Chapter 8: Violent Closure
“Please do not ask me to go back, Lannia. I can s-”
The elder priestess kneeling at her side as Rhoelyn sat on the edge of the cot cut her off with a shake of her head. “No. We must all rest when we can; you’ve fought too long as it is. Your sisters will heal our soldiers while you go back to the Temple and rejuvenate yourself in the moonwell. You cannot heal anyone if you are drained.”
Brushing her long blue hair back behind her ear, Lannia Winterstorm speared her younger peer with a stern look, the claw marks tattooed around her eyes lending gravity to the expression.
“Just as you cannot heal anyone if you are dead. I expect that next time your Shield falters, you will remember to pull your companion to you rather than throwing yourself in front of him.” She pressed her lips together, bending back to her task of healing the series of shallow cuts across Rhoelyn’s stomach. “You are fortunate that Baelin managed to move fast enough to save you from taking a deeper bite from that troll’s claws.”
The smaller priestess blushed, ducking her head even more. “Ah… he… he told you what happened, did he?”
“Mmhm,” the elder healer sighed and spoke as she focused on her spellwork. “Sister, you are no more expendable than your comrades. Find the way to make sure that you and they can survive.”
“Y-yes, Lannia. I am sorry.” Rhoelyn fidgeted with her torn and bloodied gown, her hair half-fallen from its braids, strands hanging down around her face. “Perhaps a brief rest would be for the best. I… I couldn’t recall how to assemble the spell to pull him to me, and I… panicked.”
The last word she said at a whisper, and the elder priestess glanced up at her furrowed brow. Lannia settled the final bit of healing into her sister’s wounds before she reached up and rested a hand on Rhoe’s slender shoulder.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of, sister. You have fought well and saved many, today. Elune’s Light is brighter amidst this darkness for your efforts.
“But now you will rest. And feel so much better for it.” Her comforting hand patted the younger priestess before she straightened and offered her a hand up.
“Off to the flight master with you, now. You stay in Darnassus until you’ve eaten and slept and eaten again.”
“Y… Yes, sister. As you say.”
Lannia smiled softly, her luminous silver eyes gentling when Rhoelyn straightened before her. She leaned forward and gave the younger priestess a gentle hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Elune bless you and keep you safe,” she said before she gave her friend a push toward the door.
Nysse rolled away from another swing of the tauren’s large mace. “Nataro, stop this! It isn’t necessary!”
“Isn’t necessary?! It is more than necessary. If not for you then Leo and Quaed-.” He roared as Kaerryn’s weapon hit him hard upside the shoulder.
Kaerryn grinned wickedly. “You’re looking the wrong direction, cow.” She raised her arm as lightning crackled toward her. “And you’re definitely going to have to do better than that.” The electricity slid off her armor and to the side.
Rhese snarled as he covered Nysse’s retreat with Tsume. When she was out of melee range, she whistled; talons and teeth flashed. They bit and clawed as the warrior continued to harass him.
The huntress raised her bow. “I regret that it’s come to this, Nataro, but I will not allow you to harass my home or my family.” She released her arrow, sending it whistling toward him.
“Argh!” The shaman stumbled back as her barb sank deep into his upper arm, a move that slid him just behind Kaerryn’s swing. The human unbalanced just slightly, and he took advantage, lifting a hoof to kick her in the side. Her armor dented, she tumbled into Tsume with a breathless curse.
“You do not get to allow me anything, elf! I am no longer your prisoner, and you will not lure my friends into traitorous madness from the grave,” he snarled, pulling a totem from his belt as blood dripped through his dark brown fur. “Soon, you will lose Darnassus and this war and your lives, Silverwings. AlI I need is the little Ambassador to finally free the others from all of you.”
Rhese answered him with a rage-filled feline yowl, and a flare of purple arcane in his golden cat eyes. The skies above Nataro’s tall, curving horns opened, and moonfire slashed down at him. He cried out, the totem dropping from his grip as he staggered in the half-instant before the sleek druid saber leapt.
