Sunday, January 29, 2017

Ghosts (Part 11)

This was no simple matter of faith. Regardless of what any of these 'rebels' wanted to believe, her skill should never be attributed purely to 'faith'. She was no lucky individual. Her survival was not a matter of the cards turning in proper succession, through sheer chance. 

Instead it was a matter of careful preparation. Of scouting, and of subtlety. When they had landed, she had taken her time to examine the Hutt's little 'palace' from afar. Potential entry points were decided upon, and the guard patrols were prioritized. Those that could be avoided, those that could be overtaken. All of it was a puzzle to be solved, and her mind continued to process the possibilities even as she crept through the night.

After she knew her mark's domain, she retreated to the ship, and ordered everyone else to disembark. Once they had left, she took to marking off the remainder of her tasks. The first matter was the making of a strong concoction. A recipe passed on by her mother, it was a quick mixture of herbs, crushed gently. But there was more to its creation. It needed to be worked upon by the spirits, which required the use of various magicks to call upon them. This was the longest dedicated amount of her time, as the ritual was intended to have multiple participants. A long chant later, and her potion was prepared. 

Tucking that into her belt, she left the ship for a second time, and returned back to a rooftop adjacent to the Hutt's palace. She neglected to acknowledge the disparaging looks of her 'crewmates' she passed as they moved back up the ship's ramp, muttering to themselves about the smell.

To them she was some native. Someone who lived in the woods, with little education. But in this particular matter, she was an expert. If anything, this was what she had been raised to do. The wars long ago had left her sisters' predecessors as a fearsome set of assassins, and such traits had carried forth. Now it was time to show such. 

Taking a knee on the edge of the room, she produced the potion, tipping her head back to down it in one quick gulp. Soon after she disappeared, invisible to any happenstance onlooker. She drew her black and red hood upward. Taking in a breath, she closed her eyes, centering. This was her moment. The time to take the stage. To strike at her foe from the shadows. They had numbers. But she had skills, and the will of the spirits.

With a strong press of her right leg, she flung herself from the air, arms spreading out to guide her to the distant ledge that was the roof of the palace. Turning forward in midair she struck the ledge with her back, rolling forward and coming to a stop on her feet. Her stance fell low as she crept towards a door inside. She bobbed and weaved through the patrols she had seen outside, giving them a wide breadth where able, and drawing into the shadows when they were too close to keep such a distance. 

Inside she was operating more blindly, but there were enough clues about for her to determine her direction. The position of the guard, the way they moved, where they moved from. All of it gave her a better idea of where the Hutt was. Once she had determined that they were all circling one large chamber, she found her way to the second floor, determining that there was small balcony from which to work from there. 

Much to her surprise, the Hutt's chamber was filled with life. Life of all kinds, all shaking and moving. The floor itself felt alive as the masses below shifted along to some terrible beat, swaying in dance, or stumbling due to being intoxicated. Bright neon lights filled the room, flashing on and off in such a way as to make one ill. 

From where she stood on the balcony, identifying the Hutt was no challenge. The slug sat in a corner of the room, on a raised platform, looking over their domain with an amused smile on their face. Every now and then whoever was in charge of the music would make an announcement about the Hutt's generosity, which would prompt the audience to turn and cheer. After which they swiftly returned to ignoring the slug. 

She had to wait some fifteen minutes for this to happen again, but once it had, she took her time to strike. Maneuvering over a short outcropping of the wall, she inched closer to the slug, until it was directly under her. Taking in a breath, she drew the blade she had been given, and dropped straight down. 

The Hutt's head turned toward the noise of her landing, but she didn't give it time to react. Before it could twist its large body around she had jabbed the knife straight in its back. She could feel the guards at the edge of the room turn and begin charging towards the Hutt, who conveniently hid her presence with its girth. Taking in another breath, she began chanting. At first it was just for the Hutt's pleasure, who without even seeing her began screaming of the Imperial worm that was stabbing her. Once his guards drew close enough, they two were going to start seeing an Imperial. In fact they were going to start seeing two of them. 

In their minds they resided in a room in which two Imperial assassins had just struck at the Hutt. They now leaped forward, dashing across the room and making for the doors. She paused, waiting for the sound of the guards leaving before she struck the Hutt again and again, twisting the knife with each strike, until the thing ceased moving. 

Once she could feel the potion's effects taking effect once more, she crawled over the body, and began making for the door for real. She was forced to push her way through the crowd, but they all seemed too stunned to notice the invisible presence among them. Out in the hall she discarded the blade in a potted plant. It was sloppy. But it was supposed to be. 

With that, her task was done. Departing via the roof, she made her way back over to the building she had started on, before continuing off into the night.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Ghosts (Part 10)

He had visited Hoth. Hell, he had been forced to sleep outside on Hoth. On top of that, he had spent years with his ex-wife. Neither of those situations, the coldest he could think of, could be built up to the dead look he was getting from the witch on his ship. 

Giving Grell a glance got him nothing more than a shrug in response. She knew something about this. He knew she knew something about this. But that smug look on her face implied that she was going to let him walk into this minefield alone, and enjoy watching him explode. Absolutely nothing about that was a surprise. Grell was easily one of the most vindictive women he had ever known, and she never passed up on an opportunity to watch him trip.

Some of that might have been his fault. Not that he was ever going to admit that.

"Is there an issue, recruit?" he turned back to the pale woman, whose yellow eyes narrowed on him. When she didn't respond, he prodded at her again, "Because if there is, we should solve it before we go through the briefing."

Gwynara turned, staring at Nadia for a moment. That smug look on her face only grew, and he had the sudden urge to thump her upside the head. An urge that he suppressed. Barely. The other woman eventually spoke, in an almost offended tone, still looking at Nadia rather than him, "You allow the maleling to make your plans?"

His eyes widened and he instinctively clinched his fists. Behind him a few of the other troops they were bringing along for security purposes snickered to themselves. Nadia couldn't have looked more pleased if she tried. She reached over, gently patting the woman on the arm, as though speaking to a child, and gently cooed, "He's in charge of the operation, dear."

She turned, considering the man for a moment. Before nodding slowly, "How quaint." 

Nadia looked to the man, "In her culture, men are generally considered slaves, unless they have saved the life of those above them, Andrews."

Grell had had to have known. He knew she had known. And he had been given no warning of that, and she hadn't bothered to have updated the recruit. Taking in a breath to try and make his blood boil less, he looked to the pale woman again, "We will land in approximately seven hours. You will make your way alone to a Hutt's palace." It was the most he could do. Just ignore what had just been said, and do the brief.

The witch nodded slowly, "And I shall slay the Imperials there."

He blinked, shaking his head, "No." Her eyes narrowed again, and he held up a hand to prevent her from protesting, "You will be killing a Hutt."

Gwynara frowned, shaking her head, "I am not here to slay pathetic slugs."

Andrews shook his head in turn. Pacing to a corner of the room, he took out a box, before walking back and placing it on the table in front of Gwynara. Opening it, he stepped back, allowing her to take in its contents. It held an intricate blade, which held the insignia of the Empire, carved into it and backed by a deep red, "You will kill the Hutt with this. And then sloppily discard it upon your exit."

Staring into the box, the witch reached forward to pluck the knife from its resting place. She ran her hand along the steel gently, as though if she touched the blade for too long or too closely her hand would suddenly catch flame. He could practically see the little gears in her head turning as she processed the idea. Eventually she looked up at him, a hungry look on her face, "And the Imperials shall suffer the blame."

He nodded, "And they lose any sort of deal out here. It hurts them more than just killing one of them would."

Gwynara stared up at him, expression changing to one of extreme certainty, "Then the slug shall die."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Ghosts (Part 9)

Not once in his entire life had he been somewhere so repulsive. So repugnant. In so many ways he was surprised that the walls were not oozing slime. Since they were not, he could only begin to guess where the stains on the floor had come from.

With all their colors, shapes, and sizes though, he was doing his best to keep away from whatever his imagination cooked up on the matter. Lest he be dared into dreaming up some terrible scenario that he would be forced to live through eternally through his nightmares. So terrible and numerous were the stains that he had been forced to give up on the hope of avoiding them through careful steps. Instead, he would be forced to requisition a new pair of boots once this was all said and done.

Which he would be able to afford. Stars, after this he should be able to afford anything he wanted. Save for a few things that would remain out of his reach. This wouldn't earn him an audience with the Emperor or his pet, but it should earn him a few lunches with his more direct superiors. Should he be so lucky, within a few months perhaps he could be dining with Moffs, all in the hopes of bettering his own career by having bettered their's.

Such was the potential rewards one could hope to reap when taking up tasks that meant dealing with devils. Accordingly, he had taken up the burden of making a deal with a Hutt, to better the Empire's trading and supply along the Outer Rim. Which had kept him away from more comfortable assignments for months now.

Months, all of which had been spent trying to appeal to an oversized slug whose laugh was obnoxious, and whose anger was summoned over the most petty things. So much time had he dedicated to amusing and appealing to the monster that he wasn't sure he would ever be able to escape its reach. Yet in more recent days a light had appeared at the end of the tunnel. Within the next few days, after much convincing, they were to sign over a number of rights to the region, all so that the Hutt could feel a bit safer and a bit richer.

All told, the Empire would benefit the most. Their network of communications and supply lines in this particular section of the Rim was set to grow exponentially, while all the Hutt was set to receive was a promise of protection. A term which had been easy to negotiate, once rumor of an individual with a lust for blood skulking started working its way through the grapevine.

