Saturday, March 10, 2018

Dealing with Death

He could only presume that the elf had chosen this particular location for the entire purpose of insulting him. Nestled just a stone's throw away from Lakeshire, the small abode was just close enough to be easily visible by its human denizens. Inhabitants who had just happened to have dealt with a massive invasion of orcs a number of years prior. And who would likely celebrate the chance to take the fight to another orc, even if they were alone. Especially an undead orc. That was like hitting two Horde-shaped birds with one stone. Which disregarded the fact that he was neither aligned with the Horde, or the undead. Not that the humans cared.

Nor, far as he could tell, did the humans seem to mind the small abode. Likely because they did not know its owner. Made even more likely by just how bland the entire design of the place was. A basic human hovel, with a white fence surrounding it, and a small garden to be worked off to its eastern side. One or two windows, both dark enough to not allow anyone to actually peer inside, gave the appearance of normality. Suggested that whoever resided there could be bothered to peek outside and consider the world around them.

Breaching the threshold of the fence, he turned his attention to the garden, where someone was tending to the flowers. They were wearing a white floral dress, pieces of which had accumulated dirt. Their bonnet was tied tight to their head, concealing their face from him. Upon hearing his footsteps, they ceased their tasks, sitting up straighter, trawl still in hand.

A short grunt escaped him, as he considered playing along with the entire idea. The elf would have loved that. His pretending, playing the role. Pretending to be the curious traveler to allow her little puppets to recite their practiced lines. He would do nothing of the sort.

"I have come to speak to your mistress," he said gruffly, walking closer to the gardener, "Lead me to her at once."

The figure slowly rose from the ground, turning to face him. He let out a short snort when he glimpsed at the girl's face. At some point he was certain that she had been considered beautiful. The talk of whatever meaningless village she may have been originated from. A prize to be sought by whatever man felt so compelled as to attempt to win her. Now, beyond the shadow of her bonnet, he could see that she was far less.

Her hair was a sickly green, with every strand of it sticking to her flesh. Her mottled and melted flesh created any number of grisly cavities that allowed a fine view to the insides of her skull. The only thing that could keep him from focusing on all of that was the blue glare of her eyes covering her flesh in their unnatural light. Her lips twisted into an increasingly amused smirk, pulling back to reveal what few teeth she had left, and a dark chuckle escaped her in a method that was far beyond the natural means of speaking.

"The mistress always said that you would be nothing but a barrel of laughs."

He frowned at the comment, not only at the meaning behind it, but the disturbing gurgle that the voice that delivered it spoke with. Narrowing his eyes, he repeated himself, "I have come to speak to your mistress. Lead me to her at once."

Another gurgling noise escaped her. Laughter, in its most twisted form. Were he not able to see the smile on her face, he would almost have assumed she was choking, or drowning. Carelessly dropping the trowel, she nodded, motioning for him to follow, "Of course, of course. Do come inside."

Sighing, he followed her into the faux-home, its short wooden steps crunching under the orc's weight. The place's interior was just as bland as he expected. Enough so that someone could be guided in and almost believe that someone actually lived there. Almost. There were a few chairs. A bookcase, with a few tomes gathering dust. Cabinets, and a counter, both with food fresh enough to still be considered edible. A small cot shoved into one corner. Yet all he could consider in the entirety of the small space was which one of the many items was hiding her.

Be it glamour or contraption, he knew her ways. And the little acolyte proved that that knowledge was still just as accurate now as it had been years ago. She pulled a rug out from the center of the room, lifting the trap door that it hid. A classic, a stereotype even, he mused. But effective, all the same. Waving him down, he began his slow descent of the stairs below the door, glancing over his shoulder to make sure that she was going to follow. Which she did, but not before pulling the door shut, and tugging on a string to pull the rug back over it.

She shuffled past him, motioning for him to follow deeper. When the tunnel finally widened out to a series of rooms, the elf's touch was even more obvious. They wandered past rows upon rows of tables, each one filled to the brim with vials and beakers and any number of other pieces of lab equipment he didn't even know the name of. A few select spaces were left to store the elf's 'patients'. The remainder of the space was filled with perhaps a baker's dozen other individuals, each one looking just as degraded as the one who was guiding him. Further in the space for experiment turned into space for storage. Boxes and shelves filled to the brim with any number of materials. Herbs, more vials of various liquids, corpse pieces. Anything that might be needed, crammed into the tightest spaces imaginable.

The elf was at the furthest end of the room, sitting behind a desk, casually observing his approach. Just as he expected. He presumed that if he bothered to check, every other eye in the room would have been on him as well. Her hands were laid flat against the desk, covering up what looked to be a journal. Behind her, the white figure of some lesser val'kyr. The elf looked over her shoulder for a moment, before turning back to him with some amusement.

When he and his guide were in front of the desk, the latter gave the elf a short bow. Appeased, the elf gave her a short shooing gesture, and the girl turned on her heel and left. She took a longer moment to be amused with his sudden appearance, before her face grew more serious. Another flick of her fingers, this time in reference to the val'kyr, prompted the ghostly figure to leave as well. Another passing glance was given to the creature as it passed by him. But it wasn't long before he was looking back at the elf. He took another step closer, leaving only a few inches between himself and the desk.

"Should I presume that this," she said, pausing to consider her words, "Appearance. Means what I think it means?"

He nodded, "It does."

Her fingers drummed against the desk as she nodded, "And here I thought that nothing would push you over the edge." A horrible smile was creeping onto her face, slowly but surely, "Have you already spoken to Vic?"

He nodded again, "I have."

With that, she sprung up from her chair, making her way around the table to address him more directly, "Then we had best get our little preparations underway, then. So many things to do, so many things to organize." His grim expression was enough to cause her smile to widen, showing teeth that this point, "And here I was hoping you would have dropped this grim little facade by now."

"You'll forgive me if I find the matter serious," he said blandly, "For this was a day I hoped would never come."

She chuckled at that, shaking her head, "I see that one of us had far less faith in the living than others."

"It's more than the living that we need to worry about."

Her face stiffened at that, and she leaned somewhat to the side to glance beyond him, voice growing hushed, "I'm aware, and it has been planned for. We'll begin field research in the interim. When shall we all meet?"

"A week from now, as to have had a fair amount of time to prepare. We start larger scale planning then."

The smile returned at that, and she nodded in agreement, "It'll be just like old times."

The orc stared at the elf for a long moment, before turning to walk away. His fist clinched at the thought, but no other phrase seemed appropriate. Yes, the elf was right. It was just like old times. And would likely be just as awful.

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