The Sun Hawks: Five Years on...

Argent Dawn
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Original Thread:
https://eu.battle.net/forums/en/wow/topic/9051735720

The Commandant stood before the podium in the ‘fliers mess’.  He looked outside, through the window, blazing sunshine “It should have been raining”, he thought.  He leant on his cane for a moment, a relic of the Redridge conflict and sternly looked over the elves before him.  Like most veteran fliers his gaze was predatory, searching.  Not quite…’elven’. He looked to his side, where Lieutenant Emberfury stood, her one blank eye staring blindly into the darkness, her other turned on him, she nodded slowly.

He started, his voice booming, bombastic even.

“Four years almost to this day ago, I was accorded a singular honour.  To command a Wing of Fliers, the First Escadrille of Quel’danas, known as the Sun Hawks.  It was not easy, our people were sorely tired of war, sorely tested, and yet, I would say, never bested.  They came, from the noble homesteads, from the farmers pastures, from the bazaar, from, aye, even the gutters and the slums.  They came with one thing, one defining thing!”
He rapped on the lectern.
“They came here looking at the skies and dreaming of being eagles”

He huffed in a breath and sighed through his nose “Those noble elves are now mostly dead, dead or retired, you will see their names engraved on The Wall.”

“None regrets their loss more than I, save obviously their families, but for the defence of a nation, patriots are needed, Solid resolve and firm determination to stand against -any- invader, and say “No! This is Mine! Not Yours!” and with fire and spear and spellcraft to repel them, to remind them that the sons and daughters of Quel’thalas do not, and have never, went quietly into combat, but with Fire and Fury!”

His exclamation roused a cheer from the Rookies.  He glared at them, as if they had come into his home and urinated on his rug.

“You have not earned the right, to acclaim others deeds.  You will...oh you will, with your battle brothers and sisters, the Dragonhawks we ride to battle, you will assuredly do great deeds together to the utmost advantage of our nation, and then!  Then will your names ring out upon the streets, your deeds be spoken on in taverns, your ‘Ace’ names be spoken of in corners and nooks like household names, familiar and common on every tongue.  “I Flew, alongside ‘Flicker’ they will say, or tell tales of how with ‘Bandit’ they downed a foe, or how with ‘Magni’ they both downed an enemy.   These tales you will tell to your advantage,  and you will do so when you have earned the right to do so. Until then, you will be so observant, learn and be tutored by those savage and skilled in the air, remember always our creed”

He raised his spear.

“Only the Brave inherit the Skies!”

“Only the Brave” the returning chorus.

OOC
The idea of the Sun Hawks is to establish a kind of World war I fighter squadron vibe.  The Wing Commander, Brigante, is obviously the boss, but he sees himself as a ‘first amongst equals’  On Informal affairs, he is not immune to the joshing and joking of the unit.

Advancement:
Advancement actually happens in three ways.
Formal promotion.
Becoming an Ace
Getting Medals’Gongs’.

The Ranks are simple.
A ‘Rookie’ is probationary Rank.  You screw up, you’re binned.
Hawk: Once a Rookie is deemed worthy they will be asked to sign the papers and become a Hawk.  This is full membership, it also means you can become an Ace

These are what are sometimes referred to as ‘Enlisted’ Fliers.  As in, they’re on a list.

Next up is Subalterns ( To those with a military background, don’t overthink this, just think NCO)

Scout Hawk: Generally the most common ‘field’ rank. Closest to Corporal in most armies.  This is the first rank that has command authority ( Hawks cannot give Rookies orders) Generally chosen from the ranks, for skill or expertise, or simply sometimes for being the sort of person who -could- give orders.

War Hawk: A Much much rarer Field Rank, easiest to think of ‘Sergeants’.  A War Hawk is a rare beast, there is one per Escadrille ( Squadron)  and they report directly to the Wing Commander.  They are  sterner, but also skilled to look out for those who could become Scout Hawks.  They walk a knife edge, they are on the brink of either failure, or falling to hubris.

Blood Hawk:  An almost mythical beast, there are but three Blood Hawks at any time.  They answer only, and interestingly, -only- to the Lieutenant, and not the Wing Commander.
They are stern beyond belief, and are sources of fear to all right thinking fliers.(Think Regimental Sergeant Major).  To most of them, this is the apotheosis of their career, and so they do not give a tinker’s cuss about offending people, such can regularly be observed.

Those are Subalterns.

Officers.

Lieutenant:  If the Wing Commander is God, the Lieutenant is his Prophet.  They are an Officer, and as such, a  signature either from Anastarien or Kael’thas, or Lor’themar Theron will have endorsed their promotion.  They will likely not have met such a notary, but by thunder, they have been ordained as such by them, which means their word is law.  A Lieutenant is an Officer, the second highest ranking, so can absolutely give commands and dish out punishments should they not be obeyed. To refuse an Officer a rightful order is an act of Treason, for it is acting against the authorithy that invested them.

Wing Commander: The Boss. Again an Officer, and likely ordained by one of three notaries.  The Wing Commander is of sufficient rank that they can dole out Capital Punishment. To question their orders is fine, under unit regulations, to refuse them if explained, likewise counts as Treason. They are however, to all intents and purposes. The Boss.

2.’Becoming an Ace’

You do that after meeting two criteria.
1.Making Hawk Rank
2. Getting Ten air to air Kills

Ace gives you certain prestige rights.  You can use other Ace’s names, even Officers.  That sounds silly, but in a social environment it becomes all the more telling, who is an Ace and who is not.

You also get a Tankard, with your ‘Ace’ name engraved on it.  This is generally a great source of hilarity to your fellow fliers, as ‘Ace’ names tend to be slightly mocking….

3.Gongs! Aka Medals.
We have several.
The Phoenix Banner in Bronze/Silver/Gold
The Wounded Skies award ( Think the purple Heart)
The Order of the Red Banner ( a contentious one, a medal awarded to those who have served the Horde but not necessarily the Sin’dorei)
The Silver Star of Anasterian: A Medal for -extreme- heroism
The Golden Sun of Dath’remar: A medal given in the most extreme of circumstances, Only once before to a living reciprocant.

OOC rules:
1. No Public ERP or Torture
2 .No Griefing Events on -Either- side.
3. Keep Gchat civil
4.No OOC Drama
5. No bad mouthing other guilds in Gchat, we all have alts.
6. After a month of inactivity you will be demoted to OOC or removed from the guild depending on how your activity's been.  
7. Please note that we don't use OOC in /s /e /y.
When correcting typos you should use /g or /i.(edited)

Pretty much it...
Chief Bhalneath sighed at the new elf at the Armouries.

“Alright, lets try this again”

“Whats this” He tapped with his baton, tipped with a golden plated Imp skull, at a leather contrivance.

The Elf nodded.
“Mark Five ‘Defiance’ Nine Point Flight Harness, the Mark Five differs from the Mark Four as it is now made with new material available to us since joining the Horde, the leather is Kodo Hide, the buckles are Thorium”
Bhalneath nodded “Good, and which flier uses this particular one?”
“None Chief, its a test rig, every Flight Harness is crafted separately for every Elf, to match both Dragonhawk and Rider. It is called a Nine Point Harness because it has nine buckles, Fliers often call it their ‘Nine’”
“Why is it important?”

“Well, aside from the state secrecy bit, it keeps them in the saddle, allows them to fly inverted, connects to the Dragonhawks Saddle, and it has a parachute bundle at the back Chief”

“And?”

“And it has the connector cords for them to release the various munitions, Chief”

“Good, good,” He moved on and picked up an arrow, twirling it in his fingers, the air made a mournful song as he did so, “And This?”

“‘Shrike’ ammunition Chief, standard arrow, but when loosed it spins and the holes in the arrowhead means that it makes a screaming sound, it is supposed to be unsettling, Chief”

“Ever heard one?”

Bhalneath nodded slowly as the rookie elf looked nonplussed, “Hope you never do, I have, it is a hideous sound designed to cause panic”

Bhalneath slapped his hand on a lance, well, a lance with a halberd blade. “And this?”
“Mark One ‘Revenger’ Chief, an arcane imbued halberd that is the primary weapon of the Hawkrider, designed to both pierce and slash, and enchanted”

“Good, good” He moved on to a shelved spear, blue flights on it, a glowing blue speartip, around three feet in length.
“This?”
“Mark two ‘Falcon’ Arcane Javelin Chief, It discharges an arcane blast when it lands, roughly a twenty feet diameter, best used against mass personnel targets”

Bhalneath nodded and snatches up a small ovoid metal contraption “And this here is a standard Grenade, why do they load up with ‘Falcons’, they do the same thing?”

“Reminds them they are fighting Elves Chief, and we rule magic.”

“Good, good, now this….”
Bhalneath taps his baton on a large munition, the size of an elf in length, unintelligible writing upon it.
“Mark Three ‘Wyrmbreaker’ Chief, manufactured by the Goblins of Gearfist IBS, it is an armour piercing bomb of steel, with a thorium and Seaforium tip. Its unusual shape is so that the bomb hits, delivers the tip, which pierces, and only -then- explodes inside the target. It is rocket propelled to ensure maximum force, the impact rocks the foe, the Thorium warhead then penetrates and detonates”

“Good, now the new toys..”

Bhalneath tapped a circular metal disc, the size of a dinner plate.

“Wasn’t briefed Chief?”

“No, its a new thing, this is the Mark One Psychological Warfare unit, catchily named the ‘Heartracer’ A Siren, that is timed to match the heartbeat of the shorter lived races...initially...it then slowly speeds up, the theory is that their heart rate speeds up in time, basically it induces a panic attack in our enemies, any Human, Dwarf or Gnome going up against this, gets an involuntary adrenaline spike, but one keyed to fear, not ability.”

Bhalneath tapped another device, three feet long, with two metal balls on the end. “The Hamstringer’, again, Mark One, The cruder folk call them ‘Aerial Shackles’. It is a fired pair of Bolas, Like a gun, but when the two balls are fired, they fling through the sky, and when they hit a target, they wrap around, until the two balls are slammed against each other, and when that happens….They explode”

Bhalneath spreads his hands “And when that happens...down will come baby, cradle and all, the game is over”

The new Elf paled at the next weapon on the shelves “Thats not….”

