Chip in the Armor

(By: Rihna, Scarsdale, Kylana, & Corrienda)

“You’re sure it’s not going to hurt?” asked Kylanna warily, eyeing the glowing hole in the air. “I’m not going to get my insides scrambled or anything?”

Corrienda giggled. “Mother, it’s just a portal! It’s a doorway. No inside scrambling happens when you walk outside, does it?”

“Portal transportation is perfectly safe,” said Scarsdale. “Unless you’ve been unwillingly polymorphed recently. That… has yet to not cause an explosion. But I don’t think you have, so you should be fine!” Kylanna’s eyes bugged, and she shot Corrienda an incredulous glance.

“Here, I’ll go first.” Flashing her mother a smile, Corrienda stepped through the portal, and vanished. Her voice crackled over the buzzbox. “I’m just fine! Come on, Mother.”

“Go on, Ms. Windwhisper!” Scarsdale cheerily agreed. “I can’t keep this open forever. You’ll be fine.” Kylanna winced, took a deep breath, and then stepped through the arcane rip in space.

She found herself in a fantastically blue and purple room. Mosaics covered the floor around the dais she stood upon, and she was surrounded by stained glass windows depicting trees, suns, books, and disturbing eyeballs. Even the ceiling was inlaid with stained glass. She was vaguely aware of her daughter grinning at her while she gaped. Corrienda giggled. “Come on, Mother.”

Kylanna adjusted her bag over her shoulder as her daughter led her down the stairs, following her arcanist friend. They stepped out onto a patch of grass that was neatly trimmed, flanked by a pair of tall, tapering bushes that were altogether too perfect. She stopped, ignoring her daughter’s tug at her hands, and looked up… and up… and up. There were spires upon spires, all incredibly ornate, so tall that they put even Feralas’ colossal trees to shame. “Sweet Goddess above,” she whispered.

Scarsdale smiled. “Welcome to Dalaran. City of Mages, if the ostentatious decor wasn’t already a hint.” he said. “It’s really a lovely place normally. Wonderful stores, an excellent library, it’s incredibly mobile… Oh, this way, please.” Scarsdale gestured for the starstruck Kaldorei to follow.

“Now, Mother,” Corrienda said as they walked. “This woman, miss Rihna, is sort of… triggered… by my voice. Could you please do most of the talking? I don’t want to, um, exacerbate the situation.”

“Hmm? Oh – oh yes, I can do that,” Kylanna replied distractedly. How were those glowing blue things floating like that? “Glad I can help, sweetheart.”

>><<

She’d finally mustered the strength, after light knows how long in the empty apartment, to dig out some food from the cupboard. It wasn’t much, and the mana elemental watched Rihna the whole time she ate the slightly-stale but still edible bread and lukewarm water. Scarsdale hadn’t left her any silverware, tools, nor a mirror. Really, he had been quite thorough in making sure there was nothing she could use to escape or commit grievous harm to herself.

Not that there hadn’t been some harm, mind. She could feel the dry blood on her cheeks, around her ears and under her eyes. She didn’t remember it well, but at some point she had tried to bodily remove Corrienda’s voice from her head. It had left her a bit of a mess.

There was a knock at the door.

This was surprising. Looking up, blinking at the prospect of company other than the silent elemental, she slid the bread away. First she attempted to call out, but her voice failed her. She simply didn’t have the wherewithal to get that loud. So the faux-elf slowly pushed herself to her feet, trudging to the door with unsteady steps, speaking as loud as she could muster. “I dunno who’s out there, but it’s locked on yer side. I can’t open a damn thing for ya.”

“Ahhh, you’re awake! Good.” called out Scarsdale through the door. “Hope you’re doing alright in there. Tried to keep things comfortable for you. I brought guests.” There was the rattling of a key in the lock, and the door slowly opened to reveal the worgen man who had brought Rihna in the first place, a teal-haired elf she’d never seen before, and… Corrienda.

Wearily, weakly, the assassin held her hands out, palms upward. “Hey. Yeah, ‘m awake. I can’t do much, but I’m here. Was about thinkin’ I was gonna die in here.” Managing a weak, wan smile, she gestured to her face, around the tattoos and ears. “Do I look as terrible as I feel, ‘bout here? Because I feel like shit. C’mplete crap, really.” Without even waiting, she turned back to the chair, nearly collapsing into it. She had nothing left to give. No reserves, no backup, and no options. So she waited.

“…Oh dear.” Scarsdale sighed. “…I’ll work on cleaning all of this up. I’ll leave you two to work.” He snapped his fingers and the Elemental sprung to life, starting to clean up the errant splatters of dried blood that flecked the room. “…I’m sorry about this, I really tried to make sure she wouldn’t be able to hurt herself.’

Corrienda cringed as she saw the blood on the woman’s face and began quietly casting healing spells to close up any remaining wounds. The teal-haired elf set a bag down and was pulling various vials out from a bag. She smiled warmly at Rihna. “Hi there, I’m Kylanna, Corri’s mother. I’ve got some things that I think will help you.”

>><<

“Yer familiar.” She slumped against the table, nodding weakly. “I know yer face, kid. Don’t think.. hmm, don’t think I ever had a mark on ya. Even if I did, obv’ screwed it up.” She was trying to make a joke, her tired face indicated, but her heart wasn’t in it. “So, yeah. I’m open to all options, at this damn point.” She didn’t even seem to notice her scabbed-over gouges melting away into smooth pink skin. “Lay it on me.” She tried to meet Corrienda’s eyes briefly, but failed.

