Rhoelyn: Faye shivers, chained next to a strange altar that she swears is watching her. The tattooed naga ignores her and checks on another egg.
Araatris: She clenches her fists against the cool, damp stone, straining against the manacles with a racket. Like the last twelve times, they don’t budge.
Rhoelyn: “Sssomething hasss changed…” Kalis hisses as he slithers to another egg. After checking it, he turns to Faye. “Do you know what hasss happened?”
Araatris: Her glare is vicious as she answers, “And how would I know anything after having been chained here for hours?” The dark priest smirks.
Rhoelyn: He leans down, “But you admit something may have happened. That means there are others.” Kalis runs the back of his claws against her cheek.
Araatris: Faye turns her head away from his touch, clenching her teeth against a wave of revulsion. “You have already met him, the only other there is.”
Rhoelyn: “Ah yesss, the human male. He hasss alssso been under our watchful eyesss.” Kalis straightens. “Perhapsss I should have him brought to me.”
Araatris: The woman simply scowls at him, knowing that there’s nothing useful she can say on the topic. “Why are you keeping me here, naga?”
Rhoelyn: He laughs, a sound that grates on the nerves. “You will feed the children when they hatch. They will be quite hungry at first. It is an honor.”
Araatris: Though she schools her face, she can’t help but pale at the idea. He only laughs more at her discomfort. “What are these… things?” she asks.
Rhoelyn: Kalis fixes her with a smile, “These are the chosen children of our god. They defy typical confines of form and can be whatever is needed.”
Araatris: “Your god being this abomination?” She raps her knuckles against the rock closest to the altar, preferring to look at the priest over the effigy.
Rhoelyn: He snarls and reaches for her neck before catching himself. “This abomination, as you call it, is our god. Show respect. I don’t malign Elune.”
Araatris: Though she stiffens, Faye finally relents with a nod. “You do not.” It’s all she is willing to accede to, however. “What is this god, then?”
Rhoelyn: Kalis relaxes and moves to bow in front of the altar. “It is an old god of shapeless void. We call it Bal’riemon.” He turns, “Anything else?”
Araatris: “An old-…?” Faye’s eyes widen. “Why would you worship an Old God? It can only destroy you.” She looks around at the eggs with new fear.
Rhoelyn: Following her gaze, Kalis pets a nearby egg fondly. “Destroy? You misunderstand. They grant us gifts like these eggs from the prophecy.”
Araatris: “And what will you do with these prophesied eggs? Besides feeding them innocent people, apparently.” She doesn’t manage to conceal her contempt.
Rhoelyn: Kalis regards her with a frown, “It appearsss that our definition of innosssense differs. You killed several of ours when your ssship was taken.”
Araatris: She meets his gaze.”You did not answer my question, priest. What will you do with these creatures your old god has gifted you?”
Rhoelyn: The naga shrugs, “Take over the Abyssal Maw.” He states this as if it’s the most obvious course of action. “Neptulon holds control for now.”
Araatris: Faye’s brows draw together. “These are not names I have heard before.” Kalis shakes his head. “You know so little of our world, night elf.”
Rhoelyn: The sentinel glances nervously at the eggs before looking back at the tattooed naga. “Then explain it. Who is Neptulon? Why is he important?”
Araatris: He sneers, turning away to rake his claws through the sand around one of the eggs. “Neptulon is the ssself-important l-” His head whips up.
Rhoelyn: Kalis moves in front of the eggs protectively. “Who daresss enter the cave without permisssion?” Dark magic swirls around him as he snarls.
Araatris: Rhese grins and steps from the shadows, determination behind his relaxed expression. “Hello, again. Kalis, wasn’t it?” The naga frowns.
Rhoelyn: “You again?” The naga narrows his eyes. “You will join the other elf as food this time.” Kalis gestures sharply at Rhese. “Come to me, elf.”
Araatris: Though he’s braced himself, Rhese still finds the dark magic impossible to fully resist. He grits his teeth as his feet carry him toward the priest.
Rhoelyn: Kalis grabs Rhese’s arm. “What brought you back? Do you know her?” He leans down as if trying to read something. “Ansswer me.” He shakes Rhese.
Araatris: “I know her,” he says. Faye gasps. “Focus on something else!” Rhese’s gaze meets the naga’s, and he smiles wickedly. “I’m back to distract you.”
