Reassemble – Chapter One Finale

Last Time: Vrykerion, Calowen, Waeryn and Jolsin saw a suspicious column of smoke rising from the necropolis in the depths of Deatholme.  Upon investigating they found a pair of Scourge that were creating a massive abomination to host the soul and mind of the former ruler of Deatholme: Dar’khan.  Acting quickly, they assaulted the two undead.  The battle was intense, but the four paladins luckily succeeded.  In their moment of relief, Calowen threw Vrykerion aside and took a bladed fist to her torso.  The abomination had risen during the battle…  Now Vrykerion stands against the creature that just stole the life of his love…

Vrykerion’s eye twitched and lips curled.  He dropped his shield and rose with sword in hand.  Holy energy began to swirl around him like crackles of lightning in the air.  Waeryn and Jolsin, wide eyed in fear and awe, stepped back out of the room.  Vrykerion bared his teeth, grinding them into each other so hard that his jaw would be in pain for the rest of the week.  He did not care.  He didn’t care about anything except for the monster in front of him.

The stone floor erupted in flashes of consecrated light.  His sword ignited with ripples of holy energy. He tightened his grip on the handles as divine power flashed and erupted into yellow lightning around his body.

“Your brain.  You’re thinking about it too much.”

 “Now try it again.  But this time, don’t THINK the target is an enemy.  FEEL it.”

 Vrykerion did feel it.  It didn’t matter if he never felt anything again in his life, but this he would feel.  Every ounce of anguish, every lost moment of happiness – He would feel them all, and this monstrosity would feel them too, “Divine…  STORM!”

The room ignited with light, blinding both Waeryn and Jolsin momentarily.  When their eyes eventually readjusted to their surroundings, all that remained of the creature that called itself ‘Dar’Khan’ was a lump of fleshy bits and the occasional bone piercing out from the pile.

Vrykerion was on his knees next to the remains of Calowen, sobbing and screaming.  Calowen’s body was decimated; her entire torso was nothing but a cavity that was hollowed out like a rind of a well eaten melon. He kept trying to conjure the holy light only to have it dissipate as it landed on her body, “Damn you.  DAMN YOU!  Give her back to me!”

Jolsin stepped behind him and tried to put his hand on Vrykerion’s shoulder only to have it batted away, “Look Vry,  I’m sorry.  I really am.  The Light may be able to restore the soul to the body but…”  Jolsin voice cracked, a sob of his own joining in, “But there’s not much a body for it to return to, Vry.”

Vrykerion ignored him.  He kept trying the spells.  He filled himself with Light and tried over and over to transfer it, any of it, into Calowen’s husk of a body.

“Light damn you, Vrykerion!  She isn’t one of your gadgets or toys!  You don’t have the tools to fix her. None of us do!”

Vrykerion leapt to his feet and grabbed Jolsin’s collar, lifting him into the air slightly.  Waeryn drew his sword in preparation to defend his teammate.  Vrykerion’s eyes focused on Jolsin, his quivering lips contorting between rage and sorrow, “The Light IS my tool.  I. WILL. FIX. HER.” He threw Jolsin into Waeryn and pointed at the door.  They left, leaving Vrykerion to kneel back down and try again and again to bring Calowen back.  No one saw him again for another two days.

Tears fell on the parchment, leaving some stains of wetness as Vrykerion finished the last of the sketches of the myriad of assorted parts.  He had removed his goggles some time ago, and now his quill sat on the desk with them.  He looked over his drawings and notes, trying to make sure he didn’t miss anything.  A choked sob escaped his lips as he picked up the quill again to jot down a few extras notes.

For the first time in hours, he spoke, “Once the components are understood, you can work to develop primary steps for assembly.”  With that Vrykerion wiped his eyes away and took out another sheet of parchment and began to draw a schematic.

“What in the name of Kael’thas the traitor do you MEAN you are leaving the Blood Knights?” Kitarin screamed at his son, mere inches from his face, “Do you want me and your mother to die copper-less in these slums?  Maybe a warlock will use our souls to conjure a demon now that you’ve RIPPED THEM OUT!”  His father’s fist, easily dodged, slammed into the wall.

“Kitarin, please, maybe we should hear his reasons,” Vrykerion’s mother, Arista, pleaded.

“What reason could he possibly have to justify murdering his own family?!”

