somebody lurks in the shadows.

[ listen to this! ]

[disclaimer: this may be a bit of a trigger to some people. read cautiously.]

Vyysce wasn’t the only person in the house plagued by nightmares.

Often times, they would just creep in on her. They were very, very rarely bolt-upright-scared dreams. Instead, they were more or less the kind that one wakes up from with a feeling of overwhelming dread. In some ways, Raleigh wished they were the terrifying wake-up-and-scream kind. No, though, instead she was subject to the reality that these ‘nightmares’ weren’t actually nightmares. They were memories. 

Tonight, Zi’ras was in Icecrown, trying to help Vyysce with something or another. That paladin, Odynae, had gone missing, or something. They were in cahoots with those Legion people, now, apparently, which just pissed Raleigh off. They mistreated Zi’ras, doubted him, were effortlessly prejudice. No matter Zi’ras’s contribution to the Alliance, the amount of Horde he ended, the good he did, people like them would always believe him the villain.

Honestly, between the two of them, she was the villain. After all, she was a different shade of fucked up all together.

She should be used to sleeping alone, as she did it up until just recently. However, with both Zi’ras and Vyysce gone, there was something about her house that was unsettling. Lucinda, even, had taken up a place in Charlotte’s room, leaving Raleigh entirely alone in her bed.

It was no surprise, then, how a terror crept up on her, once she fell asleep.

Her eyes open as if she is in the process of waking up, but she was much smaller. Raleigh sits up, inspects her child-sized hands. She throws the blankets off of her legs, inspects the small scratches and adult-hand-sized bruises on her thighs. Fear bubbles up behind her eyes, cause tears to well at the brim.

As if scripted, she slides from her small bed, creeps to the door. There, she pushes it open only a crack, inspects the hallway with now huge, tear filled eyes. Clear. Safe. It was early morning, overcast- as Gilneas was almost always, at that time of the year -and probably a sleep-in-day, otherwise there would be much more movement in the too-big Gilnean mansion.

Raleigh tip-toes to the room across the hallway. She pauses before cracking the door open. Her hands shake, because she knows what she will find inside. Although she knows what she will see, she is not enraged. Instead, she is as scared as she was when it happened. There was never any anger, until much later. Right then, she didn’t understand. Ten years old, and it had just begun.

So, she pushes the door open ever-so-slightly. Even though she is scared, she decides that sleeping with Charlotte was her best bet. After all, he would not touch either of them if they were both together. And, even then, her first priority is her little sister, who appeared long forgotten by both her mother and her older brother. Alongside her fear was the strong desire to keep Charlotte safe.

However, as the door opened, the light cracked in to the room, the first thing she sees is her father looming over Charlotte’s crib-like-bed. He was half turned toward her, as if he expected someone. The second thing she takes in is how Charlotte is asleep, undisturbed. Part of Raleigh is relieved- she had, somehow, gotten in to the room in time. The majority of the girl remained terrified, however.

She has the right to be. Her father stalks toward her. Perhaps, in another light, he would be classified as attractive. Once upon a time, Raleigh thought he was the most handsome man in the world. Her hero. Now, he was a villain. A monster, creeping toward her, wholly human and wholly horrible.

He scoops her in to his arms as if he loves her, and the tears well over the brims of her eyes. Charlotte stirs as her sister sobs, quietly, opens deep green eyes to turn and watch Raleigh’s terrified gaze scan the room before the door is closed behind her father.

Across the hall, again. Her father tucks her in to bed, which is not really tucking at all. Every detail burns vividly in to her mind, black and wicked and unforgiving. Fear only escalates, as she knows she will wake up the next day with hand-sized bruises fresh on her thighs, on her sides, on her arms.

Eyes open, again, and this time she actually wakes up. Sticky, dry lines sit where tears have cut down her face. A sob chokes her. One hand lifts, slowly, trembling, to feel at the other side of the bed. Zi’ras is not there, so the fear sticks. She sits up, slowly, pulls the blankets back to inspect her inner thighs. No bruises. The fear sticks, anyway. Raleigh slides from the bed, as if scripted, and makes her way to the door.