Rhoelyn: The naga frowns, absorbing his response, before twisting towards Faye. Kreston is working on her second cuff. “Ssstop!” Kalis shouts.
Araatris: Rhese takes advantage of his distraction to defy the wavering magic and shift into a bear, swiping a powerful backpaw at the naga’s head.
Rhoelyn: The blow stuns the naga and he grabs onto a nearby table to steady himself. Rhese shoves Kalis away from the others and stands between.
Araatris: “I’m taking my friends away from here, priest,” he growls after shifting back. “If you don’t interfere, then I have no reason to kill you.”
Rhoelyn: Kalis glowers, holding the back of his head. “I could call the naga here before you finished killing me, but having you kill your friendsss…”
Araatris: The druid barely gives him enough time to finish his threat before he shifts, leaping at him. Claws dig across his side as his magic hits Rhese.
Rhoelyn: Shouting in pain, the naga coils away into the shadows. “Leave us! Take that cursed human while you’re at it!” A key skitters across the floor.
Araatris: Kreston grabs the key and slips the second manacle open. As he hauls Faye to her feet, he glances over his shoulder. “Rhese, get up. Time to go.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese staggers to his feet and shifts, “Cursed human?” He doesn’t wait for the answer as he runs to the water. The naga hisses, “Ssshe knows.”
Araatris: The druid pauses to let Faye and Kreston dive in before him, his glance going to the still-slippery visage of the priest. He turns back, diving.
Rhoelyn: Once in the water and clear of patrols, Kreston motions for Rhese to take Faye up, then to himself and to the prison cell. He holds up the key.
Araatris: Rhese starts to nod, but Faye puts her hand on his back and pushes him toward Kreston. The seal looks back as she swims for the surface.
Rhoelyn: Kreston looks like he wants to sigh, but instead just points to the cells. Rhese and Kreston carefully head to the cell holding Nithan first.
Araatris: The men slip from the water, but Rhese puts a hand on his arm, saying softly, “Just like we discussed, right? You remember the route?”
Rhoelyn: The sailor nods, “Are you going to go and get the others then if the key works?” Rhese grins, “Of course. This is too good to pass up.”
Araatris: Gesturing at the prison, the druid waits while Kreston shushes the excited captives and explains the plan. When the key unlocks the cage, he grins.
Rhoelyn: He tosses the key to Rhese who nods at him before turning and slipping into the water. Moments later, he’s on his way to the next prison cave.
Araatris: The druid finds no guards in the next two caves and draws the captives temporary maps in the sand to give them their routes back to land.
Rhoelyn: He waits until they’re on their way before shifting to a seal and heading to the last cave. He hides in the nearby coral as two guards head in.
Araatris: Rhese narrows his eyes and flits into the cavern after them, hugging the shadows. His little black nose and his head break the surface of the pool.
Rhoelyn: “Count them. Make sssure they’re all here.” The second guard completes the task silently. “We will need them all. The eggs will hatch soon.”
Araatris: The smaller naga frowns. “Will the great one give us itsss power if we don’t have all of them? Missstress Anari sssaid one remains to be found.”
Rhoelyn: The other naga looks sharply at him, “Do you dare question her? If the great one hasss given the blesssing to prosssede, then we must lisssten.”
Araatris: “It’s jussst… the prophecy…” The second guard shrinks under the first’s glare until he says, “Of courssse, as the great one commandsss.”
Rhoelyn: After a few minutes of confirming the count, they turn to leave. The smaller naga questions again, “Ssshould we bring them to the altar?”
Araatris: “Hisss Holiness wantsss the full count, first.” The other answers with a shake of his head. “We mussst retrieve the ssslaves from the mine, too.”
Rhoelyn: The naga that’s obviously in charge nods, “We will bring them here and finisssh the count.” They leave and Rhese waits in the shadows.
Araatris: He frowns, then looks toward the cages. This group of prisoners is smaller. Quietly, he steps up and shares his plan, taking out the key.
Rhoelyn: Rhese unlocks the cage. A woman thanks him and leads the others out. Then the druid slips into the shadows to wait for the last prisoners.
