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Stepanos DelaCroix
Stepanos DelaCroix
Posts: 33
Joined: June 27th, 2014, 9:10 pm
Stepanos DelaCroix

From Darkness; Light

Postby Stepanos DelaCroix » June 27th, 2014, 9:42 pm

"Schwan? Gif me more Soju," the half-armoured man said, wobbling in his chair at the small table inside the Greenstone Inn. A cat skin hat sat atop his head, one some people called an Adventurer's Hat. This one looked nothing like those, more like the remains of cat who had been run down by a wagon and left to rot under a Badland's sky.

He thumped a metallic mug against the table, creating a ringing, hollow thwack. "I need. SOJU!"

The Pandaren woman behind the bar shook her head and smirked. However, she grabbed a jade pitcher and made her way to the table.

"You still have coin?" she said, looking at the bedraggled Human who demanded more of the drink. "You drink soju like water. You better have coin."

The human grumbled a reply and tossed five gold coins on the table. "That good enough, Schwan?" The woman nodded, scooped the coins and poured the man a drink.

"You stink," she said, wrinkling her furry nose. "You smell like Yak pen. Go get bath!" She walked back behind the counter and thumped the jade pitcher of Soju onto the counter.

"You run customers away!" she exclaimed, pointing a finger at the man who now guzzled the Soju, indeed, like it was water. "No one come since you arrive. Get clean or leave."

"And wear boots!"

The man lifted his foot to the top of the table. Dirt-caked toes wiggled from holes at the end of never-been-washed socks, causing the man to laugh.

"Itsh too bloody hot in here, Schwan," he said, putting his foot back under the table. "Besides, I don't know where I left them."

"Try yak pen," Swan said. "Behind inn, where you sleep."

The man laughed again, pulling the brim of his hat low as he leaned against the tavern's wall. "I will later," he said. "I need a nap."

And with that, Stepanos DelaCroix fell asleep - just like he always did these days.

Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
Location: Vancouver, BC Canada
Thomas Jarington

Re: From Darkness; Light

Postby Thomas Jarington » July 2nd, 2014, 6:58 pm

Waves of sound and smell washed over Stepanos as he awoke underneath the yak cart behind the Greenstone Inn. A bright light made him squint, and while it wasn't an inquisitor's burning hot iron, it was something just as nasty:

Morning sun.

"Baaaaaaa" something said just behind Stepanos, causing him to roll over onto his side and away from the imposing sound. He bumped his head against the wagon's wooden wheel.

"Baaaaaaa" it said again, this time against his back. He swung his hand at the noise, grunting in pain as the effort strained little-used joints in his lower back.

"Get away from me, foul creature!" he said. "Can't you see I am sleeping?" The yak easily dodged the swing, opting instead to munch at the hay upon which Stepanos lay.

"Leave my bed alone!"

The yak ignored him, of course, as yak are wont to do and went about eating it's morning meal right out from under the hulking form of the Righteous Light's former Lord High Commander. Within moments, four other yak had joined it's companion and Stepanos was forced to move, lest his clothing be eaten as well.

"That's it, yak," he said, wobbling to his feet. He blinked at the bright sun filtering through the jungle, then glared at the large, furry creatures. "I shall smite you where you stand!"

The yaks, small and not overly large, ignored the filth-stained paladin and continued to graze upon his bed.

Stepanos looked around, his dirt-smeared face scowling. "Where is my mace?!" He turned upon the first yak who had assaulted him. "You!" he said, pointing his finger at the beast. "You ate my mace!"

"Baaaaaaa," the yak grunted, looking up while chewing it's hay. "Baaaaaaa."

"I knew it," Stepanos said with a nod. "I hope you choke on it, flea bag." He threw his hands into the air. "Fine! Eat my bed, while you're at it. I will be inside the inn. When you finish, you had best return my mace or I will create a new bed from your hide!"

"Baaaaaaaa," the yak said, dipping it's head down to eat more hay - acting as if Stepanos had never existed.

Stepanos stalked into the inn's front door and smiled at the barkeep, whom he now knew quite well.

"Swan!" he exclaimed, opening his arms wide - revealing the sweat stains underneath. "I have missed you, my dear!"

