Chapter 11. Wavering loyalty…
Night deepened as the ship cautiously sailed around the smoldering ruin of Teldrassil “Easy… easy” said Captain Grash to the helmsman. “Night elf ships still roam this area. Lookouts!? Keep em peeled and sing out if you see any ships. First mate, tell the crew to prepare to hoist sail as if their lives depend on it. They most likely will.”
Looking up he glanced at the shrouded moon. “Luck is with us. For now.” In their cabin Puny studied the amulet carefully and Twill sat impatiently looking at her. “Any idea yet or it it just another bauble?” asked Twill. Puny looked up and pursed her lips. “Here. What do you think?” and threw it over. Twill turned it round and finally put it around her neck. “Nothing. It’s just an amulet. That devoted gave it to us for some reason, I know the Mistress said to give to to Nefyra.”
Puny nodded. “Yes. I imagine it’s purpose will awaken when she puts it on. If she ever does. Her loyalty to The Horde is strong.” Puny put the amulet in her pocket and then turned to look at Twill who was now sitting at the table poring over a map. “What of your mission?”
“That is what concerns me” said Twill, all sense of mischief now gone. “The Mistress has given us orders. I would not wish to find out what happens if we fail.”
“Nor I” said Puny looking out the window. “Look. Teldrassil. Remember that day?”
“Hardly” said Twill. “My mind is not what it was once. Moments of fleeting lucidity, like this moment, are becoming more and more uncommon. I feel the Mistress’ dark thoughts in my thoughts, invading them, destroying them. Every waking moment is more and more of a burden.” she sighed. “Am I going insane? Or is this part of my gifts.”
“To lose your reason? I would say not, unless it of course gives you power. I will not lie Twill. When you slip into your blackness of mind, you scare me. I see and hear you do things that would have repulsed you before.” said Puny now coming up behind her and putting a hand on her shoulder. “Have you ever thought of… Thought…” her voice trailing
“Of what” said Twill turning. “Thought of doing what?”
“Telling people what we have become. Maybe they will be merciful and grant us a quick death.” said Puny as she sat down with sigh. “This existence. She has taken all from us, and given us a curse. This is no existence. But what can we do.”
Twill looked out the window as Teldrassil faded from view. “You waver. I have accepted what has become of me, my fate. My damnation. My devotion is true.” Suddenly reaching for her weapon she drew an arrow quicker than Puny had ever seen and notched it, spinning around and aiming directly at Puny. “Do not falter Punicilla. It will not end well for you. Remember. She sees all. And remembers all.”
Puny stood up and pressed her chest against the arrow. “Do it. Release me from this burden. I still hear the voices. I should like to return to the Light. Kill me.” She pressed harder. “Kill me!” she yelled. But Twill lowered her bow. “No. That is not for me to decide. Souldefiler will decide what fate lies in store for you.”
Puny sat down again and stared at the ground. Twill looked and saw a tear drop. “You weep? Why? I have embraced this gift, though it will be my eternal curse. As has Bors, Gia and Senna. Are you proposing to abandon them? Me? To her not so tender mercies? If you waver, she will hunt you down. Have us hunt you down. And she will show you no mercy of undeath this time.”
Puny looked up with wet eyes. “I know.” Her voice hardened. “I know. I still hear the voices, they scream and beg for release, for revenge on the one who killed them. But I hear a new voice. Different from the others. But it rings clear it calls me traitor. It calls me a killer. It calls me everything I once fought against. And every time I hear this voice, a new voice joins. And one day, the voices of my dead comrades, will be overtaken by the voices of my dead enemies who now cry for vengeance upon me as well as the one who slew them” Gritting her teeth she now spat out words at Twill. “You think you are going mad? I AM mad. I have not felt such madness since the Old Gods. I find myself wondering, has our Mistress made a dark bargain with them, only to betray them at the very end and take their power? Ask yourself Twill. Why is Souldefiler different from her other Death Knight kin. What sets her out from the rest?”
