tagSci-Fi & FantasyLove Potion Ch. 04

Love Potion Ch. 04

byManzi©

This is the final chapter of Love Potion. It's been a wonderful learning experience both in storytelling and in prose and I came to realize a lot about my own style of writing in the process. I hope everyone's enjoyed it!

*****

Well into the deep Stranglethorn jungles, Zul'raja and her party of volunteers had traveled past Ren'jai and Ithildess in their effort to lure a boar towards them. They were hiding near the far end of a natural funnel between two grown saplings, marked by animal tracks so dense Ithildess couldn't tell one from the other; perhaps that was a good sign of things to come.

The jungles seemed different to her, as if it could get more silent, and the odd sound of a bird or the rustling of leaves far above accented the silence rather than interrupting it. Ithildess certainly wasn't comfortable, the jungle floor felt wet and soggy under her boots, and Ren'jai had laughed when she stuffed the ends of her leggings into them at the mention of venomous spiders and insects that loved to crawl into boots at night. "Everything here can kill ya," Ren'jai repeated a she knelt opposite Ithildess, totally barefoot but troll feet were infamously thick-skinned and no insect in Azeroth could penetrate something like that, Ren boasted as she stomped a millipede to death, going out of her way to do so.

"Water?" Ithildess asked, she saw the sweat on Ren'jai, yet not nearly as bad as Zul had it.

"I didn't see ya bring any," Ren'jai said, then fixed her eyes as Ithildess weaved her hands over her canteen to the sound of it filling rapidly.

"I didn't," she smirked, and Ren'jai reached out and took the canteen from her hands. She swirled its contents, brought it to her nose, even poured some on the ground.

"So this is your magic, cold water?" Despite her mocking tone, she drank deeply and tossed it over, "ya think some water will stop a charging boar?"

"And ice," Ithildess added, "but not regular ice, it's far colder and hard as bone,"

"Good for stabbing someone in the back," Ren'jai brought her voice down, and smiled coldly as Ithildess' froze.

"So you spoke to Zul about what happened," Ithildess asked, and Ren'jai kept her steely glance on her. She had seen big cats hunt before, and right before they attack they stay perfectly still, which is what Ren did, the bones and claws tied to her hair slowly spinning.

"Zul'raja is the one who made this village, we fought in the arenas and we stand on a mountain of death. I respect anything she does, but I will not trust a sin'dorei until she earns it," Ithildess opened her mouth, yet she remained silent as Ren stared her down, unmoving still.

"This potion of yours I don't care about, and not that you killed for her or have her scent all over ya. But," Ren yielded briefly, looking towards the dirt path, "she entered a bloodrage for you, still there's no anger in her."

Terms like 'bloodrage' were things Ithildess had only read about in books after her love for trolls had taken her on a few academic studies across Azeroth, yet it had never been properly explained so she had understood. She knew it was violent, that much was evident.

"What are you trying to say?" was all she could manage to answer.

"Zul'raja has not told you anything, has she?" Ren smirked, and the words stung Ithildess, "do ya know what her name means?" Ren said after some deliberation. Ithildess shook her head silently, and Ren filled in, "Zul'raja is a great anger, it's her old name, older than Raja'Mai."

Confusion and anger rose in Ithildess, she hissed, "all this mention of anger, bloodrage, arenas and the past, but you have told me nothing!"

Ren'jai grinned with malicious glee, "The bloodrage, the raja, is the power of the berserker. That is Zul. We fought in the arena, she threw her weapons to the ground and tore men apart with only her hands and blood and coin rained on her. Is that the answer ya wanted?"

Ithildess just could not see it, but the image of that man from the house, his chest distorted and his head a reddish pulp, and Zul astride him, shaking with rage; it hadn't made sense to her then, the sight had been too sickening.

"That is who you love," Ren'jai's voice felt cold, "you don't get to love her thinking she is perfect, that's what it means to love a troll."

"What does it mean for Anji?" Ithildess said, the only thing she could think of.

"We are not as fresh as you, she knows who I am, every side of me."

"And I will know every side of Zul," Ithildess said defiantly, "I'll have her tell me, I shouldn't have heard this from you. And if I find you've been lying I'm coming after you."

To this, Ren'jai laughed so loud Ithildess was certain it had stirred the whole jungle, "trust no-one, sin'dorei."

