Uprising: Despair and Hatred and Violence, Oh My

So close. So close. Mere leagues from ending the maniacal brainwashing. We are so close. I can feel it.

Vyrael Talanore will be made aware of his crimes.

~~~

We were stationed in the Borean Tundra. Through immense effort, every thread of Sorlain’s master tapestry of destruction and war had so far been undone. Stonetalon belonged to the Rebellion, as did the Barrens and Azshara. Finally, there was a ceasefire in Azshara. Hellscream himself had fallen.

It was an incredible achievement. But so long as the Crimson Hand continued to exist, we all knew that it was a peace under threat. In my hypothermic haze, we had arrived at a Northrend in chaos and deprived of regular communications. The war was moving at full steam. But we made progress. The food-deprived Stars’ Rest and Agmar’s Hammer were easily corralled into working together, as were the similarly-afflicted Bor’gorok soldiers and Fizzcrank engineers. Less easy were the ramifications of a massacre of 100 Silver Covenant forces, which were pinned on the Sunreavers by Sorlain’s forces (and in turn, the theft of soldiers and resources from both sides in Crystalsong made things worse). The Covenant called for aid from Amber Ledge, who, along with Valiance Keep, besieged Warsong Hold. Narrowly defeating them, we were able to expel Mind Magi of the Crimson Hand, who had disguised themselves as High Elves in order to subtly influence the Alliance. Now the Hand was on the run in Kaskala, led by Vyrael Talanore, the second-in-command of Halen Dawnseeker (himself the second-in-command of Pathaleon the Calculator and the leader of the Eclipse Battalion). Talanore had been, like the rangers of Falcon Watch and the orcs of Shadowmoon, absorbed into Sorlain’s expanded Crimson Hand shortly before he betrayed us. Along with Talanore came legions of Eclipse mind magi, and their considerable brain-washing skills.

We’ve been dealing with the fallout from this for months. Based on our information, I’d be surprised if Talanore even knows how many minds have been wiped under his command. Reports from Outland suggested that he was incredibly isolated after the fall of Kael’thas.

En-route to Kaskala we encountered Taleberaite, whose own forces had survived an ambush by the Crimson Hand attempting to halt his return to us. Along with Darkstrike, who rather annoyingly had turned up again to ‘help’ us against Sorlain, we proceeded to the abandoned Tuskarr port.

To say it was ominous would be an understatement; the entire place swirled with clouds that were magical in origin, and as we quickly discovered when the ice collapsed beneath us, they were both Sha and Kvaldir.

A short battle followed, which went surprisingly well. I suddenly detected a large amount of energy moving towards us. Korune boxes, floating high above our heads. As we scattered, I called upon as much energy as I could, thrusting the boxes back towards their point of origin – and my success inadvertently resulted in the obliteration of all Hand present aside from Talanore.

Following some monologuing by both him and Khairan, battle commenced, with Khairan raging against the desperate Talanore, sapping of mana. The sha re-animated the corpses and we battled them. The clouds swirled.

There is nothing left. Give in.

You’ll have to do better than that, Talanore. We never seriously considered giving up before now – and we are so much stronger than we used to be. You should have killed us at Razor Hill when you had the chance.

Khairan sliced Talanore’s hands off with a phase-blade. Overcome by the Sha, Talanore transformed – absorbing all of the area’s negative energy and becoming a horrific cross between phoenix and Sha abomination. Despite his power, it was a last-ditch effort, and we brought him down.

Ravaged by fire and chi, Talanore’s body collapsed upon the pier, the elderly mage clutching for safety with ruined hands. Khairan quickly jabbed at him, demanding answers.

“Now tell me, which of the Blood Magi did you violate in order to steal such knowledge?” His voice was quiet, yet menacing.

I quickly moved forward to try and collect Vyrael before he fell into the ocean. “Leave him. Ensure he is unable to use spells. Nothing more.”

Vyrael was almost silent in his murmuring. He barely noticed Khairan’s presence. “Aley-Aleyn, Cealla, Halen…no… Take it? The Sunfury, they…shared. No one’s with…without, Aleyn, please, failures.”

Edanna attempted to grab Khairan’s wrist. “Leave him, he’s suffered enough.”

“Shared? As in they volunteered, like every last member of the Hand volunteered their free will – to have their minds shredded by your pathetic little inquisitors? No, this is between my order and Vyrael.”

I grabbed onto Vyrael, attempting to teleport back to Warsong Hold before Khairan did further damage. He blocked me, high in power off the blood magic from the surrounding corpses.

“We are not doing this here. You have no idea if he is lying without a mind Mage here. Both I and Elient fell into the sea earlier, and unless you want us to get hypothermia and die for nothing, Khairan, you will stand down and let us apprehend him and return to Warsong Hold so he can be properly interrogated. This is not between your order and Vyrael. This is between Vyrael and everyone who has died because of his actions. You are not a god unto yourself, Khairan, and I will not allow you to dictate the laws of life and death. Stand down.” I attempted to banish his phase-blade, but again he counter-spelled without flinching. Vyrael muttered, suspended between we magi like a broken puppet.

“Also, that code is rather strict when it comes to retaliation. I think you all know that by now. If he is to live, then he will barely be able to speak – nevermind cast spells. You are a fool Vyrael, if you thought that. Spiked gauntlets, ritual knives, stolen tomes – all the trappings of an apprentice. Their training would have been considered incomplete at most. It is not necessarily death I intend to inflict. We all know that living can be hell enough.”

I was losing my patience. “If you don’t let me take Vyrael to be healed, I swear to the Light that I will place a mana collar on you and throw you at the Kirin Tor. If Vyrael can’t tell us where Sorlain is, if you leave him a shell, Sorlain wins. You think he cares about what happens to his own forces? You think he cares about whether these deaths are worth something? Do you want to go find the families of the brainwashed and tell them ‘Oh, we didnt save your sons and daughters, but we mangled this man and laughed at inflicting the sales crimes on him while ignoring the dead.’ There is no honour in that. No justice. There is only you and your pettiness.”

“Hold your own tribunal if you must, but I have an oath to uphold. I imagine that you would all benefit from the warmth. Besides, I think we need him to speak for a while longer. Quite honestly, this is not about Sorlain. Besides, I already said Vyrael’s fate can wait. Also… never conflate honour or duty with morality, Keliera. The three are separate.”

After we returned to Warsong, things quickly became hazy, although I recall an extended conversation with Khairan, Sathreyn and Edanna on his ethics. Despite everything, I was irritated that Khairan fell back on the defence that everyone else considered him a monster. Still, I was cold and exhausted, so I retired.

