Afterglow [Mature]

Afterglow - A Hero's Welcome

Note: Some of the material in this story is MATURE.

The three women laughed over their drinks, hardly holding themselves in their chairs, though, come the morning, none would likely remember what jokes had so gotten them to that point.  It hardly mattered to the three, for it was a reprieve well-earned and sorely needed.  Every toast was to the fallen, every laugh was to stay the tears, and every joke was to ward off the thoughts of “What now?” – thoughts better left for the sobering morrow.

Deathwing, the World-Breaker, the cataclysmic harbinger of the end of the world and all life on Azeroth, had been destroyed.  If ever a laugh, a toast, a smile, were needed, it was at the close of that long and arduous campaign.

Effraeti, draenei by birth and shaman by calling and Effy to all who knew her, set aside an empty glass and lifted a fresh one in her pale, blue-skinned hand to again toast with her companions.  As with each toast previous, and surely each to follow, the entire great room of A Hero’s Welcome within the floating mage city of Dalaran joined in with a chorus of cheers and “Huzzah”s and tipped glasses to the three champions.

Amo – more formally Amoloria, but to address her so was to invoke her wrath – another draenei, though more deep purple in skin tone than her shaman friend, sat to Effy’s left.  She similarly lifted her glass and broke into a fresh smile.  The paladin had shed her gleaming platemail for the evening, trading it for more comfortable clothing, but she still had her white hair pulled back into its customary ponytail and shone no less brightly with inner Light.

Their glasses made a sharp tink upon contact, and both joined them against the glass of their other companion.  Aesadonna, to Effy’s right, grinned and winked one of her fiercely glowing blue eyes as glass met yet again.  The death knight, a human in her former life, was certainly an anomaly amongst her dark and emotionless kind – bubbling and extroverted and impossible to dislike.  Sometimes her companions had to wonder whether she was even aware of her undead disposition.

As glasses descended from still smiling lips, Aesa cocked her head and said with a hint of amusement, “I believe we have an admirer.”

“Hmm?” Amo queried in a confused purr.

“At the bar,” Aesa elaborated and pointed with a nod of her head.  “He has been watching us quite intently since entering.”

Effy flickered her gaze in the bar’s direction.  She and Aesa were both mostly facing that direction already, but Amo had to spin around backwards in her chair to follow their gaze.

As three pairs of eyes so obviously descended on him, the man gave them a charming smile, one which raised the edges of his black-flecked-with-grey goatee in a most flattering visage.  He lifted his dark brows and shrugged with feigned resignation, as if silently conceding he had been caught.  Then, he saluted the three women with his mug and took a deep swig.

“Quite handsome, for a human,” Amo commented.  “No offense to our present human company,” she quickly added with a grin in Aesa’s direction.

Aesa seemed unbothered by the comment and merely widened her grin.  “Perhaps we should invite him to join us?”

Effy met her gaze with an incredulous look.  “You are hardly one in a position to flirt with a stranger.  What of Marshal?”

Aesa’s eyes widened innocently.  “What?  We are out and enjoying ourselves, and rightly so.  Besides, it looks as if he has taken to the invitation before it was spoken.”  She giggled.

Before Aesa’s sentence had fully left her mouth, Effy felt a sudden presence beside her and started.

“Good evening, ladies,” the man said with a polite bow, his voice rich with accent.  Though his nearness surprised her, Effy thought his smile to be irresistible.  She found herself smiling back despite herself and despite his sudden proximity.  “I could not help but find my attention stolen by such beauty, and had to know the name of that beauty,” he continued, his dark-eyed gaze becoming more intense.

With a blink, Effy realized that gaze to be settled solely on her.

“That’s Effraeti,” Aesa offered, nudging her shaman friend’s shoulder with a grin.  “But we all call her Effy.”

“I am honored, Miss Effraeti.”

“As is she,” Amo interjected for their speechless companion.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Afterglow - Lycaohn

The man introduced himself as Lycaohn, a displaced member of the Gilnean nation.  It explained his accent and his formal demeanor.  Though he seated himself at their table – at the emphatic insistence of Aesa – was attentive through all introductions, and spoke with all of them, there was hardly a moment where the majority of his attention was not on Effy.

The Draenei woman felt the whole situation to be quite awkward, not wanting to be such a center of attention, but could not deny her interest in the intense and charming man.  She felt certain her face was quite flush the remainder of the evening, and told herself without conviction it to be the numerous rounds of drinks she and her friends imbibed – drinks that hardly slowed with the addition of a fourth to their table.

Stories were heartily swapped over those endless rounds of alcohol.  Amo went into great detail of their final battle with Deathwing, the former Earth Warder.  The Paladin seemed to be telling the story for the benefit of the whole room, with much acting out and at one point even jumping upon the table – to the cheers of all within earshot.  Lycaohn, in response, told them stories of Gilneas – both of its grandeur and of its fall.  His telling was far less animated, but no less intriguing.  At points, it seemed as if he spoke of a kingdom on another planet, instead of another continent, so different was life in the walled-off nation over the many years of its seclusion.  To Effy and Amo, after centuries of space travel, that otherworldliness was indeed interesting and exotic, but to Aesa, having always been of Azeroth, it was even more fascinating.

