Araatris: The next day, as their sabers pad along the hard-packed road toward Hallvalor, Rhese watches Nysse’s stiff back, sighing. “I already apologized.”
Rhoelyn: “That’s no excuse for your lack of professionalism. I give you a certain leeway due to the op, but I was sleeping.” Her voice shakes with anger.
Araatris: “I told you,” he complains, “I thought you were… someone else. Don’t I get any credit that I didn’t actually touch you? …Close as it was.”
Rhoelyn: She stops her mount and twists to look at him. “Can you swear to me that you wouldn’t have if I hadn’t woken up? Because I don’t think you can.”
Araatris: The druid groans and rubs his aching head as he pulls his mount up beside hers. “What do you want me to say, Nyssera? I was drowsy and confused.”
Rhoelyn: The huntress frowns. “Fine. I’ll count it as an honest mistake. Now heal yourself and be glad I hit you with the pommel.” She starts riding again.
Araatris: “Anything the lady wishes.” He mumbles with a little twist of his lips, his saber following hers down the road as he concentrates on healing.
Rhoelyn: Nysse raises up in her saddle, peering ahead. “We should be there shortly after nightfall. We should be in disguise before we get there.”
Araatris: “Agreed,” Rhese nods, brushing a hand through his silver hair as he looks around. “We need somewhere private to get that established.”
Rhoelyn: She gazes around as well before pointing ahead. “What about around those hills? It’s hidden from the main road. We’ll have to shift gear as well.”
Araatris: “Morthis’ contact was supposed to be somewhere around here. Once we’re in disguise, we’ll have to leave the sabers behind.” Rhese stretches.
Rhoelyn: The young woman sighs, “I know. Did he say what to look for?” Nysse settles back into her saddle, petting Kamura. She looks over at him.
Araatris: He pulls a face. “It’s one of the friendly blue demons. He said you’d like him, so I’m just going to guess that he probably will be with a wolf.”
Rhoelyn: Her eyes light up. “Ah! I know where they’ll be then.” Nysse rides ahead. “Follow me.” She rides off the path and past the hills towards a river.
Araatris: Rhese follows until she pulls up near the riverbank, soothing Kamura to a walk. He looks around, his brow furrowing. “Why are we here, Nyssera?”
Rhoelyn: Nysse snorts. “I know you’re not that dense. We’re meeting with our friendly blue demon contact whose name I might guess is Valerio.”
Araatris: The druid looks at her. “You know this guy, I take it?” “Hmph,” a deep voice answers at a growl. “Just who are you calling a friendly blue demon?”
Rhoelyn: The huntress smiles broadly. “Val! Please tell me you brought her. Please?” Nysse slips off her mount and bolts toward the draenei behind them.
Araatris: “How could I not, green leaf?” His frown twisting into a smile, the broad-shouldered man puts his fingers to his lips and gives a sharp whistle.
Rhoelyn: A grey wolf bounds out from behind a tree and runs up to Nysse. The huntress drops to her knees to welcome her. “Oh sweet, darling Halaa…”
Araatris: Rhese watches them from atop his saber, a little grin lifting his lips. Until he winces with the stabbing thought that it’s not the right wolf.
Rhoelyn: She rubs the wolf’s stomach. “She’ll have another five or six pups this time.” Nysse gives a watery smile. “But there will never be another Tsume.”
Araatris: Valerio dares to pat her shoulder, a move that has the druid raising his brows when she doesn’t seem to mind. “No. But there will be others.”
Rhoelyn: Ignoring his comment, she sniffles and asks, “Where’s Vulfenstein? You did bring him, didn’t you?” Nysse tilts her head up to see his nod.
Araatris: Rhese’s chuckle interrupts his answer. “Vulfenstein? What kind of name is that?” When Valerio glowers, he smirks. “Oh, don’t be sour, squidface.”
Rhoelyn: “Stop, Rhese.” She whistles and another wolf comes padding out. Nysse greets him and stands. “I’ll be sure to come see the pups this time.”
