It had finally settled down, the corruption. No longer was it trying to grasp at her soul, and it no longer seemed capable to push it further out. It had slowly become a part of the young dragon, just like the deep scars on her back. A misfit, an outcast, a fact that could not be changed. Terin had faced the fact that she had nothing left of what she used to be. Facing that fact, had first cast her into despair. A buttomless pit that she seemed either uncapable or unwilling to climb back out of.. That until she remembered a strange sentence some of the humans once had said, as everything they owned had been destroyed by bandits. We'll just have to make the best of what we have, and if we have nothing, we'll be making something out of nothing. For some reasons, those humans had not given up, so neither would Terin.
Though Terin had been corrupted, it wasn't like she had lost all of her abilities, they had merely changed. While attempting to grow plants would leave them brown and almost dead, she could still control the plants. Also, where the dragons of the green flight could not create or impact life in areas of corruption, Terin could. The ability to heal and mend wounds however, was a lost cause. Even trying with the mightiest willpower, Terin would always end up infecting those who she was trying to cure. That however, made for an excellent offensive move. The only broken piece of glass that Terin kept in her heart, was the loss of her majestic wings. The youngling hadn't been using her dragon form for weeks, maybe even months.. It felt terrible looking at oneself, being reminded of exactly what had happened.
They had taken refuge in the mountains of the Twilight Highlands, her and Variastrasza. While it wasn't the most quiet place on Azeroth, it seemed to please Variastrasza to have something to look at. Also, it seemed that having the Vermillion Redoubt on the edge of the horizon allowed Variastraza to keep somewhat of an eye on her flight - even if from a distance. Dusk had slowly climbed over the highlands, and the strife for the day seemed to have slowly settled down. The sky was clear, and the stars were almost smiling down upon the youngling, who had found peace in a cove up in the mountains, as south as you can go. Sitting on her knees, Terin was holding a Twilight Jasmine between her fingers. Focusing her magic upon it, the flower slowly wittled away, until it became but a brown-branch-looking thing. Slowly after, the plant uprooted itself upon Terin's command.. Yet, it managed to only take a few steps before dropping over, the plant being entirely dead.. It would take a lot of practice for Terin to even do the simplest of things.. yet, this was surely a beginning.
Variastrasza frequently stared in the direction of the Vermillion Redoubt, watching for long periods of time as her ruby kin came and went. She often knew their names and would mutter those names to herself likely out of force of habit. Sometimes she'd mutter a note about the dragon under her breath, such as when she laid eyes on a very young male drake. He was a very rich scarlet and though clearly not old enough to be of any use to the flight in combat, he had the masculine look of a dragon that would someday grow up to be a powerhouse. She identified this one as Ceneristrasz, her youngest son. While another dragon mother might immediately get up and fly to see their offspring, Variastrasza stayed put and continued watching despite the brief glimpse of one of her own.
When she didn't watch, Varia kept Terin company. She encouraged the young green to use her native form more, but the vanity of youth was a hard thing to overcome, so she hoped she might influence the young dragon by example. Most of her time was spent in her dragon form, and thanks to her muted coloration, she often blended in fairly well with the mountainous backdrop so as to not draw any concern from anyone below or above that might happen to look toward the mountains. She was never pushy about trying to influence the young green dragon, but made it clear what she thought in the way a mother would to a scared child. When the tactic didn't seem to work, she didn't give up on it, she continued with it and hoped for change.
Presently she came into the cave in her mortal form. The cave was not large enough for a dragon as ancient as the emberwyrm to even dream of fitting into, but her high elven guise was quite comfortable in it. Coming in and sitting inside not far from Terin, she looked through the darkness at the young dragon before turning to a small fire pit that she had constructed their first night there. With a flick of the wrist, it sprung to life with abnormally white-hot flames, the sort that are so hot they feel downright cold to the touch.
"Better," Varia murmured, observing Terin's magic. It was still weak and a sad shadow of what she was born to be able to do, but it was a start and a step in the right direction. The ancient red took a dandelion from a patch of grass nearby and held it up, concentrating hard on it. For a couple moments, it stayed bright and yellow.. and then it simply withered and died, leaving Varia holding a limp stem and a petal-less flower. "Better than me," she added, dropping the dandelion and looking out to the starry sky above.