~~~

The following is an account of Khairan’s interrogation of Vyrael later that week.

Lacking individual quarters for all but the greatest of officers and not suitable for lodging with the rank and file, one of the many storerooms held former Elder Arcanist of the Crimson Hand.

Vyrael had been given two furs and had at least four orcish sentries around him at all times, his arms still bound despite lacking hands. Dressed in a scarlet robe that looks more like a bundle of stitched together rags, the elf nonetheless projected dignity, bloodied cloth tied around his missing eye and a tome held open for him to read by an arcane construct of some sort, likely not one of his design.
Khairan stood in the doorway, looking down on him. He is impassive and inscrutable as always – toying with a flame and waiting for Vyrael to notice him. The magus looked up from the tome, the construct declining to move, another hint that it is not under his control. He appeared aged in a way, his features more strained, a bit of the lustre lost from his eyes. Nevertheless, he greeted the Blood Mage somewhat politely, only pausing to take note of his guards.

“Bala’dash, Lord Sunshard. What leads you here?”
“You know that is the wrong title.”
“Sir Sunshard is inaccurate, given that you refuse a place in the army. Magister Sunshard more so, as it lends legitimacy to the Sunfury Spire of Silvermoon. It’s the most appropriate appelation, I think.” Vyrael bowed his head apologetically. Lacking the aura of arcane magic or his regal attire, his voice was deliberately inoffensive and unauthoritative.
“Blood Mage is the usual title, though I am a Magister, even if my own study is currently under lock and key.”
“Blood Mage Sunshard it is then. You didn’t answer my question though. Did you come to exact justice?” Vyrael appeared either non-chalant or even somewhat hopeful, though it’s hard to say how much of it was posturing.

