Akuyim/The Trial of Kranik

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This article is fan fiction

The contents herein are entirely player made and in no way represent official World of Warcraft lore or history. The characters, places, and events listed are of an independent nature and are applied for roleplaying purposes only.

The Trial of KranikEdit

He walked into the inn, from the rain outside. With a quick nod to the tauren innkeeper, he made his way upstairs. Listening to the wind howl through the hole in the roof to his right, he just shook his head. He was home. Most importantly, his home wasn’t just his any longer. Shunasun had come to stay with him in his room in Hammerfall, after the despicable attack made by Mortanus.

He continued up the stairs to the top floor, ignoring the grunts and protestations of a group of off-duty Hammerfall guardians. The orcs were already consuming cherry grog at an alarming rate and their game of cards would soon end up becoming fatal.

Crossing the floor at the top of the stairs, he reached into his pocket and removed his room key. Gingerly, he put the key into it’s rightful resting place, with a quick turn the bolt clicked home. Nudging the bottom of the door with his foot, it swung open revealing the small cluttered abode inside.

Standing in the doorway, he looked around at his room. It was barely big enough for him and his stuff, let alone the both of them and her pets. He turned his gaze about the room slowly, drinking in all his clutter. Analyzing in his mind, what was essential and what wasn’t so essential.

Resigning himself to think about it in greater detail, he stepped forward and slowly closed the door. He reached down and picked up a clump of dark fur, Nightstorm was shedding. Rubbing the feline’s fine fur between his fingers until slowly strand by strand they cascaded back to the floor.

Rolling his head from side to side, he listened as his neck cracked. With a sigh, he began to slide out of his Stormshroud armor. The shoulders and chestpiece hung neatly on the wall beside the door. He kicked off his boots that had served him far longer then they should have, leaving them beside the hammock that functioned as the bed in his tiny room. His gloves found their way to the small stand by the door. His cloak draped over his breastplate. His bow placed above them on pegs set into the wall. Unclasping his bracers he set them next to his gloves.

Rolling into the hammock, he placed his daggers into secret sheaths in the wooden canopy he built over the hammock. He checked to make sure his throwing daggers were in their place beside the hammock, they were. With a content smile he slid his left hand under his head and stared at the makeshift ceiling.

She would be back soon, she was out picking herbs in the Highlands. He was a little tired from the ordeal in the Vale no more then a couple of weeks prior. He wondered if Pash would try again, who she was working for, but most of all if he could keep her safe. It wasn’t a matter of keeping her safe, it was more the matter of keeping her safe without killing everyone that had ever come close to her. That is where his thoughts found themselves as his eyes closed, and he drifted into a small nap, hoping she would return soon.

The four of them slunk into the inn with but a whisper. Hollow eyes and bones, scraps of flesh dangling off their makeshift bodies. The first one slid a pouch of gold into the innkeeper’s hand and placed his index finger to what passed for his lips. Without a word uttered they went upstairs, past the drunken orcs, and to the very top floor only to stop in front his door.

He had eluded them for too long, it was time for him to come home. One of them removed a piece of parchment and they huddled around it. With a nod in near unison, they turned as one to face the door again. He was to be taken alive. Solemnly they went to work, coating their blades with poisons, designed to cripple and incapacitate their foe.

The first one slowly turned the door handle, listening to the mechanism slowly bunch itself together. He silently slid the door forward, at first it wouldn’t budge, he applied a little more force and it scraped across the wooden floor.

His eyes darted open as he heard the door open. He calmly rolled his head to gaze at her in the doorway, to his dismay she wasn’t standing in the doorway. Like lightning his left hand snatched the handle of one of his throwing knives and flung it at the forsaken in the doorway. Rolling out of the hammock with his follow through, he retrieved his daggers from their resting places, as the first of them stumbled and fell to the ground.

He lunged forward out the door, flying past the fallen one, barreling into one before skidding to a halt past them. Keeping himself low to the ground he let a growl reminiscent to Nightstorm. The two that had fallen to the ground, picked themselves back up. As one they turned on the troll. One of them had blood on his dagger, upon seeing it, he simply smiled.

Kranik noticed it as well, during his lunge out, they had managed to scratch his side. He smirked, they would have to do a lot better then that to take him down. The first one simply wrenched the throwing dagger from his forehead and dropped to the ground with a clatter. Even before the dagger could finish dancing on the ground, Kranik leapt into the fray.

With a small leap, he landed next to the one on the right. While remaining low to the ground, he spun to his left. Keeping his left leg rigid, he swept the closest one off of his feet. Springing up from his right leg his arms shot out and his daggers sliced through what passed for the next one’s neck, his skull toppled backwards and to the left, haphazardly rolling into his room. As quickly as he landed, he was back in the air as the other two moved forward. Curling his knees towards his chest, he leaned back in the air. His legs shot out catching each one in the chest. They both stumbled backwards, the one on the left hit the back of his skull on the base of sconce. Flipping backwards, he hoped to land on the one’s chest on the ground. To his dismay he landed on wood instead of bone.

Number 3 rolled out of the way as the troll tumbled from the air. Their employer was right, this troll was very much like a monkey. Standing up quickly, he lunged forward and embedded both daggers into the troll’s back. The troll shrieked, as he stepped backwards letting the poison do it’s work.

He felt it now, the fire in his limbs. His eyes began to water and his vision blurred. He didn’t have much time before the poison would claim him. With a growl he glanced over his left shoulder at the one behind him. His left arm began to feel like iron, it started to droop to his side. With a howl, he dropped the dagger in his right hand and spun as quickly as his wobbly legs would allow him. His right arm shot out grabbing the undead assassin by the face, and drove his head into the wall behind them. The assassin’s skull exploded under the force and brittle bone fragments rained down to the floor as the rest of the body slumped to the ground.

His victory was short lived as a second set of daggers embedded themselves into his back. Spinning around again, tears rolling of his cheeks, he was looking at six more forsaken assassins. He took a step forward, but his legs were like molten steel and simply oozed forward. His breathing began to become labored and tight. He stepped forward again, trying to square off against the one that still had daggers in his hands. He blinked, he knew there was only one in front of him, but he still watched three dancing and swaying before him. His arms leaden, his legs like slag, his heart pounding in his ears, his breathing dwindling and his vision nearly gone, he made one last ditch lunge with his dagger. His arm shot out and he collapsed to the ground. His dagger skidded from his hand into his room as he hit the ground.

Number 1 stood there a moment, before sheathing his daggers. His bony fingers began tracing the growing cracks in his skull from the dagger and his impact with sconce. He had to be careful and he knew it. He pointed to Number 4 and nodded.

Number 4 diligently walked over to the corpses of Numbers 2 and 3 and reached down and lifted their left hands and twisted their rings off. As he did so their bodies disintegrated into a fine dust. Number 4 looked down at the bone fragments of Number 3 and realized the skull of Number 2 was missing. He looked at Number 1 a moment. They were to be quick, and to leave no trace.

Number 1 sensed the growing dread in his companion. They had to be elsewhere though and soon, his skull continued to crack. He shook his head at Number 4. The skull would have to remain behind. Removing his Portalstone, he pressed it and a swirling gate of energy opened up revealing the Undercity beyond. Number 4 simply stooped down and grabbed the unconscious troll and hefted him over his shoulders. As one they walked through the portal to the Undercity beyond.

All that would mark they were here was some dust and bone fragments, a skull and two daggers that should never be found laying on the floor. It was far from perfect, but then again neither were they. They had completed their mission, the one known as Kranik would now have to pay the piper.

Shuna wandered through the Inn with a tired stride, nodding absentmindedly at the Innkeeper. She pulled her gloves off as she headed up the stairs and smiled at the bulging bag of herbs she had collected. She was sure Kran could make good use of them all.

Shuna grinned as she headed down the hall. She couldn’t wait to lay her sore body down next to Kran and have a good snuggle. Storm’s growl brought her mind back to reality and she stopped. The door to their room was open and there was a lot of dust on the floor. The huntress paused as her inner alarms began to go off. Kran would never leave the door open like that. Silently unsheathing her swords she crept closer to their room.

Storm appeared agitated but wasn’t ready to pounce as she did when danger was nearby. Shuna trusted her pet but she still kicked the door wide open in case there was someone there. She stood in the doorway to their tiny space and stared at the empty room. As she took a step forward something crunched under her foot. She bent to pick up the piece of bone and then froze. There on the ground was on of Kran’s daggers. He never went anywhere without them. With a soft cry she picked it up. Storm growled again and began to sniff the ground.

Staring at the dust, bone fragments and the general disarray of the room Shuna assumed the attackers were undead, but were they sent by Morty or was it something else…Sheathing Krans dagger carefully she strapped it to her waist and pulled her gloves back on. With a low snarl she began to pack. They wouldn’t take him from her. She would find him. She had given up to much to lose him.

A noise made Shuna whirl around. Storm had found a skull and was rolling it around with a giant paw. Shuna snatched it up and glared at it. She longed to toss it against the wall and watch it shatter into a million pieces, but the rational part of her kept it in case she needed it for something. She shoved it into a bag with a trembling hand and she thought to herself “At least ‘e took some of dem down”

Taking a deep breath she resisted the urge to cry. Her tears would not bring him back home faster. There was very little blood on the floor so he must still be alive.

“It’ll be ok Storm. We’ll find ‘im and we’ll make whoever pay for takin’ ‘im from us.” She clenched her jaw and turned to leave the room. Storm rubbed her head against Shuna’s leg and walked out too.

As she headed to the flight master she thought about all the possibilities. One thing was for sure her first stop would be to Tati in the Undercity. She should know her brother was missing and she might have some thoughts on who had taken him. Shuna paused as she thought about how strange it was that they had Tati returned to them so recently and now her brother was gone.

Tati woke up with a gasp. Her muscles were screaming in agony and her heart was pounding. She sat up and gave a soft cry. Her head felt fuzzy and she was covered in a cold sweat. She took a deep breath and remembered the dream she’d been having. She slipped out of bed and went to the window. The dream was fading quickly but she felt an urgency in it.

“Whats da matter babe?” Keishe mumbled from the bed.

“I.. I don’t know.” Tati said. “I was dreaming of a large room and so much darkness and pain. I think Kranik was there….”

She began to pace the room a bit. She felt the urge to flee but she didn’t know why.

Keishe blinked sleepily at her and said “Its just a dream. Joo come back to bed. Joo ‘ome and safe. Does bastards can’t ‘urt joo anymore.”

Tati bit her lip and shook her head. “I can’t sleep honey. And it wasn’t a dream from my kidnapping. It was something else.”

A loud bang made both of them turn. Someone began pounding on the door and Tati ran to open it. Shuna stood there with Storm.

“Tati!! Dey took ‘im!” Shuna shouted as she barged into the room.

Keishe sighed and covered her head with a pillow.

Tati stared at Shuna. “What? Who took him? You mean Kranik?”

Shuna nodded. “I came ‘ome and ‘e was gone, and dere was bones all over and ‘is dagger was on da ground.” Her lip began to tremble a bit and she fought the tears.

Tati’s mind whirled as she pulled the young huntress into her arms and made soothing noises. Her dream began to make more sense. Kran was in trouble and somehow being twins had allowed Tati to see part of it.

“Keishe, we have to go. We have to figure out where he went.” Tati said to the lump on the bed.

Keishe groaned and sat up. “Right now? Joo don’t know where ‘e is. ‘ow we goin’ to find ‘im in da middle of da night?”

Tati gave Keishe a look and Shuna pulled back and growled. “Ju get da ‘ell up and ‘elp me find ‘im or I’ll make ju! ‘ow many times ‘as ‘e ‘elped ju find jur girl?”

Keishe raised an eyebrow and nodded. Shuna waited as the other two got dressed and they headed out the door.

The Dark Nine assembled in the boxes set into the stone walls. The Pawn, The Knight, The Rook. They sat in the lowest box. The Baron, The Bishop, The Cardinal. They sat in the middle box. The Queen, The Viceroy, The King. They sat in the upper box. All of them gazed down at the spectacle playing before them on the floor. Their captive, Agent 103,319 sat unconscious on the floor, his wrists lashed around a tall steel pole.

The King rose and with a wave of his hands, the torches that lined the boxes flickered to life, baleful green. Its light shining one their dead faces in macabre glee. He looked down at The Knight and nodded then sat down.

The Knight stood up and bellowed into the darkness below “Wake him!”

From the abysmal black shambled four more skeletons. Two stopped on either side of the captive, and from their voluminous robes withdrew wands that crackled with electrical fury. The other two stopped in front of the captive and picked up the buckets of foul smelling water retrieved from the moat that ran within the Undercity. In rapid succession they threw the green mass of watery stench on the troll.

He stirred and shakily rose to feet, his eyes not adjusting to the darkness. His arms not responding to his desires, panic shot through him as he struggled to figure out where he was. Panic was replaced by fear and dread as a voice shot through the darkness. The voice of The Man with the Boney Hands.

“Good to see you are finally home....monkey” The Knight bellowed again.

Kranik slowly turned his gaze towards the lowest box. The Knight smiled down upon him. “We missed you Ratchet. Imagine our surprise, when the boat pulled in and you weren’t on it, and the captain slain.” his voice carried with it a hint of smug evil delight.

Kranik said nothing, his mind racing on trying to escape. As his mind tumbled over propositions and various outcomes. He realized his medallion was missing from his neck, which meant the ring Shuna had given him was gone too. His analytical mind grinded to a halt as rage began to tunnel through his mind undermining his rational thoughts. His gaze turned harsh and cold and he stared ruthlessly at the Man with the Boney Hands.

“You were a hard monkey to track down. If it weren’t for a fellow of rogue of yours. Sandorclegan was his name, asking about you, we probably would never have found you. I mean, hiding out in Hammerfall. That was brilliant, right under our noses. We wasted a lot of time and money scouring Kalimdor for you.” The Knight continued. “But now that you are home, it raises the questions of what to do with you. You haven’t exactly been sticking to the ideals I beat into your feeble little skull have you monkey?” The Knight questioned, without waiting for an answer he lifted Kranik’s medallion into the light, letting it dangle from his left hand. With his right he flicked the ring, causing the pendant and the ring to spin slightly.

Kranik growled defiantly. The robed guards both took a step forward. They were waved off by The Baron, they retreated back their one step.

“What did I tell you? People served as two things, tools and victims. Apparently, she hasn’t served as either....yet.” The Knight stated and pulled the pendant over his rotting head and held the pendant up for Kranik to see. “I think ill just hold onto this for you. I mean after all, you wont really need it where you are going.” he smirked evilly.

Kranik’s rage hit a boiling point and he roared up at the Man with the Boney Hands. “Don’t you touch her.”

“Oh my little monkey, I wouldn’t dream of it.....” he started to continue.

“I AM NOT A MONKEY!” he bellowed again.

Raucous laughter ensued from the boxes, only to silenced moments later by The King waving his hands.

“I will call you what I like, when I like and how I like. You are home now, you are mine. I made you, I molded you, I shaped you, and I can damn well break you.” The Knight stated coldly.

“You have defied us. You disobeyed us. You had a job to do, that you abandoned. For that you will be punished.” The Bishop added and sat back down.

“What do you have to say for yourself in your defense?” The Queen asked. Her shallow voice was like listening to breaking glass. It shattered silence and his anger. He lowered his head, he had nothing to say in his defense.

“Just as we expected.” The Queen responded. “Knight name your sentence.” with that she sat back down.

With a devilish smile The Knight stood back up. “Execute him.”

From the depths of the abyss, the executioner shambled. The most foul of abominations, far crueler looking then any that guarded the Undercity. He had four arms, although equally bloated and repulsive. His noxious green cloud of death lingered behind him with every step. It had no voice box, it made no sound other then shambling of it’s feet across the wet stone floor.

The two skeletons that had thrown water on him, walked forward and disappeared behind him. Unbinding his arms, they each held one about the forearms. They began to drag him unwilling to the chopping blocks, awaiting the executioner. The two skeletons in robes followed closely behind.

