One Story

“Is it still raining, young one?”  The elderly woman asked from the low bed nestled snug against the wall.   Across the room and down a step to a chill wooden floor, a blazing fire  worked to banish the cold lingering from the autumn evening.  Veiss glanced towards the window, it’s panes streaked with rainwater.  She frowned, a grimace twisted into the corner of her mouth as she considered her dismal return home in that weather, but her face was all smiles and cheer as she turned back to her ward.

“It is, Dame Sara,” she said.

“Unnatural,” the old woman muttered in  bad temper.  Veiss tucked a wayward corner of the numerous blankets back onto the bed.  “Bloody unnatural it all is, this constant ill weather.”

“Your language, Dame Sara!”  Veiss admonished, partially teasing.  She rapped the woman’s bony hand lightly.

“You are in my home, Veiss, not the cathedral.  Here I may speak as I wish. ”  Dame Sara snuggled deeper into the woman blankets, the chill of a sudden gust of wind sneaking through chinks of shrunked boards V eiss had not yet had opportunity to fix.  The inclimate weather had certainly seen to that.  She took up the poker  and shoved several logs further into the fire, letting them shift and fall so sparks and flames blazed up as the new fuel took light. A fresh wave of warmth spread across the floor, and she wiggled her numb toes inside her slippers.  Veiss took it upon herself to visit the reclusive old woman after her shifts at the cathedral.  Ever since Dame Sara had taken ill with a fatigue that limited her movement, she’d been unable to come to services…and though she was generally congenial, if a bit senile, it seemed Veiss was one of the few who could tolerate her sharpness and occasional tactlessness. Asides, she was often better company, even with her rudeness, than Veis’s solitary thoughts at home.

“Here-” she offered, holding the mug of dark tea-blackwalk forest –“Take some, I’ll grab some mroe wood for the fire.  At this rate, with the weather so ill, it won’t be long before you’ll run out. ”  Dame Sara waved it off, her comments at least, the tea she accepted eagerly.  “No problem, no probem, my young Veiss.  That young boy across the way keeps me up with my chores.  He brought a fresh stack just this morning.” 

“Then I will get it for you. don’t move-” she ordered the Dame with a smile.  Sara sipped at the tea, her lips pursed, and blew swirls of steam rom across the surface of the hot liquid. Veiss shivered and rubbed hands over the bumps that lifted on her arms as she vacated the ambient warmth of the room into the hallway.  It was not precisely cold in the cellar, but with the rain and overcast sky, and being away from the fire, she moved swiftly as so to return to its comfort.  Over the sounds of the storm, she heard the occasional howls of the wild wolves out on the moors. It seemed that lately it was all anyone spoke of, and whispers about some great ‘curse,’ but Veiss’s superiors at the Cathedral were always swift and confident to dismiss such rumors.  She had a fair stack of short logs in one arm and was neatly setting the rest within arm’s reach of the door, humming a tune from the night’s service when a loud crashing sound split the air that, until then, had been filled with only the sounds of her own motion and the patter of rain on the roof.  Like the sounds of the roof caving in, sharp cracks of wood and shattering glass–and an echoing yell of pain.  Veiss’ breath caught in her throat.   And just outside–the other side of the wall, came a long, wild, feral howl.  Veiss stumbled back against the wall, , clutching her pile of wood close to her chest at the same moment knocking the stacked pile to the ground with a clatter. Wolves!  In the city! Then…there was truth to the rumors!   She staggered over the fallen logs, holding one hand out to the wall, and had barely touched the doorknob when another noise rose into the night air.  This time, Veiss’s blood froze.  Someone screamed, a terrified, agonizing, horrible wail that  was sharply cut off into a gurgling choke.  And she knew-knew without a doubt-that something was terribly wrong.  Veiss dropped her pile of wood with a clatter to the stairs and bolted up-stumbling in her haste over the restraining hem of her robe.  SHe threw herself against the door to the main room, her haste throwing it open to slam back against the wall. As she did so, however, the front door burst open, and Veiss gasped as a harsh, freezing wind riddled with rain swept inside.

“Hallo!”  a man was silhouetted aganst the twilight moon.  “Is anyone here?  Hallo?”

“Veiss?”  Dame Sara’s querlous voice rose from the bedroom, and Veiss saw her lean up and around the turn of the wall to peer shortsightedly at her.  “Veiss, what is going on?  Who is it?”

“Miss!”  Veiss was torn between the bedroom and the hallway stairs, the words to the only protection spell on her lips when a hand caught her wrist.  She tore her arm away, but the man’s grip was firm.

“Miss, the king has ordered an evacuation-you must leave the city–immediately!” Veiss gaped at the unfmaliar face of the soldier in the city’s dark brown and white livery.  Evacuation?  Leave?  What was a soldier doing here—and the noise?  The screaming?

“–Wh..what?  Is..is it true?”  Was all she could manage. Questions crowded her lips, turning her words into fractured shadows of sentences.  Dame Sara called out to her, annoyance ripe in her voice.  “Veiss?  What is going on?  What has the king ordered?  Tell whoever that is to come in here and speak to me properly!” The soldier pressed past her, releasing her wrist, and Veiss rubbed it, still speechless as the sudden onslaught.  It was against all natural laws, it was impossible that the legends could be true!  The soldier stepped into Dame Sara’s vision.  “My apologies, Dame,” he said with a brief bow, a vesitage of respect as he looked upon the elderly woman.  “but King Greymane has ordered a full evacuation of this quarter.    Its no longer safe–” his words were tore away by another terrible scream, lifting on the wind like a ghost.  Fear flooded through Veiss’s blood, becuase at the tail end of that noise was the peircing howl of a wolf.  And she ralized suddenly, that  she was surrounded by noise.  The calm comfort of Sara’s bedroom was gone, and it was as though she was inside a battlefield: screams and yells and the calls for blood and blade echoed from just outside the door, accompanied by ocasional bursts of thunder that rumbled overhead.  She grippeed the doorjamb.   Perhaps she was overthinking.  Cries of the wild wolves could reach long miles.   But the wall…there could be no invasion!  None by Gilneans could breach the gate…the rebellion?  But Crowley was jailed!

“Hurry!”  The soldier gripped her shoulders, shook her.  “You must leave, now.  We’ve still got a passage open though to the Greymane quarter.  All civilians must leave now!” He practically shoved her own the stairs.  Numb with disbelief and shock, Veiss left the movement to her legs, barely aware of Dame Sara’s strident commands at the interuption and impossible news.

Rain pelted down ouside when she staggered out of the doorway.  In moments her brown hair was plastered to her skull, and water ran down her backs in rivelets of the same cold chill that trailed her blood. She stared across and along the street and sqaure in horror.

“Get them out!  Get them away!”  Someone yelled across the claning hubbub of battle–for battle it was.  A clatter she’d not even recongized until it had invaded her carefully protected vision of safety. She gaped out on the scene.  Monsters!  Huge, hulking beasts, draped in tattered remnants of clothing–or not at all, enourmous paws and feet and fur…and fangs…wolves, and not wolves, all at once–Veiss stumbled backwards, fear paralyzing the orders to flee, her mind unconsciously seeking the ignorant safety of the house behind her.   Her feet caught on a  circular rug across the lintel, and she fell with a sharp crack of pain on her shins, knocking a picture of Dame Sara’s deceased husband to the floor.  Another soldier, running past, a bloodied sword in his hand, saw the open door and rushed in.  Veiss shrank back from the blade, but he reversed the blade and held his hands out .

“Come miss,” he said, more gently than the first.  “Its not safe–you must get to the Greymane court. We must evacuate this quarter.”