The Pandaran woman wrinkled her nose and waved her paw in front of her face. "You stink worse, Stepanos," she said. "You get out now, you run off customer!"

Stepanos rolled his eyes, staggering his way inside. "Swan, swan, swan," he cajoled, rolling his eyes. "There are no customers in here. Only me."

"I have no customer BECAUSE of you," she stated. "No soju, no plum wine. No yak curd. You go now, find other inn to ruin." Swan turned her back on Stepanos and began cleaning a mug.

Stepanos chuckled and dropped a small stack of coins onto the bar, causing the Pandaran's ears to perk up. "My coin says there IS soju, Swan. Plenty of Soju - just for me."

Swan turned, frowned and swept up the coin. "Very well, Stepanos," she said, pointing her furry finger at the man. "But Soju now TWO gold, not one. You buy or leave. No bargain."

Stepanos shrugged. "I have plenty," he said. "Pour me Soju, Swan, and keep em coming. It's bloody hot outside and the Light needs it's drink today."

"The Light need bath, not Soju," Swan said, yet poured Stepanos his drink.

"And I need more customer than you!"
Thomas Jarington & Co.

Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
Location: Vancouver, BC Canada
Thomas Jarington

Re: From Darkness; Light

Postby Thomas Jarington » July 14th, 2014, 11:13 am

With the morning sun came the morning steam, which in turn created a stifling humidity that made everything in the Jade Forest melt and run for the cool cover of shade. The Pandaren people seemed oblivious to the oppressive heat, Stepanos observed, though why he had yet to discern.

Not that it mattered one way or another. So long as spicy stew simmered in pots and soju was abundant, he was happy.

"Schwan," Stepanos said, calling out from the corner of the tavern he had claimed for himself. The floor was clean and the wall well away from the cook fires, creating a perfect spot to savour soju while remaining cool. "Hey, Schwan?"

The Pandaren tavern owner lifted her head from the pot where she stirred the noontime stew. "What you want, Stepanos?' she said. "You have plenty Soju." Her face lifted into a smile.

"You ready to go now?"

Stepanos shook his head back and forth. "No, no, no," he said. "I like it here." He tossed back a swallow of the drink and Swan smirked, returning to her stirring.

"I wash wondering why the Jade Forest ish called a forest and not a jungle."

Swan stopped stirring and stared at Stepanos for a moment. She shrugged. "Because it is," she replied. "Why you called Stepanos?"

"My father named me that," he said, taking another drink and smirking. Swan waved a dismissive paw.

"You ask stupid question, Stepanos," she said. "You should ask, "Swan, will you take me to Eternal Blossom Inn" and I will say "Of course, Stepanos. We go right now." Stepanos threw his head back and burst into a drunken laughter, slapping the floor and almost spilling his drink.

"You are funny, Schwan," he said, stopping long enough to insure the safety of his soju. "You know I love you too much to leave!" Stepanos wiped his eyes with the back of his hand, smearing a dark substance along the side of his face.

"Ba!" Swan said. "You love misery, Stepanos. No one else. Not even self."

Stepanos's laughter faded away into a smirking frown. He sniffed, wiped his nose with his wrist and drank the last bit of soju remaining in his mug. Images flooded his mind as he stared into the empty mug's bottom, seeing them as if they had been waiting for him to finish.

He smiled as Nethergarde Keep appeared: crisp, clean and filled with armoured Guardians - resplendent in their white and gold livery. Lady Nineeve, elegant and beautiful, young Squire Aralor - eager to prove his worthiness and earn his spurs. Brother Emmeran, as devout a man there ever was among the Guardians.

Fricks. The face of his former valet, a man he'd known since youth, appeared in full view - his kind, grandfatherly look bringing momentary peace to Stepanos. No matter the trial, no matter the task, Fricks had always kept him strong and solid.

Darkness took Fricks, turning the kind face into that of a bloodied mass of flesh and bone. Stepanos gasped, recoiling against the wall - his eyes focused wide into the memory. Fires raged and men lay torn, blown to pieces by a bomb meant for him. Brother Silas and his betrayal, revealing himself to be Darethy as the Guardians retreated, allowing the Keep too fall to demonspawn.

