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Mastus: The Shadow Chronicles
#1
Chapter 1: Stepping Into Darkness




Rain fell heavy outside of the Salty Sailor Tavern. Mastus sat cloaked far in the corner chewing on a thin piece of wheat grass. He did this often when he thought of home. The Tavern was busy as usual. Pirates and cutthroats shouted with joy and merry making as the typical whores danced across the tops of tables offering themselves to the right men for the right coin. A single dancing candle shown atop the Elf’s table giving light to his parchment that was being scanned rather carefully. Mastus ran his finger along a path on the paper, “Need some’elp plottin a course lad?” The voice was dwarven in nature with a thickness to it. Shadows danced off the wall near the table, “I’ve found my way through this jungle before, I’ll do it again. Thanks.” It was important to be short with pirates, yet polite enough to please. Should a pirate view you as to kind he would slit your throat and take your wealth. If he viewed you as rude, he would have you hung from his mast by the crew. Needless to say Mastus grew up around these lesser men and knew how to waltz in and out of their society like a passing ball room ghost. The Dwarf nodded with a sly grin seeing that he obviously wasn’t going to get the better of this one. Mastus returned to his thoughts. They drifted to a young woman and his cousin. He prayed for their safety, but he knew leaving was the best choice. The ghosts that chased him would swallow them up along with him if they could. A hand drifted up into his hood. Once there it rested on his brow. Mastus had thought himself the last Shadow Dancer. He was wrong. Several years prior to his return he was approached by the order and blamed for his Masters untimely death. He denied it and claimed his innocence. They did not believe him and so then cast him out with a mark for death. For years he had managed to remain hidden from them. After having to come forward and join his cousin in defending his title as the new Nova he had no choice but to step into the light and reveal his presence. The order quickly began moving to corner Mastus, but he was always a cunning boy. The rain picked up outside as thunder crashed in the distance. His mind jolted from the past back to the present, “No more running…” He whispered to the candle.


Outside a bearded man sopping wet and draped in thick leathers topped with furs moved among the crowds rushing along the dock to exit the damp weather; some people ran he did not. His steps were quick and light though purposeful. The man turned out of a back alley and headed for the Salty Sailor Tavern. Mastus had just finished his third pint and was rolling up his parchment when the old man entered. Time itself seemed to pause for him. The noise level dropped and almost everyone in the room glanced in his direction. As quickly as they paused they started up again. Noise filled the room. The soaked man weaved through the crowd touching no one. A feat all its own, Mastus watched as his right hand drifted beneath the table and came to rest on his daggers hilt high on his hip. The man moved to take a seat across from the young Elf. His beard hung almost belly level and was a deep black. The two remained silent for a long time. Mastus was the first to speak, “Evening.” It was a simple greeting among all sellswords and weary travelers. Trust was something earned on the road. Nothing came from the old man except a hand moved to remove his hood. The Elf’s eyes went wide at the man beneath, “Master!?” His voice started as a shout then quickly dropped to a horse whisper. Once again nothing came from the old man. His hand stretched out across the table placing a damp letter softly down then returned to his lap. Mastus cocked his head beneath his hood. With a quick yet cautious movement his hand went to the letter opening it after inspecting it. As the Elf read his eyes narrowed. The letter had nothing written on it, only the symbol of a black blade with a crows head sitting on top of the hilt. Mastus placed the letter back on the table; his voice was almost silent in the room. Only a trained ear would have heard it “You are not my Master… Who are you?” The old man reached for the letter. His sleeve slipped up above his wrist showing his hand. There were runic tattoos covering it from wrist to fingertip. The Elf went white; he knew what those tattoos were. Mastus took off his glove showing the same tattoos. A fist fight suddenly broke out between two men in the opposite corner. The old man stood up. He slowly pulled the hood over his head, “We’ll see you in time… You can’t run forever boy.” With a nod of his head the old man headed for the door and back out into the rain. Most would wonder why not just kill Mastus here when the fight broke out? The answer was simple. In their society if you were to be executed you were given the opportunity to run and fend for yourself, should you fail then you were brought back in and put to death in the dark ritual. Mastus knew what the man and the letter meant, it was warning to his honor. It was like saying, we can touch you easily enough do not make us. They would be waiting for him outside of the tavern among the city streets. If Mastus wanted to live, he would need a way out of the city without being noticed. The trained rogue let his eyes quickly go to work scanning the barroom. His brain rifled through ideas and plans that he had used in the past. A new one hit him like a ton of cedar logs. Mastus grinned as if he had out smarted death itself, well… in a way I guess perhaps he had. He stood making his way for the counter. Along the way he managed to slap an Orc, a Troll, and the pirate Dwarf that had offered him help earlier. Funny how closely they were all grouped together. Upon turning to see who had struck them, their eyes only found each other. Insults started first, then the fists. Bruisers burst in the door sweaty from breaking up the last fight. They rushed quickly to break up this fight that now had the entire first floor in an uproar. Mastus smiled slipping behind the bar while the Barkeep was busy cracking skulls with the Bruisers. Once he had made his way behind the bar he jerked open one of the empty mutton crates and crawled inside contorting his elven body to fit.

