Nikajah leaned back, allowing her husband to rub salve on her magic burns, wrapping her body gingerly with bandages. She�d caught one hit on her right side that had singed fur and skin alike, and on her left thigh was a raised burn-welt that stung when she moved. The salve was icy against the heat of her skin, pressed close by the wrappings of the soft linen. She swore she could feel ever stitch of the bandage scraping raw skin.
Once he was finished, he looked into her eyes. They seemed almost hollow, shadowed with exhaustion. She walked to the balcony of their home, overlooking the tree-top city of Darnassus. Leaning against the sculpted rail, she let the wind blow loose her hair. She did not care that she was nude from the waist up. Her thick hair was long enough to cover her exposed breasts and the cooling sensation of the wind was welcome. She only wore a thin cotton skirt on her lower extremities, white and loose. It caught with the wind also. She looked out beyond the city... toward something unseen. Ceridith watched her wordlessly.
�It started, for me, when I went to Goldshire. Itenhe had pinned down something... something that had Lleoderon�s hearthstone. He wore the form of a skeleton. I pressed him to find out what he was, where Lleoderon was... and he told me he was a minion of Sargeras himself. A low-ranking grunt, but an agent of the Burning Legion, nonetheless.�
�I had him taken to the Cathedral in Stormwind, to the Catacombs below. Agents volunteered to assist. Davnika escorted him to me � but it was not the lowly minion we faced. A blinded elf � the spitting image of Lleoderon himself � stared back at me with malice. I knew it was one of the same, but higher in rank. When faced with the threat of torture, he let slip that he thought Lleoderon had been taken to the Barrens. Before we could do anything else, he slew himself with the mere touch of his own staff.�
�Eliria found a folded parchment upon his person; a nude photograph depicting one of the female Agents unbeknownst to her. Upon its back was a map, with a particular area circled. Anata mentioned that there was an area held in the Barrens by the minions of the Legion � and she knew the location. We made haste.�
�We found him upon the mountain � held unconscious beneath the watchful gaze of a young beholder. The agents of the Legion in the area were quickly and easily dispatched, most to Eliria�s swift blades. But this depiction of Lleoderon was also blind, and I suspected he was not quite right when I attempted to move him. He transformed into a dire bear, and I did the same.�
�The fight was quick � he was clearly not trained in the ways of the druid, even though he had our abilities. With claw I fought � and in defeat he told us what we wanted to know: Lleoderon was being held in Winterspring.�
�We headed out for Winterspring, feeling as though we were on a never-ending chase. We searched the northern hills for him, and discovered him nestled in a cave amongst owlkin. They were wild and crazed, and we could not help but slay those that attacked us with insane fury. Lleoderon � or the moonkin we hoped was he � led us to a village, where we located his clothing and a bowl of blue flame. Once it was blessed, his curse was removed, and he was able to speak with us. Some agents were doubtful of his identity, however, since he had been wearing the same clothing when he had spied on the nude agents and photographed them without their knowledge.�
�Then he led us to Stromgarde, what he claimed to be his homeland. He took off with such gusto that we had little chance of questioning him. When we arrived, I finally demanded answers. He admitted to using me and the other agents in order to expel these demons that he called �The One� from his homeland. Apparently Lleoderon is not an elf... but something more. I still do not understand it all.�
�I was furious at the prospect of being used... but finally acquiesced to continuing to aid him. He apologized for the way his plans were carried out, but insisted there had been no other way. He led us to a watch tower in the southwestern part of Stromgarde, an area thick with ogres. We dispatched them as quickly as we had the Demonfriends.�
�When we ascended the tower, The One�s apparent leader � a beast Lleo calls Shai�lar � seized control of Catinan. I felt helpless... and everything about what I suffered came back. I tried to do what I thought was right... I...� she trailed off, tears welling in her eyes and suffusing their light briefly.
�One by one they were taken.�
And they had been, one by one. She had been forced to fight them, her own agents. Anveenia came for her twice at Catinan�s command, and twice she had been forced into dire bear form to avoid the mage�s attacks and weaken her. Then Davnika came for Lleoderon, and soon all her agents were in battle against one another. Only Sariias, Eliria, Lleoderon, and herself remained untaken.
Suddenly, Lleoderon was struck with an idea. He thought she should use their strengths of character somehow to persuade them to fight the Shadow that was taking control; that some semblance of their will remained inside, fighting back against corruption.
Focusing her attention upon Davnika, she asked her who would take care of her beloved pet raptor, Oogee, her ever-faithful companion, if she succumbed to Darkness. What would her daughter, Varishka, think if she gave into the Shadow again? Would she disappoint her, and lose her second chance? It was enough to help Davnika fight, to summon the strength from within, and bring her back from the brink.
She�d asked Anveenia what Myreen would think of her if she allowed herself to be used, if she did not fight. Wouldn�t she want to make her family proud? And what of Valkkon and Catinan, who had saved her life by risking their own against the mighty Prince? She had utterly exhausted herself with her emotional pleas.
Davnika had suffered deep wounds at Valkkon�s blade, but no one had the heart to tell him what truly happened. She bent to heal Davnika, summoning the powers of Nature to mend the wound in her side. It would still ache for a time, and it would scar, but it would not bleed. Nikajah exhausted her last few ounces of strength, pouring her essence into her healing. Fatigue had threatened to overcome her.
�And still it is not over. He suffered a minor defeat, but he is still out there, plotting, and wants revenge, no doubt.�
She wrapped her arms around herself, letting the tears spill down her cheeks. They were hot with shame. Her husband slid his strong arms around her gently, cradling her from behind.
�You will not face it alone,� he said, voice strong and certain. �If you had called me...�
�You would have charged to my rescue. Perhaps that would have been best. I am a useless leader,� she whispered.
�Nika... you are not. You care about them. You do the best you can for them. You did the best you possibly could tonight. Come love, please... don�t do this to yourself,� he pleaded, voice soft. �You helped rescue them from the Shadow.�
She turned to his arms, pressing her wet face against his bare chest. She let the sobs come... hard, body-wrenching sobs, pouring out all of the emotion she held within so tightly. She only hoped she had the strength to face whatever lie in wait for them � for all of them.