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((This is continued from the previous post, because I just can't keep it to 5000 characters per entry anymore.))
The orc let out a shout of surprise and reached for her axe, but Galeas grabbed her weapon arm and yanked. They fell out of the tree together. He twisted around as they fell, and he landed hard on top of her. He heard something snap loudly in the impact, and the orc groaned.
Galeas rolled to his feet, fists cocked to defend himself, to see that the orc hadn't moved. Her red eyes were fixed on the leaves above, and the Horde symbol on her tabard was still and unmoving.
Sherelandia approached, trembling a little, her spear held ready to impale the orc. "Is--Is she--?"
Galeas gestured her closer, then reached down and put his fingers to the side of the orc's throat. "Dead," he said flatly.
"You must be a great warrior, Fluffy. You killed her with the ground itself!"
He grunted. "I didn't want her dead. There wasn't even time to figure out whether I did. I would've preferred to question her." He shook his head. "But then again, we don't have time for prisoners. I don't know."
He came to his feet quickly, unslinging his axe, and Sherelandia turned the spearpoint toward the oncoming patrol of--
--Men. Men just like him, but in plate armor and the blue-and-gold tabard of the Alliance. They were on foot, but still moved rapidly to surround the travellers and their late enemy, weapons at the ready.
"All right," said the patrol leader, eyeing the three figures with great curiosity. "I don't have time to figure out what's going on here, so it will have to wait. You are now in my custody and will cooperate or we’ll discuss it over the end of my spear."
Galeas made a gesture to Sherelandia to suggest lowering her spear, and then nodded to the commander.
“Corporal Simmons, show these… strangers the way to the keep. Move out!”
Fort Triumph was currently under the command of one General Twinbraid, although the general was currently out in the field, waging war on the Horde. Galeas vaguely heard something about an attack on Bael Modan and retaliation, but it didn't seem to relate to his current predicament.
One thing he could discern for himself, though, was that dryads were not a common sight this far south. Everyone from soldiers to support personnel to laborers kept doing double-takes and stopping to watch Sherelandia go by. It had to be her; he wasn't all that good-looking, he was sure.
Their escort--Lieutenant Bradley insisted that they weren't "captors" per se--called them to halt outside the tower that housed Command, and a pair of magi circled around the two newcomers, doing something magicky. Galeas felt--not tangibly, but kind of sensed--gentle pushing from unseen and unheard forces, as if incorporeal hands were probing at his skin. The magi nodded to Bradley, who gestured toward the door. "Right this way," the soldier said gruffly.
Behind a desk sat a somewhat worn-out looking man, balding and with a silvered goatee. He was wearing the insignia of a Theramore Commander, and Bradley saluted him crisply. "Commander Roberts," Bradley greeted.
Roberts tossed him a rather careless salute in return, then looked curiously at his visitors. "Well, I can't say I'm surprised that you've brought me something new, Bradley. It's been nothing but novelty around here lately. What's the story, though?"
"Found them just north, at the edge of the battlefield, sir. These two and a dead orc. Haven't questioned them yet, sir, but the magi say they're what they appear to be."
"Very well. Dismissed, Lieutenant." Roberts continued to eye the newcomers speculatively as Bradley spun and walked out. "So. A man in orc armor and a--what are you, anyway?"
"A daughter of Cenarius," Sherelandia said, tilting her head and smiling almost brainlessly.
"Dryad," Galeas added. "Her name is Sherelandia. I'm Galeas."
"I don't know."
"Don't know your own last name? Or you don't have one?"
"I don't know that, either. I guess I've lost my memory."
"Well, isn't that just convenient?" Roberts sighed, massaging his temples. "A dryad and an amnesiac walk into the Battlescar. Sounds like a bad joke, doesn't it?"
"Except I don't know the punchline, yeah. After all this, though, it'd better be good."
Roberts' mouth quirked up at the corner. "So I'm guessing you're on a quest to find out the secrets of your past or something?"
"Right in one. We were trying to get to--somewhere around here, maybe right here? Sherelandia's been a bit vague on the details." Galeas looked over at his companion, only to discover that she had attracted a handful of rats, all of whom were gazing at her in adoration.
Roberts blinked several times. "Okayyyy," he said at last. "Well, in any event, there probably isn't much we can do for you here, Galeas, except turn you over to the medics, maybe put some proper armor on you. I'd send you on to Theramore, actually, but all of our horses are out of commission and I can't spare the men to escort you."
"I understand." Galeas frowned. "So what do we do with ourselves in the meantime?"
"I don't know. Make yourselves useful? Stay out of the fighting, of course; I have enough problems without having to explain why a Knight of Lordaeron--with amnesia--got killed almost as soon as he got here."
Knight of Lordaeron? Galeas knew, without understanding why, that this was accurate. He was Sir Galeas--Lord Galeas--Marquess Galeas Something, of somewhere, somewhere in Lordaeron. A dead nation. He was one of the last survivors...
Two faces flashed before his mind's eye--the angry old bearded man and a middle-aged woman with uncaring eyes. Anger accompanied them, anger and resentment and an intense affection at the same time. Galeas staggered.
"Whoa, you all right there, son?" Roberts asked him.
Galeas shook his head briskly. "Just...nothing, I'm sure. A little tired; we've traveled a long way with no hot meals. Mind if I go scrounge something from the mess?"
"Help yourself, and keep your head down. The Horde's been throwing things at us lately." As Galeas and Sherelandia left, Roberts muttered almost below hearing: "Light, I hate this job."
Beans were, all in all, better than raw fruit and "edible" grasses, or a haunch of half-cooked jackrabbit (eaten while being glared at by a dryad). Galeas took in a long, deep breath of the steam rising from the mess on his tin plate, savored the smell of the beans and the salt pork and the spice--and then dug eagerly into his fresh, hot dinner, only just able to restrain himself enough to use a spoon. The bread was a little old and tough, but the main dish was like a taste of Paradise.
The soldiers around this particular fire had welcomed him, albeit warily. They were from Theramore, which meant mostly Kul Tiran by birth, but two were from Lordaeron and recognized a countryman when they saw one. Neither of them recognized him personally, though.
"What I don't get," Sergeant Simpson, of the Lordaeron soldiers, said finally, "is how you've survived two months out there in the wilderness with no money and an axe. You're not a worgen, I take it?"
"Nope," Galeas answered between hasty mouthfuls. "Sherelandia foraged, and I made a sling for hunting."
"Oh yeah? What'd you kill with it? Gazelle?" The soldiers snickered a bit.
"Rabbits, mostly. Hard to hit sometimes. Prairie dog is all right if you're really hungry. Or snake. Snakes I could get with my axe, especially the aggressive types."
A young, rather acne-ridden private piped up: "How about orcs? You get any while you were out there?"
"Wouldn't eat an orc."
The other soldiers laughed at that, and the kid's cheeks reddened. "No, I mean, in battle."
"Mostly tried to avoid 'em. Two of us against a small army hunting us, we had to not get attention. A trail of bodies? That'd get attention."
"A dryad this far south is attention-grabbing enough," Simpson observed, looking over at where Sherelandia was sulking. "Why's she here, anyway?"
Galeas shrugged, raising his eyebrows at her to pass the question to her.
"He's mine," Sherelandia said in a pouty kind of tone. "I found him and I'm keeping him."
This elicited some very strange looks from his fellow humans, but Galeas shrugged again. "She's a good friend, and anyway, she saved my life. I'm not going to tell her to go fly a kite if she's not doing anything to hurt me."
