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(Weighted) Companion (Succubus)
|Build||highly curvaceous, from the knees up.|
- "The Weighted Companion Succubus will never threaten to stab you, and in fact, cannot speak."
- "Hold still, or this won’t hurt anywhere near as much as we both know you want it to."
Grand High Overqueen Kalaith, Mistress of All She Surveys, Undisputed Ruler of the Hearts and Minds of the Ruins of Draenor, High Consort and Bride of Kil’Jaeden the Deciever, woke up. And as a result was forced to recognize that she was in fact merely Noncomm-without-portfolio Kalaith, Mistress of some half dozen imps and a small squadron of heavily armed broken having made camp while sneaking through Nagrand. It was a vital mission, and one she’d taken entirely upon herself.
The Azerothian and Traitor forces which had fortified Shattrath city were empowered by the Naaru, but they still needed to eat. If her forces could sneak into and demolish Telaar and Garadar, their only outpost would be Halaa, where they would fight each other sufficiently that it would take only a token force to finish them off, severing Shattrath from its primary supply of fresh meat. That would make them dependent on Zangarmarsh, which was steadily growing more barren as the naga drained the swamps. It wouldn’t be long before they were almost completely dependent on felboar for food, and well, just WAIT until those mortals found out what happens on a steady diet of nothing but felboar...
It was the main thing she felt that set her apart from her sisters, and in fact, marked her for Greatness. She was well aware of her capabilities, and dedicated them wholly to specific goals. She had no doubts that her plan would succeed, and be promoted by those of her superiors not wanting there to be “unfounded rumour” that they had been utterly uninvolved in it at any stage. Whether or not she might become one of Kil’Jaeden’s inner circle was dubious at best, though she was sensible enough to know that the other portion of that dream should remain but a dream. Sure, ideally one wanted to go out with a bang at the peak of one’s career, but not quite like that.
And today, today was when it would all begin. She went over the plan again with the imps and her broken. By now they could probably even pull it off without her, it was simple enough, the imps would pretend to be attacking the broken who would give the appearance of refugees, right up until the moment that the demolition charges would destroy most of the buildings and kill their griffons, depriving them of any safe place to land reinforcements, or means of escape, at which point they could be handily slaughtered via the effective bottleneck bridges they had been using for defence. Garadar would be more difficult to secure, but not impossible with the reinforcements SHE could expect upon Telaar’s downfall. As she finished, she flinched, feeling an inexplicable sense of tension, entirely unrelated to her understandable nervousness.
It developed into an overpowering sense of being gripped, pulled even. And then she realized what was happening. Of all the times! Oh, being summoned by some mortal who thought they could wield the Legion’s powers against it was usually rumoured to be a cushy gig, a delightfully twisted soul to nibble on and savour while corrupting them into a fairly significant weapon for the Legion to use against their former neighbours, but she was BUSY. Still, they could definitely lay siege to and starve Telaar without her, and she’d be more prepared to overwhelm and conquer her summoner, likely in some handful of days, if she didn’t fight the summoning itself, but just the binding. She wasn’t in the mood to play games, and with only a little luck she could be back in time to orchestrate the Garadar offensive.
She relaxed, letting go of that particular bit of awareness that anchors the self in relation to its surroundings, and with her mind no longer providing and enforcing a sense of her location, her location rapidly changed.
“The HappyShell Magics Omnisymmetrical Ovoidiculum Super Matter Apparatus Procuration System has dispensed one Weighted Companion Succubus unit.”
What? That... well, it sounded like gibberish, really. Is that what Azerothians heard when her kind spoke in feltongue? She stayed quiet for the moment, getting her bearings. Eurgh. Undead. Oh, power is power and they were useful at times, but the SMELL.
“Ey, senorita, are you okay? That was an even more disjointedly convoluted sentence than usual.” That voice certainly didn’t SOUND like it came from the throat of something that used to be human or elven...
Still, the initial gibberish had sounded technical, maybe if she tried the same sort of approach as one needed to deal with Gan’arg?
She got as far as “Kn-“ in ‘kneel before me, worm, and perhaps you might prove worthy of survival,’ before the patella in question slammed into the pit of her stomach and caused her to pitch forward to the ground.
“The Weighted Companion Succubus will never threaten to stab you, and in fact, cannot speak,” came the other, sing-songish voice. She tried to stand back up, only to have a wide scrap of leather pulled tight across the lower half of her face, the warning tingle of energy passing from it to her, anchoring in none-too pleasant ways. It was impossible! A Binding couldn’t happen that quickly! Not even with physical foci!
“If the weighted companion succubus does speak,” This mad warlock took advantage of her trying to tear the gag from her face to clamp horrifyingly heavy metal manacles around her forearms, from each of which trailed a long chain ending in another shackle which wound up just above her hooves, “HappyShell Magics strongly urges that you disregard its advice.”
She flailed helplessly at her captor, but she couldn’t so much as curse her, let alone swing her whip properly.
Lordaeron, or what's left of itEdit
So ended her career as Kalaith, Rising Star of the Burning Legion, Incipient Conqueror of Nagrand. And so began her career as Weighted Companion Succubus, minion to HappyShell, bugfuck lunatic. She never did manage to work out most of what her captor was saying, but luckily she only really had to figure out the clauses immediately before and after her... designation, so she did not have too much to distract her from the overarching task of trying desperately not to think about being starved to death.
Mere weeks ago she would have been horrified by the concept of subsisting on scraps of energy proffered by a mortal inexplicably convinced of being her better. Deprived utterly, she longed even for that repugnant sustenance. What sort of warlock didn't keep soul shards on hand for feeding the demons they made contracts with? Evidently, one who felt it more important to leave the remnants of the soul that persisted after death anyway, to improve the corpse's flavour. But surely they didn't need to eat EVERYTHING they killed? It was not an existence which she enjoyed, to say the least, as days stretched to weeks, and weeks to months.
Occasionally she got blasted to smithereens by some unexpected ambush. Those were the good days, the shard this HappyShell was forced to make in order to reform her would at least take a little of the edge off. It had been a long time since she had last been resummoned. It was difficult to even imagine, much less truly remember details of her former life, just the wavering certainty, the desperate belief that there had to have been more to existence than this, that there had to BE more than this in the future. At least she wasn't delirious enough to be walking into the trees as she followed numbly through the wastes of tirisfal.
The warlock raised one hand, stopping suddenly.
"What? Senorita, we ain't near -nowhere-!" The deathstalker who often travelled with HappyShell, she had not bothered to try to remember his name, cut in irritatedly.
"Macular array detected."
"Eh, whut? Oh. Eyes? Yeah, six of- er, well, four right here."
"Clarification: -primal- ocular material detected."
A new voice called out from the shadows, "That's right Janice, I've still got them." A human stepped out from behind one of the trees some distance off, red hair pulled sharply back from a sneering face above well maintained robes, the skull-tipped staff identifying her as another warlock. "I don't know how someone managed to get the plague down to your stinking corpse, but I've always had a thing for finishing what I start."
The rogue turned slowly, "Who de angry senorita talking about?" He blinked a few times, looking at HappyShell, "Er, -that- angry senorita," he clarified.
HappyShell was actually vibrating with suppressed rage, "Entity is in possession of matter and information classificationed by HappyShell Magics! Security must be re-established! Material will be recovered and I Will Kill You!"
The human laughed, raising her staff, "You had a fair bit more in your favour the last time you tried that. Though three-on-one might be interesting."
The rogue cackled, "Woo! Stabbies! I hope youse tasty, senorita!"
"No!" HappyShell struck out an arm.
"Eh? No stabbies? You sure youse okay?"
"This is an internal HappyShell Magics matter. No one will interfere so as to minimze risk of contagion of classified information."
"Fine. But you better share summa de senorita for de eatings!"
She was surprised to find herself pulled back from the pair of warlocks along with the rogue, but hardly upset. Any advantage HappyShell gave up was a greater chance of the suppurating madwoman's obliteration, and with it, her own freedom.
The two began to hurl spells at each other almost immediately, HappyShell was no doubt the stronger of the two, but her habit of simply absorbing whatever punishment came her way in the certainty that the flesh was easily replaceable did not serve her well against an opponent prepared to abort her own attack briefly to dodge behind a stone or tree(or in one case, a projectile canine) to let it bear the bolts of flame or shadow in her stead.
Eventually the onslaught stopped, and they stood haggardly facing each other.
"You know," the human taunted, "you were easier to kill without using magic."