“What do you think? You seem to have sobered up since our last meeting.” He tilts his head to the side, eyeing Vyrael.
“Time gives perspective. I needed to let go of the sha to clear my mind.” Vyrael’s obviously defensive about this, averting his eyes for a brief moment before finishing his explanation. “That and your healers have proven adept. For savages.”
“More adept than the idiots who grovel to the Light for its blessing. And it takes a bloody fool to draw upon whatever the Sha are for power.”
“The Alliance soldiers I had enlisted had been killed by Lady Dawndancer and you countered my use of blood magic. I could not break your monk’s will either. Though you will find no argument concerning the Light’s believers here. Halen accepted them, sometimes, though he was always dismissive.”
“Speaking of will, I remember that you made the mistake of treading somewhere where you should not have.”
“It was not my place, no.” Vyrael repeats his previous gesture, even his tone apologetic. “At the time it was the most prudent decision. I could not permit my mission to fall apart completely.”
Khairan raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“In retrospect, I should have had the Alliance soldiers in Valiance slit their throats and leave rather than try and force another conflict. Perhaps a full scale attack on Warsong, cripple both forces.” The magus appears thoughtful. “But I am neither a strategist nor a tactician.”

“Which is one of the reasons you would never be considered by the Order for recruitment.”
“Irrelevant. The Blood Magi owe their origin to our people’s darkest hours. It’s the ideal they held at the time matters, not the organisation that follows. I am no Blood Mage, of course, it’s likely I am not worthy, but my commitment remains the same.”
“Perhaps. But brainwashing every person you come across hardly leaves any mind free to actually think of ways to solve the problem at hand. Sorlain happens to be rather stupid like that – utterly consumed by the only vision he has, accepting no way but the way to the glory of a shallow grave.”
“You misunderstand my methods. My work does not leave puppets. Any apprentice can do so. The trick is to lay the groundwork of unshakable conviction but let the mind do it itself, fill in the details. Leave a soldier, an unshakably loyal one, yes, but still an elf.” Vyrael shuts his eyes, almost nostalgic. “When we first joined the Hand, that was the issue I needed to correct. The predecessor to the three of us had left hollow husks. Some altered, some simply so worn down by war that they were effectively useless.”

“No matter. You killed many more than I ever did. And now the Convocation has to put the shells to rest.”
“I know. I intend to pay for all I’ve done when it’s all over. But I can’t let that cloud my work while there’s still hope, however dim.”
“You do know that there is no ‘work’ for you? Not once your tongue has been cut out.”
“Yes, I was referring to what I did in service to Amaran and Halen before him. I can’t change it now and my regret is meaningless in the face of those that have died because of my failures.”
“Actually your successes killed people. Do you honestly think that your magic is victimless?”
“Of course not. The Sunfury have expectations. I had no need for bloodcrystals to force my compliance.”
“No, you just destroyed minds.”
“Sometimes, yes. Other times I repaired them, sometimes I made them forget. Though if I was exceptionally cruel, I made them remember.” Vyrael smiles sombrely.

“I get the feeling that you never asked. Quite honestly, if there was a way to utterly strip you of your power, I think that you deserve such”
“I agree. Perhaps I’ll be executed at the end of this. Perhaps the Hand will execute me for failing.” Once again, the mage sounds hopeful, though not subtly so.”Don’t think I don’t regret all that I’ve done, Blood Mage. All that happened to me I brought on myself, but one of the few things I won’t doubt is what I’ve done for the Sin’dorei.”
“No, you are not even one of us. If you cared for our people, you would not sell them to a man who would throw away the few who remain.”
“No, I would let us sell what’s left of ourselves to either the Alliance or the Horde, depending on what’s convenient. I would let us be defined by those who’ve failed our people for centuries.” This is the first time that Vyrael actually sounds legitimately angry, however downplayed it might actually be. “I followed the Sun King to build something new, something better.”
“You say that as if I care for the Horde. Sorlain did. Sorlain worshipped Hellscream as he sent my people to die. And then you followed him. Or his lies. Quite honestly, Halen was also wasting his breath.”

