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April 29, 2011 / Bika

Fiction Friday: The Right of All Horde V

Seems the time for planning has come to an end, and all that remains is… execution. What exactly is Verdus thinking? Will everything go as planned?

Please enjoy Part V of this series, written by Verdus. Missed any of the previous posts? Visit the links below:

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The waiting wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if it weren’t for all the rain. Even nestled up in the high branches of his tree, the canopy could only do so much to shield Verdus from the torrential downpour. After having sat in that shadowy alcove of branches for hours, sharp feline eyes watching the patterns of activity in the outpost below between bright flashes of lightning, the fur of his cat form was completely saturated with rainwater. Between the stiffness that came with remaining unmoving for so long and the cold permeating his skin, the druid was well and truly miserable.

Still, it was the price that had to be paid, not to mention his own doing. Verdus had been the one to nudge the storm into existence in the first place, after all. It hadn’t even been particularly difficult, seeing as how the Swamp of Sorrows was no stranger to intense rainfall, especially in those winter months. All of the makings were there, it had just taken some of that special encouragement that only a druid can provide to such natural processes. He could only hope that the rest of the plan would carry out as well as the storm had. There was too much at stake to fail now. That Cersei Dusksinger had lived for so long since killing Libby was an affront to her memory. If some chills and joint pain were what it took to ensure that his plan for vengeance was carried out tonight, then so be it.

The storm, with all of its dense rainfall and booming thunder, was the first part of that plan. He’d started it hours ago, shortly after entering the swamp, to provide cover for everything that would come after. The rain would ensure that most people stayed indoors for the night, safely out of the way. Those that didn’t would be unable to see or hear for any great distance, reducing the likelihood of discovery or interference. The downpour would also obliterate any tracks or scent trails, stymieing any later investigative efforts. As covers went, it was pretty much perfect: simple, effective, and completely deniable.

Dusk had long since passed in the swamp, plunging it into blackness. Down below him inside the walls of Stonard, the guards were huddled by the fires at their posts, desperate for any relieving warmth. Further inside the outpost, only a single light still burned. Inside the main building, the outpost’s overseer was finishing up her last items of business for the day. Cersei had been spending less and less time at her post in Stonard, leaving the oversight of most tasks to her rankled subordinates during her frequent trips home to Silvermoon City. This was the first time that she’d been back since the Shattering, and she was due to leave again early the next day. Given the mutual animosity that he’d witnessed in her interactions with the guards, they’d likely just assume that she’d left early without telling anyone and leave it at that. It would be weeks before the Stonard guards became suspicious about her prolonged absence. By the time the matter came to the attention of the few people who cared, it would be far too late. This was an opportunity that Verdus had wasted no time in acting upon, not knowing when it would come again. And so he sat there, waiting for that light to walk up the tower’s spiral staircase to Cersei’s chambers, waiting for his time to strike.

Whether it was minutes or hours that went by Verdus didn’t know, but at long last the light stirred. As the torch and its bearer slowly ascended the tower stairs, he felt his heart start to pound. Apprehension rose swiftly in his heart as he rose and stretched within his nook in the tree. The next part of the plan was the most risky. There was little danger to Verdus himself, but the outcome of his next gambit was critical to the plan’s success. It was also the part of the plan that was most likely to go awry. As he shifted back to his natural tauren form and activated the light amplification on his goggles, he realized what the other thing was that was making him nervous: after this, he was committed. Everything else that he’d done to this point could be denied or explained away. After his next act, he would have no choice but to see the plan through or abandon it entirely. Despite his conviction that he was in the right, the thought still left him ill at ease.

Verdus saw her directly for the first time through the window as she arrived in her private chambers. Cersei was dressed plainly, doubtless unwilling to allow one of her better dresses to be ruined by exposure to the swamp. More importantly, she was alone, unaccompanied by one of her demon minions. That was good, it meant that the first stumbling block had been dodged. The sheer arrogance with which she carried herself, even when she thought nobody was watching, stoked the fires of Verdus’s anger anew. All doubt faded from his mind.

Closing his eyes, he gathered his power and prayed that he was skilled enough to succeed at what came next. As he focused his druidic magic, insect analogues of all sorts came active within the portion of the Emerald Dream that encompassed the swamp. The spell that he channeled was similar to the standard Insect Swarm cantrip taught to every druid, but with much more energy and focus invested into it. Simply conjuring the creatures and turning them loose to bite and sting her wouldn’t accomplish what he needed. Far more power and control would be necessary to guide them continually during their time here, as well as to fortify them against the fierce assault of the storm. In less than a second, the warlock found herself overwhelmed with enormous insects the likes of which she had never seen, appearing seemingly from nowhere. Thankfully, the shock of their appearance and the pain of their assault prompted Cersei to react just as Verdus had hoped: she ran, her terrified screams swallowed by the storm.

The spell had been a gamble, not something that he had been sure would work. Cersei was a powerful warlock, after all. There was the possibility that she would have had the presence of mind to defend herself rather than flee. Verdus had been banking on the fact that most sentient creatures still revert to primal, animal terror when faced with certain threats. Fire was a common one, at least for those who don’t have any magical control of it. Attacks aimed at the eyes were another; even experienced warriors flinch when you go for the eyes. And then there were swarms. During his time in Silithus, he’d seen many more soldiers, even seasoned veterans, succumb to terror when faced with the swarms of tiny insects than the enormous Qiraji lords. It’s a lot easier to rationalize success against a single powerful foe than an uncountable number of small ones. That fear was part of why the Insect Swarm cantrip was taught as a combat spell. While it was normally used simply for the damage the bugs could inflict, this time he needed the fear to push Cersei into the location that he needed her to be.

Herding the warlock where Verdus wanted her to go was challenging, particularly doing so in such a way that she didn’t fall and break her neck on the way down the stairs or past any other obstacles. He had to keep enough of the swarm on Cersei to keep her running, but not overwhelm her so much that she couldn’t see the intended avenue of escape. There also had to be enough to keep her terrified and unreasoning, but not so many that her mind broke entirely. Steering her was a bit like riding a kodo, he mused. He had to redistribute the swarm to push her gently in the direction that he wanted without over-correcting. As soon as she crossed the threshold of the building that she was in, dozens of insects started dropping every second, overwhelmed by the powerful wind and rain; Verdus had to expend even more energy to pull replacements from the Dream. It was difficult, but with some quick adjustments he managed to herd Cersei exactly where he wanted her to go. She ran out the outpost gates, past the tree in which Verdus crouched, and out into the far reaches of the swamp. If any of the guards noticed her through the howling, blinding storm, none raised an alarm.

As she fled out into the darkness past him, Verdus knew relief for the first time in months. His plan was going to succeed. He’d had faith in it before, to be sure, but now he felt a reassuring certainty wash over him as he abandoned full control of the spell. It didn’t much matter where she ran to now. She was clear of the outpost and he could find his way to wherever she was by his connection to the remaining insects, now acting on their own natural instincts. The wheels were in motion and the riskiest parts of the plan had succeeded. All that was left was to close the noose. Shifting back into his feline form, he leaped down from the tree branches and set off into the darkness after his prey.

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