But Twill never had time to answer as a Death Gate burst open and Souldefiler walked through.
“My power Puny? It comes from you. It comes from you also” she said turning to Twill. “My power comes from all living creatures on this world” she hissed, reaching for her weapons. “Do I need to show you what happens to the Devoted if they lose sight?” Kneeling Puny and Twill said nothing.
Souldefiler stood silent. “Answer me” Both still remained silent.
“Good.” Souldefiler then sat in a chair and motioned for them to rise. “Did you recognize the Devoted I sent with the amulet?”
“No Mistress” both replied.
“The Farstrider Ranger on this ship was once her Captain. He knows her as D’ee. She is now my Devoted. And she will be watching your progress. D’eea, come!” said Souldefiler and a shrouded figure strode through.
“D’eea. Introduce yourself.” said Souldefiler. D’eea removed her hood and revealed her face. Twill and Puny recoiled. “You do not like what you see?” said Souldefiler. “Why is that so?” as D’eea pulled her hood over her face again.
“Mistress… I…” began Puny. “I…”
Souldefiler raised an eyebrow as D’eea took her place behind her with crossed arms.
“Mistress I faltered. I questioned myself.” She fell to her knees. “I accept my fate.” Twill stood still, an icy chill running down her spine. Souldefiler said nothing. Puny looked up and began to form words which quickly died on her lips when D’eea in remarkable speed flipped over her, grabbed a handful of hair with one hand and held a black dagger to her throat with the other.
“Your honesty is appreciated. And thus rewarded.”
She nodded to D’eea who swiftly slit her throat. Still holding Puny’s hair she looked up to Souldefiler, who calmly gazed as Puny’s blood soaked into the wooden floor. She then looked at Twill and Twill stood still as a rock.
“You?” asked Souldefiler.
“Mistress?” whispered Twill as D’eea released her grip and Puny fell to the floor.
“You have any words I should hear?” she asked softly yet nothing if not brimming with malice. Twill fell to a knee as D’eea made her way behind her and again crossed her arms. “I remain Devoted Mistress.”
Souldefiler said nothing but motioned to D’eea to return. “I hoped so. Now. Puny will be punished in time.”
Twill looked puzzled and stammered a reply “In time? but she… I mean… Mistress. I do not understand” Souldefiler stood and walked over to the still bleeding corpse. “I do not throw away assets.” Chanting a spell the blood seemed to flow back into the corpse, it’s color returned and Puny coughed as the curse of undeath was returned to her.
Standing she looked around quickly, saw her Mistress and quickly fell to a knee. “My Mistress” she said, as her hand came to the still gaping wound of her throat, yet no blood spilled forth. “You have been tested and found wanting Punicilla. You shall be punished, but for now you have an errand to carry out. On your way to Feralas request the captain that he stops for supplies on the coast of Desolace. There you will take onboard a passenger.”
“A passenger?” said Twill. “Who?”
Her glance fell as Souldefiler looked at her sharply. “You will be picking up an Orc sharpshooter named Ghrah. Only you will know who Ghrah’s true identity is.” May we ask who?" said Puny still feeling the open wound of her throat.
“I would have thought it was obvious” replied Souldefiler “Does your throat trouble you?” Puny bowed. “Mistress. I humbly request healing.” Souldefiler smiled “I like it. It suits you.” Releasing her unholy hold on Puny’s wound slightly, Puny again felt the blood began to run free again and tried to stem the flow while gasping. Twill looked at the blood falling and softly said “Mistress, it would serve no purpose to have Punicilla walk around with a wound it would be hard to disguise.” Souldefiler said nothing but narrowed her eyes slightly. Out of nowhere crawling maggots and other insects formed around Puny’s neck, feasting on the blood as it squeezed between her fingers. “Mistress please!” said Twill louder.