“I have yet to allow a Sin’dorei to die under my command, Blood Mage. The Horde and Alliance killed each other because we bid them to.” Vyrael smiles again, though this time it’s a bit harder to guess at his mood. “That is how it should be. But you misunderstand me. I want you to tell me, honestly, when you strip the sentiment away. When you look at what Quel’thalas is now, those who lead it and where they lead it. Is that something worth defending? Not the people, we must serve them at all times, but the nation itself.”
“And the Sin’dorei were caught in the crossfire. Hardly blameless. And not to mention that every ‘reconditioned’ elf is a dead elf.” The flame flickers fel green.
“Specify what you mean by the nation?”
“Quel’thalas. The state lead by the Regent Lord Lor’themar, the Sunfury Spire, the Farstriders and the nobility.” Vyrael clarifies. “Think of those who’s minds I’ve touched as you will, our views on that differ too much for me to even try and argue my case. Suffice to say I understand your misgivings, but I trust in its necessity.”

“I stand for the people, Vyrael. You should know that. The people who you carved the souls from and tossed into the war.”
“Nothing of the sort. I worked with soldiers. I would never turn a civilian into a weapon. It was a point of contention between me and Halen. He won out, of course.”
“That just makes you weak. Unprincipled. Then again, the magic you wield is the sign of such.”
“No magic is inherently good or evil. As a user of fel, you should be aware of this. It is a tool.”
“No, it is what you do with your abilities. And yours is used solely for violation.”
“An overstatement. I have not used my talents for the sake of inflicting suffering. It wasn’t needed.”
“And you admitted to feeling cruel and forcing people to remember. Not to mention forcing Amaran’s ideology on others, violating their own minds simply because he didn’t agree with them. Can you not see how that it is wrong?”

Vyrael pauses, though only briefly, carrying on. “Even if it is, what’s done is done. I told you, I regret many of my decisions, but not what I did for the Sun King, Halen or Amaran. The only difference between me and the inquisitors at the Spire is that I’m motivated by something more than maintaining a status quo.”
“A difference that hardly matters. All Amaran wants is war, and nothing else. War is not going to help anyone – least of all the people of Quel’thalas.”
“War? Perhaps not. But the end result will be a stronger Quel’thalas. One not afraid of what our people can accomplish if unshackled from the beliefs that have held us back. Even the orcs, a race of demon-warped savages have accomplished more in ten years than our people have in centuries. And the reason for that is because they have some drive to succeed and improve. Even in failure that is commendable.”
“No, our people will be spent – the few remaining survivors nowhere near enough to repopulate our home! This is why I opposed Hellscream’s selfish war from the start, you addled old fool! This is why the Quel’dorei are dying out – because Vereesa sends them to their deaths over her personal crusade. There. Are. Not. Enough. Of. Us. For. War.”
“That is why the Eclipse Battalion were a handful and worked through agents and why the Crimson Hand’s actual army has not been used since its last commander has fallen. Why I recondition instead of kill and why I surrendered to the Scryers and Aldor rather than let more of my friends die. I have no interest in Hellscream, I did not work for him, I worked for Amaran. It appears now that these are distinct. But there is a reason I took up arms against you alongside Halen back in Outland. I will not defend a foreigner’s vision of Quel’thalas.”

“Sorlain would. You do know that he stayed with the Orcs until the very end? Supported Hellscream’s vision of death? I would call that a foreigner’s vision. Myself, I stand for Thalassian independence. Not Anrithen’s pitiful vision. Either way, why should I even humour a traitor?”
“I expected you to come here to either kill or torture me. It was your choice to converse.” Vyrael shakes his head. “I am aware of his past allegiance as well, but what I see now is something else. And your Thalassian independence is meaningless when the Sin’dorei cannot defend their interests and its leadership refuses to stand resolute.”
“Yes, and they cannot do that if Sorlain kills them all because he felt like it. At least he helped us rid ourselves of one or two houses of vipers. That might spur a few into thinking about more practical affairs.” He half-shrugs, seeming strangely indifferent. “Who cares about politics. It is a waste of time anyway. At least after this, I will likely be dead and not have to bother.”
Vyrael bursts into laughter, a scratching, joyless sound. “I can agree with that last sentiment, Blood Mage.”

