Warcraft Fan Fiction ❯ Turning Red ❯ Control ( Chapter 17 )
Phoenix is looking over at Seven as the elves dressed in black spring out. The orc is just returning eye contact with her as this happens; Phoenix watches his eyes gaze wide in shock, shifting her attention towards the people around her.
She freezes. Before she realises what is happening, the elf in front of her speaks. In the darkness it is hard to make out his face, but as he talks she realises she doesn’t recognise him.
“You are property of the Steelfeathers,” he says, calmly, in a hard voice as blunt as a club. “You either come with us quietly, or pay with your blood.”
Phoenix is tempted to drop her weapon and go with the elves, for the chance to rescue her mother. But she knows she would be heavily outnumbered and dismisses the thought as quickly as it first appeared. Her face is a ball of shock and uncertainty. Someone behind her chortles with glee.
Phoenix’s heart thuds and she glances over at Seven. ‘Now would be a great time for your assistance, beauty,’ she thinks, wanting to scream aloud but finding she cannot do anything but stay frozen. For she sees that Seven, now standing, is surrounded by three other lackeys himself.
Phoenix’s heart-rate thunders suddenly in speed and volume, its pounding filling her ears. She moves her right foot back slightly to keep her balance.
The world is still for a moment as the person in front of her steps forward, casting his face in the moonlight. He is an ugly, black-haired ponytail-sporting elf, staring Phoenix down, awaiting her move. He is not holding a weapon, though it’s possible it could be concealed.
‘No,’ Phoenix thinks to herself, blocking out the noise of her pounding heart. Like Trixie taught her, what good will the rage bring? She stands up tall, tilts her head a centimetre and just breathes. Deeply.
A long breath escapes her lips, warming the mask in front of her mouth. She swiftly darts her eyes left and right, without moving her head an inch so as not to make the gang attack first. Phoenix’s heart slows as she forces herself to think and quickly analyse the situation. To not only look, but to see. To find clarity, to understand.
She spots one bandit to her left, along with the flash of a blade, but cannot see for certain if another is on her far right or not. The laugh revealed there’s at least one person behind her, while her instincts tell her there’s probably one or two beside them.
So there are possibly at least seven of them altogether - three around the orc and four circling her. She thinks about using the dagger concealed within her tunic but opts for the sword, given the need for greater reach, plus the thought of wielding it gives her some comfort. The knowledge of the situation relaxes her somehow and she suddenly feels the light weight of Heart on her left hip, begging Phoenix to draw it and thrust towards the thug standing before her. ‘No,’ she decides, ‘That’s what angry Phoenix would do. We split these idiots into separate groups, breaking them up and dampening their numbers advantage.’
While it feels like a minute, this all happens in the space of a few seconds, and the tension rises in the silence.
“Oh,” the elf in front adds, breaking it. “And we’ll be taking that sceptre you have there, whatever option you choose.”
Phoenix ignores him. She quickly glances at Seven one last time before she makes her first move. They establish eye contact for a split-second and, like a pair of ticking clocks almost perfectly in time with one another, move together in relative unison. Seven roars, grabbing the nearest bandit to him and throwing him with devastating force towards the other two surrounding him.
As this is happening, Phoenix suddenly charges to her left, while keeping her head looking forward to beguile the enemy. She makes no such battle cry, instead remaining silent and swift. She twists her centre of gravity to fire all of her weight from her light frame into her left shoulder, which is targeted towards the figure to her left. As she tilts her eyes to see him as she charges, she notices he’s caught off guard and not reacting quickly enough to avoid or divert her blow. Feeling confident with the advantage, at the last moment she viciously juts her elbow upwards, aiming for his face. Her bony elbow connects with his teeth and upper gum, making a nasty thwacking sound as he sprawls backwards to the wall.
A dab of pain throbs through Phoenix’s elbow but she does not consciously feel it. She is utterly focused on the flow of the combat taught by Trixie and, milliseconds after her elbow has connected with the man’s face, her right hand is already drawing Heart from its crimson scabbard on her left hip, releasing it into the air while flicking its hilt down towards her, letting it rise into the air counter-clockwise. In one motion, as soon as her elbow has connected with the bandit’s face, her sword is rising up to meet her left hand, the blade slowly pointing towards the night sky. She grabs the hilt, aims Heart towards the person who was in front of her and swivels her body to face him and the other two still standing, breaking their circle.
The elf in front of Phoenix suddenly releases a small ball of fire towards her. Phoenix guides her chest towards the spell as the piece of concealed dark iron from inside her tunic nullifies the flame, extinguishing it into thin air.
