The Long Goodbye

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#31 Post by Nomine » Sun Nov 24, 2019 6:09 pm

After more wars than I can name, there ain’t any retirees from SI:7, only escapees and convicts. The first kind doesn’t want to be found; Seeing the second kind will raise all sorts of uncomfortable questions, starting with “why.” And ending with “will they let me out again?” This makes it a bit more challenging to find out the habits and patterns of one current SI:7 handler, known for his gold-rimmed glasses, along with figuring out how protection is handled these days. Tackling how SI:7 protects itself is something I have never bothered with in the past. I have been tasked with external enemies, and too many of Starlight are associated with SI:7 one way or another. Not surprisingly, they do not rely on common guards, tin cans are good enough to protect the king, but they are not smart enough to defend against SI:7s enemies. Instead, they used agents, new ones being trained, and old ones needing a break from the field.

One troubling discovery is that he is likely Miern’s handler. While the two of us have never been friends, and I’m not entirely sure why not. Miern has earned my respect, she is loyal to SI:7, and I don’t want to cross her path with the blood of her handler on my hands. Honestly, I prefer to cross her path with a cocktail in my hands, armed with charming smile, that woman is far to easy to underestimate - a mistake I am not likely to make, but she has many friends among Starlight.

Can’t put Miern against Morrigan either, Morrigan got a thing for redheads, and after the whole mess with Rey, I don’t want to risk Morrigan trying to adopt, or even worse to become adopted, puppy love with fangs and a bite. So best to manage the risk and use Morrigan to draw the guards away from Mr. Rims. Imagine the easiest way to do that is through having her take out somebody SI:7 keeps in a safe house, make them think more attacks are coming, make SI:7 send their people to investigate and protect. Morrigan won’t care if her target deserves to die, but I do.

Right tools for the job, Morrigan is one, Fioliea could use another, and it is not as nice as the first one. Ravian is cursed and from the sounds of it - the curse is a conduit between him and a witches coven. I expect that through that conduit, they can possess him, make it blossom up and hurt people around him. Know that doing something like that takes energy and carries a lot of risk for the coven, not least the risk of accidentally killing Ravian himself. The coven will have goals, ambitions themselves, and generational curses like his indicate a long term plan.
My experience is that people stop thinking about long term plans when they are attacked. The tool is a collar, forged out of sixteen different kinds of metal, there is no magic on it, no key to it. If you put it around somebody’s neck and lock it, it cuts them from all kinds of magic. All colors, all life, all scents of the world is suddenly drained away.

When it is worn, he can’t be touched by magic, he can’t use it. There is a little bit of magic in everybody, hurts when it is gone.

It is made without a key, so that the key can’t be stolen. It locks through manipulating the lock on the back. If a person tries to open it without knowing how to do it right, the collar tightens. Ain’t possible to open one that’s put around your neck, fingers simply won’t bend like that.
Last time, we used it against the Dark Embrace. First, it was part of the torture that broke Sinthya, then it was used to make Heartfang an ace in our sleeves - the one their magic could not touch.

I know precisely what I ask when I tell Fioliea that she should put it on. Phillias and Heartfang witness to the high costs she pays.
I leave them in her hands, wish I had known in advance that he cared for her in such away. If I had, I would have asked another to take his place as a witness and as a guard. Not fair to ask somebody to watch people they care for being hurt, and knowing it is only the start. If she puts it around Ravian’s neck, there will be an entirely different cost to pay, and she will need people around who care, people that won’t let her slip of to her own quiet corner, won’t let her be lonesome in a corner that grows darker and darker.

My kid won, a small measure of justice. I paid for a candle to be light in the name of her brother’s name. One of those thick heavy candles churches favor. When it stops burning, he dies.
Makes the timing all nice an random. Syrawenn is my daughter, and I care for mine, it is as simple as that.

Eileena needs me to touch her, to feel my fingers on her skin, scars, calluses, and all.
When you are willing to do what it is needed, your hands get stained with blood, sort of stains that go bone-deep. There is nobody around to wash my hands clean.
There is a pain in that, pain in touching her, pain in not touching her.

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#32 Post by Nomine » Thu Dec 19, 2019 7:55 am

Starlight goes into battle, Starlight bleeds, sometimes things go wrong, and we pay for it. At times, that bad is a burnt cow, an blown up boat, and sometimes it is the other way around. Rey getting caught in a trap of her devising, Philias blinded, Anomen shot in the gut, Annie drugged, and only the light knows what happened the short time they had her. It is how simply how it is, as long as people live - the wounds will mend, and scars will turn into memories, as long as we live, it does not matter.