Araatris: Just as he’s getting impatient, the water ripples and the smaller naga slips onto the sand, his back to the cages. “Come, ssslaves. You-”
Rhoelyn: The cat leaps from the darkness slashing his claws across the naga’s back. The naga arches in pain before turning with a startled hiss.
Araatris: “What issss this?” The guard pulls a sword from his belt even as Rhese rushes in a second time. The prisoners behind him press forward, murmuring.
Rhoelyn: The naga slashes toward the druid causing him swing to the side. Rhese growls and ducks under his arm. The serpent tries to twist and follow.
Araatris: As Rhese slashes again across his side, the other guard and Anari emerge from the water. She hisses and pulls her staff from her back. “You!”
Rhoelyn: The druid snarls and quickly pounces on Anari, intent on knocking the staff from her hand. The prisoners begin to surround the injured naga.
Araatris: “Take him out,” Nithan orders, whispering a dispell under his breath to dissolve their spell-wrought shackles. He turns toward the last guard.
Rhoelyn: The priest whispers again and the last guard shakes his head. The large guard hisses angrily, “Ssstop this!” He slithers towards Nithan.
Araatris: The priest smirks and holds his palm out toward the guard. “That’s my line, snake.” Light bursts from his hand in three swirling, fiery blasts.
Rhoelyn: The guard flings his arms up as the blasts hit him. Meanwhile, behind Nithan the rest of the prisoners have pulled the small naga to the ground.
Araatris: A prisoner wrestles the sword away from the fallen guard, holding it at his neck. Nithan presses his advantage, his eyes betraying his rage.
Rhoelyn: The naga lowers his burned arms, “You little-.” Nithan snarls, “I’ve heard enough.” He brings his hand down and fire streaks down at the guard.
Araatris: The guard’s scream of pain coincides with another as Anari gets claws raked down her tail. She slaps the cat with her staff, sending him tumbling.
Rhoelyn: His claws leave ruts in the sand as he scrambles back to his feet. Anari is already chanting and swirling her glowing staff in front of her.
Araatris: Shadows slither across the ground, wrapping around Rhese before he can move. “You need another taste of the great one’s power, druid!” she hisses.
Rhoelyn: Rhese struggles against the sharp pain in his mind. Growling, he shakes his head and stumbles forward. Anari smiles, “Your mind will burn.”
Araatris: As her magic flares higher, the druid’s form reverts, and he grabs his head. He pulls his healing magic around himself, gasping. “I’m… not alone.”
Rhoelyn: Anari frowns and breaks her concentration from Rhese. The prisoners surround her with Nithan at the lead. The priest smirks, “It’s over, Anari.”
Araatris: Though fear shows in her eyes, she snarls, “Nothing isss over, human. It’s just beginning. I will laugh as you both are the first to be consssumed!”
Rhoelyn: Nithan snorts and holds out his hand as fiery orbs fly at Anari, “That’s only if they can get to us. We will be leaving and you won’t stop us.”
Araatris: The naga whips up her staff, pulling dark water from the pool in a barrier. His holy fire spells sizzle against it, filling the cave with steam.
Rhoelyn: Even while Nithan calls upon a glowing barrier, he calls out to the blurry form of what he thinks is the druid, “Rhese! Follow my voice!”
Araatris: The night elf stumbles toward them with a pained grin and his hand at his head. “Next time, someone else c–” Another shadow looms behind him.
Rhoelyn: Nithan lunges at Rhese, summoning a personal glowing barrier just for the druid. “Behind you!” Rhese turns as a glow permeates the area.
Araatris: Enchanted lightning strikes the barrier and dances around it as the big guard, burnt and battered, already, strikes at Rhese with his trident.
Rhoelyn: The shield holds only long enough for Nithan to knock Rhese to the ground before it shatters. The priest shouts a prayer and raises his hand.
Araatris: His spell connects, and the naga screams once more, collapsing. As the steam starts to clear, the younger guard struggles against his bonds.
Rhoelyn: The young woman with the blade runs back over to the small guard and presses the blade against his neck. She snarls, “Stay still, snake!”
Araatris: Rhese scrambles to his feet and tugs Nithan up. “Anari’s gone. We’re going to be entertaining a lot of angry reinforcements any minute.”
