Velaenna blinked, consciousness slowly returning as her eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room. Her eyes darted around, trying to identify her surroundings. Her mind still felt groggy from sleep that she didn’t recall willingly choosing, but her trained senses were already ahead of the rest of her, taking in the sights, smells, and sounds of the room.

Candle-lit. About a third of the number of candles that someone would normally put into a room this size if they were worried about aesthetics. Intentionally dark, then. The familiar elaborate décor and scent of potpourri, masking a mustier scent of stale air. She was probably still in Silvermoon. A basement, somewhere?

The back of her head throbbed, and she tried to reach for the source of the pain, only to find that she couldn’t move her arms. As she looked down at the chair she was tied to, her mind was finally catching up to the rest of her.

So it had gone wrong, then. Damn.

The details were coming back to her now. It should have been an easy job. It was only a few pieces of art – a statue, two paintings, and a tapestry, that the Magister just had lying around in his estate, practically begging to be taken. “Priceless”, some would call them, but Velaenna never understood why they used that term. It was never hard to find someone willing to attach a price to things when you knew who to take them to. She already had a buyer lined up. It was perfect.

Too perfect, it was occurring to her now. The fact that it was Lashan himself that she would be stealing from probably should have been a red flag. She had already had several near-misses with the Magister in the past few months. For whatever reason, he’d recently been tasked with ferreting out the less convenient criminals lurking in Silvermoon’s shadier corners. It was inevitable that she would eventually have wound up on his list. It had been easy enough to dig up information on her would-be pursuer. Powerful enough to be among the ranks of Silvermoon’s mageocracy, but not high enough within its ranks to have much sway beyond simply what his class bestowed him, despite having an ego that suggested he had convinced himself otherwise. The thought of sending him a personal message by striking at him from under his nose was just too tempting to pass up.

Which clearly had been the point, Velaenna concluded in hindsight. She wondered passively how many of her contacts had been paid off to help lay the trap for her. She shrugged the thought aside. That was something that could be dealt with later. Now that she was completely awake, her mind was racing through every detail of her current situation that she could process. As always, she let the urge to panic stay just within arm’s reach, forcing herself to keep calm in the moment. Panicking was how people like her wound up dead, but the adrenaline that came along with giving into that kind of fear could be a useful tool. She’d long since gotten good at picking the right point to use it, but right now was not that time.

She opened and closed her hands. They tingled with the sensation that came with a lack of blood flow, but she was able to feel the physical ropes constraining her wrists. Physical. Not magical.

Sloppy work, Lashan, she thought to herself. He had probably left the work of restraining her to the guards. Too important to do it himself, clearly. And too stupid. If a spell had been holding her, there would have been very little she could do about it. But the endless hubris of the Magisters was something she was all too familiar with. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d be benefiting from it.

The sound of a door opening from behind and above her interrupted her silent probing of her restraints, and she heard several footsteps walking down a set of stairs. The clank of heavy armor alongside the soft swooping sound of robed footsteps let her estimate the number. Two guards alongside the Magister himself? She turned her head and was able to make out the two armored knights who had stopped at the foot of the stairs as Lashan had continued walking. Simple, unadorned armor, both in familiar colors and tabards. Blood Knights, Velaenna realized, and low-ranking ones at that. Lashan probably wasn’t important enough to be granted Spellbreakers as personal guards. She smirked internally as she wondered how much that must have bothered him.

The Magister paced dramatically in front of her, making a thinly veiled attempt to mask an arrogant smirk with a look of thoughtful contemplation as he regarded her. His long blonde hair fell neatly over his gaudy, oversized shoulderguards, the same bright crimson color of his robes. Everything about him seemed almost hand-picked to typify everything Velaenna despised about the mage class of sin’dorei society. It had never been unusual for Magisters with more ambition than talent to emulate the late Sunstrider prince in dress and appearance, but it had fallen somewhat out of style after his fall. Clearly not so for Lashan. After a moment, he finally stopped directly in front of Velaenna, looking down at her with disgust.

“Seventeen counts of larceny, six counts of burglary, four of vandalism, and one suspected murder,” he said, annunciating each crime slowly and deliberately as if he thought it the vocalization of each would shame her individually, “and that is only what we know of. You’ve been a busy woman, Velaenna Dawnweaver.”

Velaenna said nothing in response. Out of the corner of her eye, she noted that the guards were looking directly ahead as opposed to actually watching her, the bored look on their faces indicating their lack of attention. She continued to slowly maneuver her way around the restraints on her wrists as she brought her gaze back towards Lashan, keeping her eyes locked on his.

After a moment of the two staring each other down, Lashan frowned, betraying a look of disappointment at the lack of response. He pulled some papers from the pockets of his robes, sifting through them as he straightened back up.

