Finally! Part 3 of Descending Twilight! That is all. Oh, and enjoy! 🙂
Okie, and except this one small thing, just so no one says “That’s not what so-so is like” or “That’s not how it happened” or “I would not say that.”
Disclaimer: This story contains characters played by my guild members who, like Effy and my personal characters, display a mixture of both the in-game character (based on race, class, background, ie. game lore) and the IRL person behind the character. This story characterizes those personalities and happenings leading up to and immediately following Effy/me joining Undying Resolution, and is not a direct reflection of actual personalities and happenings. There may and will be similarities, but artistic liberties have also been taken.
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“Effraeti, I would like to introduce you to Ranico and Mindalen, the backbone of Undying Resolution,” Lissanna said. The four were standing on the sunny front patio of the Blue Recluse, the very tavern where Effy had been approached by Lissanna just the day before. In a softer voice for only Effy’s ear, the night elf added, “And the real ones in charge of accepting you into our ranks.” A reassuring smile crossed her face when Effy raised an eyebrow at this hint of an unexpected interview.
Though both human, there could not have been a more opposite pair.
Ranico met Effraeti’s nervous smile with an indifferent flickering of his glowing, undead eyes, and she could tell he was sizing her up in that moment. His frosty blue orbs were unwavering and did not betray his thoughts. A human in life, but a death knight beyond it, Effy wondered what his story was, and what made him continue on.
Mindalen on the other hand, gave Effy the warmest of smiles and clasped one blue hand in her own smaller two. She wore the robes of a priestess of the Light, and as soon as their hands met, Effy knew she was strong in faith as a comforting warmth was exchanged between them. It eased Effy’s mind, and between that and the woman’s smile, her own smile came easier.
“It is good to meet you, Effraeti. Please, call me Mindy.”
“Effy, if you please.”
“Oh good! Effy it is!” Mindy beamed.
Ranico, however, wasted no time with pleasantries. He was all business. “I understand Lissanna’s whimsical intentions in regards to recruiting, but Undying Resolution is about defending Azeroth and the Alliance, meeting desperate challenges head on, and performing in a serious matter that displays an advanced level of preparedness. Are you up to that challenge?” His eyes were unblinking and unwavering, burning with a cold fire, the eyebrows above them sharp lines of disapproval.
Before Effy could even reply, Ranico added, “Preparedness being high on that list.” His gaze took in her armor. It was obviously of the style used in the cold Northrend campaigns, muted colors, trimmed with warm fur and hide. It did seem out of place compared to the brighter-colored armor he and the other members of Undying Resolution wore, which seemed more appropriate to elemental protection.
Effy suddenly felt as if she had arrived at a ball in a travel-stained garb rather than a gown.
Her face warm and surely flushed violet with embarrassment, Effy replied, “Admittedly, I have been a bit out of sorts since… leaving Northrend. I assure you it is more from readjusting than any lack of commitment.”
Ranico remained impassive, but Mindy leaned forward, her smile once more filling Effy’s vision. “I am sure we can find a way to test your skills, rather than contemplate your fashion choices, yes?” She glanced at Ranico, who gave a curt nod. “Good! Let me find Zweibel. I am sure he will also be most pleased to meet you.”
It was like a thunderhead blocking out the sun when Mindy walked away and left Effy before the full force of Ranico’s dark gaze.
Lissanna gave Effy’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
Returning it with an appreciative smile, Effraeti waited, trying not to wither beneath the death knight’s cold, unblinking eyes.
He seemed entirely uninterested in small talk.
Lissanna was still and patient as a tree, and did not break the silence. She seemed focused on a murder of stormcrows lining the curving path winding around the mage tower across the way.
After what seemed an eternity of silence and discomfort, Mindy returned, but it was actually her companion who first caught Effy’s attention. The shaman had to repress a shudder and the unbidden flight response brought on by the furry, hunched figure.
How will I ever get used to the close presence of these worgen? Effraeti asked herself as she tried to swallow the lump forming in her throat.
Zweibel seemed to notice and gave her a toothy grin. Effy imagined it was meant to put her at ease, but seeing more of his teeth only made her heart race faster.
“Oh good, a shaman! We’ve got a serious elemental infestation here, perhaps you could help out with that!” Zweibel quipped. “Those Earthen Ring folk mean well and all, but they’re never around when you need them.”
Though his voice was gruff and heavy with accent, the comment did allow Effy to unclench her hands and loosen the tensed muscles in her arms. She even managed a polite grin.