HappyShell dropped her staff, unslinging a large club, "Then by all means come try out the fifteen thousand megathaum supercolliding super bludgeon!" She lunged, swinging wildly, "Please die quickly, as the effects of prolonged exposure to the bludgeon are not part of this test!"
The woman simply smiled, shifting her staff to one hand as HappyShell charged, feinting and then dropping it as she sidestepped, the other hand moving to draw an old, well-worn sword.
She took two quick steps and lunged, driving the blade through the back of HappyShell's head, continuing the thrust until it pinned her against a tree.
She almost dared to hope, as she watched the human get out a small knife made of crystal, and start gouging at the forsaken woman's back. The destruction of HappyShell's soul was more than she could have dreamed, not only would it free her, but unleash her utterly, still on Azeroth!
But... though it was definitely runes of soul magic the human was carving into her foe's flesh, it didn't look like a destructive spell...
"I know this isn't going to kill you, Lichen. You filth are notoriously difficult to put down. But until I come up with something more permanent, I’ll settle simply for beating you. For stealing away more and more until you wish I'd been able to finish the job back in Alterac."
No. It couldn't be. Her freedom denied because of a human taking her as some vendetta trophy? Sheer outrage reawoke some of her old fire, punching through the habit of lassitude she had adopted so as to persist through the starvation. She tried to calm herself, even as the symbols began to glow. This new warlock was alive, at least, and simply the act of going to such an elaborate scheme of vengeance revealed her as susceptible to the darker sort of desires. Of course by now her prior plans had doubtless crumbled entirely. But it was never too late to rebuild. To conceive of a ritual to strip another warlock of their contract by scribing the binding on their flesh, there could be no doubt that her new target was clever, and likely of considerable potential.
The human could be corrupted, enticed into steadily darker arts, to tie herself further to the Legion. It was easy to seduce mortals into a lust for power, but one who would use it creatively as a servant of the Deceiver was rare enough to be considerably valuable. A cult built up around this warlock could be an excellent way to begin a new path towards her goals.
A summoning ritual whose changes were only inside her felt decidedly on the weird side.
The human turned towards the rogue. "So, is this the part where I have to deal with you, too?"
He scratched his head thoguhtfully, "Nah, no offense senorita, but if Shell be tinkin you got something ees bad to catch? You can keep it, I don' want it!" He paused, "That was a good stabby, though. Gotta admit that."
She watched her new target shrug, and pick her staff back up, "It was for old times, mostly." And then withdrew a small, heavily engraved stone from within her robes. The enigmatic hearthstone. A magic so old that the mortals took it for granted, oh what the Legion could do with that kind of power! She had seen HappyShell use it several times, perhaps with a less... unique warlock she might be able to come to understand its secrets.
The stone began to glow, surrounding its holder, and her, with a coruscating green glow for some few moments before the world disappeared.
Still in TirisfalEdit
Mexcaracas, Mex, Stop that Rogue, Person or Persons Unknown Wanted for Crimes Against Decency, leaned against a tree.
"So, who was that, senorita? She seemed to think she know you."
"That information is prohibitionally classificationed by HappyShell Magics hyperinternal super security."
He put one hand exasperatedly to his forehead. Then he brought it down, put the knife away, and rubbed the hole. "Senorita," he began in a strained voice, "I know you has that whole 'testing protocol' thing, but you COULD just say 'I don't remember.' "
"That action is within foreseeable parameters, but a violation of HappyShell Magics Informational Securatory Measures."
"Right. Silly of me to suggest it."
"Were you going to remove the cranioskeletal locomotive impedance?"
"Oh, I thought about it senorita, but you're all the way over there, and I know how much you hate it when I violate your protocols."
The Slaughtered Lamb, StormwindEdit
"Oh! My heart! Bernita, you promised you weren't going to do that anymore!"
"I lied," she admitted calmly, unashamedly.
"I still don't know how you do it. I've never bothered with any of that here, not with.. what else we do."
"You have a hearth, it is made of stone, the rest is simply your failure of initiative. Well, come on."
The Weighted Companion Succubus surmised that this was directed at her, as her incipient victim, now identified as Bernita, turned and headed for a narrow stairway at the back of the inn's tavern. For the time being, she had no option. She followed.
She had the chance to perceive the true nature of the depths to which HappyShell had pulled her when seeing a young, shrubbery-faced man vehemently barking orders at an imp who took every opportunity to deliberately misinterpret the details of how to rearrange the bookshelf felt like a life-affirming moment.
The man turned slowly on hearing them enter, his eyes moving directly to her, and inspecting her carefully.
"So... it actually worked."
Bernita's tone almost sounded hurt, but her pose gave that tiniest of hints that she was faking it, "Oh, Sanda~ahl, you almost sound like you're surprised. Haven't you realized I don't start on something big until I know it's going to work?"
"While you have been an... exceptionally gifted student, you are dangerously overzealous in probing the Dark Secrets. You should be more careful."
This got better and better! Someone that lustful, she wouldn't even have to be lying when she promised power, even the Dreadlords would see the value in so emphatic an agent.
"That's nice Sandy. Busy now, play with you later."
What? Everything she remembered about the warlocks of the horde before they were sent to Azeroth suggested an attitude of careful respect existed between them, because having your soul pulled out and tortured for eternity often offends. For one to be so callous towards someone ostensibly her teacher, let alone for him to then indeed be essentially switched off, to stalk over to the other side of the room with his imp... well, at least she was confident.
Bernita gestured at a small table, and a chair facing the wall across it. "Sit," she said simply, moving to do so as well, placing her back to the wall.
She sat, wondering what sort of game was going on as Bernita started setting soul shards in a circle on the table. Bernita gestured vaguely, launching small sparks into the latches of the manacles, "Get rid of those, I've no use for so fettered a servant."
She certainly felt vindicated in her hope, how egotistical this woman must be to fail to realize the pieces she was discarding were all that bound her into service. She reached up for the gag, eager to be rid of it after so long.
"No!" Bernita said sharply, "That stays, otherwise, how would anyone know?"
She bridled, but let her hands fall. The best way to seduce Bernita would clearly be to simply give her whatever she asked for. And of course, given such, she would continue to want more. It would be easy, and for a reward for which she could handle waiting.
Bernita got out the knife with which she had gouged HappyShell, cleaning it carefully before spiking each fingertip ever so slightly on the point.
She watched as Bernita then began to draw in her own blood between the softly glowing stones, horror rising as the symbols began to take shape. It was impossible, a human should not, COULD not know of that!
The man had come back over to look, "What are you doing?"
Bernita's eyes never left hers, it was mildly worrying.
"Something you'll never be in a position to do, Sandahl, seeing as how you've yet to plan your way out of your father's basement."
She had to do something to stop this! Caution be damned, she had to act NOW. She knew how to use her hunger as a weapon, and she unleashed the Appetite at its fullest.
She watched Sandahl's knees quake, his breath quicken, his hands clench, he was prepared to throw himself at her feet, to beg for the privilege of letting her eat his soul, but something held him back, and it was not the fear of his own death.
It was fear of the woman sitting across from her. A fear she was now entirely capable of understanding. She hadn't moved. She just smiled. "All in good time. MY good time. Though I'm glad you can tell what I'm doing. It makes things easier. Hungry?" She added the last in a mocking tone as she finished the design, laying both hands palms up on either side of the circle. Both stones and blood began to glow, and melt, the soul shards flowing inward, forming into a single, larger crystal inside of which the symbols floated in ribbons of malevolent red.
"Go ahead then, but I suggest you make a choice first. However this ends, so it will remain. And I seriously doubt you're in any state to put up much of a fight in a battle of minds."
She waited, stating the obvious wasn't something she felt like reacting to.
"So, you can fight me, and I'll win. And I will bend you to my will by force. And that will be that. Or you can choose to obey. Forever, regardless."
What insolence! To think herself worthy of such a thing! But... as things stood, there was nothing she could do to find any other way.
She shuddered, reaching slowly for the stone, tensing at the jolt of energy passed into her as she touched it. As the spell coiled within her, she contemplated, could she? The answer lay in the smile across from her. No. Even at her fullest, it would be a hard fight to try to dominate a mind so utterly self-possessed, and while she felt better than she ever had upon Azeroth, she was nowhere near her best.
She winced as she felt a sort of spiritual tug at the energy linking them. "Well?" Bernita's smile had spread into a grin.
She shuddered, wanting nothing more than to lash out, to break loose, to make this impudent mortal regret ever having been born, much less taunted a demon so.
