Rhoelyn Nysse awakens to footsteps and an urgent voice, “Nysse!” Bleary-eyed and confused, she rolls out of bed to her feet with a dagger in hand.
Araatris Calinea stumbles back a few steps, out of the range of her dagger. She doesn’t wait for the huntress to clear the cobwebs from her head.
Rhoelyn “Get ready and grab your bow. Meet us with Ysiel.” Cal pauses when Nysse doesn’t move. “Report!” Nysse dons her gear quickly, “Yes, ma’am!”
Araatris Rhese waits at the command building, his silver fur and sensitive eyes catching flashes of the moonlight as he prowls back and forth, alert.
Rhoelyn Calinea runs up to Rhese with Nysse following. Nysse looks and moves like someone who is on pure instinct. Cal asks, “Are we clear, Rhese?”
Araatris The cat nods even as his form expands, and he straightens as a nightelf. “There aren’t any others out there, Cal. Not that I can detect.”
Rhoelyn Nysse blinks in confusion, “Others?” Cal motions for her to follow, “We’ll explain inside.” Rhese steps beside her and gently pushes forward.
Araatris The command center is packed with people, including the team, though Wrune and Shadow are conspicuously absent. “Your report.” Ysiel approaches.
Rhoelyn Rhese answers, “I found none of the others nearby by sight or smell. I checked the full perimeter.” Ysiel turns to face the crowded area.
Araatris “How can we determine if others have been affected?” Her keen gaze scans the faces of those assembled. Cal answers grimly. “We cannot.”
Rhoelyn Nysse quietly asks Cal, “What is going on?” Cal replies in a hushed tone, “The Machine has spies in our midst.” Nysse’s heart skips a beat.
Araatris “Ultarn and Chim were able to make their way back with that intel and more,” Cal gestures to where the two sit, looking battered and exhausted.
Rhoelyn “Are they alright? What about Wrune and Shadow?” Nysse searches the hall again. Cal nods, “Wrune and Shadow are guarding the exits.”
Araatris The priestess turns to Ysiel. “We must ferret out the spies before they enact their plan. If they can get that many orbs here…”
Rhoelyn Nysse’s eyes open wide and she looks about in a panic. “Orbs?” She takes a few steps back towards the doorway, “It’s too soon, right?”
Araatris Rhese puts a hand on her arm, sliding it down to grasp her hand. He can feel her tremble. “It’s too soon. It could be a trick. Or a lie.”
Rhoelyn “I don’t feel the buzz,” she squeezes his hand and relaxes, but keeps looking around. “How did we find out them? Did they attack the Refuge?”
Araatris Ysiel nods, brusque. “Two rangers on the periphery of the Refuge were attacked. They haven’t yet recovered sufficiently to be questioned.”
Rhoelyn Nysse frowns, “How do we know orbs were involved then?” Ysiel gestures to the two injured orb hunters, “They saw their army amassing.”
Araatris Rhese nods, adding, “Luckily, it looks like we succeeded in weakening them. We can handle their numbers as long as they don’t have orbs.”
Rhoelyn “That means we–” Nysse is interrupted by yelling at the far side of the building. Ysiel yells, “Rangers! Make a path!” She strides forward.
Araatris The others follow. When Rhese disappears, Nysse glances about, catching the flash of a tail as he rushes ahead, weaving through the crowd.
Rhoelyn Nysse slips her bow free and follows close behind Ysiel. Her knuckles are white around its grip as she resists the urge to follow Rhese.
Araatris When they arrive at the heart of the ruckus, three of the Refuge’s Rangers are laying or sitting on the floor while others assist them.
Rhoelyn Ysiel kneels next to the one that’s sitting, “What happened, Alliran?” He talks while his arm is being bandaged, “Someone came up behind us.”
Araatris “Blade wounds,” Calinea observes clinically, leaning down by another of the fallen. “Minor ones.” Rhese glances up suddenly and sprints away.
Rhoelyn “Rhese!” Nysse slips past her teacher and chases the druid. Ysiel curses under her breath, “Someone follow those two.” She growls, “Now!”
Araatris The cat sprints through the archway to Ysiel’s veranda overlooking the marsh, leaping off to the right and around the corner of the building.
Rhoelyn Nysse skids around the building with her bow drawn. It takes effort to steady her hand as something presses and whispers deep in her mind.
Araatris She’s just in time to watch Rhese pounce on a particularly dark shadow, rolling away with a particularly angry Shadow cursing under his paws.
