Into the Darkness (mostly closed)

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Gryffonclaw
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Into the Darkness (mostly closed)
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A knock resounded in the bishop's chambers, and Malin, the bishop's servant, scurried to answer the door.  A Stormwind Army Courier stood, waiting.   

"Letter for His Grace," informed the messenger, handing it to Malin.  His duty done, he turned fled back down the corridor.

Malin took the letter, and noted the seal, which had the design of a pelican feeding a fish to his young. Frowning, Malin swiftly strode to the bishop's library.  Knocking discretely, he waited until he heard his employer say "Come" in a distracted voice.

Bishop Delavey was seated at his writing desk, reading other correspondence.  He looked up as Malin entered, his eyebrows raised; Malin was under standing instructions not to disturb him when he was in his library.  Malin handed DeLavey the letter, explaining "A pelican message, your Grace."  

"Very good, Malin.  Thank you," DeLavey said, dismissing Malin with a smile.  Malin had been correct to disturb him - the seal involving a pelican meant that the message was from one of DeLavey's informants, and Malin had also been instructed to deliver those at once, regardless of circumstance.  DeLavey smiled - good servants were so hard to find, and Malin was one of the best.  

Bishop DeLavey was, at heart, a politician, the third son of a noble Lordareon family that had been disenfranchised by the Forsaken.  After the fall of Lordaeron, he had found his niche in the Stormwind Palace, acting as advisor and confessor to many of the palace functionaries, and as such was privy to more secrets than perhaps he deserved.  

DeLavey opened the letter with his thumbnail, and as he perused the contents his smile drained from him.  The murderer of his cousin, one of his few remaining family, had been pardoned, and was re-entering the Silver Hand! His face grew flushed with anger, although that was the only sign that he was in any way upset.

DeLavey pondered... and turning back to his desk, took out a fresh sheet of parchment and began to write.  "We shall see how long the Tarnished Knight enjoys his new duties," he muttered under his breath.
 




Gryffonclaw reported as ordered to Lord Grayson Shadowbreaker.  

"Sit down, Dane, sit down... some Dalaran Red?" Lord Shadowbreaker offered the paladin.  Lord Shadowbreaker had known Gryffonclaw since he had come to the Cathedral as a boy before the razing of Stormwind as an aspirant, and was one of the few who knew Gryffonclaw's name, let alone used it.

"No sir," Gryffonclaw replied. "The red is far too heavy for such a hot morning, and not even noon."

"Even so, even so..." Lord Shadowbreaker said. "I have today recieved a Special Request from Mathias Shaw, who as you know commands SI:7, the Stormwind intelligence service."  Gryffonclaw noded, keeping his opinions of SI: 7 to himself; any intelligence organization which didn't operate in secrecy wasn't much of an intelligence agency, to his mind.

"They've asked that we retrieve a book from Shadowfang Keep," continued Lord Shadowbreaker, looking away.  "They've asked for you, specifically, given how well you know the layout of the keep."

Gryffonclaw paused, and then nodded, a tight "Yessir" being his only response.  Lord Shadowbreaker was aware that Gryffonclaw was a bastard of the Silverlaine family, and that his proper surname was FitzSilver as an acknowledged bastard. Gryffonclaw had been in and out of the then-named Silverpine Keep, visiting his father, the fourth son of the reigning Baron, and knew the Keep like he knew his own home - which it was, in a way.

"Good.  The book is called 'The Runes of Eibon', and is on the list of proscribed learning - apparently, it focuses on the runes related to blood magic, and necromancy.  The Cathedral thinks its too dangerous to remain  there, possibly falling to the Forsaken and their filthy rites.  Your orders are to infiltrate and retrieve it.  These orders supercede your other duties," Shadowbreaker elaborated.  "You may leave for Shadowfang at your discretion, and may the Light keep your enemies far from you."  Shadowbreaker almost said how sorry he was for sending Gryffonclaw on this mission, but years of habit and command forbade it.
 




Gryffonclaw finished packing what belongings he'd be taking on the road with him, and headed downstairs to the common room of the Golden Keg.  Seeking out Myrlia Stondround, the barmaid, he was about to inform her that he was going to be gone for some weeks, but that his friend Mave was to have use of the room and his account - he always kept his account quite solvent against such occasions - while he was away, when Mave herself, accompanied by her wolf partner, entered.

