Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Reflection of Torment

“Here you are, Neg. Nice and comfy.”

Ranrele lifted the cloth door to the small tent adjacent to their grandmother’s hut, stepping aside to allow her older sister to enter first. Neg ducked into the disused room, which smelled strongly of dried herbs. Their grandmother evidently used this tent as a drying chamber; and sure enough, hanging from the ceiling and walls were bushels of dreamfoil, gromsblood, and other gathered plants. Tinea flew from her accustomed traveling position of Neg’s back to the rafters of the tent, quite pleased to find such a ready source of preserved food. Neg clicked her tongue warningly.

“Oh, I’m sure Grandmother wouldn’t mind if your moth nibbled on some of her stores,” said Neg’s sister, as she entered behind her. “Though, I suggest she stay away from the silversage. Grandmother said it was scarce this year.”

Amicably, the giant moth fluttered over to a large bundle of sungrass and began munching.

Negathle dropped her bag next to the hammock bed, a bit of colored cloth catching her eye. Someone had folded a dark green dress and laid it on the hammock, obviously in encouragement. She picked it up, letting it unfold to its full length. Behind her, Ranrele shifted her hoofs guiltily. Neg cast a reproachful look towards her sister.

“I just thought-”

“No.”

“Oh, come off your high kodo, Neg. It’s the Lunar Festival! Everyone dresses up for the feast! Why are you here if you didn’t intend to celebrate?”

“I’m here because you asked me to come, little sister. Nothing more.”

“Do this for me,” Ranrele pleaded, her tone of voice changing instantly and her eyes wide as she besought her eldest sister, approaching her with open arms. The druid’s chipper mood had disappeared quickly in the light of this early confrontation. “Can we be a family just this once? I’m so tired of being the only sister to accompany Grandmother to the Elder’s Feast, when everyone knows there should be three!”

Neg ignored the stab of guilt in her heart. She didn’t think everyone knew there should be three sisters of the Highmountain clan accompanying their matriarch to the celebratory feast of the tauren elders. For that matter, she sincerely doubted the majority of the populous of Thunder Bluff still knew members of the Highmountain clan still breathed. After all, her parents did disown their clan status when she and her sister were still children, leaving their paternal grandmother the sole living bearer of the name in the tauren city. All other members were either long dead or distantly scattered.

“Who knows,” said her sister, warmly, leaning in as if to tell her a secret, “there might even be a cute guy there.”

A disgusted grunt was Neg’s only reply as she gazed at the dress, her mind still on family.

Ranrele sighed, having depleted her arsenal of arguments to convince her sister to wear the attire. The young druid, though exceedingly intelligent, was never clever at dealing with people, and this time Negathle did not regret that aspect of her sister’s character. She disliked being tricked into some social function, probably more than she disliked the social functions themselves.

“The banquet begins at dusk. I hope to see you there,” the young tauren said sulkily, turning around and leaving the tent. Neg didn’t watch her go; she still glared down at the dress as if it were accusing her of further insubordination. She tossed the dress back onto the hammock, and looked up at the moth that was munching contentedly at a blade of sungrass. Tinea seemed interested in the feast her sister mentioned, though Neg sensed her pet’s curiosity was motivated mainly by her stomach. The hunter scowled at the lack of aid in her decision making. The giant moth waved her antennae, unconcerned with her master’s disapproval.

Come off it, her sister had said, and Neg’s scowl deepened at the thought. Ranrele thought her arrogant for wearing her battle-scarred mail and leathers; an accusation that wouldn’t be further from the truth. The gear was what she knew – anything else wouldn’t be practical. It’s not like she would be decked fully in the magic-infused armor she salvaged from the dungeons of Naxxramas, prepared for battle against the armies of Scourge... just the basic clothing she was comfortable in! A vision of herself, armored in her best, passed through her mind, her head arrogantly aloft as she escorted her grandmother to Elder Rise. No, she couldn’t have that, even if it was completely unintentional. Automatically, she began unlatching the mail spaulders covering her shoulders.

The heavy mail gone from her torso, the hunter wiggled out of her chain tunic, carefully draping it over her bag once she freed herself from its confines. She looked down at herself, feeling silly in just her thin leather undershirt. She quickly removed the glowing gems from around her neck and fingers, and, as she did so, her eye caught the two trinkets that hung from her belt, their presence typically forgotten.

One was an ornate slip of parchment, carefully framed and protected as it dangled from a mithril chain. However, Greatness betrayed its simplicity, as the trinket still remained one of the most powerful tokens accessible to her. Neg unlatched it from her belt and carefully folded it under her tunic.

She looked down at the remaining trinket, holding it in her hand. It was just a small pane of glass, magically infused to be unbreakable and grant its bearer precision in attacks. It was a common thing, sold to soldiers, mercenaries, and adventurers in Dalaran for whatever proof their provided of their experience in Naxxramas, but why so many were willing to subjugate themselves to the trinket’s power, she did not know.

