Approximately Daybreak (It is hard to tell exactly in Duskwood)
Effraeti’s eyes popped open suddenly, her fitful rest broken by a faint shuffling noise coming from somewhere in the darkness of her inn room. Grasping the hilt of the Runeblade at her side, the Death Knight silently rolled off the bed to her left – the closest to the door and the intruding sound. In a fluid motion, she hit the floor in a crouch and sprang towards the would-be assassin.
A brief struggle had her Runeblade to the throat of…
“Eduard?” Effraeti spat impatiently.
“Why yes, Lady Effraeti. Good morning to you, and what a glorious morning it is. I came to wake you for breakfast, though, I suppose I am a slow learner, as I never make it past your doorway.” Lord Eduard Wolfbane gave one of his customary disarming chuckles at his attempted humor, apparently unfazed by the glowing sharp steel tickling his neck.
Issuing a disgruntled sound, Effraeti sheathed her Runeblade with a quick effortless flick. Then, giving Lord Eduard one last dagger-eyed look, she turned on the heel of her boot and stalked away.
A nibble of some dry toast and a few sips of the sludge that passed for coffee at the Scarlet Raven, and Effraeti was anxious to be on their way.
Her companions did not seem so quick to be off.
Happy family chatter circled the table as Lord Eduard and Lady Gaeladrial conversed with one another and their two daughter’s, Sifaol and Amaeris. Though they had tried to get Effraeti to join in on this flowery fairy family time, they had finally learned the attempt was in vain and left Effraeti to her own devices when it came to meals.
Effraeti made a quick check of her Runeblade, though the weapon never needed sharpening or polishing. She found a moment of mental respite staring into its runes, pulsing like the beat of a heart. That bit of meditation was her best escape anymore.
Her mind clear and focused, she swept her eyes across the other inhabitants of the table.
Lord Eduard, endlessly charismatic and always doting on the beautiful Gaeladrial, and she his right hand in everything. They were always in agreement to the point of disgusting, as if they were two people working off the same mind.
Effraeti shuddered slightly. Disgusting.
Then, there were Sifaol and Amaeris, two sisters who could not be more different. The elder, Sifaol, was aloof and stoic, often caught up in her own piety, citing her work in the name of the Light as the reason. Amaeris on the other hand was a passionate woman, ruled by her emotions – an open book to all and quick to help out anyone in need, even to her own detriment at times. Yet, somehow, these two women of completely different minds got along better than any pair of women Effraeti had ever known.
That did not overshadow the disdain she felt for them all during these moments – the whole flowery fairy family.
When it came to business, the more serious and dark side of the Wolfsbane family came to light. Effraeti had not learned their family secret until after hunting – err, subduing – with them.
The Wolfsbane family came to Duskwood as refugees from the fallen city of Gilneas. They had migrated to Duskwood in an attempt to escape the genocide the Forsaken brought unbidden to their quiet shores. However, the family did not escape unscathed.
During their separation from the outside world, the citizens of Gilneas fell victim to the Worgen. The feral creatures ripped apart the small city-state from the inside, leaving vast amounts of the population dead or infected. Those infected with the Curse soon found themselves losing control to it – attacking their own family and friends, and quickly losing all semblance of their humanity.
Then, the Night Elves came to help the Gilneans. They explained the source of the Worgen Curse as being a group of Druids who attempted to follow in the steps of the demigod Goldrinn, the giant wolf. These Druids of the Pack lost themselves to the feral creatures they were shapeshifting into and had to be imprisoned by sleep into the Emerald Dream, where the Night Elves hoped they could cause no more harm. That only lasted until the Archmage Arugal attempted to summon the Worgen as allies to protect the besieged Mage city of Dalaran. The Worgen were not to be controlled, though, and many got loose, hiding near Shadowfang Keep and some all the way to Duskwood.