Rhoelyn Nysse hesitates, “Shadow, what are you doing?” Shadows yells, “Git this crazy cat off me! He must be orb crazy!” Nysse releases her arrow.
Araatris Rhese ignores her, though her shot buries itself in the dirt perilously close to his paw. He shifts, kneeling over Shadow and holding him down.
Rhoelyn Nysse pulls another arrow and draws back her bow. “I hear it, oh Elune, I hear it again.” Her aim wavers between the two, “Goawaygoaway.”
Araatris Growling at the rogue, Rhese holds him down with a hand splayed across his chest, pinning his dagger arm against the ground. “Explain yourself.”
Rhoelyn A large hand knocks her bow to the side and an arm locks around her torso, pinning her arms to her side. Val sighs, “Bring him back, Rhese.”
Araatris He nods, shifting his grip, but then glances up and throws himself to the side. A whistling hammer of Light grazes his temple as he rolls.
Rhoelyn Nysse breaks free from Valerio. She could barely breath, but she sprints to where the hammer came from. The ebony marsh engulfs her fleeing form.
Araatris Val shouts and chases after her, whistling for Vulf and Tsume. Rhese stumbles back to his feet, his head ringing as Shadow leaps at him.
Rhoelyn Rhese barely blocks the dagger with his arm when Tsume pulls the gnome away from him. It’s just enough for him to pin Shadow in his grip again.
Araatris Rhese spits out a hasty spell, and roots burst forth from the ground to hold Shadow. “Tsume, follow Nysse!” he orders, shifting once more.
Rhoelyn He follows Tsume thru the marsh only pausing when he smells blood. Rhese sniffs the familiar dagger buried in the mushroom before continuing.
Araatris Their paws splash into the dirty water as he spots a flash of golden Light off toward their left. He sprints all the harder, reckless and wild.
Rhoelyn Wrune holds Nysse by the front of her tunic. Her right arm hangs limply, but she swings her left fist at the side of his head. “Stop this, Wrune!”
Araatris Without a pause, Rhese leaps at Wrune, slamming into him from the side. The paladin staggers without letting go, dragging Nysse as he falls.
Rhoelyn Nysse is pulled face first into the marsh water. Wrune holds her shirt while trying to shove Rhese off of him. “Get off me or she’ll drown.”
Araatris Rhese slashes at Wrune’s gauntlets twice to no effect before he leaps free, landing smoothly on his nightelven feet. “Let her up, Wrune!”
Rhoelyn He pulls her up as promised as he sits. Wrune slowly stands still dragging Nysse with him. She coughs and sputters, hanging from his grip.
Araatris Rhese smoothes his voice, facing his friend with deceptive calm. His gaze assesses Nysse and Val’s prone form. “This isn’t you, Wrune.”
Rhoelyn “You’re the one who’s fighting fate, Rhese. I saw what we need to do. Don’t get in the way.” He pins Nysse like a shield against his chest.
Araatris The druid shakes his head, his fist clenched. “The Wrune I know would never do this. Look at Val. Look at Nysse. You’re hurting your friends.”
Rhoelyn Wrune’s gaze flickers to Val. His limp form draped across the earth. Then at Nysse, gasping for breath and struggling. “I’ll heal them later.”
Araatris “There’s no later,” Rhese says. “If you don’t stop this now, you’ll lose them. You’ll lose all of us. The Wrune I know would never accept that.”
Rhoelyn Wrune’s eyes glow gold. He frowns in confusion. “I’m supposed to do this, right?” Nysse finally pushes away, falling into the nearby muck.
Araatris “Only the orbs would tell you that, Aron.” The druid steps closer. “Use the Light. Push them out. You don’t belong to them; you’re one of us.”
Rhoelyn Aron Wrune closes his eyes and kneels. As Light surrounds him, he raises his head and stares at Nysse and Val in horror, “Light help me…”
Araatris Though Rhese gazes at Nysse, he turns away and hurries over to kneel by Valerio, the distinct green glow of his magic bright in the darkness.
Rhoelyn Val groans, “Did anyone get the markings of the Tauren that ran over me?” Rhese grins weakly, “He must have kicked you in the head.”
Araatris “If that’s another ugly joke…” Val doesn’t get to finish, coughing instead. “Rest, buddy.” Rhese pats his shoulder before going over to Nysse.
Rhoelyn Nysse waves him off. “I’ll be-,” she coughs, “fine. We need to head back.” She stands holding her left arm, “Get Val.” She coughs again.