Rhoelyn: Nithan nods and shouts over his shoulder, “Kill him! We have to get out of here!” The woman slices his throat. “Go on. I’ll cover the back.”
Araatris: Though he frowns at the woman’s bloodied sword, Rhese turns and runs for the water. “Follow me! Don’t get left behind or lost in the caves.”
Rhoelyn: The prisoners file behind Rhese and Nithan, slipping carefully out of the cave. Then following the path through caves and coral to the surface.
Araatris: Nysse chews a nail as she paces along the perimeter of the camp in the early dawn light. The odd little pup called Yami capers around her feet.
Rhoelyn: Aleesa watches her before commenting again, “Be patient, Nysse. They likely couldn’t rush.” The draenei places a branch on the fire. “Rest.”
Araatris: The huntress sighs, leaning down to scoop up the quickly-growing pup and cuddle him close. “I know. I tried to sleep, b–” A cry goes up.
Rhoelyn: Several refugees stumble into camp and everyone rushes to help settle the newcomers. Nysse searches through chaos, clutching Yami nervously.
Araatris: A little ways away, she spies Kreston approaching, Rhese’s dagger at his belt. The human grins and waves to see her. “Nysse! Where’re the others?”
Rhoelyn: “I’ve only seen Faye and those you all rescued. Rhese hasn’t returned.” Nysse stares into the woods. “Faye’s with Aleesa at the campfire.”
Araatris: He nods and rests a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. “He had a lot to do, still, when we parted ways. I’m not surprised that it’s taking so long.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse attempts a smile, “I’m not the only one waiting for someone, but it’ll be fine.” She puts down the squirming pup. “Do you need any help?”
Araatris: “Of course,” the sailor says with an understanding look. “We’ve got a lot of new mouths to feed. We’re going to need to build a smokehouse.”
Rhoelyn: She nods and focuses on the task at hand. “I’ll harvest some wood if you want to scout a location. It should only take a couple of hours.”
Araatris: Kreston gives her shoulder a last pat before they set to work. It’s warm in the early morning sun, and halfway through, there’s another ruckus.
Rhoelyn: Nysse and Yami’s heads rise at the same time. Sighing, she wipes the sweat off her brow with her shirt and forces herself to go back to work.
Araatris: “Nithan!” Faye’s happy shout has the huntress’ attention immediately, and she looks over at the fire. Rhese is in the firelight, looking around.
Rhoelyn: Relief shudders through Nysse. As she stares, Kreston takes the axe from her limp fingers. “What are you waiting for? He’s looking for you.”
Araatris: Breaking into a big smile and a sudden run, she rushes across the camp, Yami trailing after her. When he glances her way, his relief is evident.
Rhoelyn: She flings her arms around his neck, kissing him. Rhese stumbles back, but wraps his arms around her waist. “I wasn’t gone that long, love.”
Araatris: He grins and kisses her again before she can respond. When he pulls away, she stares at him warmly. “I was w-” A little voice interrupts, “An’da!”
Rhoelyn: Nysse’s wide-eyed gaze snaps down to the small child tugging at Rhese’s pant leg. The small purple-skinned boy repeats himself, “An’da!”
Araatris: Rhese and even Faye nearby stare at the dark-eyed being in shock. Nithan grins. “I didn’t know you had a child.” The druid stammers, “Y-Yami?”
Rhoelyn: Yami stomps his foot and holds his arms above his head, “Up!” Nysse looks frantically between them and stumbles backwards to fall on her rear.
Araatris: The human blinks in surprise. “Nysse? Are you ill?” She mutely watches as Rhese leans down to pick up the boy, holding him with obvious reluctance.
Rhoelyn: She attempts to stutter a response, “I-i…” Her cheeks are flushed. She forces herself back to her feet and walks tentatively towards Rhese.
Araatris: The druid pales when the boy wraps his arms around his neck, cuddling. “Dalah an’da.” Rhese slants Nysse a desperate look, patting his little back.
Rhoelyn: “Y-yami.” Nysse smiles weakly under everyone’s gaze as she reaches out and gently places her hands on the boy’s waist. “Why don’t we take a walk?”
Araatris: When the child squeezes harder, Rhese sucks in a breath. “Eya, min’da! An’da!” The druid forces a similarly weak grin for the others. “Excuse us a moment.”