The Night Elves gave the Gilneans a partial cure – it would not make them human, but it would allow them to better control their ferality. It gave the Gilneans the ability to harness their new abilities and strengths, without falling into a bloodlust madness.
The entire Wolfsbane family was infected with the Worgen Curse.
Sifaol and Amaeris were Worgen, given the correct amount of stress or a need to defend themselves, they would change into their feral forms. Lord Eduard and Lady Gaeladrial, however, seemed to have some kind of immunity to the Curse. They were infected, but they only transformed through their own will.
It was this odd immunity that had led the Wolfsbanes to Duskwood and their current crusade. Eduard and Gaeladrial thought to use their alchemical knowledge and the immunity in the blood coursing through their veins to create an antidote to the Curse.
The cure was still in a stage of testing…
After being in such a hurry to be done with breaking their fast, Effraeti found herself standing around the shattered inn at Raven Hill while Eduard and Gaeladrial tinkered with the most recent formula for their hypothetical cure. An impatient look marring her stern visage, arms crossed and hoof tapping, the Death Knight found it near impossible to believe the two had not noticed her anxious posture.
Sifaol and Amaeris were gathering herbs to help with the antidote’s newest incarnation.
“My Blade hungers, yet we stand here and play with potions,” Effraeti finally blurted.
“Yes, my dear Effraeti, I know you are anxious to hunt, but all is for naught without this.” Lord Eduard lifted a small vial up to the meager light of the broken building to accentuate his point. A pleased smile brushed his lips and when he gave Gaeladrial a silent congratulations and she smiled back.
“Good, let us be off!” Effraeti concluded, stalking out of the dark and empty inn, her hooves clomping on the warped boards in a recessing echo as she retreated to the outside.
Eduard gave his wife a smirk that needed no accompanying words, and with a shared chuckle they followed the Death Knight into the murky woods.
“Let us rest and eat something before we continue. These woods are too quiet today. Perhaps a moment’s rest and discussion will shed light onto some action we have not yet tried,” Eduard suggested.
Effraeti snapped him a look, her frustration written all over her face, but she halted her advancement through the fog and heavy undergrowth and merely paced impatiently around the perimeter of the small clearing the others took rest in. She had no desire to stop or eat, and so she kept watch – hoping for something, anything, to jump out and disrupt their meal.
It was not until the Wolfsbanes were almost ready to pack up and continue on that Effraeti caught sight of something – something large and fast moving.
With not a word or backwards glance, the Death Knight crouched, assessed the scene before her and sprang off into action, her Runeblade in her hand in one fluid motion.
More Work Time
“Effraeti? Wait, come back!” Amaeris shouted after her as soon as she noticed the Death Knight was off and running. She turned to her family members with a frown. “Well, we best be after her.”
The others nodded and hastily repacked their gear.
Gwaehiir, Amaeri’s stormcrow companion let out a temperamental caw at the sudden disturbance, but faithfully followed the woman until he settled into a smooth rhythm of wing beats and then soared high above to be his master’s eyes. The stormcrow scanned below him from just above the dense trees, but his eyes were keen and quickly spotted and caught up to Effraeti, who was dashing through the underbrush in fast pursuit of whatever had caught her attention.
Amaeris relayed the information to the others and they followed Gwaehiir’s directions as quickly as could be managed in the deep portion of Duskwood.
When they did catch up to her, Effraeti already had her prey subdued. She was obviously making a great effort to keep herself from gutting the creature, as it appeared to have dealt her a couple serious hits – her left side and her right forearm both sporting vicious marks from the claws of the Worgen on the ground beneath her hoof and the sharp tip of her Runeblade.
“About time. I nearly put him out of his beastly misery waiting,” Effraeti spat venomously. She moved her face a little closer to the creature and growled right back in response to the similar sound that emanated from deep in its throat.
Gaeladrial stepped forward and began to speak words of calling to the natural parts of their surroundings. Vines slithered towards them at her beckon and within moments had the feral Worgen tightly bound – muzzle, arms, legs – until he could be dragged and transported back to Raven’s Hill.