Xinxiang
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Mave and Dell, walking softly as usual, entered the Golden Keg. She smiled a lopsided grin when she saw Gryffonclaw, just the one she was looking for. She had not allowed the previous rejection to color the last few days. She acted as she always had toward him, even showing him more physical displays of affection than she'd previously allowed herself. Whether he noticed or not, she could never tell.

Today, she was bringing him a stew she'd made over an open flame in Elwynn Forest. Made with boar meat, vegetables, and some herbs and spices she'd found growing around her environs, the smell wafted from the tureen she'd purchased in order to bring it to him.

"I promised I'd cook for ya. So here 'tis, as promised. Sorry, Myrlia, I'm feedin' him taday." She gave dwarven barmaid a conspiratorial wink.

Finally noticing the look on Gryffonclaw's face, Mave's own smile fell.

Oh no. What've I done wrong? she thought.

What came out was "What's wrong, Dane?"

Maveourneen Mulloy - A  

Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H

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"Good morning, Mave - that stew sure smells good!  Myrlia, bring out some bread and ale for us, neh?" answered Gryffonclaw, momentarily dodging the question. 

Grabbing an empty table, the two of them sat while the wolf wrapped himself around Mave's feet, momentarily content.  Gryffonclaw waited until Myrlia had brought out bread, utensils, and of course, the nut-flavored dwarven ale before speaking.  "I have new orders from the Cathedral, is all.  I'm likely to be gone for a few weeks, into Lordaeron near the Gilneas border."

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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Mave stared at him with concern as he led her to the table and Myrlia busied herself setting things in front of them. 

Now that he laid this bombshell at her feet, panic and fear were visible on her face and in her voice.

"Weeks?...But...but...when do you leave? Now?" she spluttered.

She reaches out to grasp whatever arm is on the table, knocking a few things over in the process.

"What about us?"

 

Maveourneen Mulloy - A  

Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H

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Gryffonclaw took her hands in his, and looked at her with a calm - or as close as he could manage - visage.  "I have discretion over when I leave, and why what routes - but part of being a paladin means obedience to my superiors in the Order of the Silver Hand.  They give orders, and it is my lot to fulfill them.  Sometimes they give me broad discretion over how I accomplish this, and sometimes they are very specific.  In this case, I am charged with the recovery of a tome of necromancy from the library within Shadowfang Keep - so I must needs accomplish this," the paladin answered.  "This is what I do, Mave.  If Lord Shadowbreaker sends me to Stranglethorn to kill trolls, I go to Stranglethorn.  if the HIghlord sends me to Northrend again, I'll buy some long woolen underwear and go to Icecrown."

Gryffonclaw smiled bitterly.  "Its like being in the army, except there are far less of us to go around.  Personally, after Hyjal I count every day a bonus I don't deserve."

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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Mave held tightly to his hands as his words worked past the thundering in her ears. She couldn't lose him now. Not when she was so close to making him realize how much she cared about him.

What can I say; what can I do?

She tried desperately not to cry, looking all around the room except for him. She detested crying, and only did it when she couldn't help it.

"Can you not take me with you? Do you have to go alone?" 

Maveourneen Mulloy - A  

Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H

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Gryffonclaw looked surprised.  "Of course I can take you with me, and anyone else who might be fool enough go... no offense.  That's a part of the 'discretion' I talked about."

He leaned forward and whispered.  "Unless it costs the Cathedral money!  But that's why I collect the bounties on creatures I have to kill anyways..."

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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A few tears escape and roll down her cheeks, collecting on her pointy chin. The large drop falls as she smiles bright. 

"Oh, thank everything Holy."

She gets up and sits in his lap, wrapping her arms around him. She leans her forehead against his.

"I'd never make it tha long wihtout ya."

Everyone in the room can make out the sincerity in her voice, and Myrlia (trying not to eavesdrop and doing it anyway) sighs with a smile.

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Pyie Silvertorque - A 

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"You wouldn't have even noticed I was gone..." Gryffonclaw chuckled, enjoying the feeling of her lithe, muscular body against his.  "Granted, Dell would have missed his snacks..."  The paladin leaned forward and kissed her at the base of her neck. "Now enough... if you're going with, you'll need to pack, yes?  While you do that, I'm off to the harbor to see I can find a Captain willing to sail into Forsaken waters... maybe a Gilnean privateer, or someone from Kul Tiras.  And have mercy on me - I'm not a very good traveler on board of ships." 

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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Mave sighs deeply at his obvious obtuseness. 

"No. I'd have noticed. It would have been the day my heart left too, leaving me like one of those Scourge you talk about." She kissed the tip of his nose and then brushed her lips against his before hopping off his lap, deliberately not giving him the chance to kiss her back or refute her statement. She wanted him thinking about it as she went to go pack. 