The sooner such things were signed and finished, the better. He had grown tired of residing in the Hutt's home, which was equally as filthy as his hall. Worse still, it was filled to the brim with some of the most deplorable characters he had ever had the displeasure to inhabit space with. Any assortment of killers, whores, black market dealers, and any other kind of shady character had passed through the large drinking hall to deal with the Hutt. When such individuals weren't wasting time he could have spent dealing, he was still forced to sit close to a crowd of drunks that filtered in and out. At times he had even had to go and meet some of them, including handshakes and backslaps, all so that the Hutt could preen over his 'regulars'.

As though the Hutt needed to prove to Gideon that its businesses were successful. Gideon already knew that, as he told the Hutt any time he brought up the subject. Of course they knew his businesses were successful. If they weren't successful, then the Empire wouldn't be here. They would be bothering with slugs that were worth the trouble. Yet the Hutt, with a never ending supply of ego issues, was ever needing to point out such things.

Which made things odd, whenever the Hutt tried to make hints to Gideon about potential gift ideas. And oh what ideas they had been. Throughout his time here, Gideon had delivered gifts worth no less than seven individuals' yearly paychecks. Twi'lek dancers, imported in straight from Ryloth. One of which was a lethan of all things. A rare breed of red twi'lek, the Hutt had certainly been impressed by the notion. Not that he had ceased to ask for things after receiving that prize. No, after that he had requested his favorite pet, who had recently died, be immortalized by a prized taxidermist. His men complained for weeks about how the stench of the dead creature had worked its way into the walls of their ship as they transported it halfway across the galaxy to be stuffed. No amount of cleaning had ever taken the smell out to this day, and Gideon could only assume the ship would be melted down for resources rather than used again after this mission.

So for the song and dance to finally be ending was perhaps the greatest relief he had ever known. To the point where he was waiting for anything that could to wrong to do so.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Ghosts (Part 8)

Assignments had been given out that morning. Just as she had expected, Nadia had fallen back under the command of the two men she had joined in retrieving the witch. There was no surprise to be found in the matter, considering that it had likely been recommended from the top. She had convinced the witch to come aboard their little operation. Why shouldn't she continue being strapped to her, in some terrible attempt at keeping her on a leash?

Yet despite their time tables being firmly set, she hadn't seen the witch for nearly an hour. Given that they were due to depart in the next few hours, and that there was still much prepping to be done, that didn't really bode well for their schedule. Under her breath, Nadia cursed out whoever had decided to put that Dathomirian on the clock. The woman probably had little concept of such matters outside of the sunrise or the sunset.

Having covered the entire interior, she had been forced outside, to search through a forest full of trees. She had almost given up and returned, before passing by some clearing and noticing a fire. Stepping carefully over stones and climbing up on a small ledge, drawing closer to the flicker of its flame, she found herself stepping into a clearing.

The witch had piled up enough sticks and branches to make herself a small pyre, and was meditating in front of it, arms raised upward. Nadia couldn't help but allow her mouth to drop open somewhat as she watched. Regardless of whatever rumors had floated around, she had hardly considered the woman some sort of 'witch'. In all but perhaps a nickname. Sure, she was 'the witch' when being discussed, but that was hardly to be taken literally.

This seemed to indicate otherwise. Head tilted towards the sky, eyes rolled backward, the woman's arms seemed to sway with the breeze. Her mouth moved in what Nadia first thought was silence, until a quiet chant hit her ears. Whatever tongue it was in was beyond Nadia's knowledge, but she could only assume it was something Dathomirian in origin.

She stood there, watching for a long time, perfectly dumbstruck. After something like twenty minutes Gwynara's arms dropped and her head and body fell limp as she slumped forward. Holding her breath, Nadia slowly approached the woman, every motion tense. Once she had drawn close enough to be an arm's length away, the witch appeared to gain some sense of sturdiness, turning her head to stare at Nadia.

Biting her tongue, Nadia stared down at the woman for another long period of time. Once she had determined that there wasn't much of a simple way she could think of to breach this matter, she opted for the more direct approach in her words, "What exactly are you doing?"

As expected, she received that long, hard stare she had come to know from the woman. It seemed to be her natural way of looking at people, somewhere between disgust and curiosity. Apparently the latter of those two feelings won out in their little competition, though, as the woman spoke. It was in a surprisingly quiet, almost shy tone, but she spoke.

"I am communing with the spirits."

Nadia blinked, turning to look at the pyre, "Oh." It was the first thing the spring to mind at such an idea.

"It is a good way to build courage before we strike in battle." Gwynara stared up at her, expecting her to agree with the notion. Nadia allowed her head to bob. Returning the nod, Gwynara inched somewhat to the left, motioning to the space she had just opened up. With great hesitation, Nadia took it.

"Are we ah," she caught herself, trying to not talk before she thought herself through what she wanted to say, "Are we seeking to communicate with anyone in particular?"

A dark look passed the woman's face, "I always attempt to speak to my mother. She was a brave warrior. Her blessing is one that I treasure carrying into battle." She paused, frowning, "Is there anyone you would wish to commune with?"

Nadia stared at the woman, unsure of whether to consider her as mad as one could possibly be, or simply misguided in beliefs. Either way, she felt that the wrong response to that question would leave her filled with regret. "I knew a man once, who was a strong soldier," she finally said, with nothing short of hesitation.

The pale woman nodded, motioning for Nadia to follow her motions. While Gwynara closed her eyes, Nadia's remained open. Out of politeness, she followed through the various movements of the arms, but did not even try to follow along with the woman's rapid chanting. Nadia's gut clenched as she saw the woman's eyes roll deep back in her head, shifting rapidly as though looking at something she could never even hope to see. Once her chant had ended, she fell limp again, eyes falling forward.

Again Nadia wasn't sure if the woman was actually alright. She brought a hand forward to prod her, and after a few tries the woman did stir. The look she gave Nadia was one of disappointment. As she shook her head, she quietly murmured "I do not believe I could contact the spirit you may have sought. Perhaps they have not joined the rest."

A terrible feeling fell over Nadia, as she watched the woman stand and put out her fire with a simple wave of her hand. Though she followed the witch back to the base to resume their preparations, she couldn't escape that feeling. It followed her in from the forest and clung to her, like rain after a storm.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Ghosts (Part 7)

There was a pattern of occurrences, Nadia had noticed. No one seemed to like their newest rebel. Though 'like' wasn't the best word for it. More, people wanted to avoid her like a bad plague.

When it came time to assign her a bunk in the barracks, they had hit a rather large bump. Any time someone found out she was to be assigned to the bunk over or under them, they quickly filed a formal complain by means of shouting at the officer in charge of assignments. Said officer would then give the woman being assigned the bunk, with her dead stare, and decide that perhaps the complaint held some merit.

Such a process was repeated for several hours into the night. It wasn't until after midnight when they had finally established where the woman would be sleeping. Which was amusing to Nadia, given that she was certain that if they let her the woman would simply sleep outside on the ground. The conclusion they had finally had to settle on was that the woman who bunked under Nadia would relocate, and that the newcomer could take her place. When Nadia gave no complaints, there were a number of whispers about her sanity. At least three people stopped her to make sure she hadn't been "charmed by the witch" as though such things were actually possible. Even after she had assured them that she was certainly under the sway of no woman, she was allowed to move on, only to be stopped further down the hall.

Once she had settled, the night still seemed to drag on. Below her, the Dathomirian never seemed to find her place, tossing and turning, this way and that. By the time she did nod off of to sleep, such a state seemed to bring terrible, labored breaths, as though the entire process had sent the woman from a panicked state into some terrible nightmare.

The next morning had met a similar experience in a different part of the routine. Convincing the woman to take a shower wasn't as hard as Nadia thought it was going to be. Given how long it looked since the woman had bathed, she wondered if things mattered in her culture. But nothing really needed explained, though she had only been given a scoff upon showing the different washes they had access to.

Breakfast was met with a rather large amount of caution, both from those familiar with the activity, and those who weren't. Gwynara looked at their meal as though it were potentially poisoned, and those around her looked at her as though she were potentially poisonous. After that a training session was met with more reasonable results. A few people were willing to meet their little "witch" in combat, and a similar number were overpowered via a mixture of stealth and a staff. Some of the more seasoned combatants were able to secure a victory during a spar, but not without some effort.

The second meal of the day found fewer people treating the newcomer as they would a sickly animal, with a few of the soldiers in the canteen attempting to socialize, only to be rebuked. Or rather, ignored. Nadia sat across the room, scrawling notes with amusement. Any man who approached Gwynara was promptly ignored, just as she expected. As her research had found, Dathomir and its societies firmly placed the women on top. Men were rarely treated as more than slaves, unless they managed to save the life of a woman, at which point they might be considered an equal. So the men being ignored was to be expected. Though any woman who attempted to converse with the Dathomirian wasn't much more successful, getting only a set of grunts.

By the end of the day, Nadia was under the impression that perhaps their newest member wasn't entirely set against the idea of being near people. That, or she was attempting to appear agreeable before she went and slit their throats one by one. At the very least, she wasn't actively hostile to them, which meant they likely had a decent asset on their hands.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Ghosts (Part 6)

Given enough time, Maria Hayworth had been told she could convince anyone of anything. She just had that sort of personality. It was a useful skill to have, when one happened to be in charge of people. Her natural talent for conversion had allowed her sway enough people to have established a small foothold for the Rebellion in this sector of the Outer Rim, and had kept defections low and AWOL soldiers to a minimum.

At other times it had helped her convince people that what they were doing was worth it in the end. Such things needed to be done, especially when people were bound to question their orders. Few people liked to be the type of person who had to do what was best for the Rebellion most of the time. Because few people realized that what was best for the Rebellion wasn't what their moral code told them.