Souldefiler leaned back in her chair and Puny’s wound closed while the pestilence faded. Puny, still gasping rose to her feet. “I am sorry my Mistress. It shall not happen again” she said
“It had better not” said Souldefiler. “Next time I will not toy with you, I shall simply obliterate you where you stand.” Rising to her feet she opened a Death Gate. D’eea walked through and Souldefiler turned to her two Devoted before following. “Desolace. In the morning.” and walked through before the Death gate snapped closed behind her.
Puny and Twill exchanged glances. Sighing Puny sat down. “Now I understand Twill. If we are not Devoted, doom awaits us.” Twill said nothing and looked out the window at the coming dawn. “Devotion has it’s rewards of life. Defiance only brings death. We will scour this land, and bring all to Devotion. And Death to all others.”
Puny smiled and rose to face her. “Devotion…”
Chapter 12. A brief stop.
Leaving their cabin Puny and Twill made their way to the upper deck where Grash was studying the horizon. Noticing them from the corner of his eye he grunted in greeting “We are passing Azuremyst isle. We should be well on the way to Feralas by mid day. If we have no delays we will reach our destination in mid afternoon.” Puny stood stiffly and said “Captain I request a stop in Desolace for supplies.
We need food especially for our two Rangers in the field.” Grash put down his spyglass and looked at Twill. “At the rate this one eats we would need to stop for two weeks of supplies. No. I have my orders from the Farstrider. He said no stops until we reach Feralas.” “The Farstrider is not here” said Twill. “We are. And we hereby order you to stop for supplies.” Grash laughed softly and returned to scanning the horizon.
“Are you denying our request?” said Puny. The orc continued to scan the horizon “Your pretty little head isn’t full of straw after all”. Twill said nothing and strode to the other end of the ship. Puny made her way to the other side of the captain who was still focused on the horizon. “Are you certain you will not dock?” The captain sighed loudly. “For the last time, No I will not. You do not command this vessel. I do!” he said angrily. “Bo’sun!” he yelled and the bo’sun ran over. “Cap’n?” he asked. “Bo’sun if any of these two try to make this ship dock inform our other two passengers that they have attempted to steal this ship via mutiny and have been dealt with accordingly. Do you understand.?” The bo’sun faltered and looked at Puny who was simply standing looking amused. “Bo’sun do you understand? This is an order.”
The bo’sun still said nothing. “Bo’sun are you trying to be clever?” he said as he shut his spyglass and turned to the bo’sun. “Bo’sun?” he said, as he noticed for the first time the bo’sun appeared to be staring into space. “Bosun answer me n…” and he fell dead with an arrow protruding through his chest. Twill leaped down onto the deck and retrieved her arrow. “Can’t have that lying around”
She then looked at the bo’sun. “so what do we do with him?” Puny chuckled and said to Twill
“He’s our new captain. What a shame our previous captain caught his feet in the rigging and fell into the sea, and we were too far before anyone noticed.” Releasing the bo’sun she then took hold of his head and muttered something inaudible. The bo’sun’s eyes glassed over and he bowed. “My devotion to duty is to uphold your requests!” he said.
“Good. My first order is to lose some baggage that slows our progress. namely our tragic captain. And a good deal of supplies” The bo’sun called for two sailors who picked up the dead Captain and threw him overboard followed by most of the fresh water barrels and food. “It seems our mistress has been busy with the crew” said Twill, as she watched the captain’s body go under the waves.
As his body plunged into the waves the two Horde captains were awoken. “What was that noise?” said Nefyra. “Should we check?” “I do not know where the noise came from, but it sounded like something being thrown into the sea” replied Brigan. “Come”
Donning their armour they went up to the top deck. Spying Puny and Twill they marched briskly over. “What happened?” demanded Nefyra as she buckled her sword to her belt. “It seems the captain was to hand us over to the Draenei on Azuremyst Isle. The bo’sun found a cache of gold in his cabin along with his orders. He alerted us to our danger and told us he had already dealt with the problem” Brigan said nothing but crossed his arms in an obvious display of disbelief.
