Tussle in the Jungle - Epilogue
Veldrinas suppresses a shudder as a chill wind gusts through the city, his leather cuirass doing little to protect him as he strides purposefully down the nearly deserted cobblestone street.
Deep in thought, he recalls to mind the last words of the conversation he had with his sister only a few minutes before.
"Yes," he thinks to himself, "she will come around. She just needs some time to herself."
But Veldrinas cannot seem to shake the feeling in the back of his mind that perhaps she won't come around after all.
His thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a voice of sinister intent.
You could persuade her to come around.
At this, the demon hunter bristles internally.
Never! He asserts firmly. I will never use that power again, Nephyroth, much less on my own flesh and blood.
The demon inside his head sighs with mild annoyance.
I would not be so quick to dismiss my suggestion, Veldrinas. You would be quite the fool for not utilizing all the gifts I grant. Admit it, if not to me then to yourself. When you destroyed that fool of a warlock for his betrayal, when you manipulated his mind so that he consumed himself with his own fire, you relished the taste of such power and control, did you not?
You were the one who took pleasure from it, Nephyroth, Veldrinas responds quickly, not I. I was disgusted.
The demon hunter can sense Nephyroth's frustration at his answer.
Do not insult me by playing victim again, mortal. Might I remind you that we are bonded together intimately, you cannot hide what you think and feel from me. You DID enjoy it, and that is why you fear it.
The demon's next words drive his point home.
You fear that perhaps you might become more akin to me if you indulge in the power I grant you, and that you might in due course come to love it, perhaps even revel in it, and once that has come to pass, who knows what sort of havoc you could wreak on this world, or on the other hand, the number of wrongs you could right. You have always dreamed of being a powerful wielder of magic, even before we were bonded. Why must you continue to resist when I merely offer what you desire most?
Veldrinas growls angrily in response, conflicted and unwilling to answer the question. But the demon was right, it indeed was exhilarating, even almost euphoric, when he wielded that power, especially since he had never been any good at magic up until that point.
Nephyroth gives a menacing chuckle as his presence fades into the recesses of the latter's subconscious.
After a few brief moments of thought, Veldrinas begins to believe that perhaps Nephyroth is right, perhaps they are becoming more similar with each passing day and nothing can stop it.
"Not if I have any say in the matter," the demon hunter mutters angrily as he kicks a pebble at a stray cat that just happened to be walking across the street a few yards away.
The projectile misses the cat's tail by mere inches, hitting the pavement instead and causing it to jump in surprise and dash away into the darkness, leaving Veldrinas alone to his brooding.
Though still in a foul mood after the exchange with Nephyroth, the hunter is able to somewhat refocus his mind to the task at hand as his path takes him into Dampwick Ward.
At length, Veldrinas arrives at the appointed meeting place, a dingy and dilapidated back alley barely wide enough for two humans to walk abreast.
The demon hunter wrinkles his nose as a pungent odor assaults him the moment he steps into the alley. It doesn't take long for him to locate the source, accumulations of refuse piled up against the walls of the narrow walkway.
"Ugh," Veldrinas remarks to himself, "you would think they would clean this place up every once in a while."
Though Veldrinas can see well enough with his spectral vision, he cannot shake the feeling of unease that begins to gnaw at him and take root as he slowly passes between the decrepit buildings.
"Ah," a dark yet somehow familiar voice calls out from the shadows ahead of him, "there you are. I was beginning to wonder if you had forgotten about our little arrangement."
The voice is hoarse and definitely female, but there is something unusual about it. It is almost as if it is laced with shadows and death itself, carrying with it a power only few might dare to possess. Tingles slowly crawl down the elf's spine as he pauses to quickly sweep the area with his spectral sight, caused by dread or something else, though, he knows not.
Though he is quite troubled by the fact that his eyes cannot detect the speaker, Veldrinas does not betray his worry as he casually leans against the nearby wall, taking extra care to not step in anything unpleasant.
"I told you I would honor the bargain. Did you doubt my word?"
A curiously warm chuckle echoes throughout the alley as a hooded and cloaked figure emerges from the gloom a few feet in front of him and coolly places a hand on her hip.
"One can never be too careful," the cloaked figure begins as she silently draws closer to Veldrinas, "mistakes occur when leniency is entertained, and they often prove to be deadly in my line of work."
By now Veldrinas can make out a few distinct features despite the fact the darkness seems to cling the woman as she moves, almost as if it is reluctant to let her go. She stands to almost his height and gracefully curved horns protrude through the top of her hood, sloping backward over her head. Her face, however, is obscured by an impenetrable curtain of shadows that effectively mask who or what the woman is.
A similar kind of inky blackness surrounds the rest of her, concealing her figure, and though the hunter's eyes cannot penetrate it, he perceives that the shadows are comprised of void energy cleverly disguised as natural darkness. Perhaps as a way to hide her from all but the most observant, as well as those without means to detect such magic.
"I guess that would explain how she would have entered the city unseen." Veldrinas remarks silently.
The demon hunter remains outwardly calm, but the strange feeling grows to a fever pitch inside him as the mysterious woman halts mere inches from him and raises her hand to lightly caress the night elf's cheek and bearded jaw before laying it to rest over his heart.
