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Malesse (wowstead)

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re: 'Til Death Do You Part (continued)


((For my story, continuing on from where I left off in the March story competition)) ((edit: Disclaimer. This is a highly stylized version of what went down. Consider it to be Mal's telling of the events from her point of view, and therefore subject to creative differences of details, including but not limited to making it fucking awesome. If your character was there and he/she saw it different, you're encouraged to tell their side.)) ----------------------------------------------- Chapter Four: Lover's Quarrel It could be said that Malyssa has spent her entire existence fighting. In her youth, she'd been a brawler, a bandit, a brigand. She made a life for herself by taking the lives, and loot, of others. It was a brutal and bloody craft, and retirement was hardly a concern for those who practiced it. She lived the life of a cutthroat, and died the death of one; an end that she had always known would be coming. But that had not been the end. She was raised into undeath and began her never-ending campaign. First for a King, as one of the mindless hordes of the Scourge who reached into the heart of the elven lands and ripped it out. Then for herself, as a nameless mercenary who sold her sword and her loyalty to any willing to pay the price. Finally for a Queen, she took the oath of the Order and joined in the ranks of a true war machine. In the Dark Lady's service, Malyssa has spilt blood on battlefields across the breadth of this entire world. She has crossed swords with humans and orcs, faced masters of steel and of sorcery, and sent both the living and the dead to the grave. Every swing of her sword, every wound that scars her body, every battle that she has walked away from, every pain she has endured has made her into what she is today. She is a veteran, a survivor, a warrior in the truest sense of the word. And Lerossa had just knocked her on her ass as if she was as green as the cobblestone moss that had just broken her fall. Only by the narrowest of margins had her desperate roll backwards avoided the Executor's follow-up shield slam that had threatened to break her everything else. His bulwark pulverized the cobblestone pathway where she had lain only moments before, the spikes covering the shield proving more than adequate to pierce solid stone. Malyssa had no doubts that steel and flesh would yield just as easily. Not liking her chances of fighting the Executor to a standstill on her lonesome, the young warrior risks a momentary glance back towards the center of the ruined city, to where she had made her unlikely allies. The three held nothing in common save their cursed existence, and before tonight Malyssa would never have imagined fighting side by side, but desperate situations call for desperate measures and they had proven to be useful so far. They had helped her escape up to now, perhaps they could help once again. Unfortunately for her, their death knight adversaries were proving to be their match and more. Bordois yet stood as a barrier between the knights and Malyssa, surrounded by a brilliant golden bubble, an impenetrable shield against harm, and from her fingertips came orbs of pure holy fire that sought only to smite injustice. Across from her, the death knight Sulnar was conjuring up his own unholy magic, determined to beat the priestess at her own game. The Dark Ranger was shrouded in an incandescent purple dome that absorbed the Light as if the darkness fed upon it. A steady and unyielding stream of sickly green projectiles, coils of pure death itself, shot out from the elf's own hands to batter relentlessly at the priestess's defense. It was all Bordois could do to look to her own safety. Malyssa would see no aid from that quarter. The warlock Yelgrun was looking little better off. He faced the might of the hulking mass Taldarg, who now wielded two heavy battleaxes, his own and a second taken off the remains of Yelgrun's felguard minion who now lay cleaved in two in a puddle of its own felblood. The demonologist had taken the liberty of summoning a new pet, one more of a match known as an infernal, a demon made purely of stone and fire and hate, who stood easily three times the size of the death knight in height. Yelgrun perched upon the monstrosity's shoulder, a cackling figure outlined by the flashes of lightning from the storm above. He called waves of imps from the nether and flung them bodily at his enemy, who batted them away with his axes as he dodged the swings from the massive infernal. The warlock was holding his own for now, perhaps, but he would not be able to assist her either. She would be fighting alone, then. Not that she'd ever wanted to be fighting in the first place. Her thoughts were chaotic and scattered in confusion, still trying to piece together the events of the last hour in a dizzy haze. How had it come to this? What had gone so wrong, that her wish to save the Order had led to a duel against its very leader? Her leader. Her mentor, her Executor, a hero in her eyes. And now she had to