Tussle in the Jungle - Chapter 6
Opening and Closing Doors
By the time Veldrinas' sister is through, a trio of concerned mages has gathered around them, two of them struggling to help the demon hunter do something more productive than flop on the floor. Sedra is handing her paladin friend off to the third with an order, "Send someone after a healer right away. This one is in bad shape."
Looking irritated and worn and uncomfortable, she waves them to Fendasa when they start peppering her with questions. "Talk to her, not me."
The eredar is barely polite enough to wait until they do so before she wanders over to the nearest pillar and leans against it, ignoring the way the portals nearest her waver unsteadily. She grits her teeth, and paralyzed Veldrinas can feel her thoughts reach out past him, though he cannot make out her "words" as she seeks someone.
Ary... Coughing blood into her hand, Sedra hunches over and slides down the newly-carved granite, trying to escape the fussing chaos around Fendasa and Veldrinas and the human paladin. Ary, where are you?
Late in the day on a random Tuesday when Ary hasn't heard from Sedra in a couple of days... Last she knew, the eredar was "amusing herself" in the vicinity of Boralus while the shadowmancer was busy working on something. Which, by now, she knows is as likely as not to be "getting into barfights" or generally "playing rough with hooligans". It's bad when Sedra gets bored.
I'm experimenting in a basement in Stormsong, an abandoned building east of Brennadam. Ary doesn't hesitate to push the information to the draenei. She leans back from the shadow creature in the cage in front of her, staring at it thoughtfully. Is there a problem?
I... broke my healing crystal. The eredar offers her the relatively lame excuse, showing her friend a quick flash of the Boralus portal room. Veldrinas is paralyzed and heavy as a drugged Kodo, and it's getting harder to breathe. Can you come to Boralus? Soon? I can leave the sister and the human to the Light church, here, and bring him with me. Or perhaps he won't care, but... he's in no state to answer me on that.
Ary blinks even though her friend can't see. Using the crystal she could see, but breaking... Yes, I'll head straight there. Is an hour fast enough? She stands and picks up her bag in the corner even as she mindspeaks.
Her friend's relief is obvious behind the thought as she responds, Yes. An hour. My room is closer to the portals than his, so meet us there.
The eredar sighs and looks over at the flopped demon hunter lolling between two human mages. She curses under her breath and braces herself for the need to go back into the fray and claim him from the others.
As soon as the paladin is handed off, the mage rushes her into the waiting arms of two priests who had been teleported in soon after Fendassa's portal materialized. They immediately take Alayna through the portal to Stormwind after she is stabilized with a few healing touches.
Deciding that he has had enough of being helpless, Veldrinas grits his teeth in intense concentration and felfire begins to erupt from his skin and engulfs his body in raging flames, with the plan being to burn the venom from his system.
The two mages next to him, unaware of the hunter's plan, blink to the other side of the room in horror as the demon hunter slowly stands to his full height and takes an unsteady step towards the eredar. He only manages to make one more step before a biting cold blast of wind laced with ice and snow knocks the Kaldorei off his feet, dousing his flames in the process and leaving him shivering on the tiled floor.
A senior-looking mage with a trimmed grey beard and balding pate, dusts a few remaining snowflakes from his hands and calmly strides over from the doorway of the portal room to stare down at the quivering demon hunter.
Veldrinas fixes his sightless gaze on the man and with chattering teeth asks angrily, "w-what d-did you d-do th-that for?"
The mage merely smiles reassuringly and bends down to pat the night elf on the shoulder.
"There now," he begins calmly, "we wouldn't want you blowing up on us would we?
His smooth, baritone voice carries with it an aura of command, but also charisma and confidence.
At that moment, Fendassa rushes over to her brothers side, and after checking to see if he is alright, turns to regard the elder mage and almost yells out her question.
"What was that for? He had been paralyzed by the venom of a Northrend spirit beast and was trying to burn it out of his system. Also, who do you think you are? Attacking my brother after we had just barely escaped from the horde with our lives."