Kylanna glanced over at Corrienda, who shook her head subtly. “Well, just to be clear – these aren’t going to cure you over all. Weaning from an addiction – especially when there’s arcane involved! – can take awhile. It’ll be another week or so before the worst is over, and another few after that for all the withdrawal symptoms to go away completely. These are just to help ease those symptoms.”

“I’ll take what I can get. Had yer daughter’s voice melting my brain for a week now. I mean, it’s the best voice. But it can go away. I don’t need anyone in m’ head. So I’m not gonna turn ya down.” She paused, staring at Kylanna with tired silver eyes. “Damn, I know I know you. Damn.” She trailed off, looking back to the potions, giving up on trying to ID the night elf. “‘m sorry your girl got caught up with me. I really am. So let’s start, an ‘f in a few weeks she never has t’ see me again, so much th’ better.”

“You’ve probably visited the Stronghold before – I meet a lot of passing adventurers, particularly the alchemists,” Kylanna told her with a smile. “Now… there are the Dreamless Sleep potions, of course, since insomnia is pretty typical. The weaker ones won’t produce a dependency, but even the strong ones should be fine if you discontinue their use after the detoxification period is over.” She pushed a few vials toward Rihna.

Nodding, the assassin looked over the vials. She didn’t touch them just yet, not trusting her own hands. She did her best to assess them though, with her own alchemical knowledge. Which, now that she had been reminded, had been influenced in no small part by the works and writings of the woman here before her. It was vaguely noted, somewhere in the back of her weary mind, that Corri had probably pulled in one of the best the Alliance could offer for this situation. Thank the light for small favors. “Yeah. One of those should put a nelf down fer a few hours, least. ‘ll save the stronger ones for emergencies.”

“Good!” Kylanna patted Rihna on the hand. “Now, you may or may not need the rest of these – Corri wasn’t entirely clear what all your symptoms are. So, this one’s for nausea, this one’s for diarrhea, this one’s for stomach cramps and constipation, this one’s for sweats, and this one’s for headaches and muscle pains.” She smiled. “Are you having any other physical symptoms besides those?”

“Don’t have a lick of balance, feels like. But no, most of it’s in th’ head. Least I think so. It’s honestly bit hard ta tell right now, if I’m dreamin’ stuff or if I’m sick.”

Kylanna nodded sympathetically as Corrienda began dabbing up the dried blood on the woman’s face with a damp cloth. “Unfortunately, I can’t give you anything for that until it’s been at least a month since the last time you were exposed to the drug. The fel lotus in there is pretty pernicious and can stick around for a long time. Trust me, if I treated you now for it, you’d get the opposite effect, and that’s the last thing you need!”

“Hell, no kiddin’ there. I know ‘nough ‘bout Fel Lotus to know that. How high was th’ dosage? That stuff is crazy.” She paused, considering. “I think beyond that question, though… not even gonna ask what it was. Better off not knowin’, until ‘m not cravin’.” She weakly reached out, grabbing one of the vials of the headache killers, and poured herself a dose to gulp down.

“I, um. I have a solution for the, ah, mental… issues,” said Corrienda hesitantly. “It’s a bit, ah, radical, but I believe it would help.” Her mother shot her a curious glance.

The rogue’s ears twitced as she downed the potion. “Tell me please, Corri. I want t’ try, yeah. Mean, can’t stay like this f’rever.”

“Well… I did some, um, consulting. And… it would be possible to, ah, to remove your memory of the – the experience. I think it might make recovery a little easier if you’re not constantly flashing back to, um. That.” She bit her lip. “What – what do you think?”

Rihna paused, consider this. “Ya mean with magic, right? I… I dunno. I’m glad ya looked into it. I’m really glad. But I really. I really don’t want people in m’ head.” She turned the empty drink over in her hand. She looked apprehensive, but at least her headache was dimming for the first time in a week.

“But that’s the problem, isn’t it?” asked Corrienda softly. “I’m already in your head, and you can’t get me out any other way. If – if it were ordinary circumstances I would not suggest such a thing, but the circumstances are far from ordinary.”

“Yeah… ugh, yeah. I dunno, might have to. Can I think on it a day, at least? I won’t say no right now, but… man that’s scary t’ think about.” She didn’t sound to be dismissing it. She did sound like she wanted to, but was trying not to.

Corrienda smiled sympathetically. “I – I know. And you may take as much time as you wish – this is all about helping you.”

The druid’s worlds were as always tingly in her brain, but she seemed shocked by the content as well as the sound this time. Like after the past few nights she had expected Corrienda to be angry, not helpful. Shame was not an unfamiliar feeling to Rihna, but it also wasn’t a close friend. Now though, her freshly-healed cheeks felt like they could be used as roasting coals. She moved her lips, trying to find the words. Finally she settled on the simple. “Thanks. Really, thanks. Is there anything else y’ need from me, right now? ‘f not I think ‘m ready fer an actual nap. I know this is gonna be a shitty couple of months. Gotta get started, though. Right?”

“That’s the spirit!” said Kylanna cheerfully, patting Rihna on the hand again. “Corri’ll be back to check on you – just keep us apprised of how you’re doing, all right?”

“Yeah. Yeah, you got it.” She managed a weak smile. “I’ll get through it. We’ll get through it. Thanks, Kylanna.”