fight him? Her swords wavered in her grasp at the thought. Could she? She turned her attention back to the Executor, a specter of death standing in silence in the pouring rain, who regarded her with a cold and steady gaze. There wasn't so much as a hint of doubt on that face. No glimpse of sorrow or trace of uncertainty. It was as if the thought of fighting her, slaying her, did not faze him in the slightest. A new thought rose, unbidden, overwhelming. Did she not matter? Was she nothing to him? Her answer was another slam of the Executor's shield, who wielded the royal purple aegis as if it were a gauntlet, punching forward with its impenetrable edge. To block such a force with her swords would be like trying to parry a falling anvil; not even her claymore's tempered steel could survive. Malyssa fell back once, twice, and again from his heavy blows, each barely dodged strike sending a shockwave of air through the falling rainwater that lashed at her like a soaking shadow of Lerossa's shield. She backpedaled instinctively, an unconscious sort of retreat that was cut off far too suddenly for her liking. A chill went down the warrior's spine as it found itself pressed up against an ashen gray wall, and her shivers had little to do with the heat-sapping coldness of the marble. She had only a moment to inhale briefly in surprise, the unneeded breath even more proof of her complete loss of control, before the Executor struck again. She leapt upwards, the shield's edge punching through the wall mere inches beneath her like a hot knife through butter. Lerossa watched with narrowed eyes as she clambered like a squirrel up the side of the decrepit two-story building, putting her old training as a thief to good use. The Executor snorted and yanked his shield free from the wall as Malyssa reached the roof of the building, then pulled his arm back and slammed his shield through the decaying support pillar of the old structure, punching bricks and stone free from their mortar and sending them hurling away. The entire building gave a grating groan, sliding forward as it lost its ability to support its own massive weight, and Malyssa flailed her arms wildly as the tiled roof began to shift like a writhing animal beneath her feet. With a crash of crumbling stone and a snap of broken timber, the ruin collapsed in upon itself with a great cloud of dust and debris, swallowing the warrior up in the destruction. As the dust settled, Lerossa surveyed the wreckage, noting traces of muddy-looking coagulated blood amongst the shattered structure with an approving eye. His guard still up and his shield at the ready, he took a wary look over his shoulder at the battle unfolding further within the city. Much as the building had just crumbled into pieces, so too had the warlock's infernal, falling victim to Taldarg's nigh ridiculous physical strength. In its place was a no less fearsome beast; an intimidating visage of oily purple and black corporeal shadows. It was a monster that was only vaguely human, with heavy cloven hooves and a powerfully built frame with arms better suited for a wild bear, topped off by spiraled horns that ended with razor-sharp curved tips. It was the horns that dawned the realization of the demon's identity, the very same that decorated the otherwise bald head of the warlock Yelgrun. The transformed demonologist floated in the air, held aloft by two leathery bat wings, and flung meteors of fel-fire at the death knights while swiping at the dreadguards with meaty fists full of jagged claws. For their part, Taldarg and Sulnar were charging into battle in a pincher movement, the latter of the two carrying a struggling and screaming Bordois slung over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, who punched and kicked in futility against the larger elf's armor. This battle was all but won. Lerossa turned back to the crumbled ruin of the building. It was only the very most outer chamber of the structure that he had destroyed, an entrance or waiting room for some larger complex. Perhaps a barracks of some sort. Now that the choking cloud had dissipated, he could see a narrow hallway that seemed to quickly widen into the building proper. Climbing carefully over the piled stone of what was once a roof, the Executor reached the edge of the building and squinted into the darkness, but the shadows were all consuming. It was only a flash of lightning that revealed more blackened traces of forsaken blood leading deeper within, a trail of breadcrumbs for him to follow. His jaw set in determination, Lerossa walked through the sheets of water falling from the arched rooftops above and into the unlit and echoing emptiness of the forgotten structure. Rain dripped from his soaked uniform, mixing with the blood trail on the floor that vanished several strides into the building. The Executor waited long moments for his sight to adjust to the ambient light, or lack thereof, but even his keen glowing amber eyes would help him little here. Lerossa paused, head tilted, listening more than seeing for his prey. Inside the building, the only sound besides his footsteps creaking on the warped wooden floorboards was the dimly