Afterglow - Amo's Story

As the night wore on, Effy found herself more relaxed and more drawn into the voice and nature of Lycaohn.

“Well, my friends – new friend included,” Aesa finally broke in at one point, “the evening is fast approaching a new morning and I fear we are soon to be asked to leave.”  She smirked and made an exaggerated glance around the near-empty great room.

“Oh, indeed,” Effy interjected, and she furrowed her brows briefly at the regret that seemed obvious in her tone.

Aesa stood suddenly, and leaned over to hug her Shaman friend, who distractedly returned it.  As she stood, she sent a telling gaze in Amo’s direction and gave a soft clearing of her throat when Amo did not immediately respond.  The Paladin blinked and jumped up fast enough she knocked her chair over backwards.  Smiling at Effy and Lycaohn, who had not yet risen, Amo looked back at Aesa with an unsuppressed snicker and the two women left.

Effy’s eyes narrowed briefly, accompanied by a confused frown, as she regarded the quick departure of the two.  Then, she recalled her remaining companion, and looked over to see Lycaohn’s dark eyes intently locked on her.

Warmth flooded the woman’s face again.

“I suppose it is late,” she stated, the obviousness of the statement making her wince.

“Quite so,” the man replied with heavy sigh.

Several moments passed in silence.  Effraeti found herself caught in the dark pools that were his eyes.  Lycaohn seemed similarly transfixed.

“Allow me to see you home?  Or to wherever it is you are staying this evening,” the man implored.  “What sort of gentleman would I be to not see you there safely?  The world is a wide and dangerous place, after all.”

Effy tilted her head and smiled at the absurdity of the comment in light of all she had recently, and previously, accomplished – saving the world and all – and she saw the responding smile on Lycaohn’s face.

“Or perhaps,” the man continued, “you can protect us both from the terrors of the night, Miss Effraeti, slayer of World-Breakers.”  He bowed respectfully and offered her his hand.

Effy chuckled self-deprecatingly at that, and took his hand she she stood.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Do tell, do tell,” Aesadonna insisted, veritably bouncing in her chair and more resembling a young girl than a death knight.  Aesa’s smile lit up her whole face as Effy sat down at the guild’s meeting table, in a chair held for her between her companions from the night before.  That smile only grew when Effy flushed a deep shade of violet, nearly matching the other Draenei’s skin.

“Yes, please,” Amo implored from Effy’s other side, “before dear Aesa’s head explodes.”

The guildhall was still mostly empty, only a few others starting to gather at a very long table in its center and none close enough to gather much more than Aesa’s characteristic enthusiasm.  It was a dark, dank room and smelled of stale air trapped far too long beneath the ground.  The many torches, lit and crackling at even intervals around the vast room, did little to steal the dreadful feeling from the place.

Usually the place offended her senses and made her wish to be anywhere else, so were the unpleasant feelings evoked by meeting in a crypt, yet today, Effy hardly noticed her surroundings – except of course, for her two very eager friends to either side.

Effy let out a breathy laugh despite herself.  “There is so little to tell,” she insisted with a helpless shrug of her shoulders.

Aesa’s crestfallen look was so exaggerated it was comical.  “Nothing?” she replied, her voice several octaves higher than normal.  A few glanced their direction at Aesa’s shrill response, but she ignored them.

“Down girl, let Effy finish,” Amo hissed with a smirk.

Effy tried to smile away the discomforting looks she received from both women.  “He was no less a gentleman after you left than before,” she continued.

“What?  Did he just leave?  Never to see you again?” Aesa asked.  Each word left her mouth in a slightly higher tone and volume than that before it.  “Oh, this is horrible!”

Amo glared at Aesa for a moment.  “Shush.”

Aesa’s eyes widened, and so surprised was she that she could do nothing but comply, albeit with a gawking expression.

Amo’s smirk returned, pulling up only one side of her mouth and crinkling her luminescent eyes.  “Please, Effy, continue.”

Effy shook her head at both of them, another helpless chuckle tumbling from her lips.  “He walked me home…”

“Ooooh!” Aesa sighed, and firmly pressed her lips together when Amo’s frown fell upon her again.  “Continue!” Aesa begged despite herself, and quickly placed her hands over her mouth to signify she would try and not interrupt again.

“I agreed to meet with him later today,” Effy admitted, the blush returning to her cheeks.  “After the guild meeting.”

Aesa literally jumped out of her seat with joy.  “Yay!”

Afterglow - Aesa's Cheer

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Effy could not hide the smile that came so easily to her upon seeing Lycaohn again.