Fendassa is almost livid now, but the mage merely sighs and stands to address the irate night elf.
"I'm sorry madam," he begins as he smiles kindly at the elf, "I should have introduced myself. Alden Mycroft, SI:7, and I'm afraid I cannot take the chance that he wasn't corrupted by the forsaken.
The mage furrows his bushy brows as he continues.
"Furthermore, beings who have been corrupted by fel magic do not exactly inspire confidence in the first place. Don't worry, we have dealt with this sort of thing before. Your brother will be safe in our care."
Fendassa's nostrils flare as her mouth moves but no words come out as she is too angry to speak. Noticing this, the mage attempts to placate the night elf.
"Please madam, remain calm. This will all be over soon, I promise."
As he says this, Mycroft looks up and nods to the two other mages who hoist Veldrinas up and begin to lead him away.
Sedra is across the space in a rush of "smoke" as she looks up to notice Veldrinas being carted off. She clamps a cold hand on one of the mages' shoulders and growls in her affected Draenei accent, "Precisely vhere do you think you-" She has to interrupt herself to cough, the only sign she allows at the moment of her injury. After recovering a half of a breath, she rushes on, "... are taking my compatriot?"
Her other hand hovers near her second sword hilt.
The mage starts as Sedra's frigid grip halts the pair's progress. She gulps nervously as she turns to regard the eredar and notices the latter's hand near her sword hilt. Obviously, she is ready for a fight.
The mage avoids the eredar's gaze as she stammers.
"U-um, well, w-we've been o-ordered to escort y-your, um, compatriot t-to Stormwind for, um, q-questioning."
"As you were, sergeant," Mycroft pipes up as he makes his way to stand next to the void knight, "I will handle this."
The mage sighs in obvious relief as someone else steps in to take the heat.
"Madam," the senior mage begins as he turns to regard Sedra imperiously, "my name is Alden Mycroft, SI:7, I have orders to safely escort your demon hunter friend and you to Stormwind for debriefing on the grounds of national security. If you will simply cooperate, I'm sure we will sort out this whole nasty business in a timely fashion."
The eredar's brows draw down under her bright metal tiara, her falsely blue eyes narrowing on the older human. She doesn't release her grip on the nervous sergeant nor does her hand move from its spot by her blade.
"SI:7... Not interested. Ve decline, Agent Mycrahft. Now release my friend."
Mycroft chuckles softly at the eredar's statement and shakes his head slowly as he states in a matter-of-factly tone, "I'm afraid you don't have a choice in the matter, draenei. This order comes from Matthias Shaw himself."
He continues as he gestures to the building around them.
"The entire building is surrounded by the Alliance's finest, as well as on the other side of all these portals. Word travels quickly about the return of captured Alliance heroes who act strangely upon arriving."
Mycroft narrows his eyes at Sedra as he voices his suspicion with conviction.
"I believe you three have been sent back as spies for the Banshee Queen, or worse, ones who would at an opportune moment, kill the Alliance leaders. Now, you will disarm and accompany me to Stormwind, I don't want to use force, but I will if necessary, and believe me when I tell you... it will not be pleasant."
The void knight grits her teeth and considers the man for a long moment. Then the two mages flanking Veldrin. Then the guards by the doorway to Boralus and the four portals around them.
She looks at the demon hunter and his sister as she releases the mage's shoulder and drops her hand away from her sword.
"Say something... coughcough... to this fool, elves," she grouches, grimacing and wiping blood from the corner of her mouth. "I have more interesting things to do than vallow in Stormvind for the rest of the day."
"Uh, excuse me," Fendassa interjects, "what proof do you have that we are sleeper spies for the Banshee Queen? Which we aren't by the way."
"You have made a wise decision." Mycroft remarks to Sedra as he ignores Fendassa's question and motions to the guards at the door to come forward.