Hours upon hours had passed. The Tavern was winding down and three goblins showed up ready to take out the trash for the evening. Two of them grunted as they picked up the mutton crate. They dared not question their boss’s decision to throw the meat out but damn… was it heavy. The tiny goblins made their way across the docks and to the trash depot near the fishing quarter. With a heave and a hoe they pitched the large crate into a netted off area just near the water. Every week or so a large fairy vessel would show up take what they could carry and dump it near the Maelstrom in passing on the way to Ratchet. Mastus struggled to control his breath inside the crate. He waited until the goblins voices were a faint whisper in the distance before exiting the crates and slipping into the water. The Shadow Dancer silently sank beneath the dark waves and made his way out of port….
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#2
Chapter 2: Working Out the Kinks


The sound of smashing wood echoed throughout the jungle. It came from a lone hut near the water. A voice shouted, “Listen you son of a bit-…” Another crash followed it. The voice came again, “Do it again, I dare you!... I wish you woul-….” A wall of the hut bulged as something was clearly thrown into it. Mastus rolled to his back after being tossed over a table. He sighed holding his head, “You stubborn ass Troll…” He stood up dusting himself off. His gaze fell on a large Troll holding a small club, “I be tellin joo, no!” Mastus held his arms up, “Oh come on!” The Troll shook his head, “No way mon!” He patted the club in his palm once. A ruined hut that had obviously been through a tussle surrounded them. Mastus stepped shakily around the table, “Listen you ass… I’m taking her and that’s final!” Growls and grunts came from the Troll, “I be sayin no mon! Ya’can be takin ma sweet! She belong wiff meh!” He charged for the Elf who in turn growled and charged too. Outside the sounds of smashing and cursing could be heard, “Joo stubborn ass Elfie!” a retort “Don’t you Elfie me you big idiot!” More smashing echoed. Mastus stood up making a painful face as he rose from a cracked bed frame; he wiped some blood from his lip “I’m going to kick your big ugly ass…” A smirk graced the Troll’s face, “Joo wish runt…” He needed to grow a few feet and pack on a couple hundred pounds and he would show this Troll who was boss. Mastus picked up a ceramic bowl and hurled it at the Troll, “Suck that you dolt!” It slammed into the Trolls face sending him staggering, “Joo little shit!.. Dat be my favori’e bowl!” The tiny Elf wasted no time in diving for the Troll’s midsection “Joo gonna pay for everything joo brea-... OOOF!” They rolled on the ground; Mastus was quickly tossed to the side smashing through one of the posts in the middle of the hut. He sprang up with a roar, “OH YOU WANNA THROW ME THROUGH POLES NOW?!” A hard right kick was loosed to the Troll’s chin and followed by another tackle this time Mastus worked for his back. Gurgling could be heard along with choking. The Elf sat wrapped around the Troll’s back his two tiny arms enclosed around his neck, “Give it up…” He grunted as the Troll sprang up and slammed into almost every inanimate object he could find, “No!... She’s mine!” A few more seconds passed before the Troll finally fell to a knee unconsciousness threatening to claim him, “Okay..okay..okay.. joo win mon, take’er.” Mastus released his grip falling backwards to the ground. He laid there for a moment breathing heavy, “See… that wasn’t… so bad…right?” The Troll stood after quickly regaining himself, “Whateva mon… joo still hit li’e a girl a be usin cheap tricks..” A hand offered to help Mastus up. He gladly took it. The Troll jerked his tiny body up to the standing position. He nodded dusting himself off, the Troll thumbed towards the door “She be out back… Mastus, joo bess not be putting’er in harm’s way mon…” Laughter rose from the Elf, “Would I ever?” A look of irritation came from the Troll, “Yes.” The Elf took a few striding steps for the door. Once outside he cracked his back with a pained look on his face, “I need some new friends…” His path continued around the hut until he finally saw her. She was beautiful in all her glory, splendid, a sight that would make any normal man cry with happiness. Mastus whistled, “Here pretty… Here pretty…” A large black raven with brightly colored tipped wings jolted for the Elf tackling him to the dirt and practically stripped his face of flesh thanks to her sand paper tongue. The Troll shooed her away then helped up Mastus, “Ow’e long will ye be needin her mon?” A finger tapped Mastus’s chin, “About a week maybe more?” A scoff came in return, “I be see’in you next spring my ba’bay.” The Troll patted the bird turning to head inside. Mastus called out, “Hey Juk… Thanks man, I owe ya.” He received a rude gesture as the Troll rounded the corner “I love that Troll.” Mastus said to the bird as he mounted it. With a crack of the reigns he shot off into the jungle at high speeds.