Rhese’s claws raked the Tauren’s mail armor with a vicious screech and the pop of ripping chain links. His fangs snapped at the cow’s massive pauldron, and he yanked, tearing the leather straps and tossing it away with the flick of his head. For a moment, he enjoyed true fear in Nataro’s dark eyes as he lunged for his neck… until a sharp gust of wind hit him in the side, blasting him away to tumble into the forest loam.
“Rhese!” Nysse gasped his name, her bow seeking their new enemy. She found herself staring down the arrow at a tattooed troll as he swaggered out of the shadows of the trees, an orc female with short tusks and equally short red hair behind him.
Nataro glanced up from where he had half-fallen under Rhese’s assault, injured and flagging and rumbling out a relieved, “Ki’likai. Dakna. What kept you?”
“Another patrol caught us.” Dakna stepped up, raising her weapon towards Kaerryn. “Kai, handle the huntress while Nataro recovers.”
Kaerryn laughed as pushed to her feet. She charged forward. “You’re overestimating your friend if you send him against Nysse.” Her sword arched to the side, aiming for the orc’s vulnerable neck only to ring against her steel blade. The human warrior’s grin only widened. “Ah good. This’ll be fun!”
“Tsume, attack!” The huntress’s arrow shrieked toward Ki’likai as her wolf scrambled to obey. Bounding toward their enemy, the troll darted away from both barb and wolf, forcing Nysse to track the pair as the troll circled toward her. “Rhese! I’d better hear you moving back there!”
Her answer was a low, moody growl in the instant before the druid streaked past her and leapt at her attacker, engaging with the agile troll as his claws struck at air and armor. The pair of them were well-matched, the troll called Ki’likai as fast on his three-toed feet as Rhese was on his paws. Their fight darted across the field between Nysse and the others as her mate harried him away from her, neither of them managing much damage.
Kaerryn and the female orc slipped off to the side, the ring of steel on steel echoing through the trees as loudly as their shouts and grunts and curses. The human dodged under a strike, grinning viciously as her opponent’s wide sword buried itself in the tree by her head. Her heavy weapon swung up, and Dakna released her blade, leaping back weaponless rather than losing her hand.
The other warrior gave no quarter, rushing forward even as she taunted, “Come on, toad. We’re not done.”
Even as Kaerryn’s blade rang with Dakna’s, Nysse raised her bow at Nataro. She shook her head at him, a grim expression settling over her features. She released her arrow as she cried, “Tsume, attack!”
The tauren, looking mostly recovered from the brief respite, summoned the wind and knocked the arrow from his path. “You’re delaying the inevitable, elf. You will die.” He urged the earth to rise up into an elemental, stopping the wolf in her tracks.
Rhese snapped at his target again, glancing at Nysse and Nataro. A growl not entirely for his current foe rumbled from his throat, then he raked his claws against the troll’s legs.
Another shallow wound was all he managed, and the quiet shaman danced back again, his verdant top knot bobbing from his sudden movement. The cat harried him mercilessly, giving him no time to grab a totem from under his vest or whisper more than the most basic pleas to the spirits of the elements.
The druid snarled, again, frustration mounting. He could attempt to entangle the agile troll, but to take the time would mean also giving the shaman the space for a totem or spell of his own. He needed a solution more ready-made…
His golden eyes flicked around the area for just a split second before he saw his solution. With a little mental grin and a yeowl meant to intimidate, Rhese feinted aside, leaping at a tree trunk and bouncing off at a new angle. The troll’s crackle of lightning barely singed a hair before the druid saber snapped at him.
When Ki’likai threw his big, lanky blueish frame backward and tripped into the Silverleaf bush, they both immediately knew the standoff had shifted.
Across the way, Kaerryn grinned as Dakna’s blade sliced lightly across her cheek. “You’re good. This is much more fun than I thought it’d be.” She grabbed the other woman’s breastplate and slammed her helmeted skull against the orc’s. “There we go, now we’re even.”