His dread, panic and fear were reaching critical levels as the executioner and his chopping block loomed into view. He tried planting his feet upon the cold, slimy floor. It worked for but a moment before the ones dragging him by his arms doubled their efforts. He began to skid closer to the chopping block. His heart was pounding in his throat. He gritted his teeth, he wouldn’t die, at least not like this.

With a quick twist of his right arm, he managed to wrench it free from the skeleton’s grasp. Turning to his left he punched the one holding his other arm in the face. His face shattered slightly and let go of his left arm. He continued spinning around, back handing the skeleton that held his right arm. The skeleton stumbled slightly backwards.

He was facing the two in robes, who in unison lunged forward to lance him with their electrical prods. He grabbed them both about the wrists and fell backwards flinging them both off balance past him. Springing to his feet, he turned to keep all of the skeletons and the executioner in his line of sight.

The executioner lumbered forward to slay the puny troll but was called off by The Baron as The Knight leapt to the floor behind Kranik. The executioner stopped and did as it was instructed. The four skeletons attacked in unison, flailing at him with fists and claws of bone and rods of electrical might. It took all of Kranik’s intuition to deftly twist, dodge, and dance to avoid them all. Yet at the same time have the chance to punch and kick them back. His victory was short lived, The Knight raised his mace and brought it crashing down onto the back of Kranik’s skull where he collapsed to the ground with a small whimper.

The Knight rose the mace one more time to end his monkey’s life when The Viceroy yelled out “Enough!”

Everyone stopped and looked up at him. “I have a better idea.” he continued. “It is obvious to us all here, that the time and effort in molding him would be wasted by simply killing him. He still has potential. He just needs to be re-educated.” The Viceroy finished.

“I will not re-educate him. He is a pain and should just be slain.” The Knight yelled back up.

Kranik blinked a few times, trying to get his world in perspective, he shook his head as the skeletons grabbed him and finished dragging him to the chopping block.

“I didn’t mean you.” The Viceroy continued. “Tiraangarde. The frozen island of torment, should be sufficient to do that, if not, he will die there.”

The skeletons held his head on the chopping block, he began to fight and thrash but his efforts were met by two burning, searing pains in his back. His body convulsed as he began to smell his own burning flesh. His muscles spasmed and jerked before the fight fled from his bones.

They murmured amongst themselves. “You said the decision was mine.” The Knight yelled up.

“I did.” The Queen retorted, “But The Viceroy overshadows my authority. You know that as well as everyone here.”

The Knight growled lightly, but resigned himself to listen to The King, the only one whose opinion fully mattered. The King stood up and cleared his throat. “Tiraangarde...but you may maim him before his trip Knight.” with that he turned around and walked out.

The Knight smiled a moment and then whispered loudly to Kranik. “Hear that monkey, you are mine now. Death will be the least of your worries.” He turned away and began to walk into the darkness.

“Come forth pages.” two small skeletal boys raced from the darkness, even the young were not spared from the plague. “You fetch me my Magic Murder bag. You fetch me three boxes, my paper, my ink and quill and wrapping paper. We have presents to mail.” As they ran off, he cackled.

“Oh monkey, you are going to wish they just let me kill you.” he muttered as he approached them again. “Shackle him down. I don’t want him to get away again.” The skeletons moved off to grab shackles and chains. The executioner stepped forward and placed a massive meaty foul hand upon the troll back’s and forced his weight down. He listened to a rib break and smiled.

The pages returned with The Knight’s torture bag and the other things. The skeletons went to work quickly lashing him down to the chopping block and locking him in place. The executioner released the troll, and watched the grisly spectacle unfold before him.

Opening his bag, he began to produce blades of various sizes and deadliness, vials of acid and bindings. He then stepped in front of Kranik with a diabolic smile, in his hand he held a long, thin blade. “I see you are wearing an eyepatch monkey. Let’s find out why, shall we?” he whispered.

He dropped the eyepatch into one of the boxes, and went to work on the eye underneath. Kranik gritted his teeth and struggled against his binds. He knew what The man with boney hands wanted, he would be damned if he would scream for him. The Knight dropped the bloodied bulb into the box after it had been freed from it’s socket. Pausing a moment, he began to write on the paper meticulously. “He will never SEE you again.” he chuckled to himself as he folded the piece of paper and placed it in box. Picking up the box, he thrust it into the chest of one of the pages.

“Wrap this with a pretty little bow and mail it to Ishuna.” he paused and then went back to work. Grabbing the right hand of Kranik, he started to remove his index finger, when it was free he doused the wound in acid to make sure it wouldn’t regenerate. He dropped it into the other box. He began to write again. “He will never TOUCH you again.” again he chuckled to himself as he folded the piece of paper and placed it in the other box. He thrust it into the chest of the remaining page.

“Wrap this with a pretty little bow and mail it to Shunasun” he watched in glee as his captive thrashed and howled against his binds. Blood began to escape from the corners of his mouth and blood flowed from the cavity that once held his right eye.

“I told you. Tools or victims. It’s a shame she will only have a finger to bury you with.” He cackled manically as he picked up the next blade and returned to his work.

“You know monkey, it’s a shame that I can’t remove these pesky little tusks of yours.” The Knight continued. “I mean I could break them off, but you would simply regrow them. I would have to get to the root of the problem.” with that he jabbed the thin blade deep within Kranik’s cheek and began to twist and grind it. “But you would die in my attempt. I mean I would have to cut your face off. So instead, ill just take your teeth.” with a cruel smile he pried his mouth open and went back to his grisly work. Dropping teeth into the last box, as they were freed. Stopping only to write the last note. “He will never TALK to you again.” folding the last piece of paper and placing it in the box. He placed it on the floor as the first page returned.

“Wrap this with a pretty little bow and mail it to Tatimitzi” he watched in glee as his captive thrashed wildly against his bonds. “There, there monkey. Your pain has just begun. I am the nightmare that crushes your dreams.” The Knight said as he patted Kranik on the head.

Hours later when his captive finally collapsed he stopped and summoned forth the skeletons to cart the carcass away.

He was passed from one set of hands to another but he was no longer in the bowels of the Undercity, he was on Tiraangarde, the frozen island of torment.

Tiraangarde. A frozen cluster of pain and rocks forgotten in the northern seas above the Eastern Kingdoms. It once was a human fortress, during the first war. Found by accident and its purpose garnered by luck, Tiraangarde was an island rich with thorium. Funding caused the decline of the fortress and by the dawn of the second war it fell empty and dead.

It became a pirate haven between the second and third wars. Most of the pirates had been taking to raid farms and villages along the northern shores of the Eastern Kingdom, until they were met by resistance in the form of the forsaken. With the remaining pirates left on a frozen haven, low on supplies and ice locked ships, they turned on each other in dementia and cannibalism when food ran low. Where it has stood, cold, empty and dead......until now.

His left finger twitched. Followed by his thumb, he shifted his arm across the cold stone floor. The heat from his wounds, the dried, frozen blood caked upon his arms screamed at him. His eyes blasted open, his left eye was looking at a stone floor, his right eye nothing but darkness.

Pain assailed his whole body. His flesh tattered, his body battered, his spirit shattered. He let out a strangled scream into the darkness as his mind recalled what he had endured. His right hand snaked to his forehead, he felt a thin strap of leather about his head, well one finger did. He could feel his index finger, but he couldn’t feel it upon his forehead.

“I wouldn’t move around too much if I were you. I have seen walking corpses in better condition then you.” a female voice rang out in the darkness.

Panic overtook his weary body and he bolted to his feet. His triumph lasted but a second before his mutilated legs collapsed under his own weight and sent him careening to the cold harsh floor.

She shook her head. “I told you. Given the severity of your wounds, im amazed you aren’t dead. I digress, I took the liberty of placing an eyepatch over your missing eye. Given your current regeneration rates, I would say you would be ready for general population in two weeks.” she continued.

His ears strained to hear more then just her voice. He heard another set of footsteps, faint and scraping. He tried to crawl around to face the direction of her voice, but he failed to win enough resolve to do that much. He lay there in pain.

“Someone really had to have their hate on to do what they did to you.” She paused a moment to thumb through the stack of papers in her hands. Flipping them over to find the one about the troll in the holding cell.

As she found it, her employer shambled in scraping his bony feet across the cold stone floor. It caused her to look away, before she could read the name off of the papers. Unthinking, she let the pages above the troll’s cascade into place. She nodded slightly, as she looked at the forsaken fully come into the room. Ice clinging to his hands and skull. His robes tinged white with frost, he shook slightly and some of the ice cascaded to the floor.

“Well?” he asked.

“Well what?” she countered. Looking confused at her employer a moment.

“Isss it awake?” he said back, completely dismayed he was questioned by his subordinate, let alone a human subordinate.

“Yes, he was awake. I don’t know if he is now. He tried to stand and fell head first into the floor.” she calmly spoke back

“Prepare him for the mentalist then.” he turned to walk away.

“Sir.” She shot back. “He is in no way fit enough to visit the mentalist. His body is pretty well dead, his mind is the only thing keeping him together. The mentalist can shatter his mind and we are left with a corpse.” She continued.

“I didn’t ask you for your opinionsss, I gave you an order.” He called back over his shoulder. “He isss to be re-educated. That meansss he seesss the mentalist.”

“Sir he isn’t ready. I am here to make sure the health of the living are kept in check. It is my job, his body will fail if he sees the mentalist.” She shot back angrily.

He growled angrily, and cracked his icy knuckles as he balled his fists. “Fine. Asss soon asss he isss ready, he will see the mentalist.” he stormed back out of the holding cells.

She turned slowly back to the troll in the cell. “I don’t know what you did, but you are as good as dead.” with that she walked to the next cell.

After some frenzied searching Shuan returned home exhausted. She paused by the mailbox and noticed she had a package.

Slowly she pulled it out and opened it. She gasped at the bloody stump of a finger. With trembling hands she unfolded the note and read it several times over. As the shock wore off, she shivered.

She closed her eyes for a moment before snapping them open. With a growl, she turned and headed towards the Innkeeper.

"Did ju see who delivered dis box?" she asked him through gritted teeth.

The Tauren looked up from his work. "Many people come and go. I don't see everything"

Shuna narrowed her eyes and threw a coupld of gold coins on the desk. " "ows about now?" she asked.

He looked at her with a smile. "There was a strange undead fellow here earlier. But thats all I know."

Shuna nodded and turned and headed upstairs to think.

In the Undercity, Tati stopped to check her mail. She was tired and sore from her impriosonment still and now after so little sleep her nerves were strung tightly. She trudged back to her room with all the mail and sat down to look through it sleepily.

She got to the box and noted that it rattled strangely. With some concern she opened it and dropped the teeth into her palm. She stared blankly at them and then looked at the note.

As the meaning sunk into her head she shrieked loudly. She dropped to her knees and began to cry. Her head began to throb as she thought about the toruture she had gone through and what could be happening to Kranik.

She panted and squeezed her eyes shut. With a groan she collapsed to the floor. Several minutes later she opened her eyes and pulled herself to her feet.

Coolly she collected the teeth and put them back in the box. With a little stretch she opened her closet and pulled a tight black dress out and began to change.

"They want to play do they." She whispered as she strapped her weapons to her belt. She paused and looked in the mirror. With a little sneer she pulled her hair up and placed a black hat on. Satisfied, she turned and walked to the door.

"Well Tati likes games. Lets see if Tati can't make her own rules." with a wicked grin she left the room.

She sat down at her rotting desk, and casually opened the bottom right drawer. Pulling out the tumbler and bottle of liquid courage, she poured herself a drink in the frosted glass. Placing the bottle back in the drawer, she nudged it closed with her foot.

With a slight shiver she lifted the glass to her lips and took a long drink, nearly draining its contents in her first gulp. She began to transpose her work from the day to the master’s worksheets which he had laid on her desk while she was away.

She hated it here, so far from home, so distant, so cold. She missed her son, and her husband. Yet day after day, her job kept her away, slaving away for her forsaken masters. She finished the first page and drained the rest of her drink. The liquid warming its way through her system. She drummed her fingers along the glass as she reached down to grab the bottle again. Cursing to herself under her breath that she put it away so soon.

Pouring herself a second glass, she exhaled and watched the wisp of her frozen breath linger before her a moment. Shaking her head, she drank again, mentally telling herself to lessen the amount that seeped down her throat. She was running low on her libations and there wouldn’t be a supply run for another month.

She put the glass down and turned the page and transcribed more of her work. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she had a nagging feeling. Something, that longed to be answered. She didn’t even realize she was doing it until she was staring at the fifth page of her files. She brought the glass back up for a drink, and it had nearly touched her lips.

A gasp erupted from her throat as she read the name on the file, the tumbler slipping from her grasp. With reflexes beyond her station she snatched it back from clattering on the rotten desktop. Her right hand began to tremble slightly. She knew that it was now or never.

She briskly stood up and marched from her room. She shivered as a brisk wind blasted frost and snow down the hallway she stepped into. She pulled her jacket tighter around her. Kicking some fresh snow as she turned towards the holding cells. Muttering about how the forsaken never care to fix the broken doors.

She took the key from her jacket pocket and unlocked the holding cell door. It’s heavy oak wood bracing against the harsh cold reality beyond. She listened to the wind scream past the open doorway leading to the outside before grinding the door closed and locking it. With a heavy sigh, she took off her jacket and placed it on the hook by the door. Briskly she rubbed her hands together as she put the gloves down.

She walked past the murmurs of the cell mates and started the fire again. After a few minutes, it began to ebb its warming glow throughout the main room. She took the chance to glance around at the living prisoners, shivering on the floor like rabid dogs.

With a deep breath, she walked over to the cage that contained the mutilated troll. Placing her hands on the wall next to the bars, she called out quietly. “Tusks? Is that really you?”

His ears perked up as she started across the room. Reflexively, he tried to position himself defensively. His pain riddled body, refused to bend to his will. He simply opened his eye, and stared at the back of the cage. He cursed his failing body, his growing anger and rage, only made his body hurt more.

Her soft voice, eased through his cage. Somewhere, in the back in of his mind, the voice, that name, it was racing to click in place. He tried looking at her over his right shoulder, out of habit, but he simply couldn’t see her. He forgot he had no eye on his right side, so he tried looking over his left shoulder, but he couldn’t see her.

With a growl he rolled onto his back and glared at the woman before him. He stared at her, as her face twisted in disgust and looked at the floor. Her raven hair, her posture, if he could see her face maybe he could put the last piece of the puzzle in place.

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and opened them and looked at what remained of the troll’s face. “Tusks?” her voice broke with a tinge of concern.

He tried to talk, his missing teeth, splayed lips and swollen tongue simply made speaking torturous. He simply nodded.

“Oh tusks, what did they do to you?” she paused, she knew what they did to him, she read his file. Shaking her head, she changed her question. “Why did they do this to you?” she finished.

“Dis....fa....vor” he stammered out over his mangled mouth. “You?” he rolled his eye in pain. Talking was shooting pain through him.

She looked at him, a moment. “A job.” she looked away before the tears would start. “Tusks, when you get better we need to talk. This is fate that you are here. Time is short, but I know the time is now.”

With no more words, she grabbed her jacket and whirled it about her and unlocked the door and walked back out into the frozen hell. For the first time in a year and a half, a smile began to crack upon her icy lips.

Days passed. He wasn’t sure how many, he guessed three. It was only judging off of the number of times they gave him what passed for food. The bitter juice from an Icecap stem, one of the few liquids that wouldn’t freeze in the harsh temperatures, and cold, rock hard, moldy bread.

He hadn’t been able to at least attempt to eat the bread until this morning, when his teeth finally grew back. With his left hand, he lightly fingered his lifestone secretly sewn into the waistband of his pants.

He gritted his teeth, as a new pain began to spiral beneath his tattered leather eyepatch. Nerves began lashing against one another and from the acidic mess a stud of a new finger began to form.

He curled up upon the floor when he was done. He took to shivering to fight off the growing amount of cold, as the fire from the center of the room, tried its hardest to warm everything, only to fail miserably.