Arista sobbed, “Please can we at least wait until after you’ve come down off the thistle to talk about this?”

“And where will you go, Sir Paladin?  Will you join the war to be a big hero like your brother?  You want to die to those kaldorei bastards like him too?”

Vrykerion stood there, without an expression on his face.  His cold and dead eyes peering out from the broken lens of his goggles dangling from the first punch that his father did actually land, “No.  I have no interest in joining the war.”

“Then where will you go?” Arista asked, her small voice penetrating through the crying.

“I don’t know.  Away.” Vrykerion said.  His voice was a forced monotone, “Away from here.”

“You arrogant piece of filth!  At least Herio was a war hero.  You?  You’re just a coward to abandon your family. And after everything we did for you?  We put you in that academy, and we gave you everything your brother left behind, just to make sure you had a good and prosperous life,”  Kitarin stepped back shaking his head.

“You did that because you blew every silver on bloodthistle and got thrown out of the Exchange and you wanted Herio and then me to drag you back into the limelight by having some level of respectability.”

Kitarin let out a roar and dove at Vrykerion.   Vrykerion grabbed his wrist and threw Kitarin against the wall.  Vrykerion then proceeded to grab Kitarin’s shirt and flip him over his head and onto the table, breaking it in half.  Kitarin tried to pull himself to his feet, only to twist his back and collapse back onto the rubble.

“I would suggest not trying again,” Vrykerion said as he turned, grabbed a sack by the door, and walked out.

“Good riddance!” Kirarin shouted out from the small apartment with the cries of his mother in the background, “And don’t let me ever hear that you used our family name! You are not my son!”

Vrykerion walked across the city to the royal tower where he used the Orb of Translocation to reach the Undercity.  He drew the gnomish pocket watch out from his pants and reached his thumb to open up the lid and see the time but he stopped.  He looked at the watch for a moment and thought, ‘Time for them to be dead to me too.’  He threw the watch as hard as he could at the walls of the Ruins of Lordaeron and watched it shattered in pieces, each one raining down onto the stone floor.

He began to march off solemnly but stopped after twenty steps or so.  He turned at looked at the ruined device, scattered into wheels, cogs and springs across the ground.  He swallowed hard and ran back and gathered them all up in a small brown linen bag. He then slid down the walls of the ruined human capital and began to sob, clutching the bag tightly.  He let everything out.  The screams of frustration, the raging and hateful things he wanted to say to his father, and all the tears from breaking his mother’s heart.

After a half hour, his anguish finally began to subside. He wiped his eyes and stood back up.  The time for sorrow had ended.  The time for revenge against the Scourge had begun.

Vrykerion put the finishing strokes on his blueprints.  It was a lavish design, worthy of a gnome tinkerer.  He smiled at himself, “As primary steps are established, secondary and tertiary steps will automatically become apparent.”  He pulled out a pair of tweezers from his gnomish army knife and picked up a cog, “Once ready, assembly can begin.”

Thus concludes Chapter 1: Design, To Be Continued in Chapter 2: Assembly.

Thus ends the first chapter of the story. While admitedly the second part is not finished yet, trust that I will have it posted here on the same Saturday schedule when it is.  I hope you enjoyed the first half of this little tale!

Reassemble – Chapter One, Part Four

Last Time:  Vrykerion, his lover Calowen, and two other paladins – Waeryn and Jolsin – were on a mission to Deatholme in the Ghostlands, but upon finding that the majority of the fortress had been abandoned, they were set to head home. But as they left, a strange smoke stack had manifested from the necropolis in the center of the dead city.  After a short argument, they four paladins headed into the foul smelling depths to investigate…

The silence was broken as they reached the bottom by dry and crackled female voice coming from a room at the bottom of the last flight of stairs, “Imagine it, Dolcrim:  The Master Dar’khan’s mind and soul, in such an unstoppable body!”

A second voice chimed in, this one low and grumbly but with a slight echo to it that made Vrykerion’s blood run cold, “I should hope so.  Gandling wants the Ghostlands back in the Cult’s hands. These setbacks are growing too many in number, and this project of yours cost us nearly three legions of undead to construct.”

“Did they say Dar’kahn?” Jolsin asked.

“And who’s Gandling?” Waeryn muttered.

