Chapter 7: Family’s Worth
**Araatris:** The disc of half-formed spellwork whips from his hand and hits the Tauren’s chest before she realizes she’s in danger. It pops open and closed.
**Rhoelyn:** He stays ready, alert for any other danger, but Relare is the only movement. The paladin crouches over the fallen Tauren, checking her pulse.
**Araatris:** “You’re getting more accurate, Leo. Your razor portal delivered the displacement shock without sending half of her chest somewhere else.”
**Rhoelyn:** Leothir presses his lips into a thin line. “That’s good, Rel. I always dreamed of being an efficient murderer.” His brother sighs. “I know…”
**Araatris:** The mage echoes his sigh, brushing dirt from his sleeve. “This has been exhausting, keeping the scouts away from them while they were exposed.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare nods. “Nyssera has been on edge this entire time. You can tell even at this distance. I think she knows there should be more patrols.”
**Araatris:** “Definitely. I wonder what story she’s telling herself about why they’ve been left alone.” Leo ponders it as he drags the body to a silverleaf bush.
**Rhoelyn:** Leo grins. “Ah, I know. It must be the work of that handsome savior-” Rel nudges him with a snort. “It’s because they’re focused inland.”
**Araatris:** The mage smirks at him. “You’re right, of course, Rel. Nysse is the practical sort. My princess is the one daydreaming of her handsome guardian.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare tweaks one of his brother’s ears. “How did she ever deal with this much ego…? Come along, guardian. There’s still work to be done.”
**Araatris:** Chuckling, the golden-haired mage rubs his ear as he splays out his hand, the glow lighting his dull, silver mask. “They must have settled at camp.”
**Rhoelyn:** “They have, but Nysse couldn’t backtrack and full hide their tracks. We’ll need to do that for them. Ready to get dirty?” Relare teased.
**Araatris:** “Ugh. Never.” Leothir wrinkles his nose, leaning back against a tree trunk and folding his arms. “I’ll delegate that to you, little brother.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare chuckles. “You’ll never change. Watch my back while I get dirty then.” He ducks out of the brush and heads towards the beach.
**Araatris:** “Mmhm,” the golden mage acknowledges with a little yawn, straightening and wandering to the edge of the treeline to watch over him.
**Rhoelyn:** Grabbing a tree branch with leaves still on it, he works on the prints. “Leo, did you get a good look at them as they were traveling?”
**Araatris:** “Not especially, no.” The other elf scans the dark spaces between the trees. “In fact, I almost thought for a moment they had someone with them.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare examines the footprints. “There was. It seems someone fell and Nysse put them on… Korran, I’d guess. Tsume wouldn’t be large enough.”
**Araatris:** Leo glances back over his shoulder. “Rhoelyn, do you think? Or perhaps they found another night elf. An injured one, this time?”
**Rhoelyn:** “Hard to say. I wonder if we could get a peek in without alerting them. Regardless, she’ll heal them soon.” The paladin brushed sand over it.
**Araatris:** “I’ll be happy to check on them while they rest,” his brother says. “Tsume and I have come to an understanding. She won’t wake them if I show up.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare raises an eyebrow. “Korran as well?” He moves down the beach, tracks disappearing behind them. “He seems harder to convince.”
**Araatris:** Leo follows from the shadows, staying vigilant. “If Tsume approves of me, he should. If he’s even out. Nysse does have to rest after all that work.”
**Rhoelyn:** “That’s true and if he’s large, she’s going to be exhausted. She may still try and do a watch though.” Rel pauses as the ground turns rockier.
**Araatris:** “Once you’re done, I’ll find them and see what I can see,” Leo announces. “You two are bigger rotting idiots than I ever imagined,” comes the growl.
**Rhoelyn:** They spin around and face the shadowed figure. Leo and Rel share a look, their weapons ready. “We didn’t expect to see you here, Quaed.”
**Araatris:** Stepping out of the shadows beside Leo, the undead rogue snorts. His daggers are in his hands. “Obviously. But you shoulda been hoping you wouldn’t.”
**Rhoelyn:** The paladin steps forward, ready to protect his brother. “At least we’re doing something to protect our family. No matter what it takes.”
**Araatris:** Quaed’s rhuemy eyes narrow. “And who’s protecting you? You been killing your own, Duskfalls. There’s a word for that: traitor.” His gloves creak.
**Rhoelyn:** Leothir snorts. “Traitor to a banshee queen that murdered an entire city of innocents… I think I can live with that if my family survives.”
**Araatris:** The rogue steps forward and Relare tenses. “Don’t be so sure, idiot,” he snarls. “When th’Eyes realize this’s where you disappeared to…”
**Rhoelyn:** The mage nods grimly. “That’s why we’ve been wearing disguises.” Relare puts a hand on Leo’s shoulder. “Are you going to tell them, Quaed?”