"Guards, escort the draenei and the two elves to Stormwind. Once there, SI:7 will..."
The mage pauses in mid-sentence and shakes his head as if trying to clear it. His gaze goes distant and he blinks a few times before turning to smile warmly at the void knight.
"My apologies," Mycroft begins graciously, "it appears I was quite mistaken about you three. I humbly beg your forgiveness for such an egregious error on my part."
After he says this, Fendassa and Veldrinas exchange confounded looks before glancing towards their eredar companion.
Mycroft then turns to face the guards and the mages. "Return to your posts," he commands, "and release the demon hunter."
"Sir?" One mage begins, "you want us to let them go? I thought that our orders were..."
"I am giving you new orders, sergeant," the elder mage interrupts, "and you will obey them. The demon hunter, his sister, and the void knight are not to be hampered in their leaving here. They are not spies of the Banshee Queen."
"You mean the death knight, sir?" The other mage asks, soundly confused by the sudden turn of events.
"Yes, yes," Mycroft says dismissively, "now return to your duties."
The guards merely shrug and walk back to their positions outside the door. The two mages, on the other hand, after releasing Veldrinas who is properly thawed by now, exchange suspicious glances before striding through the portal to Stormwind.
"Have a good one." Mycroft says pleasantly to the trio as he turns smartly on his heel and walks through the Stormwind portal.
The eredar blinks after their once-assailant, her brow drawing down. Similarly perplexed, she looks from Veldrinas to Fendassa and mutters quietly, "What the fel was that?"
She says nothing at all about the too-accurate term he used to refer to her, but her fists clench at her side... Until a cough assails her, and she bends forward to lean her hands on her thighs in an attempt to catch her dwindling breath.
Veldrinas instantly rushes to Sedra's side as the cough assails her.
"We can sort out what happened later. For now, I believe you need immediate medical attention."
Brooking no argument, he gently grasps Sedra's right arm, and carefully pulls it over the back of his neck as he glances over at his sister.
"Fen, could you be of assistance?"
"Certainly." She replies cheerily as she takes a position next to the eredar and makes ready to support her from the left side.
"Do you have quarters nearby that can avail us?" The mage asks as she mirrors Veldrinas' movements.
Vasedra squirms in the siblings' grips, but stops shy of pulling away with enough force to break it, finally just shooting Veldrinas a dirty look and huffing in short breaths, "My room... is not far. Ary is... coming to meet us... there."
The demon hunter shoulders most of her weight when she hunches in to more coughs. Once they've eased, again, she points to the stone archway out to the market, breathing a bit easier. His sister on the other side earns little more than a brief, wary look before the eredar instructs, "North side of the market."
The siblings both nod in acknowledgement and they lead the injured eredar towards the doorway of the portal room.
As they leave the building, one of the guards glances over and noticing the apparently dire condition of the void knight, offers his help.
"Excuse me," he interjects as he directs his attention to Sedra, "you don't look so good, are you in need of a priest? I could send for one."
His tone is gruff but kind as he looks concernedly at the woman.
The eredar manages a little grin for his benefit, standing a bit straighter between Veldrinas and his sister. She shakes her head.
"Alreadeh done. coughcough" Her smile goes wry. "Do not... let their fawning fool you. ...It vill be right as rain... easily enough."
The Kul'Tiran chuckles and nods, waving them along. "Well, better to have friends to coddle you when you're hurt than limp through the alleys alone. Fair winds to you all."
Sedra breathes a thin and shallow sigh of relief once they are on the move once more. Fendassa's amused look earns a little scowl, but the mage just smirks and settles the knight's arm more comfortably across her shoulders.
"Kul'Tirans are... nosy creatures," Sedra grouches quietly to no one in particular.
As they continue towards the north side of the market, Veldrinas steers them in between buildings and through back streets so as to not only expedite their trip, but to also keep Sedra away from most of the prying eyes and nosy guards.