But if she tried that, she would have no hold over this woman at all. And she would have nothing to show for her display of defiance but a display of defiance, forever. The only way she was going to stand tall from here was on her knees.
She lowered her head, and forced herself to relax, to let go dignity, release pride and ego. She trembled, then spasmed, though she had known what would happen, knowing was no preparation for what she felt. For the maniac heat and energy flowing into her, wrapping around her, touching, striking, gripping, invading in every way and from every direction. It claimed her even as it filled her with power, as she forced herself to raise her eyes once more across the table.
The demon bound by pact of rune retained always two fundamental freedoms, in the secrecy of their thoughts, and in the gap between the letter and the spirit of a command. They were things to be kept zealously, that shard of mischief, of malicious intent that allowed the chains of servitude to be borne. And now, she had neither. Admittedly, Bernita now had no secrets from her, either, for however much that meant given the direction of their bond.
No use for so fettered a servant indeed. She'd been shorn of chains of steel about her limbs to receive chains far stronger and far more tightly clasped.
Her eyes finally met Bernita's.
"G-good girl." Was that surprise in her Mistress's voice? Well, even though she had made the only sensible choice, it was one that few of her kind would have been able to make. A hand reached over to cup her cheek, the now familiar confidence returning to Bernita's tone, "Good girl, Companion."
She tried not to flinch. She knew that her Mistress could easily, almost effortlessly, bypass her enforced silence and glean her birth name, or even her True Name directly from her mind. So why call her...?
"Because I want to. I'll remember, but I want others to know who I took you from. But just like I have no intention of keeping everything she did to you, only what is useful to me, I do likewise with your name. Do you have a problem with that, Companion?"
Whether she had a problem or not clearly didn't matter anymore than her Mistress permitted it to, which meant this was just some sort of test. Feeling no compulsion to answer, she considered it. It had been a long time since she had gone by anything at all, really. And while she had no fondness for what HappyShell had called her, there was power in a name given. 'Companion' as well was a name that would certainly imply connotations to others, most of whom would be inclined to alienate her as a result. And being alienated, she was all the more likely to succumb to the temptation of power.
So in answer she shrugged, letting her head slip to one side to press into Bernita's palm.
Bernita smiled, "Good girl. And don't be too upset. If it turns out to be necessary, we'll achieve my goals your way sooner or later."
Sandal, having finally recovered from his reverie, turned sharply on Bernita, "Just what is THAT supposed to mean?!"
Bernita's eyes narrowed. "Nothing that's your concern." And then she grinned again, in the sort of way that suggested that she was enjoying her thoughts immensely, and someone else wasn't going to. "Good girls deserve a reward. Companion, torment Sandie until he considers castrating himself just to escape the frustration, then string him up by his underthings from the inn's sign."
And to think, she’d thought she wouldn't like following orders.
Moving Right AlongEdit
By all appearances, Darkshire was a very interesting place to be bound to a warlock's service. Or, you know, maybe it was just her being ordered to pin the risen dead to slabs, twisting and pulling them into sufficiently unnatural positions as to make them remember from life how to beg for mercy, and give them none while they were being vivisected slowly to try to identify which organs a zombie or a ghoul actually needed, and what could be done to deprive them en masse. She wasn't sure which she'd prefer, but eventually concluded that worrying about whether or not she'd prefer the fun to be uniquely hers among familiars was putting a damper on her enjoyment of it. So she stopped. Besides, this bit with twisting their neck and hips just far enough that it doesn't quite break, just feels like it has? That's tricky. Takes concentration.
Initially it worried her that it seemed that she needed not only to be given a soul shard, but explicitly, and separately, given permission to eat it. It would be easy for such a thing to put her in the same crazed delirium as she had been before, gone mad with hunger.
That didn't seem to be an issue. Far from it, really. Her Mistress appeared to take an almost perverse delight not merely in keeping her fed, but in carefully selecting which of the soul shards was going towards that purpose. Was it going to be agonized wolf? A spider trapped in the last throes of incineration? Or was she still hoarding one of those Defias who had expired while bewitched into the heights of pleasure? She never knew, and somehow she enjoyed not knowing. It turned simply subsisting into a sort of game.
A game whose rules occasionally changed.
Though the experimentation had yet to make any progress, a rumour caused Bernita to rather predictably decide their efforts were more urgently required in Stranglethorn. Someone was turning people into undead. While it was of course a reprehensible practice that anyone of upright moral fibre should strive to bring to an end, those lacking such might seek so as well if they, for example, just have a massive personal hatred for the beings in question.
It was a pretty boring rant by the third time through, especially as it largely boiled down to hating the scourge and forsaken solely because HappyShell, formerly Janice Lichen, didn't stay dead. She was careful not to think that too often, though.
Thankfully, their arrival at the camp allowed something else to occupy her mind. While frustration with needing to carve through a small army of dissidents to even get to the southern reaches wasn't much better, at least it was different. No member of Kurzen's forces they encountered on the trek south got the happy death, though Bernita did devise an interesting sauté from the remains of one patrol. Nobody, not even a ravager, would have been interested in eating it, mind. Mostly it was just interesting to watch.
She found herself delighted that she was not a direct target of her Mistress's frustrations. This is far from saying that she was not a target, but luckily it was solely in the form of Bernita trying to use her to improve her own mood.
She was resigned to the fact that she enjoyed the attention she received whenever Bernita decided it was time to make camp for them both to eat. But as they both grew stronger (Companion attempted to assure herself that any increase in her own capabilities could only be recovery from atrophy while HappyShell had starved her), she felt the craving for sustenance substantially more often than Bernita did.
She was ecstatic that the reaction to this development was not, "You can damn well wait until I'm ready to feed you." Instead, when Bernita would feel the pang of the complaint Companion could not voice, she would simply look about and preface the beginnings of a spell with "Eat the [dog/cat/spider/elemental/goblin/other conveniently nearby lifeform no one whose opinion I care about is likely to miss]," conveying quite simply her intent to rip its soul out for her pet. Companion would've liked to refrain from admitting just how touching a motion it was that if a soul for her to eat wasn't going to be special, at least it would be fresh. Part of the trouble with that whole 'I'm in your head' thing, really.
The change Bernita's frustrations wrought was a simple one. Frequently, instead of, "Eat the raptor," the one right here in front of us that is about to be zapped, it became, "Eat -that- tiger," go fetch the tiger that's a few hundred yards away, and incidentally on the other side of where that family of gorillas is sleeping. On one hand, she developed an aptitude for the more physical sorts of sneakery that she never would have suspected herself of having, which was never a bad thing for a girl to have, even if one wasn't trying to isolatedly anger one particular being without alerting any others around them at the will of a budding megalomaniac. On the other, they were both developing a significant facility in the utilization of foliage for rapid acquisition of altitude.
She didn't much like it, but Companion could sort of understand why the need to use the latter skill led to a brief state of 'you can damned well wait.' It usually didn't entail waiting all that long, clinging to the upper limbs of a tree with one arm and both legs while desperately flailing with a staff at anything that comes close to dissuade it from climbing up with the other tends to work up an appetite fairly rapidly.
The difficulty at which she would be set this task would vary with Bernita's mood, and as they grew used to it, she noticed her Mistress including some of their old game, putting more care and deliberation into both the choice of target, and what to do to them. But in addition to this, in spite of which she only increased her rate of success, causing her to feel a considerable degree of pride, they by and large grew more challenging over the weeks they traversed the jungle, culminating in one fateful day.
One Fateful DayEdit
It wasn't the worst day it could have been. For one thing, when most people don't know Gurubashi Arena is there and furthermore don't know the right words to tell thirty-odd heavily armed trolls that they just wanted to get in out of the rain, that little trick with the naga priest, the raptor entrails, and three skeins of silk doesn't actually work. On top of that, their flight had taken them all the way to the coast, and the peaks surrounding Booty Bay were in sight on the horizon.
Companion could feel the torrent of conflicting emotions roiling in her Mistress, and in large part echoed them herself. To her credit, she recognized that now was definitely not the time sufficiently to prevent her thoughts notifying Bernita of her incipient biology, only to be thwarted by audible signal of the more directly gastroid variety. Luckily this transpired at a moment when frustration did not have the upper hand, as the look she received was composed more of amusement than anything else.
"Alright. Far be it from me to make you go hungry. How about..." Bernita let her eyes wander freely, "that Bloodsailor over there."