The stories spread about the Rebellion were obviously meant to give them the appearance of a number of white knights among a growing darkness. A champion of the people, for the people. It was a propaganda piece, often enough. Not to say they weren't trying to achieve such goals, and that they weren't fighting for the people. Just that no one was likely to join if they knew coming in that sometimes allies of the Rebellion had to die, if it meant that the rest of them could go on as usual.

What that meant was that she had to be able to appeal to enough types of people so that they would join, and afterwards be able to convince them that some of their more questionable orders were for the greater good. Most could be convinced that killing Imperials was alright, given their hatred for them. Things like having to set up explosions in public places with a risk for collateral damage, was harder to pull off.

All of that said, sitting down in a room with what essentially amounted to an overeager assassin wasn't exactly something she was used to. Trained killers, sure. Hired guns, oh yes. Both of those the Rebellion had probably contacted at one point or another. But someone who had a decent sized track record of Imperial deaths already, without having been hired or inspired by them, was not something she was necessarily used to. Considering the look she was getting from said individual, her guest wasn't used to the idea either.

She sat rigidly in the seat they had found for her, staring off at the door to the room they had left her in. Her hands fidgeted with each other. Her lips were moving as though muttering to herself. Watching from the observation window, Maria couldn't help but be on edge as she finally convinced herself to enter the room. Not that she showed it. If she showed that she was on edge, that would mean her guest was a step up on her in the conversation. No one was ever a step up on her in a conversation.

The moment she stepped into the room, Maria knew that she was never going to be out from under those yellow eyes until she departed. In all her life, she had never met someone with eyes like that that she felt like she could trust. They were cold, detached from everything else. Usually they belonged to the type of person who was never bothered by the dead. Any more, she worried that she had a similar set in her own head.

Taking a seat opposite the woman, Maria leaned back in her chair, smiling casually. Were she to be completely honest, she had no idea how to approach someone such as this. In many ways, she felt worlds apart from the woman. Whens he had read Grell's profile on her people, that gap only seemed wider.

From what she had been told, the woman was a child of somewhere called Dathomir. Tales of the planet always involved stories of magic and spells, witches living in bogs, and any number of ills befalling those who happened to cross them. How much of it she actually believed, she couldn't say. She wasn't partial to stories of the Force, either. So for the most part, she tossed the witches of Dathomir into the same category. People who had managed to fool a number of people into believing they possessed power beyond that of normal individuals. Far as she could tell, the woman before her was just that. A woman. She was not some magical being, nor was she a witch, regardless of whether or not she had grown up in a bog.

"Was the flight over to your liking?" she finally decided to say. There were few other ways she could see starting this conversation. So it might as well be in a manner that was friendly.

The pale woman barely seemed to make note of her words. She stared into her, almost through her, as though she could see something more than flesh and clothes. So long was her silence, that Maria wasn't entirely certain that she had even understood what had been said. Surely the woman spoke Basic? Something like five minutes had passed before she leaned forward, stating with a guarded tone, "You are this coven's Mother?"

Maria blinked, grinning at the comment. Never in her life had she thought she might be described as such. She didn't think she ever would again. "Not exactly how I'd describe it," she said calmly, taking the comment in stride, "But I guess that's close enough. I'm in charge around here, wouldn't exactly call us a 'coven' though."

"And what do you want of me," the pale woman said in hissing voice. She was not going to sit here and wait for Maria to get around to an explanation.

Taking her turn to pause, Maria considered the question. Bringing her hands together, Maria took her time picking her words, "We understand that you are skilled when it comes to attacking the Imperials." The word 'Imperials' seemed to be enough to get a rise out of the woman, but Maria tried paying it no mind, "But we feel it might be best to explain the consequences of your actions."

"The consequence of my actions are dead Imperials," the woman said flatly, "I wish for no more, and no less."

"Except that your dead Imperials have a rather negative impact on everyone else," Maria said flatly. It was enough to finally catch the woman's attention. "Do you know what happens when you kill so many Imperials in one place? Do you think that the people there are suddenly free?"

Those yellow eyes narrowed at her, and the woman's scarred lips fell into a frown. Good. Now Maria had plenty of doubt to work on.

"What happens," she continued, "Is that Imperials move into those areas in larger forces. The people are even further oppressed. So we tend to seek to remove their footholds in other manners."

"Then what would you have me do," it was the second time she said such. Maria didn't really want to know how annoyed she might sound if she had to say it a third time.

"We want you to lend us your skill set. We can put it to use in more useful manners. Instead of hitting large targets, hit small targets that will allow more impact. Help us cut off supply lines, not small outposts."

The long pause between them felt less uneasy. Maria felt as though her guest was doing less thinking on how to potentially kill her and escape the room, and more serious considering of her offer. She laughed to herself internally. Convincing a so called witch to join the Rebellion. Now all she needed to do was convince a Jedi and she would have hit almost all of the high marks in the 'mythical creatures' category. Though based on rumors she had heard, some pilot was apparently close to a Jedi. So she might have missed that opportunity.

"Very well," the woman finally said, falling back in her chair and staring at her.

Maria lit up like a light, "Oh how nice it is to hear that. Welcome aboard, my friend. Now, first we'll have to show you around. Get you introduced to some people. Find you some proper place to sleep." She stood, making for the door, waiting for the woman to follow.

She did eventually follow. Maria could practically feel her slowly rise behind her, like the killer in a bad horror vid.

"Whatever you say, Mother Maria," the woman's low voice muttered.

A chill ran down her spine. Turning to look at the woman would have fed her. She just knew that it would. In the way that she spoke, Maria could just picture some terrible smirk on her face. Something about the way she spoke implied amusement. Amusement at the fact that she knew her name.

They hadn't really made introductions. She hadn't given her name, and she hadn't asked for the woman's. At some point she had probably seen it. Grell had probably included it on the file she had sent, but she couldn't recall it. Of course, it was possible that the woman knew her name in the same manner. Grell could have told her.

But something in the back of her head told her that wasn't the case.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ghosts (Part 5)

A quick check of her watch gave her the impression that, give or take a few minutes, their potential contact was going to be late. Letting out a sigh, she considered their options given the possibility that the individual had managed to slip off-world on some other craft. If such was the case, then they were going to have to wait once more, until they were presented with the opportunity to force a meeting with them again.

At that point, they would have to repeat everything they had done up to this point, again. For what would have been the fourth time. Suffice to say, the last thing she wanted to do was have to travel to yet another rundown planet that was struggling with an Imperial presence, and work through all of the motions again. Waiting for their target to finish their mission, which would be a small travesty in its own right. Planting enough obvious evidence that they were going to be a vessel that would be visiting a planet that would be to their target's preference, without completely laying out their intentions. Then setting up a trap to actually catch them, so that they wouldn't be attacked and potentially killed for even trying to speak with them.

Such was the problem when working with natives. Such people could be exceedingly crafty. In fact their simpler ways often meant that they could survive on much less than a civilized individual, or so she had found. Give an Imperial soldier nothing more than a pile of sticks and they may manage to secure weaponry and a bit of shelter. A native could likely make them go further, just because that was what they were used to working with.

A chuckle escaped her lips, prompting her companions to give her a worried look. She dismissed their expressions with an idle hand, before the hand shot to her lips as she chuckled again. There was just something about the thought that amused her. It wasn't so much the thought itself, but how she knew that somehow she was being terribly stereotypical. Perhaps insultingly so.

All the same, she was not going to underestimate their mark's savagery. The three of them had seen the results of her work, and they were not going to take any chances, lest they find a similar fate. So a fair share of research had been done, and their trap had been laid. She was actually quite proud of it, both in its simplicity and slight ingenuity. Another half hour passed before she got to truly appreciate her work though. It was at that point that their guest finally decided to join them.

Their first clue was that the audio sensors they had laid out near the entrance to the hangar had started transmitting a signal. They had been set to pick up smaller noises, which up until this moment had been a few oversized rats. Rats that were caught by the camera they had set nearby to make sure they could identify the source of any noise. At present, said cameras were showing nothing, which meant that they had an invisible individual in their midst.

Despite the sudden intruder, they remained were they were prior to their guest's arrival. Seated outside their ship, basking in the glow of the overhead lights, shooting the breeze. Nothing they did, as she had carefully instructed, could imply that they were aware of the interloper's presence. To say she felt tense with the whole idea was an understatement. It took all her effort to not appear as rigid as possible, especially once she actually picked up on the fact that someone was indeed slinking around. It was being out in the ocean, with a large predator slowly circling. Once they had managed to circle their way through the crew's little camp, they worked their way towards the ship.

Where they were immediately met with a stun mine. The device wasn't activated until she was certain that their mark was working her way up the ramp, at which point she received a massive shock. Falling limp, for the second time in two days as far as they were aware the woman then rolled down the ramp, where they quickly placed a set of cuffs around both her hands and ankles. Having gone over the security footage from the nearby outpost, they were certainly not going to take any chances of her getting loose.

She was almost impressed with how easy the entire process had actually turned out to be. Perhaps what surprised her the most was that the woman seemed to assume that it was impossible for them to have known she was there.

Now it became a matter of waiting for the pale woman to wake up. She had one of her cohorts set her up in one of their chairs, while she moved one to sit across from their guest. Crossing her leg, she waited patiently. It took a number of minutes for movement to start again in the guest's limbs. But soon enough she did in fact regain consciousness. In a way that was relieving. She certainly wouldn't want to have to return and tell of how they had accidentally killed their target by shocking her a bit too much.

