Potato Chip Prompt: Favorite Villain

writing-prompt-22

One of my favorite fictional villains is Arthas Menethil from the Warcraft universe. While not originally from a book, (as far as I know), they did publish a book about him after the expansion was released: World of Warcraft: Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, by Christie Golden.
 
  1. Arthas is my favorite type of villain, because he embodies the saying: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” In the beginning, before he becomes the Lich King, he truly thought he was doing what was right. 
  2. Arthas shows us that sometimes the greatest of evils (Lich King) can have roots in the greatest good (Paladins). No one is immune from corruption. Not even prodigy princes trained by one of the greatest Paladins of all time. Just because something, or someone, starts out good, doesn’t mean it, or they, will end that way. 
  3. Despite all he’s done, and the fact he had to die, there’s a mixture of emotions with his death. Sadness, because of lost potential, and the fact he was relieved to die in the end. It lets us know he was completely aware of what he did over the years, while he was taken over by the Lich King. That he regretted his decision. Relief on our part, because happiness is a touch too strong of a word, that his suffering and ours is over. 

Arthas is very much like Boromir in Lord of the Rings, and what Boromir would have become if he’d taken up The One Ring. They set out to be saviors, became villains, (albeit temporarily for Boromir), and were killed as a result of their desire to help their people. 

All this makes for a compelling villain, and my favorite sort by far. Why? Because they are so profoundly human. 

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Final Chapter

Final Chapter

 

Everything slowed for Bregan, but only in his personal space, as though he was moving through honey instead of air. Everyone else, however, sped up to an intense rate of speed. His father’s eyes widened in shock.

A persistent ringing, like the extended tone of a high-pitched bell, drowned out all sound save for the hammering of his heart. Talida released his father, and Shikoba dropped to his knees as he instinctively reached to stem the flow of blood from his slit throat.

Acrid smoke from the cookfires, and the odoriferousness of too many bodies close together pervaded Bregan’s nostrils. However, the metallic scent of blood was beginning to overpower all else, and stuck to his tongue and back of his throat as though he’d licked a bar of copper. Shikoba gave Bregan a lopsided, apologetic smile, as his eyes brimmed with tears of regret.

Bregan ran, as fast as he could, but it was still like he was stuck in slow motion. Talida threw back her head with laughter, and before she slipped away through the crowd, her malevolent, glittering eyes locked with his. Catch me if you can, they taunted. Then she disappeared.

As he made his way over to his father, he frantically searched for a healer, but there was only chaos and no help could be found. When Bregan finally made it to his father’s side, nearly all the light had faded from him.

“I’m so sorry, father.” Bregan sobbed. Shikoba reached for Bregan, removing the hand from his throat. The blood, barely flowing anymore, trickled down his neck to the already soaked ground. Bregan took his father’s hand, slick with blood, and cradled it between his hands.

“So. Proud,” his father rasped, barely choking out the words. Shikoba’s eyes closed, let out a sigh, and then he was still. Not in unconsciousness or sleep, but instead the stillness of death.

Bregan froze. He could not draw a breath, his eyes were wide, and he let out an uncontrollable keen with what little air he had. When he did finally breathe again, it was in short, shallow gasps, and the skin beneath his fur was clammy and cold.

Then, a sudden heat rushed through him, and as an immense pressure began to build within his chest, these words came unbidden to his mind; “An’She, eye of the Earthmother, grant me the power of your Light to illuminate this Tauren’s darkened path. Right this treacherous wrong to balance out the tragedy of this day.”

His body, and his father’s, began to glow the second the first word passed his lips, and at their conclusion a pillar of light burst forth from his father and raced toward the heavens above.

Shikoba gasped and sat bolt upright, the hand still in Bregan’s squeezing with sudden life, while his eyes were wide and darting. When they caught sight of Bregan, he stopped, and for a moment neither of them said anything. The battle around them had played itself out, with the traitors being captured or slipping away to escape with Talida, but in that moment nothing else mattered for the father and son.

Tears began to freely flow, and for the first time since he was a boy, Shikoba pulled Bregan toward him and embraced his son.