Where Bernita seemed to be looking, a young woman wearing the uniform of the Bloodsail mages sat tending a campfire whilst a handful of others, for proximity's sake presumed her comrades, patrolled their surroundings. Difficult, certainly, a challenge stepping up to deceiving enemies with their wits about them, but not impossible. She thought for several moments, pondering on the best route of attack.
"No." Her reverie was interrupted, "Not that one." Bernita pointed, "That Bloodsailor."
Deceiver’s Codpiece! And she'd thought the mage by the fire was going to be a chore! This man was actually in the process of regaling those around him with some sort of tale. She couldn't even begin to imagine how she was supposed to get him out from under their noses. Still, an order's an order...
Bernita sighed, "No, not THAT one, either." She pressed their cheeks together so that Companion could sight directly down her arm. "THAT Bloodsailor, over THERE. On the boat."
Jondalar Hopper was a made man. Jondalar Hopper had everything Jondalar Hopper wanted. Jondalar Hopper had money, power, and a totally sweet hat as a captain of the Bloodsail pirates. He also had his own ship, crew, and place in the grand Bloodsail scheme. The order in which he considered these six said more about him than most people really wanted to know.
But there was more. As his ship twisted against the wind to block the approach to Booty Bay's docks, he raised both hands to hurl spell after half-formed spell after his ship's cannonfire into the town. Sure, unfinished spells exploded in bursts of utterly uncontrolled magic, but that was happening over there, to goblins, and every gnome knew goblins didn't really count as people. More importantly, Jondalar Hopper knew that anyone who wasn't Jondalar Hopper didn't count as people.
"Keep firing! It's time to wave it about and let all the big pricks know, Jondalar Hopper magic dicks you all!"
Jondalar Hopper was delighted with the results of his salvos. Chaos and destruction would presage copious death, and then Booty Bay would be all his! He wouldn't need the rest of the bloodsailors, or any of them that didn't want to bow down and follow HIS plans from then on!
There seemed to be some chaos on the ship as well, which irritated him. Now was not the time for his 'bodyguard' he 'liberated' from a family of nobles to come jiggling towards him, saying something about an intruder on the ship, which was impossible. She had a lot of jiggle, which is why she'd been 'liberated.' But now was not the time for distractions, now was a time for action! Now was the time for Real Men, for the Manliest Man, Jondalar Hopper, to Strut His Stuff and Let it All Hang Out.
The fight seemed almost one sided, the defence force was almost laughable, and everything seemed to be going Jondalar Hopper's way. Victory felt good. Victory actually felt very nearly as good as the time Jondalar Hopper ordered Jondalar Hopper's bodyguard to "do something magical."
Jondalar Hopper looked down. Victory felt like when Jondalar Hopper's bodyguard did something magical because Jondalar Hopper's bodyguard WAS doing something magical.
It probably wasn't QUITE as good because Jondalar Hopper was thinking more about Booty Bay, or maybe it was the clawed hand making puppeteery motions over Jondalar Hopper's bodyguard's head. Wait, clawed hand making puppeteery motions? That wasn't right. Nobody on Jondalar Hopper's ship had clawed hands.
This didn't stop the other clawed hand from grabbing him by the front of his robes, and jerking him in such a fashion as to pitch him facefirst into the helm of his ship, then grabbing him by the back of his head and pounding him into the wood several times for good measure, before Companion lifted him over her shoulder and jumped off the side of the ship.
Some few dozen minutes later, and several rocks along the way to keep him unconscious, she brought him back to the small inlet where Bernita was waiting, and with a spell and a slash the deed was done.
Bernita lifted the soul shard up to the sunlight and looked at it speculatively, wearing an expression of more than a little concern, "You know... I think I totally understand if you don't actually want to eat this."
Companion didn't want to eat it, despite the amount of work that had gone into its acquisition. Few souls looked quite that sickly.
Bernita regarded the stone some few moments longer, before violently hurling it out to sea.
"Come on," she began in an apologetic tone, "Campfire girl's friends haven't come back since you hit the ship, let’s go do... something special to make up for that fiasco."
Four exhilarating hours later, Companion wondered, not for the first time, who exactly was tempting whom.
Bernita's plans for Booty Bay were never more than peripheral at most. The town held little interest for her beyond organizing temporary lodgings, a seamstress to remove some few weeks of jungle from her robes, and a bathhouse to do likewise for their bodies. The... vigour with which her Mistress tended to attack them both in the bath after they had been travelling for any considerable stretch had previously shocked and disturbed Companion, a zealousness which only grew more pronounced the longer they were away from civilization. The near month long trek from Darkshire to Booty Bay had been the longest lapse yet, and despite being nervous, she found herself looking forward to the frenzied assault that was doubtless soon to come.
Sadly, even the simplest plans have a tendency to be upset by events outside them. In this case, it was brought about by a young woman shouting, "That's her, over there!" as her Mistress was negotiating for their room.
Needless to say, that's the sort of shout in a town which guarded their neutrality more stringently than their coffers (which says a lot, for goblins) that attracted a great deal of attention.
In this case it was everyone nearby staring at them while a well dressed man in the garb of one of the merchant princes of Stormwind bustled towards them, one arm firmly grasping a young blonde woman who'd cleaned up quite well, ahead of several Alliance military petty officers.
"It's her, father! I'm not sure what happened, but I saw her sneak onto the ship, and then that... that horrible man was gone and all his crew couldn't swim away fast enough!"
The man looked at Bernita perplexedly; obviously, someone who was quite some time overdue for a real bed didn't exactly fit his mental image of a glorious heroine. "Greetings to you then, good... warlock," he tested the phrase cautiously, obviously unprepared to believe he was saying it, despite the slightly greater tolerance of the black arts in recent years.
"Miss Greymountain," she introduced herself frostily, "we've only just arrived in town."
The man looked perplexed, but oddly grateful, "Well, in that case, my daughter may simply be mistaken. She's just been returned from a lengthy ordeal. I'm terribly sorry to have bothered you."
"Father!" the girl declared petulantly, "I am absolutely certain of it! How many gagged succubi do you think there are in Stranglethorn?"
The man blanched, and one of the officers suppressed a chuckle at his discomfiture, "What? You mean the silly mask? Oh, I don't know..."
"Father," she said in a dangerous tone, "I know that of which I speak. I trust that you will not make me go into the... relevant details in PUBLIC?"
Companion watched her Mistress roll her eyes, and felt her weighing whether the entertainment of watching him squirm was worth the further delay of her own endeavours, specifically those involving a modicum of privacy and copious hot water. Eventually she sighed. "I take it the bloodsailor was somehow significant, then?"
"All I knew was that no one who mattered would be terribly upset by the demise of a bloodsail pirate, and that his location made him an interestingly challenging target. Though my pet did mention a girl on board, since it was only the mage who I ordered her to attack, I gave it no further thought."
This was evidently not an answer which he particularly liked, the nobleman's face having grown steadily paler as Bernita had talked. "I... I see. Well, I thank you for my daughter's safe return nevertheless." He turned on his heel, tugging his daughter away with him past the unmoving soldiers, the girl giving Companion a strange look as they left.
Bernita turned around, intending to resume the abortive negotiations and ignore the soldiers in the hopes that they would go away. One of them coughed briefly to alert her that this was not the case.
"How can I help you, gentlemen?" Her tone was calm, and emotionlessly polite. Which Companion knew to mean she was on the verge of throwing them into the bay.
"Well," one of them began mollifyingly, rather aptly reading her mood, "I'm here to give you a big bag of coin. There has been a sizeable reward promised for the lass's safe return for some time now. By the estimation of my responsible superiors, that makes it yours for at least facilitating her escape, since while her father might dispute it, she herself calls it a rescue, and that's enough or us. Just sign here and I’ll be out of your hair."
Out of her hair was Bernita's favourite state for officials to be in, so she gave the paperwork an only cursory look before signing and accepting the money. He then left. The other did not.
Bernita let the exasperation into her voice, "And?"
He fidgeted, "I'm here because the Alliance Military could always use a few more people who like hunting for interesting challenges, a-"
"No. I'm not interested in soldiery. Goodbye."
"Wait! It's actually a mission for the Explorer's League!"
"I'm not an archaeologist, either."
"I... please, just let me explain... It's the expedition to the temple of Attol'Hakkar. They've been begging for a military escort-"
"I am most definitely not a guard."