She cracks it, peers out with tear-filled eyes. Clear. Safe. This was her house, but she still tip-toes down the hall. She pauses outside of Charlotte’s door, takes a deep breath, and cracks it. The light filters in, and the first thing she sees is Charlotte, sleeping, undisturbed. The second thing she sees, in the far corner, is Lucinda- perched as if a guardian, on a thick bed of web.

Raleigh inhales thickly, stifling the sob. She enters the room, closes the door behind her. Although Charlotte protests, at first, Raleigh crawls into the teenager’s bed, nestles right up next to her sister, in an attempt to calm herself down. She isn’t calmed, however, until she can brush the nightmare aside, which isn’t for the rest of the day. Instead, she falls asleep, still fearful, as she knows she will wake up later in the day and be unable to change how she is.

and left here, standing, frozen through.

[ listen to this! ]

The only sound is the wind rushing past her ears, taking with it the stray strands of deep gray hair that fluttered around her face- up and down, up and down. A cool gaze scans the snow, lifts to peer past it in to the cold valleys of Howling Fjord.

She exhales, lifts her right hand to adjust the plate face guard that sat on her forehead and descended to her nose. Sitting deep in the muscles of her shoulder, a pang of discomfort resonated to her fingertips. Her arm drops back down.

Sooner, rather than later, she would have to return to a civilization that did not classify as a post-Lich-King-clean-up-crew or that harbored the haughty mages of Dalaran. Gray eyes lift, scan the sky. Silver armor reflected the white sunlight that followed snow-capped mountains and fresh blizzards. Winter was fast approaching. Lips curled up, gently, at the ends.

Winter. Another Northrend winter. She could not, in any form of the word, take another Northrend winter. The very thought caused the blood to rush to her head, made for a solid, irritated pounding.

Annoyed, now, the woman turns to walk back down the pathway she had made. Plate made clinking sounds, alerted every wild animal of her presence as she descended the mountain. And, once she was at the base, Light dripped from her left hand like thick, golden, glimmering honey. Fingers curled inward, and moments later she was astride a proud charger.

She adjusted how she sat, made allowances for the large shield on her back and the sword at her hip, and gently urged the horse onward, south-bound.

“this is my body. it is no one’s but mine.”

[ listen to this! ]

She steps outside, breathes in the warm breeze. She wears her good posture, her expensive silks and slippers. Her hair is down, wrapping around her features like the finishing touches of a present. Attuned to the sounds of the party behind her, through the open double-doors, she looks down to the stone street, positions her feet perfectly in the length one of those stones. Again, she breathes the end-of-summer air.

It is something like six. A few hours before the final sunset, but the sky is already gray and pink. She is at a social event. A party. A fundraiser, a benefit for someone she didn’t know, an investment shindig, a networking opportunity. Often, now, she needs to step out like this, catch her breath.

And her breath catches, yes. A woman, much younger than she, rounds the corner down the street, looks between the expensive, lavish homes that Stormwind has to offer. Behind her, a pair of children poke at each other without malice, giggling and playing. Her eyes scan their figures, take in their features, her brain churning to remember if she knows them. She doesn’t. They must be new.

The woman lifts a hand, waves to her. A smile spreads on the woman’s face, immaculate and without frown and laugh lines. Equally, a smile curls Caleigh’s lips, but instead the beginnings of those lines dig shallowly in to her skin. Similarly, a hand lifts, fingers curl in a wave. The woman was average in appearance. Brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, sort-of-wide shoulders– is this what people thought about her? Average, simple, brown-and-blue-and-wide.

Inwardly, she cringes. She grimaces, she avoids the topic all together. She presses the thought through her ear an in to the air. Her eyes turn back to the children, and she cringes again. Her heart picks up and races as they walk past.

She knows she isn’t unique, in this. Every woman must feel this way, when this happens. She is no more special than the next, but her heart still races. Her breathing fights for control, and her fingers curl in. A polite smile, ever effortless, spreads again, another wave of stiff hands. They round the corner, again.