A pair of dark eyes watched from the shadows of Stranglethorn’s dark jungle. The face poked from the shadows for just a moment revealing some tribal face paint. Sounds of a swift reptile stirred beneath the eyes swaying the figure back and forth while it sat on its back. A sharp jerk on leather straps caused the shadow to dart forward after giving a primal screech. Mastus was traveling nicely when he caught sight of a darting shadow on his right. He didn’t bother to pay it any mind just yet, soon enough it would make itself seen. When it did he would be ready. His eyes widened however on the sight ahead, Trolls… a nice lot of them. They all sat on Raptors, and wore tribal face paint… with no Horde banner in sight… Mastus cursed to himself, “f**k…”


Mastus stopped his bird suddenly. He dismounted wasting no time as he sprinted into the shadows. These Trolls were not looking for toll, or prizes, they were looking for heads. The Shadow Dancer darted and leapt from the many shadows in the Jungle. Screams of rage went out as all of the Raptors toppled lifeless their throats slit and spilling life juice. A few of the Trolls leapt off into the jungle in hopes of getting back up. This was a mistake. Mastus leapt once, twice, three times. He took hamstrings and ankles first with his blades. A second attack came in the form of snatching weapons away as he dismantled their means to strike back. Trolls cried out in anger as they flailed fists into the air and found only shadows. Mastus sprang for the last time slitting throats and opening bellies with slashes. He was quick, efficient, and merciless. This is what he was taught. A few remained near the fallen Raptors. Mastus walked calmly from a shadow in front of then his hood drawn low. The Trolls loosed throwing axes at him but he quickly vanished into nothingness. His blades sprang from the darkness claiming life after life. In the end none stood except the Dancer. His blades wet with life. After wiping down his steel he quickly remounted his bird and shot off into the darkness once more… He headed north.
[Image: 15.jpg]
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#3
Chapter 3: Bad News, Painful Blues

Dense fog filled the cobble stone path like a blanket of mystery not yet unveiled. Mastus Novalight rode atop a large black raven. He had tried to stay clear of travelers but sometimes he had to fold in his ears and put on his best human voice. It was never easy passing through Duskwood. The path that lay before him was a dangerous one but the contact he was set to meet at the roadside tavern was going to be there in less than two hours. Mastus found the name rather fitting for the meet, Knife in the Dark Tavern. He was sure that most of the people there wouldn’t mind keeping to themselves, so that made the meeting much safer. The handler he had been using in his years as a hired blade offered him some help in exchange for a higher than usual price. Mastus being pressed for time and in need of the vital information that this so called handler possessed opted to take the deal. The trained Shadow Dancer had been traveling hard for several days through Stranglethorn and was in need of a good night’s what better place than this new establishment. He figured since the grand opening was only a few weeks ago that it would be a prime place bustling with people and the kind of people it would draw with its name are just the kind Mastus liked. They were death dealers, sellswords, hired casters, thieves, cutthroats, and probably the occasional pick pocket.

