Araatris Rhoelyn opens her eyes to find herself standing in a nondescript field. Confused, she looks down at her Light-wreathed hand. “Ah. An attack.”
Rhoelyn “An attack…It’s day. Why is it dark?” She holds up her hand to banish the shadows. In the distance, she can hear sobs and alarmed yelling.
Araatris The priestess runs toward the sound, stuck somewhere between acceptance and rejection of the scene. For the moment, she chooses to play along.
Rhoelyn She can make out the voice now. Hoarsely Nysse cries, “Rhese! I’m scared. Please don’t…” Chittering whispers press in from all directions.
Araatris Rhoelyn hurries forward, pulling Light through herself until she shines. Somewhere -beyond-, she can still feel her spell connecting to Nysse.
Rhoelyn The whispers fade for now. On the hill before Rhoelyn, someone is huddled. Other forms hover around tugging and pulling at the central one.
Araatris She shoves into their midst, making them scurry away with pained cries until she kneels by their target, wrapping the Light around her.
Rhoelyn Nysse turns and clings to her sobbing. In the light, Rhoelyn can see fine lacerations covering her arms and legs. “Rhoelyn, I can’t do it…”
Araatris “Shh… I’m here. I’m so sorry, Nysse. I’m here, now.” Holding her tightly, Rhoe presses her forehead to Nysse’s and whispers, “Wake up, now.”
Rhoelyn Nysse closes her eyes and opens them to see Rhoelyn. Her breath catches in the dark shadows, but Rhoe speaks softly, “It’s normal night.”
Araatris She holds Nysse just as in the dream. “I’m here. As is Rhese.” She glances down at a cat-shaped shadow on the floor. “-They- are not.”
Rhoelyn Nodding slowly, Nysse takes a shuddering breath, “It’s quiet for now. Thank you.” She relaxes slowly. “It’s like that every time I sleep.”
Araatris Rhoelyn nods sadly and pulls back to examine her. She whispers, “Forgive me. I thought with my mana restored, I could still protect you if I slept.”
Rhoelyn “You’ve done everything you can and more.” Nysse’s eyes shimmer, “I-.” She chokes, “Sorry. I still need a moment.” She turns on her back.
Araatris The priestess pats her arm comfortingly, saying nothing. The cat glances up, but goes back to pretending to sleep when she shakes her head.
Rhoelyn After a long moment, Nysse speaks, “I was the one who asked to be part of this. I thought I could handle it. I just wanted to sleep, Rhoe.”
Araatris “Nysse, don’t doubt your strength,” she whispers, “Even the mightiest can’t stand alone against -all- odds. But you are not alone. Sleep.”
Rhoelyn “I’m not sure I can.” Nysse shakes her head, “I know you’ll be there, but what if they start getting to you, too? I can’t do that to you.”
Araatris Rhoelyn smiles gently. “Don’t doubt my strength, either, sister. I can protect you and myself… if I pay proper attention.” She looks chagrined.
Rhoelyn Nysse turns to Rhoelyn, “Oh, that didn’t come out right. It’s not your fault.” She smiles tiredly, “I’ll try, alright?” She closes her eyes.
Araatris The priestess nods and pats Nysse before resting her hand on the huntress’ arm. In the darkness, it softly glows as she settles back to wait…
Rhoelyn It’s not until Rhese hears soft even breathing that he sits up and looks over them both. He puts his head gently on the bed near Nysse.
Araatris In time, Rhoelyn rests a hand on her brother’s fur, whispering, “It’s worsening. Quickly. I can shield her, but it takes more and more of me.”
Rhoelyn Rhese shifts back to his night elven form. A worried scowl mars his otherwise handsome features as he rumbles softly, “How long do we have?”
Araatris Thoughtfully regarding Nysse’s sleeping face, she mutters, “Days, perhaps. One or two, not five or six. I’ll have to dedicate all my mana.”
Rhoelyn “Rhoe, I’m asking a lot of you.” He takes and presses his sister’s hand against his forehead. “I’ll go speak with Cal.” He releases her and stands.
Araatris As the first light of dawn starts to brighten the room, Rhoelyn smiles slyly at her twin. “I like her, too, brother. You may keep this one.”
