Shouts froze Falais in place, dozens of Naga swarming around the corners towards him. The blood elf pressed flat against the walls as they slithered through the long, winding hall, tridents and pikes in hand, hissing and snapping at any who dared cross their path. They charged for the doorless exits, plunging into the seas as they passed through the translucent, magical barriers. The glow from the Rift captured them in silhouette as their reptilian bodies writhed through the cold dark.
He recognized the voice at once. The deep bass cracked against his ears like a whip, berating those slow warriors as they struggled to rejoin their companions. Rounding the corner, the Naga was unlike any of his underlings, black and red scales decorating every inch of his muscular body. The bloody hand of war left callous reminders of her embrace, the empty socket of one eye hidden behind a patch, scars and fresh gouges marring his scaled form. One such wound continued to plague him, causing him to draw wheezing gasps when his soldiers were otherwise occupied.
The strike from Teake Thunderhorn.
The hard shell along his back and upper neck shifted as he turned to regard the blood elf, single, beady eye glaring down on the soft skinned man. One strike from the spikes adorning his hands or tail would make short work of him. “Falais,” he hissed.
“Warlord Shyv.” He looked to the departing fighters. “Makura?” he guessed, their shelled adversaries known to strike even this deep into the heart of Nazjatar.
“Sutera,” Shyv corrected, his toothy visage stretching into an annoyed frown. “It seems your prisoner has managed to escape.”
“And our Master?” he asked, referring to the dreadlord.
“Your Master, perhaps,” he snarled. “You would do well to be on your way, for he, too, makes his way to the Caverns.”
Warlord Shyv shoved his way past the elf, plunging into the sea.
Falais felt his heart leap within his chest, pulse pounding. Turning, he strode down the long corridor, making the necessary twists and turns to bring him closer to the dreadlord’s chamber. His hands shook as he considered his treachery, and what consequences would befall him should he fail.
A quick glance around the corner informed him that the stationed Naga remained at their post.
He drew his hood up over his head, reaching down to draw the sword and dagger from his belt. Steeling his nerves, he stepped into the shadows, melting from view.
The first few steps were easy, the black shadows masking his every move. As he approached, however, the sputtering torches dared to remove his dark cover. Quick-minded, agile, he scaled the column easily and perched atop the small ledge running just above. It afforded as much cover, yet he knew they were unlikely to glance upwards for any intruders.
In short order his feet touched down behind the first warrior. Thanks to their scales, Naga were a bit harder to daze, but the pommel of his sword struck true, leaving the mighty beast swooning in place. Wasting no time, lest his companion become suspicious, Falais appeared to vanish within the darkness, only to reappear behind his second target. The warrior had enough time to figure out something was amiss before the sword plunged into his back.
His fellow guardsman shrugged off his stupor just in time to see the scaled body twist, flopping to the ground. He opened his mouth to either issue a charge or alarm, but a quick, deft throw silenced him, dagger quivering in his chest.
The blood elf withdrew it, wiping the blood across his sleeve.
There it rested, gleaming and glittering as he stepped into the dreadlord’s chamber. The glow danced across his fel-riddled eyes as he reached for it, grasping the curo and lifting it from the metallic altar. Within rested the memories of Sutera Bloodwen, from the wailing of a baby’s cry to the screams of a tormented prisoner. What rested between, he could not say, yet knew that this crystal now possessed the secret to wounding the Lich King.
He, Falais Moonreaver, would hand those secrets over to the Ruler of the Dead. He had turned his back on the Cult, the Twilight Shadow, and the dreadlord they served. It took but a soothing song from the Lich King’s lips, a twisted promise of rewards and power, to wrest him from his duties.
But this dreadlord, should his treachery be known…
Falais shuddered, withdrawing a glittering pendant from beneath the folds of his tunic. A small bit of concentration, and the being materialized in front of him, her sword and bow gripped tight in her small hands.
“Why do you summon me now, Falais?” the ranger snapped, slanted blue eyes boring into his. “Sutera flees from Gishan as we speak, her Tauren companion in tow.”
“Let them, Lenora,” he smiled, holding up the crystal for the Talah’dorei to plainly see. “I have the curo.”
“Arthas will be pleased.” Lenora Del’nath smiled at his success. The motion had not graced her lips in many years, since before the destruction of the Well. Now, she and her brethren killed in that cataclysm haunted the Caverns and outlying, abandoned buildings they once held dear. The Naga, their twisted, living brothers and sisters, steered clear of them, for they were a poignant reminder of what they once were.
“Less pleased, I imagine, if he cannot access the crystal. I need Sutera alive.”
“The Lich King has his reasons. Dare we question them?”
“But the dreadlord…”
“Stall him,” Falais snapped as he moved to the rear of the room. Drawing aside the curtains, he eyed the runes etched into the stone. A series of presses later, and the wall slid open, revealing a spinning, glowing orb of red atop a golden stand. It had been no easy task to hide the Orb within the wall, the blood elf and Talah’dorei waiting until the dreadlord visited the Caverns to perform their work.