“Good afternoon, Miss Effraeti,” the man greeted with a wide smile as she came over to join him.  He stood and took her hand with a polite bow, kissing the tops of her fingers and tickling them with the salt and pepper whiskers of his goatee.  Then, he helped her with her chair and seated himself beside her.

The two talked about everything and nothing.  They talked over tea, and when they were still enjoying each other’s company as afternoon became evening, they talked over dinner.  Effy talked of the past, and tried not to relate to Lazheward too often, though he was a large part of her long life’s history.  Lycaohn spoke of his previous life in Gilneas, as a successful farmer turned landowner.  He mentioned a wife and that she had died in the attack of the Forsaken, but went into little detail regarding her, so Effy did not press further.

“I am not sure which sounds more horrifying, the attacks of the Forsaken or those of the worgen, an enemy from within,” Effy mused at one point.

Lycaohn flinched briefly.  “The Forsaken, certainly,” he answered quickly, and became quiet, covering the abrupt pause with a drink from his cup.

Effy nodded, thinking he said so because of the death of his wife, and quickly changed the subject to his arrival in Darnassus and where he had gone from there.

Lycaohn latched onto the subject change, and his smile returned even as he admitted he felt he had accomplished little since becoming a displaced farmer.  “I am no adventurer, surely, but perhaps that would be better than resting on my laurels and living off the goodwill of King Greymane and his newfound allies.  Handouts have a debilitating effect on a man’s pride.”

“Well, being an adventuer has its perks, but certainly is no easy life,” Effy admitted.

“Why do you continue, then?” Lycaohn asked.

“Perhaps I have simply become too accustomed to it, having known little else than the life of a drifter.”  She laughed at herself.

Lycaohn’s already intense gaze became very serious.  “Then perhaps something more rooted is long overdue to you.”

Effy had no real response to that and simply sipped her tea.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Afterglow - Lycaohn and Effraeti

Lycaohn was quite tall for a human, but still short compared to Effraeti’s near seven foot stature.  As they stood facing one another in the crowded plaza of Stormwind’s Trade District outside the The Gilded Rose, where Effy had been spending most of her nights, the draenei woman could not help but note the difference.  She forced herself not to slouch in response.

Then, before she could ponder such things further, she glanced back up and his intense, dark eyes drew her in, and in that moment it felt regrettable to bid him goodnight.  The sun was long gone, but the city still very awake around them.

“It is still early,” Effy said, the comment sounding flat to her own ears.

“Much earlier than when we parted last night,” Lycaohn responded with a grin.

“You could come up if you like,” Effy continued, emboldening herself.  “We could order some wine and continue our conversation.”

From the torn look on his face, the woman was certain he would decline.  He surprised her a moment later when his smile returned and he replied with, “I would enjoy that.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Effraeti sat on the edge of the small room’s bed beside Lycaohn, a half-empty bottle and two glasses on the table beside it.  She took a sip, returning the glass, and turned back towards Lycaohn to find him much closer than she had thought him a moment before.  So close was the man, she inhaled sharply in surprise and caught the smell of the fruity fragrance of wine on his breath.

He studied her face as if for the first time, and a palpable silence hung between them.

“I would kiss you, dear Effraeti, but I fear being too presumptuous,” the man whispered.  Her eyes took in the subtle movement of his lips as he spoke, not wanting to miss the words.

“Please…” Effy began, but the remainder of her plea was lost as their lips met.

It was at first slow and cautious, like stumbling around in the dark, but it nearly stole her senses.  Her head swam.  His soft lips seemed to take cues from her own, two unfamiliar dance partners in a long unheard song, and he let her lead.

Effy’s heart raced, anxious that the kiss might end and she would too soon lose the feeling of his lips against hers, the tickle of his whiskers against her face.  Entwining her fingers in the shoulder length hair just behind his behind his ears, she pressed her lips more firmly against his, lengthening the kiss, deepening it.  Lycaohn returned it, sliding his hands along the curves at the tops of her hips and pulling her body closer, right up against him.

Effy felt she might faint, like there was not enough air to sustain her in that moment.  She gasped but did not let him go, and Lycaohn kissed the edge of her mouth, her cheek, her earlobe, the soft place where her neck began.  A moan escaped her, and she was eager to find his lips again.

Their kisses became more desperate, and Lycaohn eased her back to the bed and Effy did not resist.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Afterglow - The Gilded Rose

The man watched her slow breathing as it raised and lowered her pale, blue-skinned chest, covered by nothing more than the thin sheet of the bed.  Her hair was a messy tumble of brown locks around her head, and as a stray bit tumbled forward and tickled her nose, making her eyes crinkle, Lycaohn lightly brushed it back behind her ear.  His hand lingered on the soft skin of her cheek, and a smile flitted across her lips.

Lycaohn pulled his hand back close to his head, onto the pillow, and took all of her in as his eyes grew heavy.

Thinking back to his approach of her the night before, the man smiled.  It had seemed quite absurd at the time, and out of character for him.  Now, here he was, looking upon her, the memories of their lovemaking fresh in his mind, and it was as if it was the only sane answer in an insane world.

