Darnassus was beautiful. It was not the first time that Sergeant Baine had walked its streets, but each and every time, it struck her as a place that she could easily see herself living out her retirement. The grass was hinted with a light frost, appropriate for this November day, and it crunched ever so slightly under foot. She paced alongside her comrades through the grandiose architecture of the city with the omnipresent grin on her lips. So, they were going to do anti-curse training? It wasn’t anything she hadn’t been through at least twenty times. To be a Drill-Sergeant, you had to be on top form - though she hadn’t been in a direct battle situation for approaching a few months now. The companions with her were mostly of the kal‘dorei, a race that in her youth, Raelyn had grown to hate; though when the time came for her to seek new opportunities, she found that the Peace Keepers were the most amiable group she had come across in a while. As they came to a standstill outside the Warrior’s Terrace, a thought crossed Raelyn’s mind that made her shudder. Something wasn’t right in the elvish city.
They began to discuss their techniques, each as personal as the next for dispelling curses. Raelyn explained that she often thought it best to focus on something stronger than pain. Love, for some, would have been the answer. It was rare that Raelyn had time to think on love, though as hard-hearted as she was, she had experienced it. The thought was interrupted, when several forms appeared under the arches of the terrace. Raelyn narrowed her eyes, and, as they got closer, it was as she feared. Something was indeed wrong, very wrong. The band of cultist their group had been fighting for what seemed like forever and a day had decided to make an appearance…and Raelyn knew they weren’t interested in the Peace Keeper’s counter-curse lessons. The rest of the group noticed the cultists, and within seconds, words turned aggressive. About as quickly as the words had taken a turn for the offensive, Raelyn had grabbed her polearm, ready and attentive. She scanned the line-up of cultists, which seemed to her like an execution line - several people waiting for their deaths. If only it were so easy. Her eyes shot to a hooded female, and on hearing a taunting laugh from the woman, she began to charge, letting out a furious battle cry and initiating the skirmish. The woman was quicker than Raelyn, and managed to turn and run just as Raelyn’s spear went past her. Watching the cultist’s movements into the distance, Raelyn gave chase, departing from the rest of her friends, who were no doubt underway in fighting the rest of them.
Before Raelyn had a chance to register the type of sorceress she was engaging in battle with, the woman had summoned a demon, a snarling, vicious and horned beast, which as soon as it had emerged from the shadows, it began to charge towards her. Her eyes widened as she prepared her spear, hoisting it strongly upwards, managing to pierce through the beast’s jaw before it had the chance to bite or claw her. The beast sunk to the ground, making a strange noise as it bled. As the demon backed off, it moved suddenly to strike again, this time with its horn. The horn impacted with Raelyn’s un-armoured side, goring through her flesh and ripping it. The pain caused her to yell in fury at the demon, and she slashed wildly with her spear, pulling herself away from the beast’s horn, and sure enough, the demon retreated to the side of its evil mistress. The woman, however, looked shocked that Raelyn had even managed to make a move. Underestimation was clearly commonplace among these cultists, or so Raelyn thought.
Barely a second passed between the demon’s retreat and the cultist’s next move - an illusory curse. Raelyn’s vision descended into temporary darkness, causing her to retreat, while holding her spear defensively. For a moment, she saw seven shadows pacing in front of her, and stopped for a minute. …No. It had been ten years since the incident with her battalion, it couldn’t be happening again before her eyes. Foul cultists, and their hold on a mind, provoking flashbacks from the depths of grief. No - she could not let herself be overcome, she thought in resolve. She slashed blindly in front of her at shadows that she knew were not there, but still expected that one of them may have been the cultist. She was unlucky in her swipes, as she could hear the woman’s laughter penetrating through the vision. Focusing on the laughter, the fog of disorientation subsided, and as colour returned to the Sergeant’s view, she saw the cultist in front of her - and now, the monstrous demon had moved in front of his mistress, protectively. The beast snarled, its jaws still dripping thick blood, and she glanced back at the sorceress, who still seemed to be laughing darkly at her.