Men and women butchered, strung up on walls for crows to feast. The scene shifted to Stormwind, where respite was short-lived. The bait had worked, yet people still died and souls were lost to the demon. The idea shattered, the Light failed and the people who had depended upon his leadership fell into darkness.

"All dead," he whispered to the mug, the images burning like Nethergarde inside his mind. "On me, I killed them, I let them die. All gone, all destroyed." He gripped the mug, growled, then threw it across the room - crashing into a cask before clattering to the floor.

Stepanos collapsed into a broken, sobbing heap - babbling incoherent words that the tavern keeper had come to ignore.

Swan sighed, shook her head and went back to stirring her stir. She was certain her luck would change, that the drunk would find the will to leave and haunt another tavern. Luck had a way of taking it's time, especially if you had no lucky-doos. She had once considered seeking out a grummle, but they rarely came through Greenstone Village.

Perhaps because it was Green - a VERY unlucky color.

"I could paint tavern red," she said, her ears perking up at the thought. Stepanos was now singing a song about gloom, despair and agony, though she ignored it as well. He sang it so often, she had the words memorized. "Red is a lucky color. Perhaps if..."

Swan stopped, her head turning toward the door where a customer had just entered.

A human female.

"Welcome to Greenstone Tavern," Swan said, her voice eager and loud in hopes of drowning out the drunk. "How can I serve you?"

Inside, Swan's hopes soared. Perhaps luck had finally decided to pay a call.
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Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
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Thomas Jarington

Re: From Darkness; Light

Postby Thomas Jarington » August 2nd, 2014, 12:20 am

The woman ignored Graceful Swan, instead swiveling her head around the inn until she spotted the half-armored drunk lounging on the floor singing about gloom.

"Perhaps you not hear me,' Swan said cheerfully, clearing her throat. "Welcome to Greenstone Tavern!"

"I heard you quite well," the woman said from beneath the deep brim of her wide hat. The dust covering her dark robe suggested long travels with little rest. It SHOULD be the perfect customer.

"I simply choose to ignore you."

"She needs SOJU!" Stepanos said from his corner, pulling himself up to stand at a table - grunting with the effort. "Schwan, bring me another mug. She needs Soju!"

The stranger crossed her arms and snorted, a smirk appearing on her face. "I need nothing of the sort," she said.

Stepanos laughed, flopping into a chair and patting another with his hand. "Now don't be rude," he said. "Schwan is a lovely hostess. Isn't that right, Schwan?"

"I am when you not run customers off," Swan said, filling two mugs with the Panderen drink. "Madam, would you..."

The woman cut her off with the wave of a hand. "Quiet, barmaid," she said, then pointed a finger at Stepanos.

"Who is that... filth of a man?"

Swan smiled and gathered her apron, bowing her head two times in reply. "He is town drunk," Swan said. "Ignore him. I try and make him leave, but he does not go. Very bad for business, that man is."

"Yes," the woman said. "I can see that." She turned to face Swan. "But who IS he?"

"Oh, he call himself Stepanos," Swan said, walking toward him to deliver the Soju. "But you no need concern yourself with him. He was just leaving."

Stepanos laughed, reaching for the mug and smiling at the familiar looking woman. "I have plenty of coin, Schwan," he said, throwing back a swig of the drink. "I will drink here as long as I want." He looked up at the glaring woman, who he now, sort of, recognized.

"Are you going to have seat," he said. "Or stand there being rude?"

The woman snorted again, something she did quite well, he noticed. Still, she sat - more like slammed herself into the chair. "I don't know why I am sitting," she said. "There is no way you are who I was told you are."

"And who might that be," he said, absently smoothing the deep wrinkles in the dung-stained tabard he wore as a shirt these days. Once white, it was now thread-bare and grey. "Someone important, I hope?"

"Ha," the woman exclaimed. "He was a great leader, a commander of the Light. You, filth, are not he." She reached for her drink, frowned at the mug then drank deep.

"Good!" Stepanos exclaimed, drinking deep from his stained soju mug. "I would hate to be like that." He waved a hand after he finished using his wrist to wipe his mouth. "Too much responsibility."