"Please! They've already lost nearly twenty people! The other teams won't even go near the place if we can't provide them with some protection. We don't know what happened down there, but about a week ago we received word that squads of undead Hakkari trolls have been sighted patrolling the area, so the expedition has pulled all the way back to Darkshire."
Bernita eyed him warily, "Undead trolls?"
"Without a doubt. The missive's description leaves no question."
"Ancient undead trolls? Separate from the scourge plague?"
"Er, I suppose it's difficult to be certain, as no one has really tried to check into that, but they certainly didn't get this far south during the war, and their numbers are too great for it to have been the Forsaken since then..."
Bernita's expression turned sour, "Then I suppose you're right about how important it is. It wouldn't be good to let something like that go unchecked."
"So you'll do it then?" Hope brimmed in his eyes.
"Yes, yes, I'll go," She started to turn back to the innkeeper, "So that'll only be a room for one night, then, and use of the bathhho-urk!"
"There's no time to delay! You must to Ironforge at once!"
"There are lives and the security of our nation at stake! We cannot afford to tarry! The expedition cannot be prepared until the team is assembled, every minute is a minute too many!"
Perfectly rational objections were overruled, protestations quashed, and hapless pedestrians trodden in his haste to hurl them a-gryphonback, and the pilot ordered to, "Damn the official routes! No stops! Directly to Ironforge without delay!"
It was a long, and uncomfortable flight, comprised largely of punctuation to the awkward silence.
"Ma'am, please don't look at me that way. I'm just doing my job."
"Is this really necessary? Did I ever do anything to you, Ma'am?"
"Oh, now you're both doing it. That makes me feel so much better."
"You know that if you do anything to me, you'll die too, right? I mean, the gryphon won't obey someone he doesn't know, like as not he'll take you all the way to Airie Peak without resupplying."
"Okayokay! He'll go wherever anybody holding the reins points him! Please just stop!"
"I've... I've got a wife and kids, you know. In Westfall. Well, probably somewhere in Elwynn now. But they need me to do this. You... you understand, right?"
"It's not like I'm enjoying this. Do you think I wouldn't have preferred him to let you wash up? That I'm part of some sort of anti-ablutionary conspiracy?"
"For the love of the Light, and in the name of the King, just please stop staring at meeeee!"
Gryth Thurden hadn't seen a pilot coming in to land at Ironforge looking so haggard since the Wars. He hadn't seen a pilot run screaming from the pad and leave someone else to take care of his gryphon EVER.
He took one look at the haggard pair of passengers and gained some measure of understanding as to why. He hadn't seen a woman in that sort of rage, let alone controlling it, since the wars either.
He listened to her for a few moments, then carefully gave her directions on how to walk to the Explorer's League offices, and who specifically they would need to contact about joining the expedition.
And then, as soon as they turned a corner, he took the short route, as fast as his legs could carry him.
The petty officer who had bum's rushed them onto the gryphon was spared Bernita's wrath by virtue of being very far away, when she discovered that there would be at least three days of further logistical endeavours before any manpower shortage would cause delays, and that the briefing consisted of, "This is your emergency flare, light this end. Do not lick, nibble, or insert, the explorer's league will not be held responsible for emergencies resulting from misuse of emergency flares." Armageddon, however, was averted by the revelation that one of High Tinker Mekkatorque's apprentices had invented something he called a "typhoon bath" for which testers were needed. Bernita invested heavily in the project.
Pestulent, Reeking, Infested, oh, and There's a Swamp, tooEdit
Companion discovered the true gravity of the mess the expedition was in as they left Darkshire once again, though now she rode behind her Mistress on a ram temporarily issued to Bernita by the Explorer's League. They rode as part of a quintet of mismatched well-travelled individuals leading the heavily armoured convoy containing the bulk of the archaeological equipment and personnel.
Their fellow volunteers of varying degrees of consent consisted of a pair of paladins, one a frighteningly exuberant draenei, the other a somewhat skittish dwarven lass, an exceptionally bitter druid from Darnassus, and a woman from Stormwind who bore all the earmarks of an "applied research mage" just let out of the tower.
Introductions were initially attempted, but largely postponed due to the fact that the draenei lad was the only one making any attempt to talk over the roar of the vehicles behind them, seemingly unconcerned or unaware of the fact that nobody could hear him.
They fared better after camp had been made for the evening, as the group of them made their way through fare provided by a member of the expedition who did that for a living, rather than the half-mangled fare of those more used and suited towards the extermination of various and sundry entities as opposed to specialists in doing something useful with them afterwards.
"Why call it sinking temple? If temple is sinking, why not let finish? Problem fix itself. Why trolls build temple in swamp, anyway? Lots of places can build temple that won't sink. Maybe land was cheap."
Though they all stared at the big blue goofball, either unsure what he was going on about, or having difficulty deciphering his accent, it was Bernita who took the obvious next step. "What are you talking about?"
"Where we are going, they are calling sinking temple. Many study and scary undead."
"That pretty much covers it. But it sank a long time ago."
"Then why are we-"
The night elf growled angrily, "There's a bit sticking out. It's the bit with the entrance."
He paused, seeming to be considering this. "So is it then. Is being wonderful! So! Though I tell you myself of being Tuuron, no one is saying back. This is not good! Surely if we are to be together working, we must also be together knowing!"
The dwarven girl spoke up, "What did tha big lummox say? Jes' having a swing round and that?"
"Yes! Be telling of each other who we are and why we are here!"
"Don't encourage him!" the druid hissed.
Bernita rolled her eyes, "So, what? Why we're on the expedition?"
Tuuron paused, "Well, in my hometown, custom is to speak first of deepest philosophy and nature of universe, but reasoning of coming to sinking temple work too."
"Bernita Greymountain. And this is my Companion. I just don't think undead should be allowed to be left in one piece. With any luck these might yield some insights into how to deal with others."
The mage coughed briefly, one hand covering her face while she adjusted her glasses, “Well, I'm Irisz, from Stormwind. My mentor said I needed to go get out into the world, get some fresh air and new experiences. ...Though not in exactly those words."
"Ah, I know how that goes," came a dwarven interjection, "I be Inggi Ignisdotir, apprentice tae tha Butcher of Alterac Valley. ...She said iff'n I didnae do something heroic soon she'd rip mah ears off."
Bernita laughed, "Sounds like a drill sergeant to me. She probably said that just to scare you."
"Aye? Well ye haven'ae seen this trick she knows wi' the eye sockets an' the back o th' throat! An jes' so we're clear, mind, try anything funny with me soul and she'll do it to ya with both thumbs!"
Bernita crossed her arms in an artful pout, "Well I never! Do you accuse everyone of being out to steal your soul? That's hardly the best area for a paladin to be insecure!"
"Aye? Isn'ae that what you demon-consorting types do? I ken well what they eat!"
"Yes, but I resent the implication that I just go around wantonly dismembering the psyches of whoever I feel like. Companion, isn't it true that I've never offered to feed you anyone who didn't attack us first?"
Companion did not move.
"Defias and bloodsailors don't count! Any Alliance citizen's has a mandate to kill them!"
Companion still did not move.
"Sandahl doesn't count either! After all, you didn't eat him, so you know full well I was just trying to scare him off!"
Companion nodded. Unsurprisingly, Inggi did not look terribly convinced, nor did she let the subject drop for some few hours, by which point nobody else wanted to do anything but go to bed.
The following morning as they were breaking camp, Bernita found herself interrupted in packing her gear and tent back onto the ram, or more accurately, interrupted in supervising Companion doing so.
"Good morning, Bernita."
She turned to find the druid regarding her curiously, "Er, good morning. I don't think I caught your name last night?"
"Astarien. And if you care about the rest, Tuuron dragged me into it. He's good at that."
"I'll keep that in mind. He seems a bit..." She left it hanging, not sure how much she should say.
"He seems a lot of things. But don't let him fool you, getting a straight answer out of him tends to take at least three experienced torturers. Speaking of which, how many times did he barge into your tent and interrupt you trying to feed your pet?"
Bernita gave him a quizzical look, "Er, only once, actually. Why?"
"Oh, no reason. I just thought it'd be more than that. Seems that he likes you, then. Odd. Sorry for interrupting, I'd best check my own equipment once more before we head off."
Things were largely uneventful as the convoy moved steadily across the swamps for several days, the group patrolling about to make sure that Stonard wasn't trying anything funny, as well as keeping an eye out for marauding Hakkari. Finally the expedition reached its destination, and work began at setting up a somewhat fortified camp on the shores of the lake.