“Quiet.  I’m going for a closer look,” Calowen uttered and she slowly started to step down the stairway.  Step by step, her armor rattled gently.  Step by step, it felt like Vrykerion’s heartbeat was slowing.  As Calowen crept down the finally stair, Vrykerion remembers to inhale.  She peeked around the edge of the doorway and gestured back to the rest of the group: THREE SCOURGE. TWO ‘MANCERS. ONE BIG.

Vrykerion tilted his head and mouthed back down to her, “How big?”

Calowen widened her eyes a bit and nodded slightly, mouthing back, “BIG.”  She glanced back through the door for a moment and then looked back to gesture that the large one appeared to be unconscious.

Vrykerion nodded and turned back to Waeryn and Jolsin, “Here’s the plan.  We’ll split up.  You two take one of the necromancers and Cal and I will grab the other.  Hopefully, whatever this big one is we hopefully won’t rouse it.”  His team mates nodded and Vrykerion turned back to Calowen and lifted three fingers.  Then he dropped one to two fingers, then to one.

As soon as the last finger dropped into a single balled up fist, Calowen leapt into the room and unleashed a judging blast of holy power at one of the necromancers.  Vrykerion and the other two members of the team bolted down the stairs to quickly join her in the room.  The necromancers were dressed in the garb of the Cult of the Damned, one a male human with glowing blue eyes and the other a forsaken woman.  Behind them rested a massive figure, covered in a bloody sheet inscribed with necromantic runes.

Calowen and Vrykerion dashed towards the man, landing their shoulders against his chest and pushing him toward the wall.  Meanwhile, Waeryn and Jolsin got on opposite sides of the forsaken woman and begun to swing their blades, one low and the other high, in a maneuver they called ‘the double duel trap’.  The technique had proven excellent against mindless ghouls, but as their blades collided was a shielding sphere of dark magic, they quickly found themselves on the defensive. Dodging blasts and calling upon the light to cleanse the foul curses burning their flesh from under their armor.

The forsaken cackled, “You cannot stop us! The master stirs! THE MASTER COMES!”

“Silence!  Your breath is worse than your plague,” Jolsin shouted as he drove directly toward the shielding spell, shattering its protective barrier and allowing Waeryn an opening to take his sword to the necromancer’s neck from behind, severing the spinal cord and causing her to drop to the floor, still screaming her zealous proclamations.

“Finish it, Jols.”  Waeryn said.

“With pleasure.  By the Holy Light, be purged!”  A brilliant light burst forth from Jolsin’s hand, engulfing the downed necromancer.  As the light faded, a burning pile of ash was all that remained.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Calowen and Vrykerion slammed the human into the wall next to the sleeping monstrosity.  From beneath the sheet, a large hand fell out bearing several foot-long blade like claws.  Calowen brought down her mace toward the man’s face, which he caught with his hand.  She could hear the cracking of bones as it made impact causing her to wince for a moment, while the man only grinned at the sound.  Vrykerion slashed at the man’s side and cut him deep, but no blood spilt forth.

“What are you?” Vrykerion asked.

The man gave him a toothy grin, “Someone you will regret meeting.”  He then slammed his open hands into both Vrykerion and Calowen’s solar plexuses and threw them across the room.

As Vrykerion struggled to his feet, the man rushed over and clasped his hands around Calowen’s head.  He began to squeeze, causing the helm to start to crack, “Imagine what will happen to your head once I break your shell.”

“I don’t think you’ll have a chance,” Vrykerion said as he stood. Taking his sword in hand, he began to wail away at the man’s back.  Tearing through his robes and cutting deep into his back.  As chunks of fleshy flew off, there was no blood.  Instead there was viscous black ooze that just seemed to splatter out from the wounds.

The man laughed maniacally as Vrykerion hacked away at him bit by bit to the point of exposing the back of his rib cage.  He continued his anguishing squeeze of Calowen’s head.  The cracks grew larger in her helm, and as the pressure built up she began to scream.

Hearing her voice cry out in pain, Vrykerion gritted his teeth and balled up his fist. ‘No one hurts her. NO ONE.’ Vrykerion’s hand ignited with holy energy.  It took the form of a hammer as he launched his first deep through the monster of a man’s shredded back, breaking through bone and flesh until he reached the man’s heart.  Taking that organ into his hand, Vrykerion squeezed with everything he had until he felt it rupture and spilt the black tar out.  The man, hands still wrapped around Calowen’s nearly shattered helmet, collapsed.