“Wh…what’s happeneing?”  She stuttered.”  What are those…things?”  His calm demeanro, his calm confident despite the horror just outside seemed to have broken the paralyzing fear, jsut for a moment–to unlock her voice. The soldier glanced behind him, and pulled her to her feet, steadying her.

“The legends have truth after all,” he said with an audible twist of disgust.   ‘Tis the Curse. It has spanned the Wall.”  Veiss blood ran cold. “The Curse–?  but…its only a tale.  A…remnant of the third war. Just a legend!”  She clung to the reassurances of Father Javin. He had promised that the unnatural magics that had turned men into beasts had been the work of evil mages, and that the art had been lost, the last of the monsters cleansed from Gilneas.  The soldier’s gaze softened, and he inclined his head to back outside, where the legends lived and tore impossible fangs and claws into flesh. “We would all lilike ek it to be so. But the tales are true–and the danger is far worse than the legend would have us believe.  The city is under attack, adn they are coming in force across–”

“NOOOOOOARGGHGHG!”  A strident scream echoed down the stairs.  From Dame Sara’s room.  Breaking glass shattered Veiss’s horror with a new terror, but even so she shoved herself away from the soldier, dashing up the stairs by her hands and feet, the soldier directly behind.  She felt his arms trying to pull her away, but she’d already reached the half-open door and fell against it, tumbling into the room on her hands and knees.  Dame Sara’s name died on her lips.  A creature stood over the bloodstained bed, claws dripping with viscera as it sniffed with bloody snout the corpse of the old woman.  Veiss tasted bile and vomit as the stench of blood filled the room, but was frozen from moving as the monster lifted its head to gaze at the incomers.  The younger soldier had been attempting to protect the Dame, and was now huddled behind the beast, blood pooling from a wound in his side.  Rain pounded in from the broken window; the howls and cries of the beasts and the dying swirled around her like pages of her history come to life.

“Monster!”  The older soldier yelled, bitterness and fury lending furor to his charge as he dashed into the room, rapier high.  Veiss, her eyes riveted on the drama unfolding, felt a strange sense of warmth rise within her, completely and utterly at odds with the fear and horror.  A calm confidence that gave her peace–blossuming and blooming, like hot tea warming the gullet, but rising from her gut, and she breathed in: and felt it.  The Light. The Truth.  The Power.  She felt the truth–the righteouesness of her desire as the holy power suffused her mind. A man, alone, weak, tired, still charging into to fight evil.   Intoxicated by the power, a golden light swelled around her hands, hands that she lfited before her eyes.  She felt the Light’s blessing…and as though she’d always known how, willed it into concentration: and a beam of solid golden energy struck from her hand, smting the beasts squarely in its chest. Without even hesitating as the beast reared back with a  yelp of alarmed pain, the soldier hacked at the beasts’s arm, opening a wide gash, and Veiss truck again…and again and again, pulling from a new wellstrping of power the Light had revealed to her.

Together admist the remains of the old woman, with cold rain pouring in, her vision seared either by the rain or her tears, surrounded by broken glass and shattered wood, Veiss and her soldier destroyed the beast–until with a final weak yelp it collpased onto the bed of glass and scattered embers.   The body twitched, and the soldier stepepd forwad, impaling his rapier into the monster’s eye with an impassioned and heavy grunt.  Veiss was breathing heavily, her hands still held before her, though she could fee the power fade within her.  But it wasn’t gone. She could remember how it felt, to strike out against the monster..the truth of that action…and could call that blessing to her hands again.  She knew it.

The relative silence seemed to stretch until the sounds pressed against her eardrums like damp wool.  The noise outside, their heavy breathing, the patter of rain and the low maons of the injured soldier.  Slowly, each one broke through until she felt like slamming both hands over her ears once more.   But the cries of hurt and pain pierced her numb weariness–because Veiss sudenly knew what to do.   She scrambled across the floor, reaching a gentle hand out to the wounded young man as the older soldier glanced around and up, guarding their  surroundings.

“Can you aid him…preistess?”  He said, reverently.  The title sunk into her head almost as heavily as the Light had.  Priestess.  Priestess!  She had wielded the Light!

“I…I am not a priestess, sir,” she told him humbly, although against her pride, the admission was difficult. She could not in truth call her self a priestess, even now. “I am only a novice.”

“You are a priestess to me, Lady,” he repeated, kneeling down next to her.  He removed his helm, revealing a face younger than her original suspicions.  Well-formed and framed by light brown hair, a few scattered freckles.  “You stood with me agaisnt the worgen, when most would have fled.  Thank you.”  Veiss felt her face flusing and turned away, returning her conscious attentions to the injured soldier.  She wanted to tell him he was wrong, that anyone would fight against such evil…but eve n as she framed her reply in her head, she could not say them: for she rememberd her fear..and how it had frozen her.

The wounded man was huddled over a deep slash across his gut, a wound both deadly and painful.  “Shh.. be quiet and still.  I will do what I can,” she whispered to the hurt man, and with the other ma’s aid, pulled him to lay flat on his back. Veiss grimaced, but forced herself to set her hand upon his stomach, forcing herself to endure the stench of blood and the pulsing warmth of his lifeblood bleeding onto her skin.  It was such a terrible wound. Even one of the Matrons might have trouble with this! How could she…a warm hand on her shoulder broke the rising floor of doubts in her mind, and she recongized the soldier’s stolid reassurance behind her. He had called her a priestess.  He trusted her.   Veiss took a deep, calming breath, and closed her eyes, letting a mental image of the prayers she knew by heart rise in her mind’s eye.  She may not be a priestess yet, but she knew the tenants.  she knew what she desired now was right.  Was truth. She coulnd’t let her fear…her insecurity, prevent her from helping this man.  And in the end, it wasn’t even up to her.  Sister Almyra had always said it was the Light that gave them power, the greatest and least of thm all.  If it desired this man to live, Viess would only need to believe it with all her heart.

With both hands on the grevious wound, Veiss began to pray.  She tried to recite the glorious prayers of the ordinates and acolyates of the cathedral, in their weaving and elaborate verse, but in the end her words faltered, and began very simple- she felt very paltry indeed.  But the light heaard her anyway.  When she let herself open her eyes, the last glimemring sheen of the healing power was dissipating from the renewed skin of the soldier.  The first, kneeling behind her, who’d deafeated the worgen, grinned widely at her, and clapped her shoulder.  The one on the floor, blinked, moving a hand across his scarless stomach, stunned to find himself still alive.

“Not a priestess, Genn’s gray beard,” the soldier behind her chuckled.  “You have a gift, priestess.”

“I…” Veiss fished for words.  This–she’d prayed and waited for this to happen for years.  She’d always been able to sense the Light, had always believed in its graciousness, forgiveness, its welcoming love and freedom. But to have taken it into her soul, to wield it like a mage would leyline’s power…she had finally broken through!  She fell back on her rear as the newly healed soldier slowly rolled to his feet, glass crunching under his boots.

“My lady,” he said bwing.  “A hundred thanks.  I thought myself dead.”

“You’re…you’re welcome,” Veiss answered rather lamely, in her opinion.

“Come on.  We need to leave,” the other ordered abuptly.  He held his hand to Veiss, who took it after a secon’d hesitation, even though he showed none at her blood-covered hands and arms.