Finally the building came into view like a beacon house off the cliff coasts of Northrend. Fog circled it but dared not touch the light. Mastus dismounted a few hundred yards. He walked the rest pulling the Raven which was quickly tied around the back by the cellar door. The town of Darkshire was just a few hours up the road so Mastus left his ears pinned back beneath his hood. He played the young boyish nobleman role so well these days. With a nudge he forced the door open to the tavern revealing a very loud and rowdy drunk assembly. Dwarves had already had their fill and were taking in more while the humans flaunted themselves about. Mastus smiled to himself as he silently moved through the room remaining cloaked. Women smiled and winked at him; even beneath his hood he remained handsome. The mystery of the man in black always surrounded Mastus and this time was no different. He caught a few of the older women whispering and giggling with the younger women as he passed with a small blown kiss and head nod. If blushing faces could turn coin the boy would’ve been a richer Lord than most. He made his way to a seat far in the corner near the end of the bar. His handler should be arriving anytime now. Mastus ordered a drink, when the drink showed he carefully poured the contents onto the already soaked floor and filled it beneath the table with water from his traveling canteen. The Elf was ever so cautious, especially when a fight could be involved. He sat for a few moments just enjoying the merry making. Sounds of happiness and drunken play are something he had not heard in a long time. Mostly he was use to drunken pirate scuffles or the haughty Elves of his home city enjoying wine. That was no life for a man of likes; this is where Mastus felt at home. He belonged in the world. Just as he had begun to laugh while a gnome did her best to high kick and out dance the barmaid a cold draft was felt near the back of the room. Which only meant one thing, someone had entered. Before Mastus could move to see who it was a letter hit his table and a gruff man sat down ordering, “O’hai lass, gi’emme a flagon of mead.” The barmaid stopped her dance with a smile and nodded fetching the drink. Mastus folded his arms, “Well it’s about time Cid.” A smile came from under the man’s salt and pepper beard “Hey boy, ye’cann’it rush greatness.” The two chuckled for a bit before a graven look fell over the humans face, “I have news from your home kid… It’s abo-.. Well just read this.” His old hand slowly slides a folded news gram over the table. Mastus unfolds it reading the contents as a look of horror washes over his face….



The newsletter fell to the floor. A look of sorrow came from the old man as he placed a small oak box on the table, “I know what you are doing kid… Just remember not to lose yourself in this place you gott’a go.” Mastus’s eyes took on a watered glaze as they fell on the oak box, “That it?” He said almost robotically. Cid watched him for a moment; the two had known each other for almost fifty three years. The old man was one of Mastus’s life mentors and he always admired the Elf for his ability to bury his feelings in order to press on for the job. This time was different. These weren’t just feelings. Mastus took a shuddered breath as he thought of his cousin and the charges being brought against him. Cid glanced around the room then shot a firm hand across the table grabbing the young Elf’s collar, “You listen here kid. Now’s the turning point, you either pack up and go take care of your family or you silence these demons that have haunted you. But no matter what you decide to do, you strap those boots up tight and get your ass out of that seat.” Mastus spoke above a whisper, “I can’t leave him to rot…” The old man nodded, “No. You can’t. But, if you let this trail go cold now they’ll come after you again…and again. Until there is no one left but you and them. You gotta make a call kid… but –whatever-call you make. You be sure your head and heart are in it. Because there ain’t no going back… from either path.” His hand released Mastus. Cid tried to speak but something was caught in his throat. He took a moment to clear his throat “Listen Mastus. I’ve known you for most of my life, and I need you to have your head on the job. Because you know they’ll kill you if you go in there half in… half out…” Cid looked away choked up again. Mastus kept his eyes on the box, “Mastus, I love you kid….and if you need an extra blade I’ll lend ya mine.” The Elf reached across the table placing a hand on his old friends shoulder “I know you would old man.” Smiles shot between the two, “But this isn’t your fight… or theirs. It’s mine… always has been.” Cid nodded with a look of honor in his eye, “You be careful kid.” Mastus watched as his friend stood, “Tell Marie and Tim I said hi. Give my best to Jessie and the girls.” The old man wiped a sleeve across his left cheek, “Tim’s dead. About two winters ago, he asked how you were… I told him you were good.” Even with the music and joy surrounding them in this moment, this single moment was hung on so much sorrow for these two blades in the night. Mastus inclined his head to Cid, “Goodbye old friend.” It was returned, “Goodbye Kid.”… With a brisk step the old man was gone. The only thing left behind was the cool breeze of the door closing and the sounds of a horse being reigned outside.