He leaned back in his chair and took the woman in, top to bottom, nodding and smiling. "Besides," Stepanos said. "You're dead. And since you are dead, I cannot be talking to you."

He drank again, this time allowing the liquid to dribble down his chin. He snapped his fingers. "Ah, HA!" he said. "You're a ghost."

"I am no ghost," the woman snapped back. "I am as real as you are, though you smell like you're dead."

"I told you!" Swan called out from the bar. "You stink, Stepanos. Smell like yak pen!"

The woman shook her head. "You are not Stepanos," she said. "You stole that tabard and his name." The woman frowned as she took the filthy and overweight man in. She shook her head. "Disgusting."

He laughed, throwing his arms open wide. "I am, indeed, Stepanos DelaCroix," he said. "Former Lord High Commander and Guardian of the Righteous Light!" He staggered to his feet, belched and scratched his crotch.

He tipped his dead cat hat as he bowed, revealing his hairless head. "At your service!"

The woman stared at the reeling and smiling man, then burst into laughter, slapping the table with her hand. "You almost had me going there, filth," she said. "Bald, older, even wearing the tabard."

"But now?" she said, standing to look at the man. "There is NO WAY the Light would ever allow this to happen."

"The Light?" Stepanos said, chuckling. "The Light had nothing to do with it, shade. In fact, as far as I am concerned, it's nothing more than a fictitious religion, designed by old men to get wealthy off the backs of the poor."

He belched, then reached for his mug - bumping the table, which forced him to grasp the drink with both hands. He sighed in relief when none spilled.

"How dare you!" the woman spat, baring her teeth at the drunk. "You have been devoured by Darkness to speak such things! I might have turned my back on the church, but I do not blaspheme against truth!"

Stepanos guzzled his drink, then hoisted the empty mug for Swan to refill. "Truth?" he said. "The only truth here, shade, is that you are dead, ghost of Nineeve."

"Go haunt someone else."

The woman glared at Stepanos, her face red from seething. "I told you," she whispered. "I am not dead."

As Swan refilled the mug, he blew her a kiss then tossed a pair of gold coins on the table, which she quickly scooped. "You seem to have plenty of coin," Nineeve said. "How does a drunk like you come by such wealth?"

"I have plenty," he replied, tossing back a swig of soju. "Since you are all dead, there is plenty of coin left in the coffers to supply me with a lifetime of soju!"

"I AM NOT DEAD!" Nineeve screeched, reaching over and pinching Stepanos on the arm, causing him to yowl in pain.

"Hey!" he said, rubbing his arm. "Why did you do that? It hurt."

"To prove that I am very much alive, you pitiful drunk!" she replied. "Though I can't say as much about you."

"Here, here!" he said, hoisting his mug. "Deader than a doornail, I am." He belched. "Or soon will be. Besides, Darkness takes us all in the end. Voidblade said as much the first time we met and I've now come to believe it."

"You can't be serious," Nineeve said. "If you are, indeed, the man you claim to be, then you KNOW that is complete nonsense."

"Why not?" Stepanos said. "It took you, it took Aralor, Emmeran - everyone. All dead, all gone. Darkness triumphed and always will." He took another swallow of soju, though not nearly as deep. "Therefore, I might as well drink myself into oblivion and join you when it's time."

Nineeve scowled and glanced toward the door as if considering whether to leave. "I hope you did not take that coin from the Order's coffers, STEPANOS," she said. "That is for the Light's work, not your drinking binges."

He shrugged. "Like I said, you are all dead and what is left is mine to do with as I please." Nineeve clenched her fist and reached for a dagger at her waist with another, but Stepanos raised a hand to stop her. "However, NINEEVE," he said. "I earned this myself selling ore and produce."

"But you left, therefore the Order's assets are mine to do with as I choose."

Nineeve shook her head and her eyes filled with tears. "What happened to you, Lord Commander," she whispered. "How is it you have fallen so far?"

Stepanos stared at the woman before responding, allowing some of her emotions to wash over him. It had been more than a year since he had last seen her, and her reappearance loosened something inside. His chest felt lighter, as did his heart. Where once his head was fuzzy and filled with dark thoughts, now it was less vague and more clear.

And for the first time in months, he noticed what he looked like and HATED IT.