“I’m called Seth, and this is David,” he introduced. David retrived his fallen weapon, and felt at his healed stoamch again, shaking his head in disbeleif.  “We’ll get you out of here, to the safe parts of the city.  From there-”

“I can help!”  Veiss interrupted before she even knew what she was speaking.  Seth stared at her.  She colored, but faced his piercing gaze without faltering.  Truth be told, the idea of running and hiding, away from the blood and pain and terror…sounded very attractive indeed.  But…Dame Sara’s body was just steps away…Veiss had panicked, had run, had nearly forgotten all she’d learned in those first moments of terror.  She could not even counter the guilt if she were to run and hide now.  Seth seemed to pick up on this ulterior motive, but David beamed.

“A priestess on the lines!  That will give us an edge.  My Lady, I’ll protect you with my life, if you but help us keep ours!  Lets hurry on to the barricade, I thin we’ve well lost this square.” All well from his wound, and rejuvenated with a well of energy, he lept over the body of the worgen and stamped down the stairs.  Seth took her arm, holding her back, and she forced herself to look directly at him.

“I can,” she repeated firmly.

“The city is falling apart priestess. ” he said gently.  ” And you are a preistess in my book, but it is a hard battle we are fighting, and likely a losing one. ”

“I want to!”  Veiss argued, alarmed at her own vehemence.  “I must…”  Her eyes slipped, despite herself, from his green gaze  to the gory remains of Dame Sara. The gore and blood sickened and revolted her–even frightened her, but Veiss knew it for what it was.  And she had to fight it.  Seth watched her: she could see the conflict in his face… could he allow someone as green, as inexpereinced as she in this sort of battle? He surely could recognize her desire was partially founded on her guilt…but in the end was grateful when he didn’t ague and bowed again.

“Then, aid us as you will, lady,” he announced.  “I will give my life to protect you, lady–”

“-Veiss,” the young preistess said with a embaressed smile.  “My name is–“

~~~~

“-Viess!!!”  THe woman’s clarion yell seemed to echo off the walls of the dirty cellar, and the young girl scrabbled at the floor to re-bury the shapeless piece of canvas fashioned to look like a doll.  “Veiss!  Are you hiding from your mother?!?” Children’s fingernails, ragged, shorn off by nervous biting, scrabbled at the hard dirt, piling it over the makeshift toys as heavy footsteps clamored down into the low-ceilied room.  Her mother stopped at the bottom step, surveying with a stern eye the 10 year old hastily stepping in front of the evidence of disobiedience.  The tall, stringy, unhealthy-thin woman approached Veiss with her arms folded sternly across her chest,  sunken eyes buring with impassioned anger.

“Have you lied to your mother,  Veiss?”  She asked in a deceptively soft tone.  Tears began to stream down the young girl’s face a she shook her head.  She had only wanted to see what it was like, to imagine games and pretend, like the oter children at the parks…everyday they passed them playing games, tossing balls, dressing dolls…she had only wanted to try it, the doll was barely dicernable as a human figure–

“You are lying to me!!” her mother screamed, grabbing the girl by her arm.  A cry of pain escaped from Veiss’s lips as  her mother yanked her forward.  “And your lie is compounded by hiding the untruth!  What is the punishment for this sin!”  Helena demanded of her child.  When nothing was forthcoming from the girl, hiccupping beneath her tears, the woman shook Veiss roughly, forcing her face to meet hers.

“Answer your mother!”

Upstairs, one infant son and 2 elder sisters huddled by the tiny kitchen fire as their moher’s screams echoed up the hallway, accompanied by their younger sister’s cries.

“You will pray! Pray for forgiveness! Pray that Light will find some excuse to forgive you, you lying, lazy child!  What is this! toys?!”  There were several soft thumps and the crack of a hand cross flesh. “What about the hundreds of children with no toys!  No homes?  How can you be so selfish?!”  The other children were silent,borrowing into each other as though for safety as the militant footsteps of their mother grew louder, and she returned to the kitchen of their tiny, ramchsackle house, her tear-stained sister in tow.  She tossed Veiss at the 3 of them, and at the sound of a iron spoon hitting the large black kettle over the fire, all four children faced their mother as she brandished a well-worn “Tenants of the Light” at them, and pacing back and forth with a crazed intensity.

“All of you!  Lazy, sinful children!  How many times must I impress upon you this truth?  We are who we are becuase of sin–our sins, the sins of our race, our people–those people!”  She took Veiss’s chin and forced the girl to stare out the grubby window, where the passing of the city guard could be seen marching past through the dirty glass pane. “See how they live in sin!  In jealousy and greed.  We have all been punished for–Hayte!”  She shoved the eldest daugter’s face back towards the window, her hand on the girl’s head like a vise.  The namesake emotion of the child glimmered from her downtrodden eyes as thier mother continued to lecture.

“They do not care that their souls are eternally foresaken.  but I do!  Oh, my dears, my dears…” her voice softened, and she suddenly sank to her knees, gathering them in her arms.  “We must be contrite for their sake, my children.  We must live our lives in service, for the Light and others–and we will be forgiven though our acts of duty.  But only, only my loves, if we give our hearst and lives and strengh to aid and care for those with less.”  She cupped Veiss’s face, the dirt streaked with lines from her tears with gentleness radically separate from moments before.  She brushed a thumb past the rising red welt on the girl’s cheek, and Veiss winced, though her lips pressed tightly together.

“My lovely one, Veiss. Why have you causued me to hurt you so?  Come, we must pray.  We must pray to the Light to forgive our sins.”  She knelt on the worn rug, and pulled them all with her, except for the youngest infant boy, whom Helena nodded that Jealousy, the second eldest take her place on the wicker basinett beside the fire.  The boy was silent, as though, even at less than a year old, he knew the dangers of angering his mother.  Helena watched the three girls with a stern eye as they fell into perfect prayer positions, hands clasped before their chests, heads bowed.  She nodded in satisfaction.

“Good, my dears.  We will begin now, and tomorrow we will return to Rat’s turn, to share the Light and its grace to the lost.”

~~~~Back to the Present~~~

“Come on, we need to hurry,” Seth hurried Veiss down the stairs as cries for help came louder, easily discerned beneath the yells of men and the feral growls of beasts–who had once been men. “It sounds like the’ve broken in past the barricade at the beekeeper’s square.”  A fresh wave of fright flooded Veiss’s body, but she clenched her fists tight against her legs and whispered a prayer, holding tight to the Light’s calming center.  Even the earlieset lessons had taught her that the Light wasn’t some save-all from pain or danger…not even the strongest priests could call on the Light to stop what was meant to happen, but it was there to grant her strenght to face it all.

Even so, stepping outside Dame Sara’s farcical shelter of a house took every scrap of courage she thought she had.

“RUN!!”  Someone screamed across the street.  Rain poured down, turning the carefully tendered garden into splattered mud and crushed weeds, her sight into a grey haze pappered by racing forms and the clash of bright metal swords.  Battle waged all around, beasts snarled and swiped at soldiers who fended them of with spears and long pikes and swords, increasingly pushed back as civialins fled between pockets of struggling men.  Veiss watched in horror as a young man, obviously not a soldier, but nevertheless brave enough to make a stand and wielding a sword too large for him, went down screaming in agony, a worgen’s claws tearing into his neck.  Her fingers dug into Seth’s sleeve as he hefted his rapier.

“I doubt there’s antyhing that can be done for him” he said bitterly.  “Come on!”  He pulled her out into the rain, and Veiss kept pace, too afraid, surrounded by death and dying and war to argue as he puled her away from the front, towards the Greyman quarter. “Light, is this a punishment?” She murmured to herself as her wide eyes soared past scene after scene of death and depsiar.  The city she’d known all her life, transformed into a nightmare of blood and destruction.  Open storefronts shattered, the wares scattered along the street.  A cart lay abadoned on the road, its wheels broken, like a dessicated corpse.  A young boy was overlooked in the hubbub, weeping over a mutlilated female corpse.  The image froze Veiss in her tracks.