"I can keep things from dying, as long as I don't influence it too much. Yet as soon as I try to bend anything, it just withers away and dies. I'm trying hard, I really am, but it really does seem foolish to expect such a miracle.." Terin let out a soft sigh, as she carefully picked up the remains of the Twilight Jasmine, caressing it gently between her elven fingers, before walking out into what remained of the sunlight. Carefully making way into the stony mountainside, Terin placed the plant into the hole and covered it up, almost like a burial of sorts. "This world builds on the strangest of things. For a plant to live, something has to die, else there would be no nutrition. For a dragon to feast, an animal may give up its life. Everything here is an equal trade."
Terin slowly stood up and started walking back into the cave, eyeing Variastrasza from the corner of her eyes. The felgreen taint was still shimmering lively, it wasn't ever going to disappear. "You could say that killing grants potential for new life. It grants room, nutrition.."
Terin walked close to Varia, embracing the elder dragon tightly. The youngling had been quite lonely ever since the incident, and had bonded tightly to the elder dragon. Whenever Terin felt the force of doubt or despair encroach upon her, she'd seek the company of Varia. It somehow seemed to benefit the both of them. "Maybe I've been striving too hard to reclaim what I have lost, when I could balance the scales from the other side?.."
"In a way, yes," Varia agreed, watching Terin make to bury the dead Twilight Jasmine. She did not move from her spot or do the same with her dead dandelion, just watched in silence. Terin was young and had a lot to learn yet, but with time was coming wisdom. Varia could see her slowly changing from an empty shell of a dragon to one who still had not completely come to terms with her situation, but was trying to move forward. The ancient dragon felt pride for her young companion; her words were filled with understanding and wisdom, something that others many times her age had a hard time grasping at times.
The hug was slightly unexpected but returned warmly, or as warmly as an undead lady can give a hug. "You may have something there," Varia said quietly, letting Terin go after a good hug. That was only the message she'd been trying to convey for a while now. "There is no denying you are changed.. forever, probably. It would be best for you to let go of what you were raised to be and embrace what you have become. Do what comes naturally to you now.. Not what came naturally to you before."
Terin slowly climbed around Variastrasza, getting a hold of her pillow and cape. Both something she herself had created, or belonged to her. The pillow had been created from one of their first meals together; A huge gryphon. It wasn't exactly top quality tailoring, yet it was enough to keep the youngling comfy. The cape were the remains of her once beautiful wings.. While it was strange for her to cling onto the cape, as it had been created by her tormentors, she still had a strange connection to it. Even as just a cape, it felt like her wings were shielding her from the cold.
Curling up next to the fire, Terin let out a soft yawn before looking back to Varia, as a question had climbed into her mind. "What feels natural for you to do now, then..?"
Comming to think of it, Varia had never shared what she wanted to do from now on. It felt a bit like Variastrasza had been so busy taking care of Terin, listening to the rambling and crying of the youngling, to share things from her own reality.. Now that Terin had found more peace and calm, it actually dawned upon the youngling that Variastrasza had troubles of her own.
Varia did not often talk about herself or her past except where it was extremely relevant; she never wanted to try to downplay what Terin felt by making comparisons to what she herself had gone through.. So she never spoke of it and never felt the urge to share. When Terin asked that question though, the ancient red looked to her and considered her for a moment before stretching her arms over her head and leaning back. "Well, I no longer have the ability to grant or preserve life," she mused, looking out of the cave. There was no sign of remorse or sadness in her voice - she was just stating facts. "All of things I had come to learn and become good at in life no longer work in undeath. I cannot mend wounds of the flesh or illness. I can, however, mend wounds of the soul."
She paused to shift position a little, then went on, "The soul is a delicate thing. It is easily damaged or broken. When I was with the Scourge, they used my ability to target a person's soul to help them more easily enslave mortals and control both them and the Frostbrood. It is more difficult to enslave a dragon's soul than it is to enslave the soul of a mortal.. We are far more powerful creatures. By using most of their effort on me, I could then weaken the others from inside so that they were easier to control. I could still do that, assault and weaken the soul.. but I prefer to heal them. Help them move on after death, too, if needed."
Dragons were not the only things that seemed to be having problems with being relatable to their brethren. There were others who were either pariahs or at most, tolerated for their practical use. One such person, who at times was barely considered a human, wandered through the Highlands mountains without seemingly any destination in time. He wore the sewn flesh of the faceless much like one would where the robes of a sorcerer, with a black cowl and blackened, featureless mask to complete his morbid imagery. A staff made of greasy black metal capped with a bladed shepherds crook was held loosely in one hand while a strange, unlit lantern made of the same ore was clutched tight in his left. It was hard to tell what the man was really doing so far away from humanoid settlements, though with the occasional child’s giggle or soothing whisper that seemed to follow him around, it wouldn’t be hard to see why he wouldn’t be wanted in them.