"Do I look that bad?" he whispered, attempting to smooth over his tabard. A piece of it tore away into threads, falling to the floor in a loose heap.

Nineeve nodded. "Worse," she said. "And you're not even wearing shoes."
Thomas Jarington & Co.

Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
Location: Vancouver, BC Canada
Thomas Jarington

Re: From Darkness; Light

Postby Thomas Jarington » August 7th, 2014, 11:12 pm

Stepanos looked down at his feet, taking note of the stained and torn socks that covered his feet. "Well," he said. "The last time I saw my boots, they were near the wagon out back."

"They are in Yak pen," Swan said, placing her hands on her hips. "You should go find them. Do your stern friend favor and take bath, too." Nineeve ignored the woman's quip about her demeanor, but did manage a wry smile.

"Perhaps I shall, Swan," Stepanos said, wobbling toward the door. "But I will be back! You have the best drink in town and I am certain you will miss me."

"You are wrong," Swan replied, lifting a glass to dry. "When you leave for good, it will be happy day for me."

Stepanos laughed and blew the woman a kiss. "You say the nicest things, Graceful Swan," he said. "I will see you soon."

Swan rolled her eyes and waved a paw for Stepanos to leave; which he did, though not before banging his shoulder against the door frame on the way out.

Once outside, Stepanos looked around the courtyard for the wagon he called home. "Ah," he said, spotting it beside the tavern. "There it is. Hopefully a yak didn't eat them."

Nineeve gasped, covering her mouth with a hand. "A yak?" she exclaimed. "You actually sleep in a yak pen like the barmaid said?" Stepanos shrugged and bent down to crawl under the wagon.

"It works," he said, sliding under on his hands and knees. "It's a dry place... OUCH!" he said, ducking his head to the ground and rubbing his scalp. "Bloody wagon!" He banged a fist against the axle, earning himself another round of pain.

"Do not blame the wagon for your demise, High Commander," Nineeve said. "It had nothing to do with it."

"Stepanos," he said. "Just Stepanos. Hey, I found one." He slid from beneath with the trophy held proudly in his hand, lifting the dented and rusting sabaton high for Nineeve to see. "Right where I said it was."

"That's one," she said. "Though it looks ready for the refuse heap. Perhaps you should look there for the other." He shook his head.

"No," he said. "It should be..." he stood and walked to a stack of crates behind the tavern. "Right here. See?" he said, showing Nineeve he still had his wits about him. "Now I have two."

"And the rest of your armor?" she said, shaking her head and crossing her arms across her chest. "If it's in as sad a state as those, you might as well stop looking. Wearing that garbage, a Kobold could kill you with a candle without so much as trying."

Stepanos shrugged. "Doesn't matter," he said. "Not like I am planning to use it again. I just figured I'd show you I still had it. A trip down memory lane, as it were." He licked his lips, looking eagerly toward the tavern. "It's hot out there. Perhaps another drink?"

Nineeve shook her head. "ONly after I see the rest of your armor," she said. "I still can't believe you are the High Commander I once followed."

"I'm not," he said, his hand straying to his waist where a dented, tin flask hung from a leather cord. "I once was, but that was before I got everyone killed in Nethergarde, and in Stormwind." He lifted the flask, unscrewed the lid and took a deep drink, sighing with relief when finished."

"That was not your fault, High Commander," she replied, earning a sigh of resignation from Stepanos. "We were not ready to face such a challenge as Voidblade. When you reform and get yourself together, we'll know better."

Stepanos stopped drinking at her words, his lips still curled around the flask's mouth. "Next time?" he said, lowering the container. "There will not BE a next time, Nineeve. Darkness won and I am good with that." Nineeve's gaze softened and she walked forward, gently taking the flask from Stepanos.

"You need help, Stepanos," she whispered, his eyes watching the flask being removed from his care, then widening as she poured the drink to the ground. "I cannot stand to see you in this state."

"Hey!" he said, reaching for the bottle as the liquid was dumped to the ground. She moved backwards, keeping it out of his reach. As every drop fell to the ground, his demeanor sank as if it was his blood being spilled. "Stop it," he said. "I need that."