“Sin!”  Her hand escaped Seth’s, and the soldier skidded to a stop, water splashing from his boots.  “Sin! My brother! Light how could I have forgotten him!” Veiss spun, racing back towards the far end of the Merchant’s quarter, but Seth caught her wrist tightly.

“No!  Veiss, I can’t let you go back; everyone should have been evacuated by now!”

“He was home alone, I have to find him–he’ll be terrified–let me go!”  The soldier had a firm grasp on her arm, but Veiss’s fright was overcome with a different sort of terror–that the last family she hd in this world might end up like the little boy she’d past just a moment ago, alone and scared–and in terrible danger. Rain was soaking her clothes, her skin, thunder rumbled heavily overhead, but Veiss strove against Seth, dragging her feet behind him.  It was wholly futile.   but how could she leave her brother!?  How could he have forgotten him?  Was he alive, hiding, frightened, waiting for her to come home?  Would he hide forever, only to be found by a ravaging beast when she wasn’t there…”Let me go!!”  Out of desparation, Veiss pulled at the Light’s center and threw a bolt of holy power at Seth.  There was a bright, golden flash, and suddenly she was free.  Seth was on his back stunned.  Veiss didn’t even wait to recongize what she had done, but ran the opposite direction, fear for her brother granting grace to her feet.

“Sin!”  She faguely heard her own name called behind her, but she cried out that of her brother.  If she took a few shortcuts, she could reach the Rat’s Turn…perhaps such an alley would be free of the beasts as they chasd down the soldiers in the squares.  She doged between sutrggling figure of men and worgen, her sodden robe impeding every step.  If the Light could just watch over her long enough to reach him…! She heard Seth’s attempts to call her back, and she piled on all the speed she could muster, vautling over a low wall, twisting around a cast-iron lamp post, its flame long guttered.  She dashed around the sharp corner leading  down to the alley–and her eyes met a terrible sight.  Worgen approached from every angle: howling and snarling with glee and blood thirst, they leapt across eaves and rooftops, along the ground on all fours–heading directly for her.  She screamed, stumbled back, reaching for the Light, anthing to protect hersef from the ravening beasts…and found nothing.

“NO!!”  Her center was gone!  The Light had deserted her!  Veiss wailed as her unsteady feet tripped over the cobblestones, and threw her to the ground, and the tide of worgen drew near.  She burried her face into her arms in a futire attempt to shield herself.  She waited, sobbing in terror, for the claws to tear into her flesh, for the blood and–Light, she was so scared–and the pain and–Blessed Light, she didn’t want to die!

A massie explosion rent the air around her. The ground seemed to shake and shift beneath her.  Clouds of smoke enveloped everything, and the guns fired again.  Waves of worgen hit the ground with yelps of pain, collapsing on top of each other in their rushing charge.  Veiss scrambled away, ears ringing with a high-pitched shrill.  Bright lights flashed and spun before her eyes, and she grabbed some sturdy thing with fingers that were warm with some stiky liquid.  She could hear voices, yells…but sounds were damp, muffled: the world a aimasma of grey and stifled dizziness.  She felt firm hands grab her around her middle and pull her up and away…and the world spun dizzily…and everything went dark.

 

Liam Greyman pulled his horse back as the worgen fled the alley in the face of the assault. Nearly 20 of their kind littered the ground before them, moaning and wimpering as death found them, but he could not find it within himself to find pity for what they had been before the curse took hold.   The soldiers gathered back together, forming a wedge in front of his mount’s withers, collecting cartridges and weapons from the fallen.  There was no time, now, for granting honor to the dead.  Perhaps later…if there was one.

“Abandon the square”! he yelled, wheeling the weary horse to circle the hasty barricade of furniture piled nearby. “Make for the Gremymane quarter!”  This place was lost.  It had been dear, but the beasts had been pushed back–but even with the rout, they would return in greater fury and numbers.  They had to defend from a palce of strength.  He kicked the horse into a canter, but immediately pulled back as he saw a soldier struggling with the limp body of a young woman.

“Soldier!  Does she live?”  The sodden young man with a seageant’s stripes across his shoulder nodded.  “Then give her to me.  We must make all haste!”  Liam pulled the unconscious woman across the saddlehorn of the horse, and urged the beast towards the outer circle of the city.

~~

Her awakening was harsh: the ringing of blade, gunshots, yells and cries.  A soft patter of rain still fell on her skin, but it lacked the heavy weight of the storm. It wasn’t cold, but the chill of the rain and the evening immediately lifted goose bumps on her skin.  She was being held…no, carried…as greater awareness followed, she became aware of her position, and motion underneath her, the smell of the horse and the short, coarse fur of the beast.

“Hold them back!  Captain, to your left!”  A strong man’s voice called above her back, and she felt the warmth of his body pressed close to hers.  She was on his horse.  Safe.  Alive. Alive!!  Veiss pushed against the beasts’s flank, attempting to sit up, and nearly unseated herself and the man as two strong hands grabbed and steadied her waist.

“Oh!”  She cried in alarm as she was pulled abruptly rom the horse.  She staggered to the ground for a moment, before reaching out for those steady arms until the dizziness passed.

“Veiss? Are you alright?” The novice priestess looked up into Seth’s concerned face.  He had lost his helm, and a shallow cut was new above his ear, but he gave her a small smile.  The sight, despite her initial confusion at how she’d come to be here, flooded her with guilt.  She had struck at him.

“Seth..I…” her eyes fell to the ground, shamefully.   “Seth, I’m so-”

“Don’t apologize, priestess, ” he interupted, albeit gently.  “We haven’t really the time.” He patted her arm, gently pulled her into a brief hug, and Veiss stared, abashed, as he nodded his head to motion behind them, and she finally recognized the dire strights in which they found themselves.  A front of worgen faced a smallish group of soldiers, some standing with flared blunderbusses, others with bloodied blades like Seth.  They were shoved back against the canal, the waters rushing behind and down the locks in a dull roar.  Veiss looked to the side to see another hastily thrown barriade, though this one was rapidly being dismanteld by some soldiers, but mostly others like her, civilians,  to open the single path towards the Greymane quarter.  Caught between the canal, the barriade and the encroaching worgen, men frantically worked to clear the way as the soldiers fought to their last breaths.  Veiss spun, and her breath caught in her throat.  There was only one man on horseback among them.  She’d been rescued, and had riden with the prince of Gilneas…Liam Greyman himself!  His attention was drawn elsewhere at the moment, his short sword stained with crimson, his head and horse moving this way and that to call warnings to the various soldiers along the line. Seth patted her arm with a false cherriness.

“Glad you’re alright. Stay back here, with the prince, it’ll be safer.”  He smiled once more, shoved a new helm over the mop of brown hair, and pushed forward to rejoin the fight.  Veiss shivered, the chill of the twlight deepening with fridig winds, though most of the rain had ceased.

Light–how had it come to this?  Just an hour ago, maybe even less, she’d ben sipping tea next to the warmth of a hearthfire…now..Dame Sara was dead, ripped apart…the city was nearly lost to monsters from folk tales of their grandparents.  What possible–.