The way the pale woman squirmed was not surprising. At first it was a matter of surprise. She was caught off-guard that she was suddenly bound. After that, it was a matter of testing her boundaries within her confinement. Then a quick surveying of the area. Finished off with a deathly stare at her captor.

She could only imagine what the pale woman thought of her. She certainly knew what she thought of herself. Going simply based off of her appearance and mannerisms, she was an Imperial through and through. The tilt of her head, the straightness of her back, the accent in her voice, all of it was Imperial. Her attire betrayed that somewhat. Even though her long blonde hair was tied into a braid in a rather official fashion, the rest of her clothes were less impressive. She had long ago traded her uniform in for something far less professional. A dirty old jacket and a set of shirt and pants that she wore almost every day of the week. Oh the sacrifices she had made.

Once it became obvious that her guest, or prisoner really, wasn't going to speak, she took the opportunity to do so. Bringing a hand to her chest, she offered the pale woman her best smile, "You will have to forgive us for the somewhat extreme methods. We simply wished to speak to you in regards to your current activities. My name is Nadia Grell. Would you please introduce yourself to all of us?"

A burning hatred was present in the pale woman's yellow eyes. Set off seemingly by the sound of her captor's voice. Nadia sighed, shaking her head, making to try to explain herself further, but the pale woman started muttering something before she could manage it.

Nadia simply smiled, shaking her head. With a snap of her fingers, one of the men on the woman's right moved in, slapping a piece of tape over the woman's scarred lips. Nadia allowed herself another small chuckle, "I knew I had forgotten something." Sighing with some satisfaction, she uncrossed her legs, leaning forward, "You will have to forgive me, my dear, as I made sure to do my homework. No incantations for you, I'm afraid."

The pale woman's eyes went wide once Nadia had uttered the word 'incantation'. Nadia gave a short nod, continuing her point, "My dear Dathomirian witch, much as my voice may imply, I am not an agent of the Empire. Instead, I come on behalf of a group whose goals are more aligned with your own." A short pause. Enough to allow the woman to consider the possibility, but not enough time for her to think too much on it. "The Rebel Alliance extends its fondest greetings. We would like to express our utmost interest in your activities, with the possibility of joining us to better improve your method."

A dull look hit the woman's eyes as she appeared to process all of Nadia's words. Nadia gave her time to process it all, before opting to speak again, "Now if you agree to discuss some possibilities with us in more civil tones that won't cause us to go made with your 'illusions', I would love to have my associate remove that tape." Once again, a moment of consideration, before a sharp nod. Raising a hand, Nadia motioned for one of the men to take the tape from the woman's lip, and they followed suit, keeping it close by in the chance they should need to reapply it.

Spitting to get the taste of adhesive from her lips, the pale woman looked to her once more. It was with great hesitance that she spoke. When she did so, it was with a voice as cold as her expression, "What does your 'Alliance' wish to do to me?"

Nadia shook her head, "Now now, can't we be properly introduced first?"

If looks could kill, Nadia was certain that she would have exploded on the spot. With nothing short of acid in her voice, the other woman hissed out, "Gwynara. Of the Nightsisters. What does your Alliance wish to do to me."

Apparently satisfied, Nadia nodded, "We wish to offer you a place among our ranks. We believe that your methods, while a bit rough, would be beneficial to our cause of striking the Empire down. If you would agree, we would like you to meet our leadership at our base of operations in the area, and hear their proposal. Should you find our offer undesirable, then we shall go our separate ways."

"My methods," Gwynara said, letting the two words sit out in the air for the other woman to play with in her mind.

"Yes," Nadia said, "While we can see their effectiveness, we feel it best that you understand that perhaps they may not be the best method of attack." Before the pale would could respond, she brought a finger up, "You attack Imperial bases, and strike them down. That is respectable. But you do not necessarily help the people. What do you believe happens when you leave?" The question hung between them, those yellow eyes growing dark as the answer appeared to strike her. "The Imperials return, in harder force, and the people feel such."

"Then what do you propose."

"We feel you would best be used with a bit more precision. Accordingly, we believe we have an assignment that where you would be useful."

With great reluctance, the Dathomirian allowed her head to nod somewhat, before her chin fell to her chest to allow herself to stare at the floor. In a silent tone, one so low that Nadia was worried she was just going to start chanting again, she muttered "I shall hear this proposal."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Ghosts (Part 4)

He allowed himself to nod with approval the moment the mug touched his hands. His assistant gave a small bow, before turning to return to their prior position. It was going to be satisfying, and he knew it.  Warm to the touch, but not so hot as to have just been poured from the pot. Bringing the mug up to his nose, he took in a deep breath, savoring the smell. Caf, made from Mantellian beans, after they had been perfectly processed. Poured after being cooled for a short amount of time, and with a quick splash of Corellian whiskey. Truly, one of the few things that allowed him to stay sane while being forced to skim the Rim.

A comfy seat helped, and he had managed to swing that as well. Though on nights such as tonight, the plush nature of his care was almost a detriment. It threatened to swallow him into sleep if he leaned back and closed his eyes for too long. Something he could never afford. A mistake so terrible that it would be a high cost to pay. 

His superiors were certain of one thing, and that was that laziness was not something to be taken lightly. Another officer he was aware of had fallen asleep for a single minute. One long minute of not being conscious. That one minute had cost him his rank, his home, and earned him thirteen years in prison, with the chance of parole being about as good as the Emperor marrying a Twi'lek. 

Tonight especially, just as the week before, was not a night to fall asleep on the job. The entire outpost was on a rather covert version of high alert. For days now, the night shift had meant keeping a tight watch, without appearing to be actively seeking their quarry. 

The order for such had come down from a link on the chain of command at least three or four people above him. The type of person who had to make sure that the activities in this sector of the Rim were orderly, but never once had to dirty their own boots by checking in. Because they had people to do that for them. Specifically, the order had come down that they were on the look out for a particular individual. A terrorist, who had been going on a string of serial killings.

Finally bringing the mug to his lips, he allowed himself a sip of the golden nectar in his hands. It sat in his mouth for a long time, until he had savored the taste. A sigh escaped him as he leaned back somewhat, staring at the surrounding monitors. They were to keep a keen eye out for any sudden disappearances, or a woman in white. Neither seemed too hard to notice, if he was being frank. It helped that they had upped security for just such an occasion. 

New soldiers had been sent out, enough to swell their ranks to exactly twenty-seven. He had asked for no more, and wanted no less. It was the perfect number to keep an eye on every room of the small outpost over the course of two shifts. Enough for every room to have two individuals, six individuals, not counting himself, to watch the perimeter from their glass communications center. One for each cardinal direction. Those assigned to rooms were to rotate, so that when one went missing, the rest would know. 

"Current reports staying consistent with normal parameters," came one of his lookouts. 

He gave an accepting nod, bringing the mug to his lips, savoring the sip just as before. Such had been the case since their switch to this system. So numerous were these normal reports, that he was becoming more and more certain that this ghostly woman was nothing more than a story some locals had made up to cover for their rebellious friends. Had it not been for a few security tapes that had made the rounds, the entire notion would be silly.

"Sir," the person in charge of the northwest said, swiveling in her chair, "Movement."

Turning his chair, he sat up, leaning forward, elbow going to his knee. At first it was a small blur, but yes, in the distance he could make out a shape. It was not, in fact, a woman in a white cloak, but rather a woman in a black leather get up. She was standing, head concealed partially by a hood, along one of the long, tower-like corners of the outpost. Her head was tilted forward, and he could only assume that she was trying to stare at them in some menacing fashion.

"Move patrols, tell them to fire at will," he said calmly, flicking his hand in a gesture of dismissal. 

Before the Northwest Watcher could respond, another voice rose up, from directly behind him. He turned his chair, frowning down at the man in charge of the southwest, "Movement here as well, sir."

The officer's jaw fell slightly agape as he stared off into the southwest. Standing on that corner of their little garrison was the same woman. Shape, stance, attire. It was all the same. Twisting to look over his shoulder, he noticed that the first figure had yet to move. More noise rose in the room, but before anyone could give their report he had already turned to note, that there were in fact two more identical figures, posted in between the other two. The northwest, southwest, southeast, and northeast were all now occupied.

Having not apparently confused them enough, the four figures began a slow synchronized pacing, making their way around the upper walls of the garrison. Then, just as suddenly as they appeared, one by one they evaporated, fading out just as a fine mist would.

His breathing slowed. Resting back in his chair, he set aside the mug, steepling his fingers. "Recall the guards. Prepare ambush, make sure to keep in contact with each set of guards."

A short murmur of understanding filled the room as each watcher turned their attention from the windows, to their terminal. Each one had been assigned a set of guards, and now they were to recall them to the communication tower. They were to set up in anticipation of their guest, lest they all be caught unawares alone. 

It didn't take long for the closest sets of guards to filter in, setting up in their positions, surrounding the stairs, rifles at the ready. Yet others gave no response, as confirmed by their assigned watcher. Accordingly, they were immediately presumed dead. Once all of the guards that considered alive, having made their way up the stairs to their central location, he gave the order to go on high alert. 

"Now," he said slowly, with the most authoritative voice he could manage, "We wait."

Any sense of comfort in the room was gone. Their days of peace were over. Now the enemy was at their gates, and they were prepared. He took in a breath, held it, then released it. There was nothing they could do, was wait. And wait they did.

Such waiting paid off, just as he hoped it would. A noise eventually started filling the room. Quiet as it was, the silence of the room made it more obvious than it would be otherwise. Steps, slowly making their way up the metal stairs. The guards went on alert. Their shoulders stiffened in anticipation. By the time the steps were close enough to have been at the top, there were a few mutters. Talks of the obvious issue. No one stood at the top of the steps.