His last conscious thought before sleep overtook him was, You have to tell her the truth.  He could not argue himself that point, because there might come a time when he could not hold the beast at bay.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Afterglow - Stormwind

All of their nights together from that first one forward were spent at the small house granted to Lycaohn by King Varian in a community recently built for some of the displaced Gilneans.  It was on the northern side of Stormwind near some farms skirting the city’s edge.

There were days, and even some nights, where Effy was called away for some guild business or another – a cluster of encroaching ogres here or a rampaging Horde troop there – but for the most part, life on Azeroth was relatively quiet.  Lycaohn was doing odd jobs around the Gilnean community of Stormwind, as well as on the numerous farms dotting the region.

For the most part, it left the two lovers much time together.

Effraeti came to discover that Lycaohn was quite the cook, in contrast to her meager skill in that area, aside from what cooking she had learned to do over a campfire.  She was an enthusiastic student, though, and many nights they stayed in to craft meals both standard and exotic.

It was closest Effy could recall to leading what might be considered a normal life.  It was the kind of life most people lived, people who were not fighting for the survival of the very planet they lived upon or fleeing through the depths of space from the inevitable extinction that nipped at their heels.

And Effy found herself to be happy.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The sun was barely brightening the top edges of the mountains to Stormwind’s east when Effraeti found herself awake.  She tried to close her eyes again, not wanting to get up.  The skin of Lycaohn’s chest and stomach were warm against her back, his arm draped loosely over her front, and she had no desire to disturb either of them from the embrace.  But it was not long before the partially shaded window and the silence could no longer hold her interest.

The press of his body was too inviting.

With as little disruption as possible, Effy rolled her body under Lycaohn’s arm.  Facing him, she slowly slid her arms up his back, grabbing the tops of his shoulder blades and pressing against him, kissing him, first lightly but with increasing urgency as his eyes fluttered.

Before they were even fully open, he was inside of her.

Lycaohn pulled her on top of him and grabbed ahold of her hips as he thrust upwards.  Effy moaned as her whole body tensed in reply.  Sitting upright, she moved in rhythm with him, her knees tight against his sides.  The world beyond the two of them fell away, and Effy focused only on him, the feeling, the two dark eyes locked on her own when they were not tracing the lines of her body.

Effy cried out in ecstasy.  Lycaohn moaned as she tightened around him, and he pulled her in closer.  He cradled her head as he rolled her onto her back and thrust harder, in and out, until he too released all the energy building within him.

Afterwards, the man raised himself up on his arms, looking down at her still shaking form, his dark eyes gleaming in the dim light over the wide smile crossing his face.  “Tell me you have no guild business today, as I have no tasks so pressing they cannot wait until tomorrow, or the next day.” Lycaohn implored, brushing his hand lightly over her cheek.

Effy regarded him curiously.  “We should probably get out of bed at some point,” she responded and smirked at him.

The man let out a chuckle at the effect of his cryptic statement.  “I want to get away, just for a day or two.  We can picnic and sleep under the stars.  Though, not too much sleeping, I hope.”  With that last comment he leaned forward and nibbled her neck playfully.  “I would much prefer to enjoy you than sleep,” he breathed into her ear, inciting a soft moan that only served to drive him on again.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Afterglow - Campfire

The world was still and quiet around them, except for the echoey chorus of a thousand crickets.

The remains of their light meal beside them, near the warm light of the flickering fire, Lycaohn took in the soft azure features of the woman and knew he was at peace.  Effy’s luminescent eyes similarly followed the lines of his face, but always those eyes came back to his.  She traced a similar path with her delicate fingers, running along his cheek, stroking the bottom edge of his ear, twirling loosely through his dark hair, brushing along the trimmed whiskers of his goatee, tickling his lower lip.  He lightly kissed the tips of those fingers, and Effraeti leaned in and met his lips with her own.  His arms tightened around her in response.

A noise that was certainly no cricket, the snap of a twig it seemed, caused Effy to pull away.  She appeared to hold her breath, focusing less with her eyes and more with her ears.  Her hands were tense on his forearms, her face a grimace as if smelling something offensive.

It was impossible for him to see anything in the blackness beyond the edge of the fire’s light.

With a movement almost too subtle for him to catch, Effy’s hand went to her belt and the small pouch that hung there.  A fluid motion of that hand brought forth and dropped one of the small totems she kept there.

The faintest whisper of words, too low for Lycaohn to decipher, drifted towards them.

Effy pulled at his arms, and they both tumbled ungraciously to the right.

A second later, a bolt of roiling green flame flashed into existence and struck where they had been sitting a moment before.  It flared and hissed.  Lycaohn’s head snapped in that direction, and it all happened so fast he was only just in time to see the bolt fizzle and be consumed by Effy’s totem.

The woman stood, and snapped her hand forward again.  This time, as her next totem hit the ground, a great being appearing as a violent vortex of wind sprang forth, and the energy crackling around the elemental made all the man’s hair stand on end.

As the air elemental gestured forward, a lightning bolt crackled forth.

A surprised cry ushered from the brush.

Lycaohn grabbed for the one weapon available to him, an old hunting knife they had used while preparing dinner, and he held it before him as he clambered to his feet.  He willed himself calm, and took a deep, steadying breath.

Effy was still murmuring spells to his left, summoning a watery-looking shield upon herself and in the same breath shooting a small spark of fire in the direction of their enemy’s cry.

Proklyatiye fad-volshebnik,” the shaman hissed as a strange four-legged creature bigger than any dog Lycaohn had ever seen bound out of the darkness.  It’s face was merely a wide toothy mouth that encompassed a quarter of its body, and it was covered more with spines of varying size than fur.  The not-dog whipped a pair of tentacles sprouting from its back at the air elemental as it loped by, causing Effy’s creature to screech in pain and seeming to stun it.

Another spark of flame came from Effy’s hand as she backed away from the approaching not-dog.  It let a high-pitched yip as it’s egg-shaped body sizzled with the fire that engulfed it.  Then, murmuring more syllables, the woman shot her hand forward again, this time propelling a ball of magma that warmed Lycaohn’s face more than the nearby fire.

The disembodied voice beyond the firelight cried in unison with its pet as the not-dog tumbled away through the edge of the campfire, knocking glowing embers across the ground.  The not-dog slid to a stop and became very still.

Effy dismissed her distressed air elemental, and strode forward toward their invisible attacker.

Lycaohn cursed as he looked on, feeling helpless with naught but a worn knife.  He gripped the handle until his knuckles turned white and willed himself calm as he sidestepped around the far side of the low-burning campfire.

Another fire-spark shot from Effy’s hand as she approached the darkness, then another.  She seemed to be lighting her way as much as trying to sting the cowardly intruder.  A shield of water flickered around her, accompanied by a rippling shield the dark green of late summer grass.  As she neared the edge of the campfire’s light, she gestured toward the ground and the very rock beneath them lurched and rumbled.  And still she shot tiny sparks of fiery light into the darkness, her face a resolute mask.

She was all at once beautiful and terrifying.

Even as he watched, ready to shout to her if their attacker tried to assail her, Lycaohn continued to creep around the fire.  Once at the dark edge of the trees, he found he was at first nearly blind in the blackness beyond the fire’s glow, but his eyes adjusted quickly.  The bright moons above, with their accompanying stars, lit his way forward well enough.

Some strange, unknown sense drove Lycaohn in a direction he knew to be the right one.  He followed that sense and took a path he thought to be an intercepting one.

Then, he was face to face with the intruder.  Trying to keep ahead of Effy’s fire and the heaving, rumbling ground, perhaps even fleeing entirely, the emaciated figure stumbled right into Lycaohn’s path.  The moonlight was enough to illuminate the pallid creature for what it was – a Forsaken!

Its cold, depthless eyes lifted in momentary surprise.

Lycaohn’s face twisted into a snarl.  “Soulless abomination!” he growled.  The man’s vision sparked with red and went hazy as his muscles twitched involuntarily.  He fought to control his anger, the knife’s handle spinning restlessly in his right hand, his left clenching and unclenching.

“Let me introduce you to true agony, fool,” the Forsaken hissed, recollecting itself and reaching forward.  Its claw-like, skeletal hand thumped against Lycaohn’s chest.

A howl escaped the man, a howl first coming from that place of pain instilled by the undead’s spell, then twisting into something more feral.

As the howl changed, so did the man.

The pain of the spell dulled against the wrenching, breaking anguish coming from deep within Lycaohn as he began to feel as if he were tearing from the inside out.  Bones popped and clothing tore as he grew in height and mass, his shoulders broadening and his face elongating into a lupine muzzle.  Fur sprouted all over his face and body, and when his pained eyes opened, they shone with a fierce orange glow.

Afterglow - 1Afterglow - 2Afterglow - 3Afterglow - 4Afterglow - 5

The howl turned into a roar.

Lycaohn saw the Forsaken had taken several steps back, but that did not calm his rage.  This creature, this abomination, had attacked them, planned to kill them.  Not like Maeranda! his head screamed, the small part that still thought in more than terms of blood and dismembering.  For in that moment, Lycaohn was fully at the mercy of the feral worgen curse that infected his blood and was forever nipping at the edges of his anger, fear, and lust, waiting for a moment he was not fully in control – as now, frightened for Effy and himself both.

Powerful legs propelled Lycaohn forward and clawed hands at the end of long, muscular arms grabbed the Forsaken warlock around the throat.  The decaying wretch made a desperate shout and flail of his hands as it alternately clawed at the worgen’s strong grip.  Lycaohn spun and tossed the warlock all in one movement as he turned to face the creature the warlock had summoned at his back.

He was just in time to catch the giant axe swinging for his head.  He snarled at the demon and wrestled for the weapon, snapping his jagged fangs in the summoned creature’s face.  It leaned back, but did not release the axe, and the two paced a circle as they grappled.

Solely in the moment, his feral thoughts on naught but shredding the demon before him, Lycaohn was oblivious to the motions and murmurings of the unfettered warlock behind him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Effraeti made quick progress through the dark woods, lighting her way with with the sparks of fire regularly pulsing forward from her hand.  She quieted the earthquake with a dismissive gesture, realizing the warlock was on the run, but that hardly concerned her.  She could smell the evil creature’s presence – the offensive stench of fel magic, which had for so many centuries personified the fear that had drove her outcast race through the stars.

No more would she run.

It was Lycaohn’s howl of pain that caused her to stumble with uncertainty.  He was somewhere before her, in the direction of the warlock, though she had thought him behind her in their camp.

Fear gripped her and drove her forward with more haste.

It was confusion a moment later which almost caused her to falter again.  A different howl pierced the night, this howl certainly the sound of no man.  Effraeti briefly thought of some demonic creature the warlock might summon, but she knew before the thought finished such was not the case.  It was not a separate sound, but a transformed one – transformed from the desperate howl of Lycaohn.

She sped on, sensing she closed on the warlock, but not fast enough.  Certainly not fast enough.

A distant roar assaulted her, closer now, and Effy hurried on.

A flicker of movement ahead told Effy she was getting close.  She caught sight of the gaudy purple and green robe of the warlock, and… something else.  Lycaohn, it had to be Lycaohn.

Making out just enough to realize the warlock was casting, Effy pressed herself on.  As soon as she was within range, she gestured at the ground.  Once again, the stones heaved and grated against one another, buckling the ground and spilling the warlock ungraciously onto its backside.

Finally, Effy stepped around the trees and into the small area where the warlock scrambled to get back to his feet only to tumble over again.  Impervious to the violence affecting the ground around her, the shaman approached and realized the creature was a Forsaken.  Her face crinkled in disgust.

“I do not like warlocks,” Effy stated simply.

She raised her hand threateningly, ready to cast oblivion into the creature’s face, but she felt her gaze drawn to the scuffle behind her.  The combatants were almost upon her, and she had to suddenly sidestep to avoid them as they lurched past.

The warlock had summoned a doomguard, which locked in a fierce struggle with…

“Lycaohn?” Effy asked, the tremor in her voice betraying her.

It was a worgen, yet wearing the tattered remains of her lover’s clothes.  She stood, momentarily transfixed, as the feral creature growled and snapped at the face of the doomguard, both combatants wrestling over the great axe of the demon.  They seemed at an impasse – the demonic strength of the doomguard matching the rage and ferocity of the grey and white furred worgen.

Effraeti realized the fur reminded her of the salt and pepper of Lycaohn’s goatee.

The shaman did not realize the quiet that had befallen the ground beneath her until a cold, shadowy hand grabbed her throat.  Too late, she realized she had become too distract ed, to her detriment, as the warlock had gotten to its feet to take her previous advantage.

The demonic claw lifted her effortlessly from the ground and tightened.

Clawing with her fingers at the shadowy tendril holding her aloft, Effy realized she may as well have been scratching at iron bars.  The grip seemed made of wispy fel energy, but was real enough against her throat.  She fought to draw breath, and the malefic grasp tightened.

“Silly shaman,” the warlock spat.  “I will choke the life from you, watching you die slowly.  Then, I will be sure to grant your mongrel friend no quicker an end.”

She met the sneering gaze of the Forsaken and gritted her teeth in defiance, unable to draw the breath to retort.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Afterglow - Forsaken Warlock

Though her basic survival instinct screamed against it, demanded she fight to regain her breath, Effraeti dropped her hands to her sides – feigning defeat.  She mentally struggled against the lack of air, already her vision clouded with sparks of bright colors, and willed one hand to her totem pouch.

The warlock seemed intent upon watching the spark of life leave her eyes.

But Effy was determined today would not be the day she met her makers.

The totem more tumbled from her hand than was thrown, her grip weak from lack of oxygen.  It thumped to the ground, and despite her slipping consciousness, the spirit of fire heard her silent plea and summoned forth an elemental of flame.

The Forsaken made a surprised sound and then shrieked as the fiery being before him grabbed him by the arm.

Effy crumpled to the ground, the warlock’s concentration broken, and gasped for air that burned her lungs.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Lycaohn’s tooth-filled muzzle snapped at the demon again, a spray of saliva reaching what the worgen’s fangs did not and wetting his enemy’s face.  Then, he wrenched powerfully at the axe-handle, spinning them both around, as the demon fought to keep its balance and not lurch forward and into the range of those sharp, jagged teeth.

Upon facing the other direction, nearby movement caught the worgen’s eye.

