Experienced Hands

In which I take Blizzard’s lore, crumple it up, hurl it out the window, and shrug my shoulders and say “a wizard did it”.

-=-=-=-

The cold snow pressed against her, reminding her that she wasn’t quite dead yet. She should have been, that last blow had nearly sheared her in half.

Frantic shouts, the grumble of siege engines, the crashing of sword and spell on shield, the sounds of battle surrounded her. A muffled voice was trying to speak to her, but her ears were still ringing… ringing…

“Just through here, sir. Your companion is waiting for you.” A muffled voice came through the door.

Ariel Proust hadn’t really expected him to show. It had been… well, she wasn’t entirely sure how long it had been. Years weren’t sufficient markers of the passage of time at her age.

She flicked her gaze away from the sprawling city of Dalaran to the door of her private suite. They had last met in Dalaran, thus she had chosen Dalaran for their last meeting. Not that he knew that yet.

The door whispered open. Fueled by arcane magics, the only sound it made was the quiet displacement of air. Stepping through the door, the high elf mage spotted her, his cold face warming and softening when it spotted hers…

No. Not quite. That was a long time ago. He wasn’t even a high elf anymore. His eyes betrayed what he’d become, what he’d dabbled in. The door hissed shut behind him.

Rising from her seat, Ariel spread her arms in greeting. “Ahh, Euripedes, how long has it been?”

Smiling faintly at her, Euripedes said, “It has been entirely too long, dearest Ariel. Much has changed, perhaps too much.”

Smiling in return, she added, “The nature of the world, that. Everything changes, usually for the worse.”

“Despite our best efforts.” Finished Euripedes.

“Well, that sorts out the code phrases.” Ariel returned to her seat. “I must admit I am glad to see you haven’t been replaced with a simulacrum or spy or demon possessed void avatar.”

“Glad to see me? You? Time really has changed us, hasn’t it?” Euripedes lowered himself into the only other chair in the open room. Both chairs faced an expansive balcony, a low, food laden table between them.

Ariel chuckled. “That was a long time ago. I’ve moved on, and I hear you have as well.”

“I have not so much moved on as I have carried on. My people are not like you humans. We don’t ‘let go’, as you say. Indeed, we fight to the death to carry out the very opposite.”

Ariel found herself unable to disagree with that. The fact that his eyes now radiated green instead of blue was proof enough of that particular sentiment. “You still love me then? Even after all these decades?”

“Always and forever.” He said quietly. “You know this.”

She sighed. “I suspected as much. How many have you been with since, say, the Sunwell was restored? A hundred? Two?”

“Closer to five, I believe. Yes, five hundred and three.”

Ariel raised an eyebrow. “No.”

“Yes, I assure you that number is exact.”

“No! Five hundred and three?! That is absolutely absurd!”

“Two hundred seventy seven blood elves, sixty five orcs, one hundred twenty humans, five night elves, twenty one trolls, six goblins, three tauren, eleven dwarves, two forsaken, at the same time, I should add, two gnomes, and one very curious and rebellious draenei. To be precise.”

“Unbelievable. Unbelievable!”

“I have a piercing gaze, exquisitely groomed hair, scar tissue positioned just so, a dark and troubled past, perform beyond all expectations in the day, or night as you humans seem to prefer. Not to mention the sheer power at my fingertips and the tens of thousands of corpses I have left in my wake.”

“Well, when you put it like that…”

“Did I mention the war hero part? I feel as if I did not mention the war hero part.”

Ariel smirked. “With a resume that enticing, how have you not managed to land yourself more than that?”

“On occasion, I do still partake in the slaying of beings. That tends to consume a significant amount of time.” Euripedes eyed the array of food before him, but did not partake of any of it. Shifting his hands, a gently steaming croissant apparated in his hand.

Taking a bite of it, he added, “I highly doubt that you invited me here solely to discuss my own promiscuity. It is unimportant after all, and calling a meeting of the Black Heralds is hardly for insignificant matters.”

Ariel chuckled at the name. “The Black Heralds. Oh what children we were. Forming a secret society, code phrases and everything. And yet we remember it all. Funny how that works.”

“Deride it all you wish, our little secret society kept us together for centuries. Even here, now, in the resurrected ghost town of Dalaran, it brings us together as nothing else.” Taking another bite, he added, “Even if we two are the only ones left.”

“Makes you feel old, doesn’t it. All that time, all those faces, buried. Even their bones are likely dust by now.”

“I am, technically, still immortal. It is impossible for me to feel old.” Looking thoughtful, he amended, “Or perhaps everything makes me feel old. It is difficult to know the difference.”

“Ah. Yes. Immortality. Precisely the reason I called you here.” Ariel looked at him. “Euripedes, I’ve broken the link.”

Euripedes paused, then gently placed the croissant on the table. His gaze never leaving the city, he asked, “Why?”

Ariel had not expected this. Outrage, confusion, denial perhaps. She wasn’t prepared to answer why. She tried anyway.

“I’m… done, as it were. I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep living when everything else keeps dying. I can’t remain, here, unmoving, while everything changes around me. I… don’t think I was built for immortality.”

Euripedes looked thoughtful, perhaps? His face had taken on that nigh inscrutable expression that frustrated her so in times past.

“Most curious.” He finally said. “I would have thought humans would have been quite resilient given time dilation. Species such as yours are constructed to adapt and change quickly, it is how you survive with such short life spans.”

She shook her head. “This isn’t about humans. Maybe humans would take eternity in stride, maybe they wouldn’t. We can theorize all day about this-”

“We have, on several occasions.”

“Hush. Fact is, we don’t know ’till we try it. Every single human would react differently. I… believe I have found how I would react, if offered forever.” She looked at her hands, then back to the face of her once lover.