The assembled ate in awkward silence for a bit, and Galeas watched another patrol march through the front gate, on foot. He pointed with his spoon. "No horses?"
Simpson glanced over his shoulder, then shrugged. "All the horses are injured."
"Bad run-in with the Horde?"
"No, that's the weird thing," the young private put in. "General's ram went nuts and attacked them."
"Yes sir," the kid went on. "All of a sudden, one night, the horses started kicking up a fuss, and Grimsby--that's the company farrier--found the ram biting and kicking all the horses. Lamed every single one of them. Not permanent, but really inconvenient."
Sherelandia was suddenly standing right next to the private. "What happened to the ram?" she demanded, her ears trembling.
The young man gulped. "Uh, he's been put by himself. They're gonna put him down after the General gets back."
"Put him down?" The dryad looked puzzled. "You mean like, insult him? That's kind of silly."
"No ma'am. It means...kill him."
"WHAT?! We'll see about THAT!" Sherelandia snapped, then bounded away in the direction of the corral.
Galeas watched her go, then shook his head. "Friend to all animals, what can I say?"
The men all laughed, but Galeas wasn't sure that Sherelandia wasn't about to get him in big trouble...
((I'm on a roll now! Maybe I'll get this done before Mists hits after all.))
Even though Sherelandia had never seen a "ram" before, it didn't take long to figure out which of the large four-footed people it was. All the others had short fur and no horns. The horses weren't very helpful. When asked for directions, they all said they hoped the humans killed him soon.
Well, they all had sore legs, after all; if she had sore legs, she'd be mad, too. She and Illiyana once got into a playful scuffle and Sherelandia's right foreleg got hurt. It was sore for a while, and she was sore at Illiyana until Antelarion had told her to stop being so petulant.
"Petulant." She wondered what that meant. Maybe a flower? It really sounded like what you'd call keeping a lasher for your very own. All those thorns, though...maybe lashers wouldn't make good pets. Then again, neither did Fluffy...
She was reminded of what she was supposed to be doing when she spotted the ram. The poor thing stood off in his own little corner of the paddock, all fenced in and tied very close to a post, and hobbled! His head drooped, and waves of sadness radiated off of him.
Sherelandia's heart swelled to the point of breaking, and without a second thought, she bounded over the fence and rushed to the ram's side. "Oh you poor thing!" she cried, tears streaming down her cheeks.
But when she threw her arms around his neck and started sobbing, the ram didn't relax. Instead, he stiffened and tried to pull away! "Wait, who are you?" was the drift of his thoughts and body language.
"I'm Sherelandia," she said, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'm here to rescue you!"
The ram sighed. "Do not endanger yourself for my sake," he said in the way of his kind. "I knew what would happen when I lamed my comrades. But I would die a thousand times rather than watch my master fall."
"That's very sweet and nob--Wait, what?" Sherelandia pulled back, tilting her head. Something wasn't adding up here. "What are you talking about?"
The ram flicked his ears nervously. "There is a voice on the wind. It is a strange voice, a voice unlike my master's. We hear it, the horses and I. It whispers, 'Throw off your owners, be free once more.' Its call grows stronger in the heat of battle."
A cold feeling settled in Sherelandia's stomach. She might be focused on her woodland friends most of the time, but one thing she knew was to be taken seriously was dark magic. Unexplained voices saying weird things was definitely dark magic. "And...did you do it?" she asked.
"No!" The ram stiffened again, as if insulted by the question. "My master is a good dwarf. He is my friend. I would never harm him. The horses feel the same, I am sure, and would be sorry if the voice made them do it. So when the voice became difficult to resist, I made it so that they would not have a chance to harm their masters."
Sherelandia stroked the ram's neck. "You are a good friend!" she said enthusiastically. "The humans don't understand, because they don't know how you speak, but I'll tell them! I'll tell them everything you said!"
A brilliant idea came into her head all at once, making her clap her hands. "Maybe Fluffy can make the voice be quiet, too!"
The ram's ears perked. "Fluffy?"
"Yes, my human. He's very smart and very brave. He's a great warrior; I once saw him kill an orc by smashing it into the ground with his bare hands! If anyone can solve this mystery, it's him!"
"Your master sounds very wise--almost as wise as mine."
"My mas--No! No, Fluffy is MY pet human." Sherelandia felt her cheeks darken. The very idea, a human owning a dryad! Ridiculous; just the image of a dryad following a human around, like some kind of hanger-on...ridiculous.
"This is a strange land," mused the ram, "where people speak my language and own humans for pets, and voices whisper to you to betray your friends. I think I will not regret going back to the mountains when this is over."
"Well, for now, you just stay right here and I'll get this fixed in a jiffy!" Sherelandia could no longer restrain her eager feet, and bounced away toward where she had left Fluffy.
Edited by Sherelandia on 8/19/2012 8:11 AM PDT
((The next few sections were co-written by Eldrian, my guildie and an awesome roleplayer.))
"So you're telling me," Commander Roberts said slowly, "that the ram talked to you."
"Duh." Sherelandia scowled just a bit.
Galeas shrugged. "Dryads are able to communicate with animals. If she says that's what he said, I trust her."
"That's fine for you, Sir Knight, but I'm responsible for this place while the General's away." Roberts sighed.
There was the sound of a horn within the camp, and some commotion. Voices shouted back and forth, and then a large...thing landed at the gryphon nest. It was a drake, one that seemed to be made entirely of rough-hewn stone; crates and bags were tied to it with sturdy ropes. It appeared to speak briefly with the flight master, and then began to approach the command tower on four feet.
Roberts shook his head and looked at the two less rocky persons before him. "Well, if what you're telling me is true--and thus far I haven't heard a better explanation--" Sherelandia perked, looking happier, as the Commander continued. "--then we've got a security breach, and need to find a way to stop it."
"Such as?" Galeas asked.
"Well, since you two are such experts in the matter, I was hoping you could tell me."
As the stone drake creature lumbered closer, Galeas shrugged again. "The thing is, I wouldn't know what to do to begin with." The huge thing began to push past him, and he stepped out of the way. "Er...sorry."
The drake nodded to Galeas, then turned to Commander Roberts and spoke in a low, rumbling voice: "Supplies in from Theramore. I shall drop them over there."
Sherelandia looked speculatively at the drake, as it moved to one side and lay down, then backed out of the harness.
"Forget it," said Galeas. "It talks, so I don't think you can charm it."
"I never!" Sherelandia harrumphed, folding her arms.
The drake hunched over, and its parts began to shift around and shrink--until it was flesh, and only the size of a draenei man. Then it was a draenei man in blue-gray mail armor, kneeling on the flagstones nearby. Sherelandia looked at him with extreme interest.
"Oh yes, the farseer," Commander Roberts said. "That's right."
The draenei nodded. "Always happy to make a delivery. Old man like me isn't always good for much, you know."
Galeas studied the newcomer. Old he might be, but his two warbraids were still brown and heavy. And it was clear that he'd seen significant battle, judging from the scars on his face and the missing point on his forehead plate. "Farseer?" he mused. "Doesn't that mean something like a shaman?"
"That it does, youngling," the draenei said heartily. Galeas wasn't sure how he felt about being called a "youngling", but it seemed to him that he had stopped being young a very long time ago himself.
He decided not to make an issue of it. "I wonder," he said to Roberts, "if he might have some insight into this deviltry?"
"What sort of deviltry, hmm?" the draenei asked.
Roberts looked doubtful. "I don't know how much we want this to get around."