“What will you do now, little rabbit?” The woman taunted. Raelyn said nothing in response, but gritted her teeth, assessing her options. She decided on a risk, which could possibly have done her more damage than good, but her superiors would not have named her “Raelyn the Reckless” if her previous risks hadn’t worked out positively for her! Inhaling a quick breath, she ran forward, and vaulted her main foot up onto the demon’s horn, using it for leverage, and as she jumped, she gained height - bringing her spear into the air and crashing back down into a clash with the cultist’s hastily drawn blade. Raelyn grinned; her strength was just about overwhelming the cultist, as the woman’s knees seemed to start buckling.
Then, a noise, audible, but out of nowhere sounded from behind her. The demon! Relinquishing her advantage on the cultist, she decided to definitively eliminate the meddling conjuration from the fight, aiming a straight kick to the beast’s stomach. The hit connected sharply, and the demon fell, making pained noises. Almost as soon as the monster hit the ground, a cry emitted from the cultist, and what followed the cry caused Raelyn’s knees to buckle, and her breath to fail her for what seemed like an eternity.
There was nothing but pain, as the cultist’s blade seemed to cut through Raelyn’s internal organs like a hot knife through butter. Raelyn had turned her back on her enemy, and had paid the ultimate price for it. She gasped, almost breathlessly in pain as the woman then twisted the serrated blade from her, ripping open a wound which went straight through her body - from her back to her stomach. Raelyn looked down, some of her vision obscured by her long, scarlet hair - and she could see blood. Without registering anything else but pain, she then fell to her knees. For a moment, a vision passed over her eyes, of the man she had loved during her time in the army campaigns. The man who died along with the six others she had been leading to an encampment when they were ambushed. …The man, and the battalion that Raelyn the Reckless had failed to save. …Jannen. Her life after that seemed to play in reverse from where she was. She could see the charming man and the draenei who had fought over her brief affections since then. Her time in the guard, and the executions she held. Her battles with alcoholism. Her mother, her father - the brother she hadn’t seen for seven years. Her battlefield campaigns. The faces of all the men and women she had trained all blurred down to seven individual faces with dead expressions. They all looked like the ones she had failed.
Then, she blinked her eyes once- and the illusions were gone. Her senses returned, and all she could see now in front of her were the beautiful, purple, Darnassian flowers. She could hear intentionally slow footsteps behind her, and as she mustered up strength to ignore her pain even for just one fleeting moment, she punched the cultist in the stomach - a weak retaliation to a wound as fatal as hers. This exertion caused her to fall weakly and limply onto her side, the spear seeming miles away from her as she had dropped it now. She retched, and blood spattered upon the purple flowers next to her. She gritted her teeth, wincing with the sheer agony coursing through every inch of her, and clenched her mail-clad fists hard as she punched them into the ground, fighting with every last ounce of strength that remained in her to crawl to all fours. As Raelyn growled with exertion, he voice of the woman broke through the cloud of pain.
“Quiet, little rabbit…” She said. Raelyn closed her eyes for a moment, regaining some of her fighting spirit. She hadn’t had a worse injury than this, but she’d had her fair share of incapacitation on the battlefields. What made this time any different? She reached down, and grabbed a slim line dagger from the strap of her boot, and charged upwards, letting out a yell as she raised herself upwards to try and stab the woman in the chest - a blow that was parried with a blade, yet before the dagger slipped from Raelyn’s blood-stained hands, she managed to embed the entirety of the blade into the cultist’s shoulder, provoking a screech as it sliced through flesh.
“This lil’ rabbit’s got bigger claws than yeh’d know!” Raelyn cried as she sank back down to her knees, clutching her stomach as blood continued to pour from her. She landed upon her back eventually, her body seeming to give out on her, and as she looked up, she saw the cultist pulling the dagger from her shoulder and looking at it.
“I think I’ll keep this…as a memento.” The woman spoke, coldly.
“Hope y’…treasure it.” Raelyn hissed, and with that, she spat, spitting blood in the woman’s hooded face. The retaliation was a curse of agony for her insolence. The pain made her entire body clench and writhe, and she groaned with the pain, gritting her teeth hard – but she refused to scream. So many had screamed when inflicted with such curses, and it only gave their aggressors more pleasure. She would not give her assailant the pleasure of hearing her scream. The woman seemed to click to the notion that she was not going to let herself scream, and clenched her fist as she increased the intensity of the curse. Raelyn closed her eyes, partially to help her focus on anything at all but the pain, and partially to disguise the tears that were forming in her bloodshot green eyes. Through the pain, came voices.