“Though to be honest, I think you might be left mute and alive.”
“Either punishment would be appropriate, I think.” Vyrael sighs. “Perhaps I should have followed the Light after all. Then death would have at least offered the hope of seeing Aleyn again, Halen as well.”
“I doubt it. The Light betrays even those who trust it. I doubt those who die in its arms get any special treatment.”
“Then again, these are hollow comforts. Do as you will, Blood Mage. I have nothing to say in my defense. All I ask of you is to watch. Both here and when you come back to Quel’thalas. Perhaps you’ll understand why I hold the beliefs that I do. In that case I’m relying on word eventually reaching you. Either way, I await the reason for your arrival. You still didn’t tell me.”
“I felt like it. A monster in the company of another monster, no?”
“Appropriate.” Vyrael sighs. “I don’t think you’ve failed as many as I have. In a way, I preferred being Feytan. It was liberating.”
“You seem to count your worth in failures rather than in atrocity. As if you cannot even look your own soul in the eye. You cannot even accept the reality of your own malevolence.”
“Perhaps you’re right. But then that’s the difference between us, isn’t it? That I’ve always been a coward. Really, even wanting death…” Vyrael trails off, looking up to the ceiling.

“The last part is not actually that cowardly, when you think of it. After all, most living beings fear it to some degree.”
“You misunderstand. Death is a means of escape. If I die, I don’t have to explain myself to anyone, I don’t have to justify the decisions I’ve made.”
“Imagine if you had no choice but to do so?”
“Honestly? I don’t know.” Vyrael shrugs.
“Sometimes you just have to admit that you cannot, I think. Indecision can be a curse, no?”
“I don’t think I could still look Aleyn in the eye and tell her that what I did was right, if that’s what you mean.”
“At least you can admit that you fucked up.”
“I’d be the first to admit it, Blood Mage. Doesn’t mean I won’t do what I have to but…”
Khairan half-shrugs again. “Tell me, when you thought you could casually wander into my mind, could you sleep?”

“I can’t say it was pleasant, no, but I did manage. I am an expert of the craft after all, for whatever it’s worth.”
“Yet you still could not take my mind despite trying your hardest. How amusing.”
“Not quite. I reach out to many at once. It’s rare that someone puts up meaningful resistance at all.”
“Meaningless? When one’s life and autonomy is under assault, one fights back with the intention to mutilate, to make an example of. It is both natural and logical. Besides, resistance is only meaningless to those who desire convenience.” He rubs his right shoulder, leaning against the doorframe.
“If you’ve…interacted with as many minds as I have you would find it a hindrance as well. I know how that view reflects on me, but it’s the truth. People become challenges.”
“If people are only challenges, then why care for this ‘Aleyn’? I find it amusing that you cling to Sorlain in an attempt to prove to yourself that your efforts have meaning, yet in the end, is he not also a ‘challenge’ for you to battle?”

“There’s a world of difference between people like us and those like Halen and Amaran. To judge them by the same standards is doing them a disservice. As for Aleyn, yes, you are right. It’s absurd for me to care for my daughter despite having killed the loved ones of so many others.”
“As a monster that hunts its own kind, I beg to differ. You think that the world is all to do with leaders and followers. To be quite honest, there are leaders, followers, the indifferent, idiots, prey, predators and those who would see the world burn. You might be a content little follower, but really; do not think that I am in any way the same. Sorlain thinks he will set the world on fire, but it is my jaws that will be around his heart in the end.”
“Who we define ourselves as is what matters. I see myself as a true patriot, those sitting at the Sunfury Spire would think anything but. Kael’thas thought he was saving his people in life, but all that he is remembered for is the way the Legion used him. The difference between us and the Sun King is not just scale or blood, it was the loyalty he inspired even at his lowest point. We could never do the same.”

Another half shrug. “Who knows? Personally I would not want someone to obey me without question. Besides, Sorlain needs creatures like you to ensure such – he is not truly a leader. Why could you not simply take his army for yourself?”
“Why would I? We stand a higher chance of succeeding with him and Rith’len leading. You saw for yourself what I did or didn’t do at Valiance.” Vyrael sounds honestly amused. “As for obedience without question, that is also not a question I can answer. As I said, I create loyal soldiers not puppets.”
“Not really. If you wanted to succeed at anything, it would have been better to give him a less suicidal cause.”
“Besides… why would Rith’len follow? Dreams of blood and orcish glory?”
“A personal challenge. Rith’len is a champion of the Blood Knights and the Horde, an ideal Sin’dorei in all ways. Honestly, the closest I can find to motivation is boredom with the ease of her success. Give him a cause? The cause has already been made, how succesful we are is something else entirely. However briefly, the Eclipse Battalion got its message across. The Hand has far more resources.”
“Still a Blood Knight. Unless she happens to be an arcanist, I can hardly see such a figure as ideal – especially after throwing her lot in with the Horde. Yes, and given that they are still vastly outgunned and outnumbered, I doubt that they will be successful. Besides, Sorlain is tactically inept. He always was.”
“Rith’len leads his battles. Amaran has assembled his army and acquired every fragment of the resources we required. As for ideal figures, I have little love Silveredge, but would you call Caleath a capable leader simply because she’s a mage of incredible skill? I don’t think so either.”
“Then when Rithlen finds herself hacked to pieces and impaled on a tree somewhere, his tactics go back to ‘run at the thing and hit it with sticks’. Lazy sod. No, but I really think that there is something shameful about the neglect for the arcane arts you see so commonly among Blood Knights.”