muted patter of rain overhead, occasionally broken by the sharp clap of thunder. The narrow corridor gave way to a sprawling, circular chamber lined with columns of carved stone rising up several stories into the hidden reaches of the rafters. Two rows of pews stretched out across the dusty floor towards a raised dais on the far side, though several of the benches were little more than piles of firewood after all the years they had sat empty and forgotten. Upon the platform was a simple wooden table with a rather dull silver statue resting at its center, a cheap bauble for a pitiful shrine. Light trickled in from a long, thin window of multi-hued stained glass behind the platform, just barely enough to cast flickering shadows across the length of the hall. A quaint little cathedral, a minor and forgotten house to a minor and forgotten power. There were no true Light worshippers anymore. Not amongst his kind. But it was a fitting place for a conflict, if one was to be had. It was also a fitting place for a confession. “Deathguard!” Lerossa called to the stale, dead air, his raised voice echoing within the hallowed dome above. A skittering whisper of falling dust disturbed from its resting place amongst the rafters was his only answer. The Executor tried once more, watching the wooden beams above as grotesque limestone gargoyles glared back with malice. “It’s over. It’s time to end this!” “It’s not over!” Came a defiant shout from above and to his right, and Lerossa whirled to face the sound. “It’s not over!” An angry hiss echoed from directly behind the Executor, whose silver sword lashed out and cleaved nothing but air. “It’s not over!” A sorrowful cry whimpered from his left, as his shield arm raised reflexively to defend. Lerossa backed up cautiously to the center of the cathedral, his guard never wavering as he scanned the skies. “Surrender, D’Magnus! You’ve turned against the Order, but you can still make things right. It’s not too late!” “Against?!” “Against?!” “Against?!” A myriad of voices answered him, fury evident in their tone. A shadow in the corner of his eye moved and he whipped his head to follow, but there was nothing to see but the wind. “I’m trying to save it!” “ it!” “!” “By betraying this brotherhood, Deathguard?” Lerossa spat on the dusty ground. “I hadn‘t thought you such a fool.” “You’re the fool!” “...fool!” “...fool!” The words sounded as if they were coming from just behind his shoulder. He sliced out with his sword, but again caught nothing and snarled at the rafters. The bitch was like a ghost. “The betrayer!” “...betrayer!” “...betrayer!” The voices continued, coming from everywhere at once, growing louder and more venomous. “You chose her!” “Her!” “HER!” “And in doing so, betrayed what?!” Lerossa shouted back. “Betrayed my people because she’s not one of us?! Because she’s not Forsaken?!” “Was it a betrayal because it goes against the Queen?!“ The shadows did not answer, their muted silence filled with an almost tangible rage, but the Executor’s wrath was no less consuming. “We have one goal! One purpose! The Queen‘s purpose!” Lerossa slammed his bulwark into the altar on the raised dais in frustration, which splintered beneath his fury. “And it is not to rid this world of the living. That is only a means to an end. Our goal is to build a place in this world for us... For the Forsaken!” The silence that followed stretched on for a long minute, and Lerossa clenched his teeth at the possibility that perhaps his quarry had already fled. He assured himself that escape was impossible. By now, the death knights were probably already taking up positions at the entrance. It was only a matter of time before- “...can’t serve.” “...serve.” Malyssa spoke up quite suddenly in a subdued murmur, all of the emotion from before drained from her voice. It was a good sign, though she still stubbornly remained out of sight. “She’s still a weakness.” “...weakness.” This was it. He could finally convince her to give up this nonsense, to turn herself in with no more fighting. She had been a fine warrior. One of his best. Perhaps she could still be salvaged. Lerossa drew himself up to his full height and spoke with confidence. “That is where you are the most mistaken, Deathguard. She is not my weakness. She is my strength. If you had someone you loved, you might underst-” Malyssa dropped from the rafters to the ground directly in front of Lerossa with a heavy crash. It seems he had reached her, after all. He opened his mouth to speak, but froze as she lifted her lowered head and gazed at him with eyes full of hatred. Full of vengeance. Full of malice. It was most assuredly not the expression of one preparing to give herself up. The Executor had but a fraction of a second to raise his shield before she swung her claymore with an animalistic shriek. He caught the blow squarely on his bulwark, but widened his eyes as the pure strength in that arm knocked him into the air as if he’d deflected a cannonball. He hurtled backwards, shattering the stained glass window behind him as he sailed through the air. Time slowed to a crawl, and his eyes caught a glance of the deathguard leaping after him with