“Father.” The word was filled with love, and many things that didn’t need to, or couldn’t, be said.

“My son,” his father said in turn, and gave Bregan’s hand a gentler squeeze than before.

“Let us head home,” Bregan said, and stood, then helped his father to his feet.

“Yes, but we have to find your Orc first. I imagine he might be put off if we left him,” Shikoba admitted, stumbling only a little as he rose. A great feat given that he was dead only moments before, Bregan mused. “Do you see him?” he asked.

Bregan laughed wildly from a mixture of emotions. “No, but I imagine all we need to do is look for one of the larger piles of bodies. It should not take us too long.”

 

<*****>

 

Months passed since Rae and Ja’Ghan parted ways with the overconfident, green brute, and the headstrong Tauren with a death wish. Rae sighed, and from her perch on the boulder just outside of their cave she threw a small rock. It struck the tree some fifty-odd feet away, hitting outside the target she generally used for knife throwing practice. She didn’t even curse herself for the awful aim, and simply sighed again.

“Ya haven’t stopped sighin’ since we left da two hapless heroes,” Ja’Ghan teased, deadpan. “One might even say ya miss ’em.”

Rae harrumphed, but didn’t turn to face the Troll, who leaned against the opposite wall of the cave mouth. “What’s to miss? They were nothing but a bundle of trouble,” she griped, but there was no fire to her words.

“No wonder ya liked ’em den; musta been like lookin’ in da mirror.”

“Well if I’m so awful leave me and be done with it,” she groused, and tucked her knees up to her chest.

“Just might,” he responded, and her head jerked around in shock to face him, while her mouth gaped in surprise. “Change is on da wind, fa both of us,” he added to soothe her shock.

“Did you have a vision about something?”she asked suspiciously, and when his eyes twinkled she scowled in return. “Don’t go all mysterious on me. What did you–” An animal snorting in the distance cut off her words. She narrowed her eyes at the Troll as she slid behind a rock, giving herself some cover. Ja’Ghan was unconcerned, and merely kept his position at the mouth of the cave. Completely exposed.

“Get down you fool!” she growled, but he ignored her.

As the thundering of, well, not hooves, grew closer to the cave, Ja’Ghan raised a hand in greeting.

“How ya doin’ mon?” he hailed, and lifted a hand in greeting.

There was an mistakable lowing from a kodo, and a familiar, deep, grumpy voice responded; “She’s not hiding in a tree, waiting to drop down on me, is she?”

Rae froze.

“No, mon. She be hidin’ behind dat rock, in fear for our lives.” Ja’Ghan jerked a thumb in her direction.

Rae rose, spluttering at the accusation. “I don’t cower in fear from anything!”

A Tauren in full Sunwalker regalia let out a rumbling chuckle at her words. “Feisty as ever, Rae.”

“Bregan?” she asked, and her jaw dropped as he nodded. He was different, there was no doubt about that, and he wore the aura of power around him comfortably. Someone’s been training.

“Long time no see,” Bregan said, and gave her a single wave.

“What am I, chopped liver?” Thratar grumbled, though more for show than out of any true offense. He was also rather dashing in new and improved plate mail, dyed a matte black. Complements the green of his skin nicely, the random observation meandered through her mind. She shook her head to rid herself of such silly thoughts.

“Liver be delicious, mon,” Ja’Ghan countered, and smiled around his tusks.

Bregan grimaced. “So you say.”

“What are you doing back here?” Rae demanded, and though she hadn’t meant to be rude, the suddenness of her question came off as such. She almost felt bad when the cheerful atmosphere of the reunion turned somber, but she couldn’t help being herself.

“Well, we have a proposition for you and Ja’Ghan,” Bregan said. “We thought you might like to join us in an old pastime of yours.”

Rae perked up at this, and Ja’Ghan tilted his head. “Which one is dat?”

“Hunting Grimtotems,” Thratar replied. Little shocks of excitement raced through Rae like lightning, and she couldn’t keep a feral smile from spreading across her face.