It was then Effy noticed Zweibel’s companion. A worg of immense size sauntered up from behind the Worgen to stand at its master’s side. It was not the animal’s size that caused Effy to gape, though, but the sword embedded in its head. When the worg stood straight, the sword formed a forty-five degree angle with the ground, and was deep enough Effy was surprised its point was not visible from the opposite side, beneath the worg’s chin.
“Good boy, Scabbard,” Zweibel murmured and scratched the strange animal behind the ears.
“Effraeti, please meet Zweibel,” Mindy interjected. “Z is Undying Resolution’s quartermaster and field commander.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Effraeti,” Z replied with a deep bow, his smile broadening and once more making his prominent pointed teeth more ominous instead of less so.
It took all Effy’s courage to shake the worgen’s hand. His grip was firm but not uncomfortable, as friendly as his conversational tone. His demeanor was nothing if not relaxed, and that eased Effy further.
By the time Zweibel stepped back and met Mindy’s eyes for her to continue, Effy was at least more relaxed than when the worgen had entered.
As Mindy started to speak again, Zweibel and Scabbard disappeared under the pretenses of other important business. “Perhaps we can continue this conversation somewhere more comfortable, somewhere we can all sit down and make Effy feel more at ease. Inside perhaps?”
Ranico spoke up again. “Yes,” and he drew out that word to length with a thoughtful scratch of his bearded chin. “The guild’s meeting hall would be a much better place.”
Effy did not miss the mischievous grin that lit his face as Mindy frowned.
“No worries, I shall fetch Marshal* myself,” Ranico offered. His suddenly conversational tone set Effy more on edge than his aloof stance from before. She was unsure what had him grinning and Mindy less so.
“Not the venue I had in mind,” Mindy admitted with a dismissive shrug, “but it should serve our purpose.” She gave Effy a forced smile, and Effy attempted to return it.
Ranico returned with two people several moments later.
The man was obviously a mage by his colorful robes and the staff he held that pulsed with arcane power. The other was a blonde-haired woman dressed in a suit of dark plate, slight of build but menacing enough with two large swords belted at her side. Effy thought her a warrior at first until she looked up and met the shaman’s eyes. They were the same frosty blue as Ranico’s.
So it was to Effy’s great surprise when the woman rushed forward and grasped her hands in a friendly, if chilly, shake. “Oh, a draenei!” she nearly squealed. Effy could somehow tell the woman was holding back an even more intense response. “I’m Aesadonna. Call me Aesa, everyone else does,” she offered without further preamble and a wide smile. “Welcome to Undying Resolution!”
Ranico cleared his throat.
Aesa met his stern gaze, and giggled. It was the oddest sound, a strange juxtaposition of lightness mixed with the eerie echo of her undead voice.
“Introduce yourself!” the woman chided, poking her mage companion in the shoulder. Her smile widened as she clasped her small hands before her face in an attempt to stifle another giggle.
“I’m Marshal,” the man said as he shook Effy’s hand.
Renewing her smile, the shaman replied, “Effraeti, but please call me Effy.”
“Effy,” he repeated. “A pleasure.”
Ranico stepped forward not a second later than was courteous to do so. “Marshal, if you would conjure us a portal to the guild hall.”
The mage nodded, and began to gesture. A few strange syllables later, a glowing gate appeared. Through the arcane-lined tear in the air before her, Effy could hardly see anything but shadow on the other side. It looked as black as a crypt, and Effy suppressed a shudder at the thought.
Ranico and Aesa stepped through, and Mindy motioned for Effy to follow. She and Liss were only a few steps behind as Effy stepped through the portal.
As soon as Marshal followed the others through, the portal closed behind him, and with its disappearance went all source of illumination.
Going from the sunlit patio in Stormwind to darkness left Effy nearly blind for a moment. The woman let her eyes adjust to the sudden lack of light. Even then, she still could not see much. The room was not dim, it was black.
Mindy made a dissatisfied noise and spoke a word. Her hand began to glow with soft, white Light, illuminating the room in which they all stood.
It was a crypt.
To either side of the symmetrical room sat a line of stone coffins. They were intricately engraved, and at the head of each coffin stood the lifesize statue of a human. All were standing in regal poses, many holding swords or staves at ready. After a moment’s study, Effy realized all were dressed in the strange manner of the Gilneans, and that realization gave her an idea of where they were.
Effy blinked, not at the sudden brightness for Mindy’s conjuration was soft, but at the implications of where she stood. Why would they bring her to such a place?
Ranico’s face seemed to hold the answers, though Effy could not decipher them. He was most at ease of all of them now, and for the moment he seemed to have forgotten Effy’s presence entirely. He strode forward, and led the group down the center of the room.