Jeremiah only paused to occasionally pick up a bit of bone, rock or plant-life if it seemed odd or pretty in its own way and pocketed it in one of his many satchels upon his form. Periodically he crouched, seeming to stare at something only he could see and removed some food or some random item from his pouches, trying to hand it to something that wasn’t there. After the item fell to the ground, several long minutes were given as he stared at the bauble before standing up and continuing his aimless journey.
A whisper teased at The Despoiler’s ear, causing him to look up in the general direction that led towards the cave the two dragons were currently dwelling in. Changing paths, he dropped both the lantern and staff as he began his ascent towards their lair. Strangely enough, both of his tools seemed to drag along behind him, almost tethered by an invisible force, unable to stray far from their owner. For someone who visually seemed so driven towards magic, he showed surprising endurance, never stopping or even pausing to rest or eat.
"Mend wounds of the soul..? ..and leading them onwards towards the afterlife?.. That sure sounds.. complicated. It almost reminds me of the human tales of.. The grim Reaper?" Terin said with a soft smile on her lips, having the green eyes sparkle somewhat at Varia. The youngling inched slightly closer towards the flame. It somehow reminded her of the days when she was a whelp, and stuck together with the others, trying to keep warm and safe. Now she was more or less alone, always. Closing her eyes, Terin prepared to rest. Taking in a deep breath, she let out a soft sigh.. *Sniff sniff..*
Terin almost immediately opened her eyes again, she had caught the scent of something.. something vile. While she and Varia didn't exactly belong to the rosebushes or viols, this scent was entirely different, almost drenched in magic.. "You sense something too..?" Terin whispered lowly towards Varia, before slowly getting out of her makeshift bed, gazing towards the entrance of their cave. It didn't take many moments before the sound of something climbing the wall outside reached their ears. Terin did not enjoy the scent, and she did not enjoy that someone was trespassing their territory, trespassing their lair. Climbing onto the opposite side of the campfire, Terin somewhat hid herself behind Variastrasza. At least, she was close enough to the old wyrm to immediately hide behind her.
"Very good," Varia commented with a slight smile herself. "Yes.. the humans have long had tales of death, and one of their most popular is of a shadowy shepherd of souls that came to the dead or dying to whisk them off to the After. I am comparable to the reaper in some way, though I feel I am far more benevolent than him.."
As always, when Terin went to rest, Varia remained where she was. Being undead, sleep was not something she needed to continue on with her existance, so she usually just sat there and watched out over the highlands. Tonight, however, it seemed that such a simple thing was not an option. Something below the cave was moving, stirring in the darkness. In the darkness, Variastrasza could hardly make out the shape of a human man in what appeared, from a distance, to be dark robes. The man made her feel slightly uneasy, though. Nobody ever traveled up these mountains.. At least, nobody with their sanity intact.
And indeed, she could smell him before she could clearly make him out. It was a sharp, prickly magical feeling on the inside of her nose more than an actual smell. As neither she nor Terin naturally exuded this kind of aura, the only plausible explanation was that it was the man now approaching the cave. "There," Varia said softly when Terin got up and came to her. The ancient wyrm gestured faintly at the figure of the man moving closer toward the cave. He seemed quite strange. She did not trust him. Gently nudging Terin, she nodded toward the back of the cave. "Go back," was all she said before she herself stood and began to walk in the direction of Jeremiah.
It only took a few steps for her to make out the details of his robe. Instantly, she was able to identify it as the flesh of the Faceless, which was an absurd thing to wear as clothing, she thought - normal people just killed them and left it at that. He definitely did not seem like sunshine and daisies to her, so she decided to not take any chances. Her high elven form suddenly distorted immensely and in almost the blink of an eye she no longer was that, but the immense emberwyrm she was naturally. Blocking the path up to the cave, Variastrasza sat back on her haunches and stared down expectantly at the man.