Her assailant is left stunned, his mouth agape. Now it’s his turn to freeze. But Phoenix has no time to gloat.
Two other elves jump towards her, one with a machete; the other a dagger. Phoenix blocks the sword with Heart and continues to swish her blade towards the dagger-wielder in one movement. She feels it lightly tear through leather - possibly skin - as the assailant lets out a cry and jerks backwards in response. Phoenix uses her free hand to remove the sceptre from her belt and swings it haphazardly towards the machete-wielder - but he ducks. The weight of the sceptre forces Phoenix’s arm downwards and she releases the object onto the cobbled street with a ding.
Phoenix, conscious that the first elf she attacked may possibly rise to his feet, sidesteps quickly a few times curving around to her right. The three assailants are bunched together now, the magic-user at the back, making it impossible for him to attack her without also harming his friends. The fourth, whom she already attacked, is still lying on the floor, contorting and holding his face in his hands.
From this angle, Phoenix can see her trusted orc friend to the right-hand side of the alley, in serious action for the first time. Two gang members lie on the floor lifelessly beside him, each bloodied with a dagger protruding from their chest. The third is about to receive a hard-knuckled punch to the face from a very hard, very fast, green fist.
Phoenix suddenly hears the rush of footsteps and the crackling of magic behind her. Did she miscount the number of Steelfeathers? In the confusion of the fight, she panics and dives to her right. Someone rushes past her screaming: “Anar'alah belore!”
Phoenix feels the heat of a large naked flame flash before her and covers her left hand over her face as she turns away from the spell.
A devastating flamestrike spell is unleashed, the scorching inferno of pain lighting up the alley and instantly burning three Steelfeathers to cinders. Phoenix notices Seven’s surprise - he turns away for a moment as unbearable heat blankets the alley, lighting up his pig-like face for a few seconds. In a heartbeat, the rush of fire and severity of the spell is gone, leaving behind three smoking, blackened skeletons on the ground in front of them.
Phoenix turns left to see Solari standing there, out of breath, with his arms still outstretched towards the dead bodies. Thin, wispy smoke emanates from his fingertips.
The bandit first attacked by Phoenix moves his hands away from his bloodied face and looks up. He spots the three torched skeletons, two bodies in a pool of blood and another Steelfeather lying unconscious on the floor, beside Seven.
Solari stares at the bandit, who glances back at him - and Phoenix. The elf is soon surrounded in his own pool of natural substances, food and drink escaping from his bowels and bladder respectively.
Seven and Solari are scowling at him, but Phoenix is… starting to laugh. She picks up the golden sceptre from the floor, and waves it cockily in his direction. She can almost feel his fear. It gives her an odd kind of warmth, but the sensation is fleeting.
“Go on, off you go, shitbreak. Go tell the others about me, tell them they can’t have me” Phoenix laughs, sliding the sceptre back into her belt. “Especially her.”
The elf’s fear morphs into a morsel of relief.
Seven turns to her: “That is not wise, Phoenix. We should not let him leave.”
“What’s wise is sending them a message,” she retorts. “At least this way they may think twice before attacking us again.”
“Or just encourage them to double their efforts,” Seven says quiet enough just for Phoenix to hear, frowning.
The injured elf is already running out of the alley, past the orc and into the shadows. Seven closes his eyes and grunts in anger, kicking the unconscious elf beside him.
“Quickly, there is no time, you must leave here before we are spotted,” Solari says.
Phoenix looks over at the tramps by Seven. Astoundingly, it seems they somehow slept through the frackas. Though on second thought, they weren’t exactly noisy.
“What should we do with the bodies?” Phoenix asks.
“Leave them,” Solari replies. “I will handle it, I’ll say there was a fight that broke out outside the inn.”
“That’s kind of the truth, I suppose,” Phoenix smiles back at her old friend.
He stares back. “You’ve changed,” he says.
“My life has changed, I’ve had to change with it,” she responds assuredly, with a touch of sadness to her voice. “And there are more changes I need to make.”
She looks at Seven, oddly, before stepping towards the alley’s entrance.
Solari nods. He adds: “I will come and find you soon.”
She turns and smiles back at him.
“Thank you for helping me, and it was lovely to see you again, Solari, even if the circumstances were… a little more fiery than usual.”
Solari, stunned by the elf’s humour given what just happened, and the huge, concealed figure beside her, is left with a blank expression on his face. Phoenix and Seven turn to leave. They exit Murder Row and begin walking West towards the house Solari spoke of.
“Where are we going now?” Seven asks. “And who exactly was that mage?”
“An old friend - and I’m following a lead,” Phoenix answers as if nothing happened.