“There’s a disturbing pattern to some of your victims,” he said as he scanned the documents, “Over half of them have been visiting emissaries and travelers from other members of the Horde. Forsaken, trolls, orcs… my, a lot of orcs. One might be led to the conclusion looking at the larger picture that you were intentionally seeking them out. There are other reports of missing possessions from visiting Horde members that we have yet to account for. I don’t suppose you would have any thoughts on that?”

“People lose things all the time,” Velaenna made as showy of a shrug as she could. In actuality, she was shifting positions, a rush of blood coursing to her hands told her that the knot was finally starting to loosen, but the statement offered convenient cover, and the irritation on the Magister’s face in response was an added benefit. He leaned back in, his face coming uncomfortably close to hers.

“Treason is a serious crime, Miss Dawnweaver. One that carries far greater consequences than petty thefts.”

“That’s fascinating. It’s also not on the list of crimes I’m accused of.”

“For now, Miss Dawnweaver. It would be unfortunate if someone were to make the case that it should be.” Lashan straightened back up, tapping deliberately at the stack of papers in his hands, his gaze still locked to her face. Velaenna refused to give him the reaction he was hoping for, her eyes still locked to his in a blank expression. She watched his face twitch in irritation again.

“We are in talks to welcome a new potential ally into the Horde. Silvermoon will be hosting their visit, and to that end Grand Magister Rommath has made it clear that we are to remove some of the less… desirable elements from the equation. The methods by which I am allowed to do so were left… comfortably vague.”

It took all of Velaenna’s willpower to not visibly react to Lashan’s words. She suspected he was bluffing, but something about the eagerness of the way he ended his last sentence left her unsure about how much she wanted to test that. She clenched and unclenched her hands, her mobility slowly returning as she felt the knot loosening bit by bit with her movements.

“I hope I have made your position clear? Good. The Regent-Lord has ordered me to offer you an opportunity before we discuss your crimes any further.”

“What… kind of opportunity?” Velaenna frowned despite herself. She cursed herself silently as she watched the smile creep across the Magisters face as she finally gave him a reaction.

“The Warchief is preparing a campaign in Kalimdor. You do not need the details,” Lashan’s tone of voice betrayed that he likely did not know them either, “save that people with certain talents will be useful. Turn your skills in service of the Horde, and it’s possible that someone might… misplace documents relating to these incidents.”

In service of the Horde, the sentiment echoed in Velaenna’s mind. The thought of it made her sick to her stomach. The options weighed briefly in her mind, as she was sure the Magister intended – become an assassin for the Horde military, take orders, and target who she was told, or take her chances with what she had here. It didn’t take long for her to decide.

“Tell Lor’themar that he can shove his offer back up the fancy ass it came out of,” she spat, unable to keep the disdain dripping from her voice, “him and that decaying wretch of a corpse he calls Warchief.”

The smile that crossed Lashan’s face sent chills down Velaenna’s spine. She realized a second too late that she had given the Magister exactly what he wanted. He leaned down, his fingertips playing with the ends of her dark red hair before he spoke.

“Treason it is, then. And to think I was worried for a moment that you would choose not to be difficult.”

Velaenna’s ears rang as she felt his fist collide with the side of her head. He had a stronger arm than she was expecting given his cushy lifestyle, although the strike was still far weaker than others she had received in her life, and she had been expecting the blow. The shock passed quickly enough that she was able to use the opportunity to give one final tug at the knot on her wrists, which she felt loosen to the point of unraveling. She managed to stop it short of falling off completely. Better to let her captor think she was still restrained. Her feet were bound at the ankles, but once her wrists were free there would be nothing holding her to the chair. All that remained was to wait for the right opportunity.

Lashan straightened back up, rubbing the back of his hand where it had struck against her head, a satisfied look on his face, and something more sinister in his eyes as he looked down at her. There were a number of ways this could develop from here, and Velaenna was pretty sure she didn’t like any of them. The Magister turned towards his guards. This is it, Velaenna thought to herself, either he cares more about seeing damage done to me, or he wants something more… personal. Even without the restraints, if she needed to deal with all three of them at once, that would be difficult.

“Leave us. I wish to discuss Miss Dawnweaver’s punishment… privately.” Lashan waved a hand dismissively at the Blood Knights, who exchanged glances with each other before looking briefly in her direction. One of them shook his head in sympathetic disgust, but turned and followed orders, followed up the stairs shortly after by his partner.

And there’s my door.

As she heard the door close above them, Velaenna’s attention returned to Lashan, who had gone to the other end of the room, his back currently turned on her as she heard a lock click open on what must have been a small chest in the corner. Her nerves screamed at her to use the opportunity to get out.

No, she told herself. Not yet. Don’t waste the moment.