Effy! the reasoning part of his mind screamed.  The feral worgen growled in response, both at the intrusion and at the sight of the draenei woman dangling from the warlock’s evil spell.

It elicited more than a growl, it sparked a deeper anger within him.  It renewed his rage and gave him strength, and the worgen jerked the axe from the demon’s grasp.

Roaring, Lycaohn heaved the weapon into the far off darkness, and sprang upon the unbalanced demon.  No thought followed, only feral instinct, and the sudden frenzy of claws and fangs hopelessly overpowered the weaponless creature before him.  Lycaohn pinned the demon, tearing and slashing, and tore out its throat with his teeth.

Then, with a deep-throated, menacing growl ushering forth, the worgen turned back toward the warlock.  Effy was gasping upon the ground, and the sight of her pained the man deeply buried within him, but the beast was all rage and fury.

Ignoring the fiery presence assaulting the warlock, Lycaohn made several strides on his powerful legs to close the distance.  He hoisted the Forsaken from his feet and in the same motion tossed the warlock through the air to collide with the unyielding trunk of a mature tree many yards away.

Dropping to all fours, Lycaohn sprinted to the intruder and was upon him with another flurry of claws and fangs.  All his rage, both feral and that brooding beneath the surface of the mourning man, played out on the creature that had released the beast Lycaohn had tried so desperately to bury.

Lycaohn felt Effy’s judging eyes upon him, but the worgen was beyond caring.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Effy watched in fascinated horror as the beastly creature she knew to be Lycaohn shredded the Forsaken beyond recognition of anything that had once been humanoid.  Clothing, limbs, face – nothing was left unravaged even after Effy knew there was no conceivable way the warlock still clung to life.

It was several more minutes before the frenzy ended.

His rage played out, the worgen fell to it haunches and made no further movement.

“Lycaohn?” Effy dared to ask into the agonizing silence that had suddenly fallen upon the world.

The beast turned, and she was uncertain whether it was from recognition or merely the sound.  He let out a breathy snort, and it took Effy a moment to understand it for what it was – a profound sigh.  But he made no other movement, no other sound, just sat there, watching her.  His eyes were a fierce orange, glowing in the dim moonlight, but there seemed to be no anger left in them, only a somber resolve.  It was a strange juxtaposition to the blood and gore staining the light grey fur of his face, a stark reminder of the gruesome acts mere moments before.

Putting her hooves beneath her and standing, Effy watched the worgen as she took a few slow steps in his direction.  She stopped, still several feet from him, gauging his response.

A pitiful canine whimper escaped him, and his long, tufted ears flattened back against his skull.

Mustering more courage than it took to face the warlock, that at least aided by the adrenaline of the moment, Effy closed the remaining distance between them.

Even seated, the worgen still came almost to her chest in height, adding to its menacing presence.  The sheer size of him set her to trembling, uncertain of the logic of her proximity.

But it was Lycaohn.

She glanced at the torn remnants of the warlock and its doomguard minion at that thought, and shuddered unconsciously.  Lycaohn whimpered again.

Her eyes met his.  His eyes, usually so dark and warm and inviting, glowed a fiery orange at her, though they narrowed beneath the heavy and furred brows that furrowed under her scrutiny.  There was none of the previous rage there, and they were filled with a deep sorrow.

She reminded herself again that within that beast was Lycaohn.

Kneeling beside him, Effy touched his arm, most cautiously.  A growl assured forth from the worgen, but she saw in his face it was more a sound of uncertainty and frustration.

“I’m so… very sorry,” Lycaohn said finally, his voice more gravelly and broken than usual.  He lowered his gaze, and would not look at her.

“I wish you had told me,” Effy admitted.  “But you have no reason to apologize for who you are.”

“I am not this beast!” the worgen snarled, causing Effy to pull back.

He snapped his teeth together and exhaled sharply.  “I’m sorry.  It is so hard to… control my emotions… when in this bestial form,” Lycaohn growled, forcing the words out, and they seemed to come awkwardly to the usually articulate man.

He took her tiny, fragile-looking hand in both his clawed ones.  His touch was light and cautious.  “I don’t ever want to hurt you,” he said, his rough voice desperate.  “I am afraid of this… creature I am.”

Effy’s forehead creased in sympathy.  She was unsure how to reply.

“I am afraid of what I might do,” Lycaohn continued, and he glanced at the shredded warlock.  “Most of all, I am worried what I might do to you.”  He winced at his own words, and the piteous look on her face.  His speech became less halting the longer he continued, more steady, but still in that deep, grating voice.

“I imagine the control has to be learned,” Effy finally replied.  “But you cannot hide from it forever.”  She squeezed his hands reassuringly.

Lycaohn nodded, his gaze still lowered.  He studied their hands on Effy’s lap.

“Would that I could just bury the beast and not have to confront such things,” the worgen who was her lover lamented.

Effy steeled her nerves and wrapped Lycaohn in her arms.  “Pity is not becoming of you,” she whispered into his furry neck.