Bhalneath nods “No, thats a dummy. A realistic one, but a dummy. That is what a Mark Four Tactical Mana Bomb, the ‘Annihilatrix’ looks like. You ever see one of those and I am not supervising its transport you drop everything and run and find me, because those things do -not- move without my say-so. It is not that they are destructive, I mean they are, but you could do more with a bigger bomb, it is the psychological effect, A lot of Alliance remember Theramore, hells, the Commandant remembers Theramore, which is why if you see this on the load-out list, you know something serious is afoot. You won’t ever see them like that, they’ll always be in crates, that can only be unlocked by two elves in unison.”

“They’re..so small”

“And yet so terrible”

Both elves looked at the small cannister, so ...innocuous.

Bhalneath nodded “You got it right, that's their load out list, what were you sentenced here for?”

The new elf shifted uncomfortably “Arson, Chief”

“How long you got to serve?”

“Twenty years left, been inside for twenty already”

“Let me tell you this Firebug, you smoke or so much as think about smoking around these ‘toys’, you won’t have to worry about finishing your sentence. If the bombs don’t kill you….I will. Now, you in, or you out and back to your comfortable cell?”

“I’m in”

“Good Elf. You get a wage, and a death in service pension, once you’ve served your sentence, the Commandant writes a nice letter saying how trustworthy you are, and how you deserve a second chance to any employer, I heard he even turns up as a character reference for people of good character, so keep your nose clean, and those twenty years will pass in no time”

Around them the dread munitions of death were handled and loaded.

“Chief, you think these will be needed?”

Bhalneath laughed and spread his arms wide “Didn’t you hear the Commandant’s latest speech? The War is over, the Legion War, the War to end all Wars….Peace in our time”

“This is the armouries at Peace?”

“You don’t want to see it when its busy, but unlike the Commandant I am a pessimist. I reckon you will…”
Let the Story-thon begin again....
A bump for our brothers in arms.
The eagle riders of the mountain endorse these people.
10/10 would have a hostile work environment with them again.
“She’s awake, She’s Lucid”  The Hood said.  Brigante had not paused, but had sprinted to the Spire, there to use his rank to demand a portal to the Island of Quel’danas.

And so he went.

He was apprehended by a doctor “Commandant, you must be aware, she is…”   Brigante snarled “There has been an improvement in her condition, that is what I am told, are you telling me such is not true?”  Despite the fact the other elf was taller by several inches, there was something in the horrible, unpleasant eyes that the Dragonhawk rider turned on him that gave the Doctor pause…   He had ...heard of the phrase “Fliers Eyes” but now seeing them, he knew what was meant.  There was nothing Elven in that stare...nothing that any normal elf would recognise...The Doctor shuddered, everyone had the same colour eyes these days, but those….He made much use of the enhanced glass lenses to see things small, he understood the Gnomes called them ‘Microscopes’  They always had a catchy way with words….

That stare.  That...what it made him feel was the stare that something at the bottom of a microscope might see, from the eye looking down upon them.

He broke the gaze, he could not look at those eyes.  He could not understand how anyone could, and still think that the person with those eyes had a shred of empathy or compassion.

He shook his head “Commandant, she is not at danger of becoming Wretched, but...She still has ...issues”

The voice was easy, low, and calm “Doctor, will you show me to my fiancee, or not?”

He nodded “Yes, of course”

It was a cell.  Of course it was,  She had been a danger...Still a shackle held her to the wall.  Her hair lank and hanging over her face, a horrid feral grin crossing her features as he came in  “Here for your weekly Guilt trip?”  She snarled from behind gnarled rats tails of hair.

He sat in front of her “Tarri, I..”

She lunged and snapped her teeth at him, and laughed as he flinched back.
She hissed “You know that’s not how Wretched work, you should know, of all people, or have you forgotten your little sister?”

She Shuddered and flinched  “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that!”

Brigante just regarded the woman “ You are making a compelling argument for me to have you destroyed.” he said, in an attempt at dark humour.
He smiled sadly “Good job for both of us that I know the real you.  Inside what is going on there”  He gestured with a hand towards her head and nodded “Makes me wonder how many times we miss out on potential benefits to our nation”

The Woman looked up at him, with venom in her voice “YOU made me this!”

Brigante shook his head “No, no, I asked you to-”

He stopped.  “No.  You are right...I made you this”

He hung his head “And I will set things right”

The woman lowered her head, and murmured “Kiss me”

Brigante was mindful of the caution, how she had only just recovered from approaching a Wretched state, but despite the stink of sweat in the cell, the corded rats tails of hair hanging lankly from her head, her pallor, this was still Tarrithael.  His affianced, his...the mother of their child, still in her womb.  He nodded and moved closer, a hand reaching out tenderly to her cheek.

She spat in his face, and howled.
She snarled, tugging at the shackle “How?  How will you do that? How will you put things right? You know only one thing!  How to destroy! How to Kill! Thats all you are, Brigante Summerisle!  Thats all thats left of you!  A Murderer who smiles and claims to have honour, a mass murderer who will happily sacrifice -anyone- to get your way.  I worshipped you as a child, you know that?  You shone so bright, even amongst all the Fliers...But now I know...Oh yes, now I know… You weren't shining.  Oh no, you weren’t shining.  You were burning. Everyone else?  Your fliers, your enemies, your Son?  Your last wife? Me?  We were just the fuel to make you burn brighter!”.

Brigante closed his eyes and shook his head, inches from the howling woman.
“Look at me!” She snarled.  He growled and opened his eyes, trying to find anything to cling to.

Tarrithael hissed “Yes, thats the eyes...To think I ever saw anything of passion, of love in them!  You are a predator, You hunt, you kill, you move on to the next target, you hunt, you Kill.  That is all you are!” she screamed at him.

“Tarri...no, that is not… I am a soldier...I serve my country”

“Lies!  Lies you tell yourself so that you can sleep at night!”  She snarled and looked him square in the eyes “You know what I see?”

“Tarri, you’ve had a tough time, you’re not yourself, you-”
“Don’t tell me what I am!  I’ll tell you what you are.  You’re Him.  Well done.  You made it.  You’re the King of All Skies!  Azeroth didn’t -need- that Nathrezim Mikaneth to come here and proclaim he was King of All Skies.  Because He was ...already Here!  Thats you, Mikaneth Summerisle, The Murdering King of Azeroth’s Skies!  I hope you get what you want.  I hope you become a God, a Saint, a Metaphor, I hope you die in the blaze of glory you have sought your entire life, and become a Story!  I hope that happens, so that I never have to see you again, but instead only tell our child that their father was Purest Evil, and nevermore should the name Summerisle be heard without a shudder, and a sign to ward off Evil!  I Hope -That- is your Legacy, King of the Skies!”

And then the last, the cruellest.
“It is well for Asharion, your Son, that he died so young, and did not See the truth of you.  So go!  Go, return to your ‘church’, the Blue Skies and the dreaming of Eagles.  Go to your pretty lies, Go and Kill, because that is all you are good for!”

Without a word, Brigante stood and left, the door clicking behind him, then locked by the doctor.

Inside the cell, the woman wept bitterly, her free hand wiping at her eyes “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please, I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry”

An hour later, in his office on Quel’danas, Brigante closed his eyes as he cradled a glass of brandy, he murmured, eyes wet with tears  “I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, please, I didn’t mean it..I’m sorry”

In the Skies over Aszuna, the Nethership ‘De Regli Caeli’ hung in the skies.   The Burning Legion’s crusade had failed.  Sargeras was...gone?   The Dreadlord, the Nathrezim Mikaneth, ‘King of All Skies’ tapped at the table,

He smiled, even though their Lord was gone, his plan was still working.  He could rule here.

A Wrathguard approached him “King Mikaneth, there is word”
He opened a hand and graciously waved the lesser Demon to speak.

“The Enemy has possession of the Wings of Sky-Captain Hishalno Cloudspear, I appreciate this is a great setback, but….”

The Nathrezim laughed.  “ A Setback?, to set one of the Aerial defenders of Azeroth to doubting himself and becoming -me-?  To letting them take the very item that will make even his closest allies doubt his intentions?.  To -allow- his pitiful espoused to survive so that poison drips in his ear and brings him closer?”

The Nathrezim laughed.  “This was not a setback”

The Demon gently rested a hand on the map of Azeroth.

“This was not a setback….This was according to my Plan”
(( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VobvLUZovQ ))

He wound his way through the spires corridors and towers, each one leading up to another, never quite the way you expected. There was seemingly more floors, more rooms, more corridors and stairways within the great spire than there could conceivably be from the outside. Whether clever architecture or simply magisters creating room when required, it was best not to give it too much thought.

Dae'anneth walked the ancient carpets, climbed old familiar stairwells before branching away from where he knew. The intelligence and infiltration kept to a separate side of the tower, now he found himself striking out through long corridors lined with shelves. Scholars and Magisters wandered dreamily from one to other, seemingly all sense of time lost outside of this vast library. Lanterns glimmered within glass cases as robes swept over the bare boards that had replaced the carpets and marble of the lower-floors. Here and there doors were dotted along the way, leading to apartments and workshops, and no doubt further libraries, he counted under his breath, following the directions.

Eventually he found himself before a door. Glancing down at the stump of his left arm he frowned. The man had likely never had as much work as he had in the last six months at the expense of the Escadrille. Raising his fist he knocked upon the oaken door. The sound reverberated around the corridors, earing the odd furtive glance from those nearby.

------------------------------------------------------

He watched as the others left the Zepplin. Set about their tasks. In truth there was only one task that had truly needed setting. Given to the Scout-Hawk in hushed whispers, whilst the others spoke of food and water and the opportunity to investigate the abandoned Zandalari camp on the far side of the island. His orders simply;

"Keep them away as long as you can."