As dusk fell the night after the camp's completion, Irisz was busily attempting to explain to Tuuron any and all of half a dozen different theories as to what particular mangling of ancient magics sank the temple.
"You know Irisz," Bernita interjected, "You've adjusted your glasses seventeen times in the last five minutes. Why don't you just secure them?"
Irisz smiled, "What? Like with string? Don't think I haven't tried, it doesn't work."
"Well, string's a place to start, sure, but I was thinking that with two or three leather thongs, those glasses would absolutely NOT move."
As one, eight eyes swivelled between Bernita's earnestly helpful countenance... and Companion's.
Irisz smiled nervously, "No offense, but I think I'll just stick with what I've been doing. I'm used to it."
Bernita's expression turned speculative, "Are you sure? I mean, I'm pretty sure it'd be more comfortable than it sounds."
"Yes! I'm sure!"
Some weeks later, they sat in Ironforge on the smallest, least comfortable chairs that a sadistic gnomish engineer could be persuaded to devise.
"So," began Prospector Ironboot in his most scathingly bitter tone, "what have we learned from this?"
They were silent at this, Astarien sullenly so.
Inggi was the first to speak up, "Iff'n ye lean on a statue an it wiggles, ye ask 'What does this do?' before pushin it all tha way."
"Aye?" he rolled his eyes, "That's a good place ta start."
Bernita smiled diffidently, "Don't try to dismember everything that has so much as a whiff of zombie?"
He considered it, "Well, except for that one regrettable case of mistaken identity that was actually a good thing. Ye expect a bit of friendly stab when an undertaking of this size goes sour. Just try to make sure it actually IS an undead first rather’n just covered in muck."
Irisz bit her lip, and pushed her glasses further up her nose, "Don't ask green dragons what they really think about trollish customs?"
He closed his eyes slowly, "That... wasnae in the report. But ya lass, don' do that."
Tuuron smiled brightly, "Let megalomaniacal leader of troll cult finish sermon before asking why build temple in poor location?"
"....Aye. So, how is it that none of ye come away from that mess with the notion of DON'T WAKE UP THE ANCIENT MALEVOLENT DEATH GOD?"
"Oh that's a simple one," Astarien breathed grumpily, "after all, he got put back to sleep."
"Well, that settles it. I didn't want to do this, but it's clear it's for the best. Alliance command has ordered you lot to Outland, and I for one see no reason to stand in the way of getting you somewhere broken enough that you can't make it worse. Dinnae take that as a challenge!"
Don't Look DownEdit
The group went their separate ways after reaching Honor Hold. Inggi joined the defenders in guarding the Hold itself. Irisz booked a flight to Shattrath City, hoping to get access to the library maintained by the Scryers. Astarien leapt from the griffon, transformed himself into a large cat and sprinted out the gates with far more than due haste. Tuuron went with Irisz, though his intentions were to see if he could locate other survivors from his hometown ("It, how you say... fell off map."). Which left Bernita and Companion alone with each other.
Companion was nervous. If ever there was a perfect time to complete Bernita's corruption, to turn her against the mortals of Azeroth and to the service of the Deceiver, well, when they'd forcibly removed her from what she wanted to do and dumped her in the seat of the Legion's power was going to be it.
The trouble is, it's hard to orchestrate a careful and exquisite seduction delicately intermingling carnal temptations and promises of power when the intended seductee can read your mind. It gets worse when her reaction is to give it careful consideration.
"You have a point, dear. But if and when we go down either of those paths, it will be because I think it's time. Not before."
The trek across Hellfire was a brutal one. Supplies were difficult to come by, and the military was quite happy to tell anyone who would listen that they could get stuffed if they didn't want to help the war effort. Daring commando assaults look good on paper, but rarely do the mission briefings include the part about limping desperately away under cover of night, panicked collapse behind the nearest obstruction at the merest flicker of torchlight, and holing up in a small cave to sew oneself back together.
Companion was touched that Bernita trusted her enough to let her do the sewing. It was a matter of necessity, really, but she didn't even try to suggest that she could do it herself, which meant something to her.
Her Mistress's convalescence was a trying time for Companion. To say she was delirious from her injuries would be something of an understatement. Though she did not say anything about recent events, they did not make eye contact, which is to say, Bernita looked at Companion, who could not meet her gaze.
It wasn't her fault! She'd done everything she could to protect her, and gotten at least as mangled! It was only because she'd devoured the better part of two dozen of the stockpiled soul shards that she had recuperated so quickly! Incidentally, a steady diet of nothing but felboar soul wasn’t very healthy, either.
It was not that Bernita was blaming her. There was no rage, no recrimination in her expression. Just slow, careful consideration. It would have been easier if Bernita was angry with her about it. Because then they'd agree.
Soon Bernita was well enough for them to leave the cave, and two days later, they were perched atop a cliff with a notebook, spying out the patrol patterns between the forge camps below. There they remained until the following dawn, when Bernita led them down a path towards where there would shortly be a lone felguard approaching.
He didn't have much of a chance after being ambushed, but he still put up a considerable fight. But he wouldn't last much longer.
Companion did her best to keep from ending up in a bad way as a result of a sword she was apparently now supposed to no longer be taking proactive steps about stopping. She saw out of the corner of her eye that Bernita was chanting something, and though she was indeed hurling spells at the felguard, they didn't seem to be hurting him, and that didn't seem to be upsetting her Mistress. Was she... was she binding the felguard?
The answer came as it swayed, leaping back to break away from her, only to fall over its own feet, then disappear in a flare of magic.
Companion turned around slowly, to find Bernita had come up right behind her. Her Mistress's face was pained, an in a fashion that had nothing whatsoever to do with her as yet in progress recovery. Bernita hugged her tenderly, and kissed her, just once.
"I'm sorry." was all she heard before the blackness claimed her.
In Darkness, WaitEdit
Companion opened her eyes, and could not tell the difference. It took her some time to realise where she was. She had only ever been here, well, someplace similar to here, for brief flashes when HappyShell had screwed up and her body had been the price.
It was the first time since she was claimed that she had been away from her Mistress's side. She realized she no longer thought of it as having been kidnapped, and didn't know when that change had happened. She had time to figure that out. At least it was warm here. And soft. She wondered what that meant. The forsaken’s void pocket had been neither.
She curled up, hugging her knees to her chest. Well, she could think on that, too. There was nothing else for her to do here, except be alone with her thoughts.
Except that she wasn't alone. Something was coming toward her, its footsteps sending out echoes of cold and rage and hate.
Green flesh faded into existence as it got close enough to see, and as the imp approached, a voidwalker materialized tagging uninterestedly along behind.
"Why hello there, toots! I cannot begin to express how long I've been waiting to see YOU."
She rolled over, intending to ignore him. He walked up an imaginary wall by her head, to then stand dangling, to her eyes, upside down above her.
"I have to admit, I expected to meet you a lot sooner. But no matter! Welcome to our fraternity of incarceration! I am Dagkin, sorcerer extraordinaire, dubbed by our mad jailor Lamaar for reasons my intellect has yet to fathom."
He was insipid, like most of his kind, and whatever he had endured had not improved him.
"And you, you are such a vision of loveliness as I could ever have hoped to see delivered here. Praise be to whatever has brought this to pass. Now, let's just be rid of this..." He reached towards her face.
Thoughts and emotions blurred within her. It had been a long time since what he now reached for had moved. For what seemed an eternity she had despised it. For what was several times longer, she hadn't thought about it. But now, because her Mistress wanted it there, she may have broken someone's wrist to keep it. She'd certainly tried to.
He glowered at her bitterly. "Why?"
She decided to be snippy, and shrugged expansively.
He closed his eyes, waving his hands vaguely near her. "Oh. A blood-binding." He spat. "And you LOST? Isn't that sort of muckety muck with people's will what you sort are all about?"
Had she free voice, it would have been tempting to try to explain to him that there had been mitigating circumstances. Lacking it, she did not have to care. She knew both how cunningly set up she had been, and how happy she had become with the result... until the last hour or so.
"What? What is this? You're warm? Don't tell me you think you're something special to her!"
She couldn't answer him. That meant she didn't have to.
"She's a warlock! She's a mortal! They endanger their souls just by being near us! Any of them that last a week know it! All we ever are to them is a tool to be used at the longest possible reach, and all they are to us is a potential mark, a notch in the belt when we twist them into something like us and they destroy their own lives and everything around them!"
Maybe if she was more obvious about ignoring him, he'd shut up. She covered her ears.