Dakna stumbled backwards, grasping her skull. She grimaced and glared at the human warrior. “It’ll be even when you’re dead.” The orc charged forward, knocking both of them to the ground. Their weapons dropped to the side as they grappled with one another.
Nysse cursed and tried to avoid the warriors’ melee as she circled around to fire another arrow at Nataro. It landed in his side, but he quickly ripped it out as a totem behind him healed the wound. “Tsume! Totem!” The wolf darted to her new target.
Freed from Tsume’s attention, the earth elemental rumbled toward Nysse as the shaman directing him grinned… until he saw the huntress’s smug, confident expression. Not the usual one worn by a ranged fighter when a ton of rock was barrelling into melee range. His brow furrowed just as a glow burst free from her chest, and a ghostly wolf leapt free, slamming into the rock elemental and sending it stumbling back in an avalanche of sound. The night elf, determined but sad, nocked a tar arrow and shot it in just the right instant to splatter sticky goo behind its rolling “feet” and cement its uncontrolled tumble.
The Tauren had time for only a brief shout before his own elemental landed on him with a cacophony, some of which was definitely the crack of breaking bones. Even if Tsume hadn’t smashed his healing totem against the trunk of a tree, it was far too much damage. Nataro lay pinned beneath the rock as Nysse nocked another arrow and approached him, appropriately cautious. His eyes were glazed with pain.
“May Elune have mercy on you, Nataro. I can’t afford to.” The huntress aimed for his heart and released the deadly barb, watching as it slid into his flesh. She held another ready as he jerked, then the awareness faded from his gaze, and he slumped on the ground.
Nysse blinked as she realized that it was very quiet. She glanced about to find Kaerryn retrieving a blade from the ground. Rhese stared at her with bright golden eyes from a few dozen feet away.
The druid stalked away from the tangled, overgrown mass of a Silverleaf bush, his tail twitching as blood dripped down the pointed branch that stuck up from the center. His gaze darted from Nysse to the Tauren with smug, cold disdain before he looked away, watching their human companion straighten and sling her new orcish sword over her shoulder. Her own abused blade lay broken at her feet.
“Slagging amateurs,” she grinned, wiping at the cut on her cheek. “Who wants the next piece of u-… Wait. Do you two hear that?”
Rhese’s saber ears swiveled before he growled low in the back of his throat. He suddenly turned and darted up the hillside, leaping into a tree that stretched high above them and disappearing into the foliage.
After a few seconds, his breathless and shaky exclamation of “Bright Goddess!” reached them from above.
“G… get the fel up here,” Rhese ordered.
Nysse bolted up the hill, Kaerryn on her heels. Tsume ran alongside them. As they crested the top, the huntress froze, her friend bumping into her back.
“What is it? Another attac-?” Kaerryn was cut off by Nysse’s anguished cry.
“No!” The young night elf pointed at the large tree in the distance. Flames started to leap at the base of Teldrassil as it was assaulted by hundreds of arcing streaks of large flaming projectiles. “Rhese! Our hearths! Are they still set to Darnassus?”
The druid leapt down from the tree, landing smoothly on paws and then booted feet as he turned his horrified gaze on Nysse. “Yes. We’re going.”
“What?!” The human gaped at them both. “Teldrassil is rotting on fire! You ca-”
Rhese grabbed her shoulders roughly, cutting her off as he peered at her intently. “Kaer, call Morthis. And then keep looking for Rhoe, in case she’s here on the Shore. C-Cenarius’ Beard, our army is in tatters. Please-”
The warrior wrapped her hands around his wrists, nodding. “You don’t have to ask twice, partner. If your sister is here, I’ll rotting well find her and keep her safe. But if you two are going over there, you sure as fel better have a way out, again.”
“I’ll get us out,” the young night elf said softly, bleakly, looking over at his mate.
“I know you will, beloved. Let’s go.” Nysse tugged the stone from her pocket and activating it. “We can’t wait.” Tsume crowded by her legs.
Rhese released Kaerryn and stepped back, triggering his own hearth. “We’ll stay in touch, Kaer.”
Then they were gone.