Yasmyr had nodded, and led the others out into the evening, glancing back to Dae'anneth, the Flight Surgeon stood beside him. She knew, she had seen to many times, the aspects of the Chaplain's work. The line between life and death had so often lain along the menders blade. Final mercies, either salvation or damnation, sometimes there could only be hope.

Hope. He had hoped to put this off until their rescue, until their return. But others had mocked and argued, said there was no rescue coming.

Whatever happened. Time, for him at least, had run out. They didn't need to witness this.

------------------------------------------------------------

They had retreated from the others, out of view behind the abandoned gnomish technology. He took hold of the Chaplain by the arm.

"Look, but say nothing. Not a word." Both of them too aware of how tentatively he held onto morale amongst those stranded. Each day dragged on, the storms unrelenting. It was best the rest of the Escadrille didn't know. Dae'anneth had suspected, but had put concern aside.

The bandages were unwound slowly, from the elbow all seemed fine, but as inch by inch flesh was revealed it dried, paled and flaked away until all around the wound, down over forearm, wrist and hand, flesh had blackened, dying. Aiechi pressed a cloth to it, aside from a few flakes of dead skin that fell away, no sheen of infection rose between the cracks of skin, simply drying out while still attached to the body, the blood supply torn out with the first wound.

Silently Aiechi rebound the arm.

"You cannot leave it."

"Just one more day, they shall be here..."

Word had finally reached them that the Fifth Escadrille was en-route, but they were a days sailing away, and then there was the return journey.

"You might not -have- one more day. If the corruption from the limb gets into the blood stream-"

Dae'anneth hissed through his teeth. He knew. He'd known from the moment Aiechi caught him idly scratching at the arm that hung limp by his side how this would end.

"Let me send them out. And then we shall set to it."

------------------------------------------------------------------

Heat.

Focus on the heat of the flames, the way they dance. Not the cold of the stone the arm is pinned against.

Focus on the dance of the flames, not the glint of steel in the firelight.

Focus on the air of each breath, the earth beneath your feet, focus on the scent of the rain in the air.

Instead he focused on the tightness of the leather strapping tied above the elbow, focused on the way the firelight made the blade gleam, the way the heat distorted the colours of the metal until it shone, focused on the way it seemed to hiss and clink as it cooled in the air. Focused on the man who had hold of his arm, pinning it to the flat stone that would serve as surgeons table.

As the blade struck, gritted teeth caught keening whine before it erupted into full bodied scream, the blade moved as if through butter as it sliced through flesh, scoring around the bone, severing all below it in one swift move. He would have admired its effeciency were his shoulder not so busy trying to tear the arm away, his body writhed in the dirt battling instinct to flee against willpower to remain. He should have ordered another to remain to restrain him, but he hadn't wanted to lower morale, to have them bear witness to this. Oh foolish pride.

Blood washed over the stone, its metallic tang filling the air, every breath tasted it as the fire consumed that which flowed its way. The Flight Surgeon raised the blade, bringing it down against the bones. They lacked the tools, it was crude but necessary. The first of the two sheered away with a cracking sound that was lost amongst the lightning of the perpetual storm and the screams of the Lieutenant. Within moments the second one was shattered by the same process, the remains of the limb torn from the decaying waste of hand and arm.

The blade went back into the fire, Dae'anneth pulled into Aiechi's grasp before he could move away. The others voice hushed and soothing, gently he rocked back and forth, Dae'anneths breath staggered. Aiechi looked down at the man in his arms and adjusted his grip.

"I'm sorry."

The blade, glowing from the fire was pressed over the wound, the sizzled hiss as the scent of burning flesh filled the air, Dae'anneth thrashed, his head thrown back, pinned in the Chaplain's embrace, as he screamed until his throat rent.

------------------------------------------------------------

The door swung open, a figure across the room sat curled over the desk. A lamp upon the table threw him into shade against its glow. With the merest glance he beckoned Dae'anneth inside.

He stepped into the room, arms folded behind his back and looked at his surroundings. More books, more scrolls, more shelves. Here and there trinkets and curiousities spun in their displays. He glanced over his shoulder as the door shut behind him.

"My apologies, I'm aware I do not have an appointment..."

The figure looked sharply to Dae'anneth. Ash blonde hair hung past his shoulders, small spectacles balanced on the bridge of his nose were removed and set down. The set of the jaw and edge of expression was unmistakable.

"Is Commander Summerisle-?"

"No, no, all is well with your Brother." He watched as the man breathed a sigh of relief. "Trinovante Summerisle, I presume?"

The man nodded, getting to his feet. "Yes, this is after all my office."

Dae'anneth's eyes followed as the magister unfurled to his full height, he had to be six feet, if not a little more, crossing the room, giving the Dae'anneth the rather unusual sensation of having to look 'up' to a Summerisle. Up close the resemblance was near uncanny.

For the briefest moment Dae'anneth's mind provided him with an image of the two brothers stood side by side. Height was clearly not a set value within the Summerisle lineage.

"And you are one of my brothers men I see." He continued, "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

Dae'anneth looked at the man before him, the words would not be out of place on any magisters lips but something about them sounded as if they had been chosen with careful patience and practiced. A careful, almost timid air.

"You come highly recommended..."

Dae'anneth carefully pulls his arms from beneath his cloak, revealing the shortened stump of his left. Trinovante frowns.

"At the way the Escadrille is getting through limbs, there shall be nothing left of you in the end, merely metal automatons."

"I like to think of it as 'Death on an Installment Plan'."

There is a flicker of a smile rewarded from the quiet magister.

"Unfortunately without permission from your Commander, I cannot begin work that has not been formally commissioned due to costs."

"Oh but you can, you see, this will be at my own expense."

Trinovante looked calculatingly at the Lieutenant before him. Dae'annneth had the uncomfortable sensation of being priced up, but he kept his patient smile.

"I don't think you fully understand the 'expense' involved. What did you say your name was?"

"I didn't. But Acting Lieutenant Dae'anneth Silverflare, from a formal point of view. And my ability to meet any funds requested, will not be an issue, I'm sure Brigante will set your mind at rest should you not trust my word."

Trinovante -looks- at Dae'anneth, something about the way the word 'any' had been lent on raising his curiosity. Dae'anneth for his part remains rooted to the spot, pinned by the look, if only for a fleeting moment.

"Very well," Trinovante continued, the edge of the 'Summerisle Certainty' finding itself in his voice. "I assume the fact that you are here at this hour means there is a pressing urgency. Let us see what can be done..."
The storm was worsening, the skies that had before been the dark purple of an ageing bruise were twisted to oranges, greens and blacks, lightning flashed and thunder rolled as the unrelenting torrent of the downpour continued, hammering upon the zepplin's canvas until it near drowned out all sound.

Dae'anneth sat huddled by the fire. The remaining stump of his arm bound in red strips from Aiechi's shirt, so that it would show no tell-tale sanguine stains. His skin pale, he trembled as his body fought the shock of adrenaline still coursing his system. After a while he became aware of a dull creaking sound.

"Returning to camp, Zepplin in sight." Yasmyr's voice crackled and hissed over the comms.

"Recieved and Understood."

The island rolled, slowly at first before the rumbling earthquake shook the very bedrock. After a moment it slowed and stopped. Aiechi and Dae'anneth exchanged a look, both questioning and answering in silence.

It was a -bad sign-.

As it was, it was only a few minutes before the rest of the Escadrille, accompanied by Captain Lysus, returned to the Zepplin. There was a dark part of Dae'anneths mind that voiced its disappointment. Lysus had been nothing but a thorn in his side since the moment they had arrived here, questioning him and arguing at every turn, her lectures on how none of the Hawks had offered her condolences or thanks for her crews sacrifice to get them here, even if 'here' was marooned on this light-forsaken spit of an island. He had more than once resented that she too had not gone down with her ship. She had refused his explination that the Escadrille would offer condolences in their own time, it was not -done- amongst them. Losses were put aside until the task was finished, there would be time for mourning, this was not it.

He pushed the thought from his mind, watching as the source of the creaking noise was pushed into the shelter.

"Where do you want it?"

It was a Zandalari ballista, abandoned at the former camp they had discovered in the days previous. Dae'anneth looked to Longstride who had asked the question, the mild disbelief that it was even a question that needed answering.

"Pointing -Out-." He said firmly, watching as it was turned. At least it would stand them in good stead against anything that sought to breach their camp.

Behind him the repurposed recorder which had served as beacon crackled and hissed before an array of bright lights and cheerful beeping noises, along with something that sounded like a piece of metal twanged against a desk, began in some unholy gnomish cacophany.

"See to that."

Yasmyr dashed past the Ballista to the device, speaking into the tube and listening to the mangled answer.

"The Commandant and the Fifth are an hour away, should the winds and sea hold."

"Exce-"

He was cut short by a flash of lightning and roll of thunder that illuminated the figure stood in the entrance of the Zepplin, a Warden by the looks of him.

"Might I enter your camp, the storm is vicious."

"Who are you?"

"I am one of the wardens from the Isle of watchers, we picked up one of your men clinging to a piece of driftwood. He said where we might find you."

"I thought Wardens were female?"

"A common Misconception."

Dae'anneth glanced over his shoulder, slipping into Thalassian. "Relay the situation." The nod returned he turned his attention back to the Kaldorei figure.

Lysus looked somewhere between uncertain and willing to grasp a last shred of hope. "You picked up one of my men?"

The Kaldorei cut across her. "First, may I come in? Only it is dreaful weather out there."

Whispers of muffled distrust flitted back and forth between the hawks in their native tongue as doubts and concerns were raised.

Dae'anneth raised a hand as they hushed to silence, speaking in crisp common. "Very well, hands where we can see them Warden, Longstride, First Hawk. Weapons up, guard our guest."

The Kaldorei stepped inside. The heavy trappings of the warden making little more than vague shape discernable.

"My thanks. As I was saying, yes we picked up a sailor, I did not get his name. But I must ask, did you find the trinket you were looking for?"