"So, did she ever tell you about me? What about Wrench there? Anyway, I assume that's what she called him, since all he ever says is 'twist nuts off.' No? Figure she'll mention you to her new toy?"
She snapped, leaping to her feet, lunging and sinking taloned fingers into his flesh, ripping and tearing the foul blasphemer into a thousand shreds while exulting in his cries of agony.
Wait. Those weren't cries of agony.
Lamaar laughed, "This place isn't real, you know. While we're here, WE aren't real. You can attack me because you don't want to hear it all you like, and it won't mean a single thing. Except that deep down, part of you thinks I’m right."
"You outlived your usefulness, so now she's traded up for something bigger and leaner to get the job done."
She hoped, she had to hope, that sooner or later he'd get tired of being ignored, or run out of things to say. But he seemed to realize that, much as she'd like to, the void was too lacking in, well, anything, for her to be able to tune him out completely.
"Look at you. Steaming away like a cheery little campfire. Exactly like one, because the moment they've cooked a meal on you, they leave you there to burn yourself to death."
She found herself suddenly remembering the pilot who had ferried herself and her Mistress from Booty Bay to Ironforge. And regretting their behaviour.
"You might have been special. You might have meant something. But you're HERE now toots, and that means you're a flash in the pan, the obsolete model, yesterday's news. Get used to me, kid, we're gonna be together a lot."
Why wouldn't he stop?
"She's done the same thing to you that warlocks have done forever, she's used you up, and thrown you out. And like a good little brainless sheep, you want her to think of something else in you to make you worth digging back up for one more squeeze."
Please, won't he stop?
"Go ahead and hope. By all means hope. It'll just make it sweeter when the despair finally comes crashing down and you come looking to me for comfort."
Someone, make him stop.
"Though, just being honest, I'm not much good for comfort. But I know a few tricks that I'm SURE will take your mind off everything that's bothering you."
Twice now, Companion had been summoned in such a fashion that she found herself bodily tackled before having even the remotest opportunity to get her bearings. The former, however, had involved neither the copious quantity of feverish nakedness that she now perceived in abundance, nor a soft fluffy bed. Though like the prior experience, this one contained a single, overpowering smell which communicated an intrinsically important fact. All in all, it was a much more welcome experience.
No words passed between them. A welter of thoughts made their way into Companion's mind, as her Mistress shared what had transpired in her absence. It had been three days. What they both felt three days too many.
"Otto is good at being hit in the face," Bernita began, "and it's a job I plan to keep him around for."
Companion shivered nervously. Those words sounded like what she was most afraid of hearing, but that didn't really fit with their, er, situation.
"But I’ve also come to an important conclusion as a result." Bernita tightened their embrace, "It's definitely time for one of those paths."
While technically, she ought to have preferred that to mean Bernita wanted her to consecrate her soul to Kil'Jaeden, Companion was much, much happier that she meant the other path.
Some minutes later, the door of the room burst open. "Miss Greymountain! I'm told this letter for you is an urgent missive from the Hand of Argus! ...Oh. I'll.... I'll just leave this here on the table, then. And go be on my way." The attendant added in what she thought was an inaudible voice after shutting the door again, "And go scrub my eyes! Crazy warlocks." She, and the letter, remained thoroughly ignored throughout. Whatever either or both might think of themselves, there were much, much more important things at hand. And other anatomical feature.
The following morning, things were different between them. While Bernita had never made any attempt to disguise the appetite in her eyes, she had similarly never acted upon it, much to Companion's frustration. Now, having emphatically crossed that line once, she seemed inclined to flaunt the fact, forever touching, stroking, grasping, wearing the same possessive little smirk. No doubt the anchorites of Telhamat Temple were somewhat less than enthusiastic about what a warlock and a succubus did in one of their inn's beds, but they had some sort of agreement with the Alliance about not turfing their citizens out. This in no way reduced the number of glares the inn's staff gave them as they tidied Bernita's gear in preparation for the trek towards Terrokar Forest and Auchindoun. If given a choice in the matter, she knew her Mistress would always take the method of income which involved helping the poor, suffering undead to rest in pieces.
They walked out to the gates, Bernita frequently reaching to squeeze Companion's hand as though she herself was the one who needed reassurance. Companion watched Bernita make a sour face at the circling vultures, one of these days she'd have to work up the courage to look and see why she never entertained the notion of gryphon travel for more than the briefest of moments.
Bernita turned to her, smiling softly, "Don't worry. Just because that's not something I want you for, doesn't change that I want you." She stared briefly, realizing that didn't assuage Companion's nervousness. "What is it? ...Oh. I'll... take care of that."
Though the darkness came, it did so without the prior terror.
"Back so soon, toots? Couldn't get enough of yours truly, huh? Oh, I know how it is, I'm beautiful, there's no need to be shy."
She ignored him. Completely. It felt good.
"What the...? Can it be? Yes! Yes! At long last, free of this place! Yes!" He vanished with a pop.
Companion wondered what he might be about to be used for, but lacking that annoyance, she looked around. With Lamaar summoned forth, it was the only real opportunity she was going to have to meet 'Otto'.
She stood, looking around, and trying to get some sort of sense of direction. There was nothing to see. Nothing to get bearings on, nothing to guide by, and as she flailed her limbs, nothing to even touch.
She forced herself to calm down, to pretend that there was ground. In doing so, she found some under her feet, and began to walk. Eventually, she saw an outline beginning to form ahead of her, which slowly resolved into the seated form of the felguard she had helped her Mistress to capture. He did not seem particularly distressed or upset, and as she got closer, she was surprised to see him wearing most of a full suit of platemail armour, she didn't think felguards knew what it was even for. The real surprise was what he was doing. She didn't have the slightest idea where he would've gotten a book here, but he showed every sign of reading it. Even if he was holding it upside down. She decided she didn't really feel like interrupting, it's not like she had anything to say, so she instead moved over and sat next to him. Surprisingly, though it was nothing on her own contented blaze, he wasn't cold, though most of the heat seemed to come from his armour.
He looked up at her once, then nodded, and returned to his book. It wasn't all that bad, really. Kind of peaceful.
Pop. Otto disappeared. Well, so much for peace. "So... apparently, you ARE 'special.' " Lamaar sneered, "You make me sick! You're a traitor to our kind!" He kept going, but his streams of blithering invective, rather than cowing her into panicked worry, were merely irritating.
Wrench materialized behind him.
"What? Does the cognitive gas heap have something to add?" he intoned scathingly.
"Twist nuts.... offfffff."
Well, who was she to turn down a prime suggestion like that?
For Companion, Bernita's progress towards Auchinduin was measured in bursts of affection. Eager to avoid any repetition of the painful separation on the trek to the Temple of Telhamat, Bernita called her forth at every opportunity, frequently just for a brief walk together while the way was clear, but at least twice a day they shared a modicum of domesticity, when Bernita could find somewhere secure enough to hole up for a meal that she didn't need to have Otto standing guard.
But it was when they reached the military outpost south of the ruined city when the plan took a drastic change. Nobody else's plans survived Tuuron waiting for them to arrive.
"Hellos friend Bernita! How are this day finding you?"
"Too easily," she muttered.
"I am laughing at your strange human jokes. I am finding strangely you being here. I was of certaintude that you would wish to be on biggest boat, imagine my being shocking that you were not."
"What boat?" Bernita gaped, it was the trouble with Tuuron, his tendency to seem to be having not one, but three nonsensical conversations with the same person all at once.
"It is not until my being in Dalaran-"
"WHAT? But Dalaran was lost!"
"Really? Your map not have parts fall off for very long time. How you lose city? But once I are being in Dalaran, I hear about strange fire in Telhamat, and I think to myself, 'Aha, self! Clearly good friend Bernita is not reading of letter, for in addition to speaking many things of goodness and badness and new scourge plague and counter-campaigns in north, letter clearly states need to be safely disposed so that self-destruct will not be a causing of inconvenience!' So clearly the doing thing to be is-urk!"
He stopped suddenly. Bernita didn't actually have the hand strength to put his neck at risk, but he recognized the wisdom in not pointing this out.
"You are going to explain that again, very slowly, and carefully." Bernita supressed a shudder, "On the gryphon."
Companion was pensive as her Mistress led the way through Dalaran. The proxy discomfort she felt at the changes which had occurred was unpleasant, certainly, but were nothing on Bernita's clenching rage at finding that her childhood home had not just been within those parts of Dalaran that were lost to the abyss of the crater in Hillsbrad, but were just outside the new walls of the city. That among the slivers of land clinging to the edges of the flying island, one such corner was the remnants of an estate of which she was the heir. It had an outhouse on it.
