Rhoelyn: Rhese hovers behind a rock watching another naga patrol with a trail of prisoners. There were no more caves to check in this particular area.
Araatris: He scans through the prisoners, some in bubbles and some clearly not, noting with interest that the swimmers still seem able to breathe freely.
Rhoelyn: Following at a distance, he darts after them. The prisoners are split into two groups, bubbled and not. Bubbled prisoners are led into a cave.
Araatris: Darting from coral to rock to shell, Rhese follows the bubbled captives, trying to stay out of sight. They’re dragged roughly from the water.
Rhoelyn: “Ssswallow the pearl, human, or we’ll let you drown.” The druid catches a glimpse of a female naga with guards handing a small pearl to each.
Araatris: He pulls himself from the water, slinking through the shadows with feline stealth to get closer. A couple of the prisoners resist, objecting.
Rhoelyn: Those that resist have their heads shoved into a barrel by the guards. When they come up for air, the naga comments, “Pearl letsss you breathe.”
Araatris: Rhese narrows his eyes, watching as the last holdouts get pearls stuffed down their throats. He waits while they’re led back into the water.
Rhoelyn: He waits until the captives and naga leave before slipping over to the chest, he grabs two pearls. He takes one as he slips the other into a pocket.
Araatris: Pleased, Rhese slips back into the water, shifting to try to catch up with the naga. As the seal darts off, Kreston slips into the cave.
Rhoelyn: The human grabs four pearls, shoving them into a pocket. Just as quickly he’s swimming in the opposite direction of the seal, neither the wiser.
Araatris: The night elves are both sleeping soundly when he slips back into the cave, so Kreston sits by the fire to dry, helping himself to leftover fish.
Rhoelyn: Nysse is the first to stir. She mumbles softly, “Kreston?” The huntress leans up on her elbow, “Did everything go well?” Kreston nods, “Success.”
Araatris: He grins and produces one of the pearls from his pocket, offering it to her. “I got enough for you both and your husbands. They’ll never notice.”
Rhoelyn: She blushes as she takes it, “Mate. We’ve not made it offi–.” Nysse stops mid-word. “Husbands.” Her gaze swings to Faye. “They’re together?”
Araatris: He blinks. “I got that impression, at least. You didn’t?” Nysse sits up, blushing more as she thinks back over Faye’s comments and expressions.
Rhoelyn: “I didn’t realize, but it makes so much more sense now…” The huntress groans, “I’m oblivious. Now finding Nithan is even more important.”
Araatris: The man gives her an odd look. “He was less important when you didn’t realize she loved him?” Nysse groans and covers her face.
Rhoelyn: She draws her knees up to her chest and manages to whisper weakly, “I didn’t mean it like that. I understand teammates, but mates are different.”
Araatris: “I’ll take your word for it,” he says with a droll look. “I’ve never had a mate, just crewmates I’d give my life for. And a stranger who freed me.”
Rhoelyn: What he can see of her face is crimson. “I never said anyone wasn’t important!” She scrubs her eyes and stands, “I’ll look for Nithan myself!”
Araatris: “What about Nithan?” Faye blinks sleepily at them both, shoving herself to sitting. She wakes quickly. “You found him? Did you get the pearls?”
Rhoelyn: Nysse freezes, still flushed. Kreston ignores her to answer Faye with a smile, “I got enough pearls for everyone, but I didn’t see Nithan.”
Araatris: The other woman nods, summoning a smile. “It is a great start, however. Thank you for taking that risk, Kreston.” She looks between them.
Rhoelyn: Nysse shifts uncomfortably, “Sorry. We should drink and eat before we go.” She turns away from them and starts fiddling with the still and water.
Araatris: Kreston grabs the net, heading back to the water. “I’ll get us a few more fish.” He dives in, leaving the two of them alone. Faye watches Nysse.
Rhoelyn: “Do you want to tell me, Nysse?” Faye finally asks. Nysse sighs, still focused, “I said something stupid and now I don’t know what to do.”
Araatris: The sentinel tilts her head, smiling gently. “Generally, it’s customary to simply apologize and move on. We all have moments of stupidity.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse pauses, blushing again. “Yes, you’re right. Umm, Kreston mentioned it, but are you and Nithan… it doesn’t bother me. I’m just curious.”
Araatris: Faye blushes a bit at the question. “I… Yes. We care for each other. He is very important to me.” She watches Nysse for her reaction warily.
Rhoelyn: The huntress smiles, “I’m glad. That reminds me, I hope Wrune will tell Calinea how he feels some day. Human. Draenei. It shouldn’t matter, right?”
Araatris: The other woman smiles at Nysse. “Perhaps it should not matter, but we have found that it all-too-often does. Thank you for understanding.”
Rhoelyn: “Of course. And I understand how important Kreston’s crew is to him. I want to rescue everyone I can.” Nysse flinches as the net falls beside her.
Araatris: “Then we agree.” The human smiles at her and claps a hand on her shoulder. “Let’s eat, get something to drink, and do some scouting.”
Rhoelyn: As Nysse mumbles her shy apologies to Kreston, Rhese peeks his head above the water. Several prisoners are held in a cage against the cave wall.
Araatris: He scans the prisoners for a specific beloved face, but the cage is too crowded to see everyone from the water. So he slips quietly onto the sand.
Rhoelyn: Rhese glances around for naga before stepping closer to the cage. A few press closer to the bars upon seeing him and beg, “Please! Help us!”
Araatris: The druid shushes them urgently, whispering. “I will. I’ll help you all out of here. But you’ve got to be patient. And quiet! You’ll give me away.”
Rhoelyn: A man with short blond hair commands them softly, and they quiet down. With a few gestures, they settle like they were, leaving him facing Rhese.
Araatris: The night elf looks him over, noting the tattered robes he wears. He puts his hand on the cage bar. “I’m Rhese. I’ve been scouting all the caves.”
Rhoelyn: “May Elune watch over you, friend.” Nithan smiles knowingly, “I’m Nithan. How may I help your search? Is there someone you’re looking for?”
Araatris: Rhese nods with a sheepish grin. “Am I that transparent? Nyssera was on the Stormdancer with me. Green hair. About this tall.” He gestures.
Rhoelyn: Nithan pats his hand, “I am familiar with the look.” His expression shifts to regret. “I have met ones that meet the description, but not the name.”
Araatris: “I understand. Thank you, Nithan.” He looks around, checking for a patrol. “I’ve counted four caves like this one. Why are they holding you?”
Rhoelyn: He frowns, “They’re having us dig for something. They don’t name it, but speak with reverence. I don’t think we’re at risk unless they find it.”
Araatris: “Do you have any sense of whether you’re close to finding it or not?” Rhese asks quietly. The human shakes his head. “No idea at all.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese sighs, “It’s like a ticking bom–.” The water stirs and Rhese backs into the shadows quickly. Then, he slides silently into the water.
Araatris: As a sleek seal, he dashes around the coral, slipping past the approaching guards. Kreston flattens against the rock, wondering what he saw.
Rhoelyn: Kreston waits until the next batch of prisoners are taken out before swimming in. He grins in relief seeing Nithan. “Nithan!” He whispers urgently.
Araatris: Nysse slips from the water behind him as the priest smiles at the other man. “You made it,” he says happily. “Did you send the night elf?”
Rhoelyn: Kreston shakes his head, “No, I just have Nysse and Faye.” Nysse whispers hopefully as she grabs the bars of the cage, “Another night elf?”
Araatris: The priest nods, “He said he’s working on a plan to free every… one…” He drifts off, finally looking at Nysse closely. “Nysse? As in… Nyssera?”
Rhoelyn: The huntress nods frantically, “You saw Rhese?” Her knuckles are white on the bars. Kreston smiles, “I’ll send Faye in and go keep watch myself.”
Araatris: Nithan’s attention is on Nysse, and he nods. “Yes. Rhese was here before the guards came. He’s searching for you. Light! You just missed him.”
Rhoelyn: She rests her forehead against the bar, “He’s alive. That’s all that matters. Thank you.” Faye steps out of the water and hurries to Nithan.
Araatris: “Faye!” Nithan is instantly and thoroughly distracted from Nysse, taking the other woman’s hand through the bars. “Your arm, darling…”
Rhoelyn: Faye grips his hand tightly, “Nysse set it for me. I broke it fighting the naga.” Nithan speaks softly and his hand glows as he lays it on her arm.
Araatris: The magic settles in, knitting the bone, but the cage bars glow with reaction, zapping him. He staggers back with a very unpriestly curse.
Rhoelyn: Nysse mirrors the action, rubbing at her forehead. Nithan grumbles, “I’m fine. It’s just a safety to make sure we don’t use magic to break out.”
Araatris: Faye frowns, unwrapping the splint from her arm. “Then we will need to use brute force to get you out.” Nithan shakes his head. “Not yet.”
Rhoelyn: She attempts to protest when Nysse interjects, “He’s right. Freeing him means freeing everyone, and we don’t have a plan for that yet.”
Araatris: “Exactly.” Nithan nods, reaching back through the bars for Faye’s hand. “Rhese told me that there were at least four other caves of slave cages.”
Rhoelyn: The sentinel nods reluctantly, “We’ll come back for you.” She pulls his hand to her cheek. Nysse purposely looks away to check for patrols.
Araatris: “I know you will, Faye. We’ll be waiting until the time is right.” With obvious reluctance on both their parts, they release each other.
Rhoelyn: Kreston breaks above the water waving. Nysse nods and puts her hand on Faye’s shoulder, “We have to go. We’ll find a place for everyone.”
Araatris: The three of them hurry back into the water and out into the coral, taking shelter just in time as a quintet of guards swims into the cave.
Rhoelyn: Across the compound, Rhese sighs in frustration as he breaks the water’s surface in another empty cave, “Where are you hiding, Nysse?”
Araatris: He quickly flips about, frustration adding some speed to his dive as he heads down to another cave he spotted lower on the rock face.
Rhoelyn: This cave has signs that someone has been there fairly recently. He steps onto the sand, noting the firepit, fishbones, and makeshift still.
Araatris: Rhese smiles, brushing a hand gently on the still. Even without the cat’s form, the whole space smells like Nysse. He breathes a sigh of relief.
Rhoelyn: His gaze drifts to a drawing in the sand, his tattoo. He chuckles and lingers for a long moment before leaving the cave. He pauses at the entrance.
Araatris: Looking out through the water, Rhese ponders which way they might have gone, flipping his tail idly until the moment a shadow falls across him.
Rhoelyn: A large naga swims over him, but seems to be focused on something else as it gestures for other nearby naga to follow her to another cave.
Araatris: The druid lets the seal’s instinct lead him to dart away to shelter before he peeks his nose out and begins trailing the naga, suspicious.
Rhoelyn: The naga enter a cave full of rocky tables with sand on top. The female bows before the male waiting for them, “I have brought them, Kalisss.”
Araatris: As Rhese watches from the scant cover, the male naga turns, his oddly tattooed body catching the light. “Exsssellent. Plassssse them here.”
Rhoelyn: Ebony, glistening eggs are placed on each of the tables and sand heaped around them. He continues, “How many more ssstill need to be found?”
Araatris: Keeping her gaze averted, the female answers, “If the legendsss are accurate, three remain to be ssssecured before we have all of them.”
Rhoelyn: He smiles, “That pleasses me, Anari. Perhapsss you have a plassse caring after our new children.” Kalis turns to an altar hidden in the back wall.
Araatris: The naga raises his arms to the effigy there, dark magic dancing around him. Rhese swims closer, trying to make out the oddly indistinct figure.
Rhoelyn: The image blurs, but he gets the impression of an eyeless, amorphous shape surrounded by tentacles. It causes his stomach to shift uneasily.
Araatris: Before he can do more than cringe in revulsion, the naga priest spins, his gaze piercing straight to Rhese’s hiding place as his magic flares.
Rhoelyn: The priest’s magic washes over Rhese and he grabs his head with a pained grunt. “Anari, would you mind essscorting our guessst to me?”
Araatris: The druid strains to move, shift, run -anything!-, but the spell holds his mind floating, disconnected as she grabs his arm and pulls him forward.
Rhoelyn: “What isss your name, elf?” The word rattle within his skull like thunder. He resists, but the words slip from his lips, “Rhese Silverwing.”
Araatris: “Rhessse Ssssilverwing.” His name on the priest’s tongue has him crying out in pain. Anari’s grip on his arm is all that keeps him on his feet.
Rhoelyn: Rhese understands why the naga averted her gaze as Kalis approaches. Focusing on him was no different than the statue. “Why are you here, Rhessse?”
Araatris: “To… to learn what you’re doing with the prisoners.” No amount of resistance keeps the words from his lips, and he can’t tear his gaze from Kalis.
Rhoelyn: Kalis grabs Rhese’s chin and leans down to stare into his eyes, “There isss sssomething you hide. What isss it? Were you sssent here?”
Araatris: The druid gasps, shaking from the strain of trying to resist. “No. Not sent. But I am h- hiding… hiding N-Ny-… no… n-nothing!” The priest growls.
Rhoelyn: The naga’s claws press into his cheek, “What do you hide?” He smiles, a gruesome visage of sharp teeth. He chants again, gathering his magic.
Araatris: Rhese cries out in defiance, managing to lift his hands and pull at the priest’s wrist. “Nothing!” He repeats the word over and over.
Rhoelyn: The naga frowns, “Perhapsss we ssshould make an offering of thisss one. He doesss not dessserve the honor of ssseeking the old one. Take him.”
Araatris: Kalis releases him as two guards grab his arms, and Rhese finds himself free of the spell. He Shifts out of their grips, sprinting for the water.
Rhoelyn: Angry shouts fade as Rhese hits the water as a seal. With a burst of adrenaline, he doesn’t look back as he zips between crevices in the coral.
Araatris: The druid barely manages to evade the searchers for a long time, making sure to stay on a path away from the cave he knows Nysse was using.
Rhoelyn: Finally free, Rhese looks around and notices he’s near the prisons again. Three humanoid shadows duck past his hiding place to a prison cave.
Araatris: Nysse slips from the water with Kreston not far behind her, eyes peeled for both naga and a familiar druid. She brushes wet hair away from her eyes.
Rhoelyn: She sighs and Kreston pats her shoulder, “It’s a large area.” The huntress nods, “I know. Let’s focus on making sure everyone’s okay.”
Araatris: He leads the way to the cages, shushing the excited prisoners. Nysse stands closer to the water’s edge when a splash sounds behind her.
Rhoelyn: She turns, only frozen for a moment, as she throws herself into Rhese’s arms, “Rhese!” Her arms loop around his neck and she smiles brightly.
Araatris: “Nysse…” He holds her tightly, stepping back against the cave wall for support, feeling weak-kneed for multiple reasons at once. “My love!”
Rhoelyn: Nysse laughs even as tears well in her eyes, “I was so worried, Rhese.” She raises on her toes and kisses the corner of his mouth. “Are you okay?”
Araatris: He lifts her off her feet, kissing her back. The fresh scratches on his cheek are the only sign of injury. “Cenarius’ beard, I’ve been frantic.”
Rhoelyn: “I’m fine, beloved.” Nysse’s fingers brush the scratches. “I was lucky and some supplies washed up with me–.” Kreston clears his throat.
Araatris: Nysse blushes brightly as they both remember where they are and glance up to find him and a cage full of prisoners watching them. She squirms.
Rhoelyn: “K-kreston. This is–.” Nysse stutters. “Your mate, Rhese, I gather.” Kreston finishes and holds out his hand, “It’ll be good to have more help.”
Araatris: The druid grins and releases Nysse, taking the man’s hand. “I was going to say the same, Kreston. It’s a pleasure.” He glances at the cage.
Rhoelyn: Kreston follows his gaze, “We’re still trying to figure out timing and a safe place.” Nysse nods, “They’d be trapped and crowded in our cave.”
Araatris: Rhese nods. “I have most of a plan. But we need to discuss it somewhere else.” He looks at the prisoners. “We will be back, as I promised.”
Rhoelyn: “Follow me.” Rhese leans down to give Nysse another kiss, “Don’t get lost, lovely.” He grins at her before making a running dive into the pool.
Araatris: Nysse and Kreston follow not far behind, and they gather Faye from her watch along the way. Careful of the naga, they return to the home cave.
Rhoelyn: Tired, Nysse still manages to grab some dry wood and start a fire. Rhese sits and introduces himself to Faye, but he keeps one eye on Nysse.
Araatris: “An island?” Faye exclaims, sharing a pleased look with Kreston. Rhese nods. “It’s not far and has many resources. Survivors are fortifying it.”
Rhoelyn: The huntress sits next to Rhese, “We’ll have to warn them. And it’ll take releasing all the captives at once before the naga can raise their guard.”
Araatris: He nods, claiming her hand. “Including those in the mine itself. I found where it is, but I couldn’t scout inside. It’s heavily guarded.”
Rhoelyn: “That will make it difficult. Is there any time that all prisoners are back in the cages?” Faye gestures at Kreston. “That would help…”
Araatris: The druid shrugs slightly. “I don’t know. I’m going to have to watch the mine for longer.” He smiles at Nysse. “I wanted to keep moving, before.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse smiles shyly. “Do we want to head up to the island and let them know? We can eat and rest before our next steps. We’ll need our strength.”
Araatris: “It’s not a bad idea,” Kreston says, looking around the group. “We can sync up with the other free hands. I still have two pearls, too.”
Rhoelyn: The huntress leans forwards and takes Faye’s hands and squeezes reassuringly before standing. “He’ll be okay. Let’s go.” The rest join her.
Araatris: Faye nods with some reluctance. Rhese hides the still and other signs of their camp at the back of the cave before leading them into the water.
Rhoelyn: By the time they reach the surface, they’re all stumbling on the shore except for Rhese. Nysse forces herself to her feet with a groan, “How far?”
Araatris: Rhese scratches his head. “A… few hours on foot? I spent more time flying than walking, so I’m not sure.” He rests a hand on Nysse’s arm.
Rhoelyn: Nysse nods, “I know we’re all sore and tired. Are you all able to push through?” When the others nod, she gestures for Rhese to proceed, “Lead on.”
Araatris: He smiles. “Anything my lady wishes.” Before walking off, he claims her hand, keeping the pace easy. Nysse grins fondly at his possessive grip.
Rhoelyn: She glances back at the others, but they seem content to walk quietly. Even so, she can feel her head nodding at the end of the second hour.
Araatris: Rhese steadies her as she stumbles during one of the longer times where she drifts off. He glances at the others, who aren’t doing much better.
Rhoelyn: “It’s not much further. I recognize this area. We should be there in a few minutes.” Rhese ignores Nysse’s protests as he lifts her into his arms.
Araatris: Faye gives the two of them an irritated look but says nothing as she follows, yawning. The sun is just setting as a guard challenges them.
Rhoelyn: Rhese nods at the guard, “I’m Rhese Silverwing, friend of Dorian and Aleesa.” The guard lets them pass. Rhese notices Faye’s scowl as he looks back.
Araatris: Turning his back toward the sentinel, he leans down by Nysse’s ear as she drowses. “Lovely, wake up for just a bit. It’s time for introductions.”
Rhoelyn: She nods, “I’ll wake up.” Covering her mouth, she yawns and stands as Rhese sets her on her feet. A draenei and dwarf walk towards them, “Rhese!”
Araatris: The druid smiles and clasps hands with Dorian and Aleesa before gesturing to his companions. He saves the best for last. “And this is Nysse.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse murmurs a shy, “Hello”. She smiles at their greetings. “It’s a pleasure, but our friends are exhausted. May they find a spot to sleep?”
Araatris: “O’course, lass!” Dorian finally finishes clasping her hand, shooting Rhese a huge grin. He waves toward the new shelter they’ve built. “That way.”
Rhoelyn: While Kreston and Faye follow his guidance, Nysse stays. Dorian watches, “If you don’t mind me sayin’, you look rather tired yourself, Nysse.”
Araatris: When the huntress glances up at Rhese, Aleesa grins. “You both look tired, I believe. There will be time to catch up after you have rested.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese smiles and nods, “Good idea. I’m only slightly better.” He tugs Nysse to a corner of the shelter. They settle into the soft bed of moss.
Rhoelyn: He pulls her tightly against him, his hand tangling in her hair. “My sweet, resourceful, intelligent, beautiful Nysse, I thought I’d lost you…”
Araatris: Nysse wraps her arms around him nuzzling into his neck to hide her blush. “All I could think about was you being pulled down with the ship.”
Rhoelyn: “I know, lovely. By the time I got free and could shift, you’d been pulled too far. I searched everywhere…” He kisses the top of her head.
Araatris: She looks up, whispering. “Elune knows, I swam so hard, but I couldn’t reach you.” Tears shine in her eyes. “I c-couldn’t hold my bre-”
Araatris: “Shhh… love, I know. It doesn’t matter,” Rhese interrupts gently, wiping the tears from the corners of her eyes. “We’re safe and together again.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse nods and lays her head against his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Rhese waits until her breathing slows to close his own eyes.
Araatris: The druid resists sleep, gratefully soaking in the familiar warmth of her in his arms and her soft hair under his fingers. Until he drifts off.
Rhoelyn: Rhese hovers behind a rock watching another naga patrol with a trail of prisoners. There were no more caves to check in this particular area.