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April 8, 2011 / Bika

Fiction Friday: The Right of All Horde I

Remember The Tree? Poor Libby. I can’t remember exactly how Verdus ended up winning the rights for vengeance, but Claire might take pity on us and put the story of how that came about in the comments. Turns out that over the course of the Libby-Fenniel story, from the time they met until the end of The Right of All Horde (there are eight parts so far and counting, written by Verdus with occasional appearances by Pill, Claire, myself and others), well over 37,000 words have been written about them. That doesn’t count the mountains of in-game interactions between them, and it’s still almost long enough to fill a book.

Skimming over the old stories I was reminded of just how fun and silly and sad it all was, and how much I love writing with my friends. If I’m lucky, we’ll be writing together for many years to come.

For today’s Fiction Friday, we have the first in a series of guest posts by Verdus. Follow Libby’s friend as he investigates her murder. What will he find?

__________________________________________

Verdus couldn’t help but frown as he rode away from Ghost Walker Post. None of this made any sense!

The surge of emotions that he’d been wrestling with for days continued to build as he drove, threatening to overwhelm the druid again. Rather than risk a breakdown and loss of control over his vehicle, he instead pulled off to the side of the path and shut down his motorcycle. Grief, anger, and confusion roiled within him, clouding his mind’s eyes with turmoil and his physical eyes with tears, keeping him from the answers he desperately needed to find. Throwing his head back and staring up into the clear night sky, Verdus yearned for guidance. Whether it came from the Earthmother, the moon spirit Mu’sha, the slumbering sun spirit An’she, or even some more mundane source, he didn’t much care just then. Only the dry, dusty wind of the Desolace wastelands answered him.

It had been over a week since Libby’s body had been found. Nine horrible days since her husband Fenniel’s world had been shattered, seven days since Verdus had been told, and, as best as anyone could figure, twelve days since a kind, strong tauren woman and a gifted servant of the Earthmother had been brutally and ritualistically murdered. It hadn’t even been simple murder; she’d been defiled with foul, demonic magics as part of whatever sick and evil process had been employed to bring about her end. No living being deserved to suffer what Rainsinger Libby must have endured in her final hours, much less a gentle druid like her.

Losing Libby was heart-breaking to everyone that had known her, including Verdus. She was an old friend, a fellow veteran of the Horde’s campaign in Outland. Verdus had fought side-by-side with Libby for months, against seemingly innumerable and all-powerful foes, before her sudden and unexpected retirement following the battle at Tempest Keep. She’d also been an incorrigable flirt, cheerfully teasing Verdus and any other pulse-bearing male within earshot. The memory of her making an innocent pass at him as she tugged on her long braids, just like she always did, would normally have brought a ready smile to Verdus’s face. That night it only brought a grimace, ushered in by more heartache.

All the pain that Verdus felt at the loss, though, was nothing compared to what Fenniel was going through. He had been devastated by the tragedy, and even now the Sin’dorei was barely functional. For all the odd looks and comments that their marriage had drawn from some others, the two had truly cared for one another. Certainly, he had cared enough to leave his people and his life, moving into exile in the jungles of Feralas just to be with her. Seeing the normally cheerful and energetic, if overly self-conscious, Farstrider crushed like that only added to Verdus’s lingering shock and rage. Fenniel was a good man, certainly one of the very few of his kind to ever treat him with kindness and respect. He didn’t deserve the pain and heartache that had been thrust upon him. Senseless tragedies shouldn’t happen to kind, happy couples like they had been, not in a just world.

And just how completely and utterly senseless it was! There was so much about what happened that didn’t add up, even if Fenniel was in no state to see it. The poor man was so worried that Libby had left him, and that her death was somehow his fault as a result, that the guilt was clearly eating him alive. The idea seemed preposterous to Verdus, but he had no other answers to give his bereaved friend. After an evening helping to comfort Fenniel as he stayed with his sister in Silvermoon, Verdus had asked for permission to speak with the elder druid who had given Fenniel the news, so as to investigate the matter. Verdus could still remember the haunted look in Fenniel’s eyes as he gave his reluctant assent. “If you find anything, don’t tell me. I’m not sure I want to know,” he had said. It had seemed like such a good idea at the time, to help set Fenniel’s guilt and worries at ease despite his fear of what the truth could bring. Now, though, Verdus was questioning the wisdom of his decision. He’d found so few answers so far, and if he had to go back to Fenniel empty-handed, he wasn’t sure how Fenniel would react.

When Verdus had arrived in Camp Mojache, Jannos Lighthoof, the elder druid who had told Fenniel of Libby’s demise, had been only too willing to speak to him of what he knew. The crime that had been commited against Libby was an affront to the whole Shu’halo people and the Earthmother herself. It was Jannos who had described to Verdus the horrific wounds that had been inflicted upon Libby, managing to recount his findings in clinical detail despite the revulsion that the old bull clearly felt towards what had been done. He had known little beyond that, however, only able to point Verdus to Ghost Walker Post in Desolace, the outpost where the brave that had found Libby was stationed.

The Ghost Walker brave hadn’t been able to provide many answers either, though with the written introduction that Jannos provided he’d been willing to talk to Verdus nonetheless. Libby’s body had been found during a routine patrol in the southeastern region of Desolace, he had told Verdus. He described the expended ritual circle which had contained the corpse, as well as the discarded magical paraphenalia that had been found alongside it, though the items themselves had been promptly destroyed in cleansing flame. Nonetheless, Verdus had recognized the items described as being similar to those used by the Mannoroc Coven, a group of warlocks gathered in the wastelands to practice their dark arts far from the reach of civilized folk seeking to stop them.

None of this information set Verdus’s mind at ease, though. Far from it, in fact, instead raising even more questions without answering the original ones. What had Libby been doing in Desolace to begin with? There was nothing for her here, neither herbs to gather for her home nor work to be done for the Horde. If she’d had any personal business here during her time with Fenniel, she would have told him, Verdus was sure. But she hadn’t.

And how had a bunch of yahoos from the Mannoroc Coven managed to overcome her while she was here? Sure, the warlocks within it were violent and dangerous. Verdus knew that from the confrontations he’d had with them during his tour of duty here years ago, but in the grand scheme of things they were just small-time. Compared to the horrors that she and Verdus had faced in Outland, the Mannoroc Coven was less than nothing. Libby had helped to topple Lady Vash’j and the mad prince Kael’thas Sunstrider, but met her end at the hands of a group of warlocks cowering in the wasteland, hiding from the justice of the Horde? Madness. Libby had been a powerful druid, one who should have had little challenge dispatching the lot of them if they’d attacked her. So why hadn’t she?

As the sobs wracking his chest begin to pass and his breathing begin to steady, Verdus looked back down from the heavens at the barren wasteland around him. The lifeless gray dirt gleamed strangely in the starlight shining down on him. It stretched out all around him like an ocean of death, punctuated only by the bleached bones of the kodo that came here to die. This land was cursed, he knew it. Desolace had taken so much from Verdus already, his wife, his child, and now his friend, that it was easy to resent the place, to believe that the Earthmother herself had turned her eyes from it. He wanted little more than to leave the blighted place and never return, to forget that it had ever existed. But duty compelled him to stay, the need to find the answers that would ease both his friend’s pain and his own.

Flipping up his motorcycle’s kickstand, Verdus put his riding goggles back on and continued his drive to the southeast.

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