Rhoelyn: Nithan and Faye share a look of confusion as Nysse draws her hands back. She follows him a ways out of camp. “Rhese, I didn’t know. I swear.”
Araatris: The druid simply nods, though his gaze is wild. He moves his large hands to the boy’s waist, speaking in Darnassian. “Yami, go to ma-… Nysse.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse manages to blush brighter, but takes the pouting child. The child complains, “want papa,” but he allows her to settle him at her hip.
Araatris: The huntress speaks quietly to the child, “This form doesn’t please Rhese, Yami. Can you tell?” The boy’s pout deepens, and he shakes his head.
Rhoelyn: She pushes his hair behind his ear, “Why do you want to stay in this form so much, Yami? We both loved your wolf form. Wouldn’t that be better?”
Araatris: Yami frowns and mutters, “Papa likes…” before his form ripples back to the wolf pup. He squirms out of Nysse’s arms and sits by her foot.
Rhoelyn: The huntress frowns in confusion, “Papa likes? What does he mean?” Rhese doesn’t meet her eyes when she looks up at him. “Rhese, do you know?”
Araatris: He blushes brightly, running a hand through his hair. “Yami is not a little boy, night elven or otherwise. And how did i-he get so big, already?”
Rhoelyn: Her eyes widen at his blush. She kneels down next to Yami. “I’m not sure. I don’t even know what he eats, but he’s been growing steadily.”
Araatris: Rhese sighs and closes his eyes, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. “The priest who’s nurturing the other eggs intended to feed them the prisoners.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse scoops Yami up in her arms. “Yami wouldn’t do that. He’s been nothing but gentle.” She cradles him protectively causing Rhese to sigh again.
Araatris: “Alright, Nysse. I’m glad.” He nods and leans forward to kiss her cheek. Yami lunges up to try to lick at him, and Rhese starts, pulling away.
Rhoelyn: “He’s not trying to hurt you. He wants you to like him.” Nysse rubs the pup’s ears soothingly. “We did agree that we should try to teach him.”
Araatris: He pats the wiggling pup with low enthusiasm. “I know, lovely. I just… it’s been a long night, my head hurts, and… I’m just not at my best.”
Rhoelyn: She sighs sadly, “Would you preferred if I stayed away from camp with Yami? I’m not sure how we’d answer any questions about the child either.”
Araatris: Rhese considers that, idly stroking the pup. “You can’t be exiled from camp. It’s not safe. We’ll have to tell Nithan and Faye what Yami is.”
Rhoelyn: “And everyone else that saw him? Maybe I should ask him to change back.” Nysse frowns as she tries to think of the best way to figure it out.
Araatris: The druid groans and rubs his forehead. “Maybe they just won’t ask?” He looks at Nysse hopefully.
Rhoelyn: She grimaces, “After my reaction? Probably half the camp is talking.” Nysse holds up the pup under his front paws and looks him in the eyes.
Araatris: “Yami, you can go back to th-” Before she even finishes the request, he ripples back into the little boy and gives her a big grin. “Min’da!”
Rhoelyn: Nysse flushes crimson as she sets him on her hip. “W-we can find our own s-spot to sleep…” She’s distracted as Yami lays his head on her shoulder.
Araatris: Rhese watches her with the sweet, silver-haired child and grimaces. “It’s not going to work. Night elves don’t have dark eyes. His are black.”
Rhoelyn: Yami yawns and lightly grasps her shirt. Nysse strokes his hair and sighs. “I know. Let’s get to Faye and the others. Maybe we can explain.”
Araatris: Yawning himself, the druid nods. “It’s all we can do.” He leans close once more for that aborted kiss on her cheek, his hand brushing the boy’s head.
Rhoelyn: The toddler mumbles happily, “An’da.” Nysse smiles warmly at both of them. “You’re both worn out. Come on.” They return to join the group at the fire.
Araatris: Aleesa and Dorian have joined the couple, and they look up as the night elves approach. The dwarf’s jaw drops at the “boy” in Nysse’s arms.
Rhoelyn: Nysse is unable to hide her embarrassment as she sits quietly and cradles Yami in her lap. “D-do you have a moment to talk?” She doesn’t look up.