Dae'anneth frowned. "We sought no trinket, only knowlege, which the cave below provided." He rolled a shoulder in an idle shrug, "Sailors do have a terrible habit of assuming all treasures are physical."

Captain Lysus nodded her agreement. Dae'anneth resisted the urge to chalk it up and frame it as the only time he'd managed to utter a statement without her arguing.

Behind him he could hear the muffled, whispered talk of Yasmyr, and the crackling distortion of responses flowing back and forth,

"I must insist that the Wings of Hishalno are handed to me immediately."

"I've no idea what you speak of."

"Yes you do. The sailor overheard a conversation he shouldn't have, and upon finding him, that information was garnered to me."

Something about that sentence clanged awkwardly in Dae'anneths mind. A tone that set the skin on his front trying to crawl onto his back and flee.

The island rolled. An earthquake rumbling under their feet.

"What do you mean? How was that information 'garnered' from him?"

His comms crackled in his ear. "Magni says the Nightmare Squadron take the form of Kaldorei, proceed with extreme caution, repeat, extreme caution."

The Kaldorei laughed, a harsh rasping sound. "Why, when I ate him, of course."

Dae'anneth spoke simply, gently even, slipping from common back to Thalassian once more. "Kill it."

The Kaldorie laughed "How fortunate I speak your tongue Mortals" it hissed as its flesh split, splintering as its form twisted grotesquely as it became the Nightmare drake. Its bulk filled the Zepplin.

"YOU WILL GIVE ME THE WINGS OF HISHALNO AND THEN YOU SHALL DIE MORTALS"

"Bandit, Inform Magni and Man the Ballista, Longstride, Help her!"

As the Hawks slashed blade and spear against scale and hide, a vision of Captain Lysus, dishevelled and screaming flew at the Drake like a wild beast as she lept onto it's back, blades shining in the light from the campfire as she drove them into the drakes hide over and over, shrieking like a banshee.

"You Ate My Men You Bastard!"

The threatening creak of the Ballista as it reached full tension filled what little of the air wasn't already filled with shrieks and roars and shouts of the attack.

"Now!"

The heavy bolt slammed into the drake and it shrieked in pain, the second locked into the Ballista as the team worked like a polished machine, not the frantic desperate elves they were. The drake went to attack the infernal contraption, before it began to creak once more.

The island rolled again, threatening to knock the hawks from their feet and bring the Zepplin's carcass down upon them as twisted ironwork screamed in protest.

Diving aside the second bolt missed, but the drake managed to slam its tail into Longstride, knocking him clear aside and half out of the canvas of the tent.

"Chaplain! You're up! Keep that thing firing!"

Blade and Spear and Spell scored their way across the drakes hide, as another bolt ripped into it, the drake turned and fled into the storm.

Captain Lysus still clinging to its back.

"After it!"

Dae'anneth charged after the retreating drake, watching it take to the skies. He, Dawnsear and Highflame lined along the ridge.

His muscles screamed protest he hefted the heavy bone-tipped spear and hurled it towards the drake as it tried to gain height in the torrential downpour. The waspish Captain Lysus continued trying to sever the neck she sits upon.

The spears struck true, puncturing the softer underbelly of the drake as the scene is illuminated by twirling fire from Dawnsear.

It unfolded in slow motion, the consequences only then becoming clear. The drake screamed its final deathrattle, the sound deafening, gurgling, until it stopped. Its wings went limp, for a moment, it seemed almost suspended in the sky, until it wasn't. The vision of Nightmare fell hard and fast, and crashed to the ground beyond the sight of the ridge.

Captain Lysus fell with it.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Get her up, keep her comfortable. We have to meet that extraction."

The broken body of Captain Lysus was lifted from the soil, her breathing ragged, barely conscious, the chaplain shone as he carried her, numbing her pain as best he could.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Acting Lieutenant Dae'anneth Silverflare. Glad to find you all in one piece. Time we got you back to the ship Hm?" The Wing Commander of the Fifth offered a curt nod as he spoke in sharp clear tones above the roar of the storm and sea.

Upon the rain soaked shores of the island, the First Escadrille climbed up onto the waiting mounts with the riders of the Fifth, and took to the skies, headed for the ship, and for home.
The storm was worsening. Thunder rolled unrelentingly, lightning tore across the sky as the Dragonhawks made their way out to the Bloodied Spear, anchored off the shore of the island.

As they landed on the ship, there was a brief moment of relief. The Chaplain held the broken Captain in his arms. A shout went up from the crew. Slowly, eyes raised to the heavens. Something was coalescing in the sky. Clouds shifting, as if a great, terrible face leered out at them, then, in an instant, what had been merely the mind playing tricks, became real.

Dae'anneth stared, face upturned in a frozen expression of horror that matched every elf upon the ship, as the nightmarish form of Sargeras loomed from the skies to the south west. They watched as a gigantic blade, several miles long, tore down through the skies to strike beyond the horizon. The moment dragged out for an eternity. And then, as suddenly as he appeared, he vanished, torn back into the clouds.

The endless deafening rumble continued, the oceans roiling as Azeroth herself trembled.

"Did we win?" a voice ventured.

"No," answered the familliar tones of Brigante Summerisle. "We just lost..."

Behind them sharp cracking split the air with noise, they turned to see the island crumbling, rocks falling into the sea as it collapsed into itself.

"Get us out of here!" roared Dae'anneth. The helmsman spun the wheel as the ship turned to flee the waters that rushed to fill the void left in the islands wake. The sails full with the storms howling winds, and yet slowly they began to be dragged back.

"Chaplain!" Shouted Brigante over the howl of the storm and the screams of crew as they were dragged backwards. "We can flee, we can leave these men and women to die, Or one can die so we all might live." He looked into the eyes of the Flight Surgeon.

"You know what to do."

The glow was already forming around Aiechi as he held Captain Lysus in his arms, the air thrummed with the power of the light, it's shine brightening with every passing moment until Chaplain and Captain were obscured from view, every elf turned their gaze away, eyes screwed shut against the light that seared through their eyelids and chased away darkness from the edges of their vision. The light burst outwards, and as they blinked away the spots, there stood Captain Lysus, alone, shining like the sun.

The ship rocked and lurched. "She's going in!" cried the helmsman, the elves scrabbled to grasp ropes and chains and each other as the ship pitched and leered into the maelstrom left in the islands wake. Dae'anneth looked around, fear gripping his senses as he sought the chaplain. There, tangled in ropes thrown overboard was the unmoving form of the chaplain.

"Lieutenant!" Called Captain Lysus, having taken the wheel from the helmsman, "Your help at the wheel."

Dae'anneth looked down to Yasmyr who was half clinging to him, half to the ropes, her eyes searching for her husband. Dae'anneth pointed. "Scout-Hawk, Take the others, retrieve the Chaplain."

He staggered his way to the wheel, watching as horror as Captain Lysus spun the wheel, turning them into the depths of the Maelstrom. "The Path of Least Resistence!" She cried over the roar of the waves, now towering over the ship, making it look like some childs toy caught in the swirl of the bath. She braced her shoulder against the wheel, the sickening crunching sound of shattered bone rang out as the wheel fought back.

Dae'anneth stood himself beside her, grasping the other side, throwing his weight and strength behind it to hold it's course steady, his severed arm held behind the Captain to keep her on her feet.

"We both know I'm dead Lieutenant, only got as long as the Light holds me, We both know that."

The ship tore down towards the depths with speed beyond what her builders had ever imagined, the hull creaked, mast and sail listing as the boughs crashed through the rippling swirls towards the depths.

"It's been an honour Serving with you Captain."

A brief smile flickered on her lips, the ship reached the nadir of the maelstrom and began to tear upwards, the momentum and roar of the wind carrying them all upwards, tilted until all that was ahead was the sky above.

"A last request Lieutenant?"

Dae'anneth glanced to her, helping hold the course steady, the glow around her already flickering and fading.

"Giz us a kiss." A crooked smile on her features. "Let my last thoughts be of affection and comfort and warmth."

Dae'anneth wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her close. "Now how could I refuse a request like that?"

The ship crested the edge of the Maelstrom, crashing down onto the flat ocean once more, streaking away from the whirlpools pull. Dae'anneth leaned close and pressed a tender kiss to the Captains lips. She began to sag against his arm, one hand curled up over his jaw, into his hair.

"Did I save us?"

As he opened his mouth to answer, her eyes rolled back, the broken body collapsing in his arms. He smiled sadly, a muscle in his jaw tensing.

"Yes..." he whispered, "There will be songs...", but she was far beyond hearing his words. First Hawk Highflame approached, tired and worn, battered and soaked, but alive. Dae'anneth carefully handed Captain Lysus to him.

"See to it that the Captain is put to rest in her quarters for now." The elf nodded and began to leave. "And find me a sailor with two arms to man this ruddy ship!" Dae'anneth called after him.

He turned the wheel lazily with one hand, looking out of the horizon, leaving the swirling Maelstrom behind them as they struck out across the ocean. The helmsman approached, offering Dae'anneth a respectful nod.

"Is it true? Captain Lysus is dead?" Dae'anneth nodded.

"She saved us all."

"Then I shall take the helm, as Lieutenant. There shall never be another Captain of the Bloodied Spear."

Dae'anneth clapped the man on the shoulder before staggering towards the group of sodden elves. They were crowded around a figure.

Aiechi Starglow.

The elf was breathing, but barely. Every ounce of mana given, every fibre of strength used to deliver them Captain Lysus in their hour of need. Crouched at his side was Yasmyr. Her eyes flashed up to Dae'anneth almost pleadingly.

"Lieutenant, help me... help me get him inside." She spoke as calmly as she could. The voice only used to drown out the internal screaming.

Dae'anneth wordlessly helped her lift Aiechi, carrying him through the the quarters of the ship below decks.