Araatris “Val is fine.” Rhese speaks softly, but he ignores her attempts to wave him away, reaching out. “Let me see your arm.” Tsume noses at her leg.
Rhoelyn Nysse winces and grabs onto Tsume, “Rhese, don’t worry about my arm. It’s not–.” A coughing fit hits her. “It’s not safe here. Let’s go.”
Araatris. Rhese scowls, his voice stern. “I may need your support, ranger, to get us safely back to camp. You need two arms to shoot.” He grabs her.
Rhoelyn Nysse yelps in pain before his green glow surrounds her. Rhese eyes her bruises critically. She takes a deep breath, “I don’t have my bow.”
Araatris He gently brushes her cheek before turning away. “Grab Val’s weapon. I’ll support him.” Clapping Wrune on the shoulder, he says, “Let’s move.”
Rhoelyn She stretches her arms with a pop and grabs Val’s gun and ammo. “Unwieldy thing, but it’ll do.” She glances at Wrune, “Are you alright?”
Araatris The human stands, his expression haunted. “That should be my question. I’m truly sorry. D–” “Talk later.” Rhese interrupts, hauling Val up.
Rhoelyn “Agreed. There’s no time.” Nysse loads the gun with a loud click. She purposely moves to the opposite side of Rhese covering their flank.
Araatris Tsume and Vulf trot at their heels as they trudge back toward the Refuge. Rhese is grim and quiet, his senses trained on the dark swamp.
Rhoelyn It’s silent when they return. Nysse retrieves her bow and scans the area as she straps the gun across her back. All the lights are dark.
Araatris Rhese slants her a worried look, and the night lights up as Wrune holds up a glowing hand. “It’s too late,” he whispers, his face falling.
Rhoelyn Several of her fellow rangers lie still on the ground. Nysse holds her bow up as she creeps closer. “Join us,” the wind whispers in her ear.
Araatris Rhese rests one more quick heal on Valerio before pulling the hunter’s arm from over his shoulder. “Shape up, big guy. I need my hands.”
Rhoelyn Val nods, “This is bad.” Nysse kneels and checks for a pulse, “They’re dead.” “Only we can protect you,” the raspy voice advises. She pales.
Araatris “Whatever happens, stay here and stay together,” Rhese growls, shifting into a cat. He stands quietly, ears twitching while his senses range.
Rhoelyn “Let him go.” The voice sends a chill down her spine. “Does anyone else hear that?” Nysse says sharply. She spins, aiming at fleeting shadows.
Araatris Tsume presses up against her leg, not growling at the darkness but whining at her mistress. Valerio frowns, stepping close. “Hear what? Nysse?”
Rhoelyn “A voice. I can barely hear it. It sounds like the wind, but I can understand words. There!” A shadow runs across the path and Nysse fires.
Araatris “Nysse!” Alarmed, Val grabs for her bow. “There’s nothing there.” Wrune shakes his head. “She’s right. It’s in the air, here.” His eyes glow.
Rhoelyn Nysse doesn’t avoid it as Val lowers her bow. “Whatever attacked is still here. It went that way.” She points in the direction of the shadow.
Araatris Rhese scans for another breath or two, then streaks past her after something only he and the wolves can sense. They growl, hackles raised.
Rhoelyn Val curses and releases her bow, “Lets go.” They chase after Rhese. Around a corner, they hear a yell and a loud thump against the building.
Araatris Wrune’s light catches up as Rhese shoves at Shadow, his back to the wall. The rogue already has blood on his dagger and is trying to add more.
Rhoelyn Nysse commands Tsume, “Fetch!” Shadow slides under Rhese and attempts to slice the cat’s belly. Tsume jumps and bites towards Shadow.
Araatris Rhese shifts just in time to avoid the evisceration Shadow intends, taking a shallow slice across his bear’s thick hide. He roars and lunges.
Rhoelyn Tsume catches Shadow’s arm allowing Rhese to pin him. One bloody dagger drops to the ground. Nysse growls angrily, “He has the orb buzz.”
Araatris Rhese shifts to his nightelven form, repeating his earlier performance. Shadow squirms as magic flares and roots burst forth to capture him.
Rhoelyn “Free him.” Nysse ignores the voice and orders Tsume to heel through clenched teeth. Rhese looks at Wrune, “Do you think you could help?”
Araatris Wrune steps forward, though he looks uncertain. “I’ll try.” He kneels down, but when he presses the Light at Shadow, nothing seems to happen.
Rhoelyn “Kill him.” Shadow locks gazes with her and she struggles the keep her bow lowered. “Val, stop me. Something’s in my head,” Nysse whispers.