**Araatris:** The former human goes still, grimacing. He finally just grumbles, “Why d’you always ask the questions I ain’t ready t’answer, Relare?”
**Rhoelyn:** “I have a knack for it. If you’d wanted to kill us outright, you would’ve already attacked. Shall we talk?” Relare keeps a hand on his sword.
**Araatris:** “Fel,” Quaed spits, suddenly shoving his daggers back into their sheaths. “Ain’t interested in jawwin’ with you idiots an’ soaking in th’sunrise.”
**Rhoelyn:** The brothers relax, but Relare continues cautiously. “Then what? You already know we’re not happy with the current direction of things.”
**Araatris:** The rogue frowns. “Yeah. ‘Spose I needed t’see for myself how far you’d go after you escaped.” He pauses and looks out over the grim beach.
**Rhoelyn:** Leothir sighs and tucks a stray blonde hair behind his ear. “We didn’t want it to come to this, but it’s the only option to keep them safe.”
**Araatris:** Quaed is preternaturally still for a bit in response to that, his thoughts impossible to read. “You two ain’t Horde. Y’can’t go back, after this.”
**Araatris:** He snorts, suddenly. “Rot me if we ain’t been in this boat before. Fel.” The undead looks at Leothir. “Don’t think it’ll end so nice, this time.”
**Rhoelyn:** The elder brother nods, jerking his head at Rel. “It wasn’t good then either. We’ll have to stay on neutral ground and still watch our backs.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare grimaces sympathetically. “We knew, but we had to act. We couldn’t stand back and do nothing. It’d be as bad as supporting it.”
**Araatris:** Quaed turns to face them both, folding his arms across his leather cuirass. “Sounds familiar, too.” He grimaces, sour at the moral conundrum.
**Rhoelyn:** The paladin removes his hand from Leo to scratch at the stubble on his jaw. “Yes, too familiar. I don’t imagine this is any easier for you.”
**Araatris:** Shaking his head, the Forsaken hardens his expression. “Already as deep in this mess as I ever wanna be. Don’t expect more… but I ain’t chatty.”
**Rhoelyn:** “So you’ve said. We won’t keep you from it. Just… do us a favor and stay away from them. It’s all we can ask.” Relare glances over his shoulder.
**Araatris:** Leo watches from behind his mask. “We don’t want to fight you, Quaed.” His friend scoffs. “Nice t’know you don’t have a death wish, Leo.”
**Rhoelyn:** The mage scowls and crosses his arms. “I’ve learned some new tricks since last time you saw me fight. Don’t be so certain I couldn’t win.”
**Araatris:** Rolling his eyes, Relare put a hand back on his brother’s shoulder. “We were saying that we don’t want to fight, remember? Really, you two…”
**Rhoelyn:** The elder brother snorts. “He started it, Rel.” Quaed looks over their shoulder. “It’s dawn, and I don’t want anyone to see me with you fools.”
**Araatris:** The brothers both nod, and Leo unfolds his arms to pull his mask up. “Nolin… Thank you. For the warning and for your understanding.”
**Rhoelyn:** Quaed’s laugh is raspy. “It’s not like I’ve ever been able to change your minds. Now get the fel out of sight. I don’t want to see you again.”
**Araatris:** When the rogue fades back into the shadows, Relare lets out a breath and scrubs his face. “That was easier than I thought it would be. More or less.”
**Rhoelyn:** Leo laughs nervously. “At least he didn’t stab us. Shall we go check on the girls? They should be asleep by now.” He gestures to their cave.
**Araatris:** His brother smirks. “I’ll leave that to you, oh handsome guardian. Tsume and I aren’t on the same terms as you claim. I’ll scout our camp.”
**Rhoelyn:** Grasping his brother’s forearm, he grins. “It’s my handsome looks. I’ll see you soon.” Leo releases his arm and turns toward the hiding place.
**Araatris:** Soon, the mage is sneaking along the low cliff at the edge of the beach, his dark clothes and the overcast sky helping him blend in to the rocks.
**Rhoelyn:** As he nears the opening, a wolf head sticks out and scans the area. Tsume briefly pauses on him before she shakes out her fur and heads back in.
**Araatris:** He grins, smug, and finishes edging up to the cave entrance. The slight purple glow from his mask doesn’t pierce the firelight as he peeks in.
**Rhoelyn:** On one side of the fire, a silver-haired woman sleeps against the shoulder of the huntress. Nysse stares drowsily at the dancing flames.
**Araatris:** Leothir quietly drinks in the pair of them, his biased gaze lingering on Rhoelyn’s face as she sleeps. He reflects on how worn the sisters look.
**Rhoelyn:** Across from them a smaller woman with red hair curls under a blanket, deeply asleep. Nysse sighs and rubs her face, careful not to jostle Rhoe.