"You need the Light," she said, tossing the flask into the bushes. "And you need help."

"What for?" he said. "It abandoned me, you and everyone else. The world is sinking into Shadow and there is not a thing we can do about it except drink."

"Pardon me," a large, black and white Pandaren said, approaching from up the path. "I could not help but overhear your discussion. Let me introduce myself. I am Brother Hao Ling of the Tian Monastery," he continued, bowing at the waist and clasping his paws together. "We would be honoured to help you find your way back to the Light."

Stepanos lifted an eyebrow, glancing at Nineeve before returning his gaze to the monk. The Pandaren wore simple leather vest and pants, fastened across the middle with a deep-red, corded belt. A green symbol was in the middle. Nineeve snorted, but said nothing.

"Why do you think I need help?" Stepanos said. "Perhaps I like the way I am."

"Living like a yak?" Nineeve stated, crossing her arms. She nodded. "I am certain everyone wants to live that way."

"The Sha takes many of your kind," the monk said. "Most times leaving one completely unaware that they are lost. There are many types of Sha and each one is very dangerous." He shrugged. "Who knows which one has taken you, but I can sense it. in your eyes, in the words you speak - the actions you take."

He nodded. "You must seek help," he continued, then extended his paw. "Please. Allow me to guide you to my Master. He will see that you get the help you need to combat the Sha which has taken you."

Stepanos looked at the extended paw, staring at it and feeling the conflict build inside. The Soju called, he could hear it in his head - summoning him to the tavern to revel in it's glory. He could sing, he could sit and he could drink. No responsibility, no command, no one to worry about but himself.

"Darkness takes us all, Stepanos," it whispered, the tone hinting of the spicey drink he loved. He licked his lips and turned toward the tavern. "Yes, share in the Soju, Stepanos."

Nineeve appeared in his vision, her hands placed on each of his shoulders. "High Commander," she said, twisting her head so she could meet his eyes. "Stepanos!" He blinked, then saw her - his face scrunching in confusion.


She nodded. "Yes," she said. "Nineeve. Come with me to Stormwind. Leave the bottle behind, Stepanos, and I will be yours. For all time. Just come with me to Stormwind. Now."

He cocked his head. "Come with you?" he whispered. "Now?" he looked toward the tavern, his hand reaching to the cord that had once held his flask.

"Soju waits, Stepanos," the voice in his head whispered. He wasn't sure it was an actual voice, but it certainly was compelling. "Come to me, High Commander. SOJU."

Nineeve nodded, moving her face close to his - their eyes meeting, though his were glazed, while hers were sharp. "And I will be all yours, Stepanos. All yours."

He pushed her away, frowning and looking toward the monk. The Pandaren simply watched, his hands clasped together at his waist. "No," Stepanos said. "No! Not this way." For some reason his eyes were moist and he rubbed one with the back of his hand - leaving a dirty smear across his face.

"You would do that for me, Nineeve?" he said. She nodded, but said nothing. The voice in his head was strong, but the look on Nineeve's face was stronger and he pushed the Soju's call further away. He looked at his hands, tilting them up to really see. He grasped his torn tabard and ripped it from his chest, holding the moth-eaten tatters in his hand.

He leaned forward to see his toes, noting how large his gut had grown since discovering the drink - seeing his ragged socks and filthy toes as if for the first time. "Oh, Light," he whispered, feeling shame wash over, then fade into something he had not felt in over a year.


"No, Nineeve," he said, giving her a knowing and compassionate look. "You honor me with the offer, but I am not ready for such a gift." He turned to the Monk, who stood watching as if this were an everyday occurrence.

"I will go meet with your Master, Brother Ling," Stepanos said. "If there is a way to recover from this, I believe I am ready. Though, I make no promises." The monk clasped his hands as if in prayer and bowed.

"It will be my honor to escort you, Stepanos," the monk said. "Bring your armor, your weapon and your mount. Leave everything else behind." Stepanos nodded, then chuckled - turning his gaze upon Nineeve.

"I'm not sure I even know where Stout is," he said. "Probably ran off to find someone worthy."

Nineeve smiled. "You are worthy, Stepanos," she said. "You will see that soon enough, I hope. As to Stout? I would think he is right where he needs to be, waiting for you to come to your senses."

