Araatris: Rhese dreams of the Hunt, fever coursing through him. He runs through the forest, wild and vicious and burning, his eyes filled with moonlight.
Rhoelyn: Nysse lays exhausted next to Rhese. She doesn’t stir when Rhese shifts, his feline form twitching as if running nor does she wake at his growl.
Araatris: Rhese’s golden eyes snap open, and he slips lithely to his paws.
Rhoelyn: He leans down and sniffs Nysse. Satisfied, Rhese pads silently around the perimeter before heading into the woods. Nysse turns restlessly.
Araatris: Tsume watches his silver tail disappear into the shadows, wuffing softly as if to ask him what he’s doing. She looks back at Nysse, waiting.
Rhoelyn: It’s about an hour later that Rhese brings several rabbits back to the campsite. He drops them by Nysse expectantly. Rhese warbles and nuzzles her.
Araatris: Nysse grumbles and reaches up to put a hand on his nose, mumbling, “Tsume, it’s still d-” She bolts up, recalling the moment. “Rhese!”
Rhoelyn: Rhese nudges his kill forward. Nysse stares in confusion between Rhese and the dead rabbits, “You went hunting? You’re supposed to be resting!”
Araatris: He just stares at her with luminous eyes. Nysse shivers, only half from the cold. She can see the great cat in him, but she can’t see Rhese.
Rhoelyn: Nysse reaches out and caresses the familiar tattoo covering his shoulder. “Rhese, can you understand me? I need you to shift back to a night elf.”
Araatris: The cat watches her for a long moment, and Nysse waits, forcing herself to be patient. He pads closer, rubbing his cheek against her shoulder.
Rhoelyn: Her voice betrays her frustration, “It’s like there’s no Rhese there, but I know you’re just sick and confused.” She wraps her arm around him.
Araatris: He mewls at her, glancing back at his catch. When she doesn’t respond as he wants, he nips at the armor on her shoulder and shifts. “… gift.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese points towards the rabbits. Nysse lips curve into a slight smile, “And I appreciate the gift, but I’m more worried about you. You’re sick.”
Araatris: He slowly processes that, reaching for her hand. “Sick? Right… Food and rest. I promised you… I rested, didn’t I? I had a nice dream.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse squeezes his hand, “You did for a bit, but then you went hunting as a cat. I don’t think you were dreaming. Do you remember that?”
Araatris: Rhese rubs his head with a frown, settling down beside her. “Not… exactly? I feel blurry. I wanted… something. The need was burning me.”
Rhoelyn: She frowns in concern, “I’m not sure what you needed, but we have rabbits you brought. After we eat, let’s head back to Amberpine lodge.”
Araatris: Glancing over at where the captured artifact hangs from a decaying tangle of vines, he nods. “Yes. Right. We should take it back to the others.”
Rhoelyn: “I’ll get the rabbits ready to put in the pot. Are you hungry?” Nysse tosses one of the rabbits to Tsume, then draws her knife for the other two.
Araatris: Rhese gathers up her still-warm blanket and wraps it around himself, shivering. “I think I can eat a bit.” He glances up. “Dawn is coming.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse adds another branch to the fire as she prepares the rabbits, “Yes, make sure to dress warmly. I’d prefer if you didn’t shift for now.”
Araatris: He scoots over closer to her, watching her work. “Why not?” She frowns, concentrating on the rabbits. “You seemed a little… lost in it.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse continues, “I think it’s because you’re sick, so it’s only until you’re better.” Rhese frowns, “I did fine when we were in the valley.”
Araatris: She finally looks over at him, her busy knife pausing. “You were much worse after the valley, Rhese. Don’t you remember waking up, last night?”
Rhoelyn: Rhese’s brow creases. After several moments, he sighs and asks, “Was it bad? I don’t remember anything other than some pleasant dreams.”
Araatris: “It wasn’t all bad.” Nysse grins, blushing slightly. “Even so, would you please not shift? I don’t want to risk anything happening to you.”