“Oh?” she asked.

“Well, one Grimtotem in particular. Any of them caught between her and us are simply an added bonus,” Bregan said. The grim duty of what needed to be done weighed heavily on his shoulders, though with any luck his friends would help him bear the responsibility.

Rae and Ja’Ghan exchanged a quick look, and the Troll dipped his head in agreement. Rae let out a short, bark of a laugh; delighted she had something better to do than throw rocks inaccurately at trees.

She titled her chin up to meet Bregan’s fiery eyes with her own. “Deal us in.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen

 

The journey from the village to Thunder Bluff was like a funeral procession. It was vastly different from the frantic flight to find Talida. Bregan swallowed against the lump in his throat, and straightened his shoulders instead of turning to find her, chained and glowering amidst the guards.

“You can’t blame yourself,” Thratar said casually, as the lumbering strides of the kodo swayed him back and forth. The reins were loose in his grip, and he didn’t turn to look at Bregan when he spoke.

“I do not blame myself. Talida is responsible for her own actions,” Bregan muttered, but he couldn’t even convince himself, let alone his best friend.

“But…?”

“How could I not have known? Look at her,” Bregan said, but not bothering to gesture toward her. “That much rage and hate is seething inside her like thunderstorm, and I completely missed it.”

“She was trained to make sure you saw only what she wanted you to. Add that to the fact you were totally in love with her, and you were left completely blind,” Thratar reasoned.

“My father did not like her,” Bregan pointed out.

Thratar scoffed. “That likely had more to do with your father thinking no one was good enough for you, than any sense of her being a spy and potential assassin.”

“Give him a couple days to get over this whole ordeal, and he will say he knew deep down.” Bregan let out a short, huff of a self-deprecating laugh.

“A couple days? You give him far more credit than me.”

“I cannot blame you, since he didn’t like you either.” Bregan laughed, a genuine one this time.

They fell silent as they reached the elevators that moved people from the bottom of the mesa to the top. As a group they dismounted from the kodos, while one of the guards helped Talida off hers. She jerked her arm out of the guard’s grip, and leveled a murderous gaze at Bregan. Bregan shook his head, and turned back to the kodo. He loosened the leather thong tying his new–new to him at any rate–weapon to the saddle. It was a two-handed mace someone managed to dig up in the village armory. Well-worn, but well cared for, it fit in his grip far more comfortably than the sword had.

They’d gagged Talida, after her constant mouthing off and spouting hateful rhetoric at the group. Even Bregan, who had the most sympathy toward her plight and guilt about the situation, quickly grew tired of it and gave only a token protest when they put the leather strap in her mouth. They removed the gag, and wonder of wonders, she remained silent.

Her hands were shackled in front of her, and her ankles hobbled with chains. It was slow going, and three guards traveled up the elevator with her, ready for any attempt to push them off. Thankfully, nothing of the sort occurred, and the trip up was incident free.

Thunder Bluff was not overly crowded most days, but today it certainly was. Nothing brought out the crowds like the potential for capital punishment, even the peaceful Tauren.

Bregan stepped off on the lift right after Talida’s, and found a disturbingly quiet crowd facing their group. Then the grumbling started, low at first, but then it grew in intensity and anger. There was nothing distinct; no words he could make out clearly or point to a specific person.

Talida tilted her chin upward, and glowered at everyone before her. “I am not the traitor here. You all deserve to be purged,” she growled. “When the time comes, I will be rewarded for my service.”

“Not if we kill you first, you filthy Grimtotem!” someone in the crowd shouted. The crowd surged forward, and overwhelmed the guards while Talida laughed, the pitch high, cruel, and with supreme satisfaction.

Something was wrong. There was an undercurrent of bloodthirsty energy weaving through the crowd, making the situation far more volatile than it would be under normal circumstances. Bregan scanned the crowd, and off the the right, barely visible behind a hut, was a Shaman. Surprise barely registered as he made his way over to the Tauren, whose black fur was liberally streaked with grey, and who couldn’t take his eyes off the crowd as he mumbled under his breath. There were stories of Shamans casting bloodlust on a group, but he’d never seen it in action before. Why, though? Shamans were less likely than others to defect to the Grimtotems, but after Bregan’s situation with Talida, anything was now possible in his mind.