A shot glass sat on the table half full. Cigar smoke filled the corner where Mastus sat. The hood on his head was pulled back just enough to view the newsletter and box both. His hand reached for his rolled tobacco. Lips pursed to receive the stress reliever. A free hand reached for the shot glass which was finished shortly after exhaling smoke…. SLAM! Two fingers went up signaling for another. Another was quickly placed infront of him by the barmaid, “Here ya are darlin.” The Elf nodded in thanks. Mastus sat for long hours looking at both the box and newsletter. Which way would he go; he needed to make a judgment call. On one hand he had his cousin in prison where the family would most likely have him killed, in the other he had the lives of so many he knew. He loved his cousin but if he walked away from this lead then the man he had hunted for so many years would get away again and everyone he loved would more than likely be erased. Oh the choices. Loss and sorrow seemed to surround his old mercenary company, and he missed them. Mastus took one last shot of the dark liquor before mashing out his cigar in the glass. His hands grasped both the box and newsletter. The walk to his Raven was a quiet one. It seemed as though all the merry making had gone out of the night. Marie would know what to do he thought, she lived near Cid and he could just bed down with his old friend for one night then be on his way before the guards of Elwynn caught on. He saddled up checked his gear one last time and headed for the eastern shore border of Elwynn Forest. The journey wasn’t far, only a few hours. Mastus wobbled and trotted along on his Raven. Swift eyes caught sight across the river at a burning farm stead. Thoughts rushed through his head, had someone followed Cid. Worse, had someone followed him? He snapped the Raven into high stride sending it into the water. It crossed with ease and made for the farm with blinding speed. Mastus leapt from its back shouting, “Cid! Jessie!...” Thoughts took a dark turn, “Girls!... Marry!.. Crystal!” Looking around he quickly found an old horse blanket. He had to move fast the guards would be here soon. His feet carried him to the river where he soaked the thick furs. Placing them over his body he rushed smashing through the flaming door of the farm house “Cid! Jessie!...Girls!” No answer came from them. The answer came in the form of a slipping foot. Mastus slid clear into the glass cabinet near the table that held all Jessie’s good silverware. He hesitated to look at what he slipped on, but he knew it wouldn’t change the fact that it was there. Blood, and lots of it, caked the floor where he had slipped and more spread towards the bedrooms.


Mastus prepared himself for what was coming. It was going to be hard, but he was no stranger to hard. His stride carried him down the hallway; he coughed as the smoke began to thicken. A hand slowly pushed open the girl’s bedroom door. It was here he saw it. Cid sat slumped against the end of the bed. His hands were bound around the single bar in the window pane. Jessie sat next to him, her face in his chest. The back of her dress had been torn open. Soft flesh that once covered her back was slashed to ribbons where a whip had been put to work. Both had their throats slit. Mastus took three shaken breathes as he fought to keep his hate. Next came the girls, one was seven and the other was nine. Marry was the youngest, her tiny broken body lay near the corner. Boot marks stained her dress along with blood from several shattered bones poking through her night gown. The Elf took a knee near her; a single tear left his face as he brushed some hair out of her cracked face. His hand trembled. Last was Crystal, though she was only nine she had her mother’s shapely figure. Mastus use to tease Cid that he would have to start beating the boys off by the time she was thirteen. The hand still trembled. Fire spread outside the room but he didn’t care. Little Crystal lay on the bed, her wrists were bound and the ankles along with it. He didn’t need to investigate why. These were no honorable bunch that did this. Her neck had been snapped and was turned almost completely around. A small piece of her spine stuck through the skin as proof. Mastus untied her and lifted her body. He let every snap and crackle of her dislocated hips echo in his mind. With a slight sobbing gasp he placed her next to Cid and Jessie. Outside he could hear the guards coming up the long path they were shouting for water buckets and more hands. His eyes fell on Marry again, her twisted broken body would be hard to move but he would do it. He had too. Mastus lay her on Cid’s lap then untied his friend’s hands from the window. He sat for a minute as the house burned. Outside the guards stopped as they heard heavy sobbing against the crackling pop of wood. The shaking hand suddenly stopped. Mastus stood looking at his friend and his family. His face trembled with rage. Fire raced up around him. He closed his fists. The eyes that rested beneath his dark hood were no longer his. Hate had taken hold. He took a single step forward vanishing into a shadow…. Letting the devils take him.
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#4
Chapter 4: A Lost Love In A Mysterious Box