As the trio near their destination, Sedra can feel the hunter's thoughts brush against her own.
How are you holding up?
Veldrinas turns his head to regard the eredar with his sightless gaze.
Your aura is greatly diminished and it is flickering weakly. Do we need to quicken our pace?
Though the 'draenei' between the two siblings leans more heavily on them both, her breaths short and sharp and fast, she shakes her head.
We will draw attention if we rush too much. I am... There is blood in my lung, but Ary must be close by now. It's only two more streets.
Despite her stubborn assurance, the void knight stumbles on the next step. She winces as she shoves her hooves back under her and thinks at him, We'll be there soon enough.
The demon hunter gives an understanding nod and returns to watching the area around them.
Despite his companion's dire condition, Veldrinas keeps the group going at a steady, quiet pace as they cross the final two cobblestone streets to their destination.
During the trip, the Kaldorei mage had been getting more pensive the closer they got to the house. By the time they arrive, she seems to be near oblivious to the world around her, a distant expression on her face.
"Is the door locked?" The hunter asks as they reach the entrance to Vasedra's abode.
Sedra is nearly ahead of him. She presses a key at him as he asks and points to the side of the small home. "Side door," she gasps. "My room."
In no time at all, they step into the room, a space with a single clear window and a view of the masts in the harbor over top of the building next door. It's a thoroughly stereotypical little rented room, equipped with a little unused bed, chair, small desk and wooden wardrobe. Save for her ownership of the key, one might not guess that anyone lives in the room at all, for there's nothing of personal effects in the place.
Sedra flops a hand toward the chair as she reaches out with impatient and mildly desperate thoughts, Ary... are you close?
There's a mental sigh. Yes, I'm in... Boralus. The city is spoken with annoyance and disdain. I'm making my way to your place, but I'm still a couple of streets away. The human strides with a purpose that sends everyone, but the guards hurrying out of her way. Her tattered gown edge dances along the cobblestones, shifting and flowing almost as if it was alive or part of her own shadow.
The eredar is worn and struggling enough that she nods in person to the conversation that Veldrinas and his sister can't hear.
Understood. I have... guests... Her thoughts get thicker as her already blue lips pale incrementally, and she settles with help into the chair, blood seeping slowly down her back and onto the seat.
I understand. Ary can feel the weakness of her friend's thoughts and turns onto the next street sharply. Try not to die before I get there. She reaches into her pouch, gathering a crystal even as shadows start to crawl up her aubergine hem.
The human moves efficiently as she steps around the side of the building and places her hand on the doorknob. As the opens the door her shadows rush into the room before her, sliding across the floorboards. Her eyes seek the eredar in the dim lighting.
"Good, you are here." Veldrinas goes by way of greeting as he lights one of the hanging lanterns in the room with a small flickering fel flame.
The lantern, though dim, casts the area with an eerie green light that barely illuminates the form of a male Kaldorei demon hunter Ary might recognize as Veldrinas, a female Kaldorei mage standing at the window sill, and Sedra seated on a chair in the corner of the small room.
Her eredar friend, mysteriously dressed in her leathers and the glamoured tiara from her disguise armor, lifts her drooping head and manages a little smile, huffing in short gasps, "Hello, Ary."
"Veldrinas." Ary says in short greeting, nodding as she passes him.
To Sedra, she scowls and grumbles, "You waited far too long. Did you already use the crystal--Of course you have. Do you have any idea how much this is going to hurt? You're a reckless Blade."
Despite her sharp tone and words, Ary's hand is gentle yet firm as she checks her friend's wounds. Shadows swirl around them furiously. They attach to Sedra at Ary's direction as she ignores the others in the room.
Sedra looks half amused and half remorseful in the moment before she goes stiff with pain when Ary's shadows begin the agonizing process of repairing the bullet hole in her back and lung.
"We... succeeded, at... least," she grits out, looking over at the mage.