He or she would be nearly here. A month, two, three? There would be kicking at her insides, happiness on her outsides.

A stiff hand reaches to push a few locks from her face. Her head tilts up, eyes examine the sky absently. She breathes in and out, in and out, and for a moment wishes she was someone else.

be ok!

[ listen to this! ]

A malnourished, patchy-furred lavender feline stretches in the sunshine.  She resembles some kind of saber, faint stripes of a deep violet fading in and out of thick, soft fur. Additionally, she resembles a kitten- not quite fully grown, stubby limbs connecting to too-small paws. One ear flicks, and silver eyes follow a butterfly as it floats across the magnificent garden that the druid had grown herself. The only place, really, left untouched, was the spot where Althis formerly slumbered during the day.

A puff of breath is exhaled shortly, leathery nose, cool and dry with good health, wriggles indiscriminately. She was across the dirt path from her boss, Caleigh North, who was currently at home lazying with Kullus Graves– another member of the Legion. Part of the druid’s insides lurch for the company, her mind churning to think of possible reasons for showing up at the priestess’s home. However, she remains in the yard of the nearly identical, huge home, also owned by Caleigh North. The ‘Optional Guild House’, as Caleigh put it, for members who have no home in Stormwind. Even so, with Althis and Teldrian gone, the house was empty. Even the dark dwarf, who rarely said anything to her, no longer came around.

And then there was the matter of the guild itself. Laeali had no intentions of making any contact with any of them. After all, she had made quite the fool of herself– first betraying them, unknowingly, to the twilight hammer, and then getting a strong dose of that weird water.

So, in short, the druid was lonely. Alone. The only person who had even bothered to speak to her in the last few months was her cousin, Kaia, and that was brief at best.

Feline paws stretch forward, and her chin settles between them. Her legs, too, stretch back, tail flicking over the wild grasses and the roots of various plants and vines that she had coaxed from the ground. Only her eyes moved. After the butterfly floats by, they swivel over to the dawnsaber that, similarly, stretches with feline grace. Off amongst the plants, near the small pond that the druid tends to regularly, a usually dehydrated runt of a treant mouth-breathes with pleasure. Mmm, sun and water. What more could a plant ask for?

The druid rolls on to her back, paws hanging in the air lazily. Now, she examines the sky. It is coming down from summer, now, so the mountains where she resides are cooling. Laeali likes this. It reminds her of Kalimdor. Soon, the days will get shorter. She likes this, too, because the night is her home.

One bulky paw traces circles in the sky, the other hanging lazily at the joint of her wrist. Today, her shoulder is sore. The recovery from her dislocation has gone well, but it still troubles her at times. Briefly, a warm breeze ruffles her fur– tickles the thick, lighter tones of her underbelly, which remains upward facing. Another puff of breath is exhaled, this time carrying a few floating spores higher in to the air. The druid flops to her side, twitches whiskers, flicks her tail again.

Maybe she will just stay this way forever. Let her different forms take over her body, like the savagekin she had heard stories of. Honestly, with how things were going, the company of the forest was more welcoming than the company of Stormwind.

getting things done.

[ listen to this. ]

She reclines on one thin, leather-covered elbow. Her perch is a tall tree in Duskwood. The too-dark night are no issue for her adept, elven gaze, which scans between the Cultist’s newest encampment and the Twilight Grove. Although she sits quite a run away from either area, this allowed her to keep an eye out.

Recently, the rogue had sent a letter to Caleigh Kriss, her superior officer. She had written something recognizing that no one had come out to Duskwood in a long while, and had reported the status of the now two groups of Cultists. Kaia had notified the priestess that she was going to begin picking the Cultists off in a subtle manner– and that they would be limited to one group by the end of the week.

She reclines further, allowing the upper part of her body to be propped up by one thick branch. It was night. To her knowledge, they were not moving any time soon. To be fair, they had not moved much to begin with. Humans were funny, content with settling in one place for such a time after being attacked. Perhaps that thought was hypocritical, as her own kind had once moved to make a second tree.