Araatris: Finally slipping free from his mount, Rhese starts untying gear from his saddle. “If you two are ready, can we please get on with it?”
Rhoelyn: She shares a frustrated look with Valerio before nodding. “Most of my weapons and armor are on Kamura, Val. It’s a light mission for me.”
Araatris: The draenei nods, wandering over to give the nightsaber a tender pat. “I will keep them safe.” Rhese tosses her the satchel with her disguise armor.
Rhoelyn: “I’ll be behind the tree…” The wolves follow in her footsteps. Hidden, Nyssera quickly changes. “I need someone to buckle the back please.”
Araatris: When the druid raises his head to find Valerio gone, he shrugs and pauses in the process of lacing his armor to walk over and help her once more.
Rhoelyn: Her back is turned to him as she watches the wolves fondly. Nysse glances over her shoulder. “Are you already finished putting on your armor?”
Araatris: Distracted, he says, “Not yet. Hold still, will you?” The huntress blinks, gaping at the way his breastplate hangs open to reveal his bare chest.
Rhoelyn: “P-put a shirt, ar-armor, anything on!” Nysse’s voice raises incredulously. She flushes to the tips of her ears and covers her face with a groan.
Araatris: Rhese blinks and looks down at himself. “Well, technically, I do have armor on.” He can’t help his teasing grin. “Just hold still. Nearly done.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse holds her breath as he finishes the latch. Her words are muffled by her hands. “It… It doesn’t count until the straps are buckled!”
Araatris: He releases her with a chuckle, walking away. “Duly noted. You are safe from my scandalous flesh, my lady.” Still grinning, he resumes dressing.
Rhoelyn: “It’s n-not funny! Hasn’t anyone ever told you to make sure you’re d-decent?!” She kneels and hides her face against Halaa’s furry side.
Araatris: “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that skin is just skin?” His grin turns wicked. “At least I didn’t show you m-” Valerio clears his throat loudly.
Rhoelyn: The draenei kneels down next to Nysse. “Come on. Let’s get you on your way, okay?” She mumbles, “This is why I don’t work with partners.”
Araatris: The druid manages to tame his chuckles down to a lingering amused grin by the time his smooth, fashionable sin’dorei armor is fully donned.
Araatris: “You’re going to be showing an awful lot of skin yourself, Nyssera. You might want to make friends with the idea.” He faces them, fist on his hip.
Rhoelyn: She stands. “I’ll wear my cloak a lot. Say that I’m used to warmer weather or something.” Valerio sighs. “Morthis warned me you might try that.”
Araatris: Rhese blinks at the draenei, tugging at the high neck of his breastplate. “So slaves aren’t permitted cloaks, after all?” He gives Nysse a look.
Rhoelyn: Nysse looks between them. Valerio prompts, “Hand it over. They need to be able to see the collar and the chain.” Growling, she throws it at him.
Araatris: Rhese frowns, all levity gone. “Let me keep it for now.” He holds a hand out to Val. “I won’t have my… property falling ill if the weather turns.”
Rhoelyn: Her mouth opens in surprise. Valerio nods. “That’s reasonable, but don’t let her hide. A sin’dorei shows off his slaves as a matter of status.”
Araatris: Rhese nods. “I know,” he says, taking her cloak from the hunter as his form shifts with a subtle hint of magic. “And I’ve got one to crowe about.”
Rhoelyn: She blinks owlishly before shaking her head. “What mounts will we be riding?” Valerio grins. “There’s only one mount, but I think you’ll like it.”
Araatris: Sin’dorei features scrunching, Rhese groans. “Please tell me it’s not one of those ridiculous, spindly chickens they love.” Valerio chuckles. “No.”
Rhoelyn: He pulls out a wood whistle and blows a low tone. A large armored frostwolf pads toward them. Nysse stares with huge excited eyes. “Really?”
Araatris: “His name’s Vorok. He’s from up in Frostfire Ridge, bred by the orcs there.” The hunter regards the wolf with proud eyes. “He’s a bright boy.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse greets him. “What a gorgeous boy, too.” He noses her. “I like you, too, Vorok.” She swings up on his back, kilt settling about her knees.
Araatris: “I’m afraid you’ve forgotten something, lo-… Nyssera.” Rhese’s brow furrows, but with a little shake of his head, he holds up the silver chain.
Rhoelyn: With a subtle nudge of her knees, the wolf pads to Rhese. She leans down reaching for it. “I can do it.” The druid’s cheeks warm as she does so.
Araatris: He gulps and looks away as she tugs the chain from his hand, and his eyes find Valerio, who glares at him. “W-what?” he snaps. “I’m trying!”
Rhoelyn: The huntress clips the chain to the shirt and collar. “What are you trying?” Her curious and oblivious gaze settles on him. “Did I do it right?”
Araatris: “Okay,” the druid mumbles quietly. “You said you were going to get used to it. You’re not used to it. Get used to it.” He forces himself to look.
Rhoelyn: His gaze drifts over her emerald framed face, then down her frame to the chain. “Yes… Yes, it looks right. Does it feel securely attached?”
Araatris: “I think so.” When he stills, that stranger’s green-eyed gaze raking over her once more, Nysse shifts uncomfortably. “Let’s get going.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese nods. “As you wish.” He settles the packs on the side before climbing behind her. Nysse stiffens when he reaches around her for the reins.
Araatris: Rhese sighs softly and just turns his attention to Valerio. “Thanks for the mount. We’ll take good care of him.” He squirms to get comfortable.
Rhoelyn: Nysse swallows and leans forward and away, but leans on his hands and quickly sits back up. Valerio schools his face neutrally. “Be safe.”
Araatris: Twenty minutes later, Rhese has a headache from gritting his teeth. “Cen-… By the Light, Nysse!” he snaps. “Stop wiggling. It won’t help!”
Rhoelyn: “I can’t get comfortable. It feels…” Nysse voice drops off, because as much as she wanted to protest it felt warm and safe and it terrified her.
Araatris: When she fails to continue, he nudges her with an elbow against her ribs. “… feels?” She swallows, silent. “… like you want to stop squirming?”
Rhoelyn: It’s a long moment before she makes the tiniest of nods of her head. She stutters, “B-but… no one g-gets this close. It’s not… I d-don’t…”
Araatris: Rhese waits until her nervous rant fizzles. “Nyssera,” he says softly, his pale hands gripping the reins. “I know you’re not used to company, but…”
Rhoelyn: Nysse twists to try and look at him, still distressed. “But what…?” Her voice is soft and tremulous. Rhese glances down from the road.
Araatris: “But this assignment is going to put us together with each other and a lot of people, most of whom will want to kill us if we slip up.” He sighs.
Rhoelyn: She bites her lip. “You’re right. I’ll focus. I’m not exactly sure how a slave is supposed to act though.” Nysse turns back and tries to relax.
Araatris: The druid ponders that for a moment, shifting around to stretch out his back. “Imagine the events that are supposed to have gotten you enslaved.”
Rhoelyn: “Hmmm. I was living in a cave in Ashenvale.” Nysse ponders. “I’m caught hunting too close to a village. When I was brought in… you bought me.”
Araatris: He nods by her ear. “How did that make you feel? You’re going to be mine for the rest of your life, slave. You do want I want, or I punish you.”
Rhoelyn: She swallows nervously. “Scared. Angry. I probably would have tried to escape despite the risks. It… probably would have looked feral…”
Araatris: “There’s no probably, Nyssera.” The blood elf lifts one hand from the reins and grips her wrist tightly. “You tried to escape. How dare you!”
Rhoelyn: The huntress trembles and shrinks in his arms. “W-what would happen to me when you caught me? How would you know I wouldn’t try again?”
Araatris: His voice, the only thing familiar about him now, is a low, rumbling growl. His grip on her wrist tightens. “If you try, I will hurt you worse.”
Rhoelyn: The night elf winces and shakes her head. “I-i-i won’t. I’ll… I’ll do as you say.” When his grip doesn’t lighten, she whimpers, “I swear it!”
Araatris: He waits just long enough for her to whimper again before he releases the pressure on her wrist, moving that hand to her waist. “Better.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse gasps, but forces herself to stay still. She falls silent not knowing what else to do. Her eyes flickers to the sky as evening falls.
Araatris: As the road around them becomes more populated with other travelers, Rhese speaks by her ear. “It’s time. Don’t forget that fear and anger.”
Rhoelyn: She mumbles, “Yes, Rhese,” but looks away from other people’s curious gazes with a flushed scowl. They reach the guards after several minutes.
Araatris: When the bored-looking orcs stop them and demand their travel papers, Rhese pulls out a leather folio and watches calmly as they look it over.
Rhoelyn: Glaring at the orcs appraising looks, Nysse wraps her arms around herself. They hand the folio back to him. “Everything looks good. Head on in.”
Araatris: Rhese smiles, resting a casually possessive hand against Nysse’s ribs and gives them a jaunty wave. “Thank you, gents. Don’t mind if I do.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese guides the mount to the stable hut and a peon takes the reins as he dismounts. A sharp look at Nysse has her scrambling off the wolf.
Araatris: “Get my things.” He orders her with the air of someone used to being obeyed as he steps to the side and looks out over the dirty little town.
Rhoelyn: Her expression flickers darkly before nervousness wins out and she grabs the gear bag and hugs it to her chest. Nysse stares at his feet.
Araatris: “Ah! There’s the inn.” Rhese smiles and points at a slightly larger, every bit as dirty-looking building to the north. “Come along, my dear.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse growls softly at the endearment, but follows him obediently. Very softly and hesitantly she asks, “Will we be able to eat dinner there?”
Araatris: He nods. “And a good thing, too. I’m simply famished.” Rhese leads along the narrow paths, his usual leonine grace replaced by a dancing swagger.
Rhoelyn: They enter the larger inn hut and Nysse cringes as people watch them. She shadows Rhese closely as he waves at the innkeeper. “Greetings!”
Araatris: The brown-skinned orc looks like she just climbed up out of the matching brown mud of the hut’s floor, her old skin weathered and wrinkled.
Rhoelyn: Her gaze assesses them sharply. “You’ll sleep on cots like everyone else. Room fee includes whatever food you can scrounge from the communal pot.”
Araatris: Raising one black brow, the sin’dorei smirks. “Oh, no. I’m afraid that won’t do at all. I only want to rent some space in your yard for my tent.”
Rhoelyn: The orc grumbles, “It’s an extra charge to take up space. Will you eat too?” Her dark look includes Nysse who shuffles her feet and looks down.
Araatris: “Hm.” With a little sigh, Rhese glances over at the pot and the unidentifiable goop cooking there. “No, I think I’ll let my girl take care of that.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse grips the bags tighter under the orc woman’s gaze. “If you cause any trouble, I’ll call the guards. Five gold for the right side out there.”
Araatris: The sin’dorei smiles and hands her the coins. “Thank you. Don’t be worried. This one is well trained.” He chuckles and tugs Nysse against his side.
Rhoelyn: The huntress barely manages to restrain her startled reflex and instead nervously shifts and mumbles, “Do you wish for me to put up the tent?”
Araatris: There’s a quiet apology in his eyes that thoroughly misses his voice as Rhese leads the way outside. “No. Your task is dinner. Don’t dally.”
Rhoelyn: “As you wish.” Nysse sets down the bags outside and sets up a firepit. The steady work allows her to ignore the people who stop to watch.
Araatris: The sin’dorei brushes his hair out of his face as he starts working on the tent himself. Before long, the simple shelter is cozy and assembled.