It took a few moments for the Shaman to register Bregan’s approach, but when he finally did, a crazed grin contorted his visage, and he drew in a deep breath. “To arms, Grimtotems!”

Everything spiraled out of control as people hiding in the crowds drew their weapons, and began battling in the crowd. Yells of rage were now interspersed with cries of agony and fear. Bregan had to stop the Shaman from fueling the insanity infecting the crowd, but before he could get to him, the other Tauren slipped around the back of the hut. When Bregan turned the corner the Tauren was nowhere to be found.

“Bregan!” It was Thratar, and when Bregan spun to see what was going on, his heart dropped to the ground.

His father kneeled on the ground in front of Talida, facing away from her, as she gripped his hair in one hand, pulling his head backward toward her. In her other hand was a dagger at her father’s throat. The noise of the battle faded, and his breathing, shallow and pained, was barely audible over the ringing that filled his mind.

The Shaman who had slipped away was next to her, with lightning crackling over his hands, and gripping the smoldering remains of Talida’s wrist and ankle shackles. The same depraved smile still contorted his face.

She glanced behind her for a split second, and the Shaman gave a quick, curt nod, and then a wicked grin spread over her face as she turned to face Bregan again. She mouthed something to him, and his eyes widened.

“No!” he shouted, and reached a helpless hand toward the two of them as Talida slid the blade across his father’s throat.

 

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

 

Talida paid no heed to anyone else in the hall as she rushed headlong toward Bregan. Thankfully, Thratar had not taken his sword back. Bregan unsheathed it, and blocked her overhead attack just in time, all in a single motion.

Bregan grunted at the blow, with her ferocious strength causing the impact to reverberate up his arm.

“Why, Talida?” he asked, breathless in the face of her unbridled fury. She twisted her hips, and with a two-handed grip slid her blade along his, pushing toward him and down to his left. It crossed his sword arm over his body, and the tip of his blade hit the wooden floor with a thunk. He braced to take a sword in the gut, but instead she followed through with the motion to her hoof, pivoting as she brought her opposite knee toward her, then kicked out at at his right knee. Even though he barely managed to escape the brunt of the impact, the glancing blow was enough to cause an audible pop and his knee gave out beneath his weight.

Bregan’s sword clattered to the ground, and Talida casually kicked it away. Thratar was currently engaged in his own fight, since he’d turned around to deal with the fighters trying to get into the hut. No help would come from him. Everyone else in the hut was scrambling for another way to get out, but to be fair none of them were fighters, and would likely fall to Talida’s blade faster than Bregan had.

“Why? Because there has been enough pandering to the lesser races of the world. We are strong, and the rightful owners of our ancestral lands–”

“I am not speaking of the Grimtotem party line!” Bregan shouted at her, and she jerked back as her eyes widened. “I gave you everything: my home, heart, and soul.” His voice broke, and something moved through her eyes, too quick to identify.

“You were nothing more than a means to an end. I needed a village close to Thunder Bluff to observe enemy movements, and yours was my best bet,” she replied scathingly.

Something had been tightening in Bregan’s chest since discovering Talida’s duplicity. In that moment, with those words, it finally snapped. He couldn’t breathe, and he certainly couldn’t move. Talida’s cruel grin reappeared once more, like a shark’s fin breaking the surface of the water.

Then, a two-handed mace took her in the left side of her ribs, and rang out with a crash of plate armor against the metal of the mace. Despite her armor, her eyes squinted and teared up, as she let out a gasp. She stumbled away as it came crashing downward where she had stood a split moment before, and would have killed her if she still stood there.

“I hate to say I told you so, son,” Shikoba said, almost amiably, “but I told you so.”

Bregan scoffed, and tried to shift to a different position, but even that small movement sent shockwaves of pain through his injured knee. He didn’t mean to let out a whimper, but to his great shame he did.