Her head shakes, and her eyes close. Momentarily, the faces of those cultists she had killed in the last few days flash over the insides of her lids, only to be shaken away. Fingers curl over themselves along her torso, as if to comfort.

Eyes shift as the brightest of beams erupt free of the Twilight Grove. The rogue immediately swings from the tree– skidding from branch to branch in the quietest way possible. Boots hit the forest floor, and Kaia takes off running toward the thickest, tallest of trees in Duskwood, blending in and out of the shadows. They had tripped the rune she had hidden in their bags. Good. And, by the looks of it, they were attempting to destroy it, as the beams were splicing into thinner, but brighter, arcs of light.

Muscles bunch, and moment later legs extend as the elf vaults over a fallen log, fingertips barely brushing the rotten wood. Moony hair, translucent when separated into smaller strands, whips behind her. Silent prayers part her lips. ‘Don’t bury it, yet, dear Elune’ and ‘Faster, faster, get me there faster, Moon Goddess’ work past her tongue in silent mumbles.

And then, she’s climbing — thick daggers shoved into the rocky cliffs surrounding the Cultist’s second camp. Small thunks, tinks, and overall unavoidable noise is drawn out by shouting and screaming. And then, she’s leaping into a tree as if a forest creature, peering down at the panicking group and shielding her eyes from the bright light emitting from the many pieces of rune stone scattered on the Grove’s floor. Overall, her expression reflects unadulterated joy, along with some sort of fierceness and passionate pulse like that of a saber who had cornered her pray.

Climbing daggers are held out, and thumbs roll over balls that spin in the huge hilts. These two orbs drop from the weapons after one rough shake and shove. Soaring, falling amongst the lit objects and running beings until they weren’t. Exploding into a heavy, venomous smoke screen, lit painfully bright by the magical lights. Kaia dips into her nearest satchel, producing a thick leather mask. She slings this over her nose and mouth, buckles the clasps together at the back of her head, and descends.

In their confusion, the supposed huntress slaughters at least five. Daggers to the stomach, to the face, to the lower back and upper spinal regions. Frankly, if her blows and bloodloss didn’t kill them, her poisons would. Somehow, her glowing eyes refrain from watering– practice, perhaps? Yes, that must be it. Her eyes must be so damaged from working with the venom and toxins that they no longer even react, aside from a little watering and itchiness later. At any rate, she would be out of the cloud, and cure herself of any poisoning before it really harmed her, anyway.

They were down to six. Earlier in the week, she had shaved off five more of the cultists, making it look as if a particularly feral pack of worgen had gotten at them during an excursion to meet up with the second group. And, coupled with the fact that they were so clearly unaccustomed to surviving in the forest, two others had perished via spider or bear. Add on the five she had just condemned to a fairly painful end, and they were down to six. Good Elune, this job was easy.

The smoke had begun clearing just as she had taken down two others. Four. Four, four, four. The number pounds in the back of her head, which had begun to hurt. Lights hurt. The cool darkness had nursed her for this long, but then there was this. How bothersome.

Once it cleared, she finds herself searching the area for any upright survivors. Four, there had to be. But where were they? Had she caught them between patrols, between ambushes? If that was the case, they would be back relatively soon. The kaldorei exhales heavily through her mask, and goes to work searching through their bags.

A few useful items find her fingertips, and she stuffs them in one huge backpack. Kullus’s voodoo charm remains in the elaborate sack she had stuck it in. Perhaps it belonged to one of those four. If not, why wouldn’t they take it along with them? It was a nice sack.

Kaia took off shortly after hefting the satchel over one shoulder, making her way back toward Raven Hill, peeling the mask from her face, shaking her hair out.

doing work.

[ disclaimer: way long. also, probably nsfw because disturbing things and somewhat racy implications ]

[ listen to this. ]

Raleigh was tired. She was pissed off, and tired, and didn’t want to deal with this shit. Blood collected at her brow just after her forehead hit the edge of a half-rotted stone-and-wood table, and the feeling of rough, huge hands matted into her ebon hair– twisting and pulling –sent sharp pangs of discomfort and pain through to her neck.