As their breath begins to mingle in the cold night air, Veldrinas detects a smell reminiscent of jasmine and lavender around the woman that oddly enough, makes his heart beat faster and his breath quicken.
The normally invisible void rune on his chest flares to life and appears at the woman's touch before fading away to nothing after a few moments, its power gone.
"Wouldn't want you to die on us, now would we." The female intones as she slowly traces over Veldrinas's leather cuirass with her index finger.
The demon hunter's pulse begins to climb even higher in spite of his efforts to remain calm as he asks his next question, his words carefully measured.
"What is it you want of me? You saved my life at the Outer Gate, for what purpose?"
"All will be revealed in time, dear Veldrinas." The female responds softly as she traces her finger up the hunter's neck and along the bottom of his ear as her own breath quickens.
"I have... observed you for a long time, and now, I believe you are prepared."
"Prepared for what?" The hunter wonders silently as he begins to feel quite uncomfortable with the woman's physical proximity.
"To return to..." the woman begins before stopping herself, "...the calling."
As her finger moves to the top of the elf's ear she leans her head in closer to breathe deep of his scent, making Veldrinas even more uncomfortable.
"But for now, there is one final test you must undertake."
Fed up with all the attention as well as surprised that she is able to read his thoughts, Veldrinas does not respond as the shadows concealing the woman's face fade away to reveal a smooth red-skinned visage with prominent cheekbones, full lips, a fine jawline, a softly pointed chin, and an expression of wary hope and barely contained longing on her face.
But most riveting and unsettling are her eyes as she lifts them to directly gaze into Veldrinas's eyes.
Her eyes are black as onyx, not entirely dissimilar to Sedra's, but far more captivating. Somewhat akin to deep, swirling pools of darkness that seek to draw in all who would gaze into them. Instead of pupils, flickering indigo orbs that seem to pulse, growing brighter or dimmer to some unknown rhythm, and in the utmost depths, something else stirs, something far more powerful. Something that takes notice of a demon hunter's attention and turns it's gaze towards the one who would disturb it.
All of the sudden, the demon hunter's eyes widen as images come flooding into his mind like a tidal wave. He stumbles backward as memories flash before his eyes, almost too fast to comprehend, the Outer Gate, the sounds of battle, carnage, seemingly endless hordes of void abominations, the awful, terrifying sound every time the gate opened, how long was he there for? Years? Centuries? Millenia?
Memories of pain. Torture at the sadistic hands of Sraath, a parasite implanted and left to grow. The feeling of slowly losing his mind. The parasite was hungry and it insatiably gorged itself on his will, his memories, his very being. Then, one day, an incursion, a powerful and beautiful creature that was different from the rest, she rescued him and took him elsewhere, somewhere safe. Somewhere even more steeped in the void than the Outer Gate, something that should have alarmed Veldrinas, but somehow, it felt safe, warm even.
A woman's voice talking to him, hoarse in tone, yet caring. Telling him things, things about demons, their strengths, their weaknesses, and how fel corruption could be cleansed from any being using the void.
A rune placed upon his chest so he wouldn't forget to return one day, and finish what was begun. To complete the healing of his soul. The binding of an old wound recently reopened, that if left untreated, would prove mortal.
Tender moments with the woman. The feeling of smooth red skin under his hands as he cupped her smiling face, her prominent cheekbones, full lips that tasted like sweet honey and nectar, a fine jawline, a softly pointed chin, and the ever present floral scent of jasmine and lavender. Love that was professed and reciprocated, but marred by a tearful farewell. A spell cast on him by the eredar to make him forget all what transpired there until it was safe to remember. Her tear-stained face the last thing he saw before everything faded to black. Her name, Belaere.
Veldrinas tears his gaze away from the woman as he returns to the present and begins to slowly edge away from her in disbelief, confused and full of questions.
"Wha... what is..." The night elf stammers as he tries to wrap his mind over what he just saw.
"It's alright," Belaere begins as she lifts her hand and places it tenderly on his cheek, "I know this is probably overwhelming for you, but I am here now, everything will be..."
"No, get away from me!" Veldrinas exclaims as he pulls away from the eredar's touch.
"How can this be?" He asks incredulously. "You are a demon, I am a demon hunter. How could we have been together like that? No, these memories must be false. I refuse to believe I could have been tempted by a demon in this manner.
"Please Veldrinas," Belaere pleads as her eyes begin to well up with tears, "I have waited so long for you. I know you do not remember the bond we had, but I could not bear to be apart from you any longer. Come with me, let me help you remember."
Veldrinas can see the pain written on Belaere's face, but he is too caught up in his conflicted emotions to pay any heed.
"No. It was a mistake for me to come here, I must leave."
The demon hunter turns to go, but before he can make it two steps, the shadows surrounding the woman suddenly envelop him and he can feel his body and mind grow sluggish as all strength begins to leave him and he falls to the ground.
"I'm sorry Veldrinas," the eredar begins, her voice trembling with emotion, "but I must insist."
The demon hunter does not even have the strength to protest as his vision fades to black and he falls unconscious.