Children, they carry things, usually small things, a thin scarf hastily wrapped around their neck by a parent, wooden shovel that is a copy of their fathers, a rough carving of a horse. Sometimes it is a doll, or a plushie made discarded clothes.
For me, these things don't say much, perhaps hint to a child's age or gender. To their parents, it will be an answer, closure for the lucky ones, end of hope for other parents.
We could walk away from the field of battle, not caring about what is left behind. First, the scavengers would come, corpse pickers, thieves and ravens. Then in a season or two, assuming that no other witch or cultist have claimed the grounds, then the first villagers will brave it and investigate. We fought the battle, the witches are dead and the children they used until there were only the bones left, they were dead before we came. We could walk away, our job done, but I don't do that.

If there are bones to go with the faded red scarf, the one eye-doll, then there is something to bury. Something for a mother to run her hands over, her hands remembering the feel of soft hair, her child's laughter.
As for the bones themselves, they don't mind if there is another's father that bury them, bones don't mind as long as they are cared for.
I make sure that there are enough bones in each bundle to feel like a whole person.

The witches took their prey from a more than one village, but stories of lost children are shared far. In every village, there is somebody to help ensure that each bundle comes to the right home, as close as one can. For some, the right family can't be found. Then there is silver to pay for the funeral, for prayers, to make sure they have a mention in the church books.

After this, winter veil comes to the villages, and candles will be light, making the world seem like a warmer place. When I leave, bards and jugglers take my place. Travelling troupes like these can't be on the road during the hard winters. They look for nobles or merchants willing to pay with silver and board, in trade for entertainment during the season's festivities. A small village inn, a warm kitchen fire, it warms a jugglers bones just as well as a lavish nobles hall. They understand the need to give the villagers laughs, hope and new stories. Nobody asks where the silver to pay for this came from, it is best like that.

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#33 Post by Nomine » Sun Dec 29, 2019 11:48 am

Miern and I, we never managed to become friends. Part of that is that I tried to bend her to my will, she fought back, and it broke those very few weak strands of trust that existed back then.
It is a shame, as many in Starlight would have liked to know her better, keep her close. Hard to get close to somebody when you need to keep one eye open for a con. With me knowing she also dances for the SI:7s flute, I can't trust that behind her red curls and friendly smile there is a motive. Don´t stop me from making the offer to join ever so often, sometimes - like tonight it has been done with a motive behind my smile.

Standing at the Stormwind harbour, looking out at sea, at the ships departing, she looks worn, tired but not fragile.

"I would be a bit of an asshole if I put ya in a position of having to choose between those two loyalties, crown versus light."
She keeps her eyes to the sea "Yes, I think that would be an asshole move."
A shrug from me. "Reckon it would be a tiny bit balanced out with not trying to get into yer pants."
It is rewarded with her laughter, perhaps even honest laughter. "Revenge, huh."
I pass on a smirk, "Well, to be fair the way you wear those pants..."
She raises her eyebrows, daring me to go futher, and I am well-armed for this particular challenge. "That much flattery ain't healthy ya know." Miern giggles and admits it was worth a try.
I put on a calm, serious expression, looking at her "Well, I ain't sure if yer backside has launched a thousand ships, but it has most certainly raised the masts on em."

Casual flattery and jokes won't hide why I needed to speak to her. She was there when I killed an SI:7 handler, she did not see me, but she saw others of Starlight, others who distracted guards and others, giving me the chance to execute an honest murder. I know that by now SI:7 will have interrogated her, that it won't have been done nicely if she had bad luck they could have tried to blame it on her.

"Miern, perhaps ya could be lucky too, end up giving the "right" names to the interested parties." I gauge her reaction. It is a tricky suggestion at the best of times, and it would have been better to make it in a situation where she could not make a quick escape.
Miern takes her time before replying. "I think... that could be sad too, depending on the names."
I give a slight nod to that. "Guess it depends on who's name, would be a true shame if somebody got punished undeservingly."
Miern agrees, so I keep talking. "Sometimes, the scales of justice balance themselves out. People who got to away with somebody horrible, get arrested or blamed for something else entirely, getting the justice they deserve."
I give a moment for her to reply, and for me to take a sip from my flask — my other hand resting near my dagger hilt.
She asks "Is that truly justice. Even if that case, the true culprit gets away, even if the blamed deserves it."
A little shrug. "Is it the sort of justice that would make you taste bitter ash, or could ya live with it Miern?"
She meets my eyes. "I've lived with much worse things than that. What I am not willing to do, however, is to be the one taking the blame."
"Funny thing Miern."
I offer her my flask, and she refuses it.
"I much rather have sent ya tumbling off the ledge here, ending it all. Than to put ya through taking the blame. An ain't about to do that. Respect goes a long way, history too."