"Indeed we did," the demon hunter says with a tired grin before turning to regard the woman at work.
"Will she be alright?" He asks as he crosses the small space in one stride.
"Yes, she'll be fine not for lack of her effort." Ary crosses her arms. "She's stable. She just won't like the process of healing. I'm no Light user."
"Dare I ask what's going on?" She looks between each person.
Mute under the pain of Ary's healing, Sedra just coughs blood into a rag as her lung is repaired and waves a floppy hand at Veldrinas.
The room is silent save for the pattering of light rain on the window that had just begun to fall.
Veldrinas opens his mouth to recount what has happened up to this point to Ary, but Fendassa begins to speak before he can begin.
"Fifteen years, Vel," the elf begins still facing the window, "fifteen years and not a word, no indication that you were alive. If I had known that it would take me being in grave danger to get your attention, I would have done it sooner."
Veldrinas goes still and slowly turns to face his sister, dreading but also knowing what she would say next.
"I thought you were dead," Fendassa continues as she turns to face him. "When you left without warning, I thought you just needed some time alone, but when you did not return, I feared you did exactly what I warned you not to do."
"I am truly sorry, but I could not..."
"No!" Fendassa interrupts, "You do not get to speak."
"I mourned for you," she continues softly as her eyes begin to well up with tears and her voice quavers with emotion, "I held the funeral rites and prayed that the goddess would safely bring your soul into her embrace. If only that was what truly happened."
The demon hunter flinches as if she had struck him, but he says nothing as he bows his head, willing to accept whatever judgement his sister passes upon him.
Fendassa's tears are now flowing freely as her next words are spoken, her tone accusatory and angry.
"By allowing yourself to be corrupted, you spat on our parents' graves and the graves of your wives. Tell me little brother, if Faelivren or Silnaea were here right now, do you think either of them would accept you back were they still alive? I think not. You have disgraced the name of Stormwing with your actions."
"Fen please," Veldrinas begins, the torment evident in his voice, "just allow me to explain..."
"Just answer me one thing," the mage interrupts, "How could you allow this to happen to you, to be corrupted by the very thing you hate? How could you have chosen this fate worse than death over your family?"
The hunter falls silent as he bows his head once more before responding solemnly. "You speak as if I had a choice in the matter. So blinded was I by my need for revenge, in my mind there was no choice. Though, if only I knew then how much it would cost me, things would have turned out different."
"I tracked the demon for two years," Veldrinas admits, "across Kalimdor and over the ocean to the Eastern Kingdoms and back I tracked him, but he always seemed to remain a step ahead of me, as if he was toying with me and knew every move I made before I could even make them, so I sought for the one thing I believed could give me an edge, a warlock."
There is a small intake of breath from Fendassa at the mention of a warlock, but she does not interrupt him this time.
"After a week or so of searching I found him, an old human warlock living as a hermit in Felwood. I asked him to help me track a demon, and he happily obliged."
"Little did I know it was all part of Nephyroth's plan." The hunter remarks bitterly.
"We found him rather quickly after that," he continues as he glances at his sister, "but it was all a ruse. Before I knew it, I was ensnared by the very trap the warlock had supposedly set for the demon. It turns out he had made a deal with Nephyroth for more demonic knowledge in exchange for my soul. From that moment on, everything changed. The demon possessed me and I was made to go to Outland, to find Illidan Stormrage and get close to him under the guise of joining his aptly named group, the Illidari."
Veldrinas walks over to the bed and sits on the edge of it before resuming his tale. "Fortunately, Illidan was not fooled and he had his demon hunters perform their rituals on me to bind Nephyroth's soul to mine and make sure he could never escape. After that I..."
He pauses for a moment, searching for the right words.
"I could not come back. I knew this was how you would react. So I stayed. I trained, I learned how to best fight demons, and soon I was deemed ready enough to accompany the others on their raids. But one day after a raid on a Legion stronghold we returned to Outland to discover that Illidan had been killed by adventurers from Azeroth and we were imprisoned by Maiev Shadowsong and her wardens in their vault for ten years."