“We have put more arcane magic to use in two months than the Thalassian army has done in five years.” Vyrael is close to laughter. “Then again, capturing me has so far been your sole victory. You have not faced the Hand in battle, you did not prevent us from acquiring what we needed from Sehsel and the Alliance and Horde in Northrend are significantly weakened. I would call that a favorable position.”
“Who the fel thinks that facing anyone in battle is even a good idea? After all, you barely have any bloodcrystals to spare.”
“Forcing a confrontation is in your interests right now. I was referring to the fact that we’ve lost very few troops up until now.”
“But not in the way that you want us to, correct?”
Vyrael shrugs, giving no answer.
“I have asked all of this, yet not one question in return. This is not even an interrogation.”

“Ask questions? If I’m given the right I suppose I’m obligated to ask what you intend to do with me. And I doubt you’d tell me your next move.” Vyrael sighs. “I have nothing to ask. I doubt a dissertation on what a Blood Mage actually is would be appropriate given the circumstances. Well, I suppose there is one thing, though you’ve likely heard it often. You are different from your peers. Except Darkstrike, though she is one of ours. Were you tempted to return to the Sun King’s forces? Or at least to Outland. Before and after the Sunwell was restored.”
Khairan raises an eyebrow at the mention of Elient. “I did not return to Azeroth until after the Cataclysm.”
“Something off?” Vyrael notices, faintly curious. “Yet you worked with the Scryers, as far as Halen knew. Why? They were clearly mere extensions of the Naaru.”
“I did not feel like going back to Quel’thalas. I had a new world to wander and a life of my own to lead.”
“Then why not branch off? I did that, albeit for less noble reasons. The Sha’tari don’t think much of Sunfury stragglers.”
“I did. I simply liked the idea if having a safe haven to return to if I needed one. Besides, I was not without friends, for once.”

“My friends either died at the Plateau or joined the Eclipse Battalion. It was another reason why Halen’s offer was appealing.”
“Why not go your own way? It was obvious that it was over.”
“It was the chance to relive a dream and I had spent four years hiding, having to make deals to protect my daughter’s life. Stockpiling golems and bombs.”
“Your dream? Or someone else’s? The King died, his dignity stripped from him by the legion. There is no point to fighting a demon’s cause.”
“The king’s dream wasn’t just to lead our people to another source of magic. It was to restore them to glory, to innovate. It’s what the Sunfury were at first, before the demons turned him.”
“But killing and brainwashing our own would never accomplish such. There are likely far more effective means of doing so”
“We may have lost our way, but our intentions are the same. Besides, if there were simpler ways to do it, it would have been done.”
“I did not mean ‘simpler’ because sometimes the simple solution happens to be heavyhanded and likely to backfire. If you had become an institution with the intent to innovate without killing everyone in sight, I think that your efforts may have been appreciated.”

“The Eclipse Battalion lost its way quicker. We were to be a shadow with a knife. The hidden threat behind every agreement Quel’thalas sealed. Defend their interests out of sight. But Halen took offense to the reclamation movement and…well, you know the rest.” Vyrael sighs.
“It seems that I am not the only one who ought to have stabbed a supposed leader in their sleep, then?” He says, eyeing Vyrael.
Vyrael shakes his head swiftly. “No. Halen was…I can’t explain it to you. He was an old friend. I couldn’t have brought myself to do it. And I did as he asked anyway.”
“And you did not even try to talk him out of it?”
“Oh, I did. I threatened to leave, actually.” Vyrael tries clutching his forehead, but can’t. Instead, the arcane construct hovers closer. “I thought I convinced him until I figured out he was just sending the orcs in behind my back. It’s why I moved to work in Terokkar, through the broken you encountered. Morrowsong got to work with the Ethereals, though they were always slippery.”