“Just stop,” he barks, halting in his tracks defiantly. After a few seconds, she stops too and turns to face him.
“We may have fought well and gotten away with our lives back there, but for fel’s sake we smelt death and came damn close to tasting it ourselves,” Seven says, angrily. “We’re lucky your friend was there to help. And now you’re talking like you’re alone in whatever errand you’re running, but you forget you’re part of a group now. A group who cares about you!”
“And you’re forgetting my mum is being held by a bunch of thugs against her will - the reason why I joined your fucking group in the first place!” Phoenix says, her voice rising. “Does this surprise attack not remind you like it does me? Trixie said we’d get her back and so did you!”
“Yes but not halfway through another mission!” Seven responds. “We can search for your mother another time -”
“Time is not something I am willing to squander! You heard the Steelfeathers, they are pissed off at us - at me - who knows what they will do to her? My friend gave me a lead, can you be my friend too and just trust me?”
The two voices echo loudly in the corner of the alley; luckily it seems no one is around to hear their sudden argument. Seven cools off as he considers Phoenix’s last retort.
“You already have my trust, beast, you should know that,” he says. “But friends don’t just blindly follow, they make sure their allies are thinking straight, they ask questions, they work together.”
“Then let us work together, beauty,” Phoenix adds, her voice simmering down to Seven’s quieter level as she accentuates the word ‘beauty’ for added sarcasm. Her eyes dominate his, a spark of fury and vigour flashing from her pupils. “Not question my every move.”
She begins walking again - and Seven follows.
“You are but a young sapling,” Seven says, “I’m going to question your decisions. Deal with it,” he adds, a slight air of humour running beneath the final three words.
Phoenix pouts but smiles within. “Ask questions all you like. I’ll just shoot them down. Deal with that, you... you... cantankerous cretin.”
Stunned by the strange insult, Seven looks at Phoenix and says, with his eyebrows raised: “Er, what?”
“You heard me,” Phoenix replies, deadpan.
“Cantankerous?” Seven repeats, finding humour in the insult, laughing a little, Phoenix joining him.
“Yes, and a cretin,” she adds.
“I’m only cantankerous because you are… impossible,” Seven says.
“My mind is a puzzle,” Phoenix responds. “I can’t figure it out myself. You’d do well to.”
Seven thinks about this for a moment and says no more.
The pair walk side by side through the dark streets of Silvermoon City, the argument over as quickly as it began, just a jot in their growing friendship. Phoenix leads Seven west towards the house Solari spoke of, almost forgetting the potential danger around them. After a while, they find themselves in Skulking Row.
The city is already quiet at this hour, past midnight, but Skulking Row is especially so. The street path thins to a muddy track rasping through overgrown grass, with a few cheap-looking houses up against the western-most edge of Silvermoon City’s golden walls.
The track disappears into a small garden area, long abandoned and growing wildly. It’s hard to make out in the dark, but a few unmarked graves linger nearby in what appears to be a forgotten burial ground. Beyond here lies a lone, abandoned-looking building, the size of a small house. There is nothing but the noise of crickets and the soft lapping of waves as a cool breeze wafts sea air over the wall and into the edge of Silvermoon. A single crow caws in the moonlight. The area feels cut off to the rest of the city and makes Phoenix feel uneasy.
She explains to Seven how Solari found his way here and, after scoping the place out carefully from distance, the pair cautiously move towards the building. At first glance there is no obvious entrance, but after walking softly around the edge of the building, they find a flimsy-looking wooden door around the back on rusted hinges that squeak noisily, no matter how light they turn. A note is fastened to the front of the door followed by the mark of the Royal Guard: ‘Off limits.’
Phoenix steps foot into the building first, and after checking for any obvious traps and listening closely for any movement on the other side, opens the door wider for Seven to follow. It creaks angrily.
The overpowering stench of bloodthistle fills her nostrils. Phoenix lets out a breath in disgust and lights her lantern again, making the dark room - and the hundreds of plants within it - visible. About one third of the leaves have been burnt to ashes, and the remaining ones appear wilt, like they have been recently poisoned with plant killer.
“A bloodthistle farm…” Seven says. “But with this now shut down by the authorities, it’s going to hit the Steelfeathers’ trade.”
“That may explain why they’re going after Trixie’s business,’ Phoenix thinks to herself. She says nothing as she walks around the room, looking for clues as to her mother’s whereabouts.
Phoenix cuts off a wilted leaf of bloodthistle and inspects it closely, sniffing it and closing her eyes. “This is stronger than usual,” she mutters, closing her eyes and wincing. “Likely laced or grown with some other illegal substance. No wonder it was shut down.”