Galeas laughed. "Sir, with all due respect, you have people coming and going every day. One more shouldn't make that much difference."
"What's going on, now?" the draenei asked again, showing quite a bit of interest.
Roberts sighed. "Very well." He explained the situation to the draenei quickly, but accurately to the information he'd been given.
The draenei frowned. "Are you looking for healing or insight, then?"
"Insight," Galeas put in.
"Hmm. A charm, perhaps." The draenei paused, and Sherelandia smiled brightly at him. "Vexing the horses. Or maybe even the ram?" And he peered at the dryad.
"Go ahead, Sherelandia," Galeas encouraged her.
"Sure thing, Fluffy!" she said. "The ram told me that he and the horses heard a voice on the wind. It was telling them to throw off their riders and be free."
The draenei listened carefully. "I do not presume myself a dryad's better. If you say the ram is sane, then that is acceptable." He paused, thinking, and Roberts looked skeptical. "A charm born of water but borne by wind...very unusual indeed."
"Farseer, you've heard of such a thing?" Galeas asked.
"Oh, it's quite simple, really. See, many mages have spells to, ah, befuddle the mind, yes? Well, a shaman can easily manipulate such a spell to charm an animal, with the mage's assistance. Such is a Waterborn spell, to slip around the defenses of the mind. It would have a short range, though. Hence, I believe, the wind..." He paused, musing over something. "However, I am but a man. Let us see what the elements think, hmm?"
((This entry is a two-parter. Also, shared credit is due to Eldrian, who provided dialogue and a couple of plot points that I would never have thought up myself.))
Roberts had asked that they find somewhere other than Headquarters to commune with the elements--not unreasonably, considering the uproar that Galeas seemed to remember happening recently. Sherelandia, with her usual excess of enthusiasm, had eagerly volunteered just the spot, and now she waited, arms crossed and impatient and with a trio of adoring prairie-dog friends, for Galeas and Eldrian, the draenei shaman.
"Took you long enough," she greeted them.
"I'm sorry; we had to stop and assist a pebble," Eldrian answered pleasantly. "He had lost his way and needed directions to the nearest quarry. His sire must have been very concerned."
Sherelandia scoffed. "Are you kidding me? Rocks don't talk."
Eldrian raised an eyebrow, but Galeas cut in quickly: "Don't mind her, please, Farseer. Let's just...get on with this."
"Indeed." The draenei cast the four crystal totems around him. As they touched the ground, they expanded rapidly until they were full-sized totems in various configurations.
Galeas felt a poke between his armor plates, and looked over his shoulder at Sherelandia. "What's he doing?" she whispered excitedly.
He hushed her as Eldrian faced one of the totems and spoke: "Noble Ocean, have you felt the disturbance sent across this land by the charm born of your waters?"
The ocean's totem vibrated for a moment, and then a clear, feminine voice rang out. "I have felt the grip of the wicked upon my waters. I have felt the malice with which it spoke."
"Was it one of the Faithless? The vile shaman who know naught but destruction?" Eldrian asked.
"Without reverence, it bound me with obscene rites. Without pity, it spoke the words that would seduce the unwary."
"Thank you, Noble Ocean." As Galeas and Sherelandia watched curiously, Eldrian turned to another totem. "O Mighty Gale, this monstrosity that the Ocean speaks of was cast upon your winds. From whence was it borne? From whom?"
This second totem wavered back and forth as a genderless, rasping voice spoke with the vastness of a tornado: "From the Barrens it came, from the sea did it cast upon my wings. The voice was the voice of a female."
"A direction, Lord Gale. From which direction did the magic ride?"
"South came the voice of anarchy, to seek the ears of those it would beguile. Beyond where the earth was broken in its throes of pain, beyond where the passing of Deathwing still aches."
"He sure talks a lot," Sherelandia whispered.
"Well," Galeas murmured back to her, "you'd expect an air elemental to be a bit of a windbag."
"Yes, but--" The dryad paused, and Galeas chortled as she whacked him on the back.
"I know not the place," Eldrian was saying. Then he looked at Galeas. "Do you?"
"Ooh! Ooh!" Sherelandia bounced up and down, her hand in the air. "I know this one!"
"We passed over a great big ol' rip in the earth a few weeks ago." She glared at Galeas, who smirked.
Eldrian closed his eyes, then gasped as if in pain. "Yes, I believe I see what you mean. The earth still cries out in anguish from Death's flight." He shuddered and opened his eyes again. "Is this all the information you need?"
"Not quite," Galeas said. "We need to know how to stop it."
"The effect in general. The ram apparently thinks that it's strong enough to remain a problem."
Eldrian turned back to the second totem. "Lord Gale, might you steer your winds away from this place, should they bear another curse?"
"Erm," Galeas interjected, looking around. "I'm not sure a stop to the wind would be a good idea. There's a lot of smoke and debris hereabout."
The deafening whisper spoke. "No breeze so corrupted shall find its path here. All other winds will come unhindered."
Galeas nodded, but then a horribly wicked plan occurred to him, and he couldn't contain the grin it brought with it. "Farseer, could you ask the wind just to...redirect it?" When Eldrian looked puzzled, he went on: "Return to sender, know what I mean? I think she'd enjoy seeing her work with her own eyes."
Edited by Galeas on 9/27/2012 8:18 AM PDT
((Part two of today's new episode; read the above post before this one. Shared credit continues to go to Eldrian.))
Eldrian's eyes twinkled with mischief. "Lord Gale, you have heard his request. What say you?"
"Turned against the tide shall such winds be, that her beasts seek naught but to be free."
"And Lady Ocean, should the wicked one find another way to deliver her hex, might you safeguard the animals against it?"
"All who drink of water shall know my protection, that no charm may break through until her power wanes."
Eldrian saluted the two totems. "Thank you, Lady. And you, Lord." He glanced back at the other two humanoids, who bowed awkwardly but politely to the totems. "Is that all?" Eldrian asked.
"Got any clues about where I'm from?" Galeas joked.
But the elements apparently do not understand humor. From one of the heretofore silent totems came a deep, powerful voice. "Far from here, across my sister Ocean's realm, from a land so ravaged it spit out its own deceased."
Suddenly, sharply, unbidden images came to the forefront of Galeas' memory. Ragged corpses shuffling over wasted soil, giant mushrooms looming over rotting brush, houses hollowed and collapsing faster than they should have done...
"Swept from its destiny by the burning powers, destroyed before its time," the Wind added.
The flames of the bonfire consumed the tainted grain he had found in the farmhouse, that he had found in the barn, that he had found in the village. The flames of the pyre consumed the old man's body. The flames of the pyre consumed the woman's body. The lamp oil caught quickly and consumed the remains of the Scourge he had released...
"Destruction without purpose!" spoke the fourth totem, in a voice full of rage and passion. "Change with foul direction! Naught but evil and demonic ambition, sweeping over illuminated ground!"
A deluge of the remains of men and the remains of horses and the remains of champions swept down upon the Chapel. He spun his sword in his grip and prayed for help. The holy fire of divine wrath tore through the faithless fallen but there were so many, so many...
The Ocean spoke again. "Corrupted still, being tended by the sons of Cenarius and the daughters of Elune, home of the brightest dawn and hated by the blackest night."
A night elf. A tauren. He had known these and they waved to him as he rode by, bearing the sable, a sunburst argent and or upon his breast. Now he saw a shadowbox in a room, his room, mounted in it the tabards of a noble family and three Crusades...The family's name he knew. The enfield, a mythical creature borne only by the Marquess of--
"Fluffy!" He was lying on the ground and Sherelandia was shaking him, her voice panicky. "Fluffy, speak to me!"