“Morrowsong?”
“Yes, the Blood Knight Commander the Crimson Hand forces sent catapulting off the edge of the world before Amaran struck a deal with Lexxal. Why the surprise?”
“The name reminds me of something. What did you know of her?”
“Initially she went by the name Bloodsummer, though like many after the Fall that was one of her own choosing. She took back Morrowsong when she started working with the Ethereals, in case she needed to run off if the Battalion failed. Technical expertise was impressive, installed an override code to make the turrets truly ours, but she was…unhinged. From what I knew of her background and from her surface thoughts, she was a dismissed noble child of some sort. Committed some crime then ran off, joined the Sunfury when the opportunity presented itself. Bloodthistle had made her very erratic.”
“Ran off to join the Sunfury? I could hardly blame anyone for doing that. I cannot say that there was much of a life for me in Quel’thalas before the Fall.”
“She was a favored operative, but not a very good one and likely contributed to us losing sight of our goal.”

“I see…”
“Is something off?”
“Not really. Tell me, what do you think defines a person?”
Vyrael looks down, contemplating the question for a moment.”What they’re willing to do for another.”
“That is… a new perspective.”
Vyrael perks an eyebrow.”Why so?”
“I have met too many who seem to place all value in one’s predecessors. Whilst forgetting that we are not them.”
“A legacy is questionable. You can’t control how people remember you. I still think Halen was a good man, but no one who actually met him at the end would agree. But I worked with Amaran, gave him the bombs and golems that would eventually form the basis of his Crimson Hand to save my daughter. That she fell was on my head. I served the Sun King to help all of the Sin’dorei. Nevertheless, if we fail, history will remember me as a traitor who left his family to die for nothing and aided three madmen in accomplishing their ambitions.”

“So Amaran effectively blackmailed you into it? Face it, he saw all those around him as disposable. I have known him for longer than you have; even before the war, he was heartless and willing to sacrifice others for his own, selfish goals.”
“You misunderstand. That was before I even joined the Battalion and he was the one to tell me my daughter was even alive.” Vyrael shakes his head. “I am the one to blame for my choices. Pinning it on others is missing the point.”
“Believe me, he cares naught for the loved ones of others. He would not protect another person’s child, even if he was paid to.”
“I cannot claim to know, but I imagine I will when this all ends.”
“Oh?”
“It’s difficult to judge someone solely on intent or on their actions. I admire Amaran’s intentions and I can not criticize his methods. It’s the end result and how he deals with failure or success that will give me the answer.”
“Believe me, I have seen both and then more. You seem to be lost, looking for the first half-baked cause to cling to, because you lack your own initiative. Pitiful, really.”

“That you do not lead doesn’t make your cause any less valid. I trust Amaran and I trusted Halen, that the Battalion failed does not make them wrong any more than the Sun King was at the start.”
“I still do not know why you would agree to be led by a man who forces Sin’dorei to become living bombs, if you supposedly care for our people. If anything, he is no different from the Thale’thiim or the Jarath. Or even the Drathiiri.”
“Neither the Hand nor the Battalion ever used Sin’dorei for that role. In Valiance, I used humans, in Hellfire, Halen used Mag’har.”
“And in Azshara, Amaran used Sin’dorei. They left quite a mess, too.”
“You misunderstand their workings. They were never intended as a suicide weapon. The bombs would be flung then the bloodcrystals used.” Vyrael pauses, catching that he’s actually given intel for a change.

“No, my memory is exceedingly clear. They did not teleport away, and the bombs appeared to be strapped to them. Instead, they would run into our forces and detonate themselves – powered by their own mana.”
“I am also certain you are wrong because all the suicide troops we employed were those I altered to fulfill that purpose. The initial ambush facilitated by the traitor seeded in your ranks cost us no casualties.”
“You were not the only inquisitor in the Hand, Vyrael. And you were not there. That makes me an eyewitness, and you merely clinging onto the delusion that Sorlain cares for Quel’thalas. Azshara was full of Sin’dorei corpses – all because of Amaran. He even made sure his men killed Sehsel’s elven retainers.”
“You underestimate my reach. You’ve likely discovered the dual uses of the communicators, but if not, I wager you can extrapolate. As for Sehsel and Jarath…” Vyrael hesitates briefly. “They are a symptom and capturing the entirety of their force was impossible at the time. I used those I acquired to seize your vessel.”
“I am not blind, you idiot! It is very difficult to mistake an elven mind-slave annhilating themselves and everything in range WITH A MANA BOMB!”