A sharp cry of pain, one that somehow broke through all the yelling and sound of battle shattered her maudlin thoughts: a soldier crumpled to the ground, the parallel slahses of claws transformed his face into a muddied mess of blood and flesh.  The others around him bellowed curses and fought back with greater vigor as the line faltered, then reheld.  Veiss felt her heart shrink in fear, but as she looked on the injured man, groaning with aagony in the mud of the street, she couldn’t find it in her heart not to try once more.  She owned it to the Light, and to herself, to redeem her previous thoughtless actions.  Veiss hefted the sagging hem of her robe and rushed to his side.

Ducking under the arms and elbows of the soldiers that fought above, Veiss knelt at his side, her gorge rising at the sight of his mangled face: the corner of his mouth was ripped nearly to his ear in a macabre grin, his nose slashed to the bone, and the third that miraculously missed his eyes but had sliced away his lids, leaving his gaze bared open, scraps of flesh hanging like ragged curtains from his cheeks.  Not a deadly wound, but one that would have left him in agony until  he either bled to death…or it came on swifter claws.  He trembled under her hands, unaware of her presence, mired in throes of pain, and his eyes flickered in confused saccades as she took his head in her hands, gingerly.

“Light–” she began passionately,” I know I have acted wrongly in your name.  By striking out against Seth, a good man, I have misused your blessing.  But I beseech you, I plead you once more, to act once more, not on my behalf, but on that of this man.  Grant me your favor once more, in forgiveness, to heal this man.  That my hands and my body be only a conduit for your Power, so this one might live.”  She clenched her eys shut, as she prayed, not anxious or pleading, but with a reptence she knew was due.  She had acted wrongly against Seth.  In submission that her unrighteous acts had caused in the vacation of the Light’s blessing, she could not wallow in guilt.  Her city needed her.  If she was a priestess, if she ever wanted to be,  all her focus needed to be on here, and now.  SHe was a priestess.  She would do her duty.

The Light heard her.  Its cleansing fire billowed through her heart, and she felt as though she could weep that it heard her, and the power began sealing the wound of her mistake with barely a scar, flooding across her skin and through her veins like magma.  She felt its power well wthin her, and channeled it forward, into the man at the end of her arms.

It was ectasy: the rain and battle and chill, for the briefest of moments was gone, and she was bathed with Power once more. In her mind’s eye the battle, the terror, the discomfort was gone, and the soul of the wounded man was laid bare beneath her hands that glowed with a beautiful, pure power.  But when Veiss finally opened her eyes, there was no nimbus of golden light, only splashed blood and mud on her hands and knees and robe,  and a man beneath her hands that stared at her with a stunned gratefulness.  Somewhat embarrassed, Veiss removed her hands from the sides of his head, full healed, athough 3 scars were etched across his new skin.

“Preistess!”  The soldier gushed, scrambling to his feet.  He bowed, kissed er hand, muddy as it was.  “Thank you.  Thank you!” He even yanked her into a hug, which she fell into rather stunned.  The soldier held her at arms lengh.  “Please–do what you can for the others.  I fear we will be overun without you!” He snatched a fallen pike from th ground and charged back into the line, impaling a worgen that was clawing over an eave with a ferocious yell, and tossing it backwards.  Veiss gazed across the way, where Liam frantically encouraged the soldiers to battle the rising flood.  Her eyes traced to the men and women dismantling the barriacade.  Then back to the front, and her eyes came to rest on another broken body.  Lying on the ground.  She tooka  deep steadying breath, gave thanks to the Light, and rushed over to him.

She didn’t know how long they struggled: it may have been only a few long moments, or pehaps the darknes at her eyes was the evening dim as night truly fell.  Veiss knew only that she could not be as exhausted as the men, who kept the line from falling, who kept them from the mercy of the rampaging beasts.  The rain had completetly stopped now, but the ground was slippery and puddled underfoot.  Prince Liam Greyman had long since lost his horse  and struggled against the worgen side by side with his men.  In the rare moments when Veiss could not apply the healing light to flagging soldiers, she aided the poeple tearing down the barricade.  There was only one other woman now, a shopkeeper by the looks of her, whose tear streaks had been washed away by the rain and left only a numb frozen fear as her hands scrabbled at the piled refuse.  Two other older man also worked at it, one who had managed to clamber atop the stacked trash and was shoving it down with crashes of snapping wood.  Veiss stumbled out o the way as some of this broken furniture tumbled down to smash onto the cobbles.  This man straightened, shoved his hair from his eyes, and gazed out into the grey miasam of crowning fog.

“They’re coming!  My prince, your father approaches!  Reinforcements!  We must–” his cry was cut off int a gurgling scream as a clawed hand snatched at him from the eaves of a nearby roof.  The other woman screamed in terror, and Veiss scattered back, searching for anything she might put between her and the feral beast.  It leapt from the roof, smashing into the top of the barricade and tore out the man’s throat with a swipe of his paw.  Veiss choked on the thick coppery stench as it sprayed across her face.

Gunfire exploded into the raucous night, and Veiss pressed herself against the stone wall of the canal.  The worgen yelped in pain as the rounds tore through him.  Out of the corner of her eye, Veiss saw Liam Greyman shove through the debris and hurl his sword at the beast, its spinning blade flashing as it tore a large into its side.  The worgen howled on all fours, but ripped the blade from its flesh and hurled it aside, sending it  spinning with a clatter on the stone.  Although it bled from numerous wounds, the worgen roared into the faces of the soldies, many who frantically reloaded guns and shoved forward away from the front to reach this new threat–just as it launched itself from atop the barricade: directly at the now weaponless prince.

“NOO!!”  Veiss threw out her hands, wishing now, more than anything, to protect Prince Liam from the same bloody fate that had torn apart some of the men underfoot…and Dame Sara.  To her and Liam’s astonishment, a shimmering nimbus of translucent golden light shimmered into existance around the prince of Gilneas.  The worgen’s inertia slammed it into the side of the shield, and it bounced and slid away with an agonizing, but surprised yelp.  Sparks of light burned into its matted, muddy fur, and Liam regained his awarenss swiftly.  He snatched a weapon from one of the dead lying beneath, a pike shorn in half, and raised charged the beasts while it recovered, still surrounded by the golden barrier.  Veiss pulled recklessly from the Light’s spring of power, urging strength to the prince as he faced the monster, a pool of righteous determination to smite it down, when once more a shot rang out, explosive and deafening.  It was point-blank, and the worgen’s head disappeared into a pink mist of meat and blood.  Veiss threw up her hands, disgust and bile rising in her throat.  She could not hold it in, and as she tripped away in alarm, she fell to her knees, the vomit spilling from her throat. She tasted the blood and vicsera of the clsoe death and choked and coughed to clear the disgusting taste.   A ragged cheer rose from the defenders at the sight, and Veiss wiped her mouth with te sleeve of her dirty robe as she glanced up.  King Greymane had climbed atop the barriacde, next to a woman Veiss numbly recongized, wielidng a blunderbus that smoked from the recent discharge.  Gwen–she thought her name was.  From the central market.  She re-cocked her shotgun and laid it at her hip, not as much at odds with her blouse and skirt as Veiss would have thought.

“Come through! Move to the cathedral!”  THe reinforcements rapidly cleared a broader path through the barriacade, pulling the weary soldiers and civilians though.  King Greyman didn’t waste time posturing, but held out his hand to aid the soldiers itno the relative safety of the other quarter. Veiss staggered to her feet, holding onto the canal wall to combat a sudden bout of dizziness.

“Priestess, you first,” Liam Greyman grabbed her shoudlers and rushed her towards the soldiers, who in turn handled her bodily beofre she could utter a word though the path into the new street: past more men and woman bearing weapons, protecting their retreat.  Her feet hit the cobbles with tingles of pain through the useless slippers and she stumbled against  the last guard who steadied her with a concerned frown.