Rhoelyn Rhese’s cheeks flush crimson and he turns quickly, “It seems I have work to do for my lovely.” He strides out quickly to find Calinea.
Araatris It takes a few hours to gather the team and discuss the plan, by which time Nysse has begun to stir. She’s greeted by the smell of herbs.
Rhoelyn She slowly opens her eyes to see a familiar druid. “Rhese?” She smiles sleepily and reaches out to touch his cheek, “What is that smell?”
Araatris “It’s food,” he says with a grin, accepting a plate from Rhoelyn. “I feel like I always end up somehow interrupting your meals. So eat up.”
Rhoelyn Her stomach growls, “Perfect timing it seems.” She sits & takes the plate. “Thank you.” She tries a bite of seasoned fish. “It’s delicious!”
Araatris “Why thank you, my lady. It’s one of my many talents.” He winks and sketches her a bow before turning away to fiddle with some leather scraps.
Rhoelyn Nysse eats heartily and sighs in relief. She watches Rhese peacefully. “What are you working on?” She sets her plate to the side and stands.
Araatris “New greaves,” he mutters, his hands nimble on the leather. “Yet another of my many talents.” He looks smug. “You might want to make a list.”
Rhoelyn She grins, “I’ll just let you remind me.” After a moment, she furrows her brow and rubs her forehead. “I should go report to Ysiel.”
Araatris “In a while, maybe,” Rhese sets down his work and looks over. His gaze is intense as he looks her up and down, taking in her sleep-tousled appearance.
Rhoelyn Nysse shakes her head, “What else did you have in mind?” She raises an eyebrow, “ You know I really should have seen Ysiel yesterday.”
Araatris With a playful grin, he gets up and smooths back an errant lock of hair from her temple. “You’ve got an assignment.”
Rhoelyn Blushing, Nysse laughs, “I see. What assignment is that? And why do you have that look on your face?” She attempts to look serious and fails.
Araatris The druid takes her hand, tugging her to her feet. “You look like you slept well, lovely. And it’s very hard not to appreciate the view.”
Rhoelyn Nysse turns fully crimson, “Rhese!” He tugs her towards the door, “Come with me. I want to show you something.” She smiles and follows.
Araatris Once outside, Rhese slows the pace to a leisurely stroll, leading her down the Refuge’s main thoroughfare and along the path beside the moonwell.
Rhoelyn Rhoelyn follows several steps behind and holds her glowing hands against her chest. Nysse gazes at Rhese. “You’re full of surprises today.”
Araatris He leads toward where the foothills climb away from the marsh. “I had time to plan while someone was resting.” Sobering a bit, he adds, “And it’s been a tough few days.”
Rhoelyn Nysse nods, “I can’t disagree. I needed that rest and a good meal.” She squeezes his hand, “I was starting to forget what they felt like.”
Araatris Giving her hand a squeeze back, he nods. “Today, let’s remember and relax.” He conveniently fails to mention tomorrow… or their necessary straggler.
Rhoelyn Nysse smiles, but she stops suddenly with a stunned look, “Rhese! I left Tsume in Moonglade. I can’t believe that I forgot about her.”
Araatris Rhese pauses for a moment, then pulls a face. “Just… hold that thought,” he growls in good-natured annoyance as he tugs her around a small hill.
Rhoelyn A familiar wolf is laying and chewing on a bone in a small stable. “Tsume!” Nysse shouts. The wolf scrambles to her feet and runs to Nysse.
Araatris Nysse laughs and fends off the most intrusive of Tsume’s licks as the wolf leaps up happily. It’s a contagious joy, and Rhese smiles to watch them.
Rhoelyn “Thank you so much!” Nysse buries her face in Tsume’s fur and hugs her tight. She looks up, “How did you manage to get her here so quickly?”
Araatris “I can’t really take the credit,” he says. “After she woke up to you gone, she was frantic. Verune sent her here to be among people she knew.”
Rhoelyn Nysse grins, “I’ll have to thank him.” She ruffles Tsume’s ears and stands up. “I can see she was cared for.” Tsume sits and wags her tail.
Araatris Rhese comes over and lets Tsume sniff his hand. “She missed you. I had to ask very nicely and bribe her to get her to wait until you’d rested.”