"Believe me Fen," Veldrinas implores as he returns his pained gaze to his sister, "there has not been one day I have not regretted my decision to pursue revenge. Long have I have wished that things could go back to the way they were, but I know in my heart that is not possible. I knew you would not accept me back, but when I saw your name on that forsaken's missive, I could not stand idly by while you were tortured and killed."
Fendassa stands there transfixed, her previous anger forgotten, digesting what Veldrinas has just told her.
After a few moments, the elf mage responds, "I'm sorry, Vel. I just..." She pauses as many conflicting emotions flit across her face.
"I... I need some time to think. Thank you for rescuing me."
Then without another word, she quickly opens the door and walks out into the rain, closing the door behind her.
Veldrinas sighs and comes to his feet, his gaze never leaving the door his sister left through.
After a moment, he breaks the silence. "I am sorry you both had to hear that, my sister's heart is in the right place, though her mind is clouded with grief."
He turns to regard the two others as he continues, "I am the only family she has left now, the rest having been dead for quite some time now, couple that with her greatest fear of being left alone on the world to experience the waning years of her life in sadness and grief and she is not the easiest to deal with."
Sedra coughs a couple of times before she shares a look with Ary and her lips twist up a bit in a tense, pained smirk. "Sisters can be such trouble. At least she coughcough said 'thank you' after she berated your choices."
Ary snorts and shakes her head. "Thank you is overrated, but she will have to learn with your choices. You have dealt with the hand given to you. Nothing will change that."
"But yes... sisters are troublesome. At least mine has learned to give me space." She crosses arms. "Do you think yours will come around?"
At this, Veldrinas sighs wearily.
"I am unsure. My heart tells me that she will, given time, but once she sets her mind, it is not easily changed. I suppose she will tell me when the time is right."
"It's my... ng... understanding that family is required to do just that." Sedra winces and glances over at Ary, gripping the chair arm tightly. "Isn't it repaired enough, yet?"
She mutters more under her breath, "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were... coughcough ...taking your time to punish me."
Ary nods to both. "I am." It's a simple response, but the shadows suddenly surge to work on Sedra setting more of her nerves on fire as they work on all angles at once. "But I suppose that's enough for now."
The demon hunter nods thoughtfully as he turns to regard the void knight.
"I thank you for your help, Sedra. Without you, I do not believe my sister would be alive today. If there is anything I might do for you, you need but to ask. Now I must leave you in the tender care of Ary, for there is business I must attend to alone."
Veldrinas bows in the Kaldorei fashion to the both of them before opening the door but not leaving just yet.
"Truly Vasedra," the elf intones softly, "words cannot express how much this meant to me, thank you."
After smiling genuinely towards the eredar the demon hunter then exits the building, closing the door behind him.
Grimacing beneath her irritated friend's healing efforts, the void knight at first only nods and watches Veldrinas go, but as the door clicks shut, she gasps and surges up from the chair.
"Wait, my-!" Sedra reels dizzily and settles back down, finishing more quietly. "... my armor is still in your bedroom."
Ary sighs and sits on the arm of Sedra's chair. "We'll get your armor. You'll be healed momentarily and then you can go chasing after him if you need. Just do me a favor and try not to get stabbed if you do."
Her friend shoots her a weak, grouchy glare. But at least she's finally breathing clearly. Clear enough to rant, "I make it a habit to try not to get stabbed - or shot - at all times. But it's not always possible to succeed. This wound is the price for keeping a prison camp's worth of pursuers distracted from Veldrinas and his ungrateful sister when she and her human friend were all but helpless."
Her expression and tone soften, though, as she adds, "It was worth it, but thank you for coming to ensure that the price didn't include my life, such as it is."
There's a long pause before Ary quietly replies, "You're welcome."