It had been four days since the burning of Cid’s house on the border of Elwynn Forest. Mastus had struggled greatly with the loss of his dear friend. Through bloody knuckles and soft tears he mourned. Many in his line of work thought themselves to “tough” for emotions. Mastus never betrayed his. It’s what separated him from the “tough” flock of ignorant adventurers. Being able to know ones emotions and conquer them is what separated the good from the best in his trade. The sun had just begun to peak over the Redridge mountains. Mastus sat on a cold rock still damp with morning dew eating a small portion of his daily ration. Soft birds could be heard singing a familiar melody. It had been years since he laid eyes on the beautiful Marie. Her long reddish brown hair lay softly against her tan curvy figure, a figure Mastus remembered well. He longed to see her lovely face one more time before he pressed onwards into the darkness, but he didn’t know if it was safe for her. Mastus knew the young pirate maiden could more than handle herself in a fight but the men he was at war with were no simple mercenaries or drunkards from Booty Bay. Still, he finished his last piece of bread and stood dusting himself off and moving for the cottage just ahead. He had sat outside her home for most of the evening wondering how he was going to tell Cid’s sister, his ex-partner, and former lover that because of him her brother and his family were dead. Mastus took a deep breath knowing he could be walking into the lionesses den on this one.

Marie stood over a medium sized black kettle where she had been cooking her morning stew on the fire. She wore a white laced nightgown with her wool over robe falling gently about her shoulders. A knock came at the door, “Who is it?” Her voice was sweet. Mastus knew better and sighed knowing by this time she had probably gotten her rapier off the mantle “It’s me Marie.” He heard a clanging metal sound. The sound something makes when dropped on cobblestone. With a quick motion he opened the door ready for anything. Marie stood mouth open in shock, her eyes slightly wet “M-Mastus?...” He nodded in reply “Yes Marie. It’s me.” A sound of laughter and joy came from the women as she rushed to greet him leaving the fallen rapier at her feet. Mastus was quickly snatched in the woman’s grasping hug, “I’ve thought about you often these last few months. I heard your House was in trouble?” He smiled hugging her back letting the pain of the last few days fall away for a moment “We are always in trouble Marie.” They both stayed locked in each other’s arms for a while before slowly parting. Marie glanced down at her attire “Shit… Give me a moment to throw some proper clothes on.” Mastus grinned. Her eyes narrow as a hand went to her hip, “Okay smart ass you’ve seen me in less but I still have manners…” He said nothing simply nodded and shut the door behind him as he entered.


Mastus sat quietly watching the fire until Marie emerged from her bedroom fully clothed in her everyday wears. The Elf stood as she entered the room. She blushed slightly remembering his generosity. He moved to slide a seat out for her, as she sat he moved it in to fit her bottom. Mastus then took his own place in a chair opposite hers. For a moment the two just sat looking into the others eyes, she spoke first “What brings you here Mastus?” The question he had hoped would not be brought up. He cleared his throat “I-.. Marie… Cid’s dead. So are Jessie and the girls.” Her face went ghost white and her skin took on a clammy texture “H-how?... W-why?...” Tears welled in her eyes. Mastus reached for her hand but she jerked it away. It was time to tell her, “Because of me Marie. Cid was helping me to track down the order that trained me.” Marie’s face quickly turned to stone. He knew this was going to happen, but she still deserved to know. Mastus moved his hand back to his lap. The Elf’s head slowly sank, “I’m sorry Marie…” She balled a fist as she began to cry, “D-dammit Mastus… Why didn’t you come to me first?!” He knew he probably should have. She had better training than Cid did when it came to the shady parts of their trade but for some reason he could not explain he chose not to. Mastus raised his head to meet her gaze, “They’re all going to pay Marie…” His voice was horse with tension and pain “They don’t get to walk away from this one.” Marie let her eyes burn through him into his very soul as she searched him. A few tears splashed onto the table in front of her, “I… I know Mastus. I know what Cid and the girls meant to you.” He nodded, “I promise your family retribution Marie.” As he spoke she remembered why she had loved him all those years ago, his fire, his passion, and his heart. Those things so many in their field lacked. He lived an honorable life and she had always loved him for that “Can I help you Mastus?” She already knew the answer but asked anyways. Mastus shook his head, “I can’t take you with me Marie. Not this time.” Her hand slowly drifted across the table. The Elf slowly met her hand with his own, “Marie, I cannot pretend to imagine the pain you are feeling right now. But I must ask you; did you speak to your brother within the last few weeks? Did he tell you about any of his business?” Marie thought for a moment, “No not-… Wait. He did say he had business in Stormwind last week. Something about meeting a trader from Northrend about a new crop he had been working with.” Mastus perked up, “Did he say from which port this trader hailed?” She nodded, “Somewhere off the coast of Grizzly Hills.” The Elf withdrew his hand. Reaching into his traveling satchel Mastus pulled out the small black box Cid had left him “He left me this box with these materials in it. I found a port key to a ship. Think it could be this merchant’s ship?” Marie grasped it with her free hand. She carefully inspected it taking on a professional demeanor “This is a port key alright, but not the kind that you are thinking of. It opens a specific dock where multiple ships could be held. Find the dock and you’ll find your merchant no doubt.” Mastus smiled with a nod, “Thank you Marie.” She handed the key back to him, “Mastus, I can’t just sit this out… If I cannot go with you then I will gather a few people that can help in the future. You go and find your merchant. Then meet me in Ratchet. I’ll get what help I can.” He went to speak but was quickly silenced as she softly pressed her finger against his lips, “You have no choice this time.” Mastus gave a sigh of defeat, “Just… be careful Marie… I can’t lose you too.” Marie nodded, “And you won’t.”