There is a pause, a few words without much weight to them.
Miern looks at me. "I wish you - I wish they hadn't done it."
I tap my flask before replying. "Wishing, wanting, looking back. There is no mercy in that, just a whole lot of pain."
She agrees, in part.
"Sometimes Miern, it comes down to paying one's debts.
Our eyes meet, "I understand Nomine. But-- the collateral here is severe."
"I am sure that nothing was done without considering the collateral damage, reckon you were not part of the equation though."

Well then, I did not kill the bard, but I was ready for it.
She did not accept my invite, would not have been ready if she had.

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#34 Post by Nomine » Mon Jan 06, 2020 6:14 pm

A small part of me wonders what it means, that I find it easy to make choices that should be hard ones — putting people in harm's way, risking love and lives. Yet, I find it damned hard to reach out, to simply touch Eileena.
Trust is one thing that still comes hard, I do not trust Starlight to act wisely, but I trust them to do the right thing, and that is not always the same. There is plenty in Starlight who do not see eye-to-eye with me when it comes to what is the "right" thing. Strength in that difference of opinion, even if they are, of course, wrong.

I hoped that the rumours I had heard about Horde extremists not welcoming the armistice would be wrong, leaving Starlight to enjoy a sunfilled day of fishing and barbecue.
When the first quiet rumours started spreading, those in the intelligence community started looking at Horde warlocks, Bloodelf cultists - the classic villains in every story, "Fel always corrupts." On my end, I looked at the Pandaren. The others had been born into the Horde, born into the war, the Pandaren chose to join the Horde. Those who joined decided that the Horde's philosophy, ideals and way of life were right for them. I can easily see how they would feel that the armistice was a form of betrayal just as some of our own Kaldorei must be crying out for revenge, despite all the pain and mutual bloodshed.

Nobody can say I didn't warn them, Lumi made sure of that. Still, I was not prepared to see Pandaren bodies in the water. Each wave beating the deceased bodies closer, bloated, riddled with boils, swatches of fur missing, the Horde satchels clinging to their fur. Around us the friendly Pandaren fishermen notice the bodies, rushing to help their own kin. I have seen enough death to know that we are too late to give aid. I take stock of Starlight's resources, as the first fisher, a human, turns over a body, revealing a face that any race would recognise as one frozen in pain. I make a mental note that Starlight brought plenty of killers, but nearly no menders today. The faint hope that we won't need the menders is crushed as Morrigan and Brianshaw tackle the feverish human fisherman, sickness ravaging his body after only a few minutes. In what seems like the next breath, Morrigan is shouting for people to keep their distance, not to touch her. The sickness is spreading fast through her body. Too fast by my account; for it to be natural and for it to be a perfect weapon. A perfect killer would have lain hidden for weeks, each touch infecting another carrier.

Anomen and Brianshaw take to the skies, scouting for the ship these the bodies must come from. Some magic at play starts washing the bodies back out at sea. Depending on how long the sickness lives in dead bodies, that can prove to be a blessing or a curse. At this very moment, it gives us a much-needed respite. As Morrigan curls up, retching her guts up, Lylieth stands ready to cut her down if the fever makes her act irrationally. My own hands find a throwing dagger, prepared to be thrown if any Starlighter should be irrational enough to help or comfort Morrigan. If this spreads like the plague, none of us should leave this place.

Already seeing the Pandaren gathering around their own infected, somebody shouts for them not to touch any of the sick. As soon as the ship is found, we prepare to go there, all of us except one. It is much easier to sink a ship with all of us on board than it is to burn a village. Starlight takes care of their own, Pandaren better take care of their own too. As a poisoner, I know that any crafty poisoner keeps the antidote close by. The ship is simply our best bet, and there is somebody still alive on it.