The massive door creaked to a close, he was no longer alone. He turned his feral gaze to the ice encrusted forsaken man and his human assistant. She looked in at him, impassive and cold. She thumbed through her papers, until she found his file. “Well” she began. “With his current accelerated regeneration rate and sporadic, nearly instantaneous regenerations spurts. I would say he would be able to see The Mentalist, in three more days.” she finished clinically.

“Hmmm. Very well then. Three daysss it isss.” He smoothed his red and blue robes, small icicles cascading to the floor, sounding like tiny bells as they shattered. “I shall leave you to your businesssss.” He said as he turned back the way he came.

She wandered about the room checking the other occupants before returning to his cage. “Well tusks, I don’t know how you have done it. But you have thrown, my calculations way out of whack.” she stated calmly.

He smiled at her, “Well Maddy you know I never reveal my secrets.”

“Yeah, well they are ending up costing you a trip to The Mentalist early. Something I hadn’t planned on.” she shot back.

“Tell me about this Mentalist of yours.” he stated calmly.

“I can only tell you a little.” she scrunched her face, in indecision. He saw it, he knew what it meant. Although they had been gone from one another’s company for years, he knew that look. The look of her wanting to say more then she should.

“The Mentalist, is a lich. He can read your thoughts like an open book. He can drive his icy fingers into your head and.....and well screw with your mind. So much so, some people who come back are not like who they were when they went.” she sighed for a moment. “He will know what makes you tick, your fears, your desires, he will turn them to his will, bend you to his commands.” she stopped. Her face betraying her, she wanted to say so much more.

He put a hand up in the air. “Say no more.” he knew her resignation. Whatever she was planning could be compromised with her telling him anything more. For all they knew it could already be. He doubted, simple old friendships would raise to much of a flag if discovered. At most, they would put some extra pressure on her in hopes she would break. He knew she was better then that.

He nodded as she sighed and resigned herself to wrapping her jacket around her some more. She walked to the fire pit and tossed a few more frost encrusted logs onto the fire. She stood there a moment listening to them sizzle and crack.

Without any more words or sidelong glances, she quickly retreated from the holding cells, to the frozen hell of the outside world. As she leaned against the door, she closed her eyes and prayed. Prayed that in the end of three days, that Tusks, would still be the same. She needed him now.

Shuna slowly walked up the stairs to her room. She fought to keep her eyes open as she stumbled along the hall. As she opened the door she hardered her heart against the hurt of seeing the empty room.

She slammed the door shut and gave Storm a distracted pat. The cat flopped on the floor and was immedialty asleep. Shuna looked at her pet with sad eyes before she tiredly removed her armour.

Biting back a little whimper she checked her wounds. They were painful but not deep. Her exhaustion was making her sloppy. She curled up in her bed and cuddled with one of Kranik's shirts.

Only once the lights were out and her body was so worn out it refused to work was she able to close her eyes and fall asleep.

Tati sauntered through the dark passage-ways of the Undercity. She thought about the skull Shuna had found in their room and wondered what sort of trouble Kran had gotten into.

As she walked she noticed a familiar figure ahead of her. She watched As Mortanus strutted towards her. She narrowed her eyes as she thought about how much hate he had for Shuna and Kranik.

"Ah, Lady Tatimitzi, I see you have returned!" He called out to her.

She looked at him from under her hat. "Ah yes I have.....Although I have sad news...It appears my brother is missing now."

Mortanus smirked. "Is he? how.... unforutnate." he surpressed a chuckle.

Tati smiled and stepped closer to the Warlock. She carefully traced a finger down his arm and gave him a coy smile. "You ..woulnd't know anything about it would you?"

Mortanus blinked and looked down at her hand on his arm. "ahh.. Lady Tatimitzi...what are you doing?" he started to back away from her.

She clamped her fingers around his arm and held him close. He tried to yank his arm free but the troll was surprisingly stronger then she looked.

"My brother is missing and a forsaken skull was found in his home. You have alot of hatred towards my family." she hissed as she shoved him backwards into a nearby wall.

Mortanus tried to squirm away. "Dear Lady, you are.. not yourself.."

She grinned. "Maybe I am, Maybe I'm not... Did you have anything to do with his disappearance?" she asked as she poked him in the chest with her free hand.

He glared back at her. "No, sadly. I hope him and that bitch rot."

She snarled and slapped him across the face. Then she pushed him away from her. He scrambled to his feet and began to back away nervously.

She began to cast a spell and suddenly he froze. As she peered into his mind he tried to run but his actions where not in his control. She released him and snorted.

"Go back to your silly little lab Mortanus. You are not worth my time." And with that statement she turned and walked away.

Mortanus glared at her back and ran off muttering to himself.

Mortanus raced off into the solace of his lab. The news was apparently true that Tatimitzi was not sane since her return. She had read his mind, a grave violation that would prove fatal to her in due time. However, there was more important news with even more dire consequences that held fast in his mind. If he had a working heart it would have beat in fear, if his lungs worked he would be gasping at air like a fish out of water.

The first part of the news while joyous, led to a grim discovery. Kranik was missing and/or dead. While normally such news would be a godsend, it meant that he had underestimated Pash. Pash had somehow done the inconceivable, she had slain Kranik. She was almost as clever as he was, she had somehow tried to implicate him in Kranik's murder. She had failed, or more then likely, she didn't figure the clues she left behind leading to him would be discovered so soon. She had probably hoped to return and collect her hundred gold, and then watch him get carted away. He wagged his finger in the air to no one, "Oh you are good, Pash. Just not good enough."

The worst part of this entire ordeal would be Pash coming to look for him, and her money, which he didn't have. He was running low on lines to keep her strung along. He knew he was no match for Pash. It was one thing to know you had an assassin coming to kill you, because someone paid them. It was entirely different story when one was coming to kill you, simply because they wanted too. He shivered at that thought.

He knew he was safe in his lab, only himself and now that wretch Tatimitzi knew where it was. But, Pash knew his habits, for all he knew she could have been stalking him now. He would have to abandon the lab for now. Go somewhere unexpected, someplace no one would look for him.

The second thing this meant, was of course, that Shunasun was all alone, the poor dear. He cackled manically at his own sarcastic thought. He needed to find away to get her to his lab so he could sacrifice her and claim the rite of blood. Increasing his magic easily by tenfold. Then he would stand a chance against Pash, but sadly he didn't know where she was.

The little tart left the guild hall, after their "supposed" altercation. He briefly entertained the idea of attempting to deal with Pash, to have her get him the information he required. Sadly, he knew that wouldn't work. She would want the money owed first before anything else. He would have to try and deal with Shunasun's new friends. Minossus and Loku for the information required.

He looked at the stack of letters, he had been writing and sending to build his case against Pash. Sadly, it hadn't worked since the person he had been sending them to, Dogen had gone completely bonkers. As he grabbed what few things he owned, he fumed. Pash had the gall, the nerve to double cross his double cross. He slammed and locked the door to his lab.

God how he hated troll women.

Mortanus watched from the safety of the shadows, like a thief in the night. He had returned to the guild hall, against his better judgement. One had to do things against better judgement from time to time to get to greater things. Pash, he knew only tolerated the guild hall, she wouldn’t likely be around. The person he sought to speak to, would be however.

He spied Minossus, exiting the guild hall. Mortanus diligently followed, like a simple cutpurse skulking in the shadows. Minossus kept making mental notes and shifting gear around his bags, and pouches as he walked. He was running late as it was, he had agreed to venture into the dangerous Dire Maul.

They rounded the corner, coming closer to the top of the flight tower. They could hear the flapping of impatient wyvern wings, and an occasional roar. Mortanus knew it was now or never. He boldly strode forward and proclaimed. “Minossus, just the person I wished to speak with.” his voice was steady and cordial. He even accented it with a bow of respect, not that he meant it.

Minossus spun around as the warlock was righting himself. They stared at one another a moment, “Mortanus, What do you want?” he almost growled it.

“My, aren’t we a bit trite this evening?” Mortanus chided back.

Minossus looked at the small warlock disdainfully a moment. “I am in a hurry. I don’t have time for idle banter. If you have a point, please make it so I may be on my way.” he said with a deep breath.

“I see Lady Shuna no longer graces the hall. I am in dire need of speaking with her. I figured you might know where she has run off to. It is important I speak with her.” He conceded in a cordial tone.

Minossus eyed him warily. “I see. While im afraid I don’t know.” with that he turned to walk back up to the wyvern master.

“I have discovered news about her....thing.” Mortanus finally spat in contempt. There was no way he was going to address it by it’s proper name.

Minossus turned around quickly to look the warlock straight in the eye. “What?” he asked briskly.

“You know, I have important news I uncovered. I thought I would tell her in person. You know try and what is the word you people call it these days. Get back in good graces, you know let bygones be bygones and all that drivel.” he stammered.

“Well it shows promise for you, that you would be willing to do that. I sense good things for you now, you know.” Minossus smiled.

“Yeah, you know, all happy and smiley me from now on.” with that Mortanus smiled, it was a forced smile, insincere smile, but a smile nonetheless.

Minossus stared at him for several moments gazing deep into the warlock’s putrid yellowing eyes. With a satisfied nod, he slammed a fist into Mortanus’s upper arm in a sign of comradery. “This is excellent, your eyes did not betray you. I will tell you what I know, which is sadly not much.”

Mortanus absent-mindedly rubbed his arm, it was like being hit with a mace.

“Kranik has been gone for some time now. Shuna has been gone for almost as long. I do not know where, she went. I have tried to sense them out, but I am shielded from them. I do apologize that I can not be of any more use to you. But rest assured I am doing all that I can.” Minossus said.

“In due time, I am sure you will be much more useful to me.” Mortanus said back. “I shant keep you from your destination any longer Minossus. Do tell me if you find any information.”

Minossus nodded and strode up the rest of the way to the wyvern master.

Mortanus waited until Minossus was gone and in flight, before cackling manically. “Come Zep. We have much work to do.” with that his imp phased into existence beside him. “We must send a letter to our friend Gerard Abernathy, his technique worked like a charm. Oh, dear Shuna soon you will be reunited with me, for the briefest of moments, but believe me, they will be the sweetest, tenderest moments of my existence.” he stopped in mid-sentence while his daydream played out before him. “Your screams of pain will be absolutely delicious.”

The winds blew cold over Minossus' face as he rode one of the few wyverns that would carry him to his promised destination. The scenery all around him changed and flowed from the lush rolling plains of Mulgore, to the dry aird grasslands of the Barrens. Landing quickly in the small town of The Crossroads, Minossus took a quick minute to rearrainge a few items in his bags, and tipped the flight master a little extra for the long flight ahead. Nodding his approval, Minossus sat down as the flight master strode away, and waited for his fresh transport.

Roaring its obvious distaste at being woken up, the wyvern master led his largest mount to the starting deck. Twice the size of a normal mount, this wyvern was a monster. The mane flowed like spun gold and bronze, and the fangs were the size of ogre daggers. With a tail that could snap a large tree in half, this great beast demanded respect, and awe from whom graced his presence. A look of disdain and a little foul temperedness shone in the great beasts eyes; as he looked the old Shaman over.

Minossus looked the beast in the eye, and for a momment, a split second....someting changed in him. Something awoke. Normal gentle blue eyes flared a lethal burnished gold, not unnoticed by the ornary beast standing before him. Throwing his head in challenge, and roaring his right as the dominant male, the Wyvern stared Minossus down; wating for the fight. The poor flight master stood there, paralyzed in fear. Never before has this big brute reacted to anyone like this, and his confusion left him open.

Rearing up, the poor old flight master was thrown from his feet, and landed with a thud far from the starting deck. The fight was on, Minossus decided. And he was going to win. This time, there was no quick flash of gold, no strange feeling of something stirring deep inside him. This time, it came in a rush, and took control immediately. Liquid blue eyes shone gold with anger, and hate; and a growl more beastial than humaniod rolled up from the bowels of his being. The old scar throbbed and seeped, feeding the anger even more.

Ooze pooling at his feet, and the anger building by the second; the shaman laid a totem of strength down, and waited on his challenger. Roaring defiance, loud enough to peirce the sky, the wyvern charged him. The Crossroads came to an instantaneous standstill. Bringing the beast out attracted a crowd by itself; but this display of dominance demanded the whole towns attention. Gathering all around, well out of the way of deadly tooth, tail and claw; innocents came to watch the battle of the century. The beast came fast, but not fast enough. Grabbing the wyvern by the the horns on its head, Minossus pulled the great monsters face to his; so they literally stood eye to eye.

Silence took the town, and only the winds blowing made any movement. Stillness took all those watching, straining to see or hear what will happen next. The anxiety was thick in the air, as was the sense of danger. A single word was spoken, but noone could hear. Ears of all shapes and sizes strained to catch the fleeting sound; but noone could truly hear what was spoken. Then, Minossus let go. Cracks laced the wyverns horns where the great hands had held him fast; but no other damage could be seen. Patiently, the wyvern stood to be saddled and mounted.

Minossus looked about the crowd, eyes still shining; and snorted his displeasure at being the center of attention. Mental notes were made at those who were the most brave; who got the closest to see and hear the battle that had taken place momments ago. Smirking cockliy; he mounted up, and took to the skies. Leaving behind all those who waited so eagerly to congratulate him on his victory. Chuckling to himself, he wiped his nose, and shook off the black ooze still seeping from the scar. "Mortanus", he mumbled to himself "This is a very dangerous game you play. One that I have every intention to turn to my advantage. Watch out, there's a new player in town".

With that said, the eyes faded back to their familiar blue, and he kept flying to Feralas. He ponderd why one of his totems had been used, but thought nothing of it. There was buisness to attend to; and a search to keep

He looked up the hill, nestled at the top amongst the trees, was a small cottage. He stopped at the bottom of the cobblestone walkway. He scanned the length of the fence that surrounded the cottage to the right until it wrapped behind the cottage. He smiled slightly, while it wasn’t as big he would’ve liked, it was big enough. He didn’t care if it was too “human” for his friends, it was for one person.

Planting his left hand on the top of the wooden fence, he swung his legs over the top of it, hopping it in a graceful swing. His smile grew wider as he saw the gardens on either side of the cottage. He could recognize some of the herbs from here. Wild Steelbloom and Mageroyal were in bloom this time of year.

The wind crested the top of the hill, and it was colder then he had felt. A storm was coming. He broke into run to the cottage, he had to see her, he had to feel her in his arms just one more time.

The wind picked up again, this time it howled louder. It was bone chilling, snow began to fall. It rapidly began to freeze and wilt the pristine yellow and purple-pink flowers. Ice began to creep across the cottage, chilling the windows and covering the doorway in a huge, thick sheet of ice.

He pressed himself against the block of ice, that now occupied the doorway. He could see her, mere feet away. Slowly, tending to a cauldron of stew over a nice inviting fire. Her blue skin, supple accented against her white shirt and light purple skirt. Her dark hair, unbound from her braids and flowed freely down her back almost to her hips.

A pair of troll children ran past her, no higher then her thighs. Chasing one another with wooden toys. The ice cracked and grew thicker. He began to slam his fists into it, he wanted to be back home. He screamed to the heavens, shaking a fist at an uncaring sky.

Looking back in on them, he could see nothing. The ice was too thick, the cold threatened to kill him. He slumped to the ground before his haven, curling up on himself, his arms wrapping around him to keep as much warmth to himself as possible. Mumbling to himself that one day he would come home.

With his dream lost to him, he shifted uncomfortably when he heard the heavy oak door grate against the cold stone floor. He listened intently as she shut the door with a mighty slam. Agitated he stood up in his cell. It had been three days. They both knew what this meant. They didn’t look at one another the way they had been. She was cold, harsh and impassive. He wore an expressionless face, stone cold and hard.

His eye stared forward, unblinking as she unlocked the door to the cage. Reflexively he balled a fist, as for the briefest of moments the thought of killing her entered his head. As quickly as it entered, the rational thought followed, her death would accomplish nothing. He knew it and the face she wore, told him she was equally ready in case he tried.

As she began to unlock his cage, two skeletal guards came into the room from his right. Between them waddled a tiny gnome, whose frosted pink hair, glistened like cotton candy. Her dark robes, creased and frozen that way, making her waddling even more prominent. She carried with her a staff, large compared to her. The top of the staff was a dark blue gem, it fit atop the frozen wooden shaft like a pyramid.