Vrykerion threw the body to the side and grabbed Calowen, “Are you okay?” She nodded slightly, her eyes barely able to stay open.  Vrykerion’s eyes swelled with tears as he hugged her.

“Mission accomplished. Can we go back to the Sanctum now?” a winded Waeryn said, leaning up against the doorway with Jolsin.  Vrykerion looked up at them, tears rolling down his cheeks and a massive grin on his face, and nodded.

Suddenly, Calowen’s grip on Vrykerion’s shoulder tightened, “Vry! MOVE!” She shoved him aside and onto the floor just in time for him to see a massive, grey, muscly arm covered in blades and spikes rip into Calown’s chest.  It broke right through her ribs, the claws ripping right out the back of her armor and leaving a puddle of blood.

All eyes followed the arm back to its owner.  It seemed that in all the commotion that the thing under the sheets had decided to get up after all.  A gigantic abomination with four arms, each lined with claws and what appeared to be embedded swords and daggers.  It’s twisted mouth cracked open, “BehOLD, thuh Neeew DAAR’KhAAAn! I  AM reBOOOOORN!”

Reassemble – Chapter One, Part Three

“Welcome to the Ghostlands.”

That was not the phrase Vrykerion had wanted to hear after having such a wonderful night, but orders were orders.  He, along with Calowen and a dozen of other new recruits were ordered to report that morning to Dame Auriferous.  Auriferous was a red headed woman wearing a red robes and a tabard marking her as member of the defense forces at Tranquillien.

“I understand each you visited here once during your trials, but this is not a quick jaunt across the runestones to kill a couple of nerubians.  You’ve been brought here to go in the heart of the infection, Deatholme, for some mop up operations.  The Scourge have been harder to rip out of there than a dwarf from the pub,” Auriferous announced.   Vrykerion glanced over at Calowen; she had gone pale in fright.  Vrykerion reached over and took her hand in his and he watched as a smile grew and some of her color returned.

“We will begin launching attacks in groups of four from the Sanctum of the Sun.  You can drop your gear and take your downtime there.  Just don’t bother the Magisters.  Any questions?”  The group stood silent.  Vrykerion wasn’t sure if they didn’t have any questions, or everyone was too afraid of the forceful elf standing side by side with a forsaken deathstalker.  After a moment of silence, she dismissed them and they began to hike down the trail to the Sanctum.

The attacks really weren’t as bad as the Auriferous had made out.  They would leave in a team of four and clear out the Dead Scar up to Deatholme and then make precision strikes against specific targets inside the fortress.  The one group attacked a mausoleum, another struck a crypt, Vrykerion and Calowen’s first target was an underground laboratory.  Over a couple of weeks, they each met with success and everyone regrouped at the Sanctum to share stories, battle tactics and have a good laugh.  Vrykerion spent his evenings with Calowen or taking apart his pocket watch and examining how it works.  They were paladins, and they feared nothing.

It wasn’t until Vrykerion’s tenth trip into the fortress that he began to notice that the dead were getting fewer in number.  He felt a swell of pride at first knowing that he had contributed to it but something in his gut sat wrong.  Why were the forces in the fortress thinning out, when the legions of undead waddling across the Dead Scar were always renewed back to their previous day’s numbers?  His team made their way across the foul grounds of Deatholme, the sickening stench of rotten meat still filled the air.  They ascended the steps of a ziggurat, finding it completely unguarded and ultimately empty.

“This is wrong,” said Waeryn, one of Vrykerion’s other teammates; “There should be something in here. No one has been in this far.”

Vrykerion’s other teammates, Jolsin, smiled and let out a laugh, “Maybe they retreated.  Decided they couldn’t best us and just packed it up and headed home.”

Calowen looked at Vrykerion with a stern look on her face and he met hers with an equally concerned one.  She turned to Jolsin, “The Scourge do not retreat.”

Waeryn shifted nervously, looking around in fear of an ambush, “Regardless, the objective is complete. We cleared out the ziggurat.  We should head back.”

They looked back and forth amongst the group a few times, silently nodding along with the idea.  Vrykerion sheathed his blade, “Very well then.”  One by one they exited, making sure to watch every dark corner as they stepped outside.  That’s when Vrykerion saw it.  A pillar of green smoke coming from the necropolis at the center of the fortress, “Has anyone reported that before?”

