Dirdre stalked through the trees, a dagger in each hand and a wound in the thigh of her left leg, which served only to fuel her dark rage. “Come out, come out, wherever you are,” she crooned softly. To her companions, she was virtually a walking corpse. The orc she had wounded – and been wounded by – earlier had fled deeper into forest in an effort to escape the bloodthirsty elf and her fellow soldiers. After the failed orc ambush, this was the only survivor. The others had told her to forget the monster and go for healing, but Dirdre was far into the combined throes of blood lust and depression.
To them, her wounded leg and announcing her presence signed and sealed her death announcement. The elf frankly didn’t give a damn.
A flicker of movement in the corner of her vision and a rustle of leaves that not even a squirrel would be stupid enough to make told her exactly where the orc was. With a grim, tight smile, she spun around. Her arm snapped forward, the dagger making a glittering arc through the air, coming to rest in the orc’s throat.
Dirdre held her smirk as she strolled over to reclaim her dagger. Another monster that wouldn’t hurt anyone again. Even as she leaned down, a flash of sickly green orc in the corner of her vision told her she had misjudged. A burning pain in her side, oddly cold, then warm, was followed by a whoosh, thump noise.
Dirdre fought against the blackness clouding her mind, coming conscious with a gasp to stare at a ceiling, rafters dangling herbs and baskets, scents of a small fire and food assaulting her nose.
“She’s awake!” a male voice happily announced in oddly accented elvish. The homely atmosphere brought home the realization that she was finally safe.
The memories of the last few days were suddenly unleashed from their bonds of anger and fear to swamp her, and she found herself sobbing uncontrollably. Before she realized what was happening, someone was holding her close, arms and something else like a blanket wrapped around her and rocking gently while she cried hysterically on their shoulder.
Visions of the travelers, perhaps searching for the safety of the town, or simply going for necessary supplies, scattered around their wagon, bodies mutilated nearly to the point of being unrecognizable, except they weren’t, and it was obscenely obvious that this was really a child, limbs and torso missing large, bite-sized chunks, but still somehow clutching a stuffed bear dyed black with blood and flies. A family of six, all slaughtered.
Dirdre cried, moving to, and past, dry heaves and hiccups, then back to oblivion.
Venian gently eased the slumbering woman onto the pillow, absently brushing a soaked brown strand of hair from her tear-streaked face.
“She done?” Branca called from outside the hut. Venian quietly – although he doubted anything less than divine intervention would wake her now – moved to join him.
“Yes. Uncle... what could do that to someone, make them grieve so long and so hard?”
The healer shifted on his seat. “Something that destroys the soul. She will sleep for a while longer. Go home and rest. She won’t awaken till tomorrow at least.”
The sight to first greet Dirdre when she woke was shockingly abnormal, but most definitely among the most pleasant she’d faced. A young elvish man dressed in mottled green and brown clothes was studying her with frank, deep blue eyes, seated casually on a stool that allowed his black-feathered cloak to fall to the floor. He smiled upon noticing she was awake, transforming a mildly attractive face into a work of beauty that made Dirdre’s heart skip several beats.
“Good morning,” he softly said in that same odd elvish that had greeted her last night. She blushed and looked down at the blanket covering her at the realization that he must also have been the one holding and comforting her when she broke down. The memories loomed again, and she winced, fighting them back as well as more tears.
“Are you all right?”
Across the room someone snorted. “I’m sure she breaks down and cries like the end of the world all the time,” an older man drawled. “Use your head! Of course she’s not all right!”
“Uncle!” the younger man snapped. “I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a war going on!”
“Oh gods, not this again,” ‘Uncle’ muttered.
“I’ll be fine,” Dirdre interrupted, hoping to stop an argument before it began. “It’s... just been a long week.” She eased up, careful of the bandages and suddenly aware that, other than the mummy-like wrappings, there was nothing between her and the blanket. Inevitably, her gaze was drawn back to the man seated across from her.
She suddenly straightened as she realized there wasn’t enough of a draft to cause his cloak to flutter to such an extent. She finally looked at ‘Uncle’; he had a fall of silvery-gray feathers behind him, gently waving in a manner Dirdre had only seen before on birds. “Avariel,” she whispered. She could barely believe the evidence before her; like most elves she had heard tales of the winged cousins, but she’d always placed them in the same category as the Thrann: bedtime stories.