“Well, that was very impolite,” she snapped as she was allowed to lift her head, eyes darting sidelong at the rugged figure that pressed too tightly against her back and backside.

Rewind a day, and it would be easy to find her. Enter the Blue Recluse, follow the left hallway, and there she would be– poised beside a red-headed priestess of equal height, one arm curled around the other woman’s waist, standing beside another, shorter, thinner black-haired beauty.

In a matter of moments, Raleigh was wishing them good mornings, squeezing the priest’s bare hip, and turning to the exit. Once outside, her head would loll back, green eyes would inspect the sky. She wasn’t going to go home, because as she had previously stated that morning, this student had things to do and people to see. The entirety of her evening had been useless- spent wallowing and procrastinating and cuddling with a not-overly-cuddly arachnid.

So, she made her way through Stormwind, heels clicking. She adjusted the small satchel at her hip, counted the charms on her bracelet– five, now, with the addition of the nearly pink gem, cast onto her wrist almost carelessly. Eventually, Raleigh would board the tram and make her way to Ironforge, and from there purchase a ride on an especially mellow gryphon to Arathi. This process took up the majority of her morning, leaving her in the late afternoon, with the sun threatening its descent.

Of course, this process also allowed her to think. Her headache, ever-present it seemed, was only spurred on by her irritation. Aviana pissed her off. In any other situation, the young warlock would have simply removed herself from that woman’s presence whenever able. However, an effort would have to be made. Loyalty was hot in her veins, just as blood. Fel was burning through her nerves, just as the static jolts that caused her to move, dulled her sensitivity on occasion. As such, Raleigh wasn’t just going to ignore her Master’s requests, especially if it caused problems for figures such as Vynessel, or upset beings like Vyysce.

A toss of ebon ringlets came with a shake of her head, clearing her thoughts. Once out in the Highlands, her dreadsteed reared beneath her. Powerful, surging, demonic flames erupted from his huge hooves, and from his velvety nostrils. The skin on his thighs was almost scale-like, flame-resistant, but smooth to the touch. That very same skin ran across his flanks, over his back, and covered everything but his underbelly and the spaces just beside his sharp, thick spikes.

The demon horse’s presence relaxed Raleigh. She mounted him, rode with her legs over one of his sides, seated comfortably atop the blackish brown saddle. They would make their way toward Hillsbrad– take the hilly, mountainous route to avoid the foresaken outposts. Night was falling fast, the sun dipping behind Stromgarde and the cove behind it.

Hours later, here she was– her head brought down against the table again. In one of those small settlements around Southshore, she was being held captive by a band of ruffians. Foresaken-hating, opportunity-taking, homeless farmers turned bandits.

A grumble passed her lips. For the last however-long, she’d been groped and questioned. Why was she wandering around after dark in an otherwise Horde controlled territory? Well, why was a band of humans living in the same kind of place, hm? Especially in a broken down inn. Her arm was twisted, for that one. Ah, the pain still throbbed at her shoulder. Why did they find her, arms folded beneath her sizable chest, perched on out-of-place heels, inspecting the remains of their most beloved, plague-bombed township?

If you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. They were obnoxious with their leers, claiming she was some traitorous Horde-friend. A roll of her eyes and a snarky remark later, she found herself much too close to the group’s leader, with his hand in her hair, and his body pressed up against hers. Ugh. Disgusting.

Although the thought passed through her head, getting help was no option. In fact, she didn’t need help, really. Of course, she could get herself out of this. It was just that she had people to get help from, this time, which was pleasant. These were the thoughts she mulled around in her head while it was throbbing, being bashed against some half-rotting table.

Finally, however, she had enough.

“That was impolite,” she repeated, chided, sneered.

The man rolled his eyes, tightened his grip in her hair, and moved to slam her head down again. There was no satisfying crack of flesh and skull against wood, this time, however, as her head remained perched inches away. One hand had lifted, extended, and hovered inches from the leader’s chest.