“We will take the prisoner from here Madeline.” she squeaked at the top of her lungs. She sounded a kin to a pack of rats squealing in terror. It made a shiver run up Kranik’s spine. Her two skeletal thugs, came to rest on either side of Madeline. Awaiting the arrival of the one eyed troll.

“He is a crafty one. You will have to watch this one closely.” Madeline said as the key clicked into the unlocked position. The metal cage door, swung open with a metallic grind.

He glared at her, as the two thugs roughly grabbed him about the arms and dragged him from the cell to the room outside.

“Oh don’t you worry. We will look after him really well. Won’t we boys?” the gnome cackled as her two minions dragged a very unwilling Kranik through the door into the hallway beyond.

After a short walk, they spilled into a cold room, even for the frozen hellhole. His breath was forced from him as the shock of the bitter cold blasted his bare torso. A frost covered, table took up the center of the room. Beyond it was a pale blue ghost like entity, with a large skull, and frost encrusted chains, dangling down his back and arms like a macabre cloak. It glided forward as the skeletons, dragged the now shivering troll towards the table. Without much fanfare, they deposited the freezing troll to the table.

His skin, burned as it hit the even colder table. He tried in vain to move his, arms but they were held fast by the magic of the lich. The pair of skeletons let Kranik go, and withdrew into the far corners of the room. The lich glided forward, until it hovered near his head. It’s hollow, pitiless eyes staring down at the withering troll.

Slowly it reached forward, its fingers seemed to ooze like freezing water. Slowly its cold fingers touched his head. In moments his mental defenses were penetrated as the lich drilled its fingers deep with in him.

The lich, began to feel and see all that Kranik had felt and done. The lich smiled as it felt and saw the pain endured within the mortal shell. The smile quickly dwindled when it encountered something unexpected, something innocent, something child-like, something that inspired hope.

It moved away from it, dwelling on the darker parts. Yet, it seemed to follow it, almost questioning it why it was there. Disgusted the lich withdrew its fingers, to contemplate what he had discovered. Somehow, this mass of freezing flesh would prove slightly more difficult then it had first assumed. It would have to crush its hopes, its innocence, its dreams. Then he could do what was asked of it.

It thrust its fingers deep within Kranik’s skull a second time. Ignoring the small, insignificant part of the troll’s brain, it went to work. Finding faces, places and things to weave together. The troll’s body began to shut down as the cold began to take control.

The lich cocked his head as the troll’s violent shivering would pause and resume, moments later. The troll’s eye became glassed over, his breathing slow and erratic. The lich smiled at the troll’s suffering.

The lich thrust his fingers deeper into the troll’s tiny skull and used but an ounce of magic. Satisfied with its work, it realized it’s hold on the troll.

Reflexively, Kranik curled up in the fetal position, to try and hold onto what little warmth he had left. The lich beckoned to the skeletons, and the gnome. With a casual, disdainful wave of its skeletal hand, it ushered them to the door.

The skeletons grabbed Kranik, and hauled him from the table to the floor. He refused to walk as his body fought to stay warm, he simply was dragged shivering from this room back to his cell.

Madeline looked in shock as he was deposited back in his cell. The gnome simply smiled at her and nodded. “Looks like you got some work cut out for you.” she squeaked and walked with her two skeletal companions back into the lich’s workshop.

Madeline, hadn’t quite expected the lich’s room to be so cold for the hours that Kranik had been gone. She rushed and grabbed blankets to wrap him with to try and get his body warm again.

Kranik stared at the ground, his body shivering every so often. Only one vision danced in his brain..........

Shunasun rolled over in their bed, which should have been empty. Her arm, draped across another man’s chest. Both of them lay naked, her hair unkempt from the wild night previous. The man grinned and sat up slightly. Kranik knew that face, he knew it well. Zanjir.

What part of his mind still worked, kept telling him over and over that when he got home, Zanjir would be paid a visit. A slow, painful, torturous visit.

Tati lay on her bed with her eyes closed. She wasn't really sure how this worked but she had to try. She had sent Keishe off so that the mage woulnd't pester her about how it was going.

She took a deep breath. She decided to approach it like a meditation and see how it went. Slowly the priestess centered herself and began to relax. As she felt her mind slipping into a deeper state she began to think of Kranik. She filled her mind with thoughts of him and began to send her thoughts out.

She wasn't sure how long she lay there. Breathing deeply, all she thought of was her brother.

Then she felt something. Just a small tingle. She welcomed it and began to examine this feeling. Slowly it built up. Freezing cold sensations began to seep into her body. For a moment she had a glimpse of something white and icy before she began to feel pain and nothing but cold. Her teeth began to chatter but she maintained the link, pushing for anything else that might be useful.

She met a block though. Anger. So much anger was seeping through him that it began to flood her and the cold and pain disappeared. She tried to center herself again and send him soothing thoughts but the connection snapped and she sat up, gasping and shivering.

She wrapped herself in a blanket and pondered this information. Exhasuted she just lay there until she drifted to sleep.

Shuna's blade sliced through the bear's thick hide. Storm slashed at the great beast and Shuna just barely danced out of the way of a massive claw. She watched an orange blur come running in and heard Aku's gun begin to explode from behind. A few minutes later the bear lay dead at her feet.

She frowned and bandaged a wound on her arm. Aku sighed and came to help her.

"Killing yourself won't help you find him." he said softly.

She blinked and bit her lip. "Ja I know. I just.. 'ate feelin' so 'elpless. We've looked all over for 'im."

Aku hugged his apprentice. "We'll find him. Lets head back to the city. If I have to rip it down brick by brick we will find him."

Shuna lowered her head so he couldn't see the tears forming in her eyes. "Ja, ok, lets go tear da undercity apart. T'ank ju Aku."

He smiled at her and led the exhausted trolless back to their mounts. "When we are done there you should try to sleep again."

She nodded. "I told ju, I can't sleep till I can't stand. Otherwise all I do is lay dere alone and worried."

With that she turned Beastie and headed towards the city. Aku followed after her and worried about her health. She'd come too close to getting seriously injured tonight.

He turned the skull over in his hands, while his apprentice drifted uneasily into sleep. The skull was dark, brittle and yet familiar. He had seen skulls like this before. He held the skull up before his own face staring deeply into its empty eye sockets.

Scourge Champions in the Eastern Plaguelands, they had notoriously fragile skulls. He sat the skull down gently beside him. What would the Scourge want with a simple troll thief? The answer was obvious, nothing. There was something more to this, then that.

It was now a question of finding out what that something was. He closed his eyes, and leaned back in the chair he was sitting in. The back of the chair hit the wall behind him, and he slid his large black leather hat down over his face.

He was in Kargath, talking to the stable master. He couldn’t remember why exactly he was there, he was removing Mahkwa from his captivity. A snippet of a conversation drifted across the wind.

A pair of forsaken women, their voices husky yet soft, like a loud seductive hiss. “Have you heard about the new plague?” one asked. The other made a witty comment about regarding it, before they began to chatter on, about the great strides they had been making. Soon the humans would be turned to the forsaken, as soon as they finished working the kinks out.

He woke with a start, the chair slammed into the floor. His hat lazily falling from his face to the floor. Reggie and Night storm growling in anger, as Shunasun bolted up from the bed, awkwardly trying to get ready to fend off an attacker that wasn’t there.

Akuyim glanced to Shunasun, as he bent forward and recovered his hat from the ground. “Sorry, lost my balance.”

She grunted and tried to roll over to go back to bed.

“Apprentice.” his voice dark, hard and determined. She had heard this tone before, when she would slack off in her duties.

“Ja teach” she mumbled as she rolled over.

“Has your husband ever spoken about his alchemy training?” he asked.

“No, dun t’ink so.” she mumbled.

“Has he ever done work for the forsaken apothecary university in the Undercity?” he asked, trying in vain to get to the answers to back up what thought he had swirling in his brain.

“Ja I would t’ink so. I mean, dey would ‘ave trained ‘im I would t’ink.” her eyes no longer showed the hint of beleaguered weary and worry. All signs of exhaustion began to fade. She knew her teach had an idea or a clue or something. He was deadly serious. She sat up in bed, her feet hitting the stone floor.

“I think, I know why he was taken and maybe even by who. I think he has been working on the new plague for the forsaken, clandestinely of course. I think he may have found or discovered something, that they didn’t want found out.” he finally stated.

Shuna simply stared at him in disbelief, Kranik wouldn’t keep secrets from her would he? He didn’t really like it when she had discovered that pouch of his mementoes of his previous “victims”. She shook her head lightly, not her Kran.....would he?

“This is just a guess of course. We will have to look into this more closely, I am uncertain really as to how.” he said with a slight hint of defeat. “Tonight we rest, tomorrow we go back to tearing this place brick by brick.”

She nodded and laid back down. Akuyim leaned back in the chair, as he did so he nudged Reggie with his foot. Reggie looked up at him and Akuyim nodded to the door. Reggie picked himself up and then plopped his six hundred plus pound frame at the base of the door. He knew she would attempt to leave tonight with new information, Reggie would prevent that.

She closed her eyes, but her mind began to think, as her worries mixed with new doubts. She tried hard to stifle the urge to cry, over the sound of her teacher’s snoring she was sure he wouldn’t hear her.

He didn’t remember falling unconscious, he didn’t realize how many days, he lay teetering on death. The only thing that mattered to him, was getting away from here and killing Zanjir. He would do whatever it was that they asked of him. He no longer cared. Zanjir’s slow, painful demise was all that danced in his brain. Morning, noon and night, they would waltz. Shuna and Zanjir tormenting him, causing him pain and anger.

“Tusks” she whispered. “Tusks, can you hear me?” she opened the cage door and knelt beside him one more time.

She saw life flicker in his hate filled eye. “I need to go home.” he growled. “Right now.”

“Shhh one moment. I have to check you over. You almost died on me, you know.” she whispered and began to tend over him.

“What does my life matter now?” he growled lightly and looked away. “All I worked for gone in the blink of an eye.”

“What are you talking about Tusks?” she asked as she carefully began to unwrap the first layer of the multitude of blankets she heaped on and around him to prevent his death.

“I have...HAD someone back home. But, she soils my bed with another man.” he stated. “I need to go home and kill them both.” his voice distant, cold and detatched.

“No Tusks.” she gasped. “It’s a lie. The Mentalist has a hold on you. They will make you see him again as soon as your well again. Your girl, she would....” the rest of her sentence was cut off by his right hand clamping roughly around her jaw and squeezing.

He rolled out of the blankets holding her jaw tightly. “Do not presume to tell me what is right or wrong woman. I need to get home.” he growled. He shook off the rest of the blankets as he stood up.

Hauling her to her feet by her jaw, he started to march her backwards they way that she came in. Not one to be bullied, she slammed her right foot into Kranik’s groin, grabbing his wrist with her right hand, she twisted it off her face. Holding his twisted arm, as he slumped forward she grabbed him by his ponytail and slammed his forehead into the stone wall of his cell.

“Now you listen to me bub.” she snarled. “It’s a lie. But if you don’t believe me, I can get you home. You just have to play by my rules do you understand me.”

He tried to shake his head free from her grasp, but she wound her fingers tighter in his hair. He thought a moment, about fighting her which he would have no problems doing, but then he may miss the chance to get home. Would the forsaken send him home? They probably would, but would they allow him to go pay Shunasun and Zanjir a visit? Maybe....maybe not. If they escaped, he was free to go and do as he pleased.....

“Fine. I will play by your rules for now.” he said.

“Good boy.” she let him go. He stood up and wiggled his wrist.

She leaned close to him, pressing her body against his. She stood up on her tiptoes to deliver the message to him. “Tomorrow night, we escape. You meet me outside the door to the outside. Your freedom will come with a price. There are three people that will need to be slain. You will only have to worry about one of them. I will lure her into this room, she won’t have her skeletons. Kill the gnome, and meet me outside.” with that she trailed her fingers down his stomach and deposited a key to his door in his waistband.

“Don’t get any ideas of using the key early, it won’t do you any good. The cold will kill you in minutes.” she smirked lightly at him and walked back outside the cell. She closed it and shut the door it locked in place.

He sneered as she walked away. “For now woman. We will have this conversation again I assure you.”

He sat in angry silence in the middle of his cell, occasionally tracing his fully formed right index finger through the grooves in the stone before him. His eye transfixed forward into the main room, staring unblinking, uncaring at nothing.

They were no longer content to torment him in his dreams, now they had taken their tryst to his waking moments as well. The spot he was staring at, a stone with a crack in it across from him, was replaced by a set of legs. They were hidden in a deep blue set of woolen pants, but legs nonetheless.

He rolled his eyes upwards to see her face. She marked off some things on her papers, and walked to the next cell. Before she did so, she gave him a nod. He knew what it meant, everything was in accordance. They had been separated, but the codes were still there. He simply went back to staring at the wall.

She finished her rounds and held up a single finger in his direction, before unlocking the heavy oak door and opened it. He watched her disappear into the swirling snows, he listened intently on the door. It latched, but he didn’t hear it lock. He smiled, soon he would be home. Then he would rid himself of this waking nightmare.

He sat there in silence as darkness and pain, gnawed at his insides. While somewhere in the back of his mind, things wrestled. One of them, a happy innocent thing, telling him, that the vision was not as it appeared. However, that voice was overshadowed by the new more powerful dark voice.

The argument went the way it had since the night before, in circles with the happy voice dwindling away into the darkness. It was no longer strong enough to exert its will upon the world, its happiness had been stripped away, it simply curled up and rocked in a corner. Waiting for its time where it could be strong enough to try and take control or at least talk reason with the voice that was now so entrenched in his head.

His thoughts went from his wife to his friends and back again. He wondered, why he needed friends at all, they brought feelings and with feelings brought vulnerabilities, he was beyond such petty needs and concerns. Family, friends they were nothing now. Just another set of names and faces that would turn against him, like Shuna had.

She turned her back on him, she now carried on without him. Without him being dead, he could justify her moving ahead with her life if he were dead. Really dead, not just dead on the inside which is what he felt like now, no truly and irrevocably dead. In essence, he had been thrown away by his loved ones. They didn’t care about him, so he no longer cared about them. They were now put back into the most basic of categories. Tools and victims, nothing more and nothing less.

He could no longer sit there. His anger went well past his boiling point, but his mind managed to keep it all in check. He stood up slowly, and walked to the door of his cell. Withdrawing the key she gave him, the night before, he snaked his hand between the bars and unlocked the door to his cell.

He slid out quietly, cautiously closing the cell door but not locking it. He walked to the firepit, to warm himself a moment. He gazed into the cells that adorned the room. Inside sleeping, were dwarves. There were half a dozen dwarves, plus himself. He wondered about this for a moment, since it gave his mind something to do beside torture him with other things.

He looked around to find a suitable weapon, he casually tossed a new log onto the fire. It sizzled and cracked a moment, but the snoring dwarves didn’t stir. Then he found it, a black iron fire poker. Long, sharp and barbed. While not something that would be on the top of an assassin’s wish list, he would make due with what he had.

He stepped forward and the shadows wrapped around him like the lover he deserved. It caressed his body as he faded from sight. He reveled in it, he was home. Then he went back to his game, he waited.

He didn’t know how long he waited, as minutes dripped by, nor did he care. He had one goal. A gnome to kill ensured his passage home, how he wasn’t sure. Thoughts began to creep into his mind that Madeline may also try and double cross him, but no. She needed him for something, he just didn’t know what. Until that point, she was a tool, much like he was. Afterwards, one of them would become a victim.

The door scraped open on the far side of the room, he could hear her slippered feet shuffling across the cold stone floor. He watched her shuffle into view. Her frosted pink hair, her staff was missing from her back. “Madeline?” she squeaked.

He slid forward as she entered the room in earnest. “Madeline? God damn it, never trust a human to be punctual.” she shuffled past him unawares on her way to warm herself by the fire.