“Never known a lass as hardy as you, y’know, Rae. Y’almost lost yer eye, and yer still jolly as ever.” She heard Jannen speaking as he had done to her all those years ago after barely surviving a battle with a blademaster with the rest of her battalion. It was hard to imagine what he would be telling her if she were in his arms at this very minute, wounded as she was now. She doubted he would say anything. Would he have wept as much as she did as he died before her? As far as she could recall, that was the last time she shed genuine, heartbroken tears.
The releasing of the curse came as almost as big a shock as the initiation of the agony had been. She could hear the voices surrounding her calling for surrender, for escape via a portal. For the cultists to let her go. Her vision was now blurring somewhat, so she kept her eyes closed. She clenched her fist upon the ground, and brought a Darnassian bloom into her clenched fist. A reminder, or a memento, if she would ever escape – or a marker of the place in which she received her wounds if worst would come to worst. Things didn’t seem to properly register with her until her comrades lifted her and carried her on their shoulders – in an almost pall-bearing mannerism. Perhaps she was already dead and just continuing to think, she thought. Continuing to feel after whatever soul she may have had left her bodily form. As she opened her eyes, the blurry Darnassian skies seemed like a flurry of purple until they passed through the blue-hued blur of the portal. And then she felt the purest feeling of her life.
Raindrops. Small, frequent raindrops pattering on her face as she looked up towards the sky. Their cold, icy refreshment reassured Raelyn that she was still alive. She could still feel the rain. The coldest, winter rain, just before the snow. They appeared near the Cathedral, and rushed her up the steps into the dry warmth of the Cathedral, and she was lain upon a table, away from the ruckus of the coming elemental invasion. That would be a fight she would not partake in, in any which way, she knew. She registered that some of her comrades were in the room with her, and that there was one other voice she didn’t recognise. A kal’dorei, she thought, some form of druidess. The caress of the natural, healing magic upon her wounds did very little. It seemed as if nature was aware that her wounds were far too severe – the heal hurt ever so slightly, coursing a sting through the already gaping wound in her body. Perhaps not even the Light could save her now. Raelyn opened her eyes, and saw Shinodan. She felt her eyes closing, and fought it with everything she could muster in her. She still had things to say. Reaching out, she went to grab his hand. She went to speak, and could only whisper.
“Tell Harondor ahm sorry, Shin. It’s caught up t’me now, a’know it.” She whimpered. Despite Shinodan’s reassurances that she wasn’t going to die, for once in her life, she could see past denial. She fought for breath, inhaling everything she could and holding it. She spoke again, having to take periodic breaths to fight the shivers of sudden cold that overwhelmed her.
“Tell Darian ah’ll see ‘im on th’other side...” She mustered a weak smile to accompany her faint words, and she relaxed somewhat. The wounds on her no longer hurt, and the blood that poured out of her didn’t seem grotesque in the slightest. It felt as if she was just going to sleep after a long day’s work. Her eyes half-closed, she saw a blur forming behind Shinodan. The blur was completely unintelligible at first, but then, they sharpened, and became light enough for her to see their proper forms. They were her lost battalion. They had forgiven her, their Drill-Sergeant, even after she had failed them on that fateful November day. The most prominent face she could see was that of Jannen. Even his faint afterimage in this life had not forgotten her.
“They came back for me... all th'lads...an th'lasses. a'..." – She never finished her sentence. The breath that she exhaled then, she would not inhale another. Her chest lay still, unmoving, and her eyes remained half-open. The smallest hint of a smile rested on her bodily form, but somewhere in the ether, her spirit was smiling a more genuine smile than she had ever shown in her lifetime. The purple Darnassian flower in her hand, and the droplets of the cold November rain upon her pale skin, Raelyn Baine died peacefully from her wounds. The seven members of the battalion regained their leader, after ten years of waiting for her.