Shock spread over his face, twisted his grinning mouth, clouded his dark eyes. A sickly, black-purple vein had coiled out of his torso, throbbed and pulsed. Slender fingers, nails painted a shade that very nearly matched the color of this cord, curled in toward each other. Her wrist flicked toward her forearm, forward, and the strand grew– was forcefully yanked out some. By this time, choked sobs echoed from the man. His buddies looked on with huge eyes.

Raleigh straightened, shook his hand out of her hair, and turned to face him. Her free hand fixed the messed strands, wiped the blood from her forehead. He sputtered curses and pain-filled pleas for mercy as her index finger slowly straightened from the fist, twirling the tangible embodiment of the ruffian’s soul around her knuckle.

“You have been  incredibly inhospitable. It’s disgraceful. What would your mother think? Treating a lady like this. Really,” she chided in a murmured tone. Her head shook, and she shifted to rest her bottom on the table, lightly, crossing her legs.

He sputtered and gasped, and Raleigh rolled her eyes. Her index finger curled back in, and the cord was set aflame– purple fire roared very suddenly. High-pitched, pain-filled screams coursed through the man’s throat until it was raw, but the woman just shook her head and remained, visibly, unimpressed. This went on until his friends began to slink out of the former tavern.

Wrist snapped again, then, yanked his soul from his body. She watched him crumble, lifted her green eyes to meet the gazes of the dozen-or-so men that remained. Panic had overtaken their features. Fear, really, as they watched her twirl the cord around each of her fingers. They gaped as she allowed it to collect in her palm, form the kind of gem that they would buy to go on cheap rings and necklaces for their whores.

Raleigh tucked the object away, in her satchel, and stepped over the leader’s corpse. Her hand lifted, motioning to the places that they had been sitting before. Lips curled up into a warm, friendly smile. “Come, now,” she murmured invitingly, her free hand lifting to dab at the wound at her forehead. “Let’s just sit back down.”

Slowly, they complied. After a few moments, she would ask how many of the men were under the age of twenty. Curiously enough, she let the two or three that rose their hands leave, their shoulders shaking, eyes huge– turned back to watch the fates of those who hadn’t made the cut. One boy in particular, younger than the others, actually let out a horrified scream (as if what he was seeing wasn’t as bad as watching the beautiful young woman set his leader’s soul on fire, hah, really) as Raleigh rolled her neck, snapped her fingers, summoned the huge, bound, blue voidwalker to her side in a flash of purple. They would pause as she approached, though she stopped at the doorway.

“Have a good morning, boys,” she said cheerfully, and made to shut the door. Her long nails had formed long black claws, and fur had begun to slither up the sleeves of her crimson robes. “Don’t tell anyone about this, alright?” She even giggled, then, as she closed the tavern off from the rest of Hillsbrad.

The boys ran, then. Fled that sounds of grown men screaming, the flashes of violet. Later, they would come back to find a single tuft of fur– wedged perilously between two charred planks of wood –in the still smoldering remains of their former hideout.

i know exactly what i want, and who i want to be.

[ prepare for pop music: xx ]

Ebon hair was brushed away from a heart-shaped face. Heels clicked on the wooden stairway. Shoulder pads and scythe had been discarded to the first floor, leaving robes, and gloves, and shoes remaining. A bell tinkled from the top of the stairs, and her head lifted– lips parting with a wide smile.

A wide, large, cat-sized black widow appeared to be clinging to the bookshelf, there, peering down at the warlock. Coiled around her bulbous torso was a stylish sash, a small bell dangling from one side. The beast skittered from the bookshelf to the wall, eagerly meeting one of Raleigh’s welcoming hands– crawling over her arm, settling on the woman’s back.

A glance was cast to the only other room that was notable on the second floor, aside from her bedroom. Apathy overwhelmed the parts of her brain where excitement, or pain usually swelled. Momentarily, she paused. Recollections from earlier in the evening swarmed her mind, scraped at the inside of her head. Raleigh gave an irritated grumble, and headed toward her room.