She lets the leaf fall to the floor.
Phoenix and Seven take the time to meticulously inspect the abandoned bloodthistle farm. By the time they’re done, the first beams of morning sunrise glow through the broken window panes of this old building. There are some gardening tools scattered around the building and parts of the floor are riddled with burn marks. But aside from this and the dying leaves around them, there seems to be nothing of significance. No clues, no leads, no hope.
Phoenix’s calm demeanor splits like an atom. She cries out in frustration and kicks one of the plant containers sending it tumbling to the floor, soil and leaves littering the ground. Alexandra’s face enters her mind, laughing at her.
“Fuck you,” she spits, quietly.
“Phoenix…” Seven responds.
“You know what?” she says, turning to him. “I’m done. I’m done with these silly games. With this ‘training’. There are more important things than making coin from crystals and waiting around for some bloody sailor to return. My mother is out there, somewhere. She’s probably being abused right this minute, as we sit around here pissing about, if she’s not already dead!”
Phoenix tips one of the tables over sending it crashing to the ground as more stacks of dying bloodthistle rustle across the floor.
“What are you DOING?” Seven angrily cries, rushing to Phoenix’s side and grabbing her arm. “You’re leaving traces in a crime scene, making noise and you’re a wanted woman! Have you lost all sense of reality?”
“I don’t care anymore…” Phoenix responds, shrugging his arm away. “I do not trust Trixie, she wants to use me, she doesn’t care about finding my mother. But I do. And I’ll find her - alone.”
“She is not using you. And you can’t leave us,” Seven objects.
Phoenix turns towards the door. Seven blocks her path.
“What are you going to do, restrain me, like a lapdog to a little goblin?” Phoenix says.
The pair face one another, tension rising between the two of them again. Seven thinks about his words carefully.
“Of course not,” he says, offended. “Just listen for fel’s sake, and trust me.”
Phoenix shifts her weight onto her right foot and crosses her arms, waiting for Seven to convince her but feeling like nothing he says will do.
“We have an... important piece of information that will be revealed to you when the time is right,” Seven says. “I cannot tell you what it is now, but it’s significant . You being in the group is not just some strange coincidence. There are greater things to come and you need to be by our side when they are revealed. Think of it not as a secret, but a reward.”
Phoenix starts to say something but Seven continues.
“We will help find your mother, I promise. I don’t know when, as you’re right, leads are non-existent right now. But please don’t go. We are stronger together. Stay. For me at least.”
Phoenix thinks she detects desperation, even a little panic, in Seven’s voice. But there is honesty there, too.
“Why are you telling me this now? What else are you hiding?” Phoenix asks. Information, secrets, lies. Everyone seems to know more than she does.
“I asked you to trust me, didn’t I?” he responds, simply, from the heart.
Seven places his hand on Phoenix’s shoulder and grips it a little too tightly. Even though she is frowning sharply, the look on her face says she’s not going anywhere. Phoenix leans in to Seven and wraps her arms around his frame, closing her eyes. He hugs her back and says, almost to a whisper: “Why do you have to be so volatile, so infuriating? I have never met a person so impossible to predict.”
Phoenix locks eyes with the monster, saying nothing, and for a moment the air is awkward between them. Then she has a thought about something she can do if she returns to the hideout, and that calms her somewhat.
“Because life is impossible,” she eventually responds, pulling away from him, still feeling upset and frustrated, but less angry. She turns her back to him and tries her best to regain her composure.
“You’re telling me,” he says. “All the more reason for us to stick together. Damn it, Phoenix, I don’t want to lose you.”
She takes a deep breath and turns back around to face her friend. Her swelling rage has stilled.
Phoenix brushes her right hand across her lips, her half-gloved fingertips lingering in the air as she thinks. She stands on tiptoes and gently places her fingers onto Seven’s cheek. He looks down, flustered, avoiding Phoenix’s eyes.
“I’m glad I met you, Seven,” she says, withdrawing from him. She looks down at the tiny destruction she made of the table and plants, then back up at him.
She steps towards the door. “Isn’t it ironic?” Phoenix asks. “I wanted to leave home and escape from my mother. Once I get away, I want to be back with her again.”
Seven says nothing, not wanting to pursue a path that leads back to another argument.
“Come on, let’s go home,” Phoenix adds. “Before our driver loses it.”
She goes on to reveal her thought that calmed her: “I will talk to Trixie about my mother again and review the situation regularly. But if her plan of action is not to my liking, I’m gone.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Seven says, offering an awkward smile.
Phoenix’s fears are warranted. Somewhere out there, at this very moment, her mother is being beaten.