Ren'jai went back to watching the funnel, and Ithildess was left alone with her own thoughts. Zul had kept something from her again, lied by omission, and Ithildess felt frustration when she couldn't understand why. Yet she could not bring herself to hate Zul, that emotion would be reserved for herself, but she found no issue in the bitterness of being promised honesty and not receiving it. She considered this deeply but was awakened by an odd whistling noise that pierced through the jungle from the other side of the funnel. "The signal," Ren'jai whispered, and they leaned their heads out and saw a black boar charging through the forest floor, with two trolls maneuvering past the trees and after it.

Watching as the boar skirted around thick roots and kicked up wet leaves as it skidded on the wet ground, Ithildess, driven partly by anger, channeled cold into the palms of her hands, and the moment the boar entered the funnel she unleashed it all onto the ground and it spread as a large patch of white ice. The animal had no time to stop; it lost all friction, rolled and kicked until Ren put her weight over it with a trained precision, and struck a blade into its neck. It kept kicking its hind legs in a run, then that was reduced to a sad quiver, and Ren'jai hauled it over her shoulder. Like that, it was over.

"This is a fine one, plenty of meat will come of this," Ren patted its black fur and looked at Ithildess with approval, "go to Zul, I'll find my own way," she said and walked away, and in seconds the mass of trees obscured her. Zul came jumping over the ice, and smiled widely at Ithildess, who stood leaned by a slender tree.

"You're wonderful! I don't think a hunt has ever gone this well, all thanks to a little magic," Zul took her hands, looked at them, then blew hot air onto her palms, "You're freezing."

"Look me in the eyes, Zul," Ithildess said and tugged Zul down to her level; she closed the distance between them, and focused on her, studying her. Her gaze felt warm as always, despite herself it made Ithildess happy, having Zul's total attention, and to know the only person she saw was her.

"You would not lie to me?" Ithildess asked and looked deep into Zul, a hand came to her cheek.

"I wouldn't," Zul began, and furrowed her brow in concern, "Ren'jai said something to you."

"Is it true, did you rip men in half in the arena? Have you kept it from me, that you are a berserker?"

Zul kissed her with a gentle kindness, murmuring, "It's true—but you shouldn't have heard it from her."

"Then would I ever have heard it from you?"

"Why is it important to you? I don't want my past back," she snapped,

"Don't you understand?" Ithildess protested, swallowing the ache coming to her throat, "I want to know everything about you. You are important to me, I can't even say how important you are."

At that, Zul'raja sank back into the moist earth, fists clenched in her lap and staring at them. "I'm terrible," she said quietly, "I don't like talking about my past, and I don't want it to be a part of us," she raised her head and showed her regret, "but I want us to be one. I'll tell you everything, Ithildess, I won't lie and you will hear anything you want to know if it takes you closer to me."

Drawn by her words, Ithildess sat with Zul and filled her view, "you are not perfect," she recalled Ren's words vividly, "I don't get to love you thinking you are perfect. But you are terrible at honesty," Ithildess put her lips to Zul's cheek, then her tusk; and pulled away as Zul tried to further it.

"I want to be perfect for you, Ithildess," Zul said, and Ithildess silenced her, "Be you."

The air in the jungle had cooled, and Zul walked with Ithildess towards the village, treading slowly and reminiscing about landmarks and their related stories that Ithildess could not find no matter how she looked. What mattered was Zul sharing with her any part of her life.

"I'm still angry, you know," Ithildess pouted up at Zul.

"I think I deserve it," she replied simply, "but I won't back down, when do you want to hear my story?"

"Tonight, alone with you, I want to watch the sea."

"I love you, Ithildess." Zul gave her hand a squeeze, and Ithildess couldn't stop herself from smiling no matter how she tried and failed.

"You're going to work for my love... but I do love you." She squeezed back, and felt wicked for savoring a secret she wanted badly to tell.

The preparations of the feast took the village into night. Ithildess witnessed its transformation from a sleepy, tropical settlement by the beach, a paradise by any definition, to a place draped in shadowy mysteries. Braziers were lit one by one to ward off the dark, and now shadows played against the huts and the tents. Trolls moved past and seemed much larger, and Ithildess felt at once that the real nature of the village only became apparent at night.