“I see…” said Nefyra. “Well… Judging by the distance we are to Azuremyst. it seems plausible.”
“Plausible?” said Brigan testily. “Nonsense. Grash was personally vetted by the Farstriders.” He came upto Puny. “By me. He was no traitor. You over reach your authority paladin.”
Puny faced him. “I over reach nothing. I saved this ship from detection. I saved your. And our. Lives”
Brigan did not back down. “You lie. You have proof?” Puny said nothing, holding his gaze. “Ma’am? we have this” said the bo’sun handing Puny a note. Puny took it and handed it to Nefyra. “Here. Read for yourself” as she still continued to lock eyes with Brigan.
“To captain Grash, regarding your secret orders per our arrangement. Kelsey.”
“Kelsey?” she asked. Brigan shifted his gaze to Nefyra. “Let me see that” he said holding his hand out. He continued.
“You are to proceed with haste to Azuremyst Isle after safely navigating Teldrassil. By our estimates if you keep course and favorable winds carry your vessel you should reach Azuremyst Isle by morning. It is essential the crew of your vessel are not made aware of your orders, only those you trust implicitly or those who can be bought with the gold we have given to you. Upon reaching Azuremyst’s coast you are to abandon ship and leave the ship to it’s fate.”
“The Draenei will be alerted of your presence when you do, as having Draenei patrols too early would alert your crew and passengers. Upon detaining of your passengers you will be awarded the sum of 10,000 gold and safe passage to anywhere of your choosing. K. SI7”
He handed the note to the bo’sun. “You found this. Where?” he barked. The bo’sun looked around nervously. “In his cabin sir. He was seen steering the ship to the island, and we felt the shift in course. We asked him for further orders but he would not say a word. He shut himself in his cabin and threatened to kill any who tried to get in. Passengers Puny and Twill helped us. I found the note when it was knocked off the table and fell under the bunk during the struggle.”
“I see. You did well.” said Nyfera. “It seems they were justified in their actions Brigan, we have strayed off course and lost supplies as well. We should resupply in a safe port.”
Brigan rolled up the note and tucked it into his sleeve. “Very well. Where is the safest port?” he asked. “There is a small Horde outpost on the east coast of Desolace” said Nyfera. “We can resupply there, at least get fresh water. We can hunt for food also.” Brigan sighed. “Very well I see no other options.” Twisting his body past Puny he suddenly stopped and turned to face her again. “There is more to this paladin. I know it. If I learn you have betrayed us, I will kill you. Do you understand me?”
Puny turned her back and made her way to their cabin. “Paladin?” said Brigan. “Answer me”. Twill looked at both of them, biting her lip. “Punicilla?” asked Nyfera, herself concerned. Puny turned and simply said “I need to rest.” and closed the door behind her. The two Horde captains stared at the door, then turned to Twill who smiled and shrugged, before making her way to the front of the ship whistling.
Brigan said no more and returned to their cabin, leaving Nyfera on deck, feeling very alone. She turned to follow Brigan, but then turned and went to Puny’s cabin.
“Miss Punicilla? May I come in? I need to talk to you” as she knocked on the door. “Yes, do come in” said Puny behind the door. Nyfera opened it and closed it behind her.
Chapter 13 A testing of wills.
Nyfera came into the cabin and closed the door behind her. Puny sat in the chair behind the table with her hand resting on the arm of her chair. “Punicilla, may I speak? Openly?” asked Nyferas she sat in the chair opposite.
“If you want to” replied Puny “but I have a feeling I know what you have come to say. You suspect us of foul play”
Nyfera paused and looked up at Puny. “I do not. I believe you, though Brigan does not. I fear however his suspicions are borne out of personal pride and trust in his own judgement. Very seldom is his trust misplaced. if he vetted Grash carefully and personally, it is hard to believe Grash would be a traitor. Still…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“Yes? Still what?” asked Puny.