“Are you injured, miss?  He sked, his eyss roving across her body with nothing of lewdness, but only scanning for wounds.

“I’…I’m fine,” she managed to stammer, everything happening so swiftly: the battle, the worgen, Liam’s defense..the sudden arrival of help…”I–”

“We’ve built a stand at the second corner, just by  Josiah’s tobacco shop,” he interrupted.  “Move there, a priest will see to you. Quick!”  Veiss was about to protest: she had helped the soldiers, surely she would be neede further here…until his words sank past the surface of her thoughts.  A priest.  A Priest! One of the Matrons, or the Fathers had survived!  They might know if Martin and her young brother had made it away from  the city in time—Sin knew she worked at the Cathedral, he would have run there if he was frightened!  Anxiety lent flight to her aching feet a she began to run, splashing though puddles, and suddenly it seemed to be the only noise in streets ..but it was not so silent–only compared to the cacophony of the battle.  Veiss heard still noises of the reteat behind her, the howls and calls of the monsters crawling over Gilneas…and calls of humnaity ahead of her. She passed several smaller outposts of soldiers along the way, holding corners against possible intrusions as she grew near, and they all pointed her closer to her destination.  As she grew near, Veiss recongized several large cannons and a well-fortified barriacde blocking the way–several times the size of the one she’d last helped defend.  She slowed.  How had such weapons..such cannons come to the center of the city?  Would they shoot-

“Quickly!  Miss, behind the guns!”  A voice rang out.  Veiss spared a glance behind her, afraid the beasts had chased along the roof, but the street was eerily absent but for a few large mastiffs thaat paced the stone.  She dashed forward, slipping between the enourmous wheels of two cannons into the arms of two soldiers.

“Well run miss,” one said with releif.  “Stay to the center; there’s a priestess here to take–”

“Veiss!” At the sound oher name, Veiss’s head spun around.  an older woman, brown bun bedraggled, looking nearly as rough as Veiss herself felt, hurried up to her, her face filled with relief.

“Sister Alma!”  Veiss felt like suddenly weeping.

“sister, I…I-” the two women embraced, Veiss beyond relieved to see that at least one sister had survived.

“Veiss, Veiss, I cannot spare you from how anxious we were!”  Almyra began, clasping her hand tightly.

“Me?”  Veiss frownded. “I was not-”

“Martin, you foster father, he came by the Cathedral when the beasts first crossed into the city and the king started the evacuation,” Almyra continued. “a younger child–your brother?  In tow.  He said you’d not returned home yet, and we-”

“Oh, sister,  I had stopped to visit–no, is Sin alright?  Did they get out in time?” Sounds of gunshot and approaching battle came from a near corner, several men yelled in warning, but Sister Almyra pulled Veiss closer to a small fire flickering vainly against the encroaching dark and wet ground.  Sevearl ingured men lay about, and many other civlians; Veiss recongized Mastermage Arcturus and several other Masters along with him, weidling their magic along with the soldiers.  Nearby, a young woman with stricking blonde hair stood with several large mastiffs and a large pile of guns along side.

“They left Veiss, the soldiers would not let him wait-” Sister Almyra worked as she spoke, pulling a damp banket and tossing it around Vess’s shoulders. Veiss pulled it closed in front of her, both for the warmth and the sudden embarrassment that blood and vomit stained the woven front,  “-and the rest of us have been on the move since the beasts have taken many of the quarters.  Most of the clergy have already left the city, but even with advanced notice, so many people have already been lost…”

“Sister–” Veiss grabbed her hands, unable to hold back what was suddenly bursting from her soul, now that her anxieties about Sin had been answered, the burgeoning Light wthin her and her abilities in wielding it was overhwmlign all other thought.

“Sister–something has hapened to me—The Light– it came to me, more than ever beofre.  I prayed…and it…it was real!” She could not articulate just how it felt: the warmth and power of the presence, the overwhemling Right of how it felt.  But the shock she’d epected the sister to have was replaced by a widening and knowing smile, a loving acceptance.  Amlyra nodded.

“Yes–I knew it would, someday.  Veiss, young one,” she took Veiss and sat down on a couple overturned crates, for all the time as though they spoke in the blessed quiet of the Cathedral rather the middle of a muddy street surrounded by the Cursed.  Veiss slid her seat closer to the fire, the chill of the evening sinking into her bones in the absence of the adrenlaine that had powered her these past few hours.  “The Light is availialbe for all poeple to find it–this you know,” Veiss nodded,  ” but its Champions are those with a belief that cannot be tarnished–and through that belief comes its power. When what you desire to be done is right-truly Right to you, and you believe with your soul that it should, and needs be done, its power will come to you.”  Veiss’s mind soared back to her long years ot tutelage of the Light: first under the harshness of her mother, then the encouraging words of Martin, to the gentle but solemn teachings of the Cathedral’s brothers and sisters.

“But…Sister Almyra, why now?  Not that I am not grateful I…it was wonderful Sister, to feel it…to be able to do something.  I…it saved a man from dying, I helped saved men from dying!  but–why could I not do this before tonight?”  As though sensing her frustration, Siser Almyra patted her hand.

“Often enough, Veiss, though we feel we believe with all our hearts, it is the sort of confidence in Truth that holds us back.  something happened tonight-something that you knew, without a doubt to be right, and it was enough to prove to yourself.” Veiss’ thoughts returned to Dame Sara, whose broken body had given her the anger to finally fight back.  Almyra smiled, recongizing the realization that dawned on the novice’s face.  She pressed her hand atop Veiss’s forehead, and Veiss dropped to her knees in suppliance, accepting the blessing of the Sister.  When the incantation finished, Veiss felt as though she could fly on wings of sunlight.  She was a Champion of the Light!  She was a true priestess!

Ssiter Almyra smiled, a little crookedly.  “There.  Now, we need-”

“Sister almyra!”  Someone called for the priestess, and the Matron left off to answer them.  Veiss pushed off the ground and back onto the cate, and followed the sister’s path to…he jaw dropped.  She recongized the caller.  Everyone in Gilneas would.  Had he escaped?  Bribed the king?  How did it come to be that the traiter Darius Crowly was free–and not only free, but armed and figthing?

“Makes me right nervous, it does,” a woman said to her side.  Veiss jumped, startled into an embaressing yelp to have someone appear so suddenly.  The young woman grinned and held out her hand.

“Meredith Shaw.  Apprentice to the Twilight guard..thoguh technically I’m not supposed to be here.  Snuck in, as it were.”

“snuck…” Veiss regathered her scattered wits, and reapplied her brain to the woman’s boast.  She smiled and tighened her hand from the limp noodle it was to firmtly greet the other woman. She recognized the name, Twilight Guard.  “Something strikes me that sneaking in like that might earn you extra points for a post in the guard,” she said.   She pulled the fallen blanket back onto her shoulders once more as Mereidth nabbed the other seat and held her hands out to the fire.  Meredith smirked.  “Might be so.  Glad to see you and the sister made up.  You a priest then?”

“Novice, but yes,” Veiss said, first with hesistation, then with a burgeoning pride.  She could say that…yes, she was a priestess now. “Sort of got caught up in it all.”