Instead, she quickly slipped her right hand out of the loop around her wrists and moved it down towards the belt loop on her left hip. Relief washed over her as the hidden knife slid out of its compartment there.

You didn’t even have them check, she thought to herself with amusement, damn, Lashan, but you’re awful at this.

She was able to grip the handle and move her hand back convincingly into position while his back was still turned. She didn’t bother to hide the blade. He wouldn’t be paying attention to the back of her until it was too late.

He turned and walked back towards her, an odd blunt wand-like object in his hand, the tip of it glowing a sickly blue color.

“Three months, Miss Dawnweaver. I’ve been stuck on this damned job for three whole months while you gave me the run-around. While my contemporaries got to enjoy touring the canals of Suramar I’ve been stuck trudging the gutters of Silvermoon ferreting out scum like you. Allow me to illustrate some of my frustration.”

He drew closer. Velaenna made a quick judge of the distance. Six feet. Still too far. Her heart pounded, begging her to give into the urge to act. Almost, she told it, just a little closer.

“This,” he gestured dramatically to the rod in his hand, “is called a Neural Needler. Courtesy of my friends in the Sunreavers. An entertaining little artifact. It causes intense amounts of pain with a mere touch of the tip.” He stepped closer, holding it in front of him to give her a better look. Five feet. “The best feature, of course, is that it does this without causing any actual damage to the recipient. In other words, it can be done over, and over, and over, without any potential of the subject dying… or the pain stopping.” Another step. Four feet. “In other words,” he breathed, an ugly expression on his face, as he took another step. Three feet. “By the time I am finished, you will be begging me for the relief of death.”

He closed the remaining distance and leaned towards her, the Needler approaching her shoulder. She could feel the hot crackling of the energy the rod was charged with as it approached, previewing the pain that would likely come as it made contact with her skin.

Now.

Finally allowing herself to tap into the burst of adrenaline that she had been resisting to that point, Velaenna pulled her arms from the rope and gripped the sides of the chair as she brought her legs up and kicked as hard as she could into the center of Lashan’s stomach. The surprised Magister gave a guttural choke as the force of the kick sent him tumbling to the floor, the Needler falling from his grip and rolling harmlessly out of his reach. With the mere seconds she knew she had bought herself, Velaenna quickly brought the knife to her ankles, slicing through the bindings at her feet. By the time he was pushing himself to his knees, she was behind him, her knife held with its edge against his throat, the cool steel pressing against his skin. His eyes were wild with anger and fear as he stared up at her, their positions now reversed.

“This,” she said with mock dramatic flair, “is called a knife. Sorry, it doesn’t do the not-killing thing your toy does. Maybe with the next model.” She pressed the knife harder against his neck as she saw his hands twitch, drops of blood forming around the blade. “No, let’s not take any more stupid actions, okay? Now here’s my offer. You let me leave this building, free and alive, and I let you leave here with your head still attached to your neck.”

Despite her words, her mind was currently working through the mental equations of whether or not it was a mistake to leave him alive. Killing him would be easy, but there was the matter of the guards that were almost definitely still at the top of the stairs. She also knew that it was stupid to assume he wouldn’t immediately redouble his efforts to capture her again the moment his life was no longer in danger, and next time he would probably be at least a little smarter about it. But as much as she despised the Magisters, killing one would only make her position worse. They would put someone else on her scent for that. Someone better and more dangerous. And that was trouble she couldn’t afford. Better to leave him alive, even though that meant…

It meant she needed to get out of Silvermoon.

“P…please, no… you… yes. You can go. Just… take the knife away and I’ll… I’ll call the guards off, and you can-“

No, that wouldn’t work. Lashan was stupid, but he wasn’t stupid enough to miss that as soon as he wasn’t in immediate danger Velaenna would be back at a disadvantage. All it would take was an order calling the guards instead of dismissing them to turn this back around on her.

“No, not like that. Stand up.” She put pressure on the knife, and the Magister quickly obeyed. Thankfully even at his full height he wasn’t that much taller than she was, and she slowly released the pressure on his neck. Making a point to keep the blade close enough to his skin that he was aware of it, she slid it around behind him and pressed it against his head.

“Now then. I’m going to leave this right here. Move too quickly or do anything other than what I tell you, and it will be going straight into your neck. Do you understand? We’re going up together and you’re going to stop at the door. Okay?”

Lashan gave a steady nod, and slowly the two of them worked their way over to the stairs. The drape his shoulderguards created with his robes gave Velaenna enough cover that she was confident she wouldn’t be visible behind him to anyone on the other side of the doorway.

“Alright,” she said quietly. “Open the door, and tell the guards I changed my mind and that you’re letting me leave, and that they are dismissed.”