Her comment earned her another of the heartbreaking smiles. “I told you,” the younger man gloated to the elder.
He snorted again. “She listens to children’s tales. Good for her. Here.” He handed the younger man a bowl of soup. “I have others who need my skills.” He stormed out the door, barely stopping to grab a belt pouch.
The man handed her the bowl, then coughed delicately and studied the floor. “My apologies. Uncle tends to follow the old ways, and doesn’t realize the importance of associating with ‘ground dwellers’. He also thinks fighting the orcs is a waste of time.” He sighed and shook his head. “As soon as the orcs win the ground, they’ll attack us. Our location won’t keep us safe forever!”
“If you don’t mind me asking, where are we?” Dirdre ventured. “I mean, last thing I remember was the orc....”
He flushed. “I’m sorry, I forgot my manners. I am Venian Sablewing.” He grinned and waved his wings slightly. “My uncle is Healer Branca of Laurel Aerie, which is where you currently reside, Milady....?”
“Dirdre Solchara, and I’m no lady. I am in the army.” Her face darkened. “At least, I was.”
Apparently sensing the touchy topic, he shifted slightly and began to regale her with tales and descriptions of Laurel Aerie, entertaining her long after her soup disappeared. Finally, Branca returned and chased his nephew from the room, citing the need for Dirdre to rest. The young man smiled apologetically and took his leave with a graceful bow, altering smile, and promise to return.
Dirdre’s dreams were surprisingly pleasant.
At this point, several weeks (months?) should pass, in which Dirdre leaves the healer’s hut to live with Venian. After a few more breakdowns from our psychotic heroine and much whining on both parts, they give in to hormones and have a few fun nights in the sack. After one particularly spectacular night, Venian (the optimistic peacemaker) goes to his uncle for at least implied approval for the luuuuv match.
“Good morning, Uncle!” Venian practically chirped as he strode in, barely pausing to knock on the door.
The healer grunted his greeting, concentrating more on the potions he was combining than his rambunctious nephew.
“Isn’t it a fine morning?” the younger man continued, throwing himself into a sprawl on the chair set up for visitors.
“It’s far too cold for this late in the spring and it’s sure to rain later.”
“As I said!”
Branca finally looked up from his concoction to give his brother’s son a suspicious look. “Are you quite sane?” he finally asked.
“And what, dare I ask, brings such a pleasant mood? Still seeing that ground elf, I suppose?”
“Uncle, her name is Dirdre,” Venian reminded his elder for what felt like the hundredth time. “And yes.” His lips curled into a thoughtful half smile. “She’s a wonderful woman.”
Mmhmm. Anyway, a shouting match to end them all ensues, ending with Venian threatening Uncle to never speak of Dirdre in ‘those terms’ again (use yer imagination and get nasty!). Soon after, Venian is sent on a super secret mission to a nearish city as an ambassador of sorts. More arguing between him and Uncle, who he blames of trying to keep he and Dirdre apart. Tearful goodbyes with said ground elf, accompanied with promises to return within two weeks.
Most of the week passes, but Dirdre’s too freaked to wait any longer. With a sense of doom, she heads out to check and see what happened to her lover.
A shadow moved through the city, darting through alleys and side streets, its destination a mansion in the noble’s district that harbored a dark reputation even in this city. Dirdre was traveling there for other reasons, though. It hadn’t taken her more than a few days to create a network of informants, spending only a few golds worth of copper on the street children that so often populated these predominantly human cities. The few whispers of a winged elf last placed him at a noble’s private dinner party several days ago. The clues were slim, but she was determined to mine them to the last. If all had been well, she should have received some word by now.
She easily breaks into the rich dude’s mansion, knocking out the few guards she encounters, with the exception of the last, a tough old bird that manages to wound her. Easy job.... Too easy?
Dirdre paced slowly through the building, uneasy with more than the silence in the previously noisy house. Something... felt wrong. Her unease grew as she passed trophy after gory trophy of hunting, bones, furs, and other equally disturbing remnants of creatures.