The archway at the end of the line of coffins and stone figures opened upon a much wider and taller room. Even Mindy’s Light did not reach to the ceiling or the walls on the other three sides. The most prominent feature of the room was a long, wide table that did not look as old as their surroundings and was obviously a more recent addition.
Effraeti realized she stood in their guildhall.
Marshal whispered a few words and several tiny sparks of flame burst forth from his fingers. They spread apart in a dazzling display of flickering orange. Each flame touched a cold sconce, lighting the torch therein.
Torchlight warmed the great hall a small amount, and Effy came to realize the size of it. Four of the Blue Recluse could have easily fit in the space. The table and its surrounding chairs seemed to be the only decoration, though the table looked able to seat thirty or more.
Two chairs marked the head of the table, and Ranico pulled one out for Mindy before seating himself. It was a gentlemanly gesture that Effy noted with surprise.
Lissanna motioned with her hand for Effy to sit beside her, to the right of Ranico and Mindalen. Aesadonna and Marshal sat opposite them.
“Please, Effy,” Mindy began, “Tell us of your previous adventuring experience.”
Effy gave a nervous smile, and willed her voice steady now that the interview was really beginning. She had never been very good at talking about herself, especially amongst people she did not know well. With a wince, she realized she had never been in this position without Lazheward beside her. That thought both frightened and emboldened her. She had to push forward, or she would surely stagnate.
The shaman briefly recollected her trials and accomplishments since arriving on Azeroth, coming quickly to the more recent past.
“Most recently, I spent many months working closely with the Argent Crusade in their campaigns against the Lich King.”
“That was more than a year ago now,” Ranico responded, his brows knit thoughtfully and his cold eyes once more boring into hers.
“Yes, I have been a bit out of touch lately. It is difficult to explain…” Effy continued.
“Try us,” Ranico replied with a grin that merely punctuated the cynicism in his voice.
Effy gathered her courage in a deep breath, and figured she had little to lose at this point. Either they would believe her and be accepting, or think her crazy and send her on her way. Lissanna seemed to believe her.
“During the Icecrown campaign, my companion and I were approached by the Bronze dragonflight and sent to the future… here. So you see, I have lost that year or more in the hopes of accomplishing whatever it is I am meant to do here.”
“You don’t know what is expected of you?” Mindy asked. “Didn’t they tell you?”
“No, actually. I have been trying to locate Nozdormu without luck. It seems he is still missing.”
“You mentioned a companion,” Ranico said.
“He has also disappeared,” Effy replied. She winced and looked down at her hands.
The echo of heavy footfalls rang through the hall, and from their direction a voice originated. “So I heard there was a new shaman around, and thought I would come see what that might be about.”
A female draenei crossed the hall from an entrance Effy and the others had not entered from. Apparently one of the other darkened doorways led somewhere of interest, possibly a sleeping area. The woman wore gleaming purple and gold platemail and shone with an inner Light that reminded Effy painfully of Lazheward. She was without a doubt a paladin as well.
“Amo!” Aesadonna squealed. “Come sit with us, and meet Effy!”
“Effraeti, this is Amoloria -” Effy noticed the cloud that formed over the Paladin’s features at mention of her name “- whom we all fondly refer to as Amo,” Mindy said, giving a more formal introduction. “We were just listening to how Effy came to find us, Amo. Please join us.”
Amo nodded and sat beside Aesa. “A shaman would be quite a nice addition to our team. There is always plenty of hurting to heal when it comes to these guys.” Amo gave a sly smile, and Effy could not help but return it but held back the soft laugh that tried to come forth.
“Amo, was anyone else with you before you came to seek us out?” Ranico asked, his tone one of barely hidden annoyance. He seemed eager to get anymore interruptions out of the way.
“Actually, Ari and T were both with me, but they headed back to Stormwind,” Amo answered. “If anyone else is around, they’re good and hidden somewhere. Though, honestly, no one really hangs out here unless there’s a meeting.” She gave a mocking frown and dropped her voice to a hissing whisper. “This place is kind of creepy, boss.”
Ranico nodded dismissively. “Much more information than I was looking for. Thank you, Amo.”
The draenei woman smiled wider than before, apparently pleased with herself for getting under the death knight’s cold skin. “Sure thing. So what did I miss?” Amo asked, leaning far back in her chair and clasping her hands behind her head.