Rising first as a soft swell, thunderous drums rocked the air, her small frame vibrated with their power, excitement of the unknown drove into her. She had no place or experience dividing the carcass of the boar, or putting it to roast; Ithildess ran back and forth with other women, between massive fires, tables and rowdy dancers with skins bursting with spirits, bowls of fruit and stacks of dried meat she could not see the end of. Everything around her came to life, built towards a massive crescendo, and Ithildess was in the middle of it, if it did have any borders.

Ithildess spotted Anji as she made her way back to one of the huts, she stood and tended one of the many bonfires by the shore while young trolls danced around it, and her. If they take so well to a human, they must take well to me, Ithildess thought and walked to her.

"Ithildess, welcome back!" Anji said as she turned her head, and the fire swallowed the rest of the wood she carried, to the joyful cries of the children. Anji embraced her, and said over the piercing drums, "I am furious with Ren, I'll eat until I vomit before letting her have any! I can't believe she said that to you," Ithildess was bombarded with firsts, this time a hug from a human. Anji was far stronger than her, that was evident, as well as more robust and better equipped. Ithildess wondered if she would gain a troll physique if she stayed, the way Anji seemed to have.

"Don't be angry, in the end she did me a favor," Ithildess said, and squinted as the heat from the fire lapped at her, "I think she really cares for Zul."

"Are you sure? Because I won't let her scare you away and if she breaks you up I will slap her into Outland,"

"None of that will happen," Ithildess laughed comfortably, she actually liked Anji, her intensity felt welcoming, "she told me about you, and it's clear how much you love each other, I don't want to see you apart because of me,"

"Ithildess, you are an absolute blessing! But just say the word and I'll have her head," she made a motion across her throat and laughed, and Ithildess began to notice her slightly slurred speech and looseness. It really was a feast, she thought and smiled.

"And before I forget, I left a present for you in Zul's old hut, we used it for storage but we all pitched in to restore it for you two. From what I hear everyone's happy to have Zul back, and with time you'll have proven yourself too."

In the background, Ithildess watched the three trolls run around the bonfire, dancing and reeling back as the heat became too much. She preferred frost magic and had done so after she accidentally burned half her hair into brittle, black curls, but what she did know could start her on the path to becoming a proven member of Raja'mai.

She gestured for Anji to watch as she approached the fire, and began to manipulate its shape, first into a simple pillar that weaved and spun around itself, lashing out with white tendrils. The children stopped and watched, and Anji gathered them behind Ithildess. She made the flames dance and roar to their amusement; it required a great deal of concentration to shape even simple animals. They recognized a boar and began to shout, an orange troll with badly defined limbs and they laughed, crying 'Jazakima'. She wanted to show them a dragon but with her limited experience it became a pig-like creature riddled with shifting spikes and a monstrous snarl, degenerating into a tight ball that burst with a flash of heat and returned the fire to what it had been.

When she finished, the kids shouted jubilantly and went back to the fire and imitated the movements she had made, and at least she felt some accomplishment of providing inspiration. What she found out only when she turned around, was Anji and several adults cheering until she felt her face burn. Ithildess tried a humble wave, and she was pulled into the crowd and carried back to the village, where food, drink and trolls were waiting.

"Let's find Zul and Ren!" Anji shouted now, and took Ithildess by the hand and pulled her from the villagers, towards a different group, seated in clusters and sharing meals. Anji and Ithildess came up behind Zul and Ren, and recognized them by their hair, Zul had left the braids just as they had been woven, and Ren's mohawk pointed to her like an arrow.

"Ithildess! What do you think?" Zul said and took her deeply into her arms. She had been sitting without food nor drink, waiting, and it seemed that Ren had done the same. Ithildess happily nuzzled close and watched as warm light from the fires lit up Zul's features, the blue of her skin and her smile irresistibly beautiful to her.

"Everything is great, the entire village feels alive," Ithildess said over the booming drums, and Anji shouted beside them, "We've all been fired up since you two got here!"

Zul and Ithildess shared a lively glance, and Ren shoved forward two clay mugs filled with a clear liquid.

"You want to be one of us, sin'dorei? Then drink until Zul has to carry you home," she roared with laughter, emptied her own mug, and bent Anji backwards with a kiss.