“I’m tired. I’m so very tired. I know my body is still perfect, my mind as sharp as ever, but my spirit feels… so… very old. Like it’s falling apart. I feel like I’ve lived far longer than I’m supposed to… like I keep trying to yawn and fall asleep but I just… can’t quite get there.”

Looking at him, his inscrutable expression, she knew he didn’t get it. He was an elf, by his very nature immune to the touch of mortality.

“I don’t expect you to understand, really, but-”

“But you wanted to tell me anyway. Wanted to try and make me see. You wanted me to know, so your death had meaning.”

“Yes.” Said Ariel, barely a whisper. “I… just wanted you to know, before… tomorrow.”

“Which company will you be in?”

“Third. I’ll be providing cryomancy support on their left flank.”

Euripedes mused. “The horde will likely be utilizing siege runs in that direction… yes, that could work. I’ll be in the second wave, try to stay alive that long, will you?”

“Please, give me some credit. I’ll watch for you.”

” A duel, then. To the death, stratholme roulette.”

The faintest of smiles teased Ariel’s mouth. “An unfortunate name, these days.”

“Truer than ever, I say.”

“I suppose. Try not to kill me right away, would you? Don’t want a disappointing death, after all.”

Euripedes stood, the bowed. “When have I ever disappointed you?”

A full smile this time. “Exactly. Speaking of which…”

Standing herself, Ariel’s robe fell away from her body, leaving naught but her naked body standing.

“As to the second reason I summoned you today…”

She smiled at the face of her once lover, as he greeted her in kind. He cradled her head, gently placing his lips on hers.

He embraced her, and she tried to embrace him, but her arms had ceased working. One of them was no longer even connected to her body anymore.

Releasing her, Euripedes whispered to her, “Forever and always, my love, my Ariel.”

“Forever… and always…” Her last breath escaping her, Euripedes released her corpse, the blood-soaked snow happily accepting her body.

Returning his attention to the fighting, he surveyed the battlefield. As expected, the orc siege commander was too cocky and had pushed entirely too far. The alliance was already capitalizing on this, and the entire regiment was mere minutes away from being wiped out completely.

Euripedes sighed. Waste one minute, waste an army. He would be upset if he actually cared about the outcome of this particular fiasco.

A practiced eye found him an ideal teleportation zone. A simple invisibility spell, a quick teleport, and he had quit the field.

He cared not about the horde or the alliance. Not today.

He had more important things on his mind.

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9 Responses to Experienced Hands

  1. Eradicator says:

    Excellent, keeps me on the edge of my seat as usual. The transition at the end was cool, but it was a bit confusing.

    This story, unlike your others, leaves me wanting to hear more about the character. The one exception is Arkenheart, which was similar.

    I think the difference, and what makes these two in particular stand out, is that you reference the character’s backstory more. It’s immersive, it draws you in. Your other stories don’t capture my attention quite the same way.

    For example, this paragraph:

    “Deride it all you wish, our little secret society kept us together for centuries. Even here, now, in the resurrected ghost town of Dalaran, it brings us together as nothing else.” Taking another bite, he added, “Even if we two are the only ones left.”

    It leaves me wondering about how many there were, what happened to them, what the group was doing.

    I think you just have more personality invested in Arkenheart and Euripedes, which results in better stories.

    Overall, I think this is definitely your best work yet.

    • Eradicator says:

      And, to clarify, I very much enjoyed your other stories. I just think these are more immersive, which contributes a lot.

  2. wut says:

    So let me get this straight.

    These guys are centuries old friends, lovers, probably had a monogamous relationship for hundreds of years.
    They meet again, having not met since before the Third War, and promptly discuss sex like high schoolers.
    At which point the woman asks the man to kill her, and not only does he agree, but thinks it’s a good idea.
    Then he kills her, and as she dies at his hand they profess their love.
    What the fuck are you on and can I have some.

    • leah says:

      considering Euro’s promiscuity, self admitted to, I doubt they were monogamous. Moreover – whom do you ask to do something as important as giving you a meaningful death if not the one person you know loves you forever and always? sometimes love means knowing when to let go. sometimes it means respecting the wishes of the person you love more then what you wish yourself.

      as for sex? for old times sakes, a last meal of sorts? I bet you she felt more alive during that last night and then the next day up until her death, then she had in centuries

    • Plyrx says:

      Despite the fact that no one will ever read this, I feel the need to say that the last sentence you said may have been the funniest thing I’ve seen on the internet.

  3. Calebris says:

    I now get what you were talking about when you were saying that your mage needed a new backstory.

    I actually really liked the story and the conversation therein. I do agree that there was a strange transition there near the end, where she’s naked and then doesn’t have an arm…

    An extra line or something would help. I thought for a moment that she was ready to do him and he just decided to kill her… it was terrible.

    But as with the reader before me, I really want to hear more about that society they belonged to, how they lived and what they did in the wars. The part about the “link” made me think that the two were bonded in their immortality, but that’s just my thinking.

    Oh, and I don’t feel like “Euripides” fits a blood elf. It makes me think of a drunk vent conversation where a guy yelled “All hail Warchief Nipplebuster!”

    Just doesn’t seem serious. Probably a wrong vowel:consonant ratio.

    • Euripedes says:

      It would originally have been a High Elf name.
      Euripedes very well could be thousands of years old here.

      Not sure if that helps any. Probably not?

      Name isn’t changing, though I’ll probably shade some lamps around it.

      • Calebris says:

        What’s wierd to me is that “Euri” sounds much more elfy than the full name.

        I think my brain is a bit off.

  4. Momome says:

    REALLY good. There’s enough hints at backstory to make the character deep and interesting, and I agree with previous posters in that the story seems richer for the fact that you seem to have more invested in it.

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