Fire crackled and popped as the two sat eating breakfast and talking about old times. They remembered Cid and his family through tears and laughs as they each mourned in their own way. After breakfast she took him to change into some normal clothes. The two of them went for a walk in her small garden. Mastus took in all the time he spent with her, each second passing as an eternity in time. Marie explained how she had gotten out of the life and taken up the disguise of a farmer’s daughter to ensure her safe retirement from the life of a sellsword. They had spent the entire day talking about their recent dealings. Finally the day was coming to a close. Mastus walked her back to her cottage. Marie fixed him a hot tea as he sat preparing his things for travel. She slowly walked over to him and took his hand in hers, “Mastus…” He stood to look down at her, “What is it Marie?” Her free hand softly graced his cheek. The affection was something he had missed, his head nuzzled her hand for a moment before he quickly turned away reaching for his things “I should go Marie… Ica-.. I have to go.” Mastus made a few swift strides for the door. Once there he pulled it open looking out into the cold night air, “Marie… I-…” Hanging his head the Elf stepped outside closing the door behind him. Inside Marie stood silent for a moment before quietly latching the door behind him. She leaned against the oaken wood letting her body slide down to the floor, she whispered to herself “I know Mastus …. I love you too…”
[Image: 15.jpg]
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#5
Chapter 5: Dark Rider Rising



Spoiler:
[Image: Desert.jpg]


The Badlands were a vile, hot, wretched, and scorched patch of earth barren of all life except a few coyotes and buzzards that circled a nearby bone yard. A lone cloaked figure adorned with a black brimmed hat strode carelessly through the heat. There came a hissing sound from the crusty ground as a pellet of sweat dropped from the figures forehead and disappeared into vapors. High above the dark figure a few of those mangy buzzards began to close in looking for their next meal. His finger left the comfort of his cloak, the sun blazed down upon it as the finger slowly lifted his hat brim to get a better look skyward… “And who said there wasn’t any hospitality here…” ….Mastus sighed tugging his hat down over his brow once more. In the distance lay a waiving hut that danced through the rising heat caused by the earth beneath his feet. Mastus quickened his steps to reach his destination sooner. The hut was simple with a patch worked roof and the wood was dry rotted and worn by the years of harsh living in the climate. A long horse bay lay against the right side of the house where an old horse stood beneath an overhang providing shade and shelter for the creature. Mastus moved to stroke the horses mane, it gave an approving snort before turning back to continue drinking “A’ye there! Whatcha doin to Beth?! Leave h’er be!” The Elf smiled hearing the old man’s that echoed behind him… “Well hello to you too old timer.” Mastus turned while removing his hat. A shout of joy came from the old man who stood a whopping five foot four with a hunched back and whose face wore a long white beard “Mastus! Son ya c’oulda got y’self-shot!” The two exchanged a narrowing glare before breaking into a chuckle, “Old man you couldn’t hit the ass of a yeti if that damned thing was bent over two feet in front of ya.” Laughter rose from behind the long white beard of the old man, “An y’er an ass!” Mastus smiled replacing his hat on his brow line, “Could use a drink.” The old man motioned him inside, “I bet boy.”

