Azalea’s story so far…
Azalea, the sylvari, was only a month old when she was snatched by the merciless claws of the Nightmare Court. She was tortured and abused by the Nightmare Court. When she defiantly refused to join their cruel cause, she was experimented upon by rouge asura. The trauma had a profound effect on her, mentally and physically. When she had given up hope of rescue, and succumbed to the reality that she would die at the brutal hands of the Nightmare Court, she awoke to find a mysterious pendant, and her cell door unlocked. Gravely wounded, she frantically flees for her life.
Chapter 3: Fight
Arrows whirled past my ears, as I flung myself into the lush jungle brush, a cacophony of noise following me. I darted through the trees, easily blending into the green foliage. I quickly lost sight of them. I could hear the Nightmare Court horde splinter as they began their hunt for me.
As a ranger, my natural affinity with the jungle should have given me a slight advantage. However, that was diminished by my body’s broken state. I took strength in the kind voices of the jungle that guided me as I ran. Their whispers warned me of hazards, but my fatigued body lacked the capacity to keep up. I saw the twisted tree root, jutting from the loose soil, but was unable to act in time. My foot snagged, and I tumbled to the ground.
I gasped in pain, as I rolled onto my back. Dirt clung to the sticky sap that had coated my body. The brutish yelling of the Nightmare Court grew louder, and each footstep thundered with the drumming of my heart. I had to run. I tried to stand up, but my legs wobbled feebly, and I collapsed. I hissed in pain, and looked around me. I would have to hide. I dragged myself through the dirt to a dense patch of jungle. As I pulled the fern leaves over me, heavy feet burst into the clearing.
A dark sylvari thief entered first. He was tall and slender, wielding a bow in his thin fingers. A deep scar ran from his eyebrow to the bottom of his chin. His hard eyes scoured the clearing.
Two sylvari Nightmare scouts followed him, their faces washed a pale with exhaustion.
‘Did we lose her?’ One asked, through labored breaths.
‘We can’t have,’ the other hissed. ‘I saw her not a second ago.’
The thief held up his hand, signaling for them to be quiet, and their gasping mouths snapped shut. They were listening for me, hoping to hear me stumbling through the undergrowth. I held my breath.
‘Damn,’ the sylvari scout sighed, after a moment of agonizing silence. ‘She’s a ranger. She can disappear into thin air out here.’
‘Only thieves can disappear into thin air,’ the dark thief said, contempt dripping from every syllable.
He was squatting where I had fallen, his hand running over the struggle marks I had left in the dirt. His hand followed them, and his dark eyes fell on my hiding spot. I bit my lip.
‘Let’s go,’ the first sylvari said, unaware of the thief’s discovery.
‘Quiet!’ The dark sylvari snapped viciously, and the two sylvari immediately obeyed.
Slowly, he stalked the bushes. My heart hammered in my chest, and adrenaline ripped through my body, as I prepared for the impending battle. It wouldn’t be much of a battle though, I had no weapons, and no hope. Silently, I turned out my pockets. They were empty, except for the small worn pendant I found in my cell. It may have been beautiful to look at in the morning rays, but it was ultimately useless. Even if I managed to strangle the thief with it, the other two would kill me in seconds. Before I could make a decision the fern rustled as he pulled them back.
I stared at him, seeing the smug triumph glowing in his eyes. His face was inches from mine. So close that I felt his stank breath flush against my face. We stared for a few moments. I was about to leap on him, when his features fell. His triumph turned to sullen frustration as his eyes flitted around the small clearing as if I didn’t exist. He growled menacingly under his breath and let the leaves fall back as he retreated. He barked at the other two sylvari and they left hastily.
I sat in absolute astonishment. What happened? How could he not have seen me? I shook myself out of my dazed stupor, and looked around. I still had to escape. I tried to stand up, but as I did a wave of dizziness washed over me. My legs wobble dangerously, and I collapsed into darkness.