They had escaped, but there was always a price to be paid.
There are those who say that the first thing you do after Death is walk down a corridor lined with the people you’ve killed.This used to scare Aiechi - right down to his core. There was, after all, a lot of blood on his hands - friends and lovers who’d fallen on the field and he couldn’t get back up again. And those he could - those thrown into the grinder for one final, heroic charge - he might not have swung the blade, but it was his ministrations that put them into the fight - his call that sent them forwards to the lines, instead of back to the field hospital.
This used to scare him. But he’s seen them every night in his sleep for the last fifty years, those rotten, maimed faces are more familiar to him now, than the sketches of them hale and healthy. Meeting them for real would almost be a relief - a chance to speak and have it be remembered, instead of having to start afresh every sundown.

The Forsaken, he’s been told, talk about darkness and screaming - a terrible, nightmare that makes the return to their decaying bodies - an eternity trapped in cold, unfeeling flesh a luxury, something to be thankful for. But he’s never been convinced - it’s too convenient, a reason to cling to what they pass off as life, and all the hardship and compromise it entails.
It might, of course, just be a reflection on the character of the lives of the forsaken he’s met - that they find themselves cast into Shadow and Horror for misdeeds done in their life, but honestly? He believes it’s a lie - one they believe, all of them. Because if they admitted that they had been pulled from some kind of paradise to serve the Banshee Queen in the destruction of the people they called allies while mortal, perhaps they wouldn’t be so fast to defend themselves, perhaps they’d struggle to find the passion and fevour to celebrate their continued existence.
Perhaps they’d struggle with knowing that they were responsible for pulling others from their fate.

Aiechi’s never been sure though. It’s odd for a priest, but he’d never really claimed to be particularly orthodox. He struggled to view the Light as benevolent - it healed and harmed both sides of the war with equal ardour, and it’s touch, even to heal, was harsh and cruel - sealed closed wounds and scarred flesh. He didn’t find comfort in the Light, or peace, or rest. He found a strength that would keep you fighting even when your body begged you to stop, a passion that would help you kill your enemies.
The Light, he was fond of suggesting, didn’t really give a feth what you did, so long as you did it in it’s name. There was no point in Dying For The Light because it didn’t care. So you died for your people, you died for those you loved and those who needed you. And you lived on in their memories and stories. Because once you were dead, you couldn’t do Anything in the Light’s name anymore.
Death was the cold silence of the grave, nothing more, nothing less.

But on the boat he learnt different. As the last drops of mana were forced from his system and into Captain Lysus, as the sea-water filled his lungs and the wooden side of the ship battered his body and cracked the back of his head, as he realised he had given everything he had to ensure the people he loved survived, that he had nothing left to give, and he was content to let go, he learnt what Death was.
Death was warmth. It was comfort and light and safety. It was the reward for a life hard-lived, and decisions made. It was lost friends and strong drinks around a fire. It was When The War Was Over, and Holiday all rolled into one. It was a peace he had never reallised he needed, and would never forget.
It was the hand of his seven year old daughter, who had waited at the door for her parents to arrive, squeezing tight with the joy of finally getting to see them again.

Aiechi knows now why the Forsaken lie to themselves about what waits for you afterwards. Because once you taste it, once you know what’s waiting over that final horizon, there’s nothing left in the Mortal World that could possibly compare.
He offered her the battered carton of cigarettes; she took two, tucking one behind her ear and lighting the other from the flame he held cupped in his remaining hand. Twin plumes of smoke spiraled upwards, twisting around each other, as the Lieutenant and Scout Hawk huddled on the deck of the Bloodied Spear; the silence between them would have been companionable, if not for the palpable sorrow of the ship's crew as they worked around these two intruders on their grief. Above them stretched the night sky, vast and dark and peppered with long-absent stars.

“... it looks empty.” Yasmyr said, at last, peering up. “How long's it been? Since Blackrock, right?”

Dae'anneth nodded. “Almost as long as you've been with the unit.”

“Feth, pretty much forever then.” she laughed. Not long enough for her to have forgotten, though; it had been a night a lot like this, the same terror at seeing Aiechi fall, the same desperate search in the chaos that followed. That night, though, he'd been warm and laughing when she'd found him. She hadn't had to fight against the creeping cold and dark, to curse and beg and coax those first few faltering breaths from his battered flesh. He slept now, in the cabin below (she told herself he slept, though his dull moss-green eyes stared blankly); he'd wake, he'd feed, and he'd be fine.

She remembered with equal clarity the day she'd enlisted; the Lieutenant had been a lowly Hawk then, left alone with the grieving mother to answer her questions about the 'reality' of service, without the prying eyes of the Commandant. He'd asked, frankly, if this was a death wish thing. She hadn't considered her response a lie at the time.

---

Flying, it was well established, changed a person; sooner or later even the meekest recruit developed 'flier's eyes', a certain vicious cast that Handlers were warned not to lock with and civilians tended to flinch from. That Brigante, with his centuries as Red Death, should have such eyes was not surprising, but this? This was different. He'd ordered her to look, and no stubborn set of jaw or grinding in of heels could make her hold that gaze for long. There was, it seemed, nothing left of 'elf' in there at all, only of 'predator', and all he looked upon were now his prey.

“I think I need to take those Wings back now, sir.”

They were such a small thing, to have cost them so much; a golden hippogryph above a brilliant pearl, engraved with an inscription identifying the wearer as Azeroth's Aerial Defender. Far too small to have caused such a change in the Old Man as he pinned them to his belt, and yet it was easier by far to think there had been a trigger, a moment when it all clicked into place, than to admit that he'd been waltzing to Mikaneth's tune for months already. Suddenly the memory of the Hawks laughing in Hishalno's cellar, asking if they were sure this wasn't Brigante's summer retreat, made her stomach twist and bile rise in her throat.

“Unfortunate; you won't be taking them. Who else can shoulder this burden, if not me?”

---

She tapped ash from her cigarette, glancing across at the Lieutenant, her lip curling in the beginning of a crooked smile. “Do you ever regret not telling the Old Man I was too crazy to serve?”

“I don't think you're crazy”. Dae'anneth puffed a stream of smoke, regarding her cooly, ignoring her disbelieving cackle. “Even back then, under all the rage and grief, there was a certain Steel. It just needed to be tempered into a blade. Forged in fire and fury.”

---

“You don't win this as a King, sir. You win as Wing Commander, with the full fury of the Escadrille behind you.”

She shouldn't have come back, and yet she couldn't not; this was a dance they'd done a hundred times before, the Bandit who never knew when to shut up pushing and prodding until the Wing Commander admitted the thing they both knew he wanted to do but had convinced himself was somehow not an option. The difference this time was not only the destination – she'd never tried to talk him out of those desires before – but the music; she had a horrible feeling it was a sonata composed entirely of mortal screams and demonic chuckling.

“It takes a King to kill a King.” The Laughing Prince regarded her; it took every ounce of willpower not to cringe further. “Mikaneth calls himself King of -All- Skies. I only want to be King of -These- Ones.”

She dragged her gaze to meet his, for as long as she could stand the glare - “... yeah, you sound like a King, alright” - before pinching her brow, sighing deeply. “You know what? You're not the scariest thing I've seen this week, sir. Only the most infuriating. Fine. You want us to trust you not to become Hishalno? Fine. But you trust us to kill you if you Fall.”

---

It seemed impossible, now, that those same skies that stretched above the Bloodied Spear had once contained the screaming face of an angry titan, that the sea had burned and the island they'd been forced to call home sunk beneath those flames, or that Captain Lysus lay broken and cooling on her bunk and wasn't about to appear and chastise them for smoking on Her Boy's deck.

“It'll be alright. When we get home-”

“- If.” she interjected, for who was to say the rest of the world had fared any better than that small island?

“If.”

He slipped his arm around her; she rested her head on his shoulder.

“You know the stupid thing about all this, if it really is the End of the World?" She glanced up at him. "It's the first time in... feth, I don't know how long. Since Redridge, at least, that I've been scared to d- scared what happens next. I thought I was done, but... I'm not ready to go. Not yet.”
The Elf stalked to Sunspear, he buckled his Flight harness in, aided by Forenth, the veteran soldier looked him in the eyes.  “Boy...You’re not right”

Brigante smiled wolfishly “I’m fine”

“Your fliers….they’re worried”

“I’m -Fine” he insisted.

Forenth shook his head “I don’t think you are, I think you are about as far from -fine- as can be”

Brigante snarled “You are my doctor now?”

“No Boy, but you’re losing the fight”

“My Resolve has never been stronger”

Forenth stamped his cigar under his foot “Thats what worries me Boy.  Its not that I fear that you have lost your nerve, its the opposite.  You’ve become -Too Certain-”

“You say that like it is a bad thing”

Forenth looked at him levelly “Who dressed you this morning?”

Brigante growled “You know I live alone now, that Tarri is in hospital”

Forenth nodded “So who put those wings on you, ‘Azeroth’s Aerial defender’ that how you see yourself is it?”

Brigante looked down at the wings on his pectoral, and laughed bitterly “And if not me, who other would be able to carry this burden”

Forenth nodded, and made an exaggerated bow of obeisance, “Who am I to argue with such a  great and noble King… I just trust you will remember thy good and faithful Squire!””   He frowned as Brigante kicked his heels to Sunspear and they launched into the skies.

A presence at his side, one of the ‘younger’ Handlers, not yet assigned, a woman of ‘only’ two and a half thousand years.   “He didn’t listen to you, Handler Sergeant?”

Forenth shook his head “He did, you just have  to know how to deal with Fliers.  If you -tell- them something, they will fight it to the end.  You have to plant the idea in their heads, and let them come round to the fact.  You’ll learn, when I assign you to a Flier.”

“But...you’re worried, Handler-Sergeant?”

Forenth shaded his eyes, a hand over his brows as he watched Brigante and Sunspear on their training flight, looping in the sun of Quel’danas.

“I’m worried there is one war he can’t win.”

“The Legion is defeated? Surely?”

“Defeated, far from it, there are still the Netherships, and thats what worries me”

The woman nodded “There is a particularly dangerous one?  ‘Nightmare Green’ yes?”