“As I recall, your tour of duty there was interrupted.” By this point Vyrael is vascillitating between amusement and fear. “I will repeat it again. No Sin’dorei that were originally part of the Hand were used as suicide troops. What became of the nobility’s retinue or Jarath’s army is for them to settle, I played no part in it.”
“That does not change what I saw. Chances are, it was the work of Sorlain’s pet shadow-priest. Those that we captured were nothing but drones. Mindless, thoughtless, drones. He tricked you Vyrael.”
“Your sight can fool you. I felt their minds. If one of them was silenced, I would be aware of it.” Vyrael shrugs. “And if it is true…well, it won’t be the worst I’ve done.”
Khairan walks over and grabs him by the left ear, drawing a knife. His eyes narrow. “Silenced? You emptied them to begin with.”
Vyrael once again appears vaguely hopeful.”I told you already, my alterations did not leave husks. That is the work of an amateur.”
“You still killed them! You still butchered their minds until the person who previously exists was gone!”

“Some memories are altered, some removed, much is left, else they aren’t really people, now are they?”
“No. They are not people once your sort has done with them.” Khairan clenches his fist, pulling Vyrael towards him and resting the blade of the knife on his ear.
Vyrael closes his eye with trepidation. “They have views, memories, interests, hobbies, loved ones. They are people. And if they aren’t, then you have no reason to mourn their deaths.”
“And you strip them of their dreams and their motivations. Until only your own remains. Another death, just a quiet one that no one will notice.” He’s wild eyed with rage, though his hands are shaking. If anything, he’s uncertain.
“I help them forget what left them traumatized, gave them reason to carry on. Do not tell me that there aren’t moments that you would wish to forget. Where you doubted you made the right call.” Vyrael replies. His tone carries a certainty lacking until now, save for when he voiced his views on the Sin’dorei.
“You are nothing by a murderer, Vyrael. Like the filth let run rampant in Quel’thalas. Carving the minds of the innocent apart! And believe me, I would sleep far better knowing that my mind is my own, and not the plaything of a madman!”

“Don’t you think I know?” Vyrael snaps back, glancing at the knife.”If you’re certain, then do it.”
“Then why even become what you are in the first place?”
“I have answered that already. I did what I did for my people, same as you.”
“I do not believe you…”
“I’ve answered that as well. I will be remembered as others choose. It’s not in my hands. Make of my views what you like, I’ve given you my version.”
Khairan pulls the knife away, letting him go and stepping back. He seems oddly spooked by something, taking a deep breath.
Vyrael looks up, his expression betraying faint disappointment. The arcane construct shuffles somewhat, lifting the tome back up and trying to find the proper page.”Has our meeting concluded?”
“I… I do not know.” Khairan mutters, leaning against the doorframe again, dagger in hand. “Tell me, how does it feel to lose your hands for a cause?” Khairan’s voice sounds flat now, dead. Devoid of the rage it had less than a minute ago.

Vyrael looks down. The orcish guard kneels down, lifting the book so the magus can actually read it, flipping it a page at a time.”I’ve lost far more.” He answers sombrely.
“Really? Oh yes, you sold your daughter to Amaran too.”
“No. I left her to fend for herself for an assignment. Everything that happened to her afterwards was my fault.” Vyrael carries on, barely paying attention to the book.
“Let me tell you this; if you truly cared for her, you would have sent her so far away that the Kor’kron and Sorlain could not have caught up with her.”
“If I truly cared for her I would not have gone to the Spire instead of making sure she was alright. But I cannot change the past, can I?”
Khairan half-shrugs again. “Is there anything that you do not blame yourself for?”
Vyrael shrugs. “I saved what was left of the Battalion. That’s worth something.”

~~~

Khairan seems quieter now. I’m not sure what to make of it yet.

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