Dinner was taken at the shattered inn at Raven’s Hill, a meager meal consisting of the same bread and dried foodstuffs they had consumed at their noonmeal.
Effraeti tauntingly prodded at the bound worgen, still waiting for the antidote Eduard and Gaeladrial had worked on all morning. They were once more double-checking amounts and smell and color and consistency.
“You know, if the antidote works, it is not going to make him forget you tormenting him while he was helpless,” Amaeris harshly informed the Death Knight. She stood at the inn’s doorway, arms crossed and leaning against the door jamb.
Her impertinent look only provoked a wicked grin from Effraeti. “Good,” she replied, her tone smug, “I want him to remember this so that once he is loose he can attack me and I can return the favor of his claw marks marring my body.” She lifted the immobile Worgen and moved her face close enough to feel the hot breath coming from the creature’s lupine nose and a muzzle that could barely open wide enough for him to growl, so tight were the creeping vines holding him. “You want to fight me again, do you not, little mongrel?”
The Worgen’s eyes flashed with hatred and feral bloodlust and it managed another growl from deep within its chest.
“Ahh, my dear Effraeti, no need to make our guest feel less welcome,” Eduard’s voice cheerfully told her.
The Death Knight dropped the worgen with a thud and provoking an involuntary whimper. She turned to the head of House Wolfsbane and looked upon him questioningly. “Does that mean you finally have your all-important potion ready for the beast?”
“Indeed,” was the man’s only reply as her crossed the small room in a few steps to the side of the bound creature.
Gaeladrial had silently entered behind him and readied herself to dismiss the binding tendrils imprisoning the Worgen. They coordinated without conversation and as soon as Eduard was within range of the Worgen’s face, Gaeladrial released the vines around his muzzle.
The creature snarled and snapped at Eduard once.
Eduard stepped back triumphant, his hand empty yet intact. When the worgen snapped at him, Eduard had tossed the small vial into its mouth.
The worgen began to convulse within its bonds. Despite the wild gyrations, the creature remained upright and could not hurt itself or any of its captors. After several moments, the creature let out a howl and began to shrink within its bonds. Skin began to show where fur had been, and both Lord Eduard and Lady Gaeladrial looked at one another hopefully.
Then, the now human-looking worgen let out another howl, only this time it was more of an agonized scream. Even Effraeti flinched at the horrible sound, and turned away.
After what seemed several minutes of the Worgen turned man screaming his obvious pain, the room grew suddenly silent.
Slowly, Effraeti turned her head back towards the bound creature and her mouth dropped open in quiet surprise.
All that was left of the poor creature was a steaming puddle of human-colored goo.
Effraeti briefly took in the distraught and horror of her companions, and then quipped, “Well, for all the time and trouble, you could have just let me put the beast out of its misery… It would have been less mess, I assure you.” She scrunched up her nose and strode out into the falling darkness outside.
Effraeti had wasted no time summoning her Deathcharger, Sorrow, and heading back to the Scarlet Raven. She had no intentions of hanging around to cleanup what was left of the Wolfsbanes’ most recent experiment.
Looking over her wounds from the day, Effraeti shrugged, seeing that they were minor scratches and hardly worth concerning herself. Sifaol would likely insist upon healing them on the morrow. For now, the Death Knight slowly stretched her lithe limbs and settled herself into a seated position onto the floor, folding her hooved legs beneath her. She focused on her breathing and whispered words in Draenish that had once opened her mind to commune with the elements.
No longer did they listen. They scoffed at such requests from unworthy sources, she knew. But the motions of it brought her some comfort at the end of each day.
Effraeti laid down, eyes watching the black ceiling above her and occasionally glancing up and out the window at her head, but there were no stars – in Duskwood there never were.
Eventually, rest took her, until the morrow when the cycle would begin again.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Awaiting the Muse by Jamie Roman AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.