Rhoelyn “I’m sure she milked the bribe for all it was worth.” Tsume licks Rhese’s hand and butts her head under it. Nysse giggles, “She likes you.”
Araatris The druid smiles at Nysse’s companion, kneeling down to scruffle her furry cheeks playfully. “She decided I tasted bad after the first bite.”
Rhoelyn Nysse sticks her tongue out, “I’ll take your word for it. You’re probably too sweet for her, Fuzzy.” She hesitates before rubbing her temples.
Araatris Rhese misses nothing. He straightens, resting a calming hand on Tsume’s head as he looks Nysse over carefully. “Your head’s hurting, lovely?”
Rhoelyn “I must be getting a little bit of a headache, but it’s not bad.” Nysse smiles and places her hand on his arm, “What shall we do next?”
Araatris He presses his hand over hers. “You’ll tell me if it gets worse, right?” Over her head, he flicks a glance at Rhoe leaning against a mushroom stalk not far away.
Rhoelyn “I will, but I’m fine for now.” She tilts her head and looks up curious, “Did you have anything else planned? There’s not a lot to do here.”
Araatris “We don’t need to do anything for a while, lovely,” he says, tugging her toward the spongy hillside. “Why don’t we just… sit?”
Rhoelyn Rhese wraps his arm around her and tucks her beside him as they sit on the hillside. They don’t talk, but enjoy the peace for a few hours.
Araatris It’s much later, as the sun starts to slide down the far side of the sky, that Rhoelyn pads quietly up to their perch. “Rhese. It’s time to stop procrastinating.”
Rhoelyn Rhese sighs, “I know.” He kisses the top of Nysse’s head. “Sorry, lovely.” Nysse looks up in confusion, “What are you two talking about?”
Araatris Rhoe kneels before her, folding her hands in her lap. “The team has made a plan, Nysse. It is… Well, you need to hear it and decide your role.”
Rhoelyn Nysse frowns, “Alright…” She rubs her forehead absent-mindedly, “Go ahead and explain. I get the feeling I’ll need to think it over.”
Araatris Rhese chimes in, explaining Kaerryn’s theory and the orbs’ susceptibility to the Light. “We’re going try to flood the system and shatter the orbs.”
Rhoelyn Nysse rubs her temples again, “You want to use me as a conduit? This doesn’t seem like something you’d agree to. What are you leaving out?”
Araatris “I don’t want to agree to this, Nysse. I want you to say no.” When he doesn’t go on, Rhoelyn frowns at him. “She must know it all, Rhese.”
Rhoelyn Nysse starts to speak and then pinches the bridge of her nose, “Please tell me? My head’s starting to hurt worse.” Tsume whimpers next to her.
Araatris Rhoelyn reaches out to touch Nysse’s forehead, as she did the first time they met. She gently says, “I think you already suspect the rest.”
Rhoelyn The pain eases, and Nysse lowers her head. “You can’t stop it, can you?” Her voice is soft, “That’s not a choice. Either way I might die…”
Araatris Rhese grimaces, clenching his fist, while his sister says, “If you act as conduit, you may be harmed, but our chances of success are greater.(c)
Araatris (c) If you don’t, I will still protect you to the last of my mana. But we may fail to destroy the orbs.” With a sigh, she rests her hand on Nysse’s.
Rhoelyn Nysse attempts to smile, “I have to help destroy them.” She turns to Rhese, “I’m sorry, Rhese. I hope you can forgive me for choosing this.”
Araatris The druid sighs and brushes his knuckles over her cheek. “I already suspected that would be your decision. I just don’t want to risk you.”
Rhoelyn “I’m already at risk. The only thing keeping me up and moving is Rhoelyn. I just didn’t want to admit it.” Nysse sighs, “Does Ysiel know?”
Araatris He nods. “Calinea has her approval for all of it. She agreed with us that you have the final choice. Do you want to talk with her, first?”
Rhoelyn Nysse hesitates and then shakes her head, “No, Ysiel understands.” She carefully stands. “I believe time is of the essence. Right, Rhoe?”
Araatris Somber, she nods, also getting to her feet. She brushes dirt from her robe. “Shadow and Wrune are nearly here. That’s why the pain is increasing.”