Calowen shook her head, “No.  That most certainly is new.”

Waeryn looked back and forth at Vrykerion and Calowen, “No.  NO.  We did our job.  Mission complete. We are not going in there.”

“Oh come on, Wae-wae.  It’s not like we’ve encountered a single thing thus far that four of us couldn’t best,” Jolsin taunted, nudging Waeryn toward the necropolis.

“Cut it out you two,” Calowen scolded, “What do you think Vry?  It’s not our job.”

Vrykerion shook his head, “We’re paladins, Cal. It IS our job.”

Calowen nodded and drew her shield and mace, “As you say, sir.”

Waeryn, however, did not draw his weapons, “No. I’m sorry, but no.  I’m not getting killed going against the battle plan just because you two are sneaking off to fondle each other in the bushes every nigh-”

Calowen cut him off with a firm slam of her armored hand against his helmed face, “Do you want the Scourge to win?  For all we know they’re brewing up another batch of plague in there, ready to spill it out across the entire Ghostlands.  This is suspicious behavior and we don’t have time to wait until we report back and send out another team, nor do we have time to waste trying to pry your head from your arse because you have nothing to come back to base for – except your hand!”

Waeryn and Jolsin immediately drew their swords. Vrykerion chuckled, “Impulsive as ever I see.”

“Oh shush. You know you like it,” Calowen smiled, “Now let’s see about that smoke.”

The journey into the necropolis was similarly easy and just as worrisome.  The fact that so few undead were in the fortress, especially high ranking ones, just fueled Vrykerion’s fears about the smoke.  They cautiously made their way into the depths of the building though, making sure to check everything and everywhere for possible traps or potential ambushes.  One that that grew more obvious as they traveled deeper was that ever present smell of rotting meat was getting stronger.

Reassemble – Chapter One, Part Two

My sincerest apologies about this post being a day late from its scheduled Saturday posting.  Time has a way of getting away from me and I had a lot of random stuff drop on my lap yesterday.  So here it is, part two of my short story…  (Sorry!)

Vrykerion inked out a rough sketch of each piece that lay before him on the desk.  He drew lines and notes of how each one would potentially fit with others.  He didn’t need too.  He had done this many times before and would likely do it many times in the future.  He knew the design by heart but still went over it again and again.  It may have been in part to the time he spent studying and working with gnomish engineering.  Their desire to tinker and go over every detail hundreds of times to ensure that every bit was correct and in place.  But he knew that wasn’t about knowing how things went together, but understanding why.

“We’re proud of you, son.”  Kitarin Dawnshatter said, slapping Vrykerion on the back, “It might not be a Spell Breaker like your brother was, but being accepted into the Blood Knights is nothing to laugh at.”  Vrykerion just nodded a bit.

Vrykerion was wearing his blood knights’ tabard, a depressing mix of black and red – a reminder of what his people had to endure in the wake of the Third War.  He was dressed in his best chain mail from the graduation ceremony with Lady Liadrin, though in all honesty he had worn it for someone else.

“Just think! A few more years and you might be able to help pull this family out of Murder Row and back up into the Exchange! Or even the Court of the Suns!” Vrykerion’s father continued to prattle, causing Vrykerion to slightly roll his eyes. There was nothing like a reminder that his father’s crimes and the task of their family’s redemption was riding on his and his brother’s shoulders.

“But I want you to have something, my boy.  Something your Uncle got back during the Second War. He originally gave it to Herio, but he didn’t really want it.  I think he thought it would tarnish his reputation with the other Spell Breakers after we joined the Horde. Not that he’ll need it now.” Kitarin dropped something into his son’s hands: a small gold pocket watch. “It’s a gnomish design, ya see.  Tried to pawn it over in the Bazaar but no one in this Nether blasted town is willing to take it with those knuckle dragging orcs’ banners flying everywhere now.”

Vrykerion’s armored fingers traced over the designs on the back of the watch. “Gnomish,” he muttered for a moment before looking up, “You shouldn’t speak of the other races like that.”

“Those brutes killed your brother, you cowardly green skin boot licker!” Kitarin shouted throwing a bottle of wine at Vyrkerion and missing him, turning his back dismissively at Vrykerion and walked back to his hookah, “Don’t you have some rich noble whore to go visit or something, boy?”