"Drink!" Anji said, her face flushed and giggling. Ithildess knew that face well, the blissful and carefree love that she would rather see out of control than restrained. She touched the mug to her nose, then took a gulp to prove her bravery; the beverage didn't feel like a liquid as much as it felt like cold air that simultaneously burned and numbed her mouth, and her throat going down. She saw Zul upend her own mug and shake her head in a grimace; she kissed her and felt the sting of the alcohol on her lips.

Suddenly, the drums came to a stop, and a murmur rose as Jazakima climbed a table in the middle of the feast. He swayed, and struck his cane down into a bowl of fruit.

"Tonight we celebrate the return of Zul'raja, and the elf who brought her, Ithildess. Raise your cups!" He commanded, and a cheer erupted among cups held high, Zul and Ithildess' included, "we eat and drink to a good hunt, a blessed year, friends, family and health. Let this feast be in honor of all that is new and all that is right!" His raspy voice carried far, and provoked the explosive continuation of the feast, the air vibrant with music and voices again.

Ithildess watched as Zul's eyes wandered to a group of dancers, then linger at Ithildess to develop a wicked smirk, "dance with me," Zul spoke softly to her, and offered a hand as she stood up. Ithildess had never danced a step in her life, but alcohol has a wonderful way of chasing off inhibitions, and soon her white, delicate hand was with Zul, approaching the music and commotion, where the air was the thickest.

Zul's body moved and flowed like water against Ithildess, unrestricted as she danced and followed the rhythmic bounce of her hips. Ithildess stood as hypnotized. Many trolls danced around them, but to her, only they existed; Zul'raja's dance, just for her eyes, and maybe it was the alcohol or her desires, but Ithildess began to move. Stiffly at first, then dissolving along with her embarrassment as fire rose in the pit of her stomach. Her hands went to Zul, seeing her through touching as she twisted and undulated, and her bare skin caught shadows and light, merging into erotic patterns on the lines defining her body.

The dance slowly came to an end, with Ithildess and Zul'raja intertwined, panting from the movement and blushed from the intimacy. "Let's sit alone, by the beach," Ithildess said, and Zul followed closely as they made away from the huts and pyres, Ithildess with her skin still buzzing with warmth from Zul's caresses.

"Here," she said and sat down on the jetty where she met Anji. It creaked as Zul sat, and the cool breeze all but disappeared under her protection.

"I didn't know you could dance," Ithildess said shyly.

"You amazed me too, you move like a Goddess," Zul answered, her voice finally clear and rich, without suffocating in the noise behind them.

"I only moved after you,"

"No, you were your own. I wouldn't feel this drawn to you otherwise."

Stars lit the sky, and Ithildess traveled back in time, barely a day ago, to their night alone on the zeppelin. The closeness was the same, and so was the sky. She held Zul'raja's hand in hers, and felt the strength in it, yet she would scoff at anyone that claimed they only knew violence and brutality. They were the gentlest hands she knew, a tenderness spread through every part of her when those hands came to hold her, even if they only lingered at her fingers or cradled her cheeks.

"They have taken many lives," Ithildess began, looking down at them and seeing the impossible.

"Yes," came Zul's answer, no hesitation.

"How many?"

"If I knew that I would go mad. Too many," she said, "does it bother you?"

"No, I know what your hands are really capable of, and it's something more powerful than killing," Ithildess brought her lips to one of them, it was warm, "was it bloodrage? When you killed that man?"

Zul came over a look of regret, she stayed silent for a while and Ithildess watched the varying degrees in her expression.

"Yes," Zul turned away for the first time, but Ithildess came closer and filled her view.

"How does it feel?" Ithildess said carefully. She never forgot that face afterward, and the sense of exploring the most secretive parts of her, what made her defenseless.

"I..." she sighed, "I can't control what I do, but at the same time there is nothing more simple. I can only think of the rage I have for whoever is in front of me, and that I want them dead." Zul steeled herself to a frown, but Ithildess was close enough to see past it. She hurt.

"I was a beast, Ithildess, an awful beast that murdered anyone that came against me in the arena. Even young men trying to win glory or gold, it was the best feeling I ever had, killing them as violently as I could." She said, her hesitation anything from anger to regret.

"How come you stopped?" Ithildess said with her hands on Zul's tensed shoulders and ignored the shiver that went through her.

"Ithildess," she choked out, "if you want to know, I will tell you. But you will never look at me the same. Will you—" Zul stopped herself, and Ithildess embraced her the way a mother embraces her child.

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