After watching Mave and Dell leave, Myrlia turns to him from behind the bar.

"Ya are the biggest, dumbest human I've laid eyes on in some time, ya know that Ser Gryffy?  Ya have no idea what's right in front of ya face, do ya? That girl loves ya, plain as day for anyone with eyes ta see. Except you."

Maveourneen Mulloy - A  

Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H

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Gryffonclaw turned to the barmaid, all trace of any happiness gone.

"Myrlia, you don't know me very well, but let me tell you one thing - paladins serve the Light, first and foremost.  We die painful, messy deaths - and that's if we're lucky.  While I was squiring for one of Arthas' knights, my family was being torn apart by furry fanged nightmares brought from somewhere else by Arugal.  My only bright spot there was that they killed my Mother before the Forsaken moved into the neighborhood, with their plague and their hunger for the flesh of the living.  At least she died swiftly, even if I couldn't find enough of her body for a proper funeral." 

The paladin paused for breath, and continued, not letting her interrupt him.  "Then I went to Hyjal and fought the demons on the road up - there was a battle group there commanded by Captain Tbelle, called the Hammers of Magni, and they needed healers, so I stayed with them.  We were commanded to hold as long as possible so the rest of our forces could prepare.  We got ripped. To.  Shreds.   But we bought them time, we held for four hours.  The surgeons and the priests were able to put me back together because I'd been thrown under some wreckage of our barricades - nobody else."

"Then I fought in Arathi, and for doing my duty they courtmartialed me and exiled me to Ironforge.  My hair is grey, Myrlia... I'm one of the oldest paladins still serving, and that's only because they kicked my leathery ass out, or I'd probably have bled out with the Argents in Lordaeron in the Plaguelands, or in the Outlands when we stormed the Black Portal, or during the landings in Howling Fjord.  Healing refugees from Gnomeregan, fighting the Horde in the tram tunnel, and pounding out arms for the Alliance was work that needed doing, but now that I'm back in service, it won't be long until some creature tears my throat out, or some dragon comes along and finishes the job they started on me."  Gryffonclaw had started winding down, the fury of his passion dissipated on the wind.

"Myrlia, if she stays with me, she's probably going to die young, in torment, when I fall in the service of the Light.  Loving a paladin is a fool's fate - there is a reason why most of us don't marry and have kids.  We don't live that long."

 

 

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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Myrlia's face turns red during his tirade, obviously contrite.

She nods her head once he's finished. 

"Very well. Ya've shown me. I apologize. And I can see where ya'd not want to flame the woman's desires. Ya're protectin' her, because ya care for her more than ya let on, othewise ya'd send her on her way. A bruised heart's better than bein' dead, right? Then why are ya lettin' her come with ya? Is it because ya can't bear ta be away from her either?"

She waves her hand, not waiting for the answer.

"It's none of my business. But I know tha death comes fer us all, so ya might as well be happy when it does. Ya can protect with the best of intentions, but in the end ya do yaself a disservice because ya don't let others in. That girl will be destroyed no matter what ya do; she's linked ta ya in ways ya can't imagine or don't see already. Ya can't protect her heart. She's followin' her heart, but are you followin' your's?"

Myrlia arches her eyebrows at him before turning and ducking into the kitchen, just as Mave arrives with a fur backpack stuffed with belongings and traveling gear. If you want to travel, Mave's the girl to do it with. She has her whole life on her back at this moment, and it's not even weighing her down.

"Ready when ya are, Gryff."

Maveourneen Mulloy - A  

Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H

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"Paladins don't have hearts.  We have adamantium wrapped in mithril" Gryffonclaw muttered lowly as the barmaid strode away. Myrlia was correct in her essentials, and Gryffonclaw knew that he'd likely have given the same advice to anyone but another Lightbringer.  Did she really think that someone his age and background hadn't ever heard of "Gather your roses while yet ye may"?  Every day was a risk, of some sort or another, for even civilians. 

But there was risk, and then there was foolhardiness, and this trip was the perfect example.  If Mave had promised to stay safe, hunting in Elwynn forest while Gryffonclaw was gone, that would have been one thing; he'd miss her, but a paladin's life was often spend away from one's loved ones, protecting them from horrors far away so that they never made it to Stormwind's gates (and that damned dragon was proof that sometimes even that wasn't sufficient). 