“Yea.  Calowen is waiting for me at the celebration.  Tell Mother that I left her a gift when she gets home from work, will you?  Please don’t sell it this time.” His father puffed on the tube, inhaling the thick fumes of bloodthistle, and waved his hand, dismissing Vrykerion without a word.  Vrykerion sighed and left into the streets of Murder Row and up towards the Court of the Sun.

As he turned the corner into the fountain square, he was met with a pair of arms wrapping themselves around his neck.  Vrykerion panicked for a second, his instincts from his years living in the shadiest neighborhood in the city kicking in.  But his nerves eased when a familiar and curvaceous body followed the arms and pressed up against him in a hug, “Congratulations!”

He wrapped his arm around Calowen, “You too.  Excited for our deployment tomorrow?”

Calowen nodded, nuzzling her head in the crux of Vrykerion’s neck, “A bit nervous too.”

“You’ll do fine.  If you can drag me to graduation, I’m sure you could take on the entirety of the Scourge all by your lonesome.”

Calowen chuckled softly, never lifting her head, “I can see my extra lessons in ‘sense of humor’ have served you well.”

Vrykerion smiled.  It was one of many ‘extra lessons’ he had enjoyed with Calowen during their time training to be paladins, “Are you ready for the celebration?”

This time she shook her head and her soft voice got quiet, “I actually thought we could go somewhere else.”

Vrykerion raised an eyebrow.  Did she really mean? His answer came quick in the form of her lips pressing deeply into his, her soft warm skin contrasting the cool metal of his armor.  And as the night went on the cold feeling of armor vanished piece by piece, and the warmth spread more and more.

Vrykerion’s hand trembled slightly as he drew a small 14 toothed cog.  He stopped and set the parchment down.  He allowed himself a moment of reprieve to glance out the window and to let the blood drain from his flushed face.  Blue Child hung low in the night sky.  For a brief moment he wondered where the sun had gotten off to.  The process of rebuilding was long and sometimes very hard on him.  Still, he knew that he had to continue.  He had to press on or else finishing and thus understanding, would never come.  He would simply run away again.  So Vrykerion sat back down and took his quill in hand once more.

Reassemble – Chapter One, Part One

So a while back I wrote a story about my World of Warcraft character, Vrykerion the Paladin.  It was mostly based around my guild’s storyline and my own absence for it while I have been playing Star Wars The Old Republic.  However, I really really liked how it turned out so I decided to share it on here too.  Sadly, the actual story is about 18 pages and that’s just for the first of two planned chapters. Since that is a lot to put into a single post, I decided to serialize it and break it up into little chunks.  One coming out each Saturday until it’s complete.  This here is part one.

You’ll probably need a little bit of background on this story to give it context, although most of it should make sense in the long run since after all it’s more about the character’s past than the actual guild story.  But to shine a little light, my guild recently began a story where our guild leader, Shahrak, declared his intent for the guild to move to usurp Warchief Garrosh Hellscream. (This storyline was proposed the day before the news broke that Garrosh would be a raid boss in Mists of Pandaria – yea, imagine our surprise.) Vrykerion, being a devout member of the Argent Crusade, declared that while he took no qualms about battling evil, politics were a different matter, and this course of action violated what he viewed to be his strictly neutral stance on the Horde and Alliance.  With that said, Vrykerion declared that he would not partake in this campaign and retired to Hearthglen.  So we begin…

Reassemble – Chapter 1: Design

Part One

Vrykerion spread a clean piece of cloth across the desk of his room at Hearthglen.  It wasn’t an impressive room by any measure, and it wasn’t meant to be.  It was a practical room, just as much in his life was.  It had a bed to sleep in, a desk to work at, and a small armoire to store whatever bits of clothing he had at the time.  He didn’t need it to be much more than that, as his travels rarely permitted him time to stay at the Argent Crusade’s reclaimed home in the Plaguelands.  He only came here to do two things: Report when summoned, and to think.

Shahrak was absolutely clear in his intent.  Open war against the Warchief.  Open war against the Horde itself was more like it.  The scowl on Vrykerion’s face intensified as he opened up a small brown linen drawstring bag and poured the contents out on the cloth covered desk.  Small gears and parts rained down creating a resounding cacophony of noise in the otherwise silent room.  The idea seemed ludicrous.  Kill the Warchief?  Then what? They had no one to replace him.  Worry about the details later?  The very concept was so full of holes and overflowed with emotional impulse.

