes off the undead.
The warrior surged forwards, slamming shoulder first into one of the ghouls and taking it by surprise. The force of the charge dislocated one of it's arms, already weakened by rot, and it was sent flailing through the air. The ghoul moaned and swiped it's other arm at Keleria's head but she brought her blades up, chopping through the bones of it's forearm. The creature flailed, trying to bite the elf; however it had no such luck. Her blades came up again and disconnected it's head from it's body.
Two more of the ghouls raced towards her, spurred into action by the sight of her. Keleria could already smell burning flesh as Ayuri let loose the power of their Goddess on these foul beings. Charing again she barrelled into the first undead, knocking it on it's back. Whirling around she slammed her plated fist into the jaw of the other, forcing it's head back and opening it up for her to take it's head off in one slice.
The downed ghoul scrambled, grasping at Keleria's leg and trying to bite through her armour. The pressure was uncomfortable but the metal easily held and Keleria was quick to rid the third ghoul of it's skull.
She turned quickly to have a ghoul only a few inches from her face, it's jaws opened wide and ready to take a chunk out of her skull with it's sharp rancid teeth. But flickers of shadow danced across it's rotten body and a lash of silver light pushed against it's chest, forcing it to step back before it could bite. Keleria frowned, Ayuri was a shadow user? The ghoul simply fell apart, it's body no longer capable of holding together under the stress and it crumpled to the ground.
Looking back at the priestess, she was utterly untouched, having taken care of her own opponents at a much safer distance. "What?" Ayuri narrowed her eyes.
Keleria gave a half shrug, "nothing. I should have known you were a shadow user."
"Who dares enter my land? Alliance puppies coming to whine and bark at me again? You can see how well the last ones who came running fared!" Stalvan, in all his maggot-ridden glory, bellowed from the entrance to his former home, two burning golden orbs serving for his eyes fixating on the elves who had laid waste to his minions.
Keleria frowned and looked down at the body of the ghoul Ayuri had taken care of. Knocking it over with her boot she noticed the dirty rag of cloth barely clinging to the edges of it's pelvis. The colour blue had long since been drowned out by blood and decay, but she could just about make out the Human's lionhead symbol.
Scowling the warrior levelled her gaze at Stalvan, who by now was grinning sadistically. "What now, elven filth? Going to run away to your false beliefs and pathetic lack of magic?"
Keleria narrowed her gaze, "Ayuri," she muttered.
Silver light guttered into Ayuri's hands, "I know."
Stalvan charged, pulling the daggers from his belt. "Come then little heroes! Let's see what sounds you make at death's door!"
Only a few steps away Keleria made the first swing, trying to bring both her swords down into Stalvan's shoulder. However he tumbled on the ground and ducked under Keleria's arms, running beyond her to Ayuri. Whirling she gave chase, but Ayuri was not moving, just staring down the laughing corpse with the same stone cold glare as usual. The instant he was upon her a field of light flickered into view at his presence, immediately repulsing the dead man and sending him onto Keleria's outstretched swords. "No!" Keleria growled into his ear, "let's see what noise you make, corpse!" with her blades slotted between his shoulder blades and ribs she forced him to the ground and pressed her foot against his lower spine. The warrior then roughly pushed forwards, her blades angling up much too far for Stalvan's decayed body to withstand and his arms came away with a mix of broken bones and ragged flesh.
Stalvan sagged forwards, the shock of losing his arms in such a manner rendering him wordless, but far from silent. He raged and screamed, squirming on the ground like a bloodied worm with black sludge oozing from the holes where his arms used to be. Keleria gave Ayuri a look at the Priestess nodded, lifting her hand at the struggling dead man. His body suddenly went alight with silver fire and his screaming reached a fever pitch for all of three seconds before he went still.
Watching his flesh pop and sizzle Keleria shook her head and with a tired sigh, sheathed her swords. Ayuri gave her a look, leaning on her stave a bit, "this a normal thing for you?"
"Hunting down paper trails and fighting insane dead things? Hm, minus the paper trail."
"Well it beats my days by far."
Keleria allowed herself a dry smile, "you should stick around then, I get into all kinds of chaos."
Ayuri shook her head, giving the faintest of laughs, "do you? I guess I need the liveliness, why not?"
Keleria's smile remained and they made their way back down the winding dirt path to the main road. Althea needed to be told the good news...
And here we go again...