Kranik looked at the gnome and then at the poker in his hand. He slowly placed the poker to the ground without a sound. He crept up behind her. He held his breath as the muscles in his arms coiled in on themselves in anticipation. Like a serpent his arms began to wrap themselves around her neck, close to her but not touching. “Madeline?! Is that....”

His hands snapped down upon her. His left hand grabbing a fistful of hair, he placed her tiny jaw into the crook of his right elbow. With a quick forceful twist, her neck snapped violently, so much so, her body did a complete rotation before thudding onto the ground.

He reached down and picked up one of her tiny feet. With his other hand he cradled a couple of logs from the wood bin next to the fireplace. He dragged her back to his cell. Wrapping his toes around one of the bars he pulled the door open. He bent down and placed the logs on the ground.

He carefully wrapped her and the logs up in his blankets, until they seemed about the right length of himself. Taking careful precaution not to expose her pink hair. Which he promptly, removed some anyway. He tucked it into the waistband of his pants for later.

Satisfied with his handiwork, he walked outside and closed the cell door letting it lock behind him. He picked up the poker, just in case and walked outside. He shivered and tried hard not to let his teeth chatter as the biting cold snapped at him.

Madeline stepped out of the shadows beside him. “What took you so long?” she whispered.

He said nothing, he simply smirked. “Here put these on quick.” she thrust a shirt and jacket into his chest. Without anymore words, he dressed for the cold.

“Now what?” he whispered back.

She bent down and picked up a large bundle from the snow. “Follow me, and don’t get caught.” with that she disappeared into the shadows. He did the same.

Shuna pondered the things Aku had told her about the new plague. She tightened her grip on Beasties reigns as she rode through the corrupted area of Felwood. She needed some slime samples to get her into the lab. Once there she would pretend to work and nose about to see what she could find.

Aku stopped ahead of her and pointed to a pond. Several of the slime beasts oozed about. The hunters dismounted and made their way closer.

“Are you sure of this plan?” Aku asked her as they began to shoot at the creatures.

“Ja, I t’ink so. Its da only way to get into da labs.” She replied as she notched another arrow.

“You must be very careful in what you say and do. I can’t come with you.” He said in a slightly worried tone.

Shuna bit her lip as she watched the oozing beast explode. “Ja I know. But I ain’t so good at da subtle. But I gotta try in case dere some info for us.”

She headed forward to collect her samples. She wrinkled her nose at the smell and walked back.

“well dat it den. Lets get outta ‘ere.” She muttered as she hopped onto Beastie’s back.

Later that night Shuna tugged her cloak around her as she walked down the dark hallway to the lab. She tried not to seem out of place as she made her way to the chemist.

“I’m supposed to test dese samples” She told him in a low voice.

The chemist didn’t even raise his eyes. “That’s nice. You can use the equipment in the corner.”

She nodded and made her way to the table. She proceeded to test the samples as she was told to but she took her time. Chemists came and went and assistants wandered about taking notes.

As she was finishing up she heard someone walk by. The Dr was talking to his assistant in hushed tones.

“….and then we shall use this to build the new plague. We can wipe out all our enemies easily…”

She kept her eyes on the table but tensed up. She shifted herself slightly so she could see where they went. The two forsaken walked into another room across the way from her.

Shuna cleaned up her things and handed the samples to the chemist who had sent her out. He thanked her absentmindedly and continued brewing his potions.

She nodded and carefully walked towards the door. No one seemed to be paying attention so she quickly reached out and opened it a smidge. She pretended to be searching through her pouch for something as she waited to see if anyone noticed. The chemists continued their work, totally focused on their tasks.

She pushed the door open a bit more and peeked in. Another long hallway dimly lit was all she could see.

“Can I help you?” came a cold voice.

Shuna turned around and gave the male a flirty smile. “Ja, ju can. Ju see, I was just tryin’ to find my way to da bathroom. I always get lost in ‘ere” she gave a giggle and tried her best to look like a bubbly idiot.

The forsaken male rolled his eyes and muttered about trolls. “You go that way.” He said as he pointed up the stairs.

Shuna smiled and sauntered away. She heard him close the door behind her and she paused and looked back to see him standing there watching her. She blew him a kiss and he scowled at her before she turned and made her way back into the city.

She picked up Zyb from the stable and then got ready to go meet Aku. Hopefully he’d have some thoughts on the situation.

Tati answered the door and ushered in Aku and Shuna. The hunters both looked worn out and slightly frazzled.

Tati frowned and watched them take a seat while she pushed food and drink on the both of them. She noticed how listless Shuna looked and she worried for her.

“Shuna, you need to get more rest.” Tati said softly as she watched them eat.

Aku nodded and patted Reggie. “You have pushed yourself hard apprentice. You do him no good by becoming so worn out you can barely keep your eyes open.”

Shuna sighed. “I know. I can’t concentrate so well anymore. I’m missin’ t’ings and dat could be bad. I just can’t sleep well without ‘im.” She toyed with her food for a moment before continuing to eat.

“Well, I have made some contact with Kranik. But I can’t seem to get past his anger.” Tati said as she gazed out the window. “Shuna why don’t you stay here and rest. Maybe having you near will give me the push I need to get more information.”

Shuna eyed the priestess and smiled softly. “Ju pullin’ my leg, but ok. I’ll stay and sleep ‘ere while ju work jur magic.”

Aku smiled. “Excellent. You ladies stay here and I shall do my own information gathering.” He stood and hugged them both quickly.

Shuna watched him leave and looked back at Tati. “Its so ‘ard to be strong without Kran ‘ere.” She said softly.

Tati led the huntress to the bed. “Shh sweety. Lie down and relax and have a nap. It’ll do you good and then hopefully I’ll have more news when you wake up.”

Shuna stripped her armour off and lay down. Within seconds her breathing had deepened and she was asleep.

Tati ran a hand over her brow and smiled sadly. She cast a healing spell and hoped it would help restore Shuna’s flagging energy. Then she turned and sat down on the couch. She closed her eyes and reached out with her mind. With practice she had gotten better at this and quickly she found Kranik’s mind.

She mentally hugged him and dived into his thoughts. The anger was there still. It was like a massive shield surrounding his mind. She wondered what it was that he was so angry about. She poked at it and it snapped back. She felt the cold briefly again before his hatred crashed over her and she felt like she might suffocate under his fury. She fought against it, doing her best to send thoughts of love and happier times, but gasping her eyes opened and she sat panting and shivering.

On shaky legs she headed to the table to write about it. She just hoped that something was getting through to him to give him hope. She knew how the dark could swallow you.

With a sigh she looked over to the sleeping figure on her bed. At least they knew he was alive and that she hoped was enough to keep them all going.

They treaded lightly through the blistering snow. He saw for the first time, the outside of Tiraangarde. A burnt out human fortress, the courtyard which they now passed through, held numerous tents. Tethered close together and tightly down to prevent them from being toppled over in the high winds that plagued the small island from the sea.

They walked over to them. Past them lay the gate to the true wilds of the island. Kranik paused and looked around. The battlements were bare, no longer did they carry siege weapons, and it was barely manned by the forsaken. He knew why, in a heart beat. Why waste guards on a place where the environment could kill a man in moments. He blinked and started to follow Madeline again.

She motioned for him to wait outside while she deftly squeezed into one of the flaps of the closest tent. He could hear her voice, it was light accompanied by others. Voices that were to faint, but at the same time familiar. He cocked his head to one side trying to listen better, when something stepped in front of him.

A lone patrol. A skeleton warrior judging by his frozen chain mail. He wore no helmet, his skull was dotted with icicles in places, that ice was never intended to be on a human. They nearly filled his hollow eye sockets.

He walked up the row of tents and stopped in front of the one where the voices were. Kranik silently circled around him. Madeline finished speaking and opened the flap of the tent and stopped short as the forsaken patrol gazed at her.

It opened his mouth to say something, as she fumbled over the right words to say. Kranik grabbed the man’s skull with his left hand and clamped down on it with all his might, as he drove his right fist into the man’s neck. Jerking the skull free upon impact, as the man’s neck shattered.

He dropped the man’s skull to the ground as the rest of him slumped to the ground in a heap. Kranik looked at Madeline a moment, before calling the shadows to caress him again.

“That wasn’t entirely necessary” she hissed.

Kranik ignored her for the most part. “Home.” was all he said back.

“Yes. See the two gate guards, we need them killed and the gate opened.” she whispered back.

The tent flap opened up and half a dozen more humans joined them. Kranik looked at one of them. They were equally dressed against the cold. One however, took a moment to gently brush his hand against Madeline’s. That was the one he watched in particular.

“How ya doin’ tusks? Long time huh?” this new comer whispered.

“Janos.” Kranik said with a nod.

“Glad ta see ya didn’t ferget about me.” Janos retorted.

“Can we deal with formalities later? My toes are starting to get numb.” Kranik hissed.

Madeline looked at Kranik. “Tusks. The gate is locked up at the top of it. On the battlement. There are no guards there. You were always the most agile of us, maybe you could find away up there. Janos and I will deal with the guards below.”

Kranik snarled a moment, before looking at the gate. “Fine” he hissed. He hated being the “monkey”, at least they phrased it in a different way. He gazed at the gateway one more time. The two guards nestled just inside the massive gate. He looked to the battlement. It was enclosed, there were two windows, for guards to shoot arrows both inside and outside above the gate. A stack of supply crates sat against the wall, just before the gate. Above the gate facing the courtyard, were flagpoles. The flags tattered and frozen. In his mind, he had figured his way up.

He gave them all a nod. Janos and Madeline started slowly towards the gate, as the other men went tent to tent to rouse the others for the great escape. When they were in position they nodded to Kranik.

Kranik stepped from the shadows into a full out sprint. He sprinted for the supply crates, with a series of bounds, he leapt to the top of the crates. Springing from there he grabbed the first of the flagpoles. He swung his legs towards the second one, but let his feet clear it before releasing his hands. He landed on the second flagpole and before he fully stopped his momentum, he was springing from the flagpole to the top of the gate. His hands hit the window sill and he vaulted his legs and himself forward. He landed lightly on the stone battlement. Just as the two guards dropped into the snow.

He turned the wooden wheel to unlock the gate. Well that wasn’t entirely true. He tried, but the wood was warped from the excessive cold and lack of misuse. Hooking his arms around two of the spokes in the wheel, he braced his feet at the base of the mechanism. With all of his energy and anger, he pulled back with all his might.

At first nothing happened, then a small creaking noise, as the ice that was lodged in the mechanism, cracked and gave way. With it giving slightly he poured more of his strength into it. He was rewarded, the lock gave way. He fell to the ground, breathless, cold and weak.

He heard them forcing the doors open. He staggered to his feet. He peered out over the wall to the outside. All he saw was a poorly maintained road. The humans ran from their tents and out into the windy expanse of the beyond.

He stepped forward and leapt from the great height into the snow bank, forming at the base of the delapidated castle walls. He hit the snow, and tumbled a bit before coming up to his feet near Janos and Madeline.

Scampering over to them on all fours, he righted himself to his full height as they ran towards another building, along the rocky shore.

They hit the jetty next to the building. Madeline pulled up next to the door, and withdrew a set of lock picks and diligently went to work. Moments, later the door swung open. They filtered inside to the treasures with in.

The building, was a small, squat, square, stone structure, nestled just off the shore. Inside, it was well illuminated and heated. Before them, was a small sleek boat. It’s wood painted an off gold color, with gold bands and runes encasing it from stem to stern.

Some of the humans, ran to the dock doors. They began hauling on the chains to open them to the cold dark waters. The rest clambered on board and began to prep the ship for launch.

Janos clapped Kranik on the back. “Good work back there Tusks.”

Kranik simply nodded and eyed the small craft suspiciously. His gaze did not go unnoticed by Janos. “Ah, she may not look like much. But she is the fastest ship on the seas. She is the only one of her kind. A portalrunner.”

Kranik went to speak again, when he was nudged roughly in the ribs from his left side. “Blue!!! Fancy that. So Mads was tellin the truth.” this newcomer exclaimed as he trudged on board.

Kranik eyed him a moment. “Derek the Dirk.” He looked at him, Janos and then at Madeline who was walking on her way back to them. “So do tell me, is there anyone from our frelling class at the mansion that isn’t here?” he asked sarcastically.

The trio chuckled a moment. The rest of the humans scurried aboard the ship, which lurched backwards. “Let’s get below. We have a lot to talk about.” Derek said.

“Well we will have a long time to catch up.” Madeline chimed in. “The mage didn’t make it.”

Janos shook his head. “Well let’s hope all this will be worth it in the end.”

With that they made their way below decks, as the crew did as what they were trained to do. They brought the boat to bear to sail south in the freezing waters. They were heading home.

They met at the same table, as they did for days, maybe even weeks now. If it had been weeks, Kranik figured it was two weeks at most. He looked over at his old companions, and studied them all for a moment.

“How are your visions Tusks?” Madeline asked, as she kicked back in her chair.

“They have dwindled. They are more like shadows, or fleeting moments, best left forgotten” he stated back calmly.

She nodded and took a swig of wine. “Yeah, the power used to fake your memories, is tied to the lich. She is bound to the island, and the farther you get away from her, the less influence she can exert on you. Over time they will disappear.” she said back, as she passed the wine to Janos.

“So Tusks, ye are still in the business of killin people for money. I gave that up fer the sea, meself.” Janos said, as he greedily swigged the wine he had just been handed.

He passed it to Derek. He drank from it lightly, rubbing his lips against the back of his left sleeve. “Ya know blue, you and me, we are a lot alike now. You and me are the only ones stilling playing in the game. Janos turned pirate, and Mads over there went off and married a noble man.” he chuckled lightly as he spoke. He handed the bottle to Kranik, who without taking a drink gave it to Madeline.

He watched his companions, in turn, drink and make idle chit chat. He was someplace else. His mind was waging war on itself. The innocent part was telling him, that he had been right all along and that there was nothing to fear.

The side in control, still was not swayed. They seemed too real to be faked magic or no. If he could sense Tatimitzi, then he should be able to sense his loved ones back home. Shunasun was his wife, he would be able to sense her as well. No, this was no mere illusion or trick of mind. The woman he loved, had forsaken him and left him out to dry. He would get to the bottom of it when he returned home. He would speak with the people he could trust. It was a small list however, but it was all the list he would need.

He simply smiled and nodded as his name or more appropriately his pet names surfaced in the conversation. Sometime later, they began to go about their own business. He stood up when he was all alone. Something had been bothering him, for most of the trip now.

He walked first to Janos’s room, he didn’t get very close. He could hear the usual sounds of a couple pawing at one another, much like Shuna and him would do. He sneered in disgust, and headed to her room. Janos and Madeline had been lovers when they were at the mansion, it was no surprise that they would pick up right where they left off.

Sneaking into her room was like child’s play. The room was small and tidy, he found what he was looking for right away. Her large sack that she carried with her on the night of her escape. Opening it up, he reached inside and pulled out books. Lots of books and papers, he cocked his head to one side and sat down in a small chair. He opened the book and began to read enthralled, glancing at the paper’s which was her work at Tiraangarde.

In the morning, before most of the crew was awake, she snuck back into the safety of her room. She closed the door with one hand, and rested her back against it. Closing her eyes as she yawned. She ran her left hand through her messed up hair. She sighed contentedly and stepped away from the door. She flopped down on her small bed and closed her eyes.

Kranik crept from the corner to the door, and slid the lock in place. As he did so, he came into view.

Her eyes popped back open, and found herself staring at Kranik’s hate filled eyes from the doorway. He held her work and her diary in his right hand. His right arm held straight back and away from him.

“Interesting read, you have here.” he whispered harshly.

She gulped and sat up. “Tusks, why don’t you put that down.” she cooed at him.

“I think not. This will be going with me.” he growled.

“Kranik! No!” she exclaimed.

“What? Do you think I am some sort of puppy or monkey to do tricks on a whim? I think not Madeline.” he growled.

She sighed slightly, and balled her right fist. “Kranik. You don’t know what I have been through. I need that.”

He chuckled evilly. “Of course I know what you have been through, I had plenty of time to read. What you need and what you will get are two very different things.” he stated calmly.