He shot a glance to the unmoving Lenora.
She frowned. “Very well. My troops will hold him at bay for as long as possible. Our losses will be tremendous, blood elf.”
“I will not fail,” he smirked, placing his hands on the device.
“You had best not,” she shot back, her form whispering into nothingness as she crossed the distance back to the Caverns.
In short order, Falais followed, the Orb of Translocation hurling him through the ether.
On they rushed through the twisting, dark tunnels, skirting the torchlight and diving into the shadows when any of the ghostly Talah’dorei whispered down a nearby hall. Thus far they had been lucky, avoiding all contact with the dead High Elves, Sutera's gentle touch and golden gaze guiding their way.
Neither knew where they were going.
Teake could only remember so much of their visits to the torture chambers, but they passed those long ago. Normally the druid retained an excellent sense of direction, but the constant elevation changes within the caverns, leagues below the surface of the sea, played havoc with him. They would find other cells, most housing either withered corpses or prisoners far too gone to free, barely able to lift their eyes as the strange pair peered inside.
Twisted, blackened doors greeted them as they hurtled around a corner, a green mist twisting from beneath the behemoths. Sutera thought little of it, crossing the distance to grasp the massive rings. The Tauren stopped her, placing a shattered hand on her thin shoulder in an effort to dissuade her, eyes scanning the bloody runes marring its surface.
“Perhaps our way out?” she insisted, flinging open the doors.
The druid’s eyes widened as he translated one of the runes. As he twisted away from the hellish light streaming into the hall, he attempted to pull the young elf into the shadows with him, behind the safety of the open door. He missed his chance, but the demonic energies ripped along his skin as he withdrew them, burning away a good chunk of his flesh. Gritting his teeth, he held his damaged hands against his midriff, stemming the flow of blood as best he could.
She stood in the light, unharmed. She smiled at him. “Stay.”
Then she stepped inside.
The large room housed a central, circular dais, upon which rested the largest pieces of armor she had ever seen. Not complete by any means, the single pauldron lay against the breastplate, both hideous pieces flickering with a wicked, all-devouring flame. The black ridges rippled along each piece, giving the armor a molten look. Resting in the center of the two pieces was an enormous sword, larger than she by several times over.
Sutera reached out, oblivious to the danger, and touched the blade.
The darkness contained within the blackened metal throbbed, pulsing as her soft skin met its razor edge. As if sentient, the tendrils snaked towards her, wriggling their way across the blade and through the shadows in an attempt to assault her body. As it neared, however, those dark forms halted, recoiling as if struck, falling still.
Her eyes examined the remainder of the room. All along the edge rested shelled bodies, battered and hollowed by the energies now snapping around her. Weapons lay, smashed, along the stone ground.
Teake watched as she exited the room, the blood elf closing the doors with a thoughtful arch of a perfect brow. Before she could relate what horrors she witnessed, a sudden commotion down the hall caught their attention.
A prisoner, throwing himself against the bars of his cell, shouted for them to help.
Falais watched as they approached, an instant look of suspicion and hatred flashing in Teake’s eyes. The blood elf gave him a wicked smile, turning his attention to his female companion. “Please,” he begged, adopting his most plaintive tone, “you must help me escape.”
Teake gurgled, attempting to voice his opposition, eyes opening wide as Sutera ignored his obvious trepidation and snatched the key ring from the wall.
“How did you come to be here?” she asked, cycling through the keys.
Falais locked stares with Teake. “My Master has become displeased with my performance as of late. Rather than offer me another chance to redeem myself, he sees fit to toss me to those horrible ghosts.” As an added touch, he allowed his voice to creep upwards, imaging what the dreadlord would do if his deception was discovered. “Each joint of my body would be pulled, torn from its socket, piece by miserable piece, until only a bloody pile was left of me. Even then, death would not permit me escape, for these Talah’dorei feed on the souls of their victims.”
The cell door popped open, the Tauren offering a deep frown as Falais thanked Sutera.
“Do you know a way out?” she asked.
“Of course,” he answered. “I remember well the path they took bringing me here. Follow me.”
As the trio set off down the hall, Falais could feel Teake’s eyes boring into his back. He would have to remain wary of this one, for it seemed no amount of convincing might sway him. True, he could not speak his fears and doubts to Sutera, but his demeanor and suspicions might lead her into distrust.
His hand drifted down to his pocket where the curo rested. He needed Sutera in case Arthas could not access the crystal. With his power, he could feed her a memory at a time, excluding those that marked him as her enemy, then interrogate her afterward. The Tauren, however…
He decided Teake was expendable.
- Bloodwen: Part III: 
- Bloodwen: Part IV: 
- Bloodwen: Part V: 
- Bloodwen: Part VI: