Chapter 4: War’s Horns
“…head out to meet Kaerryn, lovely.”
Nysse stared at Rhese evenly as she handed Mirrase to him once he’d finished speaking. She picked up Rhylian and settled him to his mid-day meal. “Rhoe is in Darnassus. Are you planning to head there after Darkshore?” Her expression and tone were carefully neutral, unwilling to upset the children.
Her mate watched her carefully, tucking their daughter into the crook of one arm. He could sense her rigid control, and he internally winced at what he knew it meant.
Externally, he nodded. “Yes, of course. I need to find out where she is, Nysse. As dire as Kaer said it was, I’m afraid I’ll find Rhoe supporting the troops in Darkshore. On the front lines of war.”
Rhese couldn’t suppress the shudder that shook through him at the thought, but he made an excuse to turn his back to her and take a few steps away, bouncing Mirrase, rather than let her see how the blood drained from his face.
Her voice was soft between coos at the sweet baby in her arms. “That’s understandable. I’m worried about Rhoe as well. Much like the rest of them, she wouldn’t tell us in order to protect us.” She shifted as Rhylian wiggled. “Now now, little one. It’s time to eat, not play.”
The huntress raised her eyes to Rhese. “When she’s ready to lie down, could you please get the bag with their stuff together? We should stop by where my parents are staying. They may not have heard yet.”
He nodded, brushing a hand through his hair. Mirrase squeaked and reached up for his face, so when the motion ended, he set his finger in her questing little fist.
“Will they stay with you, Nysse? You’re going to need more help than Yami can give while I’m away. Cenarius’ Beard. What do we do to make him stay if he wants to come along?” Rhese paced to the far side of the room and back, his agitation palpable.
Frowning, Nysse reprimanded Rhese, “Beloved, you’re going to upset Mirrase if you keep doing that. Take a deep breath.” She grimaced as Rhylian let out a little cry. “Or I’ll upset Rhy.” She tugged her tunic in place and placed him against her shoulder, patting his back as she rocked in her chair. “I’m sorry, little moon. Everything will be just fine.”
“Rhese, we will figure this out. First things first, we’ll need the bag for their stuff. Then we’ll go see my parents and settle the twins, then see Yami, then we’ll head to Darkshore.” Nysse stated their plan as if there had been no doubt what they’d do.
As ordered, the young man stilled himself and took a deep breath, leaning down to nuzzle his daughter’s soft cheek as much for his own comfort as hers. She expressed her appreciation by filling her fists with his silver hair, distracting him with the task of extricating it.
… and then his tired, distracted mind caught up with what his mate had said. He turned fast enough that the child giggled excitedly, his furrowed brow finding Nysse’s clear eyes. “We? Nysse, you’re not going to Darkshore. Who will look after the twins if-… who will look after the twins?”
Nysse narrowed her eyes. “I am not going to sit by while our home and Rhoelyn are in danger. Of course I’m going. The little ones will be just fine with my parents while we’re gone.” Her gaze found the floor to the side very interesting. “As far as if… if something should happen…”
Her hands cradled their little boy tenderly. “They give me all the reason to be careful and come back to them. Rhese, I don’t want any of us to die. Perhaps I’m being greedy, but I want us all to go to Elune’s embrace far into the future. I can’t leave Rhoe and the others alone out there. Please don’t fight me.”
Stricken, the huntress’ mate stilled and stared at her for a long moment before he looked at the boy against her shoulder, his silken little head wobbling around unsteadily as he pondered the view. His big hands cuddled Rhy’s twin closer, gentle but needy and troubled.
“Nysse, love…” he started, but he stopped himself, sighing, and turned away to walk to the window and peer out. Silence blanketed the room like the snow did the rolling hills of Winterspring outside.
“I know you always want to protect me. Especially, now that the twins are with us, but I could never forgive myself if I lost you and Rhoe to war and did nothing.” Nysse ducked her head, letting her long hair hide her face as she paced with Rhylian.
She tried to wait patiently, but as the silence weighed on her she tentatively called his name. “Rhese? Please talk to me.”
“I hate this.” The druid fisted his free hand and pressed it to the glass, resting his forehead beside it against the pane. “Lovely, I hate this so much, but… I understand. I won’t fight you.”
Rhese straightened and turned back toward his love, brow furrowed as he continued, “I’ll fight beside you, instead. We’ll defend our home and our people and our family together, Nysse.”
The hand he rested on her shoulder was chilly from the window, but that alone didn’t account for the tremor in his fingers…
Nysse raised watery eyes. “We’ll come home with Rhoe. We have to, Rhese.” She leaned her cheek toward his hand.