Vrykerion spread the pieces out across the cloth, making sure that each stood alone and untouched by its siblings surrounding it.  He parsed them out by shape, size, color – anything he could easily differentiate the multitude of small parts with.  Emotion.  Maybe that was what caused him such anguish.  Shahrak’s speech had been so full of it.  That timeless, unyielding enemy of logic and neutrality.  Vrykerion had spent years tinkering and wiring himself to respond to every encounter, and every battle with a cool calm sense of impartiality. He knew what Garrosh had done.  He had lent his blade when called upon.  He knew of the ruthless ways of the new warchief.  But he also knew that this was not a matter for him to pass judgment on.  The actions of man or orc are subject to perspective.  Viewpoints can inform and lie.  These mortal sins cannot be not true evil.  Right?

Vrykerion sighed to himself, lowered his goggles over his eyes and put ink to parchment as he overlooked the presentation of small mechanical pieces laid out before him. “To understand the design, one must recognize each component as a necessary part of the whole,” he muttered to himself, reciting old lessons.  He began to sketch each piece on the table, remembering each one once again.

It was only a few short years ago, but it felt like another lifetime.  Vrykerion stood on the green grasses of Sunstrider Isle along with a dozen other potentials.  His hair was longer then, worn back in a tail.  His eyes still bright and glowing, hidden behind a shabby pair of flying tiger goggles, and a smile graced his lips as he took his place in the line to practice the day’s lesson.  “Judgment.  A paladin is capable of piercing the very soul of a foe and detecting their intent. Violence, injustice, hate – these are raw powerful urges that you can focus his righteous wrath on and pierce your foes with judgment.”  The instructor called out.  He was a broad-shouldered elf who stood tall, a large scar on his cheek that he supposedly earned battling the forces of the traitor Kael’thas for control of the Sunwell.  Vrykerion didn’t really care about the old war stories.  He just wanted to show his stuff.  He had spent weeks studying tomes and scrolls about the art of judging one’s opponent and he was ready to prove that he had what it takes.

One by one the paladin trainees walked up and tried their hand at it.  Some actually managed to forge the connection with the Light to call upon the attack to some extent and successfully managed to brush the target dummy with a flash of holy energy.  Soon it came to be Vrykerion’s turn.  He stepped up and began to mutter the steps he had learned under his breath. “Create a connection with the divine light and let it fill your mind with extra-sensory sight.” He felt his body become almost lighter as a powerful warmth spread through his body.  It was almost like slipping into a warm bath.  He stared at the dummy long and hard, forcing his mind to focus on it until it almost seems to emit a faint yellow aura.

‘Non-threatening,’ Vrykerion thought, ‘Of course it is. It’s made of straw.’  Now he began to realize the true point of this lesson – to force the connection with the Light when wanted, not simply when it was needed.  He muttered again, “Focus your wrath on the negative. Cast out the divine on the target you know is guilty.”

He felt the light begin to swirl in his palm and grow in strength.  Vrykerion gritted his teeth as he focused on the dummy harder, “Cast out the divine…”  He raised his hand toward the dummy, “On the target.”  Then suddenly he heard something.  It was a small stifled giggle from behind him. He turned his head slightly to see a girl, a little younger than himself, with short platinum hair and shining emerald eyes looking at him.  It was Calowen Brightbourne, one of the daughters of some noble in the Court of the Sun. Her hands covered her mouth to hide her smile and the faint pink growing on her cheeks.

“VRYKERION!” the instructor’s voice broke through the moment and tore into his concentration.  The light fizzled from his hand as Vrykerion as his head snapped back towards the dummy and a very irritated veteran, “I suggest you try to get the Light in you up as apart to other parts of you while  you are in my class.” A frustrated blush overwhelmed Vrykerion’s face as he stumbled back and releasing an audible growl.  He stormed off as his classmates’ silent impatience for their turns broke in roaring laughter.  Vrykerion clenched his fist to the point where his fingernails began to break skin.  He glanced back, wishing only to release his rage as a divine blast against his classmates.  But he only saw Calowen in the lineup of chortling adolescents with only a frown on her face.  His hand relaxed just a bit.

He spent the rest of that afternoon sitting under a tree in the shadow of the academy.  He had failed.  That much was certain.  His actions and subsequent departure ensured that it would take double the effort and no less than three times the studying to find his way back into the good graces of his teachers, let alone the respect of his peers.