Araatris: Rhese settles down beside them both as Aleesa says, “Apparently, we need to.” Her gaze is also riveted to Yami. “He has certainly… bonded well.”
Rhoelyn: Yami reaches out and grasps Nysse’s hand. She glances at Rhese. “Perhaps we should start at the beginning?” He nods, but lets her explain.
Araatris: By the time she’s finished the short tale of the egg from the river, Yami is asleep and Nithan’s face is tight with alarm. He looks at Faye.
Rhoelyn: Faye frowns, “Aren’t those eggs supposed to be dangerous?” Uncomfortable with their looks, Nysse pulls Yami closer. “Yami isn’t dangerous.”
Araatris: Aleesa chimes in, “We know next to nothing about them. The spirits were clear on just this: this one should be with Nysse if we’re to prevail.”
Rhoelyn: Nithan shakes his head. “Are we really going to harbor a void creature? It could be killing her right now.” He reaches for Yami. “We can’t-.”
Araatris: Rhese catches his wrist even as Nysse shies away. “Don’t,” the druid warns, keeping his voice calm despite his firm grip. “It’s already decided.”
Rhoelyn: The priest yanks his hand back angrily. “This is the same thing they were planning on feeding us to and you’re fine with this? It’s not a child.”
Araatris: The night elf meets his anger with determination. “Agreed. It’s not a child, Nithan. Nor a wolf or a cat or any other form it can take. (c)
Araatris: (c) But it is a fledgling. Nysse is teaching him to be more than just a monster.” He looks at the sleeping toddler. “This form is proof of that.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse murmurs in a soft sing-song by Yami’s ear, but she glares out from under her hair. Nithan growls,”You’re risking everything if you’re wrong.”
Araatris: Rhese gestures at Aleesa. “According to her, we’re risking everything if we don’t do this.” His lips draw into a tight line. “Nysse has decided.”
Rhoelyn: Nithan looks at Faye seeking her answer. Faye looks at the child and sighs. “Anything can be dangerous if raised to be so. I’ll trust them.”
Araatris: The priest’s brow furrows. “They don’t know what they’re doing. This… thing is an Old God’s creation. I want nothing to do with it. Spirits be damned.”
Rhoelyn: He pushes to his feet and stalks away. Faye glances at the others before following. Nysse hides her face against the boy’s hair and hugs him.
Araatris: With a weary sigh, Rhese scrubs at his face before looking at Aleesa and Dorian. The shaman softly says, “I know you worry, too, Rhese. Thank you.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse mumbles, “We should rest. I didn’t sleep last night.” Her eyes are downcast as she lifts Yami and stands. “We’ll find some place to sleep.”
Araatris: Rhese nods and stands as well. “Sleep would be nice. I wish we still had some of your herbs, lovely,” he says to Nysse, rubbing his aching head.
Rhoelyn: She sighs, “Me, too.” Aleesa comments, “There’s a more private spot around the trees if you’d prefer…” Nysse smiles gratefully. “Thank you.”
Araatris: The huntress blinks in surprise when Rhese holds his hands out for Yami, but she hands the sleeping boy to him and watches him settle happily.
Rhoelyn: They head to the indicated location and it’s nestled within a few large tree roots. There’s a soft bed of moss and a makeshift roof of leaves.
Araatris: Rhese lays the boy-creature down gently at the center of the bed and settles heavily beside him. He hunches forward and rests his head on his knee.
Rhoelyn: Nysse hesitates, “Do you want me to go see if I can find some herbs?” She kneels and tucks his hair behind his ear. “I saw some earlier today.”
Araatris: He catches her hand, nuzzling his cheek against it. “No, love. I don’t want you to go anywhere. Just come sleep. We’ll both feel better.”
Rhoelyn: She smiles, “Of course, beloved.” Nysse leans in and kisses his forehead before sitting on the other side of Yami. She lays on her side facing them.
Araatris: Rhese lays down on the other side and reaches across the boy to claim Nysse’s hand. She giggles softly at how quickly he’s fast asleep.
Rhoelyn: The huntress shifts closer and takes a deep breath to let the tension ease from her muscles. It’s not long before she joins both of them in slumber.
Cata Arc – Chapter 5
Rhoelyn: Faye shivers, chained next to a strange altar that she swears is watching her. The tattooed naga ignores her and checks on another egg.