I am the one staying behind. Ain't sure if the Pandaren ever had the plague, know they did not face the Lich king as we did. Somebody has to show them the way. Kill what wears the face of a lover or an old friend, burn the bodies to stop em from raising again. Don't matter if it is lich magic or the plague, same rules apply. These people are fishermen, not warriors, so I show rather than tell. Got to give them credit; they learn fast enough, and they know how to build a bonfire.
Afterwards, I head down the coast, warning other communities.

During the meeting the next day, Chit brings with her a chest, letting us know it contains the last vials of the sickness. From what they are telling, there was a Pandaren on the ship. That one wanted to kill everybody, saying they would do what the Warchief was unable to do.
Morrigan has survived, but her body is a harbinger of things to come if the sickness spreads. Shino an Rey had both worked on her, the first of them having exhausted herself, and yet, Morrigan looks like she barely made it.
Starlight is spread between destroying the vials and using them to find a cure. Both come with their own set of risks. If we destroy them, and there are others out there - we will have destroyed a chance to find a cure ahead of an outbreak. However, if somebody gets their hands on them, accidents can happen as they try to find a cure or worse. Chit suggests Shan'do Everbreeze, a Kaldorei, member of the Cenarion Circle - a guardian, somebody we have trusted with the lives of Starlighters.
"It is not an option. The Kaldorei have suffered too much." There is some outrage over my words, how can I doubt such a man - one dedicated to upholding the Balance. He has seen the loss of his home several times over, the loss of his kin's immortality, seen his kin be decimated, countless horrors and he is still a good man. I know that sometimes it is not pain and hurt that breaks a good man, some don't break before they are given the whip and told: "you now have the power to hurt like you have been hurt." These vials filled with the sickness are the means to hurt others like his kin have been hurt.

Before the debate indeed turns into "Who do we know that could be trusted." I call for a vote. Inviting the souls of Starlight to choose between "destroy the vials" or "use them to find a cure."
It is a knife's edge decision, eight for destruction, seven for finding a cure, two who abstained from voting. Strong voices on both sides make this the sort of knife's edge that cut to the heart of Starlight. Would be an open wound if it is not tended to. The easiest bandage is for us to go looking for the origins of the sickness, make sure there is nothing more out there in the world. Which means going to one of the Horde capitals, armistice or not - we will be welcomed with open arms and sharp swords.
Devvy rightly asks "Why us, why not the King's men?" We can't ask anyone for aid now that we have chosen to destroy the vials. It would give cause to hang us for treason. The only question being whether we hang for having destroyed a weapon vital to the Alliance, or for robbing the Alliance for a chance to defend against the weapon.

I let it be known that I will ensure the destruction of the vials before the end of the week. Then I kneel before the chest, using candle wax and my signet ring to put seals all around it. Seals to show reveal if anyone has tampered with the chest.
Seals I can quickly remake without leaving a trace, I even know where Ailu found the candle so I can find its make.
Sometimes it is not the hurt that breaks a man. Sometimes it is being given the means to be the scourge.

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#35 Post by Nomine » Fri Jan 17, 2020 12:43 pm

One of the problems SI:7 has is that the real bad guys, the sort people who make drug dealers, murderers and preachers weep bloody tears. Those, they do not advertise, they walk among us, in the halls of power without a second glance from anyone.

There is no good way to deal with it, SI:7 picked two solutions among all the bad ones. The first one was to recruit nobles and others of rank, the second was to let some agents of the leash. Trust them to report back if they found something worth the attention of Shaw himself.

The man with the gold-rimmed glasses, he was not the first among SI:7 that I killed. Nature of things, if you want to infiltrate, you got to live the part. Once during such an infiltration, I was sent to a desert meeting, told that if I gave there was only one right answer to the challenge, saying the wrong reply would lead to death. The challenge was "Where are you from", with "Redridge" as the answer. Easy an straight forward.

On that scorched earth, the man I meet looked like me, simple clothes, worn by wear, blades at his hilt and narrowed eyes.
He asked me where I was from, I replied "Redrige." Then I asked him, he replied "Eastvale."
For a moment I tried to remember if there was more, should my connection give a different reply. My eyes locked on his, seeing the same thoughts run through his mind. He went for his blade, I buried mine his throat.
Was told by the people I infiltrated that the man was a SI:7 agent, a pretender and it was a test to see if I was worth it, cheaper to use me than to hire an assassin. If I had died, I would not have been good enough to keep as a member either. Worked my way up that crew, learned a few tricks and taught them a few more.