Araatris Valerio responds quickly, once more grabbing her bow. “Perhaps you should let me carry the weapons for now.” He reaches for bow and gun both.
Rhoelyn Nysse strains, but releases the weapons. “Yes.” She closes her eyes. “Over and over inside my head they whisper. I can understand the orbs.”
Araatris “Hold him.” Rhese stands stiffly and walks over to Nysse, taking her hand. He peers at her, brushing some mud from her cheek. “Don’t listen.”
Rhoelyn Wrune takes his place. Nysse throws her arms around Rhese and lays her forehead on his chest. She mumbles in relief, “They’re silent near you.”
Araatris He pats her back. “Then stay close, Nysse. I t-told you I’d…” Rhese stumbles against her, pressing a hand to his head. “Rot! …p-poison’d.”
Rhoelyn Nysse stares up in concern and supports him against her lighter frame. “Val guard Shadow. Wrune! Please tell me you can heal poison.”
Araatris He glances over. “Of course.” Val takes his place as the paladin stands, whispering. Rhese gasps as the magic halos him, his knees buckling.
Rhoelyn She slides to her knees, unable to hold his full weight. “Talk to me,” she whispers. Nysse hugs him tightly and watches Wrune over his shoulder.
Araatris “It’s not poison,” Wrune frowns, hurrying over. Rhese holds on to her, his grip bruising. He chokes out, “It’s… Them! O-on his blades.”
Rhoelyn Nysse’s heart thunders in her chest, “Fight it, Rhese.” Wrune kneels and whispers another prayer. “We have another issue!” Val yells urgently.
Araatris The hunter and the two wolves stand over Shadow, bristling as forms step into Wrune’s light. Two rangers flank a draenei Nysse recognizes.
Rhoelyn “You’re the one from the Machine!” Nysse exclaims. He chuckles harshly in response, “It seems you’re in quite the predicament. Can I help?”
Araatris Nysse glares, holding Rhese tighter. “What is all this? What have you done?” Shadow laughs, struggling once more against his shriveling bonds.
Rhoelyn “We’re making sure you don’t get lonely, Mother. You don’t need to fight any more.” He steps towards Nysse, but Tsume leaps between them.
Araatris Wrune steps beside Tsume. “You won’t take them. The Light will cleanse you.” The draenei laughs. “No. Thanks to you, it will serve us, instead.”
Rhoelyn Wrune frowns, “What are you talking about?” The scientist steps closer to Wrune. Tsume snarls and leaps, but is knocked aside by a ranger.
Araatris “You won’t control me again,” the paladin growls, his eyes glowing. He grabs the hammer off his belt and strikes. Val fires at the rangers.
Rhoelyn The rangers take action with their own weapons attacking Val and the wolves. Wrune feels a dagger against his back as the scientist steps away.
Araatris Wrune throws a bubble of Light outward, tossing Shadow away. He pursues the draenei with single-minded focus. “Who says I meant you, human?”
Rhoelyn A woman steps out from the shadows. “Hello, Wrune.” Wrune stops mid-strike, “Calinea?!” Nysse futilely attempts to free herself from Rhese.
Araatris Rhese growls and clings to her, muttering. Cal steps forward, putting herself between Wrune and the scientist. “Surrender. This is futile.”
Rhoelyn “Fight it, Cal! Is this really what you want for the team?” Nysse cries out. Val grunts as an arrow hits his thigh, but one ranger lies prone.
Araatris “The new world will have peace, Nysse. It’ll be whole. You’ve never seen how beautiful that is.” Wrune strikes when she turns her attention away.
Rhoelyn His weapon bounces off a glowing shield similar to his own. Cal turns back with a glare. “We could stand to have a few less in the new world.”
Araatris As Wrune and Cal begin a pitched duel, spells flying, Valerio drops the second ranger. Nysse grabs at Rhese. “Let go! They need us, Rhese!”
Rhoelyn Rhese mumbles again, “I promised.” Nysse pleads, “I know, but please let go.” She manages to twist around only to stare into Shadow’s eyes.
Araatris The little rogue slices at her, but Rhese grabs his wrist, snarling ferally. “You don’t touch her. She’s MINE.” He flings Shadow as he stands up.
Rhoelyn He pulls Nysse up with the other arm still wrapped tightly around her waist. She squeaks and tries to break free, “Rhese, please let go!”
Araatris “No!” Though he starts off with another snarl for her, the fear on her face stills him. “I… I promised.” He sets her down, but grabs her hand.