“10,000 gold is a princely sum.” said Nyfera.
“A kingly sum, a ransom for the life of a prince” replied Puny. “we acted on our allegiance to the Horde. We cannot risk alerting the Alliance. I chose to secure that secrecy, even if it cost the life of an innocent orc. Would you not do the same?” she asked, looking at Nyfera as Nyfera’s gaze dropped to the floor.
“Yes. i would” she replied." But I still feel uneasy. The Horde has gone through much change. I had once hoped our Horde remained strong, but Sylvanas’ betrayal and the lack of a warchief leads us into doubt. I find myself asking now, how many other traitors lurk in our midst, ready to sell all for gold."
She looked up at Puny with tears forming. “How can our Horde survive if it is eroding from within.”
Puny shook her head. “I do not know. I too once felt losing loyalty to the Horde. but then something happened. Something… No. I cannot.” she muttered.
“Please. Tell me.” said Nyfera. “Maybe it will calm the raging torment in my heart and soul for the danger I feel The Horde is in. My devotion to one who would save it would be undying”. She sat back in her chair and started to sob.
“Do not fear, and do not weep” said Puny. There is always hope. Perchance one may come from the shadows unforseen and unknown. Unexpected." said Puny, looking at Nyfera. “Come.” she stood up and embraced Nyfera.
“There is always hope. Remember I am a paladin, and my guide is Hope. But are you truly Devoted to the Horde?. I mean with all you would give, even your very soul?”
Nyfera backed away and quietly said “What do you mean? I… I mean of course I am devoted to our ideals. But my very soul. What could I do that no other could. I am but one in a sea of thousands”
Puny came to her side. “No you are one of a few. I see true devotion in your heart. You would stand for your Horde. Our Horde. And not see it fall to pieces. You have seen it. The rot that seeps in from the Council. They squabble in secret to further their own power. You know this, as do I. This mission will fail. We have been sent to die. All except one.”
“What do you mean?” said Nyfera, coming to the table as Puny moved to sit in her chair.
“You know who I mean. The Ranger. He distrusts me because he knows I can see his heart. He means to kill us all, and hide all traces. We have been sent as sacrificial lambs to the Night Elves. so that they may have tokens to take back to Stormwind, and the Ranger goes back to Orgrimmar and allows the Council to pursue peace with the Alliance. But we both know the Alliance’s idea of peace.
They will hunt us down, and slaughter us and drive us from the world. In the Eastern Kingdoms, only Silvermoon stands. It will soon fall, even now the Alliance plans an excursion to the North. Do you not see why the Night Elves have been sent to Feralas?”
Nyfera slumped in her chair. “They have been sent to Feralas as a diversion. While the Horde scrambles to deal with it, the Council secretly conspires with the Alliance. They barter for their own lives, with the blood of our lives.”
“The Horde. Will destroy itself.” said Puny with a melancholy voice. “As it always does. but perhaps it can be saved.” Nyfera brightened and leaned forward eagerly. “There is someone who can save it? Tell me! please! We should go and find them before all is lost!”
Puny shook her head. “No she will not come. She fears betrayal. because she is an enemy of the Horde. But she lives now as a recluse, stranded in a prison of Alliance making, and forced to live with her own sins for survival.”
“I do not know who you mean” said Nyfera. “But if she can save the Horde, we must go to her. Do you know her? Have you met her?” she asked eagerly.
Puny smiled. “Yes. I know of her. as does my companion Twill. We met her while exploring the islands to the west of Kalimdor. It was rumoured we had found one of great power who the Horde seek.” Nyfera’s eyes widened as she finally understood. “You mean the Death knight Souldefiler. But Brigan… He told me of what happened on her island.”