Rhoelyn: He raises an eyebrow at the cryptic response, but smiles and nods, “As you wish, lovely.” Nysse thanks him as she finishes with the rabbits.
Araatris: After watching her cook for a bit, Rhese sighs and leans back to look up at the brightening sky. “We have a long walk back ahead of us.”
Rhoelyn: “It will be. If I can do anything to make it easier on you, I’ll try.” Nysse stirs the pot. Tsume wanders over and curls against Rhese’s side.
Araatris: He yawns and rests an arm across his aching head even as he lays his other hand on Tsume’s warm fur. “I remember being sick as a child, once.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse eyes widen, “Once? I wish I’d only been sick once.” She turns and watches Rhese curiously, “What do you remember about the illness?”
Araatris: Rhese coughs before answering. “I remember Rhoe was frantic. She wouldn’t let me sleep. She stayed awake every night, holding my arm.”
Rhoelyn: “It’s so sweet how much she adores you,” Nysse smiles gently. “What about you? Were you scared?” She retrieves two bowls and fills them.
Araatris: “No.” He smiles lazily under his folded arm. “It got me a lot of attention and fawning. That was soon enough after mother left that I loved it.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse hands Rhese a bowl, “Food’s ready.” She chews her lower lip, “Would it be too personal to ask why your mother left?” She tilts her head.
Araatris: He takes the bowl, chuckling softly, and reaches for her with his free hand. “After all the ways that we’ve ‘shared’ in the past few (c)
Araatris: (c) months, -this- is the one that’s too personal?” He grins and presses a warm kiss against the corner of her mouth.
Rhoelyn: Nysse blushes furiously, “I don’t like to pry, beloved.” She continues obliviously, “You talk very little about your parents, but I don’t know why.”
Araatris: Rhese brushes her cheek before turning to his food. “There’s little to tell. We’ve never known our father. I assume we have one.” He smirks.
Rhoelyn: “My father cared for me since mother was busy. He bred wolves, so I was always surrounded by them.” She smiles shyly, “What about your mother?”
Araatris: “Mother left after a few years,” he mumbles around a mouthful of food. “We always knew she would go. She loved us, but she was missing something.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse finally takes a bite of her cooled stew. “Do you know if she found it? I’m not sure I could leave. I worry enough about the wolf cubs.”
Araatris: Rhese regards her warmly. “No. I can’t imagine you would ever abandon your cubs. And no. I’ve no idea if she ever found it. She never returned.”
Rhoelyn: She takes a few more bites, “All the better that she had twins. Elune knew you’d need each other.” Nysse smiles and quietly works on her bowl.
Araatris: He smiles and sets his half-finished bowl down. “Maybe she did. Until you, Rhoe was the only person who was -mine-. Family.” Rhese coughs, blushing.
Rhoelyn: Nysse hides her red cheeks as she eats, “I’m glad I have both of you.” She pauses, “Before you, I didn’t realize that anything was missing.”
Araatris: Rhese leans forward, kissing her cheek with a playful grin. “You just really wanted a second pet, hm?”
Rhoelyn: Nysse laughs, “Yes, but I discovered that he’s too wild to train.” She glances at his bowl, “Are you done eating?” She starts cleaning her own.
Araatris: He pushes his bowl at her. “Yes. Maybe you should have the rest.” With a yawn, he pushes to his feet, dragging the bedroll with him.
Rhoelyn: Nysse groans, “I couldn’t eat any more. Tsume!” She pushes the bowl towards her. Standing and stretching, Nysse begins to close up camp.
Araatris: Rhese trades his blanket for the fur-lined jacket he keeps in his pack. As he’s stowing the bed rolls, he pauses to let a wave of dizziness pass.
Rhoelyn: Nysse keeps a sharp eye on Rhese, but doesn’t say anything. She finishes packing up the camp and puts out the campfire. She picks up her bag.