Finally the man had made it close enough to get clear view of the cave, only to have that very same view be taken up by a massive emberwyrm who seemed to spawn from a female elf of some sort. He stopped his movements, allowing both the lantern and staff to catch up with him and return to his hands as if attached by invisible chains. There were no movements outside of breathing coming from the man at all at this point, almost as if he went dormant. That same pulse of magic within the man seemed to throb down to his very core and for those who could see the souls of others would find his to be completely shattered held together only by rusted chains and self-destructive dreams. The stillness finally broke when his clothing came back to life and he finally looked up at the creature, hidden eyes slipping between his strange forms of sight until it found one that suited him the most.
“While I rather adore larger women, I do prefer them with meat on their bones.” Jeremiah’s voice was completely deadpan as he said this while his mind slid into its own coping mechanisms. Strangely enough, for someone who held what seemed to be a fountain of dreadful energies, there was neither aggression in his posture nor any malice in the way he spoke. This all was interrupted by the wet sound of skin stretching and straining, and a slight stagger from the man that continued for several long seconds before he seemed to recompose himself. The disgusting echoes were replaced with a hint of a woman’s voice that seemed to just tease in the air along with the faintest sound of children’s laughter.
Getting nudged slightly backwards, Terin obeyed somewhat hesitantly. It wasn't like Terin wanted to leave Variastrasza to herself with whatever the stranger would care to call himself. Yet, Terin wasn't in much of a position to discuss. Climbing slowly backwards, Terin tucked herself into a corner in the cave, eyeing towards the entrance as Varia quickly became big enough to block it. Unable to see what went on outside, the only thing Terin could react to was the strangeness of the voice. It felt as if it came from a lot of different places at the same time, being both touched by something female, and by something childish.. a childish laughter.
The whole mystery behind it only made Terin feel even more uncomfortable.
Variastrasza's bony face was completely passive at the strange man's observation. Perhaps if he had not been quite so serious when he said it, she might've expressed some amusement herself, but his shocking calm and levelness was mimicked fully by the dragon. Just as seriously, she gave him an additional glance over before stating flatly, "I do not doubt that for a moment."
She was, of course, implying that he did not seem like he was above cannibalism.
"You are a long way up," she observed, briefly glancing out toward the highlands before allowing her bright, glowing amber eyes to rest squarely on Jeremiah again. "I can't help but wonder what you could've possibly been looking for up here. This is a long way removed from anything that might make for a leisurely hike."
The barbed tip of her bony tail twitched in a way vaguely reminiscent of an idle cat. Her posture was quite fitting for that description, too.. Variastrasza regarded the Despoiler with a cautious eye but did not find him threatening. He was strange and - for lack of a better word - creepy, but like any other mortal, he would squish easily beneath one of her massive front feet if he presented himself as a threat to either the emberwyrm or Terin. Though the man had thus far not yet offered any sort of threat, hidden or otherwise, Varia did not take the chance and call Terin forward. She still was not sure of this man's motives..
Jeremiah caught the fact that the old dragon seemed to miss the deadpan humor of him, and chuckled lightly despite his own caution. He knew the beast could more than likely end his life swiftly and while oblivion felt like it might be a well-deserved rest for him, he was not fond of the idea of dying. “I tend to end up in many places I shouldn’t be.” The sound of skin straining returned for several longer moments, though at this point he seemed less bothered by it. The strange magic waxed and waned periodically, almost and an almost lethargic heartbeat.
“Most of the things I actively look for are locked away within laboratories and lost ruins. I simply just picked a direction and walked to find this area.” This was mostly true, leaving out the portions of the story that involved his hallucinations for the time being.
His mind began to catalog the female before him, her species was already partially known to him from descriptions from Nerubians and books of lore that he scavenged from his time in Northrend, though he had never seen one this close. The other girl was not forgotten, though at this point in time he had more pressing matters, such as winning over a massive fossil.
Terin had situated herself in the back of the cave, keeping a pair of fel-green eyes pinned onto the entrance. While Terin was mostly sure that no opponent was going to bring Varia down, the fact that someone had dared enter their territory, and step into their lair, made the young green uneasy. Naturally, it could be a fool that didn't know how to choose his battles, and thus would end up getting squished.. but Terin didn't leave out the possibility that someone had known they were there, and sook them out intentionally..
Terin could hear them talking. While Varia wasn't exactly tense, there was still something in the air that told Terin it wasn't time to come properly forward yet. Even so, Terin's curiosity made the Green drake slide slightly to the side, attempting to get a view of the.. monstrocity that was Jeremiah.