Short of chaining Mave to the wall of his inn room - Gryffonclaw spent far too long pondering those possibilities from an entirely different angle - Gryffonclaw couldn't see a way to keep her safer, and so he'd left the choice of her actions up to her.  Gryffonclaw had seen the bad results of people trying to force their will on others, whether for their own good or not.  Unintended consequences were often worse than the feared results.  Mave was her own person, and a proper respect for people involved supporting and respecting their choices.  Perhaps Gryffonclaw would come to care deeper for her.  Perhaps he already did, but was scared of what losing her might feel like if he admited it.  For him, it seemed that the only path he could respect would be to honor her choices while making his own, and pray not to be the only survivor again.

"Lets head down to the Harbor then - you can do some fishing, and I can see if there are any ship captains foolish enough to take us to Lordaeron."

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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"A'right." She nodded her agreement and rubbed Dell's head, pondering Gryffonclaw's new stormy demeanor. She couldn't imagine that anyone would or could upset him, except herself.

But she was too frightened of what the answer might be to ask what she'd done wrong.

Instead, she walked by him companionably, brushing his knuckles with her's occasionally. She gave him sidelong glances as they walked to the harbor side by side, Dell trotting to her left.

Clearing her throat, hoping to make conversation and the tightness in her belly go away, she spoke.

"I've neva been that far north. What's it like?"

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Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H

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Gryffonclaw took her hand as they walked to the Harbor, enjoying the sun, and walking along the canals with a pretty girl and her wolf... Its not every pretty girl who has her own wolf, after all, he thought, grinning.   Poor Dell, he must be suffering, given the way the canals stink.

"Well, do you mean Lordaeron-north, or Northrend-north?" he answered. "Lordaeron is cold and wet, but Northrend is an icy hell, for the most part.  Gilneas always is foggy in the mornings, and the sun rarely peeks through before lunch time.  Lordaeron rains all the time, as if Mother Nature is heartbroken by the Forsaken blighting the beautiful landside."

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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Mave smiles as he takes her hand and twines her fingers in his.

"Well I meant north ta where we're goin'. I need details about landscape, available herbs and wildlife, if I'm gonna keep tha three of us alive while we're gone."

She was completely serious when she said this.

"Ya said it's blighted, does tha mean nothin's edible?"

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"In Gilneas, things are clean - except for the wild worgen and the taint that the Forsaken bring wherever they go" Gryffonclaw answered. "In Lordaeron, we won't be eating or drinking anything that hasn't been Blessed and purified with a dab of Holy Water. Some of the animals are OK, some of them carry the Plague within them.   We'll bring a lot of what we need with us, just to be sure.  It'll just make me that more eager to gt clear and somewhere you can make me some more of that delicious stew we had for lunch!"

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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"I'm glad it pleased ya ta eat as much as it pleased me ta make it for ya!" She brought their entwined hands up to her mouth and kissed the back of his hand.

"Would ya like me ta go hunt and fish some while ya barter for our passage? How many days does it take ta get there? Need ta figure out how much salt I need ta cure the meat. I figured ya'd want more than just fish the entire time."

Mave's happiness was almost palpable. She radiated it. Her eyes shone with it. People they passed smiled in their direction just because of it. 

"Never been on a ship before. Do they have lots of places ta sleep or are we sharin' a room?"

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"Well, it should be about a week, or more, depending on the weather.  Merchant captains expect us to supply our own food on the trip, so plan on two weeks, to be safe.  We'll need enough jerky for Dell, as I'm not sure that it'll be safe to eat anything he might catch," Gryffonclaw replied.  "As for sleeping arrangements... we shall see.  Might be we'll be sharing a cabin, might be we'll sleep out in the open, on deck."

Gryffonclaw pondered.  "Could be there won't be a ship in our future, and we'll have to travel at least partially by land.  Going into the waters off Gilneas or Lordaeron isn't a milk run - there are Forsaken pirate and naval vessels, let alone the usual pirate reavers. So... we'll see."

"In Chaos, there is profit!"

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Mave nearly vibrated with excitement.

"Either way, I'll be pleased." She leaned forward and kissed him, surprising even herself by her audacity.

Leaning away, after a time, she smiled at him in an embarrassed way and let go of his hand.

"I suppose I should get started then." She looked up to the sun, gauging time. "I'll be back in two hours with enough food for a week."

She nodded to him and left, she and Dell threading through the throng of people on the harbor until they disappeared.

Maveourneen Mulloy - A  

Pyie Silvertorque - A 

Yanissa Embergrove - H

Zimyra Fizzlepot - H