Puny shook her head. "He lied. He went there yes, with a full squad, but he betrayed them. He silently and one by one killed them all and hid their bodies using his cunning. Only D’ee survived the slaughter. Thinking her dead he indeed fought with Souldefiler, but he imprisoned her in a tomb far beneath the earth thinking her dead. Do you not see? The Council fears Souldefiler. They know she will save the Horde. From itself. From it’s corrupt leaders. Brigan was sent there to kill her.
He could not. so to cover his shame and still gain favour of the Council, he killed his companions and left them for dead. But he failed. He did not fully trap Souldefiler in her cage set for her. Struggling free she saw the destruction he had wrought, and coming to find D’ee still alive, but with mortal wounds, she soon passed. She still resides there now, bewailing bitterly her torments and prison both Alliance and horde have set for her. She is the one who can save The Horde… That is why they both fear her"
“We must go to her and free her! She needs our help, and we need hers. Our Horde will die otherwise.!” cried Nyfera. Puny rose again. “Nefyra, I wish I could trust you to allow you to meet her. But she is wary of discovery, so she hides herself except to those she trusts, and those who will be devoted to her secrecy and safety. I am one such person, a Guardian if you will. But please. Stay here a moment. I shall return.” She got up and left the room, leaving Nyfera deep in thought.
Could it be true? Could this Souldefiler be the one to save the Horde? All Nyfera had to do was protect her safety and devote herself to secrecy until she was strong enough to help the Horde from it’s own destruction. All she had heard from Puny made sense, she had seen the rot creep in, and the war plans of the Alliance made sense. More than ever. And Brigan? He seemed cold to Puny and Twill from the start. Maybe it was true. He never did return with insignia or remains.
All he came back with was tales. The truth would be found on the prison he had set for this Death Knight, who was weakened and left for dead. yes. She would devote herself to helping this Death Knight. For the Horde.
Just as she made her choice Puny returned with Twill. Standing up she greeted them warmly. Twill came and took her hand “Is something troubling you?” she asked as she motioned Nyfera to sit. “Yes” she said. “Puny has told me of the one who can save our Horde. My eyes have been opened to the traitor to the Horde in our midst. But I have made my choice. I swear to protect her from the Council and the Alliance. What more must I do?” Twill said nothing but looked to Puny.
“Come. We will summon her from her prison if we can. All she asks, is that you trust her, and reveal her secret to the world when it is time. Do you promise to do this?” asked Twill. Nyfera eagerly looked at both. “If it will save the Horde, yes. With all my soul and devotion it brings!” Puny smiled. “Then let us begin” she said. “Put on this amulet, that she may hear your voice” Handing over the amulet, Nyfera slipped it over her neck and swallowed.
Holding in her hand the blue keystone Puny again chanted the incantation and the swirling dark filled the room. From the dark a soft yet pained voice came through. “Oh my friends, are you in danger? Have you tasted death?”
“No my friend” said Puny “we have found one who promises to help us in keeping you safe until your strength gathers. She desires only to save you and in turn save the Horde”
“Bring her closer so I can see her face, I see naught but dark” came the voice.
Nyfera paused and looked in alarm at Puny and Twill. “What is going on?” she asked nervously. “Fear not” said Twill. She cannot move far from her prison, the chains she was set in are unbreakable. If we summon her portal too close it pains her. If you are not close, she cannot see or hear you.be not afraid."
Nyferra swallowed again and made her way forward.
“OH my child” said Souldefiler behind the blackness. “I feel your pain. What troubles you?”
“I… fear for the Horde. I fear it will be destroyed and all with it. Can you, save my Horde?” she asked still stepping forward. “Oh child, I am but one weak Knight who has tasted the bitterness of death and double betrayal. I cannot do this alone.” Nyfera drew ever closer. “I understand. What can I do to help you?”
“You can serve me as Devoted!” boomed the voice of Souldefiler, as unholy hands grasped hold of Nyfera in an unbreakable grip, and dragged her as she screamed for help into the waiting blackness. The Portal snapped shut and she was gone.