He hugged her back, tentatively at first.  Her nearness calmed him and his breathing slowed.  Then, Effy felt Lycaohn inhale sharply and his muscles begin to twitch.  He clung to her tighter as if fearing he might fall away as he began to change.  She squeezed back, tightening the embrace as his form shrunk and he returned to his human self.

“I thought for certain I would lose you if you found out,” Lycaohn whispered into her hair.  His voice and his body were back to those she found so comforting and safe.

“I am still right here,” Effy said, but she realized she knew not what that meant.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Upon returning to Stormwind, life went back to normal, though Effy was still unsure what normal even meant.  Was their life of cooking and working and lovemaking normal?  Or was it her life with Undying Resolution that fit that description?  Or was it something else entirely?

She did not seem to know anymore.

Her daily routine with Lycaohn became monotonous, and Effraeti found herself eager to be called away for guild business – as infrequent as that was.  She wished for some great evil, and chided herself for such foolish, selfish thoughts.

But real life had become too real.

Lycaohn seemed to notice the shift in her mood, but did not say anything.

As they went about their daily activities, Effy could not look at him without seeing the unbound fury with which he had torn apart the warlock and its minion – all teeth and claws and rage.  She knew that creature was brooding just beneath the surface of the man mending fences and thatching roofs.

This man she shared a bed with.

Such thoughts did not keep her body from reacting to the close proximity of him, though.  She realized this yet again late one evening when he came up behind her in the kitchen and enveloped her in his strong arms.  The press of his body was irresistible.  She both scolded herself for the weakness of her flesh and conceded to how much she missed his embrace in its absence.

Fingers gently swept her hair from her neck, and lips brushed against the sensitive skin there.  Any remaining resistance crumbled when he began to bite softly at her earlobe, his hot breath tickling her there and making her moan and her heart flutter.

His lips wandered forward and he turned her to face him.  As they kissed, he pressed himself tighter against her.  Clothes fell away with barely a thought and Lycaohn lifted one of Effy’s legs and held it high against his hip.  They both gasped and clutched more desperately to one another as he slid inside her.

As Effy’s body fell into a rhythm with Lycaohn’s, she lost herself in the moment.  Her eyes closed and her focus narrowed to the two of them, and their movement.  The world fell away.  All that remained was breathing and the warmth all through her and…

Lazheward?

The mental picture set her whole body rigid, an almost perceptible pain washing over her, and Effy gripped the shoulders in front of her in panic.  The word – Lazheward – almost tumbled from her quivering lips, but she bit it back

”Are you alright?” a voice whispered into her ear, and it took Effy a moment to realize it was Lycaohn’s voice.  It was Lycaohn’s shoulders beneath her clenched fingers.  It was Lycaohn’s arms tightening around her, protectively.  It was Lycaohn’s eyes, watching her’s opened, dark and full of concern.  It was Lycaohn who was inside of her.

She nodded numbly, not trusting her voice.

“Do you want to stop?” he asked her, confusion lining his features.

Effy shook her head, and kissed Lycaohn deeply, needfully.  He returned it with no less passion.  He lifted her and put her other leg around him, carrying her to the bed as they continued to kiss.  He laid her down, never once breaking their intimate contact.

As she cried out and Lycaohn’s voice matched her’s, Effy had to swallow down the other man’s name.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Perhaps Laz had left with no intentions of coming back.  Or perhaps he was dead, for the world was a wide and dangerous place.  Either way, Effy realized with more certainty than ever he was the only man she truly loved and her affair with Lycaohn was just that.  It was an affair and a lie – mostly to herself – both selfish and deceitful.

She thought these things as she looked upon the sleeping man’s face, the sun breaking a small, determined beam through the drawn curtains to alight on his handsome and peaceful features.  It lit his eyelashes and shown in the coarse but well-trimmed grey and black goatee framing his dreamy smile.

Looking upon him nearly crumbled her resolve and coaxed her back to the bed they had shared so many nights of late.

It broke her heart to think of hurting him, this man who had so opened himself to her, but she knew the pain would be worse were she to stay.  Because eventually the lie would stand illuminated before them both, so like that rogue beam of sun lighting his sleeping face.

So it was with that thought Effraeti gained the strength to gather her belongings, of which many had accumulated in Lycaohn’s home over the months.  She went about her sad but necessary work with all the silence she could manage.  Dressed and standing beside the bed several moments later, a bundle folded in her arms before her, Effy said her silent goodbye.

Then, resisting the urge to kiss him once more or even to leave a letter, she stole from the room and from Lycaohn.  Walking out took all her strength, and none was left to face him.  Any further delay would have shattered her fragile resolve with her many doubts.

The irony of the striking parallels of Laz’s own abrupt departure were not lost on her.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This story was originally published on Awaiting the Muse, on August 19th, 2013, August 24th, 2013, and September 20th, 2013. All rights reserved.

Creative Commons License

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/

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