He opened his eyes and looked first at her and then at Eldrian, kneeling near him. "Highmarch," he said at last.
Sherelandia looked baffled, but Eldrian only frowned. "Lordaeron, yes?"
"You know of it?"
"Only by text," Eldrian seemed to apologize. "I've been on this world less than a decade; I haven't seen many of its lands."
As Eldrian thanked the elements for their wisdom and went to his packs, Galeas half-curled up, drawing in on himself defensively against the barrage of unconnected memories. Sherelandia patted his shoulder and ruffled his hair. "It'll be all right...even if you are a big meanie," she reassured him.
"Meanie? For what? What did I do now?" Galeas asked.
But Sherelandia didn't get to answer; Eldrian returned to them with a large book. "This is the one. It's about the Plague of Undeath, from the first recorded incidents to the most recent incursion into Northrend." He offered it to Galeas.
Galeas took it and flipped to the back. "Appendix C," he read aloud. "Casualties by district." He leafed through, looking for "Highmarch". His own name jumped out at him from the page, and his head reeled as he read everything around it.
"They're dead, every soul," his own voice said firmly. "I watched them die."
"Galeas?" Eldrian prompted him quietly.
"I'm a Harcourt," he said. "And...I don't remember. I don't remember the people it lists, but they're my family. It mentions me by name. It says I'm a paladin."
Galeas Jeremias Harcourt, Marquess of Highmarch, shut the book slowly as he added: "And apparently, I'm dead."
((Oh look! Another update! This may be a sign of the end times...))
"And apparently, I'm dead."
As Galeas said this, Sherelandia took a step back from him, looking confused and more than a little disturbed.
Eldrian, however, laughed. "It's always nice to be dead once in a while. Catches the people who don't like you off-guard when you're alive again, eh?"
Galeas smiled weakly, and the draenei went on. "If it makes you feel better, I could beat you on the head until you remember."
Sherelandia suddenly had a spear, and its point was suddenly very close to Eldrian's left eye. "You leave Fluffy alone, you mean head-hitter!"
"Sherelandia, c'mon," Galeas said, and Eldrian added: "It was a joke, Madame Dryad."
The dryad looked doubtful, but lowered her spear.
Anxious to think about something else--at least until he could get some peace and quiet so as to deal with his recovered memories--Galeas asked, "When will you be leaving the fort, Farseer?"
Eldrian shrugged. "Whenever I feel like it, I imagine. Could be a lovely vacation spot." He looked up. "No floating islands, but I suppose everywhere can't be just like home."
Galeas grinned a bit. "Well, after all, it's a popular spot. The orcs have been desperate to get in, themselves."
"Ha! Then I might even make a summer home here. Imagine the real estate value. I'll have orcs lining up to buy."
"They'll make you an offer you can't refuse, at any rate."
Sherelandia suddenly perked up--at least, more than usual. "Oh! I need to find out if Mr. Ram is okay!" And without time for another word, she was off at top speed to the paddock.
"You know," Eldrian said, watching her go, "it's quite curious. Dryads in Kalimdor are scarcely half the size of the Northrend variety."
"Is that so?"
"Oh yes. I don't even make it up to their shoulder, if I recall correctly."
"That's tall, all right." Galeas sized up his new friend. Galeas was no shrimp--he was taller by at least a handbreadth than most of the men stationed here--but Eldrian was a good foot taller even than he.
"Well, at any rate," Eldrian said, "do you need a ride somewhere?"
Galeas scratched at his beard. "Where are you bound?"
"Around. I mostly wander these days. There's a lot of Ere--Draenei legends about wandering old men. It usually leads to some good or another."
"Well, it looks like some good came of it here," Galeas observed. "If you hadn't come along, I'm not sure Roberts would have believed Sherelandia. And then she'd never have let me hear the end of it." He rolled his eyes.
Eldrian looked amused. "Why, I happened to hear the lack of transport for supplies while passing through Theramore, so I volunteered."
"Theramore? They have a port there, don't they?"
"I've yet to see a boat that sails through land."
Galeas grimaced. "I meant that, now that I know that I'm from overseas, I should probably head that way."
"Perhaps." Eldrian looked at him keenly. "Do you plan to visit the shamaness first?"
The human frowned. "I get the feeling I would, ordinarily, but...I'm not sure."
"How do you mean?"
"Bit of amnesia here." Galeas grinned lopsidedly.
Eldrian laughed. "Here, how about this? You tell me where you want to go, and I'll get you there faster than a talbuk chasing terocones."
Galeas let the peculiar phrasing pass. "Theramore, then, and thank you."
"Ha, just Theramore? I can take you all the way to the Eastern Kingdoms, if you like."
Galeas mulled it over. While he didn't like to impose, he also knew that leaving Kalimdor would put him and Sherelandia utterly out of their depth. They would need help, and Eldrian surely seemed to know what he was about. And the draenei did seem curious, almost as curious as he himself was.
"Well, I can't argue with that, I suppose," Galeas said slowly.
"Call your dryad friend over here, then!" Eldrian rubbed his hands together. "I'll take you straightaway."
"We should probably let Commander Roberts know that the problem is at least temporarily solved."
"Ah, yes," Eldrian said, shrugging agreeably. "Probably."
((Another two-parter! More fun with draenei--and now with 100% more dryad!))
Mr. Ram was going to be just fine. The voice was gone, and he had promised not to kick any more horses.
Everything was all happy and shiny again! She was proud of Fluffy and that drawn-eye guy, whatever his name was.
Maybe she'd call him Rocky, since he turned into a big dragon made of rocks. Rocky was a good name for him.
Sherelandia picked her way delicately back across the camp, watching the little birdies fly west over the walls of the canyon. They were going to Mulgore. She hoped they pooped on the cow-people, because the Horde was messing everything up and cutting down trees and the cow-people were in the Horde. Shame on them. They knew better.
One of the young pink people like Fluffy looked at her funny when she asked where her pet had gone, but he pointed her to the big tower. The fur on his hands was even thinner than Fluffy's, so maybe Fluffy's coat wouldn't get any fuller. That was too bad, but then again, if he got any cuter she wouldn't be able to stand it. Maybe it was for the best.
She stopped outside the tower door and listened to that Roberts person talking. "I would strongly recommend," he was saying, "that you stop in at Theramore first, if you can. There's a newfangled medical device there that Van Howzen's been boasting about, so it might be of help. And you can drop this report off for me while you're there, too."
She didn't know what a van housing was, or why they were talking about fangles (she wondered whether there were any fangles in the works here too), so she mostly ignored it.
"Calling in those favors already, sir?" Fluffy laughed.
"Galeas had better hold on to it," Rocky said. "I can't guarantee I won't misplace it. A bit absent-minded in my old age, you know."
Fluffy chuckled again. "You haven't forgotten your own name."
"I suppose I haven't, have I?"
Then Roberts said, "Oh, and one more thing. Take the dryad with you, will you?"
OOH! That was so rude! Well, she wasn't going to stay where she wasn't wanted. She was just going to take Fluffy and go. Jerk. See if she helped HIM again.
Fluffy and Rocky came out of the tower, and Fluffy asked her, "Set to go, Sherelandia?"
Sherelandia had to stop thinking about what a meanie-head that Roberts was. "Hmm? Where are we going?"