Forenth spat out some tobacco juice and nodded “There’s that”   He grunted “But thats not it, thats not the War I’m worried about him fighting”

Overhead Brigante soared, here he was King, he was the sovereign of all he saw….Here...here at least he was in control.

Here he could forget the mess that was his life on the ground, the horror that was his fiancee, the terror that could be in her womb.  He could forget all of his responsibilities, and just be -himself- and Sunspear, together,  arcing through the skies.

His eyes focussed and then he realised the horror...He could -forget- Tarri?  He could -Forget- his Fliers?

Had he gone that wrong?  That people were -things- to him?  That even a woman who had shared his bed, who carried his -child- was a -thing-?

He had always maintained that was the difference between themselves and the Legion, that the instant you started thinking of people as ‘Things’ you had lost the Fight.  So now, so now, at the very last, why had this...how had this….

He gasped and looked down at the ‘Wings’ on his pectoral.

“It makes you a King…” he muttered.

“It makes you a King of these Skies”

He recalled the angry, frightening mess that was Tarri, her shrieked words at him. Him sitting and listening.  He murmured “That was me”

He recalled the soldiers screaming in panic as the Mark Four Tactical Mana Bombs rained down in Redridge.  He murmured “That was me”

He recalled every Flier’s funeral, every wake, every send off, and murmured “That was me”.

He recalled Tarrithael looking at him “This is a dangerous one Sir, I might not come back”  And his words “I need you to go”
He murmured”That was me”

A Battlefield, blazed blue, mostly burned, mostly ash and skeletonized bones,  no matter where he flew, he saw the same.  Endless in number, dead soldiery, destroyed machinery, Alliance smashed and in disarray, the dread forces of the Forsaken marching over the dead bodies.  In the distance, vast carrion birds circling the field of the dead, one of them flew close, in his mind….It had his face.

“That...that was me”

In his mind Tarri shivered in her shackles  “I’m so Cold….”
Brigante had nodded “I’ll get you whatever you need, anything”
Tarri had shook her head, in a period between her invectives she just looked at him “Promise me something?   That you won’t become -Him-.”

“I Promise you”  He said, and he meant it.

Over the Skies, he wheeled, he soared, “I could make things so right” he muttered.
“People are too timid to take the chances given to them, to reach out and grasp what fate offers….No, no, not this time”

He opened his eyes and stared, he did not mutter, he spoke out loud “THIS IS ME!”

Far down below, Handler-Sergeant Forenth Whitehaze closed his eyes.  “Thats the War.”

The other Handler looked at him in askance.  “There was one war he could never win.  The War with his own ego.  That’s not as humorous as it sounds...that’s one of the least humorous things ever, when dealing with a person who can authorise the use of tactical Mana Bombs”

The Woman looked at him in horror  “He can, just on a whim?”

Forenth shook his head “Of course not, needs a two elf key to release them, but trust me, my Boy is clever enough and sweet talking enough to make it happen”

The Dragonhawk came in to land.  Forenth stood ready.

“Thats what we do lass, we stop our boys and girls from blowing up the world just because they had a crappy day”

The Unassigned handler looked back at Forenth “That all we do?”
Forenth shook his head “On thursdays we have cocktail evening, you should come, its a blast”

As Brigante landed Forenth strode forwards “Whatever you’re thinking! No! Be Told!”

Brigante snarled, his mind full of the image of Tarri.  “I could put...things...right!”

Forenth shook his head, “no, No you can’t put everything right lad, thats not how it works, you are not a king, you are not a god, you can’t….Oh Swive me….”  The elf turned round to regard the elf smiling with a maniacal grin at him.

“Boy, you’re not a God, You’re not a King”

Brigante smiled, a horrible smile, and just laughed.  “Get in the Skies and Shoot me down and prove me wrong”

That moment, was when Forenth Whitehaze realised that as much as he had made mention of it, more than one war was being fought, and that indeed, one of them had been lost.
The Elf stood before the grave.

He had said his words, it was not even a combat death, but a Handler who had been found, dead, in their bed, they were old, it was not...so unusual.  Handlers were old, it was a thing.  It happened.  They all got a wake, they all got a pension, they all…

Got a funeral.

Like almost every Thalassian body, it had been burned, a tradition all the more observantly followed since the Scourge invasion.   Whilst the plot of land was the traditional six foot long, Six foot down hole, and the Elves around it, in Reds and Golds.

He snapped off a swift salute. Turned, and signalled the band to begin the “Wounded Skies Lament”.   Handlers got that too.  They might not fly, but they saw the skies and the trauma when they cradled their Fliers as they sobbed and vomited, they saw the Skies every time they entered their ‘Boy’ or ‘Girl’s tent to wake them, and found a waxen corpse, with a knife either driven into its heart, or drawn across their throat or wrists.   Even worse, the ones huddled in a corner, naked and shaking, crazed and resistant to any contact.   The Handlers knew alright.  They probably knew best…

They knew the Glass Mountain.

It was a surprise, at first, as he saw the woman approach, gay of demeanour, ash blonde hair, in a summer dress, his brows knitted in anger, to intrude on such a moment…. Then his face relaxed, but adopted confusion rather than anger.  It was his mother.  Who had been dead a thousand years.

He looked to either side, no one else could see her.  He coughed “I need a moment”.  He nodded and headed to the apparition.

He stalked sternly towards the figure, his bone cane giving a firm punctuation.  The madness of the situation striking him even then, his resolved attitude to frankly put up with none of this.

She smiled brightly “Mothers Hero”

He looked evenly at her “you’re dead”
She smiled “So are you!  Mothers Hero” who I bounced on my knee?  He’s dead.  He’s gone”

Brigante snarled “So what am I then?”

The woman looked at him, and made to wipe an involuntary tear from his cheek.

“You’re still Mothers Hero”

“Come, see”

She strode strongly across the grass, to the graves, as they did, as he followed her, he -knew- he was dreaming.  He changed, he grew shorter.  Even shorter…

He stood in front of a grave, a short elven child with a tuft of hair on his head, he was around seven again.

The Grave had a headstone “Here lies Brigante Summerisle, let his name be a curse, and never remembered with favour”

He shook his head.  “Thats my name mother!”  His voice childlike and shrill.

The last he felt, his mother’s hand pushing him into the grave “And Die There!  Better than become what you Are!”  As the clods of earth started landing on him and he started screaming, no one gave mercy.
The Woman played piano,  She had, for a long time, it was a battered old instrument, a Sunshine 603, but what could you expect in a brothel.  She didn’t care, it was the -playing- that was important.  It was the connection to being the musically talented little twelve year old kid she had been.   There was no danger, the bouncers, the bar staff, hells most of the clientele knew the rule.  The Pianist was -off- limits.  Not one of the male or female !@#$%s to be procured, there had been an incident, three years ago, where a male client had tried to press his suit, she had glared in his face, and just -screamed-, enforcing it with her magic.  The Brothel had emptied.  Even the bar staff fled in terror, for she could not control the fear magic, it was for -all- to feel.

She had sat down and carried on playing, to an empty tavern, when the manager came stumbling down, wondering what had caused such furore she just smiled at him sweetly, puffed on her cigar.  “They needed to learn the rules.  And now so do you”.  She had crocked her head at him funny at that point. “You think I -need-this job?...I am doing you a favour, not the other way around.”  She smiled around the cigar  “Oh sweetling...I could -buy- you, and this whole place”  She carried on playing.  “Fix me another Gin, this last one is broken.  You do that, or I summon a Wrathguard to do it for me”

An idle threat,  to do so would have broken the terms of her parole as a Sunfury War Criminal.

It was three years on.  She still played at the same dive, she got all her drinks for free, and nobody, nobody messed with the Pianist. Not Ever.

She played popular tunes, nothing demanding, ‘Goodnight Silvermoon’,  ‘Fairbreeze Sunsets’ the ‘Thorondril Rag’, ‘Rising Dawn’, ‘Her eyes stole the Sun’ and such classics.   Background music that people -wanted- to hear.

It was a normal piano….so what happened next made no sense...that was...Black Eminence nonsense, but it happened, she tugged off her boots, drew a knife across her toes, and fingers and carried on playing.  No one noticed.  Her blood traced the pedals and the keys.

Oh no..

She could feel it happening again.   Like an epileptic expecting a fit, she felt it. That ozone smell...  But this was a -Normal- Piano!  This was not….the Black Eminence….  Yet her toes played, blood slick upon the pedals, as her fingers did, trailing crimson upon the white keys.  “You Made us Things!  You made us Tools!”  She growled, before her eyes rolled back in her head and she played in a trance.    People later said her voice had shifted, sounding both male and female, but then she was a skilled singer, and had range,  that could have been choice….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IN4tIyVI4o

She had sobered the clientele she was told, later, not the least in which her voice had shifted to both male and female parts of the same song.   She had sung a duet.  With herself, whilst in a trance.  Garbehal Windscale had come over “Whatever you’re doing, ‘Pianist’” That was a rule she had set down, she was the ‘Pianist’ no other name given  “Whatever you’re doing! Keep doing it!, they’re going crazy and Its giving that end of the world feel, its good for business!”

The man -was- an idiot, a being the size of the -planet- had driven a sword into the world, what precisely was one elf with a piano meant to do to make the world feel more apocalyptic?

So she kept on playing the end of the world in the face of people who just wanted their world to end that evening, just for one short while, whilst they stuttered out their lust in a hopeless end of their own world, until they had enough Silver for next time.

She felt -Him-.  The Satyr, Hishalno, he had been a hero once, He could...perhaps...be again?

Oh…

No…

That wasn’t the plan at all.

That wasn’t it in the slightest!

This was worse...

She saw a totem pole, similar to the ones the Tauren used.

By ‘gearing up’, the Alliance had made them do the same, More and more arcane weapons to resist and counter  the Alliance ‘threat’ because that was the only way her people understood how to escalate.

She couldn’t tell this to the Sun Hawks, because it involved the ‘Old Man’.

Mikaneth wasn’t the threat to the world, he never wanted to be.  He never intended to be.