The sharp crack of breaking bark snapped me awake. I sat up, disoriented. The warm rays of early morning had been washed under a veil of dark glittering silks. My heart sung for the fact that I was still free. Tentatively, I pulled myself off the ground. My muscles were stiff and aching, but thankfully more mobile. The small pendant was still clutched in my fingers, and I placed it around my neck.
Another twig snap made my head flick, I was not alone. Instinctively, I crouched low and crept through the brush. In a clearing, a small being was foraging. I peered through the darkness and held back a hiss. It was an asura. I ducked lower. Even though darkness had fallen, the Nightmare Court was still looking for me. The asura was one I had never seen before. He had short white hair, and a thick bulbous noise that twitched with distaste as he flicked over rocks and wooden debris with his gnarled staff. He muttered incomprehensibly as he did so.
He was waddling around the clearing, and quickly approaching my position. I had to escape, but if I moved he would surely hear me and tell the others where I was. The painful truth was I could no longer sustain a run. My leg wound was bleeding steadily, and my vision swum slightly. I made my decision hastily this time. I leapt from the bushes. The asura’s long pointed ears twitched, and he turned. A strangled cry escaped his throat as I put my hands around his neck. He flailed wildly.
‘Let me go, let me go!’ he rasped. I pressed harder, trying to quieten him.
‘I’m not going back!’ I growled.
A terrifying roar ripped through the air from behind me. I jerked around, dropping the asura to see a huge charr. The mangy beast was bearing over me. His dark fur seemed to whiten his fangs as he bared them in another intimidating roar.
Panic and adrenaline kicked in and I started running. I leapt onto him, grabbing his fur. The force pushed him back, and we fell into the dirt. I shoved a hand deep into his fur and clenched his throat.
‘Make a sound and I’ll rip your throat out,’ I snarled. The charr simply stared at me, speechless.
‘If you were worried about him calling reinforcements, you’re too late,’ a growl came from behind me. I turned to see another charr. This one had fur the color of burning flames, and his big horns that twisted out from his fur. He threatened me with his sword, and I climbed off the charr reluctantly. He helped up his charr companion as the asura behind me slowly stood up and rubbed his neck, scowling.
‘Farkuz, what happened?’ The charr with the pointed sword asked in a low voice, not taking his eyes off me. The question was directed at the dark haired charr but the asura answered.
‘That twig attacked me out of no where!’ The asura exclaimed, his eyes wide and palms exposed in an earnest gesture.
‘I wasn’t talking to you Lurk,’ the charr snapped.
The undergrowth by the red-haired charr rustled, and I felt it in my mind. Something I had not felt for so long, a pleasant presence. I almost smiled.
A ferocious green blur leapt from the bush. The charr flinched and held up held up his arm defensively. The fern hound beast latched onto it, biting furiously. It was Stalk.
I moved quickly, not wanting to waste the opportunity. I surged forward, and the charr called Farkuz lunged for me, but I ducked under his lashing claws. I pulled his pistol from his belt and jumped back, pointing it at him.
Fearlessly Farkuz bounded at me. My finger twitched. A shot fired, skimming past his face and singing his whiskers. He halted and stepped back, hissing and snarling.
I had cornered this beast, but I felt distress in my mind. I turned to see Stalk being picked up by the other Charr. The charr’s excessive size was too much for the poor hound, and he slammed Stalk into the hard dirt. Stalk whimpered, and the Charr pulled out his sword, anticipation glinting in his eyes.
‘No!’ I screamed. I leapt in front of Stalk. My sudden presence shocked the charr and he hesitated momentarily. I turned my back on the beast and twirled around to envelope Stalk in a protective hug, expecting the sword to plunge through my chest at any moment.
‘By the six! What do you think you’re doing?!’ A voice shattered through the tension. The sword never struck me, and I looked up, in my arms I could feel Stalk struggling to see as well.
A tall human had placed himself between the charr and I, his arms held out protectively. I couldn’t see his face, but his back was held firm and defiant. The charr lowered his sword, and bared his teeth in a hideous roar. The human didn’t even flinch.
‘Stand down human,’ the charr spat.