"Theramore. It's a city--right?" Fluffy looked at Rocky, who said, "Yes."
"Yes," Fluffy repeated.
Rocky turned into the rock dragony thingy. "Mount up, youngling."
Fluffy looked at her. "I'm assuming you're coming along, that is. My road's going to take me all the way over the ocean."
How could he?! He really thought she'd abandon him just because he needed to go somewhere far away! Everyone was just being rude today. "You belong to me. I'm not letting you go alone."
"Belong?" Rocky asked.
"I rescued him from the mean orcs trying to drown him. That makes him mine. And I'm keeping him."
Rocky began to laugh, and Fluffy sighed. "It's a long story."
"I suppose it is," said Rocky. "Come and mount up, youngling."
Fluffy climbed up on Rocky's back, but then started looking around. "Um..."
Sherelandia was wondering the same thing, so she asked. "Where am I supposed to sit?" That saddle didn't look like it would fit her.
"You don't," Rocky said, flapping his wings and taking off.
What? NO! Rocky was flying away and stealing Fluffy! She started to run after them, waving her spear in desperation. But wait, he was circling around and--
COMING STRAIGHT AT HER! RUN AWAY!
((OMG what's going to happen next??? Read on!))
((Part two of Sherelandia's newest big adventure! Read the above before reading this section!))
But she wasn't fast enough, and the great big rocky claws grabbed her around her middle. No no no NO NO NO he was flying again!
She flailed all six limbs helplessly as Rocky carried her over the mountain. She tried to stick him with her spear, but he was all rocks. "Put me dow--"
Then she saw the mountainside drop away into a marshland, and she grabbed his claws in a panic. "NO! DON'T DROP ME! AAAAAHHHHHHH!"
Rocky was laughing, the big meanie. "I wonder how many dryads have flown before," he said.
"She's flown before," Fluffy answered.
"It doesn't show."
Before Fluffy could get a chance to explain when she'd flown before, she yelled, "Don't--you--DARE!" And then she covered her eyes so she wouldn't have to watch the ground below.
"It was an accident," Fluffy said lamely.
Right then, Rocky went into a steep dive, and Sherelandia was sure they were all going to be pancakes. But he slowed and stopped moving. She took her hands away from her eyes and saw that they were hovering just above the ground in a new place.
"Shall I drop you now?" asked Rocky.
As soon as her hooves were on the rock path below, she felt like telling them exactly what she thought. "BAD! BAD DRAGON! BAD FLUFFY!"
"Oh, come on," Fluffy said insensitively. "It wasn't nearly as bad as last time."
That was IT! Sherelandia reached toward him. She was going to snap him on the nose but GOOD.
"Don't," Fluffy said curtly, looking up at the sky. "It's getting a bit late. Would you object to starting tomorrow morning, Farseer?"
"Not a bad idea," Rocky said. He'd turned back into a drawn-eye. "I'm an old man, anyways. I need my sleep."
"All right. And perhaps I can see about that medical device--and a haircut."
Sherelandia was aghast. (Was that the right word? When she'd first heard Fluffy say "aghast", she'd thought it meant he needed to burp. But he said it meant "horrified" or "bothered" or something. Of course, if that's what he'd meant, he should have just SAID "horrified". But there was no stopping Fluffy from using all those big weird words. It was like that word he'd said that made her think about dancing with butterflies in a moonlit shrine or whatever. Or "spankers in the worse".)
But haircuts. Fluffy was asking someone about where there was a barb shop. There were a lot of someones around all of a sudden. Most of them were looking at her. Maybe they liked her. But if they were going to tell him where he could get his fur cut off, she was sure she didn't like them.
((Apologies if I'm a bit early, and for those following my other storylines, yes, this does mean that Kya has (sort of) come out of hiding))
It had been weeks if not months since Slater's disappearance, and while it still weighed heavily on her mind, so did the loss of hundreds of good sentinels that she used to know over the same period. Loss was a new part of life out here, and it was no secret that the search efforts, once vigorous themselves, had become shallow and procedural.
She was banking on it, after all.
No welcoming committees, no information about her whereabouts being fed out to interlopers, no reprisals from spurned gangs in Darnassus, threats from petulant bar-fight-instigating traitors, or lectures from returning highborne about how she should be more tolerant and let them walk all over her. No, instead it was finally a chance to do what she had devoted her life to - the protection of her people, and nothing more.
They were certainly with her at Mor'shan. The soldiers had all been diverted to protecting the interior of the forest, if not having been diverted or lost at Hyjal, Vash'ir, or now Pandaria. These were not soldiers, but desperate people fighting at any cost to save their homes - even old fathers who had never seen fighting in their lives were willing to pick up a glaive and charge the rampart, even as they knew it was a marginal effort at best, even knowing how the Alliance had all but given them up.
The Warden would not.
Striking down from the western mountain, she crashed into a nearby tower, startling the first archer as she hooked a 'reclaimed' axe into the orc's ribcage. Definitely not subtle, but that was the point. Defenders were charging up the ramp and away from their posts as Kyalin sought cover from the redirected arrow fire. Of course, this is where the plan ended, with her knowingly surrounded and without escape. With any luck it would be enough, or at least damaging enough to give her life for it.
Kyalin gripped the hem of her cloak as the first wave arrived, whirling herself around, letting her cloak flare out, and watching the small daggers attached so delicately to its hem detach and fly off in every direction. For some, this was all they could take, others were less daunted.
She sidestepped an overhead swing, digging an armblade into the Orc's back as she kicked another one off of the tower. He landed with a thud but got right back up, as she could see, and the plan wasn't working. The surge of forces was being countered at the gate. She had to get down there in front of it.
She took a leap down into the fray, the axe bludgeoning through the mass of Orcs and Tauren who didn't expect to see combat this day. The tide was turning, the elves were surging, but among the fleeing combatants on the other side, one rose to challenge her.
The air chilled with his presence, small icicles had already formed amongst his black plated armor, and beneath that helmet, the warden could only discern a sinister grin. In reflex she stepped back into her own lines, watching as the advancing death knight effortlessly cleaved through a set of onrushing attackers, a set of tiny white wisps flowing to his blade.
She charged for him.
After what felt like hours of fighting, Kyalin knew she was beaten. Hiding like a scared animal behind one of the trees, she could hear his orcish taunts and insults to her honor. He had singlehandedly routed her attack, and undid all of her progress. Each of her attacks rang hollow, she just watched again and again how the ebon's corrupted blood would run over the wound and solidify in response to every cut, bruise, and strike. She couldn't say the same for the grievous slice across her left arm. Holding a wadded bandage against it, she found her opportunity to escape, and took it.
((I'll continue this tonight. Hopefully I characterized the friend I met last night accurately. :)
Edit: Ok... I just learned that I'm actually WAY ahead in the first part of my lead in here. So the second part will be coming soon... relatively.))
Edited by Kyalin on 10/14/2012 4:43 PM PDT
((We're leaving Kyalin's post above up until we get to the right place in time. It's important to her RP continuity right now. But whereas her post is from a couple nights ago, the overall story of Shortchanged is, as of this post, three months ago. That's why Theramore, for the next two entries, is still standing...))
He had needed that bath last night, a nice, hot bath with plenty of soap. After weeks of washing in rainwater, oases, and out of buckets, it was good to be clean. It's peculiar what becomes a downright luxury when one is deprived of it.
Galeas was almost ready to leave Theramore, but there was one other thing he needed to do that couldn't be done on the road: get a haircut. His hair had grown out quite long in the time he'd been away from civilization, and his beard was getting a bit out of control.