He didn’t -need- to be.   Not when he could make someone else that threat.

And she saw that now….she saw it clearly, the threat was never Mikaneth.

It was the King of the Skies.

Their own Skies.

She saw the totem pole, and at the top, over series of depictions of destruction, there it was.  At the top. Riding high.

A Dragonhawk and rider looking below on the ground.

The Legion never needed to send Mikaneth, when Azeroth had its own.

She tugged on her boots and nodded “I’m done, we’ll sort out pay later”   She puffed on her cigar.  How much could she tell them?

It Depended…

How much did the world need Thalassian Gods?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53vRKhygMEY
A great guild with a great GM! Can't recommend them enough.
They had seen their sins, made manifest, it was a Nightmare, the Nightmare Drake, or Dam, whatever the female of a Drake was, Misericorde, caught in her breath, and cast down into the Nightmare.  One by one, his Hawks had their failings, their past transgressions laid before everyone to see, to be confronted, to be bested.  Loved ones they had failed to save, crimes of war, those they had wronged.

He had tried to be strong, every time, to attack them, to drive the conflict, He had ran, under a Dire Troll’s arm, he and Starglow saving the child.  He had fought the devilish swift Cavel.  The Felstalkers Highflame had summoned as a Sunfury, he stood and braced against.

All the while, one imposing thought….

Whats mine?

They  knew, they knew it was a dream, no, a Nightmare, they had been cast into the NIghtmare by Misericorde, and were reliving moments of their past or of doubts, why did he feel this misgiving?

He knew…

Oh he knew…

It was always -Her-.

Not any of his lovers or wives, it was -Her-.

Cloud haired, waiflike, angry, so angry.

Tarri was closest, to what she looked like in his mind.  Perhaps that was why.

The Skies.

His one and only True Love.

Cloud haired, pale, angry, so angry, as furious as a tornado, as raging as a storm.

He had dreamt of her, before he graduated. In a white robe, which she rent with her hands, blood spraying across it, even as he saw Dragonhawks and Batriders cross crossing across it, back then, no Wyverns, and the Gryphons were on their side, certainly no Gyrocopters to sully her.

He had glared furiously, he was what, nineteen, still untouched by a woman.   
She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and he wanted no other.

Never…

He remembered her words, as she kissed him in his dream, and said “One day, you will die...in me”

He had thought nothing more pleasant than such idea, at nineteen.   

“Gladly!”  He had childishly answered.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53vRKhygMEY

One thousand Four Hundred and three year old Brigante limped along on his cane “There has to be something more, we have to get out of this place!  We must have missed something, Come on people, think smart”.

Lieutenant Silverflare looked at him, There’s one left Sir, I think you need to...I think we all need to face it”.

Brigante scowled and huffed, he had seen ‘The Skies’ again last night, in his sleep.  Cloud haired, so pale, so angry, so very angry, but her eyes careworn as his were by all accounts, wrinkled, but still as beautiful to him as the first time, and every time since... but her voice, her voice full of fury…”I told you!  From the start, just how this would end, when I get, what I want, and I never want it again…”

He frowned, was this the end?  In a strange dream world, then he saw a sight that gave him joy.

“See that lads and lasses!  A stockpile!”

He grinned, “And you thought it all lost?  The Old Man will see you through…. No Spectres of Sins here, you see!”

“Done all my sinning a while back” he grinned as he rushed forwards, not even aware, that his Hawks were stood in horror, because they could see what he did not.   He rushed over the bones over so many, so very many, as he looked at the crates of munitions.   “We’ve Falcons here, and Standard munitions”  He looked up the pile of weapons, as if a totem to aerial destruction, unaware that around him lay the bodies of Orcs and Alliance soldiers.  He traced a hand over a crate “Mark Three Wyrmbreakers, they’lll see good usage!”   He traced a hand higher “Mark Fours...Tactical Mana Bombs, they’ll put things right!”.   Atop the obscene totem of aerial destruction a woman howled and screamed as she saw Brigante eagerly cataloguing the destruction he could rain.   Pregnant and lank haired she could only watch as he spread his arms wide “See?  No Sin here?”   Brigante span, arms still outstretched as he stood, beatifically, in front of a shrine of mass destruction.  “No Sin”.

He genuinely seemed unaware of the piles of bodies around him, that may as well have had his signature on, and the howling woman, her voice inchoate at the top of the vile shrine.

His gaze faltered, as he saw his Hawks weapons trained on him.

“What is this?”

“Don’t you see this?”

He waved his hand over the sexy, dangerous, seductive weapons of War.

He turned back, hands outspread  “There is no sin Here?”

His elves looked at him, and shook their heads “Don’t you get it Sir?”

“You didn’t need a representation of your sins...They were already here...we bought them with us…”

Dae’anneth nodded “There won’t be a representation of your Sins, Sir.”

“Its you”

He heard the mocking voice in his ears “I told you, from the start, just how this will end, when I get, what I want, and never want it again”

“Is this how it always has to end?” he muttered.

Dae’anneth strode forwards with a dagger, reversing it.

“It can end a different way Sir”
Mathanir stalked into the rooms of small his apartment, graciously afforded to him by House Solanum, given that the former estates of House Telestra had over the centuries been sold off piece by piece to settle gambling debts and buy the silence of the mothers of illigetimate children, until all that was left had passed to him, some three centuries or so earlier. Now all that remained had been lost in the destruction of the fall, somewhere under the corrupted land of the scar.

The Spellbreaker dragged his gauntlets off and cast the heavy plate aside onto the table beside his armour stand. For over Five hundred years he had served the Solanum Household, From the birth of Master Dagonet, eldest and heir apparent, serving first as tutor and scholar, then as trainer to the family line as each had grown until Galeholt had been born. Unlike his siblings he had been a stubborn, spoiled child, youngest and doted on by his mother. He had shown little interest or skill in swordmanship, lacking the height and strength of his elder brothers, but the arcane, there the boy had excelled. Where he usually had considered teachings and lessons to be mundane useless things, when it came to magic, he devoured it and searched for more.

He pulled off his breastplate and twisted to see his own reflection in the mirror. The rune deeply etched into his shoulder in sanguine ink had been a promise, a vow to his sister that he might never go so far that she could not find him.

---------------------------------------------------------

Kel'rinne. She had been born near five hundred years his junior, when the young Master Galeholt was just five.

---------------------------------------------------------

When their parents had been killed, just six years later, (by what was widely agreed in whispers as 'political misadventure', dangerous accidents tended to happen to those seen backing the wrong strider in the royal courts) Mathanir had become her Guardian and Keeper. He was still grateful to Lamorath and Belisent (Lord and Lady Solanum, although he suspected the former agreed under some duress from the latter) who had stepped in and taken Kel'rinne, offering her a home, so that she might be raised alongside the Solanum children and allowing him to stay on as retainer as the Household.

Mathanir frowned at the rune, it wasn't glowing as such, it only tended to for a short time after she'd intruded before it faded, but the sharp sting of earlier followed by the continuing, infuriating itching that lingered told that she had sought him out, she had seen where he was, and then... nothing. He had waited some time for her to make her presence known but she did not. It was not... entirely unlike her, she did check in from time to time.

His brow furrowed in thought, unfastening his high tail, the long brown hair with just a hint of auburn hung past his waist. As he turned away from the mirror, armour hung upon the stand, suspicion continued to niggle. He ran through the evening in his mind once more.

---------------------------------------------------------

After trailing Galeholt from bar to bar, he had lost his -charge- somewhere around the fourth or fifth establishment, rammed with the less reputable members of nobility and their beautiful consorts. At some point Gale had slipped away, leaving Mathanir to follow blindly into the night, after of course, being forced to settle the bill. That was a trick Lord Galeholt had learned quickly, bills were things that happened to other people.

Tracking through his usual haunts, he had eventually come to the row, only for Galeholt to practically walk -into- him.

He hadn't thought much of it at the time, the way Galeholt had greeted him, brightly, socially, and above all -loudly-, and by name, after all the young Lord Solanum's moods could be as changeable as the wind, depending upon what he was after.

Galeholt put up no protest when He'd had escorted him to his apartments and taken up position at the main doors.

Some thirty minutes later he'd felt the sting of her rune. Dutifully he had awaited for her to appear. If she was looking for him it was not done to move on once she knew where to find him.

Time had passed and she had made no appearance. He decided to pay his young sister a visit. As he climbed the stairs to inform his charge he was taking his leave, he heard voices. Muffled and unclear. One male, one female. Cursing under his breath he rapped on the door.

"DAMNIT TELESTRA" came the shout from the other side. The door pulled open a sliver, held as best it's owner could, barring him entry.

Lord Solanum had denied having any company, and in truth what he could see of the room was no different from usual. A wineglass set within reach of a depression in the bed and ruffled sheets from where his Charge had no doubt dislodged himself, and a wine glass upon the table.


---------------------------------------------------------

Mathanir crossed the room, filling a tankard from the water jug, his gaze lifted to the exquisite portraiture that hung on the walls. Oil paintings of House Telestra looked down on him, he, stood in full military regalia, beside his parents, Kel'rinne a rose cheeked toddler on her mother's hip.

He was missing something, he knew it, an old familiar sense that he had almost all of the pieces he just needed fit them together. His gaze drifted from the family portrait with their gleaming blue eyes, to one of his sister, centuries later, commisioned when she had graduated, before finally falling to small frame on the desk, a portrait of another woman, long blonde hair falling gracefully, picked out in pale watercolours.

---------------------------------------------------------

He knew what others spoke of him, why he had never been seen to take wife nor lover. Certainly some of the harsher tales and excuses came from Galeholt, others spoke that there had been a lover once, and after her loss he had never recovered.

The reality as it were, was far simpler. There was a woman that he loved, a fine lady, who loved him in return...or had at least, for a while, but in truth was never his, and so in the way of such things he had simply stepped back, and allowed her to continue her life, unhindered by his inconvenient affections. It was better this way.