In the Dining Room/Great Hall, she finds a hideous collection of dead animal heads tacked up everywhere. Disgusted, she almost misses the newest addition and apparent pride of the collection: virtually crucified to the far wall is Venian, limbs immobilized and wings painfully outstretched as if swooping down for a landing. She gets him down and drags him outside, where the magical stasis keeping him unconscious wears off and Dirdre’s wound finally catches up with her. He collapses and begs her to kill him. Dirdre of course protests, babbling about magical healing, but he is determined; his wings have been badly broken to be placed in their current position. Not only will he never fly again, but he will be in constant pain the rest of his life. He’s been too badly beaten to survive returning home. He again asks for death.
“Venian... I-I can’t. I love you!” She repeated it as if the statement was a charm to hold him to life.
“If you have any love for me, then end my pain!”
A bare whisper, part moan of agony. “Please.”
Tears blurring her vision, Dirdre leaned forward to gently kiss Venian, even as she drew a dagger and slipped it between his ribs and into his heart. As she drew away, she could swear she heard his voice, faintly like a death rattle, “Love you.” But she knew that her strike was as quick and painless as possible. He was dead even as her dagger left his body.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. She took a deep, shaky breath, then stalked back towards the house. As silent and nearly as invisible as a shadow, the elf glided up the stairs and through the hallways. She stopped at a set of ornate, gilded doors displaying the gory end of a hunt, a stag being torn to pieces by hounds dominating the scene.
Totally pissed and out of her mind, she violently and messily kills the nobleman Delson. Satisfied with her revenge, she returns to the lawn and Venian. As she prepares to carry the body off, she gets the unpleasant surprise of someone sneaking up on her and putting a blade to her back.
“Make another move and you’ll be joining your victim,” a sexless voice hissed in her ear, a blade pressed against the wound in her side. “Understand?”
One wrong move. That’s all you’ll get. Dirdre nodded.
“Good. Now stand up and move away – slowly! – from the elf.”
Reluctantly, she obeyed, inwardly seething and promising death to the blade’s owner.
“Rath, check him,” the same voice barked, and the figure of a burly elf swiftly moved to take Dirdre’s place. He sighed and sat back after placing a hand at Venian’s throat.
“Dead,” he pronounced bleakly.
The leader abruptly shoved her, adding a kick to the back of her knees for good measure, sending the grieving elf to the ground. Dirdre glared defiantly up – no, at – the halfling holding the sword to her throat. “You bitch, do you have any idea what you’ve done?” the halfling snarled.
“Yes,” Dirdre growled back. Gods damn you, yes. More than you’ll ever know.
Two more figures appeared from the darkness to approach the halfling. The figure turned slightly, sword still creasing Dirdre’s jerkin.
“That was fast,” the halfling commented.
The taller arrival shook its head. “All the doors were open. We weren’t the first ones here.”
The other figure turned away, while the speaker swallowed noisily. “Dead. Very dead. Someone.... Someone decided to tack body parts to the walls. He... he was probably alive when they finally took his head.”
The leader turned its attention back to Dirdre. “You...?” it asked incredulously.
She raised her chin, daring them to kill her, give her peace. “Aye,” she snarled thickly, “and that bastard son of a bitch deserved far worse than I could ever give him!”
The sword blade retreated slightly, as the owner apparently decided to reconsider its threats. She didn’t care; this was her chance.
Dirdre rolled towards the halfling, slamming into its legs and sending it to the ground. She jumped to her feet and pulled out two daggers. One was instantly in the ground near the burly elf at Venian’s side even as another blade appeared in her hand to replace it. “Step away from him!” she growled. “You might live to see morning.”
The elf slowly raised his hands and moved away. The pair of shadows raised their hands as well, keeping their place. When they were all together, Dirdre sheathed one of the daggers.
Dirdre tries to carry Venian off, but the Watch finally realizes something’s up and interrupts. In the ensuing battle, she gets badly wounded (again) and falls unconscious.
When she wakes up, she’s in the care of the Black Razors, a local thieves guild of mostly non-humans. Being the depressive and guilt ridden character that she is, Dirdre tries to refuse healing and care, but The Boss, the halfling she encountered earlier, manages to convince Dirdre to join the Razors as the new Second.
She does go back to Laurel Aerie briefly to return Venian’s body and have an almost reconciliation with Branca, but soon retreats to the business of running the Razors, up until Revelations.
Let me out of here!!!! A.K.A. Home
I actually wanna go back. To see more bloopers.
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