Still, though the Hero's Welcome, like the other inns now operating within the centre of the city, showed signs of recently growing several stories to accommodate a drastic increase in demand, the room was a comfortable standby while decisions were made.
It looked like it was going to be a long war. And after the Wrathgate Incident, there were no shortages of people willing to at least listen to ideas when it came to propositions on... disassembling the problem. The results of her researches in the sunken temple sold well, leaving her with a comfortable bulwark of coin from which to make carefully considered plans.
Companion was highly nervous about how much of that careful consideration involved sidelong glances in her direction, followed by smiles and scribbles on a scroll which she was Absolutely Not Permitted to See. Evidently carefully considered plans were more about the present than about the future. And conspicuous packages that she had to help carry to a discreet doorway in the Artisan’s Quarter , marked simply with a small, but ludicrously ornate ‘M.’ Normally knocking on doors was something Bernita did in the emphatic, sound thwacks with her staff until either the door was opened or smashed. This door apparently merited a sequence of polite taps in specific locations. Repeatedly.
Eventually the door opened, revealing a squat, grey haired man in well-tailored finery that was only just beginning to show signs that it had lasted many years more than it had been intended to. “Well?” He asked without preamble, “Who are you?”
“Bernita Greymountain.” There was something odd in her voice, but Companion couldn’t place it.
“Greymountain, Greymountain. Old family, that one,” he mused. “Well, no harm in letting you in, I suppose,” he continued in the tones of one granting an immense favour.
“Thankyou.” Bernita let the man’s manner pass, beckoning Companion to follow, rarely necessary, but he made her nervous.
“So, what brings one of the many exiles sharing the distinction of being the last member of one of Dalaran’s families to bother me?”
“I wish to commission some work from you.”
“Hah. I’ll put you on the list, and you can come back in ten years. Good day.” He began to usher them back towards the door.
“If you might spare a moment to listen first, my family has known for many years that there is no finer leatherwork in Dalaran than what comes from the hands of M. Rabbit-“
His eyes hardened, “Flattery will get you nowhere, madam, no-“
She interrupted, “Or rubberwork. Or little-jiggly-things-with-featherswork.”
He paused, clearly thinking, “Well...” he hedged, “It doesn’t cost me anything to hear what you want to wear, at least that sort of work is interesting. I presume that scroll you’ve got is relevant?”
“It is, but I shan’t be wearing it. Though I’m sure I’ll be seeking your services again in the fullness of time.” She cautiously offered it, Companion wondered why, though suspected it of being related to why she’d made three copies which were back in their room at the inn.
“Hrm.” He unrolled it, and began to read, with no reaction save the occasional grunt or raised eyebrow. Eventually he finished, “Intriguing. And possibly even challenging. Though I see by the sum marked that you intend to make it quite profitable, too. Very well, I accept. Still, it will take quite a great deal of gold, and even still several weeks to procure the necessary items. To unify so many different materials, you are correct that it would be most difficult to find another who would attempt it.” His mouth twitched, “You have... complicated tastes.”
“It will require fifteen minutes.”
“Well, it took thirty to pack them. I took my best guess at how much would be needed, then doubled it to be sure. Consider the remainder a gratuity.”
He actually smiled, “It will require one of substantial skill to engage in the magical component of the construction. I presume by your design and behaviour you have no intention of delegating that role. I am interested, it has been a long time since a project was actually fun. When are you available that we can begin the work?”
Bernita grinned, giddier even than Companion had seen her that second morning in Telhamat. “I cannot possibly conceive of any more important task which might occupy the next sixteen hours.”
He laughed, “No, I suppose you could not. Oh, to be young again. Very well, what I was working on can wait, you shall have it. Though I expect you to be proposing something of similar interest should you attempt to abuse an old man so a second time.”
He led the way back to a well lit and only slightly musty workshop, carefully packing away the frame on which a set of armor was in progress of taking shape. Companion helped in the initial stages, as skeins of cloth and leather from all over Azeroth and Outland were inspected and stacked high. As bottles of precious dyes were carefully unwrapped, as small plates of metal in various shapes and coils of wire were noted and organized. And then she was settled off to one side, to wait.
And watch. As the enigmatic ‘M. Rabbit’ worked with knife and needle, with rivet and thread, while all throughout her Mistress invoked spell after spell upon the object of their attention without pause. She could not see what shapes were taking form as the materials dwindled; the corner in which she sat was devoid of chair, and left her looking up at the underside of the workbench, and anything her Mistress was going to such lengths to conceal she felt no urge to sneak through their bond. Time was difficult to measure other than by the pace of their work, alternating bursts of quick and slow, with the occasional briefest possible of interruptions to gulp some few mouthfuls of fluid. But no doubt it had been a considerable length, as what second-hand sunlight penetrated to the workshop was gone when at last the man lay down his tools, and Bernita let her hands fall.
“It wouldn’t hurt to stop here for a bit,” he said slowly. “A meal, at least, would be advisable, to make things a bit safer.”
Companion watched her Mistress’s face, her body almost forcing her to nod, the fatigue plain, but then she smiled grimly, forcing herself to take deep, measured breaths, “It would not hurt the work to pause, perhaps... but do you really think that I can?”
“No, child. I suppose not.” He raised his voice, nodding briefly towards her instead of Bernita, “Well, don’t just sit there, I do hope you’ve figured out by now who this is about.”
She stood slowly, after looking to her Mistress for a confirming nod, moving towards the table, on which she saw the beginnings of quite an ensemble. As she looked, her Mistress came up behind her, a slim knife making careful, but quick work of divesting her of her apparel. She tried not to flinch as it fell away, despite her surprise at finding herself suddenly naked before a total stranger. She was briefly amused at the surge of irrational nervousness, though pushed further off guard when the knife travelled upward, and severed a simple band.
She was freed! The gag had retained its portion of her prior bonds, and become intermingled with her pact with Bernita! Old emotions welled up, old hungers, old desires, things she had promised herself upon her freedom clashing with desires she had only felt after losing it. So long deprived, with the capacity of speech returned, she had no idea what to say, and was silent as Bernita guided her to lay on the table.
The exhaustion on Bernita’s face was obvious, the sheer weariness as she chanted, weaving spells around her in the air that did not yet actually touch. Right now, she could do it. The release of her bonding unfixed their pact, she could strike, and right now, she would win, Bernita would be in thrall to her, instead. And there would be nothing stopping her from taking the man’s soul, either.
And yet something stayed her hand. Something made her stay passive as heavy gauntlets closed about her hands and wrists. She waited as boots were sewn closed around her legs. Surely, surely the victory would be made all the sweeter by letting it wait, that their despair would be greater the more she let them exhaust themselves before she struck. The new corset took them considerable effort to close, as it was far tighter than its predecessor, and being stitched, rather than laced into place. She allowed them to lift her head, to snug the hood to her face, clutching at the base of her horns, the wide oval opening around her eyes biting into her cheeks. But though they contained her flesh, nothing touched her essence. She could still do it, nothing would stop her from leaping up from the table and taking them both.
And because, even as the spells coruscating in the air began to flow into her as the man began to etch markings into the gauntlets, as the doubtless complicated internal latching was erased as the metal fused itself into a single piece, she knew she could strike at any second, it could remain the next second when she would. As endless spools of spellthread wound their way about her legs, were woven around her stomach and chest, moment by moment by moment more and more energy pouring into her, filling her. Moment by moment she tarried, delayed the strike she knew she must eventually make as they made her stronger, let the knowledge that she could attack with any breath allow her to refrain from doing so.
She convinced herself it was alright to wait, even as their embroidery continued upward and covered her hood. There was always the next moment to turn on them, even as he handed the needle to Bernita, who then did something complicated at the nape of her neck. There was always the next moment, until the last stitch was pulled tight, and there wasn’t. What she wore now, she would wear forever. The warmth flooded into her, filled her to bursting, as the bond her heart did not want to sever was forged anew and deeper than ever before. Despite pushing well beyond the haggard brink of exhaustion, her Mistress flung herself upon her with a low cry, clutching, squeezing almost desperately, giggling with delirious delight. Neither of them moved as breath was caught, and her Mistress said words that Companion had last heard in a dream what seemed like lifetimes ago in Nagrand. Oddly enough, they were even in the same tone.
“And now, you are all mine.”