Rhoelyn “They have the orb,” Nysse states. “There’s no time to be scared then.” She takes Rhese’s hand again. “But I’m not doing this without you.”
Araatris Giving her hand a squeeze, he growls, “I dare you to try. I may not have my sister’s gifts, but I’ll still fight for you. With you.”
Rhoelyn Nysse smiles gently, “Your presence gives me strength.” Her expression hardens, “Let’s go.” She walks with them towards the moonwell.
Araatris Tsume whines softly to watch them leave. The moonwell area has been staged for a ritual, candles arrayed at three points around the perimeter.
Rhoelyn “At least it looks nice?” Nysse jokes weakly. It takes a moment to spot Calinea in a small crowd. She leaves the group and joins the trio.
Araatris As the draenei approaches, her calm gaze assesses Rhoelyn, then Nysse. “I trust they’ve filled you in. Have you come to a decision?” she asks.
Rhoelyn “They have. Tell me what I should do.” Nysse frowns in confusion, then shakes her head, “The orb is getting close.” Her free hand is clenched.
Araatris Calinea nods and takes Nysse’s elbow gently, guiding her towards the moonwell’s rough stairs. “You may wish to remove your boots.”
Rhoelyn Nysse nods, then leans down and remove her boots. She sets them neatly to the side before commenting, “I will be in the moonwell itself?”
Araatris Rhoe places her boots beside Nysse’s, answering, “The moonwell gathers and reflects Elune’s Light. Its power and purity will help me protect you.”
Rhoelyn “That’s best idea so far.” Nysse takes a deep breath and mouths a prayer before stepping into the water and kneeling in the center.
Araatris Rhoelyn follows her into the moonwell, sighing with relief at the touch of the cool, mana-rich water. Settling before her, she whispers to Nysse, (c)
Araatris “Remember, sister. You are stronger than any of them. You have your own Light that they can’t overcome.” She smiles and takes Nysse’s hands.
Rhoelyn Nysse grins gratefully, “Thank you. I needed to hear that.” She stiffens & the water ripples with her trembling, “Elune keep me. It’s here.”
Araatris “Yes.” Rhoelyn closes her eyes. “We’ll begin, soon. Nysse, remember this… you don’t have to hold on to control. Only to your -self-.”
Rhoelyn She nods and tightens her grip on Rhoelyn’s hands. “Rhese, please talk to me. It doesn’t matter what.” Nysse closes her eyes as well.
Araatris As Shadow and Wrune approach with the orb, Rhese crouches on the stone rim of the moonwell. “Of course, lovely. I can tell you all about this lady I know…”
Rhoelyn Nysse’s breathing becomes ragged. She opens her eyes and locks her gaze on the orb. Only Rhoelyn can hear her mumble, “It’s so angry.”
Araatris As Rhese talks, Calinea, Wrune and Deth take their places in the ritual. Shadow places the orb on a rune scribed on the lip of the moonwell.
Rhoelyn Rhoelyn whispers softly, “It’s time, Nysse. Remember what I said.” The magic between them dwindles and Nysse’s eyes glaze over in response.
Araatris As she sinks into the buzz and hum of the orb’s horrible will, the four Light-wielders intone a spell, channeling power into the moonwell.
Rhoelyn Tethers of light encircle Nysse when she attempts to stand. She folds over with a groan. Her voice is deep and menacing, “Free the vessel.”
Araatris No one responds to the orb, but Rhoelyn reaches into the moonwell, gathering the Light there and dragging it up into Nysse and through her.
Rhoelyn Nysse shrieks in agony and thrashes blindly. On the side of the moonwell, the orb pulses brightly and sparks arc towards Rhoelyn and Nysse.
Araatris “No!” Shadow grabs Rhese to keep him from stepping into the moonwell. Similarly, Rhoelyn grabs Nysse, wrapping her arms around her tightly.
Rhoelyn Nysse clings to her and begins mouthing one word over and over. Behind Rhoelyn, the Orb rocks violently and a single fine crack appears.
Araatris Around the edges of the ritual, the three Light-wielders each begin to sag. Dethedrus sinks to one knee, grimacing. His gaze goes empty.