Mastus sat wiping off the sweat from his brow as the old man brought two glassed filled with an amber liquid. The two men lifted their glasses in cheers, clanking rang out before the drinks were shot gunned down. Mastus breathed a deep breath letting the fire of the brew fill his chest. The old man coughed then smiled, “Y’a gett’in soft boy!” Glasses crashed down as was tradition among hard drinkers and the like. Mastus leaned over, “You know why I’m here Earl?” The old man nodded, “Aye… That I do boy, but first y’er g’on answer me a few questions before I gives it to ya!…” Mastus took his hat off and placed it on his right over the table’s edge, “Fire away old man.” Earl tapped an aged wrinkled finger on his bearded chin, “What happened to ya… Last I ‘eard you was head’in north…” An arched brow slid above the Elf’s right eye, “Oh? And how’d you find that out?” Earl looked offended, “Marie told me y’a dolt!” Mastus sighed, “I wanted to leave her out of this… Things are going to get dangerous; Cid’s already dead along with his whole damned family. I can’t lose her too…” The old man scoffed, “It’s been nearly a year since y’a seen’er, I doubt they go after’er.” Mastus stared straight into the old man’s eyes through his long dark hair, “Well… I guess if you really gotta know old man I boarded a ship bound for the North in hopes of tracking down the rest of my order before they could get to me. The ship was attacked; I subdued one of the men who turned out to be a fellow Shadow Dancer.” More amber liquor was poured as the old man listened, “I forced him to tell me what he knew through various persuasive means… That’s when I found out… It wasn’t the order that was after me, it was my own family’s high council that employed the dark orders assets to find me.” Earl exhaled a breath of shock, “I’m sorry son…” Mastus shrugged, “The ship burned at sea and next thing I know I’m waking up on some sandy beach, most all of my gear had washed away and I faded into unconsciousness. When I awoke I was back in Silvermoon with no memory of how I got there. Apparently I was in a coma for a few months.” The two raised their glasses knocking back the booze once more followed by the slam of the glass. Earl stood with a shaken heave he made his way to a chest at the foot of his bed. He slowly unlocked it then reached inside pulling out a parchment, “Here…” The old man tossed it on the table near Mastus who in turn snatched it shoving the paper deep beneath his cloak. Earl sat once more pouring just one glass this time; he slid it across the table towards the young Elf “Okay son… Let’s get to it…” Mastus stood suddenly and before the old man could blink a grey pistol was two inches from his forehead “It’s been a long time coming Earl… I cannot forgive what you did.” The old man tensed up as tears welled in his eyes, “I know son… I can’t undo what I done to y’a or that girl’s family… Just… Just make sure Marie knows… I was only following orders as were you boy.” A single shot rang out through the desert that day and a dark rider rode west….


Spoiler:
[Image: lotr_black_rider.jpg]

BAAM! The flash had come and gone. Mastus often lost himself in memories since the accident but the visions of his past were becoming more of a common standing these days with the added stress of his family attempting to remove Xanthe from her position as Nova and the growing threats of the council against his Uncle Jidaeo and cousin Zariel. But now on top of all that a new foe was emerging in the form of some demonic dark casters. The Elf didn’t know what to make of it but he knew something must be done soon before more people lost their lives. Mastus sat on horseback overlooking a grassy valley far below. His gaze fell skyward as a single name rolled from his lips, “Marie…” The horse staggered about, a few snorts came from the creature before it settled once more. Mastus pulled out one of his cigarettes and sparked it to life. He pressed it to his lips letting it fill his lungs. The Elf inhaled deep causing the cherry to show a vibrant red before disappearing beneath a bit of ash dulling its light once more. Wind howled now from the valley far below drawing Mastus’s attention back to the present. In the Elf’s right hand there was a tabard. It was rarely worn but those who knew it well recognized it as a symbol of loyalty and honor to a very old House in Silvermoon. Mastus held it up looking at it once more; he spoke to the wind “All I ever wanted was to save those I care about… But if those I care about can’t see this cycle then perhaps it’s time…” Releasing his grasp of the tabard the wind clutched it hard ripping it skyward. The symbol adorned on its face was that of bright rays reaching skyward the long standing symbol of the Novalight House. It twisted down somewhere deep into the grassy valley far below. Mastus Novalight jerked the horse’s reigns turning away from the cliffs edge. With a heavy heart fingers moved to tug a black hat low over his brow line and with a tracing finger along the hats brim the Shadow Dancer spoke one last line before disappearing into the night “Maybe it’s time I stopped following orders….”
[Image: 15.jpg]
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