He stood waiting outside the barbershop for some time, as the door was still locked even after the posted opening hours. But at last, a gnome lass with an elaborate coiffure came prancing down the street, and smiled up at him.
"Here to get your ears trimmed, soldier?" she asked cheerfully, taking out an absurdly-sized key ring and applying one of its many and elaborate keys to the doorknob. "C'mon in. You won't find a better barber than Natalie Snippenclip."
No sooner was the door ajar than loud honking and crashing noises began, and Galeas jumped. "Oh darn," Snippenclip said. "Forgot to turn off the alarm."
Above the next shop down the street, a window opened and a middle-aged human woman poked her head out. "Natalie, this is the twentieth time this week!" the woman complained.
Snippenclip found a little device on her keyring and pushed a button, and the noise--which was akin to a goose being murdered in a smithy--shut down. "Sorry, Florrie," she shouted. "I got so excited about my customer that I clean forgot. How's Sasha's dress coming along?"
"Last fitting's right now," Florrie called back. "Looks like a princess. Rob's not going to know what hit him!"
"Can't wait!" Snippenclip chirped, then beckoned Galeas into the barbershop. He tossed Florrie a polite salute on his way in.
"That's Florrie Hamlin," Snippenclip told him in a chatty voice as she puttered around, getting things ready for his haircut. "Her youngest daughter's getting married tomorrow. Sweet couple. You showed up a few months too late, fella. But maybe not. You married?"
Was he? He wondered about that himself. But he didn't seem to miss a ring on his left hand, so maybe not. When in doubt, though, punt. "Do you think a wife would let me grow a beard like this?"
"Ha, you'd think not, but some girls really go for the dwarf look." Snippenclip stepped up onto a box next to his chair and snapped her scissors. "So, what'll it be?"
"Chin-length on the hair, and cut the beard up close."
She squinted at him. "Yep, that'll work for you." And then the tiny hands went to work, and he closed his eyes.
"So, you from around here? I only ask 'cause I've never seen you before. New recruit? Passin' through?"
"We get a lot of those, yep. Plenty of sailors, soldiers on their way to that fort, soldiers on their way back from that fort, and sometimes merchants tradin' this 'n' that. Once in a while we get visits of state, but not a lot ever since that bad business with King Varmint or whatever his name is from Stormwind."
"Varian. Varian Wrynn."
"That's the guy, yep. And anyway, sometimes people like that need haircuts, so they come to the best, which is me. I've cut some of the most important heads in the world, yep. Not to say that your head isn't important--at least it is to you--and if there's a lucky girl. Speaking of girls, would you like anything waxed while we're working on you?"
"New thing. You pour warm wax on skin, let it harden, and then pull it off and all the hair comes out with it."
"That sounds incredibly painful."
"Not so much after the first few times. Really makes your skin smooth as silk. I wax my legs a lot."
"What in the world would I have waxed, anyway?"
"I dunno. Some guys get their chests done."
"Well, some girls don't go for chest hair. They say it shows the muscles better."
"Rather thin reasoning for--I mean, body hair is part of being a man. You know, along with long pants, team sports, riding fast vehicles while shooting explosive arrows..." Galeas grunted. "The problem with women is they always want to take away the fun parts of manhood. No offense."
"That's kind of a strange way to look at boy-girl things. Where you from?"
((Continued in the next post!))
((Part two of yet another two-parter entry! Enjoy the above before this one!))
"That's kind of a strange way to look at boy-girl things. Where you from?"
"Huh. You know, lots of people here are from Lordaeron. There or Kul Tiras, mostly. 'Cept me, of course, I'm from Gnomeregan, obviously. Can't live there for all the troggs, though. And the radiation. I heard one guy's hair actually fell out. Went from a great head of hair to bald just like that!" She snapped the fingers of her free hand.
"Crazy stuff. But I noticed that totally bald is getting popular as a hairstyle for guys lately, no matter what race. 'Cept worgen. Can you imagine a bald worgen?"
"I'd prefer not to."
"Yeah, can't say's I blame you." She giggled. "But they do give me a lot of business--I charge extra when I groom fur, and a lot of them seem to like it--and they're great against undeads. You know how they've been fighting the undeads over at their homeland, right? Amazing. Some folks said it wasn't going to work, letting worgen into the Alliance, but I said to them, I said: 'Now you listen up, it's like the draenei. They're good people who're just a little different-looking. So what if they fursplode and sometimes they drool on the carpet a little? They fight Horde and aren't afraid of anything.'
"I mean, it's like us gnomes. People like to make ugly jokes about us and act like we don't count, but we fight hard too. If it wasn't for us, how many things would have gone unexploded, huh? And that Deeprun Tram? And how about the tanks we helped the dwarves build? And even if we can't reach most people's butts, that doesn't stop us from kickin' 'em just the same, right?"
"Right. Never judge someone's worth by his height," Galeas said sagely.
"So right! You're good people, mister. Now lean forward, please." Snippenclip unfastened the drape and folded it forward. "Now, this buzzing noise you hear will be the Snippenclip 540--best automatic clippers the world's ever known. I'm gonna shave under your hair and down to your collar--Good grief, your hair just goes right down your back doesn't it?--No wonder you were testy about the waxing thing...
"All right-a-roonie, looks like you're done! Have a look!" She spun the chair around and faced him toward the mirror.
Galeas found himself facing a familiar stranger. The nose had been broken and poorly repaired. His hair and beard were flecked with gray, and there were lines between his eyebrows, a hunted expression, a guardedness in the green eyes. He smiled experimentally, and found that it didn't follow the motions of a healthy smile; it had a sarcastic, bitter twist.
Whoever he was, Galeas Harcourt had lived a hard and joyless life.
Maybe, he began to suspect, there was a reason he had forgotten his past.
((Tune in next time, when there will be something a little less calm and a little more funny!))
Edited by Galeas on 10/15/2012 11:05 AM PDT
((Did you miss my story? I know I did. Here, have a three-part entry, because I don't make these darn things long enough!))
The world shifted back to its proper colors and perspective, leaving Galeas feeling as if he'd been punched repeatedly in the face.
Eldrian was none the worse for wear, looking around the dead vegetation and obscured skies of the Eastern Plaguelands, just east of the Thondroril River. "Charming place, isn't it?" he asked casually.
Galeas fought the mad urge to rip Eldrian's head off and nail it to the ground. Sherelandia, however, was the one to express what they were both feeling.
"I don't ever ever EVER want to do that EVER again, Rocky," she said with a shudder.
"Why not?" Eldrian asked. "Astral Walking saves great amounts of time."
"It's worse than flying. It just is."
Galeas patted her on the back. "You might at least thank him, Sherelandia."
The dryad gave him a flat look. "Nothin' doin'."
While Eldrian cracked up laughing, Galeas shrugged and sighed. "Well, I thank you, Farseer. This surely saved us a boat ride." Galeas imagined he'd probably have had to spend a month on a ship with a dryad vomiting over the side...and really regretted having imagined that.
"Of course, of course." Eldrian waved him off.
Galeas looked around now, himself, and unrolled his map. "Well, let's consult the map and see where Highmarch is--or was. Or whatever the right verb tense is." He found the name quickly. "Looks to be east."
Eldrian fell in behind Galeas and Sherelandia as they marched down the road. Sherelandia huddled up close to Galeas, clearly uncomfortable. "This place is icky," she half-whispered.