Lashan slowly pushed the door open in response. Velaenna couldn’t see around him, but she heard the clink of armor as the two Blood Knights turned to face him.

“Miss… Dawnweaver has… rethought her position. Go report to Rommath. Let… let him know that… he should be expecting her arrival once she has had time to… gather her belongings.”

Velaenna had pressed the knife against the back of Lashan’s neck harder as he mentioned Rommath’s name. She wasn’t convinced that the Magister wasn’t still trying to find a way around letting her go, but as the sound of plated boots echoed off into the distance, she pushed Lashan further up so that she could walk through the doorway. Now able to see around him, she could see past the open door of the building into the familiar streets of the Royal Exchange. She kept the weapon against his skin as she tried to work out her next steps.

“You know this can’t end well for you,” Lashan said, somewhat boldly considering his position. “There isn’t a street in Silvermoon that you can hide in that we won’t be able to smoke you out of.”

“Probably,” Velaenna admitted. She turned the knife away from Lashan, smashing the metal hilt against the back of his head before the Magister could react. As he crumpled to the floor, she slipped the dagger back into its hiding place. She bent over to make sure Lashan was unconscious, and noticed a pouch hanging limply at his side. She pulled it off of him and attached it to her belt. Whatever was in it had a better home with her than it did with him.

Velaenna stepped out into the streets and started in the direction of the Walk of Elders. Wherever it was she was eventually going, it needed to be outside of the city gates. She gave a passing thought to gathering her things, but thought better of it. All it would take was someone stumbling upon Lashan’s body before things would turn bad. She didn’t have much time to safely leave. Once the heat had subsided, she could return again. Besides, most of her good stuff was hidden away pretty well. She was confident that it would be there when she came back.

She was within eyeshot of the city gates when she heard the commotion behind her. Instinctively, she ducked into the shadows of a nearby alley. Had Lashan been found that quickly?

There were guards. A lot of them. And proper Royal Spellbreaker guards at that, not the Blood Knight recruits that Lashan was using. At the head of them was a Magister, his garb less over-elaborate than Lashan’s, with a mask covering the lower half of his face. Grand-Magister Rommath. Velaenna sunk deeper into the shadows. Accompanying them, some steps behind was a large gathering of blood elves of what seemed like a variety of backgrounds, led by another Magister, his bright blue robes contrasting the crimson red of Rommath’s. Velaenna hadn’t seen him before, but the clothing choice stuck in her mind. Most blood elf Magisters avoided the color.

It became clear relatively quickly that this wasn’t some search party out for her head following Lashan’s discovery. At first Velaenna wondered if it was some kind of parade, until it dawned on her what the guards were there for. They weren’t being escorted for protection. They were being forced out. What was happening?

As the tail end of the crowd passed, with guards following behind them, Velaenna slipped out of the alley. Sure enough, she saw the crowd passing through the front gates. A new crowd was forming, as onlookers murmured to each other at the spectacle. She caught the name “Umbric” as she slipped through the crowd towards the gates.

The name was familiar. Velaenna tried to keep read up on the more notable members of Silvermoon’s mage class in the event that she wound up in situations like the one she had been in earlier today. From what she recalled, Umbric had long been an advocate of keeping Silvermoon’s resources at home, more interested in the rebuilding and defending of Quel’Thalas than of any foreign campaigns. She’d overheard a particularly drunk goblin on the streets of Murder Row once accuse him of being what he called a “HINO” – Horde In Name Only.

It was intended as a slur. For Velaenna it earned him some grudging respect. The fact that he appeared to have a following was very interesting. She was surprised she hadn’t heard something sooner.

The guards at the gates were equally distracted by the commotion, so it was easy for Velaenna to slip through. From the steps she could see Rommath and Umbric face to face in the distance, the two of them appearing to be in heated argument. She saw Rommath point angrily at him, and then at the gathered crowd behind him, before gesturing to the guards and storming back towards the city gates. Velaenna quickly slipped down the stairs and into the brush before he came within eyeshot.

As the guards followed Rommath back into the city, she could see Umbric addressing the crowd with him. Velaenna snuck closer. She still couldn’t make out what was being said, but she had a better look at the gathered blood elves. Some looked distraught, others resolute.

Velaenna looked back at the city gates, then back towards Umbric. One thing was certain. Whatever Umbric and his followers had done had upset Rommath quite a bit. And anything that upset the Grand Magister was something Velaenna wanted to be a part of. Besides, she needed to get out of Silvermoon for a while anyways, and it appeared this group was on its way out.

Velaenna made her way up to the gathered crowd and slipped among its number as it started moving away from the city. There would be time on the way to catch up on what was happening. If nothing else it would make for a nice distraction as she worked out her next steps. The thrilling feel of adrenaline took its familiar position within reach. She had a good feeling about this.

Author Tabasa
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