Rhoelyn “You promised to protect me, but we’re not safe.” She points a trembling hand at the draenei. “They’re trying to hurt us and take me away.”
Araatris “Never!” He rounds on the draenei with another snarl, his eyes wild. “Don’t leave.” The order is growled at Nysse as he squeezes her hand.
Rhoelyn Nysse nods with wide eyes, “I promise.” Rhese releases her hand. Shifting into a cat, he leaps at the scientist. Val makes his way to Nysse.
Araatris Unstrapping her bow and quiver, he hands them to her. “I trust you know who to use this on, now? Let us be done with this, girl.”
Rhoelyn She takes the weapons, “I do. Watch out for Shadow.” Nysse draws and aims at the draenei, waiting for a clear shot. The arrow sings true.
Araatris As he steps back, narrowly dodging the claws aimed at his gut, the arrow pierces the man’s chest. He gapes down at it, stumbling to the side.
Rhoelyn Nysse commands, “Rhese! Stand down and guard.” She turns to Wrune in time to see Cal’s shield break and watch her sprawl across the dirt.
Araatris Tsume and Vulf corner Shadow against the wall, snapping at him. “I hope this hurts, you little imp-spawn.” Valerio sneers and takes aim.
Rhoelyn The concussive shot hits center and Shadow slides down against the wall. Rhese returns to Nysse circling her. Wrune binds a dazed Cal’s hands.
Araatris Shifting, Rhese clamps a hand around Nysse’s arm. “Come,” he demands, still far too angry and wild. His fingers leave bloodstains on her armor.
Rhoelyn Nysse stumbles as he pulls her, “Wait! Where are we going?” She digs in her heels. “We can’t leave.” Rhese turns and growls, “Not safe here.”
Araatris Val tries to intercede, reaching for Rhese. “Calm down, my friend, the dang-” The druid whirls on him, drawing his mace with his free hand.
Rhoelyn “No!” Nysse scolds as she grabs his arm. “Listen to me, Rhese. They’re our friends.” Val puts his arms up and steps back. “What she said.”
Araatris Wrune approaches as well, leaving Cal bound and asleep behind him. Rhese’s grip on his weapon is crushing as he wavers between Val and Nysse.
Rhoelyn He snarls at Val, “Don’t touch her.” Nysse snaps, “Rhese! Stand down!” He pulls her closer. She frowns, “He won’t. What did the orbs do to you?”
Araatris Rhese gentles when he looks at her. “I have to protect you, Nysse. Don’t you see? You’ll be safe when we get there. No one else will hurt you.”
Rhoelyn “Rhese, are you taking me to the Machine?” Nysse asks softly. “I’m safe with you and our friends. We don’t need to run.” She holds his gaze.
Araatris “I…” He turns more fully toward her, lowering his mace. “T-they… Nysse, we HAVE to go. They’re desperate. They’ll start it without you.”
Rhoelyn Nysse pulls him into a hug. “But They scare me. The orbs hurt.” Looking over his shoulder at their friends she mouths, “Knock him out.”
Araatris The two exchange a look before Wrune raises his hammer. When the carefully calculated blow connects, Val helps Nysse catch him as Rhese crumples.
Rhoelyn Nysse rubs her arm and winces. “We can’t leave them. Do you want to try the Light again, Wrune?” Val hobbles Rhese, “We need to move fast.”
Araatris Wrune nods and kneels beside Calinea, the glow of his magic surrounding her. Val looks at Rhese, sighing. “It’ll be morning, soon. What now?”
Rhoelyn “We need to patrol and find a safe place. It’s not going to be pretty if they wake up.” Nysse looks around. “Maybe we can use a small building.”
Araatris Valerio nods. “We can’t leave Wrune alone. And I would venture to say that your stealth is better than mine. But… the voices? Can you scout?”
Rhoelyn Nysse rubs her face, “I have to be.” Val raises a skeptical eyebrow. She continues, “I’ll check in every few minutes. It doesn’t hit suddenly.”
Araatris He puts a hand on her arm before she turns away. “Nysse.” He smirks. “Don’t get Taken. If he wakes up without you, he’ll eat my favorite spleen.”
Rhoelyn She laughs nervously, “Not in the plan.” Val nods. Nysse stands and preps her bow. “Tsume, follow.” Val is left listening to Wrune’s prayers.
Rhoelyn Nysse awakens to footsteps and an urgent voice, “Nysse!” Bleary-eyed and confused, she rolls out of bed to her feet with a dagger in hand.