"I haven't been here," said Eldrian, "in...probably four years now."
"Two years," Galeas said quietly. It had been two years since he was last here, and he had no idea what he had been doing or why. It was fairly obvious why anyone would want to leave and not return, though.
"There's no squirrels," Sherelandia complained.
"Squirrels?" Eldrian asked. "The ones with the bushy tails, yes?"
"They're dead." Galeas was certain of this.
Sherelandia looked endlessly shocked. "All of them???"
"Yes, to the last bushy tail." The human felt grim as he said it, and angry. Very angry. So angry, in fact, that he could not spare her even the slightest bit of tact. "And all the rab--"
UNDEAD FIENDS. THEY WERE ALL AROUND.
Galeas put his hands to his head, in a vain effort to shut out what he could neither see nor feel, but somehow both and neither at once. Shambling husks of men and elves were on the hills and in the trees around them, and he could feel the empty, frozen black holes that they were in the world. They would lash out if a living creature came too close.
"Fluffy?" Sherelandia's voice sounded worried.
Galeas didn't answer. This place was familiar, and he knew it. He remembered it.
Flashes of light, blinding, burning. Puppets of the Lich King fell to pieces around him. Send a message or die in a blaze of glory...
...A straw hat lay on the ground, the faintest breeze tugging it gently...
Galeas immediately strode off the path and began scrabbling at the dirt and dead vegetation with his fingertips.
((What's this? Tune in to Part 2 to find out!))
((Part 2. Merry Christmas!))
Galeas immediately strode off the path and began scrabbling at the dirt and dead vegetation with his fingertips.
Behind him, Sherelandia whispered to Eldrian: "Is he looking for nuts?"
A limp object emerged from the thin covering of soil, and Galeas picked it up reverently. "My straw hat," he said. "I wore it the day...I called out the Lich King."
He turned back to his companions, saw them watching him nervously. "Oh, no, he didn't answer me," Galeas reassured them. “Sorry for the diversion. Shall we?"
They resumed their journey silently, Galeas brushing absently at his dubious treasure. Mother had made this for him. She had done little else for him, so this meant something.
Sherelandia was at his elbow, looking curiously at the hat. "What would you do with that?" she asked.
"Wear it, I'd assume," Eldrian said.
Galeas tucked his hat under his arm and unrolled his map again.
"Unless," Eldrian added, "hats serve some sort of ritual purpose I've yet to encounter on this world."
Sherelandia looked at him doubtfully. "Wear it how, Rocky?"
"On his head." Eldrian pantomimed donning the hat.
Without further ado, the dryad tugged the hat out from under Galeas' arm and dropped it on his head. Naturally, the angle at which it landed was entirely wrong, and the brim fell over his eyes. Eldrian chuckled.
"Hey, knock it off," Galeas protested.
Sherelandia proceeded to take him literally, slapping the brim of the hat and sending it to the ground. "This 'hat' thing is weird. I just want you to know that."
"Just--yeah," Galeas muttered, reaching down for the hat. "Thanks."
She, however, had decided to go for the hat as well, and their heads knocked together. Galeas went sprawling, lights flashing in his vision. "OW, DRAT YOU!" he bellowed.
"Owwwww, sorryyyyyy," Sherelandia whined.
Galeas stood up, rubbing the new knot on his head and grumbling. "Anyway, it's that--" He pointed, narrowly missing Sherelandia again. "Sorry. That way. This place is starting to look familiar, but...no more so than anywhere else. Let's go."
They took a right, went down the path toward the ruins of what looked to be a manor house. It was far too quiet as they walked; even the wind seemed to have abandoned this place.
Sherelandia spotted a bit of movement, squealed happily, and romped toward it. Then she skidded to a halt and looked back mournfully toward her companions. "Oh no, it's dying!"
Eldrian lifted his hands as if to say he could do nothing about it, and Galeas said, "That's a shame. I'm sorry."
"Give me a cloth," Sherelandia ordered. "I'm going to wrap him up and bring him along. Maybe we can cure him!"
Eldrian rummaged in his pack and pulled out a scrap of embersilk, which Sherelandia took and bundled around an infected squirrel. She crooned to the creature, making promises of renewed health. For a moment, the grass seemed to stir around her, even green just a bit.
They resumed their journey, but not for long. The dead trees parted, and they saw before them the ruins of a small village, its crumbling houses huddled around a courtyard dominated by what was left of a mansion.
Galeas vaguely heard Eldrian murmur, "Oh my." But he was caught up in a sudden rush of memories--disconnected images and sounds and feelings--and without a word, he took off down the path at a dead run.
((Part 3 incoming, probably tomorrow!))
((Part 3, at last.))
That house, there on the right, had been the home of the last remaining servants. The hut here was where his weapons master had dwelt. Off to his right, yes, the weapons master had plied his trade on a stripling boy with the aid of dummies and targets. A hard man, cruel in a way; he had trampled under what had remained of the youth's childhood--but it had been meant to harden the boy into a man who would be feared...who would regain the respect of a peerage that looked down its nose at him...
He had half-succeeded. The boy had become a fell warrior; yet no more respect was given him than if he had been an invalid.
When Eldrian and Sherelandia caught up to Galeas, he was standing over an old graveyard, full of elaborate and elegant monuments. The older headstones and markers, though more heavily worn, were still clearly finer than the newer ones. However, all of the graves had clearly been opened at some point, and the turf had not grown back over them.
Eldrian murmured what was likely a prayer in his own tongue, but Sherelandia looked around nervously, her eyes wide. "What...what's this place?"
"The Highmarch graveyard," Galeas answered quietly. "It is vacant." He moved between the pits until he found a particular stone, and laid his hand on it. "My grandmother. I never knew her. I never knew any of these people--not personally. But it seems they were all heroes, and wealthy, and...I don't think I believe that." He shook his head. "No," he repeated more firmly, "I don't believe that."
"Why not?" asked Eldrian.
"Because..." Galeas paused, thinking it over. "I'm not sure. I just feel I shouldn't believe it. It's almost a...stubborn feeling. You know what I mean?"
Sherelandia kicked at one of the holes with her hoof. "What are these holes, Fluffy?"
"Graves," Galeas said.
She jumped, then stepped backward. "Eww, with dead people in them?"
"No, they were exhumed and burnt." Galeas looked around, trying to catch hold of any of the impressions rolling around in his mind. "It's only bits and pieces. Nothing comes to me that binds it together. But I do remember one thing." He sighed. "Nobody I knew was ever buried here."
A meditative silence fell over them for a while, and Galeas continued to move among the memorials, reading names, tracing the carved letters with his fingers. Sherelandia cuddled her sickly squirrel at a safe distance from the cemetery, and Eldrian seemed to have retreated inward to pray for the lost.
Finally, Galeas returned to his comrades, looking thoughtful. "Let's move on," he said. "Is there somewhere occupied in this land?"
"There are several towers in which the Argents reside," Eldrian offered, "if I recall correctly."
"Argents?" Galeas asked--and the name meant something to him. A memory began to surface.
"Argent Crusade, perhaps Argent Dawn," Eldrian said. "I never remember which."
"Argent Crusade," Galeas supplied, speaking slowly as the information arrived. "Headed by Highlord Tirion Fordring...Governor of Hearthglen..." A series of images presented themselves--a middle-aged man at some kind of royal court, that man older still and administering an oath to a group of young paladins, yet again older and doing mighty battle with the forces of the Lich King. And then that same man, safe in a fortress, serenely refusing to take seriously what Galeas was trying to tell him...