Araatris: Rhese stands with his hands on his hips, frowning at the vine-wrapped thing he grabbed from the glade. “It’s rotting the vines through the ward.”
Rhoelyn: “Do you think it’s safe to carry?” Nysse walks over to join him. Tsume wanders between them. Rhese sighs, “I’ll have to make it safe.“
Araatris: He kneels and reaches into the sickened land, calling a fresh set of vines to wrap around the artifact. His healing magic weaves into the new ward.
Rhoelyn: Rhese picks it up. She holds out the empty bag again, “Let’s keep it in the spare pack.” After dropping it in, they begin their long walk.
Araatris: They trudge through the snowy forest for hours, Tsume ranging ahead. Nysse pulls her cloak tight against the biting cold, watching Rhese carefully.
Rhoelyn: Nysse watches as Rhese wavers and she quickly reaches out to steady him. “Do you need to rest?” Tsume wulfs and circles back to check on them.
Araatris: She doesn’t have to touch him to know his fever is up, again. He looks pale and worn, patting Tsume as she shoves her nose under his hand.
Rhoelyn: Nysse looks around, “We have to stop.” She spies a smaller hollow against a hill. “There.” Despite his protests, she supports him on the way.
Araatris: Rhese grumbles, coughing, even as he sets his packs on the ground. “We’re never going to get back if I can’t walk for more than a few hours.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse sighs, “We’re low on options. I can’t carry you, but I can try to make a rough sled if the wood is sturdy here. Tsume could pull you.”
Araatris: He blinks, looking horrified at the idea. “I’ll walk,” he states firmly. “I’m not letting you and Tsume cart me around like a hunting trophy.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse grins mischievously, “But I found you on one of my hunts. Doesn’t that count?” She sits down next to him and leans over to kiss his cheek.
Araatris: Rhese grins weakly and takes her cold hand. “No. I’ll definitely walk. And I thought I found you on my hunt.” He coughs and rests his head back.
Rhoelyn: She hunts in her bag one hand and pulls out a small packet of herbs and a ration bar. She places them in his hand, “It should help your fever.”
Araatris: “Thank you, lovely.” The druid munches on the herbs, making a face at their bitter flavor. After that and a few bites of food, he rests again.
Rhoelyn: Nysse pulls her cloak over both of them and leans back as well. Lines of exhaustion and worry line her face as she closes her eyes and rests.
Araatris: Rhese pulls her head against his shoulder, shifting so that she can rest comfortably. He struggles to keep his eyes open, reluctant to sleep.
Rhoelyn: She mumbles sleepily and settles in. Her hand lightly clasping his. Mid day has passed by the time she raises her head and blinks blearily.
Araatris: The first thing she notices is the weight of Rhese’s head on her lap. She glances down, brushing his hair back and checking his temperature.
Rhoelyn: She freezes as she sees blood staining his face. Nysse looks about, but there’s no other creatures nearby. Tsume sleeps on her other side.
Araatris: Rhese mutters something unintelligible, stirring slightly as she gently wipes at the blood. He curls his fingers like claws against her leg.
Rhoelyn: Nysse talks under her breath, “Seems that sleeping isn’t in my future. At least I know he’s not starving.” She leans down, “Rhese, wake up.”
Araatris: At the sound of her voice, his lips curl up in a sleepy grin. He shifts to his back and reaches for her face, opening his eyes just a crack.
Rhoelyn: She can’t help but smile affectionately at him as his fingers brush her cheek. “We have to head out again.” She inquires, “Did you rest well?”
Araatris: “Yes,” he says softly, stretching. “I tried to stay awake. Apparently, I failed.” He doesn’t move from her lap, looking up at her. “You?”
Rhoelyn: Nysse nods, “I slept fine, but longer than I expected.” She glances up, “Let’s see if we can get to that rocky overhang tonight. Are you ready?”
Araatris: “Yes.” With a little groan, he rolls over and pushes himself up. Rhese pauses there a moment, hanging his head, before getting to his feet.