Once she reached it, the widow hopped from her back, skittering toward the large web that occupied one corner of the room. She settled happily among the soft, sticky silk. Raleigh, on the other hand, had to take a moment to pull her heels from her feet. Immediately, the woman went from a staggering above-average height to her natural, unadulterated five feet, three inches. At her bedside, one of her other staves- kept in the highest of qualities -rested against her nightstand.

A thought crossed her mind. Shadow flame flaring across her bedroom– arcing out the window, descending onto the other Stormwind homes. The screams of her neighbors, the disbelief and anguish when the magi from the Tower would have to be called, when the fire couldn’t be put out using non-magical means. An exhale passed her lips, dispelling the scenario. No, even if she was stir-crazy in this place, violence and mass murder was unladylike and unsavory.

She was, first and foremost, a Gilnean lady. Nostrils flared, and her fingers curled dangerously around the heeled shoe in her hand. Fel, she had been so careless, throwing fanciful stories of her first encounter with pulling souls, or soul flame. Her mind battled itself. One side spoke of how she shouldn’t trust idle folk, or anyone for that matter. The other said, boldly, arrogantly, that she could tell anyone anything– no harm would come to her, nothing would happen. She could take care of herself.

Frustration boiled her blood, caused her to drop the heeled shoe almost carelessly. Her robe was thrown over her head, after a moment, causing her to be reduced to the velvety undergarments she wore, her charm bracelet, and her silken gloves– which were promptly pulled off and discarded onto the pile that was her robes and shoes.

The warlock curled into the center of her bed, throwing her covers over her body. Green eyes stared at the ceiling absently, counting the planks of wood that held it together. Evening twisted through her mind– memories recalled, swarmed. First, Barzai, and Vyysce, and later Aviana. And then, recruiting Erolice– who, she found, was a wonderful girl. Next, that elf. While slimey, unsavory, something about him had piqued her interest– a desire to send him a letter rose in the back of her throat. But, oh, no. Ladies do not make the first move, unless it is for work purposes.

Recruiting that other woman was a bore. She had no interest in sharing her lessons with her. Erolice, however, a different story entirely. But this other, ebon-haired, pretentious person who’s ego surpassed her own? Hah. The only woman who was going to be surpassed, between the two of them, would be Devvi. Raleigh had absolutely no intentions of letting some egotistical, smirking pyromancer out-do her in front of the Master. No, not at all.

And then, there was Hieronymus. Interesting. Subtle, smooth. In theory, exactly what she said she desired in a man, as opposed to blunt and blatant. Something about him grated at her insides, however, the more they spoke. Paranoia spread wide in her brain– the gnawing feeling that a second motive was there, apart from the obvious.

Even so, she told him the story. Explained the feeling of pulling that sickly, vital cord from that worgen’s body– severing his soul. Elaborated upon the delight and joy she felt when she set more of those beasts a flame, leaving no mark, no trace, but ashes where their soul had been. Lifeless, twisting, viewless eyes. Limp, heavy, soul-less bodies.

A satisfied, content sigh escaped her lips. The thoughts brought only relief, comfort. Her eyes shut. The feeling of his gloved fingers brushing along the thinness of her cloth robe once she’d elaborated on the maim along her right hip bone made her shudder– partially because of the placement of his hand, and partially because of the strange, sickening intimacy behind the motion.

One of her own hands snaked beneath the heavy comforter. Fingers brushed the deep, twisted claw-marks on her right hip. Her body shifted, rolled, allowed her to rest face-down on her pillows. That hand snaked back, fingers lightly brushing the horrific scarring that was her lower back– tearing bite marks, rabid scratches, forever a hideous memory on her skin.

Raleigh shifted, resting her cheek on her pillow. Her arms curled beneath her. Idly, she wondered if she was even capable of sadness, or feeling- especially now. The thought was quickly overwhelmed by reassurances — it wouldn’t matter if she was sad, or felt anything, or was anything but obsessed with her situation. Obsession got her results. Compulsion and impulse, and sly words, and swaying hips, and dipping necklines got her what she desired.

Except with the Master, where only her skill was needed. That is why she liked him best, because he was where the only important part of her was allowed to flourish.