“Says the man who was celebrating her not five minutes ago,” Bregan accused, though the pain made his voice high and petulant.

If Taurens were able to show physical signs of blushing, he may have caught his father doing so, but perhaps not. The man was firm and unshakable in his belief that he was always right, which drove Bregan insane, particularly in times such as these.

“If the two of you are quite finished,” Talida fumed, rage making her voice growl. Bregan turned his head to face her. She was seemingly recovered from the blow his father had dealt her, and surprise jolted through Bregan like lightning. His father may be a farmer, but he was incredibly strong, and a former soldier; as evidenced by the battered and worn mace he gripped loosely in his hands.

Talida snorted and gnashed her teeth, as her eyes shone with a dull red at first, but gradually brightened to a red like rubies held up to the sun.

“She’s gone into Berseker Rage,” his dad observed, deadpan. “Didn’t know she was a warrior; now she’ll feel no pain, be faster–” She rushed him then, and though the sword was held in her grip, she lowered her shoulder and slammed into his father’s midsection. The mace came down a split second too late, and splintered the wood. It fell from his grip, and the handle thudded to the floor. Though it wasn’t a loud noise, it reverberated through Bregan like a concussive force, as in growing horror his mind processed what was about to happen.

Shikoba grunted and staggered back. He doubled over and dropped to a knee, winded. As Talida rose the blade over her father’s bent form, time slowed to a crawl. Something rose within Bregan, hot, blinding, and rapid, like a sun bursting in the sky. Pain no longer radiated through his leg, and he didn’t stagger as he lurched to his feet. The sword was still moving oh, so slowly, as he ran at full speed toward the two of them. When he reached the mace behind Talida, the sword was six inches from his father’s skull.

Bregan grabbed the handle of the mace. Five.

He planted his left hoof. Four.

He heaved the mace upward. Three.

Pivoting, similar to the way Talida had, he began to swing the mace around. Two.

He held his breath, and prayed. Sun, guide my hand so that I may save my father’s life. One.

His mace connected with her right shoulder and upper ribs with a blinding flash of light. Talida was thrown clear across the Hall, and landed with a crash in a heap at the far end. His eyes were still blinded from the strange radiance, and afterimages danced in his vision as he sought out his father.

Shikoba was unharmed, and Bregan collapsed to the floor in front of him, this time from relief instead of pain. The mace fell from his hands as he dropped it to the floor, and he fell forward to embrace his father, who gripped him in a tight hug in turn.

“Looks like you didn’t need my help after all,” Thratar commented, amused. Bregan, still dazed, moved back from his father’s embrace to face the Orc. He’d managed to take out the three who had tried to infiltrate the hall, and they groaned from the beating and multiple sword slashes over their bodies. Blood matted their black fur, as well as the ropes binding them like trussed pigs.

“Show-off,” Bregan rasped. Thratar grinned in response, but his eyes darkened as he looked toward Talida at the other end of the Hall.

“What shall we do with her?” Thratar asked.

Shikoba followed Thratar’s gaze and shook his head. “She wanted so badly to meet Baine. I say we grant her wish.”

 

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fourteen

 

The sun breaking over the ridge of the mountains was bright and cheery. Bregan hadn’t been woken for a night watch, and though he made a token protest at the special treatment, he likely wouldn’t have been much use if anything had attacked them.

Ja’Ghan’s movements were slow and worried that morning as he stoked the fire and re-heated some of the leftover stag meat. He had taken the time, after Rae had woken him for the final watch, to meditate and attempt to coax a vision from the fire. What he’d been able to glean had been less than reassuring. They needed to get Bregan home, though he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why, and he didn’t want to worry the poor Tauren.

They ate in relative silence, with only the birds overhead chattering their morning salutations.

“Well, time for us to part ways,” Rae said, and stood to brush and dirt and debris from her backside.

Bregan and Thratar stood, and held out hands to the Blood Elf and crouched Troll. To Bregan, it was almost as though they were leaving before the final chapter was complete, and that, perhaps, something was missing. Ja’Ghan and Rae set off back toward their cave near the spiders, and Thratar and Bregan headed toward the pass that would take them back to the rolling hills and plains of Mulgore.