One of his fingers shot up, and with a short nod, a guard stationed just to the right of the stairs fired a bolt off at the top step itself. He slowly stood, adjusting his collar before bringing his hand down to draw the stun blaster from his belt. Overhead he heard the noise of their would-be attacker leaping from the spot she had been standing at. With completely calm composure, his hand followed the sound of her soaring through the air, and let off a quick squeeze of the trigger once it was obvious that she had hit the floor.

Before she could leap or dodge the shot, the blast made contact with her. As she faded back into existence, twitching from what appeared to be a hit to her shoulder, he motioned for the guard to pick her up from the ground. Two guards scooped her up from the ground, one having a tight hold on her right arm and shoulder, the second grabbing her left arm and pulling her hood back, taking a hold of what little white hair was present on her head. 

Once she had regained control of herself, the woman struggled, before practically falling limp. Save for her head, which remained in a firm upright position, she allowed the rest of herself to be held without opposition. A tuft of her white bangs that had managed to escape the guard's hand had fallen over her right eye, but the left one made her current thoughts rather clear. The yellow, bloodshot thing stared into him with the utmost amount of hatred a creature was capable of. Similarly, her lips, surrounded as they were by scarred white and purple skin, were twisted into an expression of complete disgust. 

"Let me guess," he said coolly, striding up to her, "You, my dear, are the 'Ghost of Nemara'?" She just stared at him. He half expected her to spit on him, but she did no such thing. With an amused grin, he allowed himself to laugh, "Well you certainly look like you're among the living to me. Flesh, bone, and all." Once again, she didn't respond, simply trying to bore holes into his skull with her mind. She wasn't successful. Turning his back to her, he took a moment to compose himself. The woman would need to be read the accusations against her, as well as be detained. The former likely didn't matter, since she might not even speak Basic. The latter, would be the true challenge.

Turning again, he opened his mouth to speak, but she beat him to it. At first, she spoke slowly, in a low voice he couldn't hear. Yet at the same time, he heard it perfectly. He blinked, stumbling in his steps as her voice rose. The words were foreign, some guttural tongue of tribal natives to some backwater world. But they didn't just hit his ears. He heard them in his mind, yet they didn't just translate like some electric signal from his brain, they were stuck there, rebounding eternally. 

A dizziness took him, and his hand reached out for a nearby console so that he could steady himself. Turning, he saw the others in the room doing similar. At one point the nausea that filled him was so terrible that he was forced to lean against the rock that he was already using for support.

No. He blinked, attempting to steady his mind. To regain his grasp on his surroundings. It was a terminal, a console he had leaned against. Hadn't it been? Blinking he stared down at the rock he was now touching. Heart raising, he looked up, hoping to be met by the familiar window, which would allow him to see a familiar desert landscape. But there was only jungle. Such as it should be. He was stationed on a world filled with jungle, wasn't he? 

The thought was wrong. He knew it was wrong. Everything about it was wrong. But it was the truth. He knew it to be the truth. He believed it to be the truth. Turning, he blinked. There was no woman. Should there have been a woman? Had there ever been a woman among all of this thick foliage? Rubbing his eyes again, he stumbled backwards against the jungle floor. There was no woman. But there was a horde of hairy white beasts, all looking at each other like they were preparing to strike.

All of the things, toothy maws opened as though prepared to begin devouring each other, looked between each other. Before one of them had the opportunity to strike, a blaster bolt shot out from somewhere over his shoulder. In a mere moment the entire section of trees erupted into chaos as the creatures began assaulting each other, screams of pain echoing through the open air. Crawling behind another rock, he panted heavily, not daring to look out, lest one of the things attack him. His hands found his eyes, covering them in the hopes that whatever horrors were going on, he could not be party to.

Then the noise stopped. Soon enough, there was the hum of terminals. The beeping of various devices going off. With great hesitance, he pulled his hands from his face, finding himself back in that familiar communication center. He felt ill. As though his skull was going to split open. He had been elsewhere just a moment ago. except he hadn't. Because he had never left this room. It was the truth. He knew it to be the truth. 

The woman was standing over him, having readjusted her hood to its rightful place over her head. The staff that had been slung across her back was now in her hands, the tip pointed directly at him. His lips moved to make some sort of noise. To beg. He wanted to beg for his life, to do something, but all he could do was sputter and gasp. 

"Please," he finally managed to spit out, "Please don't kill me."

Her head tilted to the side, as though to consider the request. She didn't consider it for long. Moments after he had begged for his life, she reared the staff back to take it. He brought his hands up to try to protect his head. It was for not. There was a distinct cracking noise as the metal struck him square in his forehead. He slumped off to his right, face meeting the ground. 

A gurgling noise escaped his lips as he tried begging one last time. Trying to form words in the hopes that he could sway this woman. This hateful woman. Through the vague blackness that was his vision, he saw her boots move. She was standing over him. With great effort, he managed to roll over onto his back, just in time to see that staff's tip being brought down towards his head. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ghosts (Part 3)

Three nights of waiting had produced nothing. Nothing but people asking where she had been. With each passing day they were buying her 'I'm just not feeling well' excuse less and less. Which meant that if nothing happened tonight, she was going to have to abandon the whole experiment, lest she get reported and picked up by some Imperial patrol. If that were to happen, she likely was going to spend the rest of her days out in a spot like this.

That is, a rather abandoned spot of the desert, that was a solid kilometer from town. Sat next to a rather large rock, she had built herself a small fire, and was now waiting for the fourth night in a row. Waiting, in the middle of the desert, with a sack of canned food. Canned food being the best that she could come up with in terms of an 'offering'. Why she had decided to dedicate so much time to an urban legend, even she wasn't entirely sure.

When she began to doubt the possibility, she ran over the entire tale again in her head. Once it was fresh in her mind, it was hard to not jump at every gust of wind, lest they be a vengeful spirit who had come to answer her call. At one point she had caught a glimpse of some white sheet flying off into the setting sun, but the next day had revealed it to be something that had escaped from someone's clothesline.

After an hour or two, her head was leaned back against the rock, staring up at the dark night sky. Clouds must have passed overhead as the sun set, as she could see neither stars nor moons. Just an empty black abyss. Like staring into a mine shaft. Another hour passed and she found herself in that realm between consciousness and sleep. Tossing and turning by her lonesome. Or at least, she had been alone.

The slightest shift of the sands, and light tinkling of cans was enough to bring her back to waking. Blinking and rubbing her eyes, at first she still considered herself alone. Once she determined that she had not in fact dreamed up the noises, she was forced to deal with the possibility that someone or something had crept out here and was now raiding through her potential offering.

Standing, she paced around the area. A frown found its way onto her face as she found nothing in the general vicinity of her little camp. Not on the rock, not near the rock, not off in the distance. She paced about the rock, not finding anything there either. It was once she circled back around the rock was when she finally found her quarry.

There, hovering near the fire, was a figure, clad in black. Black cloth covered her body, as opposed to the foretold white, and it was more pulled to her flesh, like something between a tunic or armor. It was not, as she had expected, some flowing robe or cloak. Stretched across her back was a long staff, of a silvery metal that had been polished to a shine. Most of her head was covered in a black hood of the same material, attached to the back of her coat, which framed her pale face into something she could only describe as menacing.

It was the face that made her ran cold. That pale, motionless face. A splotch of white against a black background, which had a pair of distant yellow eyes set within it. Small gray marks, scars as best as she could tell, marked her face here and there. Vague purple lines were layered into her skin, giving the impression that she was staring at a painting more than she was staring at a person. Not that she believed entirely that she was staring at a person.

To keep with her ominous appearance, the figure's arm rose in one slow, fluid motion, her fingers twisting to beckon Iroe forward. With an audible gulp, Iroe did as instructed, stopping in front of the fire. A shorter distance made her feel even less safe now than she had before, not least because now the rock was at her back.

"You called," the woman finally said, after they had stood there in silence. Her voice was a flat, cold tone. She spoke as though stating fact, without any room for question.

Taking in a breath, Iroe nodded slowly. With shaking hands, she bent down, picking up the sack full of cans and awkwardly holding it out, "I did."

Those yellow eyes stared down at the bag for a moment, before the head they were attached to gave a short nod. A pale hand motioned for the bag to be set down again, and that same cold tone spoke, though there might have been an edge of sympathy to it, "You wish the Imperials on your world punished."

Again she stated it as fact. A fact that Iroe certainly couldn't deny. While she had heard of far worse stories of Imperial occupation of worlds, that didn't mean she wanted the damned things to stay on her own world. "I do," she managed to say, steadying her voice, "I want them gone."

The figure gave another nod, closing her eyes to consider Iroe's words. After enough contemplation, she opened her eyes, "Return to your town. Leave your offering. Do not think of this encounter again." With that, she turned, making off past Iroe, until she was out of sight beyond the rock.

Seconds past, long enough for her to gain the courage to move from the spot she had been directed to. When she did, Iroe slowly peered around the rock, looking out into the night, finding only the lights of the settlement in the distance. Her stomach churned, wondering what exactly such a bargain she had just bought her way into.

Ghosts (Part 2)

The Golden Vein was easily the finest cantina on all of Veros. Its management made such a claim with no sense of uncertainty. They didn't need to. Because the Golden Vein was the only cantina on all of Veros.

There was a dark humor to the claim, one that ran through the rest of the settlement. The general store made a similar statement, as it had no competition. Elsewhere such things as the spaceport or the mine itself housed equally dark claims, if not worse. The former had 'We're surprised you didn't leave sooner' resting above its entrance, while the latter's motto was shamelessly, 'Off the deep end'. Most had taken the mine's motto a bit personally. Especially since it came a few months after a terrible accident flooded a number of caverns.