“I got shoved out of the city in the first wave,” Meredith said blithly. In the face of everthing that happened, Veiss found her matter of fact…well, to be honest quite blunt matter of speaking almost refreshing.  Veiss couldn’t forget the horror, the truth of all the dead and dying, but Meredith had a way that made it feel…separate. Objective.  “Snuck my way back in.  Just becuase I’m not official don’t mean I can’t fight back.  Look at Gwen Armstead, she’s nothing offical, yet Greyman’s practically got her second in command.  Crowley, though,” she tapped her heels in a rythmic tattoo and glanced his direction.  “Greymane ordered him and his buddies freed about an hour ago.  Says its ’cause Crowleys got a brain udner that head o’ his, and we can’t afford to be divided…well, I cannea deny he’s proven himself yet far with the cannons,” she waved to the monstrous machines. Veiss shook her head. “They must be from his rebellion. I can’t see any other reason for them to be in the middle of the city like this!”

“That’s his daughter, Lorna, with the dogs,” Meredith added, tossing her head backwards.  “She led us right to a stash of weapons of all sorts.”

“Inside the city…” Veiss wondeed aloud.  “Guess the rebellion was a bit more widespread than everyone thought. Yet the king trusts him?”  Meredith shrugged.

“I’m sure he’ll figure it all out once we all get out of here.  One thing though, Godfrey sure ain’t happy with it.” She nodded with her eyes to a man sitting rather primly on a horse, stll remarkably well-groomed compared to the battle-worn soldiers around him.  Veiss didn’t know him, but he had the lookk of a nobleman.

“Can’t bame him that, at least,” she muttered, her spirits rising remarkably as more soldiers poured in from the front.  She recongized several, and finally caught the king and Liam Greyman at the rear of the straggling column.  She gave a brief excuse to Meredith and hurried after Sister Almyra who was speaking with the self-same Darius Crowley. Up close, for all that Veiss expected him to be some evil-looking rebel, he appeared quite congienal: broadchested, with only a slight stubble across his face and a determined gaze as he watched the soldiers come through.  Veiss came up behind the sister.

((Pardon the mistakes and typos, still under edit))

 

“And who is this, sister?: he asked, turneding to face her, as thoguh sensing her presnce.  He looked her down, but not in a manner that suggested lewdness, but rather a weighging of her ability and bravery.  Veiss straighened her shouders defiantely.  Sister Almyra turned to favor Veiss with a smile.

“Oe of my novices, Lord Crowley. a promsiing one, as it seems-”

“Very promsing, I agree!”Someone said from behind.  All three turned, and Veiss nearly choked as Liam Greyman adn his father strode up.  The prinice smiled widely at Veiss, the handsomeness of his Veiss no losdt on her, even soaked and exasuted, and she flushed furiously.

“Father, this young priestess without a doubt, saved my life, and probably many of the lives of the others here from the barriacde.  SHe healed them with her hands  at the front.” sister Almyra looked upon Veiss with surprise anew; Darrius Crowley lifted one impressed eyebrow, and Veis nearly fell on weak knees wthn the ing himself clapped a heavy hand on her back; smiling broadly.

“not weak is the blood of true gilneans!” he exclaimed.  “Well done, Veiss.  Lt. Green here also informed us of your heroics deeds.  “Veis frowned in confusion, until Seth appeared from beheind at Liam’s side,  a bloddied bandage across his upper arm, but overall looking no worse for the wear.

“Seth!”  She exclaimed, a surpising joy at seeing him alive for the moment overiding her embaressment.  He grinned and bowed his head.

“You’re a right hero now, Veiss,” he told her, indicating the raged soldiers who trailed beghind them, heading eagerly for the warmth of the fire.  Sister almuyra bowed herself away with a quiet apology adn went o meet some of the wounded. “They all know it was mostly becuase of your healing spells that we were able to hold as long as we did.”

“I…”Veiss was at a loss for somthing to say, at all their praise.  How could she accept it…it was no bravery to stand with them–there was nothing else she could have done.  SHe finally shrugged ruefully, unable to say more than that.  When she repeated the words aloud, King Greyman shook his head in admiration, and noded is approval but then turned to Crowley, his expresion growning dark. Seth made a motion to step away, but as the king had not actually…dismissed them, Veiss held back, curious above all to see just what the king would have to say to the old rebel.

“i’m not going to ask where and how you came upon such weaponry, DAruis,” he said smoothly.  “but get some of the men on it and keep the back alleys clear.”

“Korna can get the dogs out to clear the street to the Cathedral,” Daruis supplied just as easily.  “Several of the others can take a second route past the tanner’s lane.”

“Don’t forget Josiah, father,” a woman called out bodly from behind.  a low growla ccompanied it, nd seveal swords were half-raised before eveyrone realized it was Lorn’a waist-high mastiff and not the monsterous worgen. The wrinkles around King Greymane’s eyes contracted. “Josiah?  More secrets?”

“You may be happier not knowing, Gen,,” Darius grinned.  “REst assured, they’re not going to be used against you any time soon.” Genn met this stunning proclomation with  a flat glare, but Darius continued smoothly.  “tobias can take some men out past his shop; they’ere more supplies we can bring out.”

Veiss watched the interplay between the two men with interest. Darius’s Crowelys’ rebellion had earned alot of attention several years ago: upset at the king’s decision to lock Gilneas away from the ravages of the Third War and the rise of the foresaken threat beyond their borders, he’d gained a respectable following before Greymane had shut the rebellion off with a heavy hand-all the more painful since DArius had once been quite close to the king.  They seemed to have fallen into that old  amicability, , and of everyone around, the only person she could see who regarded Darius with true, open animosity was Lord Godfrey, atop his horse.  He was glaring in dlear dislike towards the old rebel.  SHe shivered and looked away.  There was something feral in his eyes that reminded her distubringly of the worgen.

“-and take Veiss here, if she’s willing,” Dariussaid, hoking her back into the conversation.  She turnesd back, surprised at his use of her name. It was so odd, to see the king, te prince…legends like Crowely standing here, talking to her!

“It’ll be solfer fighting than the lost quartes by far, but i;d be happier not taking chances of losing the team through ambush if they’ve soemone who can even the odds a bit.”

“Agreed.”  King Greyman turned to Veiss, and for the second time in her life, Veiss was amaed and astonished to find him speaking to her.

“Preistess, I’d like you to accompany this squad to Josiah’s shop.  We can ill-afford to lsoe any more men when we have woman such as you adn the sister svaliable.” Veiss could hardly refuse.  and although the fear of leaving this safe, breif quite sacnaury to move back into the city, where worgen paced and stalked, she forced it aside, putting her new duty foremost in her mind.  since she knew MArtin and Sin had truly escaped, running away now, leaving the king and the sister and everyone here was a cowardly  thought.

“Of course, sire,” she said curtsyeing. “I’ll do my best.”

“i’ve no doubt,” he said crypticall, glancing to her ide.  Veiss’s eys flickered to her left, where, to her embressment, Seth was still standing…quite closely. Their eys met breifly, and she felt a deep flush coming u her neck, and was suddenly very very glad for the twilight.

“come on, Veiss,” Seth said, taking her arm, pulling here away from the king and Crowley, who themwselves moved awy to discuss mattesr to whihc she was probably best not eavesdropping. “tobais Mistmantle, a friend of Crowley’s will lead us to another stash of sorts.  with it, we should be able to make a definite chane of reaching the Cathedral.”

“Why the Cathedral?” Veiss asked as he began to rearmor himself, tossing a shoulderblade nearly sliced in two to the sie and replacing it with another.  Veiss shivered as the wind picked up, and once again picked up the blanket that kept falling from her shoulders.  SHe considerd bowworing a knife to cut a hole for hr head so she might wear it as a poncho.  The thin linen novie roe was doing very little to hold the cold at bay.

“Shouldn’t we focus on fleeing the city?”