swords at the ready, her silhouette in his eyes fractured by the falling shards of colored glass. Lerossa landed on a winding brick pathway, the fall knocking useless air from withered lungs, and he brought his shield to bear above him as Malyssa lunged after with a snarl. As she fell towards the Executor, she pulled her claymore back and hurled it down like the fist of an angry god. The steel bolt of lightning struck the bulwark dead center, piercing its impenetrable shell like tissue paper and burying itself a good foot into the brick pathway a hairsbreadth from Lerossa’s increasingly ill-at-ease face. He rolled to the side and away from his now worthless shield, coming to his feet and assuming a duelist’s stance with his silver sword just as Malyssa hit the ground like an oncoming avalanche. “Everything!” She screamed, her voice hoarse and broken, swinging wildly with her one remaining broadsword like a whirlwind of deadly steel. Lerossa parried frantically, though each blow rang through his arms as if it might shatter the bone. Sparks flashed as the blades met, and she screeched once more in a tortured tone. “I gave up EVERYTHING!” The Executor fought with a precision not found in even the greatest of artisans, with the least amount of movement in the most efficient manner, with the perfection born of lifetimes of hard training atop pure innate skill. It was not nearly enough to blunt the fury of the storm. Each slash came closer to flaying skin, each strike to piercing flesh. There was no grace in her swings, but there was no need for it. Malyssa raised her broadsword once more and struck with all of her blood thirst, all of her rage, a cleave that contained her soul upon its polished edge. It rang as it impacted against Lerossa‘s longsword, a sound as clear as a bell toll, and then cut it cleanly in two a good half a foot from the hilt and continued its arc. It was only a desperate lunge to the side that kept the Executor in a single piece, and he landed with a splash in a puddle on the ground, a break in his armor down the length of his arm slowly coloring the water a murky red. Lerossa lay on his stomach in the mud, propped up by his good arm, broken sword still firmly locked in his grip. He struggled to get to his feet and turned to face the maddened deathguard once again. Malyssa looked as if she was in greater pain than he, with her teeth clenched and her brow and eyes furrowed in anguish. More than rainwater seemed to be spilling down her cheeks as she swung her sword through empty air a few times and lifted the blade above her head. She stared at Lerossa, then to the hilt in her hand, then back to the Executor, and spoke with a whisper above the storm. “ should have been m-” “Get over here!” An ethereal hand of dark energy wrapped itself around Malyssa’s body, yanking her violently off her feet and away from the Executor, her sword flying from her grasp to sink into the muck at his feet. She flew towards the necromatic origin; the death knights, Taldarg and Sulnar, whose runeblades were glowing like searchlights in the heavy rain. Taldarg extended one bulging bicep and delivered a bone-crunching clothesline to the captive warrior at her full velocity, who somersaulted midair from the blow and went down doubled over. Never one to take a hint, Malyssa used her low crouch to launch herself towards the brute, driving her clenched fist into his meaty nose and feeling cartilage give way to worn knuckles. Knight fell and warrior followed, the two traded blows with no more thought than a common barroom brawl. The Dark Ranger tried to pull Malyssa off her target, tried to drag her to her feet, but a subtle shift in weight and a yank at just the right moment sent the elf sprawling ungainly into the mud as well. She fought like a rabid dog, punching, kicking, biting, scratching, but she was outnumbered and outmatched, and her last conscious thought was struggling, writhing in mud and blood, with her arms held firm behind her as she was driven to her knees, screaming incomprehensibly as a plated fist delivered the final blow. The Executor’s fist. The Boss’s. Lerossa’s. Lerossa. Lero... ------------------------------------------ Lerossa flexed his fingers slowly, shaking his hand from the impact as he stared down at the mercifully still form on the ground, the one whom the death knights had yet to let go. Just in case. He didn’t blame them for their caution. She’d fought like one possessed. Perhaps she was. It would be a convenient excuse for this unexplained madness. The rain overhead began to let up, its drenching downpour slowing to a trickle. Another small mercy. “Deathguards,” Lerossa spoke, addressing the two crouching death knights. Sulnar spit out a tooth and gave the best salute he could manage without releasing his grip on the warrior’s arm. Taldarg merely grunted and wrinkled his bent nose. It had been the order to take her alive that was the source of all the difficulty. Had they been given leave to execute her, perhaps the battle would not have been quite so taxing. The Executor spoke again. “Report.” Sulnar spoke, the gap in his pristine and perfectly straight teeth painfully noticeable