Galeas realized that Eldrian and Sherelandia were watching him expectantly; he decided to fake confusion. "Why do I remember that?!"
"Because it's important?" Eldrian suggested.
"I suppose. But my past is fairly important, too." Galeas smiled a dry half-smile. Eldrian shrugged at him, and he sighed. "Well, let's go find these Argents."
"Back the way we came, I think."
Sherelandia nodded. "Yeah, let's get away from the dead-people place with no dead people in it! 'Cause that makes soooooo much sense!"
Galeas clapped Eldrian on the shoulder, friendly-like, as they walked. But Eldrian was in no mood for cheer. "I can feel the mud caking in my hooves," he grumbled. "I hate that feeling."
Eldrian stepped onto the half-buried cobblestones of the path and stomped his hooves vigorously, while Sherelandia lightly skipped over to them, watching the process. "That's what comes of weighing so much, Rocky," she said smugly--and then darted away as Eldrian shot her a death glare.
Sherelandia was bored. Light’s Hope Chapel was a big old snorefest.
Of course, she had Squishy, the squirrel she was trying to nurse back to health, but that wasn’t enough to keep her busy all day. And the folks here at Light’s Hope Chapel were happy to have her help in keeping the horses and hippogryphs happy, and she could use her nature magic a little to coax things to grow…but it was just getting old hanging around the chapel all day. No green or purple trees to romp through. Boring.
Tedious, Fluffy had supplied, but his big words weren’t nearly as right as just plain old “boring”. Besides, “tedious” reminded her of Xavius, and she didn’t like being reminded of Xavius. So she was bored, and this place was boring.
Rocky had moved on after delivering them here—on hoof, thank Elune; he didn’t turn into the giant rock-dragony thingy or drag them by the face through the Hassle Plains or whatever it was called. But despite his weird ways of getting around, he was loud and funny and friendly, and she missed him. Things were boring without the big guy.
Even Fluffy was boring now. He wanted to stay here for the time being, which meant he had to earn his keep, he said. He spent all his time going out with patrols of Crusaders, and coming back all covered in nasty slimy black stuff and smelling like blasting powder. He was grim and serious—more than he’d been before—and sometimes he was so tired he didn’t even yell at her when she tried to brush the fur on his head.
She kind of missed the running away and mean names. It was almost like this place was making him sick. She’d have to feel his nose and see.
Still, it was nice to see him making friends. There was one in particular, who looked like a really pink elf, and he followed Fluffy around like a nightsaber cub following its mother. Brightwing or something like that; these pink elves had funny names. She called him Goldy, which he really didn’t like, but she didn’t care if he liked it or not because he’d said Squishy probably wasn’t going to make it, and that was just mean.
Especially saying it where Squishy could hear. How was Squishy supposed to have a good attitude about getting well if people kept telling him he was going to die? Poor thing.
She tucked Squishy into his little bed—a smoky-smelling box a short beardy fellow named Laroo or something had given her, really nice friendly guy who called her “Sugar”—and went out into the garden behind the chapel. It was a graveyard, but it wasn’t a spooky scary graveyard full of death and pain; it was quiet and restful and made her think about how someday she might go to be with Elune and it didn’t seem so bad after all.
Sherelandia could see people coming and going on their patrols, and watched as Fluffy saddled up with his Argent friends to go out. She loped over to the fence and put her face between two of the iron bars, so he’d see she wasn’t happy that he was leaving.
Fluffy turned and saluted her gravely. For all that he was boring, he was kind of impressive now. He might not know who he was, but it looked like having something important to do made him feel confident.
That was probably why he’d said he couldn’t go back to Kalimdor with her. She’d tried several times to convince him to come home, but he’d shrugged and said he had to wait until it came back to him. It was close, he said, just like a word on the tip of his tongue. But the days and weeks went by and what was on the tip of his tongue never found its way off.
Sherelandia sighed as she watched his horse pass through the gate. Well, whatever the case, he was still her pet and she was going to stick with her pet. He needed her.
((Yay, new chapter! Eventually I'll get this thing finished...if I can stop writing eight-part entries...))
The Cult of the Damned was stubborn, Galeas would give them that. Most cults tended to collapse upon the death of their charismatic leaders, but this one was holding out. While the Argent Crusade was making headway in the Plaguelands, it was slow going.
“So why are we skulking in the brush?” Dalen Brightwind asked. The blood elf was a recent recruit into the Crusade, and he showed every sign of being in awe of Galeas. Galeas was confused as to why, exactly, considering that there were many more notable paladins in the Crusade than he—but if the kid wanted mentoring, he’d do his best.
“Why? It seems to me,” Galeas said quietly, “that I remember some lessons by my old weapons-master.”
“I’ll say,” Brightwind laughed. “You fight like a…like a hero of legend. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my hundred-ten years!”
“That—Yeah, thanks, but that’s not what I’m talking about,” Galeas said. “I’m getting at something here. Theissen—my weapons-master—taught me that killing your opponent isn’t the only way to victory. Not just that, but it’s sometimes not even a victory, if your purpose is to bring him back into the Light. The better way is to make him yield.”
“All right,” Brightwind said.
“And if you can’t make him yield based on flesh wounds or a show of skill, you start breaking his bones. That’s what we’re doing today.”
“I see.” The blood elf looked puzzled. “Whose bones are we breaking?”
“Is a metaphor,” Guruun mused in his broken Common. He was thin for a male draenei, but still massive in comparison to most people. Galeas reflected that there was something strange about a draenei and a blood elf working together, but apparently a good Cause made brothers of mortal enemies.
Galeas nodded to the team. “Yes. We’re going to intercept a courier. The more of those we can take down, the more we can cripple the Cult until they just pack it in and go home.”
“So that’s why the landmines,” Brightwind said.
There was a sharp bat-screech from up the road; Jennessa had spotted the convoy, and that was the signal. Galeas motioned to the others for silence, and Guruun prepared the detonator.
Here they came, four undead acting on the orders of one living Cultist. One of the undead would be the courier, because it could be trusted not to surrender its message except to the recipient. This would be so simple.
Galeas was sure it would go hideously wrong somehow.
The convoy moved into their appointed gravesite, and with a twist of Guruun’s wrist, the ground beneath their feet erupted into fire.
The Cultist was dead before he could scream. His minions, however, were animated by sterner stuff, and three of them staggered out of the flames, arms flailing and hands patting at themselves to put out the fires.
“Advance!” Galeas called, and his team charged out of the brush.
One of the three targets, a skeletal soldier, swung a heavy mallet at him, but he ducked inside of the swing, caught the head of the mallet on the beak of his own axe and thrust it aside, then threw an elbow into the exposed bones of the face. The skull shattered, and the soldier crumpled to the ground, bereft of its imitation of life.
A few more shambling corpses had joined the fray, and Guruun and Brightwind were doing well to hold them off. Galeas heard something behind him; he turned just in time to see an arrow zing into the undead behind him and detonate in a puff of fire. Jennessa was no slouch at archery, that was certain.
But there were things no number of burning arrows could overcome in this place, and…one of them had just made its presence known with a gurgling roar. The trap had been set too close to the rendezvous, Galeas realized, because here came the being which was to receive the communication.
Abomination... A cleaver in each mismatched hand, its insides barely held together with wires and threatening to spill forth, a third arm whirling a hook overhead. Its decay was slow, slimy, and its stench was a smell he remembered.
((To be continued!))
Edited by Galeas on 1/29/2013 8:01 PM PST
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