“Crowley sad the Cethedral is the best place to stand, defensively speaking,” soemone answree from behind.  Veiss turned, and met the smile of a young soldier who looked famaliar: and finally placed his it when he removed his melmet to reveal three scars across his face.  He held out his hand.

“We’ve not offocially met,” he said.  “Captian Eric Ravanel.”

“Veiss McGaragh,” she replied feeling deciedely awkward to be exchanging pleasnaties in the middle of a warzone. but then agian…everything she’d ever known had been tossed upsidedown this night.

“glad to have you with us,” he said.  “This should be a price of cake, to compare to our last battle.  Let suit up and get moving,” he said, and called to a few other men who were also gearing up to move out. “We got a city to win back.”  SHe stood aside as the squad of men prepared themselves, adn finally took up a pstition in the center of their block as they moved out beyond the safety of the barriacade.

now that she was re-entering the city–into the realms of the the wild worgen, her anixeity began to flow anew, even though she tried to calm the flow tih prayers to the Light for courage. Beleif, Sister Almyra had said.  All there was to act in champion of the Light was to have faith.  Well, it was easy to say that, when all was good.  would she be able to act agian, when battle srrounded her, when death snarled at her with bloody fangs–an arm wrapped around her shoulders and she jumpd, startled.  an elder man with a black beard, lined with silver grinned at her.

“So, this is our priestess, eh?”  He said.  “Well, miss, good lukc to you.  Takes balls of steel to walk back into the battle.”  Veiss flushed, flusterered at his crude words, but tobias, their leader, hardly seemed to notice.  Indeed, everyone around her had a bit mroe on their mind wathcing for ambsh that concern themselves over her discomfort…She wrapped her arms around her chest, shivered, and kept walking.

~~~

Amazingly, the squad met no resistance across the quarter to Josiah’s second shop: a two-tory building with a stunted overhand and wide rectangular window, now boarded shut.  toabis motioned them around to the back.  Although no fitghting had been done on the trip, Veiss had seen, and had them pointed out, many of the worgen, illuminated by thewaxing moon that had risen as dusk finally fell.  They moved and stalked along the arching rooftops, crawling on four limbs, legs distended by the curse, their bodies elongate and crooked.  Veiss grimaced to herself, recalling passing the piles of huan corpes gathered repsecitfully, and the occasional dead figure of the monsters, dead in a pool of its own crimson blood///little more than a dead creature, any vestage of humanity destroyed.

“Here, give a gand Captain,” Tobias whisp[ered, taking a padlock carefully in his hand.  The chin clinked on the rusted lock despite his care and every eyes glanced worridly around.  They had come this far by stealth and could ill afford to draw the attention of and roving worgen.  Veiss hung off to the side, arms still tight against the chill, the only sounds the distant rush of the canals and Tobai’s hushed commands.

“Its unnatural;, it is,” Meredith whispered.  Veiss did a double take, stunneed to see the Twililght trainee had somewho added herself onto the squad withnoone recongizing it.  Meredith caught the astonishement and smirked. “I’m good at getting where I’m not supposed to be,” she whispered. “I should be way ahead of the other trainees by the time all this is finished.”  SHe glanced around the silent street, and part of her levity faded.  “Still,” continued more soberly, her fingers clenching on the hilt of a knife at her hip, ” its never this quiet at night.  always noise of a sort.”  A howl, not so distant this time, answered the observation, rising at the end in a lonesome call.

“-of a sort,” Veiss echoed the trainee, her eyes saccading the empty streets.  Shadows seemed to abound in every corner, inside every vacant doorway.  Lamplighters had fled the city or been killed in their early evening duties, and the lamps stood, lonely iron sentinals at the corners of every lane.  “Do you think anyone will send aid, if the city is compeltely overrun?” Meredith snorted.  “not likely. You think Stormwind, or the dwarves will gladly send aid to us?  Especially after Greymane closed off the wall?  and I don’t esepct anything from the high-blooded elves.”  Veiss shrugged.  Soemtimes if was hard to beleive ther was a world beyond the Wall–you had to get a special permit to leave thorug hhte coast, and even greater precaustions were taken on ships that returned.  Elves and dwarves, distant trolls and orcs that ran rampant across childhood tales…it was amazingly easy to beleive them only tales.  Veiss herself had never even seen an elf but in pictres. A triumphant “Ha!”   and the clink of falling chains sounded from behind the two women.  Meredith had her dagger out and brandished before realizing it was just the cellar finally open, and flushed as Seth lifted a teasing eyebrow towards her.  Meredith shoved the blade back itno the sheath with bad humor and followed the first few men down the steep stairs.  Veiss took Seth’s ofered hand and went after, all th while caressing the pool of power withing her that was the Light’s blessing, letting it flow through and renformce her failing courage.

tobais had entered first, but held his hand back, halting the rest of them before he’d entred the cellar proper.

“Someone’s here–and somthin’s wrong,” he said, his accent thickeneing.  “Wait–”

She felt Seth’s ar brush hers, but refrained from grabbing it.  Thre was a flickwering flame below that cast just enoguh light that only the barest silhouettes of the squad could be seen as they moved further down.  tobias’s face came further into detail as he came to the bottom. SHe watched the orange shadows flicking on the walls below, nd tobais mada motio to Captain RAvanel. The soldier handed him his flint.  Veiss leaned down, anad knelt to the floor, peering underneath the low ceiling into the cellar.  It was difficult to see anything: large shadows od barrels and stacked crates.  Tobais took the flint and struck it deftly against the damp stone wall, and in the breif, bright flame before he let the sparks into an extinguished torhc, Veiss caught sigh of him–in the far corner: a man.

“There!”  She grabbed the enarest arm and pointed with her other hand.  tobais frownded, but motioned for more of the soldiers to follow after him, adn handed the torch off, indicating that they light more.

“Josiah?”  Her head barely brushed the lintel of the veiling as Veiss entred last, and Tobais was drawing near to the man crocuhed in the far corner.  Veiss came halfway out from beheind Seth.  Was he injured?  Seth accepted a torch and lifted it high, and finally the entire room was filled with a flickering firelight. Josiah cowered next to several barrels of powder; he was shaking, crouched over his stomach as though terrifying or in pain.  Veiss glanced to her side.  Meredith appeared bored with their caution, and with an easy, silent move, vaulted over the railing and crawled atop a pile of crates, her dagger held defensively. Captain Ravanel pointed to the boxes of firemars.

“Take those up, we can rig one of the carts fo carry it,” he ordered as quietly as he could.  “Leave the powder, those cannons will only be good in a stand, adn we’re made to move to the Cathedral within the hour.”  The soldiers fell to business with swift alacrity, leaving Tobais and Veiss to worry aout the yet-unresposive Josiah, who showed no indication he’d nticed them at all.

“Preistess,” Tobais waved her closer.  Veiss felt a sprig of anxiety, but squashed it and came just behind him.  “Could you heel him?  He might be ill.”

“I can try,” she replied, licking her lips.  “but I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”  SHe clutched a fold of hher dress, following behind Tobais as the older man reached out adn took hold of his friend’s shoulder. “Hey Jos-” Tobai’s greeting was cut off as the cowed man shoved back with his hands witha  wordless, feral snarl, throwing them both on their backs.  Veiss tumbled back against a poweder keg, sending a smaller one tmbling to the floor with a crash.  The barrel cracked, and a small tail of black powweder began leaking out.  Seth, the others  were up adn around in a second’s passing, but Josiah was faster–and closer, and with his mouth contorted ina feral grin, he reached out with clawed, beast’s hands forward..towards her….

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By Kadriun Posted in WoW

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