Walk among the criminals, prove yourself in the halls of shadows and you can find your way to the cultists. There, it starts over again, infiltration, giving proof of your value. Sometimes, I have learned things that are taken all the way back to Shaw himself, more than once I have been interrogated by SI:7; proving myself to them, asked to show my loyalty to the King and alliance.
Makes it all feel like a long con, truth be told.
It pays off when I have the connections needed to bring Starlight to Horde lands.

Does it pay off when I meet people like this, the dark man.
"The Alliance has lost its way, there are refugees on the streets of Stormwind, not cared for by their allies.
Refugees from a burned home, a result of the alliance`s blindess.
Another enemy, this time worse than the last, who was worse than the one before... Yet, the alliance mines Azaroths blood, using it to gain power.
Where is the justice in that?
Is this the world you want to see your daughter raise her children in?"


There is a ring of truth to his words, there is no denying that.
Even if the palms of his hand are filled with scars, witnesses of blood sacrifice given to dark Gods.

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#36 Post by Nomine » Mon Feb 24, 2020 5:23 pm

I ain´t sure what first makes me notice here, that she speaks to the door guard for longer than most, the way she carries herself, or simply the way she looks over the room, looking for somebody in particular. Her eyes pause on the tightest, most drunken clusters of people. The kind of groups that are mostly made up of gang members, coattails and cowards; centred around the one or two that have earned a proper nickname as a criminal.
I drift closer to hear, picking a few words over the background noise. Her words are stormwind Stormwind slang, but the accent ain`t a local one. The door guard is familiar enough with her to be relaxed, she might be on edge but he is not expecting her to pick a fight with him. They are on close enough terms that when she leaves, it is without leaving a few coins and he does not seem to think lesser of her for it.

I put a coin in his palm as I leave the inn following in her tracks, staying close enough to make out her worn blue cloak as she makes her way through the midnight crowd. There is the outline of a weapon under her cloak, nothing fancy or expensive like a sword, something more simple and brutal. The night's dull predators seem to notice as well, keeping their distance from her. She is not dressed well enough to draw the attention of the more accomplished ones, nor is she feminine enough for others.

She works her way towards the harbour, speaking to other doormen, beggars, drug dealers and more. Slowly I pierce together the story. She has been in the stockades for a couple of years, her father is dying of consumption and she is looking for her sister. Does not sound like she loves the sister, more like she is the black sheep of the family. The ugly-one, built like a man, the unloved one. From the replies she collects, this is not the first time she is looking to save her sister from some sort of trouble. I wonder if she understands how much Stormwind has changed these last few years alone.

Near the harbour she almosts notices me. I let the shadows wrap around me, something that is so much easier now than just a few months ago. The shadows have colours too now, which they did not use to. The void has stopped being satisfied with just staring back, now it is coming to claim us too. Must be confusing for Morrigan and others like her.

I shake my head as she ends up in front of a mored ship, one known for dealing drugs and offering people a new home, work and opportunity up North - far from the wars. I have never seen the ship leave Stormwind, but I have seen sailors carry man-sized sacks out of it, dumping them in the dark waters. I know that sacrifices and dark pleasures did not end, just because we no longer fear warlocks and the void as we used to.

None of this seems to deter her as she makes her way on board the ship.
As she asks around, one of the crew slips off ashore, no doubt wanting the captain`s decision on what to do with this inquisitive woman.
I have a quick word with the crewmember who decides that sleeping under the starlight is a much better use of his time, than speaking to the captain would have been.

The rest of the crew knows better than to start a fight without their captain's permission. After a while she leaves the ship, but not without learning something that changes how she walks. No longer searching, now she is thoughtful, still not smiling though.

I wonder how far she will go for her sister.
Some, like Keira Loveblossom are willing to kill for her lover's dream of peace.
Others, like Anomen and Varric has killed and fear what doing so again will do to them; perhaps they will enjoy it too much.

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Re: The Long Goodbye

#37 Post by Nomine » Sun Mar 22, 2020 3:34 pm

We got the wraith back,
It was not without bloodshed, never expected it to be.
During the night, wounds have been cleaned and stitched.
Throughout the night, tears are spilt, and by the sunrise, none will talk or admit there ever was a single one.
There is nothing perfect or straightforward about this; there are far too many shared scars for that.

I no longer have a ring to hold me back, SI:7 has shown every card they had. Never wanted to die as an old man, but now that I am one, I should decide anew; What will come next and how will I be remembered.

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