“Tusks, please, help me out here.” she pleaded.

“Help you out? Help you out?!? I think not.” he chided. “Please” he waved her work in his right hand. “Why should I?”

“Because they have my son. I need that to get him back.” she pleaded.

“Ah yes, your son. Do they know the truth about your son? Either one of them?” Kranik whispered harshly. She meekly shook her head no. “Yeah, I didn’t think so.”

“Tell me does your husband, know the money he gives you, finances your lover’s pirate fleet?” he continued. Again she shook her head no.

“Then since im on a roll, do stop me if I go to fast for you. The work you were being so diligent on, wasn’t entirely on the forsaken’s new plague. You were using the test results, from the experiments to come up with an antidote, should the forsaken ever complete it to perfection and use it on Stormwind.” he continued.

She nodded once, and steeled her nerves. Her own mind began to race with scenarios. He saw the look.

“The real reason, you were in charge of the living. Was to find out if biological warfare was suited for something for the humans to use against the horde. The dwarves, were the closest thing you had to orcs, so you had them separated to look into how they responded to the plague. You had access to the tauren herbalist, and as luck would have it. You had me to use for your little plague game.” he stated.

Before he could continue, she leapt from the bed to tackle him to the ground. He saw it coming, and slammed his left fist into her temple. She collapsed to the ground. He put his left foot on her head forcing to the wooden floor. He dropped his right knee into her back.

“You weren’t mad nor concerned that I was seeing the lich too soon. Only that my regeneration was too hard for you to carefully predict. I was throwing your own plague samples out of whack.” he hissed at her, as she struggled a moment.

“These people that have your son, want to strike first with a biological war. Wiping out the Orcs, Tauren and the Trolls.” he placed the work on the floor and gently slid it farther away from them. With his free right hand, he grasped her throat. As he let his weight off of her, he hauled her straight up into the air, smashing her head into the small ceiling. In the same motion he slammed her head first back into the floor.

He pressed one his tusks into her temple as he placed one his feet on her right hand. “I want you to listen to me as hard as you can you lying, deceitful wench. If as you say, my woman has been faithful, I can not in good conscience give you your work. One day, we will have children. I will not sit idly by and watch them be taken by some plague engineered by humans, who have nothing better to do. If I let you go with your work, and that comes to pass, I will only have myself to blame. I can not do that.” he flicked the tip of his tusk across her temple hard enough to draw blood. “But if she is anything like you, I will kill her myself.” he growled and hauled her to her feet and casually flung her back onto the bed.

“I will kill you Tusks.” she snarled as she glared at him.

“You and I both know, you can’t. Not even on your best day. Your work, will never see the light of day.” he whispered.

“Then I lose my son, and that is something that I can not allow to happen.” she snapped back at him.

“Then we seem to be at an impasse.” he retorted, as he curled his toes around her work and picked it up off the floor.

“Then I say we compromise. You can destroy the work, if you get my son back.” she said in a near demanding tone.

He simply looked at her. She was beaten, and they both knew it. “Fine, but your research comes with me.” he hissed.

She stared at him, glowering in anger and hurt. He stared unblinking, his eyes hate filled. She simply nodded, in defeat.

As he unlocked the door to leave, “Do you feel better? Working some of your aggression out?” she chided.

“Why must you make it so appealing to kill you right now?” he snapped back and disappeared out of her room.

Days flew by and Tati watched Shuna work herself into exhaustion each day. With some cajoling Aku and Tati had convinced Shuna to stay with Tati so that the priestess could heal her wounds each night.

Aku, she knew, was worried because Shuna was slipping in her state. Her frantic searching for Kranik had nearly gotten her killed several times. Her mind was focused on one thing and that was to find Kranik. Aku refused to let Shuna search alone now, since he was worried she would not come back in one piece.

The only thing that seemed to keep Shuna from searching endlessly was her concern over her pets. Each night she tended to them before slumping into a worn out heap. For that Aku was proud of her, but still he worried.

Each day when the hunters left to search Tati would try to get past Kranik’s anger so that she could hopefully learn something useful. So far she hadn’t been able to, but she was determined.

She settled herself and let her mind slip away from her body. There was Kranik’s anger, brilliant and strong in his hatred. Tati wandered around it looking for anywhere she could get through.

Today she was rewarded. She had gotten stronger at this and as she poked and prodded she found a hole. A spot where his anger wasn’t as strong and she slipped through deeper into his thoughts.

She puzzled over some random memories of humans she didn’t know but shrugged past them and tried to find a clue to where he was. She wandered his mind and images appeared here and there. She found him looking out to sea. The water was choppy and the wind blew strongly. She wondered why he was on a boat but was happy he wasn’t freezing cold like he had been.

She mentally wrapped herself around him and gave him a hug. As he stood there thinking another image appeared in his mind. Tati frowned as she saw an image of Shuna and Zanjir naked in bed. As she pondered this thought she felt his anger rise again and she fought to keep her link. She felt his mind fight hers and she was stunned as he tried to force her out of his mind.

She stepped back and let go. As she opened her eyes she shivered to think of his anger. And was puzzled as to why he was thinking about Shuna and Zan sleeping together. An odd thought for a man to have about his wife. Men she decided were very strange. “Best to ask Aku about this.” She said to herself.

Days passed, he had thought that there would have been some sort of tension. There was nothing, Madeline lied to Janos, it was the only way to explain why Janos had not tried to gut him like a fish. He would’ve gutted anyone that struck his Shuna, well back when he cared.

So much anger, hatred, and pain had been built up. His agony burned him well past the point of caring anymore. He pushed himself up from the railing of the ship, no longer content to watch the waves.

As he turned to go back below deck, he was met by Janos.

“Tusks. We be makin a small stop in Menethil Harbor. We need us some supplies and I be getting us a mage. You will have ta stay on the ship, ya hear me?” with that he clapped his hand on Kranik’s shoulder.

“Yeah. I hear you.” Kranik said back lightly.

“Well ye get below, afore we reach the harbor. Or ye may be dragged off in chains.” Janos let out a hearty chuckle, and went to the helm, to speak with the helmsman.

Kranik sneered at no one in particular and locked himself in his room. He took to re-reading the research notes and her diary. Some time passed, when there was a knock on the door. He hopped up and opened it. Madeline stood in the doorway and looked up at him. “May I come in?” she asked.

Kranik shrugged and stepped back into his room, making himself comfortable on the bed. They began discussing plans on rescuing her son from Stormwind. As the details were passed back and forth, he wondered once, how he managed to agree to raid Stormwind, in a blazing rescue attempt for Janos and Madeline’s son. He knew the answer, as much as he hated himself at the moment, he still felt, he still cared. Madeline, was still his friend, and was in trouble.

They walked out of his room, when they had finished speaking. Janos met them in the galley. “There you two are. Excellent. We have a mage.” Janos bellowed happily. Madeline nearly squealed in joy. Kranik simply took a moment to look between the two, as if they had just lost there minds.

The boat slowly pulled away from the docks. “Next stop. Westfall.” Janos exclaimed. “Tusks why don’t you come with me. I will show you the true power of the Portal runner.”

Kranik followed him to an area behind the helmsman. The golden tubing that wrapped its way around the ship, seemed to come to a focal point behind the helmsman. It was a circular area, just large enough for someone to stand in. The golden tubing spiraled out from here. A small gnome woman, stood in the area, patiently waiting.

Janos, pulled a lever next to the helm. A small portion of the floor by the golden circle pushed itself up. Janos walked over to it, as the wood started to shift colors. Kranik looked over Janos’s shoulder. It turned mostly blue with two large brown masses on either side of it. A small golden dot was shown in the blue, heading down to the bottom of the map. Kranik recognized the two brown blotches as Kalimdor and The Eastern Kingdoms.

Janos began to trail his finger, as if plotting a course along the coast. As he did so, an image appeared above the small map. A cloudy circle, with the coastline shown in the middle. He stopped when he saw the lighthouse near Westfall. “There.” Janos said. “Do it.”

The gnome began to cast her spell. The magical energies, became absorbed by the golden tubing criss-crossing from one end of the ship to the other. The runes that had been hammered into the tubing, began to glow green. Soon the ship itself was cast in a green glow, from stem to stern. The tubing at the stem of the boat, began to pull apart. Green energy sparking between the two as they pulled further and further apart like a giant crab’s claw. The smokey image that Janos looked at appeared before them. In a moment, the cloud swallowed the boat.

The gnome tumbled to the ground, spent and unconscious. Most the crew, Kranik included, were trying very hard not to succumb to the sensations of vertigo. Kranik blinked a few times, and he could see the lighthouse off the port of the ship.

Janos casually walked over to the level, by the helmsman and pushed it forward. The map withdrew back into the floor. He called for a couple of the crew to grab the gnome and bring her below deck.

He clapped Kranik on the back, as the gnome was taken from sight. “Prolly should’ve warned her o’ that, huh?” he chuckled loudly.

“Drop anchor. Get the landin boat ready.” He barked out orders. “Good luck Tusks.”

Three of them made their way from the Portalrunner to shore. Derek, Madeline and himself. As they beached the small boat, Derek looked around at the murlocs scurrying about and decided to haul the boat to a safer place and camouflage it.

“You are going to kill your husband aren’t you?” Kranik whispered.

She looked away, but nodded yes. “I can’t go back once my son is rescued.” she said back.

Kranik looked up the hill, towards the rest of Westfall. He inhaled deeply, “ I am sure the inheritance isn’t part of your decision either. I can only hope my woman is nothing like you.” he shot back.

Before she could answer back, Derek rejoined them. “Ready to make some hell?” Derek asked as he draped his arms over both the shoulders of his companions.

Madeline smiled, “But of course.” Kranik simply nodded.

“Derek, I will need some daggers. Can you get me a pair in Stormwind?” Kranik asked quietly.

“Of course.” Derek said back. The trio walked off the beach, and disappeared from view as the rolling hills of Westfall crept before them.

As the trio entered Stormwind, they nodded to one another one last time as they went their separate ways. Each one had their own agendas to attend to. “We all come back in one piece. We have one last bottle of win to share.” Derek said.

They nodded one last time as they filtered past the guards and milling crowds as they carried out their missions. Derek went about his mission to gain clandestine supplies and specific documents.

Madeline went home to spend a few moments alone with her husband, before killing him and getting her hands on all of his inheritance. Well as much as she could carry, and what he had stored in the bank.

Kranik slipped in and out of the shadows, traveling to the Cathedral Square. He stood in awe of the massive Cathedral, its spires shooting up into the sky. The orphanage stood to the left of him, and the Cathedral.

The kids played outside, he stood in the park until he found the one he was looking for. He slipped up behind him and slammed his hand into the boy’s neck. As the boy faded from consciousness, Kranik grabbed the boy before he could fall to the ground.

He slipped back into the shadows and made his way back to the boat.

He was the last one to make it back to the boat. The boat was already loaded with the illicit gain from Madeline. Kranik stepped from the shadows, as the boy began to become conscious again.

He set the boy into the sand, and let him find his mother. Derek smirked as the boy clung to his mother in tears. “Always the monster huh, Blue?”

Kranik shrugged. “Catch.” Derek bellowed and tossed two daggers in the air, sailing over to Kranik. He plucked them from the air, and twirled them about his hands. He looked at them a moment, looking at the sigil in the cross guard of the daggers. It was a mark, he was unfamiliar with.

He shoved one into his waistband, and turned his dagger flat to show Derek. “Who did this belong to?” Kranik asked as they began to filter back into the small boat.

Derek shrugged, “Who knows? Some guy commissioned them, then never picked em up. The dwarven smith was practically giving them away. As far as I know, its just some defunct guild brand.”

Kranik nodded as they paddled their way back to the Portal runner. The moon began to shine down on the dark ocean. They unloaded the small boat. Janos and Madeline embraced as a happy family.

Kranik growled lightly and took to staring out of the ocean on the starboard side of the ship. Janos’s voice cut through the silence. “Tusks. Where ye wanting ta be dropped off?”

Kranik sighed a moment. The moment of truth was finally here, the moment he dreaded and yet anticipated. The moment where everyone he ever thought of as friends and family became tools or victims, the moment he would know whether or not he would have to kill his own wife and her contemptible lover. He gripped the railing tightly with his right hand.

He lowered his head to look at the ocean. He peered at length into it, seeing his broken reflection as the waves hit the side of the boat.

“Tusks! I be askin ye a....” Janos bellowed again.

“I heard you. Booty Bay.” he yelled back without taking his eyes from the water. He wasn’t ready.

“Bring up the mage, we will be there in a moment.” Janos barked as the crew went about their business to prep the boat for portalling.

Kranik gritted his teeth, he had memories there in Booty Bay. He would need to purge the last vestiges of his caring and his heart. He knew what he had to do, the one thing he told her he wouldn’t do. A sly smirk began to creep across his face, he was going to play with the elven women.

He could hear the boat powering up for the portal, he closed his eyes. Learning from the first portal. Moments later the boat was gliding in the water. He opened his eyes and turned around, to see the giant goblin statue, marking that he was indeed close to Booty Bay.

The Portal runner docked. He said good bye to his old friends, and made his way to the shadowy parts of Booty Bay. The parts no one went to, yet there were more stories of people going there, that it was paradoxical.

He had a single thought, as he stepped off the main boardwalk, to the alleyway that contained the bordellos. That tonight, Night Elven women would, scream, bleed and eventually die for him. It set his heart to racing in his chest.

He had taken three steps down the alleyway, when from behind him on the main boardwalk her heard a familiar voice. He slipped into the shadows and spun around. There behind him, trudged Dogen. He was muttering to himself, more like arguing with himself, over something.

Kranik’s eyes grew wild with anger. Dogen had been responsible for the disappearance of Tatimitzi, and therefore responsible for her torture. He growled under his breath and stalked his way back up the alley to the boardwalk, after Dogen.

He had warned them all. He had told them all, no one listened to him then, they would now. Twirling the daggers from his waistband, he got closer to Dogen.

He slammed the dagger in his right hand into Dogen’s back. It pierced through the folds of Dogen’s armor, slicing into his lung. It cut off his breath, he opened his mouth to emit some sort of sound.

Kranik curled his left hand across Dogen’s chest. The dagger piercing through the fleshy underside of Dogen’s chin, through his tongue, up through the roof of his mouth, before the point of the dagger broke through his muzzle.

Kranik viciously twisted the dagger in Dogen’s lung, before wrenching it free. He slammed it into Dogen’s back twice more, puncturing his kidney and liver.

Kranik wrenched the blade free one last time. He used the dagger stuck in Dogen’s snout to keep his thrashing under as much control as possible by twisting his head to and fro. Kranik slammed the dagger into Dogen’s neck severing the artery going to his brain.

Kranik shoved Dogen into the dark waters below. He jumped back and vanished into a plume of dark smoke.

Dogen slowly began to sink beneath the waves, his arm outstretched at the moon reflecting in the waves of the water. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a puff of smoke where he had been standing. These would be the last things he saw......

Wait, you fool. No... it's time to move on. Not yet! She'll see! Her eyes are not like ours. There's no hope in avoiding her should she want to find us... Fool! Coward! You'll get us killed! And we'll deserve it thoroughly...

Dogen moved swiftly through the docks of lower booty bay. These seedy haunts had never been natural to him, but he had been forced to hide in places such as this for fear of all things that might recognize him and give him away. Surely by now the guild must have uncovered the depth of his treachery, the weakness with which he had crumbled in the face of darkness and betrayed Tatimitzi to evil.

The Voices were concerned that minions of the Dark Mistress would see him, but Dogen had known her mind in those fatal moments when she would seize his, without warning or mercy. He was a plaything, a tool to be used up and discarded, and now she had moved on to sharper, more wieldy tools. She would not waste her efforts on him now.

It was those he betrayed who he feared now. Wracked by guilt, night after night, week after week, Dogen had fled from slum to slum, from cave to forest to mountain top, always hiding, forever fearful of facing up to his meddling, his weakness... Through the dark and rain he plauded hurriedly along the docs toward the cave entrance on his way out of the city, on to the next hiding place.