---------------------------------------------------------

Mathanir sank into the chair by the hearth, something nagging him. As he closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose the image of Galeholt trying to force the door closed once more. It was not that unusual, the young Lord valued his privacy, his loathing of of the Spellbreaker regularly laid bare. In the back of his mind he knew something was wrong about that scene but he'd missed it.

---------------------------------------------------------

After departing the Young Lord's, he had not, as he had said, returned straight to his own home to retire. Instead he had approached the spire, climbing slopes and stairs up through the winding towers until he had reached his sisters apartments. Knocking on the door he waited.

There was no response.

He knocked once more, a little louder. The sound booming along the corridor. It was not unlikely she was in the bath, or perhaps fallen asleep reading again. As he waited his eyes trailed over the door-frame, before catching sight of a figure. An elder magister eyed him thoughtfully.

"If you're looking for her, you're out of luck. Miss Telestra's not been here all evening. Mentioned something about going to speak to some Hawk...riders was it? Or some such nonsense anyway. No matter, I'm sure she'll be back tomorrow. Her flights of fancy never take her far." The magister offered Mathanir a companionable smile, snapping the book he was examining closed, dislodging a cloud of dust, coughing quietly before wandering off towards the grand library.


---------------------------------------------------------

Mathanir opened his eyes, his gaze fell upon a glass. In his minds eye the image of Galeholts apartment bloomed.

There had been two wine glasses set out.
Dawn had long since risen and given way to a winter's morn, the light still softened by haze, not that the weather made much difference here in the city, the still air mild and pleasant. Kel'rinne walked through the streets, doing her utter best to keep the smile from creeping over her features, head bowed watching the stone of the streets pass beneath her feet, not making eye-contact with any passers by. All she wanted was to get home and fall into bed, without anyone realising she was wearing the same robes as the night before.

Moving with a strange, half-skip she'd developed as a child to cover the ground swiftly to keep up with taller kin, whilst not outright running, she reached the spire. She smoothed her hair, and cursed not spending more time tending it instead of roughly tying it back into a half tail...bun...thing. Strands were carefully unwinding themselves and tumbling down over her neck as she made her way swiftly through the familiar corridors, climbing until she found her own, and stopped dead.

There, stood outside her door was Mathanir. Even in his casual clothes he seemed to project the suit of armour, as if it was there but just temporarily invisible. The other mages were keeping their distance. Nothing like having a Spellbreaker in the family to set teeth on edge. She strode towards her door, hissing through her teeth.

"Why are you here?" As she slammed her hand to the doorframe, arcane hissed in recognition of it's mistress and the door swung open smoothly. Kel'rinne pushed past him into the main apartment, turning to face him, hands on hips.

"What happened to 'Hello Brother'?" He stepped inside closing the door, his tone a deadly calm.

He knows.

She wafted her hands into the air irritably. "Hello Brother. Why are you here?"

Don't be ridiclous he can't know.

"Can I not drop in on my sister from time to time?"

She felt him move rather than heard it. When she turned he was looming down on her, his expression one more commonly found in ancient texts of forgotten people depicting terrifying gods of thunder.

"Where were you last night?"

"-"

She opened her mouth to speak and he placed a finger over her lips.

"Do not insult me with whatever lie was about to leave those lips, I saw you before you sent me searching half the taverns and bawdy houses of the city in those same robes. So let me ask again, where were you?"

"What business is it of yours? You were once my keeper yes Mathanir, but that time has long since passed."

He frowned darkly and turned away, halting as his gaze rested upon a wine-glass suspended within a runed, glass display case. It twisted and turned catching the light from the windows as she crossed the room and pulled the curtains open to allow in the day, to her credit only flinching slightly at the sunlight now burning away the light cloud of morning. She grasps at the change of subject.

"I'm sure I've explained the concept to you of conjuring? There are of course many methods, some prefer to craft from pure arcane, each piece an individual creation. That-" She points back to the box, "-however, is a pattern. Rather than focus my energies and efforts into forming arcane into a glass, I create temporary duplicates of what is within the box." She holds up a hand, a wineglass forming between her fingers. "See?" She sets the glass down upon the table.

Mathanir picked up the conjured glass, turning it this way and that in the light.

"Now if you merely came to seek my whereabouts, I must insist you leave, I do have some research reports to look over."

Kel'rinne jumped as the duplicated glass smashed against the wall.

"You were there!"

"What? I-"

"There were two glasses, two, identical to this-"

Panic rose in her face, as she backed away, putting the desk between herself and her brother. "What? Where? Where do you think I was?"

"With Galeholt! Is that where you were last night as well?!"

Kel'rinne blanched, she had reassured Galeholt she could of course handle her brother, but now? She was not so sure. Mathanir was incandescent with rage, he turned away, dragging a hand down his face.

"Math... Math listen to me..."

If you lie to him, it'll be worse when he finds out...

... if you don't, there'll be no calming him...


"Just... I don't know what you're talking about, I was at a friends house, yes. -She- allowed me to stay after I had a little too much for the road. As for the glasses - listen, listen... please..." She walks over, reaching up she tentatively rested her hand on his shoulder. "... it's just a crystal glass I bought from the market. I liked the design, there must be hundreds like them..."

Mathanir glowered down at her, each breath slowly huffed as he tried to calm his temper. "And what of you seeking out the Sun Hawks, Hm? One of the Elder Magisters said you'd mentioned them."

She frowns, peering up at him. "I was... curious. Your letters are always so... formal, I wished to know who you served with, what it was truly like." She pauses as an image of the pair of Starglows both missing limbs flashes across her memory. "It was... most enlightening."

He shrugged off her hand and sighed heavily. Turning he took hold of her shoulders, bending down to lock his gaze on hers.

"Forgive me Kel', it's just... you're my sister. You're all I've got left-"

"You're all -I've- got." She interrupts. "You choose it to be that way, and ensure it is for -me- do you have any idea how hard it is to find someone of suitable standing who doesn't suddenly remember a prior engagement the moment they find out my brother is a Spellbreaker?"

He looked at her levelly. "- I know." As he straightened up his familiar scowl returns. " I know."

Mathanir strode towards the door opening it. "Stay away from Galeholt." He stepped outside, closing it behind him.

Kel'rinne crossed the room quickly and pressed a hand to the door, it sealed completely, blocking out sound from beyond in the corridor and outside the windows.

With a ragged gasp she turned, pressing her spine against the wooden portal and slid down, curling her arms around knees and began to sob.
(1/3)

This is not how it happened.

And yet this is exactly how it happened – the stench of blood and sewage, the screams of fallen elves and hawks, the endless walls of ragged limbs and grasping claws. And worst of all, the knowledge that what they face is a tiny fraction of the endless horde which rolls onwards towards Silvermoon itself. A token effort, a footnote in the great and weighty tome of quel’dorei tragedies.

One by one they fall. Silverflare, with his wife’s name on his lips. Heartforge, shielding a younger elf and speaking calm promises that they’ll see home again. Highflame, summoning great storms of fire even as the restless dead tear him apart. The Starglows back-to-back, the pure righteous fury of the Light sustaining them though their limbs bend at impossible angles and their organs spill into the dirt at their feet. And finally, his sword raised to the skies, the blood-soaked Laughing Prince himself. They fall, and yet they do not die, waking beneath the press of corpses, crawling back to the burned earth of the Dead Scar, vomiting into the dirt.

Wake up! Phaedra cries, half-forgotten. You’re dying, wake up! What more could you have done?

To the north the sky flares orange. Silvermoon is burning, and though they spit venom at the collaborator with his corpse-cart (he laughs, even as they lynch him for his treachery he laughs, telling them this is the new Quel’thalas; soon ‘they’ will come, soon ‘the harvest’ will begin) they are helpless to change anything.

“Think!” says Brigante, Phaedra’s desperate, distant screams echoing through all their minds. “Could we have stopped this happening?”

“What the feth do you want me to say, Magni? No. We couldn’t. Nobody could”

The Nightmare shatters.

---

“Hishalno’s drake, Misericorde. She doesn’t breathe fire

“Of course not.” Yasmyr sighs, stubbing out her cigarette on the table, almost immediately lighting another. “So bearing in mind I’m a - what did you say? ‘Bargain Bin Hawk’, right? Use your little dumb-dumb flier words. What happens if we go swimming in raw Nightmare?”

Agent Maestro looks at the Scout-Hawk with withering pity, draining her flagon of whiskey. “You play the Game Of You. Relive your greatest tragedies, and see how they could be worse. Better pray you wake up before you hit the ground, too, because it won’t just be the fliers dreaming.”

“Fething hells.”

The Witch stands to leave, and for a moment Yasmyr dares to think that maybe the well of bad news has finally run dry, forgetting for a moment quite how bad the Escadrille’s luck has been of late.

“… the thing is,” – and here it comes; the parting shot, the final twist of the blade between her ribs – “it’s His theme that started all this. Each of you has your own tune, you know, and his... it's all nation and unit, hunt and kill, signed off with a regal flourish. No elf in it at all."

---

The walls of the hallway shudder, shimmering red and black; the shadows roil, condensing into a hulking mass of green-furred muscle, striped with ink and scar tissue and studded through with shards of bone, reeking of blood and sweat and fear. Brigante roars – “To arms!” – and the beast roars back, drowning out the fragile, desperate cries of Wake Up! niggling at the back of all their minds but not the wailing of the child in the crib behind it. Impossibly large, as it must have seemed to the ten year old Aiechi, its tusks are each as long as an elf is tall, its yellow eyes full of naught but hate. Its hands are vast, lifting Hawks as if they were little more than dolls. Its hide is thick, harmlessly turning blows away, barely noticing the arrows peppering it.

The darkness creeps ever closer to the crib; Yasmyr is the first to reach it, Brigante hot on her heels as she scoops up the child – its features vague, shifting constantly, blurred by the uncertainty of Aiechi’s memories - holding it close as the shadows surge over them. The scene vanishes. The walls continue to pulse, bruised flesh shot with veins of crimson, mauve and jet.

None of this is Real, of course, but all of it is True.

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