Unlatching the silver chain from her belt, she brought the glass up to eye level. At the moment, with no magic of strife in the air, no excitement of battle coursing through her being, the trinket merely revealed a brown-haired female tauren whose eyes, if not face, betrayed the long absence of youth. Neg stared past herself, unsurprised at the hardened woman she had become, into the depths of the mirror, where she guiltily willed herself to see what the trinket inevitably provided its bearer. Perhaps she’d meet an attractive man at the festival, Ranrele had encouraged, but Neg knew the only man she wanted could only ever be seen in the mirror; his face, and his fall, haunted her mind every battle.


Neg held back her last shot, the faint blue glow of the scorpid poison permeating the air around her slotted arrow. Her eyes narrowed as the giant pit lord gave a great lurch forward, as if he were losing his balance, then fall backwards with an earth-shaking crash. Silence rang in the air like some inverse aftershock. Was the demon dead?

A red windserpent snaked through the air towards her. Aeris was typically very acute at recognizing whether or not her quarry had perished, but Neg did not drop her guard as she held out her left arm for the windserpent to coil around. She stood still and alert; the Sunwell Plateau had many hidden and unexpected dangers.

“He is dead” grunted an orcish voice from below her, and the raiders visibly relaxed. Many began shuffling around; the military convey looked for their brethren, and the hodgepodge of mercenaries and lore-seekers tended to the damages they had sustained in the battle against Brutallus.

Neg looked through the mass of bodies towards the corpse of the demon, searching for a face she knew. Wrey Blackhoof caught her eye and offered her a boyish grin. She smiled back, and the expression, so alien to her experience-hardened face, made her look beautiful and youthful. The sounds of the wound-tending and armor repair were drowned out by the sight of his face, and for a fleeting moment, Neg recognized happiness.

Suddenly, the world exploded in green light. The giant body of the pit lord was enveloped in emerald flames. Everyone around her froze in mid-act and stared, transfixed, at the defeated demon. Neg couldn’t believe her eyes.

Wrey!” she screamed.

Another blast of felfire hurtled in their direction, and the group dove for cover. Her instincts overrode her emotions, and she fell to the ground, the white fire hurtling overhead. Aeris uncoiled from her arm to prevent being crushed.

A great, skeletal dragon pumped her tattered wings and lifted above the scarred ground to hover over them.

“Glory to KilJaeden!” she trumpeted above and soared across the rampart, no longer interested in the invading squadron.

Negathle looked up at the transformed Madrigosa, confirming that the newly created fel dragon’s attention was not on them, before allowing her emotions to come rushing back full force. No, it just couldn’t be, she told herself as she pushed herself up, the mail armor heavy on her back. She dropped her halberd and bow, the weight of her weapons overwhelming her, and she struggled to sit upright. Her heart pumped furiously in her chest as she forced herself to look over where she saw him last.

Warriors and healers surrounded the corpse of the pit lord, its form looming across the clearing, the demonic blood seeping into the ground. No doubt it was that tainted brew that corrupted the blue dragon, burning away her flesh, securing her soul from the astral plane and twisting it into the creature that soared above them. His evil permeated the world, and now Neg’s heart, even in death.

“Hunter...” A Forsaken priest approached her, his empty eyes willing her to accept the inevitable.

“No.”

“What powers of the Light I wield could not harness him-”

“To the Nether with your Light!”

She was up now, enraged at their acceptance of his fate. She pushed passed the priest to see Wrey’s body, but a druid stepped in her path. He placed his hands on her arms, squeezing as she struggled to free herself.

“Neg, don’t,” he said.

“Let me pass!” she roared at him. She looked around his massive form, anxiety building as she saw a group of warriors were kneeling around the spot where she saw Wrey only five minutes earlier. “I will not accept this!”

“The Earth Mother has taken him. He is gone.”

“NO!”

“You must accept Her will, Neg.”

The orcs and trolls surrounding their fallen comrade lifted his body, now freed of armor and shroud in the red cloth of glory. Neg could make out his profile from beneath the sheet.

She threw off the comforting hands of the druid and turned her back on the convoy, never to enter the Sunwell Plateau again.


The emerald eyes in the mirror were completely unlike the smiling blue gaze she wanted so badly to see. Neg knew she invariably would, as every time her bullet found its target, the trinket would produce the images of her heartbreak. And each time, the anger built over years of anguish would well up inside of her, causing her strikes to be even more savage than before; such was the power of the mirror.

Wordlessly, she folded the mirror under her tunic, and continued to dress for the Lunar Festival.

5 comments:

mazil said...

Wow, I really really enjoyed reading that :)

Kheldul said...

Okay, I usually don't like wow character fiction, but that was pretty fine stuff.

Torgall said...

Literally, wow! I don't know what else to say. I love this insight on the ever popular Mirror of Truth. It was a character all itself in this story. Loved it!

Negathle said...

Aww, shucks guys :)

windpaw said...

that was *smoking* I really, really enjoyed it!