with each word. “Sir. We’ve captured the priestess accomplice. As for the warlock, he fled through a portal like a coward.” The Executor sighed inwardly, though let no outer trace show. Yelgrun would come back to haunt him, he was sure. Lerossa gestured to Sulnar, who reluctantly let go of his grasp on Malyssa’s arm and stood at attention. “Release the priestess,” he said, trying to keep any indication of his weariness at bay, “she is no longer a threat.” “Yessir,” the Dark Ranger responded somewhat discontentedly and walked back into the ruins. Lerossa turned to Taldarg and nudged the fallen warrior with his boot. “Take her to the cells in the Apothecarium. We must get the location of her sister from her. Leave her unharmed, but make certain she stays contained until I join you.” Lerossa commanded, then muttered as an afterthought. “And keep her under constant surveillance. I don‘t trust her to stay put without motivation.” “Whatever you say,“ Taldarg snorted with his raspy, echoing voice and began to drag the unconscious warrior behind him like a rag doll as he trudged towards the city proper. The hulking mass passed by Bordois and Sulnar without the slightest acknowledgement, the former being pushed along like a prisoner by the latter, and the priestess choked back a gasp as she saw Malyssa’s battered body. Bordois broke free from Sulnar’s grasp, staring in defiant anger at the death knight, and stomped over to the Executor as if holding back tears. Lerossa opened his mouth to speak. Bordois drew her hand back and slapped it shut. “She was one of us,“ the priestess said with a pained expression. “You hurt one of our own.” “She forced my ha-” Lerossa said, his tone flat and unapologetic. All business. Bordois cut him off with a single whisper. “I will never... forgive you.” She forced the words out and then turned around with finality, walking away without a second glance. Lerossa watched her go, his jaw grimly set in a scowl. Sulnar looked uneasily between the Executor and the departing priestess, standing in awkward silence with a helpless frown. At long last, he spoke, addressing the stony leader of the Order. “Sir,” He spoke hesitantly, as if unwilling to approach the subject but unable to leave it well enough alone. “I wanted to speak to you. About D’Magnus’s concerns.” “Not now, Deathguard.” Lerossa shut him down firmly, turning about and walking away. Sulnar called out after him. “But, sir. Though I disagree with her methods, I think she did-” “I said... not now.” Lerossa paused mid-step as he answered, his voice dangerously low. Sulnar stood in silence for a moment, then nodded and stalked out into the ruins, leaving the Executor to his thoughts. They were less than kind ones. As if reading his mind, and being delighted by what he found, a cackle echoed from a rooftop just behind and above the Executor. Lerossa didn’t even bother to turn around, but spoke out just loudly enough for the figure to hear. “What do you want, demonologist?” “Oh, nothing!” Yelgrun’s grin split his face in two. He perched upon the edge of the weathered roof corner and dangled his legs off the edge. “Perhaps I’ve come to finish you off. Perhaps I’ve come to warn you. Or perhaps I’ve come merely to gloat at your monumental failure.” The warlock hopped to his feet, teetering along the stone gutter. In his hand, he tore the petals off of a dandelion with delight. “And what a failure! Your most faithful and loyal dog has gone rabid, another has chewed through its leash and run away. A third pup now doubts, and wonders just what kind of alpha dog he‘s been fooled into following.” A flash of green fire and the only sign of the warlock left on the rooftop was a charred mark on the stone and the ashes of a flower. From a glowing, etched sigil on the cobblestone, just out of Lerossa’s range enough to be comfortable, climbed Yelgrun, looking all the while as if he was climbing straight out of the bowels of hell. Never for a moment did he stop speaking. “It’s aaaaaall coming crashing down. Isn’t it, Executor? Your precious Order. This... this decrepit thing. This husk, this shell. Being torn apart from the inside out.” Another cackle. Lerossa answered only with a steady stare, which oddly seemed to shut the warlock up mid-laugh, who performed an alarmingly sudden personally shift and shouted threateningly. “Your time is ending, Executor! Mark my words... the day is coming soon. The day that marks the death of the undying!” Flames engulfed the demonic figure of the warlock, whose final, exultant words clung to the air long after he had vanished into the nether. “The end of the Order of the Forsaken!” Lerossa stood alone amongst the rubble of Lordaeron. The angry clouds from hours past had spent their fury and vanished like ghosts. The sky had begun to brighten, momentarily frozen in a deep blue that just barely revealed the twinkle of fading stars. The horizon was a burnt magenta that spread from one corner of the earth to the other, signaling the coming dawn. In a quiet voice, words meant only for himself, the Executor of the Order muttered into the wind. “Over my dead body.”

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