Those born on world were accustomed to it, and thus were an off-putting presence for visitors. Their dry senses of humor, and morbid sensibilities weren't exactly a tourist magnet. Anyone who happened to make their way to Veros were there for one reason. Minerals.

A boom decades prior had brought people from all across the galaxy, with people arriving and leaving as soon as they hit their respective gold mine. After they had enough to live off of for the rest of their lives, they left. Mostly because there was no way they were going to stick around to be near the people. As a result, there were more abandoned mine shafts around the lone settlement than there were people living there, each and everyone of them left after having been cleared out. In more recent years, people had stopped coming, though it wasn't because there wasn't anything left to find. It was because of the Empire.

As soon as they stepped in, setting up in the more abandoned areas of town, people stopped coming. When the people stopped coming, it became far more appealing for most people to take up the Imperial offer of coming to work for them, in the mines. The pay wasn't great, but for the people who had made their lives on Veros, they didn't have any particular option. Sure, a few people who could saddled up and left. The rest had to deal with their new way of living.

For most, that meant dealing with long hours, poor conditions, and then drinking away any memory of it. The management of the Golden Vein weren't exactly complaining, even if they weren't entirely pleased with the situation. Between the soldiers and the citizens, business was booming in a way they couldn't have even hoped for. And tonight was no different.

Tonight, just like any other night, the main room of the bar was lined with people. Even with the settlement's meager population, it had had its fair share of drunks about town. A dire lack of any other alternative had lead plenty of others to the bottle. In a way, it was a community within a community, complete with neighborhoods.

Most of the remaining business owners were stationed in the back corner, having claimed a few booths. Along the walls were the day shifters, just coming in. They filled up most of the tables as well, and a bit of the bar space. The rest of the bar space was filled up with third shifters, who were waiting to relieve their second shifter brethren. Staff mingled among them, waiters and waitresses speeding here and there to keep everyone as satisfied as possible. Elsewhere, in a newer addition to the building, there was a similar set of Imperial soldiers. It hadn't taken long for people to learn that it was best for everyone to drink on their own, so the Golden Vein had gotten a bit of an upgrade.

It also meant that people were free to sit and complain as they pleased. The possibility of some Imperial surveillance device didn't escape anyone. But so long as they weren't plotting some act of terrorism, no one seemed to care. Even open threats hadn't earned anyone more than a slap on the wrist. Truly, the line seemed to stop firmly at 'actively plotting to blow something up', as one set of would-be rebels found out the hard way.

Stationed behind the bar, in the prime position to survey the entire scene, was a rather large, yellow Twi'lek. His head tails reaching well down his back, he stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the room, and was wide enough to fill a doorway. As he was fond of telling anyone who happened to be new to town, his name was Uro'bek, but most people in the area simply shortened it to 'Bek'. Not that he had had anyone new to tell that to for some time.

At present, everything was calm enough that he could take to scrubbing a few glasses clean. Priming them for when their time of need would arrive. A moment of calm, before a storm of orders hit him. Surveying his domain, he made note of who was likely to require something first. Nelson in the corner was running low. Bernard off in the back hadn't gotten a refill in something like twenty minutes. And the business booth was bound to need a top off at any moment.

The sound of swinging doors caught his attention. Turning, he brought up a large hand, still clutching his cleaning cloth, to greet the newcomer. Iroe, a miner's daughter, who had turned out to be a miner of her own. Her skin was pale as marble, but the girl's hair was as blonde as though she spent her every waking moment in the sun. She had gotten that particular feature from her mother. On top of that, she had inherited her mother's attitude, as well. That is to say, a rather snide one.

Bek didn't even hesitate to fill up a glass, knowing full well what the woman would order before she even opened her mouth to the waitress. Her pa had ordered it for years here, and had managed to get her hooked on the stuff. Not that neither her pa or her ma were around to appreciate such rough results to their upbringing. Life expectancy had never been high out here, and they hadn't been the ones to escape the statistics.

One of the waitresses came by, quickly taking the mug with a silent nod of gratitude, which he returned. After the exchanging of gestures, she swiftly returned to the table, where Iroe gave a similar nod of appreciation. Turning, she lifted the mug to Bek, before turning back to her companions to start chugging from the thing.

Rush soon fell after, only to be followed by another lull. Another rush came after that, followed by a lull, and the cycle repeated itself for hours, until the third shifters left, only to be replaced by the second shifters. Soon after, most of the day crew was gone, to catch a bit of shut eye before they were due to clock in. Not long after, the only people left were a few seconds who didn't want to go home, and Iroe's little group.

The bartender was taking a moment of short respite. He only had an hour or two left before he could kick them out, and go home to sleep for a few hours. Then it was going to just be a repeat of the current day, and almost every one before that. Sleep, wake up, putter around, work, repeat. Closing his eyes, he allowed himself to eavesdrop on the conversation in the room. Though eavesdrop probably wasn't the best word. It wasn't like people were trying to be private at the moment.

"Hear what happened a few parsecs over?" someone was saying. One of the men at Iroe's table. Tall, with dark skin. He knew the voice, and the face, even if he didn't know the gent's name to heart.

"Nah," Iroe said, even managing to add a slight slur to a single word, "Wha happened?"

"Ghost a kriffin' Nemara happened," another man muttered. A red, bushy mustache to his face, and an old blue beanie on his head. Richard. Bek opened his eyes, resting more on the bar to get a better look at the conversation. The second shifters still sitting at the bar had turned by this point to listen as well.

"The hell's 'at?" came another slurred sentence from Iroe, who was lazily leaned against the table. She was squinting at Richard, waiting for some story to go with the random turn of phrase.

Richard happily obliged. "Imp outpos' got hit," he said, his words not so much slurred as filtered through an accent, "Bunch'a folks dead, nuttin' there to say who did it." Iroe just grinned at him, apparently amused with what she could only assume was a tall tale. "Happened a few other places too. Same thing, Imp post gets hit, anybody who sees anything says jus' a lady in white seen there. An' not no regular lookin' lady neither. Ghost."

Iroe rolled her eyes, "Tha's tha' stupiesht thing I've ever heard."

The taller man nodded, "Heard the same stories."

A drunken laugh managed to escape Iroe, "Okay, an' wha' the hell's a 'Nemara'?"

"Planet," one of the second shifters added. The trio blinked, looking to him, before the two men nodded, "Planet a few systems off."

"Got hit by Imps, everybody considered dead. 'Cludin' a woman know to hang around in white," Richard added, looking back to Iroe.

She let out a snort, "Sho what yer sayin' is that some ghost a some dead lady's goin' around killin' a bunch-a Imps?"

"Aye," added the second shifter, "An' they say you can get 'er to come, with the right kinda offerin'."

Iroe's eyes lit up as the prospect bounced around in her brain, "Can get some ghost lady to come kill yer Imps? Where the hell do I sign up?"

"Have to leave a sign, and an offering outside of town," the tall man said again, "Least that's how the story goes. Can take a few nights."

"Then you can find 'er?" Iroe said, taking mental notes of that.

"She'll find you," Richard said, a bit of faux darkness in his voice. After a moment of silence between them, he let out a laugh, which was quickly followed by the others joining in.

Bek let out a short sigh of relief, moving to find a glass to clean. The remaining people talked among themselves for a time, but the topic never strayed to something so heretical as the conversation prior. Nothing that could potentially get some of them killed, that is to say. Eventually they all began filing out, one by one, with Iroe being the last of the tree. As she made her way out of the bar, he frowned, turning his head as he heard her mutter to himself.

She had stopped, slumped against the doorframe to regain her footing. Once she had done so, she continued making for the outside, stumbling somewhat. Even still, he could hear her mutter to herself "I can probably manage an offering."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Ghosts (Part 1)

Patrolling a dusty planet along the Outer Rim had become too familiar to him. Given how many tours he had done out here, that should have been a surprise to absolutely no one. Last time he had bothered to check, he was on the eighth or ninth tour, all within a span of two or three years. Three or four months out on the rim, followed by a month or two back in the Core Worlds, and then shipped back out.

After so many trips, things mostly just blended together. One dirty planet, filled with a bunch of shady aliens was just as bad as the others. He didn't bother picking up too much of the lingo of a place, considering he was going to leave a few weeks after he got it all memorized. Most of the time he didn't even bother memorizing too many names. Outside of whoever he was bunking with, as well as his COs, there wasn't much reason to try and remember each and every face, when they were going to be scattered across the galaxy in a few months. So to him, most of the outpost's residents were nothing more than a few numbers. In a few weeks time, he would leave. A few weeks after that, he would return to the Rim, to a planet with a different name, and be surrounded by different numbers.

Tonight's assignment put him on one of the guard towers. Situated at the front of the outpost, that meant he and one other lucky gent got a grand view of the pale red mountains in the distance, set against a setting yellow sun. He did have to admit that it was a pretty nice view. Someone should put it on a poster or something. Actually, someone probably had. It was probably in a gift shop in the settlement up the road, and extremely overpriced.

Across the gap between his tower and the other, he saw his counterpart leaning against the railing. It was hard to tell behind the white helmet, but he could only assume that they were just as bored as he was. Turning back to stare off in the distance, he squinted, peering at some distant hill. He could have swore something had passed in front of the setting sun, but from here he couldn't tell what. Probably some animal, running on home before it got dark. Things around here were deadly after dusk, when the predators came out of their caves.

Nothing else moved, far as he could see. In front of him, that was. Behind him he could hear the constant movement of patrols making their way around. Not that they were going to really find anything. Far as he had seen, Rebel activity out here was low. A few locals who had managed to get a collection of firearms. They were easy to put down.