“Effy was just telling us how she came upon us,” Mindy answered. She returned her gaze to the nervous shaman. “I have heard little of Nozdormu’s whereabouts, but there is rumor of a gathering of the dragonflights at Wyrmrest. Either Nozdormu or an ambassador of his should be in attendance.”
Her eyes lighting up with hope, Effy nodded. “Indeed. I will be sure to check into that. Thank you.”
“Well, you would not be alone in that,” Aesa assured her. “Wyrmrest is our next stop!”
“First,” Ranico interjected, “it seems the most logical way to test your skills is a demonstration.” He stood back up, and crossed the room to where Amo had appeared from. Chairs marked their noisey, echoey passage across the stone floor as the others rose to join him.
Effy fingered the pouch at her side containing her totems. Its presence was reassuring, though, the shaman knew not what might be expected of her in the coming moments.
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“Greymane Manor,” Amo announced, gesturing towards the great structure looming overhead as they came out into the daylight. Daylight, however, was a relative term, as the sky was grey and overcast. It still made them all blink, for it was brighter than the torchlight in the crypt below.
The manor was most impressive. It was huge, easily larger than Stormwind’s Cathedral of Light. Decorative windows of lead and colored shards of glass sat in every pane. It had three floors and towers raising higher than that. The entire first level was surrounded by a wide covered porch, half of it protruding out over the cliffs facing the ocean.
Despite its vast elegance, Greymane Manor was a sad looking structure, a mere shadow of glory, for it was cold and dark and empty. Effy tried to imagine what the mansion might have looked like occupied, full of people and light and a warm hearth. It was nigh impossible with only the hulking black structure climbing high into the grey sky, and as she tried to picture it a cold drizzle started and banished any further thoughts of warmth here.
Effy shivered and turned to once more regard her companions.
“It seems odd you would choose to take up residence in a crypt over that beautiful manor,” the shaman pondered aloud.
“There are more ghosts in that place than beneath it,” Mindy replied with a shudder.
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“So why are we tromping around through the mountains, exactly?” Amo asked irritably for what seemed the third time. This time, still receiving no response from Ranico, she elaborated, “I mean, all she’s going to do is summon some elementals and make it rain, right?” As she finished, her hoof caught on a rock and she recollected herself with a string of curses in their native language.
Ranico came to an abrupt halt, almost causing Mindy to collide with him, and spun on one thick-soled boot heel to face Amo. “No one said you had accompany us,” the death knight snarled. “You are welcome to return to the guildhall at any time.” His tone, as well as his steady gaze, brought no further complaints from the Paladin, and the group continued on in silence.
Except for Aesa, who giggled, “I want to see what Ranico has in mind.”
Effy gave the woman a curious, albeit nervous, glance. “Indeed,” the shaman mumbled under her breath.
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They came upon a steep ridge shortly afterward, and Ranico scaled the broken stones with a few long and sure-footed leaps. “There,” he stated simply.
The others – Mindy, Amo, Aesa, Marshal, and lastly Effy – came up carefully behind him and soon saw to what the death knight was referring. Perhaps a quarter mile from the ridge upon which they stood sat a behemoth of a type Effy had never seen. It sported two heads, similar to some of the ogres she had seen in her time on Azeroth and Draenor – usually mages or priests of the barbaric race, as the two heads seemed to give the creatures a nominal intelligence gain over their one-head brethren – but was far larger and more lanky. Effy estimated the creature to be two score feet or more tall. As if purely for their comparison, the brutish creature had a limp cliff ram strapped to its belt, the near horse-sized creature looking much like a child’s toy, but more likely a snack.
“A mountain ettin?” Amo asked. “You’re going to send her against a mountain ettin?” There was for once no sarcasm in her voice, merely incredulity.
Ranico gave a sly smile in the Paladin’s direction. “Hardly.”
Without another word the death knight drew his long two-handed sword and broke into a sprint across the pebble-strewn hardpack. A great bellowing cry ushered forth from Ranico’s lips, and the mountain ettin quickly took notice, the lips of both its heads curling into vicious snarls. With a dexterity that belied its enormous size, the creature sprang to its feet and retrieved a club that was more just the trunk of a mature tree.
Eyes widening with realization, Effy rushed along behind Ranico, desperate to stay in range of him. As her hooves scrambled for purchase on the treacherous ground, she managed to cast a quick spell.
The ground between Ranico and the ettin rumbled. The fearless death knight did not flinch nor stumble at the violent wrenching of the ground, not even when several shards of rock detached themselves and shot like arrows for him.
Effy continued to focus as she ran and the shards unobtrusively coated Ranico’s armor with an extra layer of thick stone. That gave her some needed time to catch up as the behemoth and the once-human man collided, but Effy knew it would hardly protect him from more than a glancing blow.