Stepanos moved to offer his hand to Nineeve. "I am in no condition to hug," he said. "I smell like a yak pen."

"Yes," she replied, "you do. However, I will hug you anyway."

"I will wait by the road, Stepanos," Brother Ling said, turning to walk. "Take no more than ten minutes to gather your things, for your journey beings in that moment."

"I will see you soon, Nineeve," Stepanos said, breaking the embrace and hastening toward the wagon.

"Until then, Stepanos," she said. "I eagerly await your return. May the Light be with you."

"Yes," he said. "I certainly hope it is."
Thomas Jarington & Co.

Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
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Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
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Thomas Jarington

Re: From Darkness; Light

Postby Thomas Jarington » August 11th, 2014, 11:41 pm

Stepanos quickly gathered his dented and rusted gear from the various places he had stashed it. The pauldrons were inside a crate, while the gauntlets were tucked between the spokes of the wagon wheel. The other pieces were found in similar places, and in even worse condition than the sabatons.

The one item that was in good condition was his mace. Surprised at not finding it inside the belly of the local yak, he nodded at it's condition, then slung it over his shoulder - using the rotting leather strap to secure it to his back.

"It looks like you found it all, High Commander," Nineeve said. "Do you plan to carry it like that, or do you need a bag of some sort?" She shook her head. "Light knows you won't fit into it, especially with that gut you're sporting."

"Stepanos!" the Pandaren Monk called from the edge of the plaza. "It is time for your journey to begin."

He nodded at the Brother Ling's shout and smiled at Nineeve. "I can manage by carrying it. Thank you, Nineeve. I am actually looking forward to this journey." Nineeve's eyes drifted toward Brother Ling's as Stepanos spoke, causing her to wonder how soon the High Commander would begin regretting those words.

"Good," she said, her eyes returning to meet Stepanos's. "I will come and visit when I can. Until then, may the Light guide you and keep you well as you journey toward redemption."

"Yes," he replied, hurrying toward the Monk - his gear held in both hands like a child carrying it's toys. "You, too, Nineeve!"

He panted to a halt beside Brother Ling, who gave Stepanos an appraising look and waited to speak until Nineeve had departed. "Why do you not wear your armor, Stepanos?" he asked. "Is it not yours?"

"Oh yes," Stepanos said. "It's mine, though it's been a while since I last put it on."

"Ah," Brother Ling said. The tone in his voice was no longer as kindly as it once was. "You will put it on. Now. Alone."

The monk sat upon the ground, closed his eyes and brought his fingertips together. "I will wait."

"What about the straps," Stepanos said. "I can't reach them, not since I have gained weight, anyway." Brother Ling sighed a heavy sigh, then opened one eye.

"That is not my concern," he said, then closed his eye. "A turtle must to fit into it's shell, if it is to be safe. Even though it eats carrots and drinks nectar all day, it still must wear it's shell." He lifted one finger. "So, too, must Stepanos the Fat."

"Now wait one Light-blasted," Stepanos said, then wailed aloud as Brother Ling walloped him across the skull with his staff. How he had managed to move so fast was beyond Stepanos, but the pain was proof it happened. He rubbed the lump on his bald head with a filthy hand, having dropped the gear with a clanking thud - grumbling curses about stupid Monks.

"NO!" the Monk said, his staff poised for another strike. "You will do as I say, or suffer another lesson!"

Stepanos scowled at the Monk, then bent to retrieve his gear. However, instead of lifting the armour, he reached for the large mace strapped to his back - intending to teach Brother Ling a lesson of his own.

The staff whirled, spun and thwacked Stepanos on the hand. Another whirl, and the mace was flying through the air toward the roadside. A final whirl saw the butt end punching the wind out of Stepanos, sending him to his back with a gravel-crunching, 'thump' - leaving him gasping for air, unable to even cry out in pain.

"Lesson number two, Stepanos," Brother Ling calmly said, then returned to his meditative position on the ground. "I have all of the time on Pandaria to either hand out more lessons, or wait for you to put on your shell."

"You choose, Stepanos the Sloth, and I will accomodate."