When they crossed through the Stonetalon Pass, they met up with Cheota, who was overseeing the re-building of their post. She watched their approach, sans Talida, with a grim frown.

“I am sorry your quest was unsuccessful,” she offered, and held out a hand to shake Bregan’s in a sympathetic gesture. Bregan took her hand in his and gave it a small squeeze.

“Aye, so am I. Do you at least have better news?” he inquired, and glanced at the additional troops milling about the camp.

Cheota snorted. “Greenhorns, they sent me. It’s all I can do to keep them from stabbing themselves or falling off the side of the pass.” Then a gleam lit her eyes. “How’s about you return a favor for a favor, and take a few off my hands for escort duty back to your village?”

Thratar groaned, having dealt with wet-behind-the-ears troops before, but it was the first time Bregan had wanted to smile since Talida’s betrayal.

“You’ve got yourself a deal.” He laughed, both at Cheota’s grin and Thratar’s groan.

The older Tauren called out to a couple of new recruits, and though Bregan wasn’t a seasoned warrior, he had grown up doing hard labor out in the fields, and was beyond such a seemingly young age. The recruits practically screamed; “It’s the first time I’ve been away from my parents.”

Cheota gave them instructions, and sent them off to grab a couple of Kodos they could double-up on. When they scampered off, delight gave them almost a skip in their steps.

“They are not precisely my trouble-makers, but they are the most bored by the building process. It seems the recruiter filled their heads with endless fighting and heroic tales of battle.” Cheota shook her head. “They do not realize much of the time it is ‘hurry up and wait’.” Thratar grunted in acknowledgment.

“Still, having some is better than having too few, right?” Bregan asked.

Cheota grimaced, as if in pain. “Only barely.” The two new recruits approached, riding on the great lumbering beasts. Bregan and Thratar jumped up behind the recruits, with nary a complaint out of Thratar.

“Take them home, see if the Elders or the Village Leader need any assistance, then come back,” Cheota instructed, trying her best to legitimately extend their time away from her as much as possible. They snapped a quick salute, then turned the beasts towards Bregan’s village.

The recruits–Neka and Tohopka–jabbered almost the entire way, and paused only to drink from their water skins. Thratar ground his teeth, but did his best not to get too down on the young Tauren. Bregan listened to the rambling, and though he wasn’t much older than them, he was still nostalgic for a less complicated time.

Talida…Bregan cleared his throat and refocused on Neka’s words, though both boys had left him behind without a second thought.

When they passed the well they refilled their water skins, then continued on to Bregan’s village. It was nearing evening and the torches were lit, giving the growing night a soft glow, and the skins and wood of the huts a shining warmth. The usual soft chatter of his fellow villagers was absent, and in its place a loud and boisterous gathering was going on in the main hall.

Thratar and Bregan shared a curious look. When they were close to the village center, Bregan and Thratar dismounted, while Bregan instructed Neka and Tohopka where they could tie up the Kodos for the night. The two of them lumbered off toward the Kodo area, and the two beasts lowed in greeting to their fellow, sleepy beasts.

Thratar and Bregan approached the great hall, which was full to bursting with Tauren. Some of them, Bregan noted, were from outlying villages, and even a couple were from Thunder Bluff. At their approach, one of the Tauren standing outside the hall turned and saw the two of them.

He let out a joyous shout. “Bregan and Thratar are back!”

A collective cheer went up from the assembled mass, then fell silent–aside from congratulatory mumbles–and parted to let them through.

“My son, you are home!” Shikoba greeted him, warmly, over the heads of the Tauren. When the crowd was able to shuffle away and let Bregan and Thratar through, Shikoba was there waiting. He moved forward and embraced his son. “Welcome home!”

“Thank you, father,” Bregan said, surprised at the change in his father’s attitude. Last he knew they were fighting over him leaving to find Talida.