A short burst of static hit his ears as his comm came to life. Tapping his helmet until it stopped buzzing, he let out a bored response, "NB-345 reporting, please repeat."

"You're off," was the simple reply, from whoever was working the switchboard tonight, "BR's replacing you. Meet at bottom of the ladder and switch duties as usual."

"Roger," he muttered, turning and slowly making his way down the ladder. Looking to his right, he saw his counterpart doing the same.

At the bottom of the ladder he slid his ID card through the appropriate scanner, and stood there, waiting. He continued waiting for what felt like ten minutes. After that long, he gave his helmet another tap, "Central, this Tower-L. Was due off ten minutes ago, replacement has not arrived."

The voice on the other end was the same he had heard earlier, implying that they weren't done with their shift, yet. Their annoyed tone implied that they were just as annoyed with that as he was, "Working on replacing. Can't find BR." There was a muffled yell in the background. Something about running down the replacement list. A few faint beeps later and he got another response, "Sending out NL-434. Give them a few minutes."

"Roger," he said once more, with even less enthusiasm.

Again, he waited. And again, no one came. He frowned, though the gesture was hidden by his helmet. Leaning forward, he looked to see if the other guard tower had been left hanging for this long. No one was standing at the bottom of it, so he could only assume that wasn't the case. Sighing, he allowed to let his rifle hang by the strap that ran over his shoulders, bringing his hand to his helmet once more.

"Central, Tower-L. No replacement, approaching half an hour unmanned."

A pause. Static. No response.

"Central," he said, turning and twisting again to stare up at the other tower. By squinting he could just make out someone at the top, leaning against the railing. "This is Tower-L. Requesting response, seeking replacement."


Frowning, he worked his way around the small metal outcroppings that jutted out from the gate, finding his way over to the other tower. Craning his neck to see up to the top, he raised his voice, "Hey!"

Nothing. Not so much as a wave. The person at the top of the tower refused to even so much as move, remaining at their prior position, slouched against the railing. Annoyed, he circled around to the front of the tower, right under them, raising his voice to shout once more. Still no response. Bringing his foot up, he let it slam against the tower's metal base. The precarious metal structure bobbed for a bit, and the person at the top of it wiggled, falling off of the railing and crumpling against the floor.

No. That couldn't have been right. These things were flimsy, but if they were paying any sort of attention no one was going to get knocked over by it getting a shake. Whoever was at the top only moved closer and closer to the edge. At this point he could only assume one of two things. They were either unconscious, or dead.

Turning from the tower, he crept closer to the base and its barracks, right hand settling on the trigger of his rifle. The other hand went up to his head, trying to make contact with the operator once more, getting the same familiar static.

On the exterior, the barracks appeared normal. Once he had crossed the threshold of the door, which opened with a familiar hiss, any sense of familiarity faded. Against one side of the short hallway that lead into the barrack's living quarters were the bodies of a few troops, and on the other clear burn marks from where their shots had missed their assailant.

His breathing was uneven as he stepped over the bodies, not checking to see if they were alive or not. Stepping out into the living quarters, he let out a short sigh. At first it appeared almost normal. A few people were seated around a table, playing pazaak. He gulped upon approaching them and finding that they were actually slumped over the table, visible wounds on their back.

Something was off. When he took a knee to examine the floor, he could see clearly how someone had dragged them from elsewhere in the room, and purposely positioned them around the table. They had even dealt cards. A chill ran down his spine. The kind that made him think someone was staring at him.

Behind him came the sound of a door opening, though a quick turn didn't reveal much to him about the source of the noise. There wasn't one open, and there wasn't anyone around to open it. Anyone that was alive, or mobile, that is.

Stepping further into the barracks revealed similar scenes. Some hallways were littered with troops, their armor dented from where it had apparently been struck. A few of the bunk rooms had corpses in them too, laid out to look as though they were just going along their normal routines. Like someone setting up a morbid diorama.

The command center wasn't much different. A few bodies scattered here and there, while others sat slouched at their desks. By the way they were laid out, he could only assume that when whoever had done this had passed through here, they had made their way around the room, before entering the barracks. The thought bothered him. It meant that they had come out, the way he had come in. Or hadn't bothered leaving.

Finding the steps that lead up to the communications center, he found a similar scene. The large window that stretched across the front of the room, allowing viewing of the towers at the front of the outpost, was splotched red in a few places, with the place's small staff spread across their terminal. Passing through the desks, he frowned at someone still tweaking the dials at their station. He could only assume it was whoever he was speaking with prior, due to the small list they had pulled up on their screen.

It was a short list. For an outpost that had maybe fifteen or twenty people at most. His brain started sorting through a tally of sorts. There had been about five or so people in the barracks, maybe five downstairs, and five up here. He could only assume that the others were either spread out across the base, wandering around like he was, or already gotten hit, like whoever had been in the tower.

The tower.

Turning, he found the tower as before, narrowing his gaze to see whether or not the body was still there. It wasn't. That wasn't to say nothing was on the tower. There was certainly something standing on the tower. A figure cloaked in white, yellow eyes set deep inside pale skin, all framed by white hair. A familiar chill crept down his spine. The figure was in fact standing there. Except it almost seemed to not actually be there. Like a hologram that was in color, it seemed to flicker or fade, and he could see through it.

Something moved along the window, and it took him a moment to realize it was a reflection. He turned again, only to find the individual from the tower standing at the rear of the room. Except this one was obviously real. She had the same white hair, the same torn white cloak, save now there was a long staff in her hand. He drew his blaster to fire on the approaching woman, but with a flick of her wrist and a small mutter, the weapon was tugged from his hands.

The strap kept it in his reach, but there had been enough time for her to close the gap. Quickly deciding the best course of option was to not engage someone apparently tried for close-quarters, he broke into a sprint around the room, not daring look back to see if she was still tailing him. Passing back into the barracks, he took a quick turn into one of the bunk rooms. He quickly dove into the first spot he could think of to hide, under one of the beds.

Surprisingly, the first thing that crossed his mind wasn't how insane this entire scenario seemed. It was that he had just crammed himself under a bed, like a child. Not that there wasn't a reason he had done so. The bed has a decent elevation, so he was still able to fit under it, helmet and all. On top of that, he managed to move a few of the footlockers to conceal himself, though he still had to hope that none of the noise he made in the process of doing so drew in his attacker.

Long after the door had slid shut behind him, he heard the noise of someone approaching. One by one the other doors in the hall slid open and shut multiple times, as he could only assume someone entered and exited them. Eventually the door closest to him hissed open, and footsteps fell upon the shiny floor. Red boots marched across the room, stopping just out of his sight at the far wall. As they passed he could vaguely see the lowest part of the white shawl. After the woman let out another short, angry mutter, he saw her pass back across the room, the door being forced open.

He waited a few more minutes. To give himself more space between her and him. Once ample time had passed, he pushed the footlockers back to their original positions, crawling back out from under the bunk. Grunting from where his rifle had been pressed into his stomach, he stretched, readying himself to be attacked. It was with extreme caution that he approached the door. It slid open with the familiar noise, and he poked his head out, peering left and right until he was sure that the coast was clear.

Just as he was about to step back out into the hallway, he felt a pressure on his throat. A thin rod was being pressed against it, and he was being pulled back. He released his grip on his rifle as he tried to twist and turn to escape his attacker, but she made a quick kick at his foot, and his leg dropped out from under him.

As his head grew light, his hands flailed up in an attempt to hit her skull, but found no mark. His helmet turned, but not enough to look at her. Vision fading, he tried to keep some focus on his surroundings. The room, the noise of his choking. Anything that wasn't letting the darkness at the edge of his vision overtake him.

Behind him, he heard a short hiss, "You earned this."

There was one quick motion from the woman, a twisting of his head. And the blackness took him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Wilting Away (Part 3)

They were broken. In all of the wrong ways. This hands held the scratches of someone who constantly itched themselves. She was hungry. They were all hungry. Many of them were starving. All of them were broken. She knew it, knew it more than anything else. When she bothered to pay attention, she knew it. And when she didn't bother, it was still there, niggling at her head.

One of them slammed a fist onto the table to get her attention. She blinked, head turning to the thing as her breathing intensified. Was she panicking? Was now a proper time to panic? Why was she breathing to begin with. It was not necessary, especially since she was not speaking. The dead did not need air, nor did it need them. They did not need air to survive, and even when they breathed it in it would not be released in the proper form to feed the rest of the planet. They existed in apathy of the air. It despised them for it, she knew it.

It was the other one who had found her. The one who was standing firm and tall, her blue skin glistening so bright in her shining armor. Not the one with the scratched hands. This one had a tired look in her eyes. A look hidden beneath pounds of make-up. She didn't want to be here. None of them wanted to be here. But they were here, and they had nothing better to do, so they might as well all play whatever parts they were meant to play.

She wondered if one of them might consider switching roles.

Scratches approached her first, after Pounds took her time slamming her fist into the wooden table. It was a fine table. Old though. It hadn't aged well. So perhaps it should be considered to have been a fine table. At some point in time it had been a fine table, but it was a fine table no longer. It looked pale and sagging. The result of never seeing the outside world, likely since it had been tossed into this room eon ago.

"Would you like to explain your presence in our city, Outlander?" Scratches said. Her voice was hoarse in a way. It held the same scratches to it that her wrists did. She wasn't losing it, though. It sounded as though she had screamed her entire life. Perhaps she had.

Her head turned to consider the other elf. The blue elf to her deep shade of purple. The elf whose white hair stretched well past her shoulders, while her own green hair was pulled back. Or it had been tied back when she had come in. Maybe that had changed. Things could change so easily.