One hour and two lessons later, Stepanos had squeezed into his shell and was clanking down the road toward the Tian Monastary - sweating from the heat and grumbling in misery.
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Thomas Jarington
Thomas Jarington
Posts: 210
Joined: April 8th, 2014, 10:55 am
Location: Vancouver, BC Canada
Thomas Jarington

Re: From Darkness; Light

Postby Thomas Jarington » August 25th, 2014, 1:43 pm

"Is not the Jade Forest lovely at this time of day?" Brother Ling said as he walked down the cobbled path toward the high mountain retreat of the Tian Monastary. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the heat was high.

Brother Ling looked back at Stepanos, who was labouring to keep up with the brisk walk that the monk maintained. The Pandaren barely broke a sweat under the oppressive humidity, but Stepanos was not as fortunate. His face was flush red and damp with rivers of of liquid washing off of his hairless head.

Stepanos took the question as a moment meant to pause, so he stopped, his hands placed atop his head, jingling the mithril coif he wore in place of a helmet - panting in a feeble attempt to capture his breath.

"I did not say to stop!" Brother Ling stated. "I merely inquired about the weather. However, now that you are rested, we shall jog." With that, the monk bounded forward. "Hurry up, Stepanos," he called. "If you walk, a tiger might find you and I will not be there to save you. With all of that fat you carry, it will not hesitate to eat such an easy and delightful morsel."

As if in answer, a roar came from within the jungle, along with a bird-like scream, which sent Stepanos into what he felt was a run. In reality, it was a brisk walk, though faster than he had been moving earlier.

He wished he were dead. Soon, he thought, feeling like the run was a living nightmare. Every step was pain, every breath liquid fire and his head! He tried to shake it, but how does one shake a balloon held aloft on a thin string inside of a windstorm?

His misery went on for hours, for days - for eons. The run never ended, the weight of his gear overpowered his body and the humidity pounded his mind into mush with every footfall upon the cobblestones.

"Halt!" Brother Ling said, causing Stepanos to blink, stumble and stop - panting in place like a mindless zombie. The monk walked up to Stepanos and lifted his chin, twisting his head this way and that - inspecting the condition of the exhausted Paladin.

Brother Ling lifted a small stoppered bottle from his waist and poured water into Stepanos's mouth. "Drink, Stepanos," he said. "You need water before we ascend the great Stair!"

At first, Stepanos allowed the water to wash in and out of his mouth, pouring down his face as he tried to capture it with his tongue. Then, he gulped - reaching for the bottle to drink even more of the precious liquid. It was snatched away.

"That is enough," Brother Ling stated. "You will flounder. You are not a fish, Stepanos." A large paw grabbed hold of one of his pauldrons and twisted, allowing him to see the stairway.

"We have come far, Stepanos," Brother Ling said, as Stepanos's eyes drifted up the stairs. We have to climb that? he thought, hope for a longer rest fading with every stair. I will not make it. I am done for.

"Yet not far enough." Brother Ling pointed toward the misty mountain top. "Soon, you will arrive at the Tian Monastery and introduce yourself to High Elder Cloudfall. It is HE who will determine if you are to be saved."

Brother Ling turned back to Stepanos, who was still staring up the mountain. Misty clouds formed around the top of the great stair, hiding the final destination of the climb. It goes forever, Stepanos thought.

"Does the climb worry you, Stepanos?" Brother Ling said. "Do you feel you cannot make it?" Stepanos glared at Brother Ling.

"I can make it," he hissed. If a fat, self-righteous panda bear can make it, so can I, he thought, yet dreaded the climb. How did I ever let myself get to this point? "Lead on, BROTHER Ling!"

The monk laughed, nodded and bounded up the first step. "That is the proper spirit, Stepanos!" he exclaimed, leaving the paladin quickly behind. "I will wait for you at the first landing. Watch your step, as the mists make the rock very slippery."

"Maybe you'll fall and break your furry neck," Stepanos said to himself, then laughed. The thought energized him enough to power up the first two treads, though fatigue found him on the third - smashing him like steel caught between hammer and anvil.

Which, he thought as he strove for the fourth tread - gasping for breath from lungs that held no air. Is the point, I suppose.

He was being reforged.
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