**Araatris:** The mage’s brow furrows at the third form, and he leans forward a bit. So they did have someone with them. But that hair color seems blood elven.
**Rhoelyn:** The skin is much paler in the firelight as well. They’d have to find out in the evening. He nods in greeting as Tsume glances at him again.
**Araatris:** When Nysse glances up from the fire, Leo ducks back, pressing himself against the cliff outside the cave mouth. He winces and holds his breath.
**Rhoelyn:** Claws scratch across the cave and there’s a wolfish sound as she flops to the ground. Nysse’s voice barely reaches him. “Guard… sleep…”
**Araatris:** When he dares to glance back in, it’s to watch the huntress tuck her sleepy companion into a bedroll. Rhoelyn murmurs, “Stay close to me, sister.”
**Rhoelyn:** “Rhoelyn…” Nysse sits by her bedroll. “Yes, of course. Just rest.” She kisses her sister’s forehead. The huntress draws her knees to chest.
**Araatris:** The healer nods and frees a hand from her blanket to rest across Nysse’s leg, as if she’s afraid to let her out of her reach. “You, as well.”
**Rhoelyn:** Nodding, Nyssera covers Rhoelyn’s hand with her own. “I will.” Yet, the young night elf doesn’t lie down, she stares at the other elf.
**Araatris:** As her sister drifts back off to sleep, Nysse reaches out and lightly touches her pallid cheek before pressing a wrist against her forehead.
**Rhoelyn:** She grimaces, obviously unhappy with her check. Nysse strokes back Rhoelyn’s hair. “Tsume. Stay on guard please.” She lays back on her bedroll.
**Araatris:** The snowy wolf glances over at their quiet watcher before she huffs and sets her chin on her paws. When Nysse is settled to rest, he backs away.
**Rhoelyn:** He carefully creeps away, from one set of cover to another. Leo makes it back to Relare about an hour after dawn. The paladin looks up in relief.
**Araatris:** “Light, Leo!” His brother complains. “You took too long. If you were just standing there admiring your lady while she slept, I’ll box your ear-”
**Rhoelyn:** “They have a blood elf with them unless you know of night elves with red hair… and they’re struggling. They… don’t look well.” Leo trails off.
**Araatris:** Relare frowns at that, leaning forward to hand his brother a ration. “A blood elf?” The mage nods. “I couldn’t get a clear look at her.”
**Rhoelyn:** The mage sits down heavily as he takes the ration, then tugs down his mask. Unwrapping it, he digs into it. “I’m getting worried about them.”
**Araatris:** His brother unwraps his own. “What can we do without exposing ourselves, though? Do we try to get Rhese? Or…” He winces. “I don’t see many options.”
**Rhoelyn:** Leo ponders the thought. “Maybe… we could get Nysse by herself. If that woman is a blood elf, then they might be open to discussing this.”
**Araatris:** Relare takes a bite of his food, considering. “I can’t come up with a better idea. We can protect them like this but not make them rest. Or eat.”
**Rhoelyn:** “They always push themselves too hard. Do you remember when we were looking for Rhese?” Sighing, the mage leans forward. His brother nods.
**Araatris:** “Nysse ran herself into the ground to find him. And then, when they were missing…” Leo groans. “I actually sat on Rhoelyn to get her to rest, once.”
**Rhoelyn:** The brothers look at each other and chuckle. “So, it seems we need to save them from themselves.” Leo finally takes another bite of his ration.
**Araatris:** Relare nods and finishes his own before he says, “Now we just need to figure out how. How do we get Nysse alone?” Leo looks at a plant by his boot.
**Rhoelyn:** “I’m not sure yet. Rhoelyn doesn’t want her to patrol right now. Let’s follow tomorrow and see if an opportunity presents itself.” The mage sighs.
**Araatris:** His brother nods and yawns. “Then we’re going to need our rest. I volunteer you for first watch. I’m beat.” Leo snorts and waves a hand. “Fine.”
**Rhoelyn:** The paladin lays down and watches his brother for a moment. “You know we’ll figure this out, right? I’m by your side every step of the way.”
**Araatris:** The older elf wraps his arms around his knees, looking at him. “I know, Rel. And I’m grateful. That’s what I missed the most when I lost you.”
**Rhoelyn:** “That won’t happen again. Whatever happens, we’re in it together this time.” Relare reaches out and grips Leothir’s forearm, squeezing it.
**Araatris:** His brother smiles at him warmly. And then reaches out and tweaks his ear. “Don’t you forget it, little brother. I can be very stern when motivated.”
**Rhoelyn:** Relare laughs softly. “Save it for the watch. Goodnight.” He pulls away, laying down his head. It’s not long before he relaxes into sleep.
**Araatris:** Leothir watches Rel sleep before muttering, “I already know what I’d do without you, brother. It was nothing compared to what I can do with you.”