Rhoelyn Nysse’s gaze snaps to Dethedrus. The orb speaks through Nysse once more, “The Guardian has fallen. We cannot allow you to continue.”
Araatris Valerio, standing nearby, rushes forward to reach for Deth, to rouse him. But a shock jolts through him at the contact, and he stumbles back.
Rhoelyn Rhoelyn gathers more Light from around her. As it flows through the huntress, Nysse’s mantra bursts from her lips in a scream, “RHESE!”
Araatris Again, the little rogue stops Rhese from stepping into the moonwell, even as Calinea collapses behind them. It earns him a glare & a feral growl.
Rhoelyn Nysse trembles violently as the crack widens on the orb. Magic arcs from the fissure and hits her squarely, ripping her away from Rhoelyn.
Araatris Rhese shoves past Shadow, splashing a step or two into the moonwell to grab her. Though he receives a nasty shock, he holds tight, grimacing.
Rhoelyn Nysse’s eyes are empty, but she’s still breathing. Rhoelyn gathers the Light in her hands and steps closer, but she hesitates at Rhese’s expression.
Araatris Wrune slips to his knees as more arcs of power fling themselves from the cracked orb. When Rhoe reaches for Nysse once more, Rhese lashes out, his eyes not his own.
Rhoelyn Rhese’s hand hits Rhoelyn’s cheek with a loud slap, but she manages to toss her arms around them both. The Light from the moonwell blocks the trio from sight.
Araatris At the moonwell’s lip, the orb shudders, Light pouring from the cracks running across its surface. With an awful screech, it dissolves into dust.
Rhoelyn The Light fades revealing Rhoelyn’s slumping form. Rhese blinks in confusion before following Rhoe’s gaze to Nysse who lies limply in his arms.
Araatris Pressing trembling hands against Nysse’s wan cheeks, she tries to summon up a last flicker of power. She raises her gaze with tears in her eyes.
Rhoelyn Rhese shakes his head fiercely, “No! She wouldn’t give up.” He shakes her gently and his voice cracks. “Come on, Nysse. Come back to us.”
Araatris When she doesn’t respond, he pulls her closer and whispers his own kind of magic against her ear and into the damaged places within her.
Rhoelyn Rhoelyn helplessly watches, unable to hold back her tears. The well responds to Rhese’s magic and swirls around them like a hundred tiny fireflies.
Araatris “Elune…” she whispers, watching in awe as Light gathers around Nysse once more, not guided by any of the Light-wielders but by a druid’s desperation.
Rhoelyn Color returns to Nysse’s cheeks. She draws a shaky breath as the Light fades into the water, and mumbles, “I never want to see an orb again.”
Araatris Rhese chokes out a laugh before hiding his face against her neck and holding her close. “Anything my lady wishes.” His voice is a ragged whisper.
Rhoelyn Nysse blushes, “Then should I add that I want to -finish- a date?” She hugs him and looks over his shoulder, “Is everyone else alright?”
Araatris As he releases her, she takes stock of the others. With the help of their other teammates, Wrune, Deth and Calinea are stirring.
Rhoelyn Rhoelyn is pale, but smiling. She yawns, “I think so, but we could all use rest.” Nysse stands and holds out her hand, “I’d like that, too.”
Araatris Rhese is reluctant to let go of Nysse, his grip on her elbow gentle, but he lets her step away as Rhoelyn takes her hand, leading her off.
Rhoelyn Valerio sits on the edge of the moonwell, “The girl is safe. The orbs destroyed. Yet, you seem disappointed. You know you could follow them.”
Araatris “I could.” Rhese wearily sinks down to sit by his friend, scrubbing an unsteady hand over his face. “But I won’t.” He stares into the water.
Rhoelyn He studies Rhese and abruptly grins, “I hear they received a shipment of the good stuff at the inn. Join me, fuzz butt. We could use it.”
Araatris After a soulful sigh, the druid looks up and smiles, draping his arm over Val’s shoulder. “You’re a genius, pal. Have I ever told you that?”
Araatris Rhoelyn opens her eyes to find herself standing in a nondescript field. Confused, she looks down at her Light-wreathed hand. “Ah. An attack.”