He stood up and looked around.  Spying a small squirrel nearby he began to repeat the steps again.  He felt the warmth of the Light fill him.  He focused on the small animal.  Then nothing.  Try as he might he could now let the Light flow from him into his hands.  He repeated the steps several more times with less and less success each time. He released a frustrated grunt as he slammed his fist into the tree.

“You know, just maybe the Light doesn’t WANT to be used against small defenseless critters.”

Vrykerion perked up at the voice and spun around.  It was Calowen, the girl that giggled.  She had changed out her training mail and into a red short sleeved shirt with a gold-trimmed leather vest.  Her smile, now unhidden, seems almost to glow as he felt a different warmth fill him.  First in his chest, then his face.  His brain, now tasked with figuring out two things, was able to quickly decipher that he was blushing.  A lot.  The second thing – what to say – was out to committee.

“I’m sorry about earlier.  The laughing I mean.  I just have never seen someone repeat their lessons out loud to themselves like that,” she said, stepping closer.

“You… you heard that?” Vrykerion shuffled his feet, attempting to figure if he should approach her as well, or perhaps lean back on the tree to impress her.

Her smile grew, almost as she was about to laugh again.  Not that he would be opposed.  Her laugh was like the graceful melody of a harp when contrasted with the bombastic hyena like noises of their classmates, “Mm hmm.  And I think I know what your problem is.”

She stepped right up to him, their toes almost touching.  She gently leaned up, inching her face closer to his.  Vrykerion had long passed the moment where he was trying to decide what to say or what to do with his feet.  His mind frantically raced trying to figure out what he should do NOW, let alone next.  This kind of thing was supposed to happen to his older brother – not him.

As her face drew close enough to feel his quickening breath, her hand made an attack of opportunity and poked him in the forehead, “You’re using this too much.” She immediately withdrew back on to her heels, trying her best to not to burst out in laughter right in front of him. Her stifled squeals went quickly from being beautiful notes to razor sharp pin pricks as Vrykerion realized that it was an attempt at jest, not a romantic proposition.  Though he would have been lying if he said it didn’t take a huge weight of pressure off his chest as his brain was able to slow and start taking inventory.

“I’m using what too much?” He finally spat out.

“Your brain.  You’re thinking about it too much.” She said.

“What do you propose I use to think?” The idea seemed silly to him.  Not use his brain?  That was its purpose.

“Well…” She looked around for a quick moment, “I can think of a few other things you can use.  But for now let’s start with your heart.  Come with me.” She grabbed his hand and began dragging him back across the isle.

He stumbled behind, trying to keep his feet coordinated in an effort to keep up with both her and his hand. She stopped as soon they reached the target range, “Now. Try it again.  But this time, don’t THINK the target is an enemy.  FEEL it.”

“Why?  What does emotion have anything to do with this?  The Light is my tool.  I should wield it like I do my micro-adjuster or my arclight spanner in my workshop,” Vrykerion said, trying to wrap his brain around the concept like a cat trying to make sense of arcane leylines.

“I bet your spanner gets lonely with you treating it like that,” Calowen said, “Think about it this way.  You know how sometimes you want to tighten a screw but not all the way?  Do you measure the torque of your turn or do you just FEEL how tight it is and SENSE when it’s good?”

Vrykerion opened his mouth to counter her argument, but then he saw those bright emerald eyes and closed it and nibbled on his lower lip for a moment.  He let out a deep breath and turned to face the dummy again.  This time he stopped thinking about what the target is.  He just let his mind flow.  His eyes trained on the stuffed man as a stray thought hit him.  It wanted to hurt Calowen.  He didn’t know where it came from, and it clearly made no sense, but there it was.  Suddenly his palm swelled with holy energy.

Calowen slid her hands down his arm and lifted it so the palm pointed towards the dummy and whispered to him, “Now let it go.”

The holy energy of the Light was unleashed.  A blast more powerful than he could have ever imagined formed into the shape of a hammer and slammed in the straw figure, ripping its post from the earth and falling back to the ground. Calowen smiled again and looked at him, her hands never leaving his arm, “See what I mean?”

Vrykerion looked at her and felt his lips curl into a smile of their own, “I see.”  His eyes glanced down at her hands on his arm, “I see.”

To Be Continued…