Without warning a searing pain ripped through his back and he found himself unable to breath. Had the Dark One decided to dispose of him after all? He tried to twist around to see his aggressor, but a second stab pierced his face, preventing him from turning. Blood gushed from his mouth, dripping to the ground and mixing with mud and the fish guts discarded from the market overhead. As he blinked in suprise, Time crawled to a stop. There was only pain...

Suddenly he understood. There was no Dogen, there was no knife, there was no blood. All along there had been nothing to fear! All this suffering, all this grief, it was all imagined! In a flash he saw his own mind laid bare before him, and in one wave of his hand he wiped clear the defilements that had cursed him for so long. The Voices dissolved like ice into boiling water, the shackles of the Dark Lady fell away like smoke into the wind. And then he saw her. All along she had been there... all along watching him, calling to him... and he simply had not had the will to see her. He had spoken to only a few about his estrangement from the Earthmother, the loss of his guiding light and constant companion, but now he saw that she had not gone anywhere, he had simply chosen to obscure her beauty...

Tears welled in his eyes.

Two more stabs ripped through him. As though from a distance, he watched as his body struggled instinctively for survival, thrashing and kicking, but having no effect on the phantom that now held him. He felt the knife trace it's way across his throat, cleanly severing everything he would have needed to call for help.

Helplessly he fell from the arms of the phantom and into the water below. As the life drained from him, he saw it clearly, for the first and last time, the beautiful face of the moon slipped out from behind the dark clouds, and embraced all of Azeroth in it's glory... all the universe. The Earthmother smiled and Dogen smiled back. The world faded, from white to gray to black.

The ebbing tide carried Dogen out to sea as Kranik wiped the blood from his blades. With business wrapped up, it was now time to have a little fun. Almost he regretted finishing the old bastard off so quickly, but out here in the open his instincts had served him well, efficient and rutheless. He strode off toward the bordello fingering the hilt of his new dagger, tracing his fingers along the sigil embedded in the cross guard, he thought about it's significance. A jet background with a golden shield and sword. A guild with such regalia would value honor, duty, brotherhood above all. Such a noble emblem would serve his dark intentions with delicious irony. He grinned and strode forward, almost giddy with anticipation...

He slipped back down into the alleyway, the way he had came. He listened to the bruisers pound the wooden boardwalk as they tried in vain to see what the commotion was about. In the end, they concluded just another drunkard that took a nasty spill into the bay, nothing to concern themselves with.

Kranik stepped out of the shadows, in front of the bordellos. Most of the women were inside, the Portal Runner’s crew had been isolated for months as it was. He scanned the walkway as something in the back of his head nagged at him.

He stood in the middle of the street staring off into nothing. Dogen had once been his friend, well to the other part of him. In the moment of five heartbeats, he had turned Dogen into shark food. With no more then a thought, a concern, nor a care. Dogen was just another victim, nothing more. He no longer needed the women here, wanted them perhaps.

He turned on his heels. He needed to go home. He needed proof of his wife’s infidelity. She was already on his list of victims. Zanjir was another. He was back to being alone in the world. Well not entirely. He had a sister, and someone who had sworn their life to him. He would seek them out, when he was ready. They would be the only two people he could honestly trust. Since they would have no reason to hide anything from him. They wouldn’t know what he was planning on doing.

As he walked to the wyvern master, he thought of the shaman that swore his life to him. He made up his mind as he flew to Grom’gol, that he would kill him if he had to. As far as his sister was concerned, he couldn’t harm her. But, he would have to distance himself somehow. Perhaps, he could turn to Keishe, to keep his sister occupied.

He stepped onto dry ground in Grom’gol and walked up to the zeppelin tower. He paid for his boarding pass to the Undercity. He would enjoy a good rest on the zeppelin, while he had a chance for it. The plan was simple, go home collect his the rest of his things. Avoid his wife, if she were still there. Kill Zanjir slowly, painfully slow, if he was there. Then seek out his sister, and the shaman. Then last but not least, kill his wife. Her death he would savor, she seemed to enjoy some pain. He planned on inflicting so much pain on her, that her screams would be heard for miles.

A faint smile began to creep onto his lips as the zeppelin pulled up and docked. Passengers disembarked, which were very few at this hour of the night. Only one got on. He went to his room and laid down. By morning, he would in the Undercity, and then he would be headed home to Hammerfall.

He stopped outside of his door. He stood in the hall where, he was first assaulted. He clenched his fist and hissed audibly, although no one was around to hear it. He stood there a moment, replaying the events in his mind.

He took a deep breath and walked to the door to his old room. A moment alone with the lock, and the door swung open slowly. He took a deep breath, fearing the worst. Fearing what he would find behind the locked door. He knew what he would do if he found them both in his room.

It was empty. It hadn’t been slept in, in weeks. A thin layer of dust covered most of everything, and the musty smell of animal hair was prevalent. It was apparent, that the room had been unused for several weeks.

He cocked his head to one side to ponder what that meant. His room had been unoccupied for weeks. Judging by it, he would have to say, since he was taken. Maybe a week after that. Which put a new spin on what he thought. It meant one of two things.

The first thing it meant was that the images, his visions, his dreams, his link with Shuna was not what it appeared. Or the second more plausible option, was that once she took to seeing Zanjir, she couldn’t bear the thought of bringing him home, in case her husband were to come home.

He took off his heavy shirt, and dropped it on the floor. Reverently he put on one of his shirts, followed by the rest of his Stormshroud armor. Sliding his feet into his old boots. Bracers and his gloves pulled onto his deadly hands. Lastly his Ebon mask, he slid that into place over his mouth and nose. He narrowed his eyes, and looked at his room one last time.

He would not come back here ever again, once his wife is put down. Too many memories. He gathered what he knew he would need to continue on with his life. With that done and a callous glare over his right shoulder, to the cold empty room behind him. He shut and locked the door just as he found it.

Thunder Bluff. Just outside the guild hall. He stood outside the massive doors. He placed his right hand on the door, and let it lay there. Unwilling to push it open. He listened at the door. He could hear voices in the main hall. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had entertained the idea of sneaking in and avoiding all the crowds. No, in the end, he knew that isn’t how he wanted it. It was now or never.

His eyes flashed open and he pushed the door open, it groaned once in protest, before swinging open. He took two steps forward and stood there. He slowly turned his gaze from one end of the room to the other. Many faces were in the main hall, more importantly the two he actively came to see. Shunasun and Zanjir were absent, which did little more then add fuel on the burning rage and hatred consuming him.

Tatimitzi was talking to Reqrium about something. Minossus was seated talking to Elipsa. Kranik stood in the doorway, as people began to take notice of him and his baleful gaze. One by one their voices dwindled to whispers or less. Soon all assembled simply looked at him, awaiting him to say something, anything. Which he didn’t do.

Tatimitzi gasped, as the realization of what her eyes were telling her surfaced in her brain. She broke out into a run and pounced on him with a hug. “Kran, you are home” she squealed.

He turned his gaze to Minossus. “Brother. You are alive and well.” he bellowed.

Kranik rose his left arm and pointed at Minossus with his index finger, in the next motion pointed to the doorway behind him with his left thumb. He spun quickly on his heels, his right arm snatching Tatimitzi roughly about the left wrist and he began to drag her out the way he came roughly.

“Brother?” Minossus asked in surprise, but began to follow.

Murmurs began to escape the crowd ranging from rude comments to the more jovial comments of who would win in a fantasy fight between the siblings. Some though, didn’t seem like it was going to be a fantasy fight any longer.

Minossus was close enough to the pair as he dragged her along the road outside. “Brother? Where are we going?” he asked when he was close enough.

Tatimitzi nodded in hopes, that Kranik would answer. While he was hurting her wrist slightly, it wasn’t painful enough to yelp out.

“Outside.” he answered, and before either of them had a chance to say more, he added. “Away from prying ears.” his voice was hollow and harsh.

“Ok” Minossus responded almost questioningly.

Not once did Kranik relinquish his hold on Tatimitzi which surprised her a little. She could feel all the anger and rage emanating from him. Something was amiss, and she wondered if it would be wise to try and approach him about it or not.

He found an area unoccupied by tauren vendors and away from prying eyes of anyone. He let go of Tatimitzi. She looked at him, almost wide eyed, her expression happy yet and the same time confused. Minossus stood beside Tati, unsure of what would transpire next.

Kranik looked at them both a moment, before lowering himself to the ground. He squatted there. Tati was confused, and Minossus was almost on the verge of outright fear. He smiled under his mask, though neither of them could see it.

“Sit.” he hissed. His voice carried with it the tone of domination. He was in charge of this conversation, they both knew it.

Tatimitzi smoothed out her robes before lowering herself to the ground before him, Minossus knelt instead. Trying hard not to provoke the ire of Kranik, but at the same time allowing himself a moment of control for himself. He knew the value of not being completely vulnerable, if he were kneeling, he could spring to his feet faster. In case Kranik was not well and attacked one or both of them. At least that was his hope, and one he also hoped he wouldn’t have to try and prove.

“Oh Kran we have been so worried about you” Tatimitzi finally broke the slience.

Kranik stopped and simply looked at her. He knew deep down she would be the first to speak. She was still perky and exuberant almost to a fault. He took a moment in preparation to speak when Minossus chimed in.

“You have been gone quite some time now. Where have you been? Your lady has been worried sick.” Minossus masked his fear with a bravado and a booming voice.

Tatimitzi nodded at Minossus and turned her attention back to Kranik. “Shuna will be so relieved the poor dear...”

Kranik growled loudly, which caught his companions off guard. He couldn’t bear the mention of her name, knowing what he had seen. It was quite apparent, that he had also erred in his own judgements. Shuna had managed to keep her affair, secret. Acting like a distraught widow in public, like a wench behind closed doors with her new lover. Reflexively his right hand balled into a fist.

Minossus tensed up a moment, upon seeing Kranik make a fist. Kranik saw it too. He forced his fingers open. “Yes, get your fawning out of the way now. So I can get onto more important matters.” he hissed angrily. Deep down he knew that this would be a waste of time, but at least he could kill them both, knowing he had done research into their relationship.

“Fawning?” Tatimitzi asked in surprise.

“Who is fawning?” Minossus added.

“We have been worried about you!” Tatimitzi exclaimed, trying to break down some of the hatred and anger, that Kranik now insulated himself with.

“Yes, yes. You were worried, I am back now. No need to worry” Kranik condescendingly said back to her.

The pair paused a moment. This was not how Kranik should be acting. They exchanged a cautious glance between them. Tatimitzi took a deep breath, and tried again to soothe past Kranik’s anger and hate that she had felt.

“Shuna has been searching for you endlessly with Aku.” She started to say, her mouth was open to continue. Kranik raised his right hand from his leg and held it up for her to stop talking.

“I am in no mood to hear her name. At least not until my questions are answered.” Kranik spat out.

Tatimitzi blinked, this was completely unexpected. She had known them to be nearly inseparable and for him to act this was, just unlike himself. Minossus took in a deep breath, clearly the tactic that Tatimitzi had been trying was failing.

“Oh, well, um ok.” Tatimitzi stammered in defeat.

"Questions? What answers do you seek?” Minossus nearly bellowed, not realizing the conviction in his raising voice. Yet it accomplished what he wanted. Kranik’s attention turned to him, buying Tatimitzi sometime to think on whatever it was she was attempting to do.

“You two are the only two I can trust” Kranik stated deadpan, looking Minossus straight in the eyes. His gaze never swerving, never faltering. It slightly unnerved Minossus, but only due to the fact that the eyes he was looking into were those of a cold hearted murderer and he knew it.

“You” Kranik continued. He pointed his right index finger directly into Minossus’s chest.

“Yes?” Minossus gulped slightly, he felt as if at that very moment he was being judged for his deeds.

“You swore an oath to me. Did you not?” Kranik finished.

Tatimitzi blinked in near confusion. Her mind raced to desperately click the pieces of the puzzle together. Yet her mind wasn’t racing nearly fast enough. Minossus deep voice distracted her from her thinking.

“That I did Kranik. To the death.” Minossus blurted out proudly. His chest heaved out making him look bigger, more impressive then the moments previous. He was only as good as his word, which to him was a bond beyond all others. Kranik surely wouldn’t be questioning it, but if he was he would prove to Kranik that he had nothing to fear.

Kranik ignored the bravado from the shaman and turned his ice cold stare to his sister. His callous eyes boring into her soft, expressive ones. “You.” he pointed straight at her this time.

She took a deep breath and tilted her head to one side briefly trying to figure out what he was driving at. She meekly nodded that she understood that he was addressing her.

“You are my sister. You would not lie to me, would you?” Kranik continued.

“Of course not Kran. Besides you and I are linked. I am sure you would be able to tell if I was lying to you or not.” she said back softly.

Minossus glanced to Tatimitzi, a moment as he too tried to piece together what this was all about. Sadly, he had even less to go off and was mostly there ready to defend Tatimitzi or himself if the time came. He then turned his full attention back on Kranik.

Kranik inhaled deeply. The moment of truth was finally at hand. Well partially anyways, after what Madeline had shown him, women were mostly lying, deceitful creatures. Whose only purpose in life was to make things miserable for their men. “Has my wife been faithful?” Kranik finally hissed.

Tatimitzi gasped in shock, and Minossus was simply stunned to silence. Both of them unable to comprehend exactly what was transpiring before them.

“What do you mean by that?” Tatimitzi managed to stammer.

Kranik tried very hard not to roll his eyes. Always looking for the bright side of things, his sister was almost naive to a fault as well. “Has my wife been faithful to me in my absence?” Kranik said each word slowly, almost patronizing to Tatimitzi. “I don’t think it needs to be spelled out more clearly then that.” he continued derisively.

Minossus let out a sigh, as Tatimitzi sat there looking at Kranik. He was being a jerk, and she needed not to lash out at him, but at the same time part of her wanted to yell at him. In the end she knew it wouldn’t do any of them a lick of good.

“Every moment of her life, she has been faithful to you.” Minossus interjected. “Have you not seen her for yourself?” he paused a moment. He took a deep breath, “Usually, that would be the first place you would go.” His voice carried just enough venom to make the last statement a jab, but not enough to make Kranik go ballistic.

“Poor Shuna, she hasn’t been sleeping or eating well at all!” Tatimitzi yelled back at Kranik. “All she does is look for you.” She continued, going so far as to poke her finger into Kranik’s chest, as if to drive the point home. “She’s nearly died. Several times in fact. Because she is so exhausted from looking for you” she finished, with a small nod. She was not going to be bullied by her bigger brother.

Kranik looked nearly bemused at his sister’s finger poking him repeatedly in the chest, and then ignored it. He turned to look back at Minossus as Tatimitzi finished her tirade. “No. I could not see her.” He paused a moment, as he tried to think of the right words to say. “I have been tormented.” he concluded.

That is when it dawned on her. The vision, his anger and hatred. That is what this was about, his hope had been turned against him. “Oh kran, It’s that image in your head isn’t it? That is what this is about.” she put her hand on his shoulder and moved slightly closer. Her voice carried with it, the familiar tone of caring and love, she had always given him.

Kranik looked at his sister. He blinked a couple of times, so she had managed to see what he had seen, what he had felt. Well, that was surprising. But it lent to a third possibility. Maybe Tatimitzi would be able to sense things about Shuna as well. Which meant she could sense if Shuna would lie or be unfaithful. A small glimmer of hope began to blossom deep within him.

Minossus stared blankly at the siblings. There was something more to them, then he had first thought. He waited, hoping one of the two would clarify exactly what it was that was transpiring between them.

“I have dreams, or maybe memories or visions. I don’t know what to rightly call them. That Shuna has been with Zanjir in my absence.” Kranik said.

“Shuna loves you very much. She would never do that to you Kran.” Tatimitzi said soothingly.

“I don’t even think I have seen Zanjir around much, if at all.” Minossus chimed in.

Kranik looked at both of them impassively, peering over their nuances. These two, the two he could trust. They wouldn’t lie to him, he could feel some of his anger and hatred drip away. As the ice around his heart began to thaw slightly, it was the last cold place he had left since leaving Tiraangarde.