Scratches took her face in hand, jerking it to the side to force her to stare her in the eyes. She stared back, unblinking. She could see her glowing blue eyes reflect off of the elf's skin. She could see how much the elf was disturbed by her. The rotting shade of purple. To think, this may be the closest one of them had been to their kin, or at least kin from outside their city walls.

And their kin was rotting. They were rotting too. She saw it in them. They craved, like she did. They wanted, like she did. She knew they fed off of something else, but it was a hunger all the same. Something that would drive them mad. All of them were going to either die, or live long enough to go mad.

Pounds approached just as her colleague. She stared, bent over, looking her over. Tried to get her attention a few times to no avail. Once she realized it wasn't going to happen, she gave up. They left.

They left here there. To rot. But she knew something they didn't want to admit. They could lock her away, thinking it punishment. But she was barely here anyways.

Wilting Away (Part 2)

Returning to the forests of Val'sharah was easily one of the last things on his to-do list. Or rather, had been one of the last things on his to-do list until a few hours ago. All the same, standing there, looking down one of the roads that lead from Val'sharah into Suramar, he was very much recalling why he had marked the place off.

Having never been one for forests, the place didn't appeal to him to begin with. Forests were certainly not a terrible place, but being surrounded by trees, with numerous animals slinking about wasn't exactly his idea of a perfect spot. Add to that a whole sect of druids running around, and he didn't exactly feel at his most comfortable. Not that there was anything wrong with druids. He could generally find them agreeable, once they moved past believing that he was an abhorrent crime against nature itself. They were at least easier to get along with than people of the Light.

Perhaps he should have found comfort in the fact that they weren't going to be staying in Val'sharah long. Really they had stopped so he could try picking up a scent, of which there was almost none. From there they were going to make their way through Suramar, combing the land over until they found their errant knight. A task that was most assuredly going to be easier said than done. Having done his fair few laps around the area, he couldn't even begin to count all the various nooks and crannies that the elf they were searching for could have crawled into. That didn't even begin to take into account the idea that she could have made her way to the city. And if she happened to be prancing around Suramar City, then they were both in trouble.

Motioning Simmons on, they started making their way down the path, the greens of Val'sharah slowly giving way to the blues and browns of Suramar. Oh yes, Redamous couldn't help but think, if Elena had managed to find her way to Suramar City, they were most certainly screwed. Which made him think that, on principal, she had somehow found her way to Suramar City. Nothing was ever in the habit of going right, especially not with that elf.

She hadn't been right since Northrend, and he hadn't known her long enough to tell if she had been right before then either. Though to be fair, a number of people he associated with couldn't be considered 'right'. He himself probably couldn't even be considered 'right' by at least a few people's notions. Even if he liked to consider himself fairly normal. Normal, as far as undead hulking wolf creatures went, at least.

At points along the path where they caught signs of someone potentially breaking off the trail, they themselves would break off to search the nearby forests, almost always coming up with nothing. Here and there would be broken branches, or heavily stomped ground, but nothing ever lead them to the elf they sought. They did find plenty of other elves, be it Nightfallen in the area seeking out mana, various withered, or even elves from the Alliance or Horde who happened to be  in the area. The sane elves they asked for any potential clues in their hunt, only to be met with vague tales.

Things like mentions of a crazed elf heading south, muttering to herself. Only when they went south, whispers turned them back towards the east, where they found out that from there she had circled around to the north again. It had been half a day before they realized that they had been going in a circle, and only ended up back at Shal'aran, where the bulk of the Nightfallen were housed. At Simmons's request, they stopped inside to poke around, at which point they finally struck a lead.

One of the Nightfallen, apparently recently having fled the city, spoke in great detail about an elf matching Elena's description. Apparently a herbalist by trade, he had directed her after having stumbled across her.

"Oh yes," he told them, shaking his head as though apparently in some sense of disbelief that the encounter had ever occurred, "Yammered to herself the entire time. Speaking of local flora. Green haired elf, wild, blue eyes like yourself. Smelled faintly of rot and roses. I directed her to a particular spot near a bridge and a waterfall to the northeast of the city."

Redamous thought Simmons was prepared to hug the man. But he restrained himself, shook his hand, and they departed, setting off once more to draw closer to the city. The one place Red could almost feel Wiltmend had wandered into, and the last place they would have an easy time searching for her.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Wilting Away (Part 1)

A mixture of noises filled the second floor of Acherus. From the patter of feet, both small and large, against the stone, to the sound of hammer striking metal over the anvils, the floor was positively abuzz with life. Down in the pit was the sound of wood splintering as weapons were tested on dummies, or the occasional grunt of a live target as a demon that had been hauled in from the Isles was used instead. It reminded him constantly of how insect colonies were supposed to work.

Because in spite of all the motion, nothing ever seemed to stop. People were zipping this way and that, going here, there, and everywhere. But there were surprisingly few collisions. Sure every now and then a ghoul or geist would make a faulty turn and run straight into someone carrying a large stack of ore or paperwork, but in the last hour that had happened something like twice. All things considered, he believed that to be some sort of record.

What wasn't a record was how long everything seemed to take these days. Just to get a simple piece of armor made he felt he needed to submit the proper forms two to three weeks in advance. Such was the burden of the Blade being active again. The services of the Siegemaster were actually in demand now, a fact that he let slip no one's attention. Not that being in business again was enough to stop Corvus from complaining. Every single task was rife with bickering over the smallest of details, be it the amount of ore needed for smelting, to how long something should cool off.

Elsewhere the other various vendors that haunted these upper halls were just as busy. Making sure that the various members of the numerous legions of the damned were all outfitted with anything they may need on the field was no small task, and last he had heard just to keep them all stocked was a massive undertaking unto itself. One being carried out by numerous alchemists being assisted by double their number in geist. Which, far as he thought, was a recipe for Acherus to soon have a massive hole blown in the side of it.

Not that any complaint he filed was going to get listened to. The Blade was far past listening to most of its officers. Instead they were listening to some 'Deathlord' he had never met, and was unlikely to ever meet. On top of that, far as he'd heard, the new Lich King had entered the picture. Based on the reports he had read, especially in regards to recent happenings at Light's Hope Chapel, nothing from the past few months left him with any positive light on upper management at the moment. If anything, his opinion had hit an all time low, with little sign that it was going to spike back up any time soon.

Closer to the landing, people continued to enter and exit the floor, the teleporter getting more use than it must have had in years. People from the front coming in to recuperate or retrieve something they had left behind. Others seemed to have acquired new weapons, probably picked from the fallen corpses of demons, and were in the process of applying new runes to them to make them viable for combat. Soon as they were done, it was back to the teleporter, probably to find a gryphon back to the front.

Redamous had had plenty of time to observe all of this. Mostly because he had been waiting here for the past two hours, back leaned against the wall, arms crossed. Because despite of all his early planning, what he had requisitioned was still not ready. It wasn't that long ago that he had submitted the form, but by now everything should have been processed. Hell, it should have been processed last week. But no, his head was going to go unprotected for a little while longer while he waited for Corvus to finally get to his order. Because he had known that helmet was bound to get smashed in. That was just something that seemed to tend to happen with his head. So it had gotten crushed, he had come to finally pick up the replacement, except there was no replacement to pick up.

And now he waited. Standing there against the wall. Watching. Or at least he had been, until some rock managed to hit him square in the head. Blinking, he pushed himself from the wall, squinting about the busy floor, until another rock hit him square in the back of the head. Rubbing the now sore spot with a short grunt, the Worgen turned, squinting into a pile of crates. A hand shot out from behind one of them, beckoning him closer. With more than a little anger, the Worgen slowly approached the crates, only for the hand to shoot out from behind them once more, grabbing him by the collar of his armor and tugging him back behind as well.

Entirely prepared for some sort of conflict, the Worgen raised a fist, ready to strike, though he quickly dropped it. He blinked a few times to make sure that he was seeing things correctly. Far as he could tell, yes, he was. Before him stood a familiar man, one Jeremy Simmons. An old brother-in-arms from the unit he had been attached to during his time in Northrend. A unit that had happened upon a rather unfortunate end, due to unforeseen circumstances, from which there had proven to be three survivors. Simmons was one of them, he was another, and the third was one Elena Wiltmend. Elena being nowhere to be seen. Something told him that that was why Simmons happened to be staring him down with a desperate look in his eye.

"Red," was all the other man could seemingly produce word-wise, staring the Worgen down, gathering his thoughts.

"...Simmons," Red said flatly in reply, after a short pause. There wasn't much else he could think to say. He could ask where Elena was, but something told him he was going to get told anyway.

"She's gone," Simmons said, tone hollow. Redamous blinked, bringing a clawed hand up to motion him on, an eyebrow shooting up as though to say "And?" Simmons took in a breath, "She ran off while we were crossing through Val'sharah."

Even if the name didn't immediately stick out to him, it didn't take long for the place to come rushing back to his brain. He knew Val'sharah well enough, on account of having been stuck there near the start of the campaign. Which had involved far too much time spent walking through far too many marshes for his liking. It was a rather large area, but not necessarily one that couldn't be covered. Which meant something worse.

He nodded slowly, actually speaking to ask his question this time, rather than rely on facial gestures, "...And?"

Simmons took in a breath, blue eyes flicking this way and that in panic, "She ran into that Suramar place. Ran off with some elves or something. Haven't been able to find her since."

Red nodded slowly, considering that for a moment. After that moment had passed, he turned, and began walking straight past the crates. Simmons blinked, following along after him, "Where the hell are you going?"