Ranico went at the ettin’s ankles and shins with a fury and the creature bellowed, more in frustration than anger at the tiny blade biting at it and the tiny man holding the offensive item.
Dodging the great tree trunk aimed at his head, Ranico spun to his right, the opposite direction of the descending club, and stepped behind the ettin, slashing wildly at the back of the creature’s knee.
The next bellow from the giant let all within miles know Ranico’s blade had stung that time.
Stumbling and favoring the knee the death knight had nearly hamstrung, the ettin quickly spun, drawing its club in a low circle in its wake. Ranico made a desperate dive backwards, but got clipped across the trailing point of his sword. The weapon flew end over end out to his right as the ettin fully turned to face him, landing an easy thirty yards away.
As Ranico tried to regain his feet, Effy gasped and called upon the earth again, this time summoning a great curved wall of rock to protect the man as the ettin lunged forward, fully intending to crush him beneath its great bulk. Roaring as it struck the rock, the giant drove its empty fist and the club into the stone shield with frustration.
Effy strained to keep the shield in place, perspiration lining her brow, as Ranico scrambled out from underneath it. Then, with a sigh, the shaman released the stone and it crumbled, a violent tremor nearing knocking them all to the ground as the ettin hit on its belly.
Ranico sprinted away from the prone creature.
Steadying her hands with determination, Effy reached into her totem pouch and tossed her fire totem at the ettin, still getting its arms underneath it. A great hot wave of burning magma assaulted the creature and it roared again as it rolled away from the source. Then, the shaman recalled the totem with a thought and immediately tossed out her air totem.
The ettin was still getting to its feet when the totem released a concussive wave of air and electricity, stunning it in place, so that it was unprepared for Ranico’s renewed assault, his sword once more in hand.
Her air totem once more in her pouch, Effy called upon the element of water and summoned a cool, renewing rain all around Ranico. The rain bolstered the death knight’s stamina and his blows fell more often and with more fury than before, but still doing little to fell the huge creature.
Tossing her fire totem once more at the feet of the ettin, Effy summoned the spirit of fire to Ranico’s side, and the two battered the still recovering creature. Her air totem hit the ground, and both Ranico’s weapon and the flaming fists of the fire elemental crackled with electricity, each blow stinging the ettin with jolts of lightning.
Ranico dodged another swing of the tree trunk club, and came right back in at the behemoth. It made a clumsy grasp for Ranico with its left hand and missed. Ranico stung the fingers of that hand with his swinging sword.
The fire elemental grasped the ettin’s right forearm and the creature cried out in pain. Then, it swung the great trunk at the summoned being, which clipped against it, pulling a roar from the battered elemental but setting the club afire. Crying out, the ettin swung the club wildly, merely fanning the eager flames, and finally had to toss the trunk aside as it burned the creature’s hand.
Whenever it focused on Ranico, it was assaulted by the fiery touch of the elemental. When it then turned to roar and strike at the being of fire, the death knight would slash and jab at its already battered legs.
The ettin’s roars became more feeble as burn marks from both fire and lightning and small lines of red from the sharp blade of Ranico’s sword increasingly marred the creature.
Effy bolstered both again with the spirits of the elements, and soon the ettin could no longer keep its feet. As soon as the doomed creature fell to its knees, Ranico and the fire elemental were quick to rush in for the kill. The being summoned by the shaman grasped one head in a fiery, crushing embrace, and Ranico wasted no time in unceremoniously removing the other head from the ettin’s shoulders with a wide, strong slice of his two-handed sword.
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Effy hardly heard the wild clapping around her, had hardly noticed their approach, as the blood throbbed in her temples and she wearily sat herself upon the ground.
“No small task, ridding the world of one of those dangerous monsters,” Mindy congratulated a moment later, putting her reassuring hand upon the shaman’s shoulder.
Ranico calmly strode back toward them, sheathing his sword back in its place on his back. He brushed away the remnants of the now-crumbling stone from his plate armor.
“Quite a dance! Quite a fight!” Ranico said in easily the clearest display of emotion Effy had yet seen from the death knight.
“And so…?” Mindy said, her voice trailing off as she regarded him.
Ranico chuckled. “Yes, yes. Welcome to Undying Resolution.”
* For those who might be wondering, Marshal is actually Beefbus, who requested I use that in lieu of his toon name for story purposes. 🙂
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This story is based on worlds and characters in World of Warcraft.
Awaiting the Muse by Jamie Roman AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.