“I’ll ask my parents and Yami to take the twins somewhere safe. Stormwind? We can follow once things settle down. Do we need to tell Morthis? I know he’s going to fuss.” Her soft rambling voice finally betrayed her own nervousness.
Her mate sighed and lifted his hand to her cheek, his thumb brushing gently over her soft skin before he leaned forward around the two children they held and kissed her gently. He rested his forehead against hers for a moment before he straightened and spoke, his voice subdued.
“Yes. We’ll send them all to Stormwind. It’s the safest place you could find if the factions war in earnest.” Rhese paused, resting his hand on Rhylian’s back beside Nysse’s. The baby was so small that the other half of his back and most of his arm disappeared under his father’s warm palm. “I know your parents and Yami will protect them and love them in our stead if… if…”
The druid didn’t finish the thought, for which both of them were glad. He just rubbed Rhy’s silky skin for a moment before moving that hand down to Mirrase’s chubby, rosy little cheek. She gurgled at him as her fingers worried at his thumb.
And then he took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, looking back up at his love. “I’ll get her comfy in the crib, and get their bag ready. We can inform Morthis of our choice when we’re traveling. It will save time and take the steam out of his protests.” Rhese spoke with his usual confidence, again, his worry hidden behind determination. “Let’s try to get moving within the hour, lovely. We need to hurry.”
Nysse nodded, unwilling to add any more of her own worry to his. “Of course. I’ll settle this one and get our new armor together. I didn’t… I didn’t think we’d be using it this soon. Your sister has always had the uncanny ability to know what we need before we do. She got me a set of armor right before I went hunting for you as well.”
She blushed as she laid Rhylian down, keeping a casual tone. “I was surprised that it fit. I was a little worried about that after having the twins. It’s been longer than I like since I’ve practiced, and I still haven’t lost the last little bit of baby weight…” The huntress sighed, deftly slipping the neck of her shirt from the babe’s grasp.
“I’m not too worried about tha-oh! I’ll have to make sure to arrange travel for Tsume. I hope she doesn’t mind going by air again. Or should I leave her here? I’d hate to leave her, but we’d make faster time.” She continued to chatter as if not really expecting a response, but needing to hear her own voice.
With Mirrase laid carefully in her crib, wiggling and cooing contentedly, the druid turned to his chattering mate and held out his arms for their son, grinning with soft amusement as she handed him over without breaking stride in her monologue. When the boy was laid beside his sister, equally content and twice as sleepy as his twin, he stepped up behind Nysse and wrapped his arms around her waist.
“I love you,” he said softly, holding her just tightly enough to force her to be still. “I think it’s your turn to take a breath, my lovely. I know. I don’t want to leave them, either. I wouldn’t think less of you if you changed your mind and stayed.”
Nysse laid her head back on his shoulder. “I love you, too, Rhese.” She took a long, trembling breath and twisted in his arms to bury her face against his shoulder. “But as much as I hate to leave them, I’d go insane worrying about you and Rhoelyn. It would tear me apart…”
“Oh, Rhese… I’m terrified, but I can’t leave you. I need to stay by your side.” Her sniffle was muffled against his shoulder. “And I’m sure Rhoe wouldn’t want to leave either…” She slid her arms around him, her hands clinging to his back.
The young druid held his mate tightly, resting his cheek against the top of her head. “I know, Nysse. We’re strongest together; isn’t that what we said all those years ago? And look what we’ve endured since Grizzly Hills.” He gripped her as desperately as she gripped him, and he finally said softly. “We’ll go and fight. And we’ll come back like we always do, this time with our sister in tow. We can’t let our family down, now.”
Rhese kissed Nysse’s temple. “Come on, lovely. I’m going to need your help to get into that armor, I think. And the twins won’t give us much time to work.”
The huntress nodded, quickly freeing her hands to wipe her eyes. “Yes, you’re right. They have a knack for timing. Put on what you can, and I’ll gather the bag.”
She raised on her toes to give him a tender kiss before she stepped back and hurried to the bag, gathering what the twins would need. The twins rested obliviously nearby as their father passed by.
Nysse waited for his call from the other room before pausing and hurrying to him. She chuckled at his undone straps. “I’m starting to think I’ve spoiled you, beloved. How did you ever manage your armor before me?”
Rhese was too somber for more than a loving smile when he rested a fond hand on her shoulder, and she set to work on his behalf. “You know, I don’t even remember, any more. That was a different life, my lovely.”