“All Shuna does is hunt and search for you. She has nearly collapsed so many times, that she has been staying with me. I keep her healed and well fed, and she sleeps in my quarters.” Tatimitzi continued, as if answering the last nagging questions on Kranik’s mind.

Kranik straightened himself up. “Thank you both. You have been a great help, as I knew you would be.” with that he turned around and began to walk away.

Tatimitzi grabbed his wrist and held him fast. He glanced over his left shoulder to her. “What? That is it, you are just going to walk away?” she stammered.

“No. I need to leave. There is something I must do.” he calmly said back to her.

“It better involve seeing Lady Shuna.” Minossus said, his voice charged almost with an implied threat.

Kranik lightly shook his head no. Tatimitzi stared at him in near disbelief. “What is so important, that you would run away again?” she nearly shrieked at him.

“The people that took me, have something of mine. I need it back.” he said with a small sigh.

“Well then, take one of us with you.” she nearly demanded. He was not going to walk out on them nor his wife again, at least not as long as she had something to say about it.

Kranik stifled a chuckle. “No. You would only hold me back, and you both know that.”

“So you would rather face the ones that took you, alone? That doesn’t seem very wise Kranik.” Minossus added.

Kranik ignored him for the most part. He looked at Tatimitzi, deep down she knew he was right. The things that took him, were not like things any of them had faced before. These things were evil and hatred personified.

Minossus not one to be ignored, charged into the conversation again. “So what is that they have taken from you, that would make you forsake seeing your wife?”

“They have my medallion, which in and of itself is replaceable. But it isn’ that I am going there for. On the chain of the medallion is the wedding band Shuna gave me.” he answered.

“ I would think she would rather have you ringless and home safe.” Tatimitzi chimed in softly.

“You should at least see her before you go.” Minossus added. He knew full well, neither of them were able to stop Kranik from leaving if that is what he set his mind to.

“No, I don’t think I will see Shuna before I go.” Kranik said adamantly. He wasn’t sure if he could quite see her yet, part of him wanted to and the other part was still clinging to the ideals of a dead man.

Minossus let out an audible growl, Kranik was coming close to crossing the bull for good. They both knew it.

“What?” Tatimitzi stuttered in disbelief.

“Why not? She is worried sick about you! You wish to torture her longer?!” Minossus bellowed.

Kranik stared at Minossus and sneered from under his mask. “Torture? Torture?! Minossus you have no idea what torture is. You would watch your tongue if you knew what I endured.” Kranik shot back.

“We got the pieces of you.” Tatimitzi added softly, and turned her gaze to the ground.

“I was conscious when he mailed them to you.” Kranik stated bluntly, his gaze never swaying from Minossus’s.

Minossus glanced briefly at the ground in defeat. His anger was still rising, and the scar under his eye began to seep slightly.

Tatimitzi gingerly placed a hand on Kranik’s shoulder and looked into his stone cold eyes. “She has cried so much Kran. She will cry more over this.” her voice soft and expressive.

He saw his opponent falter a moment, and took his moment to strike. “Do know that your lady’s heart breaks daily over your absence, do you really wish for that to continue?” Minossus chimed in.

Kranik growled slightly. Tatimitzi spoke again softly. “Will you be coming back? What am I supposed to tell her?”

“Tell her I will return I promise. I just fear, that if I see her and leave again so soon afterwards she would hurt more or worse yet, try and follow me to aid me. The things I am after, would not hesitate to harm her or anyone else for that matter to get to me.” Kranik stated coldly. His voice dipped low into a near whisper. “It’s not that I don’t want to see her, its that I can’t. At least not yet.”

“She will hear that you have come back. She will see your things are missing. She will think you have left her.” Tatimitzi added.

Kranik stood there a moment stunned. He hadn’t thought of that, careful and methodical and yet, he had overlooked the simplest of details. He would never leave her, he couldn’t let her think that. He closed his eyes for a moment, everything was spiraling out of control, out of his grasp.

He took a deep breath. “Then tell her I have returned, and that I will return again.” he said while looking at Tatimitzi.

Minossus sighed heavily, this wasn’t working. Kranik was being stubborn. His scar oozed slightly more.

“I’ll do my best.” Tatimitzi sighed.

“She loves you Tati, you know she does. But she will not believe you.” Minossus added as he placed a huge hand on her tiny shoulder.

“I know” she mumbled softly.

Kranik sighed and stopped walking. This wasn’t working the way he had envisioned it in his mind. The small voice began to clamber for attention again. The war that had been waged on the outside moments ago, began to be fought on the inside with renewed vigor.

Tatimitzi knew that what Kranik was wanting to do was wrong, and had endured enough of him being a jerk. She growled lightly, and stomped her foot into the grassy ground. “Don’t see her then if its such a problem then. We’ve been worried and all working our best to find you. Yet all you do is complain about doing one thing?” she snarled.

Kranik slowly spun around.

“She’s your wife. She has nearly killed herself numerous times looking for you. You owe her something before you run off again.” she continued ranting.

Kranik looked down at the ground, as Tatimitzi trembled on the verge of tears. “You are right. It would be best if I saw her. I don’t want her to think I abandoned her.” Kranik admitted dejectedly.

Tatimitzi could no longer hold back her tears and they broke free. Minossus tried soothing the vexing priestess. She regained enough of her composure and wiped her nose on the back of her sleeve. Sniffling slightly she looked at Kranik. “I have missed you, you big jerk.”

A small smile crept across Kranik’s face and he walked over and hugged his sister. “I have missed you too. Could you please tell Shuna to meet me in Gadget?”

She hugged him back and nodded. She withdrew from him and walked back to the guild hall to see if Shuna had indeed returned.

Kranik started to turn when a large hand clamped down on his shoulder. He turned and looked at Minossus. “I have questions about where you have been and what has happened.” Minossus said.

Kranik looked away. “My past is catching up to me. In my business, its not always a good thing. I can’t get into more then that.” Kranik said back.

Minossus nodded, he accepted the answer but wasn’t happy with it.

“A lot has changed.” Kranik mumbled.

“The world continues to flow and change, even around the rock that wishes to stay a rock.” Minossus answered back.

“And what happens to the rock. It erodes and becomes a pebble?” Kranik asked back.

“No.” Minossus shook his head slightly. “It stays where it is. Never moving, never changing. Time wears on, and change passes over it. Instead of adapting it chooses to remain where it is.” Minossus finished.

Kranik looked blankly at the shaman a moment. Minossus sighed. “The opportunities are lost and never returned. Take a lesson from the rock Kranik. Embrace what you fear most.” Minossus finished.

“Sadly, I must have missed the class where this parable pertains to me. Care to explain it to me in my terms.” Kranik shot back.

Minossus forcibly turned Kranik to face him. “Miss the opportunities given to you and they will pass you without the chance of returning. Face what it is that consumes you and you will prevail. Hide from them and you become nothing more then a rock.” Minossus stated.

“Well then I have the chance to see my wife for the evening, I would rather not miss it. I knew I was right in seeking you and my sister out first.” Kranik said back softly.

“Go now and join her. Forget not my words Kranik, for soon you will be tested on what it is that you put merit in.” Minossus added as Kranik walked away.

As he crested the mountains that split the Shimmering Flats from Tanaris, he could the desert was gripped by a violent sandstorm. The trip here, had already been fraught with delays, as he stopped at every horde outpost, to think, build his courage and fly again.

Now with a sandstorm, she wouldn’t have to know he had even landed. She would simply be in the inn, tense and waiting. He could creep in and write her a letter and disappear into the storm. That is exactly what he would do to. She had been told and comforted by his sister, he would leave her a letter and he would be gone. She didn’t need to know where or exactly why, all she needed to know was that he would return.

The wyvern slowed a moment and then landed with a growl. It too found the swirling sands an annoyance. He slid off the wyvern, nodded at the wyvern master and turned to head into the city. He had taken a single step and then he stopped.

There in the doorway, she stood vigil. Her right arm placed against her forehead to help keep sand from her eyes. She was standing ten yards away, watching everyone come and go. He briefly thought of turning around and flying away. He took a deep breath. She wasn’t making this any easier.

He plunged into the raging sands, his mask filtering it from his eyes, nose and mouth. He trudged through them stalking his way closer to the opening, she had braced herself against.

She could barely believe her eyes, as a shadow began to form from the sands. It pulled up a few yards shy of her. Even at this distance, she could make out the tell-tale black and yellow armor, and the black mask, the long tusks jutting out from each side of the mask. She stiffened slightly, she took a deep breath to steady her nerves. They simply stared at one another.

She replayed the discussion that she had shared with Tatimitzi, prior to coming here. She was skeptical above all, but underneath, she was hurt and pained that her husband would think so poorly of her. She clenched her jaw to try and prevent the tears that were threatening to well inside her eyes. She lowered her head slightly and gazed mournfully at the stalking shadow of her husband a few feet away.

He stood within the swirling sands, watching her intently. The pain etched in her eyes made him hurt inside. He mentally cursed to himself, while he had told Minossus not to lecture him what was or wasn’t torture. He was not prepared by the torture in his wife’s eyes.

He swooped out of the sand and grabbed her, pulling her deeply into him. Unable to simply stand and stare at her pain any longer. He squeezed his arms tightly around her as she buried her head into his chest. Unable to hold back her tears any longer, they slowly escaped one by one. Trailing down her cheeks as she sobbed softly.

With his thumb from his right hand, he wiped the tears away as they fell. “Not here.” he whispered.

“I didn’t believe it....” she began to stammer between sniffles.

“Shhh. Follow me.” he softly said, as he led her from the raging storm, back to the inn.

“Ok.” she nodded.

The pair walked into the inn. He casually tossed a few gold to the innkeeper and took the key he was given. Once they were inside the inn, her sobbing dwindled to small sighs with the occasional sniffle.

He opened the door to their room. Much like he had hoped, the room while small was furnished with a bed. He led her to the bed and sat her down upon it. He knelt in front of her, cradling one of her hands in his own.

“Shuna” his voice quivered. He was not like what he was. He was losing himself to the emotions he had. Things weren’t as simple as he had hoped.

She looked at him a moment. She bit her lip nervously a moment. “I gots one t’ing to do first” she said. With that she reared back with her free hand and slapped him hard across the face. “Dat’s for t’inkin’ I’d cheat on ju” her heart beat loudly in her chest. Kranik had never been one to take violence done to him lightly. She braced herself for any repercussions.

Slowly he brought his face back to look at her. He grabbed her free hand with one of his own and squeezed it gently. “I’m sorry.” he whispered.

Her voice cracked as she spoke “I been a wreck without ju Kran. Don’t do dat to me again.” she was on the verge of tears again.

He shifted his eyes to look down at her lap. Unable to bear to see the pain in her eyes “They were just so real, so vivid. I tried to tell myself that it wasn’t true, but, in the end, I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was.” his words escaped from his lips, slowly and softly, masking the pain he was feeling as well.

She slid a hand free and placed it under his chin, forcing him to look up at her. “Didn’t I give up so much for ju? Why would I toss it away for a night with someone else?” she asked, trying hard to keep control on her shaky voice.

“I know you did. I tried telling myself that....but it was tormenting me so.” he stammered.

She sighed softly. Tatimitzi had warned her that he may not be himself when they met. Someone or something had invaded his thoughts.

“I am not perfect.” he conceded. “In fact, I am very flawed.” he finally said. He had admitted it. The things that had been bothering him. He was slowly coming to grips that he was a very horrible person.

“Dat’s ok Kran. No one is perfect.” she said with a small smile. “I know ju didn’t leave of jur own free will. I’ve been goin’ crazy tryin’ to find ju.” she continued. Slowly she leaned forward and kissed his forehead gently. “But most importantly. I forgive ju.”

She pulled upwards on his hands, inviting him to come up onto the bed next to her, rather then supplicating himself on the floor before her. She purred at him slightly as he sat next to her, their fingers entwined. “I’m sorry darlin’. I got of ju.” she said softly. She looked down at his hand, which had all its fingers. “Ju ok?”

He pulled his hands free from hers, and removed his right glove. He held up his right hand before her and wiggled his fingers. She grabbed his right hand, and kissed it gently.

“They ripped out one of my eyes, yanked out all of my teeth, and severed a finger.” he began. She winced reflexively. “They flayed my skin, burned me, sliced me and diced me...yet here I am.” he finished.

She squeezed his hands tightly. “Oh Kran, ju so strong.” she said.

“Then how come I don’t feel it?” he retorted. His body may be fine and strong, but inside he didn’t feel nearly as strong as he let her to believe.

“Ju made it out, and ju alive and more importantly, ju ‘ome. Dat’s all dat matters.” she exclaimed.

He looked at her grimly. His eyes became devoid of pain and any signs of emotion. “I have to leave again.” he stated coldly.

She gulped as her mind raced at the news he delivered. Her body froze, unable to breathe and her heart pounded so loudly in her chest, she felt like she was going deaf.

“For one night, maybe two.” he continued. Time froze around them, she couldn’t breathe even if she wanted to. All she could do was stare at him, and that is all she did do.

“I will come home to you.” he finished. He closed his eyes for a short moment, and started to rise from the bed.

“Why?” she finally asked as time started again. She pulled him back down onto the bed, next to her.

“The things that took me, still have something of mine. I want it back.” he paused a moment as she just looked at him. “No. Not want, need.” he stated.

“I will come home to you, I promise.” he added.

“I won’t sleep till ju come ‘ome. I barely sleep as it is now.....” her voice trailed off as she shifted some of her bandages around to make them stop itching.

“So I have heard.” he said back flatly.

“I been busy tryin’ to find ju. I just couldn’t sleep knowin’ ju might be out dere, just somewhere we missed....and I wasn’t gonna give up.” she said sadly, her own eyes couldn’t look at him for the moment.

“Well, you can rest easy now. Knowing that I am home, and you will be held in my arms soon.” he cooed softly to her.

She swallowed hard and looked away from him. It was his turn to place a hand to her chin and force her to look at him. He leaned forward placing his forehead against hers. “Shuna, you make me a lucky man.” he whispered softly to her.

“My ‘eart ‘urts Kran. I missed ju so much and I ‘ave to wait for ju again. It be ‘ard to swallow.” she stammered, keeping the tears that threatened to cascade down her blue cheeks in check.

“You will have me for tonight, Shuna.” he whispered.

Her whole body shivered, as his words passed through the air. She purred louder at him. “I have ached to hold you for so long.” he whispered again.

“Oh Kran. I missed ju so much.” she said back her lips and voice trembling. She wrapped her arms around his neck.

“So what would my wife like to do for the night?” he said, his voice carrying his usual amount of playfulness, she loved and longed to hear.

She pulled her head back slightly to look at him. “I really just want ju near me.” she said with a sweet smile. Sadly the smile began to fade as her mind raced with other thoughts. “And as much as I want ju in bed again...maybe...maybe ju should just go now.” she finally stammered.

He looked at her a moment, and took a deep breath himself. He started to give her a small nod. “Den ju can come back sooner and we can be ‘appy again.” she added, her voice filled with the false hope, that this was what she truly wanted.

“Is that what you really want?” he asked slowly, unsure if he believed her or not.

“No.” she answered and slid up next to him. Cuddling as close as she possibly could. He wrapped his arms around her lithe frame and squeezed her tightly. “But it seems like da right t’ing to say.” she said lightly as she buried her head into his chest, nuzzling for all it was worth.

“This night is yours. If you ask me to stay I will, if you ask me to go I will.” he whispered gently and squeezed her again.

She nuzzled her face into his chest to wipe the few escaping tears from her eyes on his armor. “Im all torn up” she whispered back.

“I know.” he answered. He was unsure of how he was supposed to act.

She slid one of her hands up his chest and slowly started to rub on of his tusks, with her hand gently. “Den stay and ‘old me. Ju can sneak out in da mornin’.” she said softly into him.

He squeezed her gently and smiled from under his mask. “And I’ll pretend to be brave for ju.” she added.

He simply rolled over on the bed, pulling her with him. Where they embraced one more time.

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