Rhoelyn: “Are you alright?” Nysse rubs her legs to get the blood flowing before standing. She whistles and Tsume raises her head, “You too, Tsume.”
Araatris: “Just a little dizzy and achy.” He smirks at her, straightening his jacket. “Don’t get your hopes up, my huntress. I’m still going to walk.”
Rhoelyn: “You’re also still being stubborn.” Nysse snorts and walks over to the packs. She begins moving things from Rhese’s pack to hers. “So am I.”
Araatris: Rhese watches her, amused. “You? Never. I am beside myself with shock.” He steps up to her… and suddenly he gasps, yanking her toward him.
Rhoelyn: Nysse tumbles into him with a sharp breath. “Rhese, what in the world are you doing?” She twists in his grip to look behind her… to see nothing.
Araatris: Rhese pulls her behind him as he stares at where a vicious-looking purple-black thorn the size of a small dagger has erupted by the packs.
Rhoelyn: Nysse hisses as puts weight on one leg. She leans down behind Rhese to look at her calf. The fabric is torn revealing a long gash oozing blood.
Araatris: The druid growls. “Stay back, Nysse.” He whirls around toward the artifact, kneeling even as a few more of the thorns shoot out around them.
Rhoelyn: Tsume hops around avoiding them, but Nysse stumbles as she steps away from another shots up by them. She falls back onto her butt with a curse.
Araatris: Rhese’s hand is on the ground, his glare fixed on the artifact, barely wrapped still in decaying vines. Magic hums around him erratically.
Rhoelyn: Nysse shifts to one knee with a grunt, then draws her dagger. The thorns grow rapidly into long tendrils. She hacks at the closer ones.
Araatris: The tendrils grow aggressively at first and then slow until they are halted, shuddering. Rhese grits his teeth. “G-get it off the ground.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse runs towards the artifact, yanking her cloak off as she goes. She tosses it over the artifact and bundles it before picking it up. “Got it!”
Araatris: There’s a slight resistance as Nysse picks up the artifact, but as soon as it fades, the thorny tendrils retreat back into the ground.
Rhoelyn: Nysse limps over to Rhese, “This has trouble written all over it. Do you want me to put it in the bag again?” She gestures towards the packs.
Araatris: “No. I have to try to ward it. Again.” He stands slowly, frowning as he takes the cloak-wrapped bundle. “But first, let me look at your leg.”
Rhoelyn: “It’s not that bad. I can just bandage it up.” Nysse sighs at the stubborn set of Rhese’s jaw. “I’ll sit down.” She moves to sit in the shelter.
Araatris: Rhese beckons a few vines up from the ground, creating a resting place for the artifact to free his hands, and comes over to her, kneeling.
Rhoelyn: He frowns as he looks at the gash. He growls softly as he presses around the wound. It’s deeper at the top and a black substance oozes out.
Araatris: Nysse hisses as his touch sends burning pain up her leg. “It’s poison.” Rhese nods gravely and rests his fingers beside the wound, whispering.
Rhoelyn: After a few moments, the black substance fades leaving a healthy wound. Rhese sighs, “You can’t wrap every wound. Sometimes you need healing.”
Araatris: He brushes her calf, settling healing magic there, before standing. “Stay warm.” Shrugging off his jacket, Rhese drapes it around her shoulders.
Rhoelyn: Nysse tugs the jacket tighter around her slight frame. The wound closes and slowly fades as Rhese creates a new set of wards on the artifact.
Araatris: With it secured, he suspends it once more, reclaiming Nysse’s cloak. He examines it carefully before offering it back to her. “How do you feel?”
Rhoelyn: Nysse smiles, “I’m feeling much better thanks to you. I really should be asking you that. How do you feel?” She trades the jacket for her cloak.
Araatris: Rhese pulls a face, helping her straighten her cloak. “I’m tired. Again. And I think I’d better ask Verune for more boring warding lessons.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse stands, “I’ll remind you at the same time I repair these pants. I know you’re tired, but we need to go.” She picks up her heavier satchel.