“Yes, Bregan–welcome home.” The voice slithered through the crowd and struck at his heart like the most venomous of snakes, paralyzing his body and voice.

His father beamed down at him. “Talida has been telling us all about your journey, and heroism–”

“Father–” the word was strangled, and barely more than a whisper, but his Father continued.

“–wounded in rescuing her. She came home sooner to prepare the way, and surprise you with the recognition you deserve,” he finished, the apology from his earlier actions in the subtext of his words.

“Father,” he managed, louder this time. “Talida is traitor, and I am no hero.”

His words fell like a stone in a still pond, and rippled through the room. In shock, Shikoba half-turned to face Talida.

“Oh, Bregan, you just had to go and ruin the fun.” The malicious gleam in her eyes and twist to her lips made Bregan’s heart ache. “I had hoped Baine, hearing of your heroics, would make an appearance, but that slimy coward didn’t show,” she fumed, then spat in the fire in the center of the hall. The flames hissed in response, and she suddenly laughed. “No matter, because plenty of you will die tonight, and he’ll have to show himself to exact ‘justice’ on us!”

The familiar ringing of swords clanged over the hush in the hall, and a panicked stampede ensued as a disturbance started near the entrance just behind Bregan and Thratar. Through all the commotion Talida’s eyes were locked with Bregan’s, and she bared her teeth in a feral grin.

“Die, hero,” she mocked, and charged forward.

 

Amaranthine

My fifth Fan Fiction from the World of Warcraft forums:

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
“Translation: A little night music.

The Challenge:
This week I wanted to challenge everyone to write a short (500 word) vignette as inspired by the zone preview music for Warlords of Draenor. Please make sure you indicate which piece you use in your post.”

Amaranthine” inspired by: Last Light (A Hero’s Sacrifice) by Neal Acree, zone music for Talador.

 

 

As the Iron Horde burned their way across the continent, branding it with their mark the way a farmer branded livestock, the land and its people were crushed beneath the weight of their single-minded purpose.

He must have been hallucinating as he lay there in the grass, his body broken beyond measure, and bleeding his life into the soil he’d vowed to protect, because despite everything all he could smell was her. Her floral scent floated on the smoke-laden wind.

His armor was rent and crumpled against his chest, and his short gasps had him choking on the blood that ran from his nose. The world slipped out of focus, but through the embers that spiraled on the breeze and haze, the amaranth of the sky lay beyond. Clean, and untouched by the ravages around him, but rimmed by the glow of fires in a promise of events to come if they did not succeed.

“Rise, my love,” she said, voice soft as the lightest touch on a harp string. As the world darkened around him, he stood on the precipice between life and death, and it was there he saw her.

The thin tendrils from behind her delicate ears brushed her shoulders, and her soft hair, the brown of leaves in late fall, was held back by a jeweled headband he’d given her as a gift. The gems matched the lavender of her skin and horns, which curved behind her head like the gentle bend of a river.

In the pale blue glow of her eyes there was love and sadness, but also determination. Her mouth twitched in the slightest of smiles, but she was a woman not easily deterred from her purpose—even after death.

“You must fight, dear one,” she continued, and a ghostly touch trailed down his cheek.

“The fighting…it never ends,” he replied, his voice hoarse from battle shouts, yelling commands, and the emotional torment that unfettered destruction wages on the soul.

“Because our reasons never end, either,” she countered, “not even in the life after. You must save us, husband, or the Iron Horde will have our souls—and the power that comes with them.” Her visage began to fade and he reached up, as though to caress her face the way she had with him moments before.

“There’s one alive over here!” he heard someone shout, and a breath later the chant of a priest’s healing prayer drowned out all else.

“Save…us…”

Magic surged through his limbs, healing everything in its path that was damaged, save for his heart.

“Commander, we thought you slain! We’ve driven them back for now, but they will surely return.”

They sat him up and helped him from his now useless armor, but all throughout the process his gaze remained fixed on a barely discernable structure in the distance.

“What is it, sir?” the priest asked.

“The Auchindoun,” he said, but never turned, “we must go there before all falls to ruin.”