Araatris: “Agreed.” He slips his jacket on and grabs the artifact and his pack. Once he’s all ready, he turns to Nysse. “Let’s make it back to the overhang.”
Rhoelyn: Dusk is falling when they arrive. Nysse supports an exhausted Rhese with an arm around his torso. “We’re here, Rhese. You can rest now.”
Araatris: He nods wordlessly and summons up the magic to create another place to hang the artifact. And then he leans his forehead against the cold rock.
Rhoelyn: Nysse works silently to set up camp. She lays out his bedroll next to his fire and guides him to it. She gives him her blanket and some rations.
Araatris: “Nysse,” he mumbles, tugging her hand when she would have turned away. “You’re cold. Your hands are like ice.” He wraps his hands around hers.
Rhoelyn: She shivers slightly as if finally paying attention. Nysse kneels next to him and nods, “I -am- cold, but we have a fire so I’ll warm up quickly.”
Araatris: He nods, but doesn’t let go of her hands. The food she gave him lays forgotten on the blanket. “You should go on without me, tomorrow.”
Rhoelyn: She frowns and replies sharply, “I’m not leaving you, Rhese. If our roles were reversed, you’d say the same. Why would you even think that?”
Araatris: He sighs, sitting up and reaching for her. “Nysse, I know you hate the idea, but you must think about it. We’re two nights from the full moon.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse shifts and leans against him as he pulls her closer. “That doesn’t matter. We should be able to make it if we push a little harder.”
Araatris: Rhese tiredly rests his cheek on the top of her head. “Remember what the reports said? The corruption always expanded faster during a full moon.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse shifts uneasily, “If I leave you, you’ll be caught in it. I won’t be able to make it back in time…” She reaches out to take his hand.
Araatris: He rubs his thumb across the calluses on her palm. “If you don’t go, there’s no chance of getting that thing back to be contained. I’m too slow.”
Rhoelyn: “No chance you’d agree to the sled now, is there?” Nysse sighs when she feels him shake his head. “Then please let Tsume stay with you.”
Araatris: Rhese considers that, but finally nods. “Alright, my lovely. But you move fast and avoid any fight you don’t have to fight.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse looks up, “I don’t plan on slowing down. I’ll be careful.” She studies his face, “If I push I may be able to make it back in three days.”
Araatris: He nods, brushing her hair back. “I’ll put everything I can into fresh wards in the morning. They should last. But if it breaks through…”
Rhoelyn: “I’ll keep moving.” Nysse’s brow furrows, “If you were me, you’d figure something out instead of leaving me.” She groans in frustration.
**Araatris :** Rhese smiles fondly. “I’ve never claimed to be smarter than I am stubborn, lovely. You are. I don’t want to make you go alone, either.”
Rhoelyn: “I know.” Nysse’s cheeks redden, “May I stay next to you tonight? I know we’re on an assignment, but…” She glances down at their hands.
Araatris: He nods and presses a kiss against her cheek. “I’d appreciate it.” His smirk is wry as he coughs and adds, “I have plenty of warmth to share.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse snorts, “I’ve noticed. I have more of those herbs I meant to give you, but I was distracted.” She leans away and pulls her bag closer.
Araatris: When she turns back, Rhese trades her for the rations she gave him. She frowns at him, but he turns his attention away as he chews the herbs.
Rhoelyn: Nysse sighs and stares at the rations. Her own stomach roils at the idea of eating it, so she shoves it back into her bag. “Let’s go to sleep.”
Araatris: “Anything my lady wishes.” Rhese helps Nysse settle in next to him, yawning. It’s only a few minutes later that his breath is slow and even.
Rhoelyn: Nysse is restless as the thought of leaving twists and turns in her mind. Her lips move in silent prayers to Elune and she hugs Rhese tighter.
Araatris: Rhese dreams of the Hunt, fever coursing through him. He runs through the forest, wild and vicious and burning, his eyes filled with moonlight.