Rhoelyn: The night elf’s gaze is drawn to the tent and she fights the tremble in her hand as she stirs the soup. “Dinner is ready. Would you like a bowl?”
Araatris: Glancing over as he straightens, Rhese pulls a timekeeping trinket from his scarlet and cream armor. “Hm. I suppose it’s not too early.”
Rhoelyn: “We can let it simmer if you prefer.” Nysse’s stomach growls in protest. She ducks her head and goes back to stirring the pot. “Sorry.”
Araatris: Giving an indelicate snort, he slips the trinket back in its pocket and brushes his hair out of his face. “If my choices are to eat early (c)
Araatris: (c) or listen to your stomach growl, I’ll choose to eat early. You may serve us food.” Rhese sighs. “Really, my dear. You and your appetites…”
Rhoelyn: The huntress blushes, “I’m sorry.” She spoons his bowl first and steps around the fire to hand it to him. “I can add more seasoning if you need.”
Araatris: He blows on his spoonful and then takes a taste, pronouncing it good enough. “Go get yourself food before I have to hear your stomach again.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse nods and hurries to fix her own bowl. She settles down on the far side of the fire and begins eating as quickly as she can cool each bite.
Araatris: Slanting her an amused look, Rhese eventually gets up and takes the water skin to her, immediately turning away to leave her in peace.
Rhoelyn: She takes a long drink before fixing a second bowl, eating it just as quick as the first. Finally, she covers the pot and starts cleaning.
Araatris: “Nyssera.” She’s nearly done when his call has her looking over. The magical glow of his time piece cuts off as he puts it away. “You’re slow.”
Rhoelyn: Her brow furrows in confusion. “I don’t understand. What did I do too slowly?” Nysse rocks back on her heels, pausing in cleaning the spoon.
Araatris: With an irritated frown, he pulls the trinket back out and flashes the time. “You know I like to stay on schedule. It’s now two minutes past bed.”
Rhoelyn: She ducks her head. “Yes, of course. I’ll hurry.” Nysse quickly finishes the spoon and puts it away. “I’m done. What would you have me do next?”
Araatris: Her master raises his brows and points to the tent, a motion that any random passerby can see. “Bed, of course. Come along. It’s late.”
Rhoelyn: “Yes, Rhese.” Nysse reluctantly moves and enters the tent. She sits as far as she can inside, awkwardly holding her hands in her lap.
Araatris: She can hear at least one suspiciously timed creepy snicker from outside as the disguised druid climbs in after her and secures the flap.
Rhoelyn: Nysse swallows nervously and huddles in the corner. She opens her mouth, looks at the tent and sighs, opting for silence instead.
Araatris: Settling beside her, Rhese attempts to give her whatever space he can manage, but the tent is not roomy. “It will be odd if we’re too quiet.”
Rhoelyn: Her quiet voice feels much too loud in the tiny area. “Why’s that? You’re going to sleep, aren’t you? Do you have enough room to lay down?”
Araatris: For a moment, he stares at her silently, his borrowed features shifting back to normal. “You know-… never mind. There is only one way this works.”
Rhoelyn: She blushes under his scrutiny. Nysse frowns and tucks her hair behind her ear. “I don’t understand. There’s only one way for what to work?”
Araatris: The handsome night elf gives her a playful grin before his form folds in on itself. He takes up slightly less space as a sleek, silver cat.
Rhoelyn: Nysse gasps delightedly, “Rhese!” She shifts to her knees and leans forward, reaching out, but hesitates. “Is it… is it alright if I touch you?”
Araatris: His feline grin is in the purr rumbling through him, and he rubs against her hands in wordless permission. He nudges her shoulder with his nose.
Rhoelyn: Smiling, her eyes sparkle as she wraps her arms around his neck and runs her fingers through his fur. “You’re so soft! Oh! May I lie down?”
Araatris: The druid butts his head under her chin, unbalancing her. She catches herself on her elbows with an “Oh!” and admonishes him. “Not so rough…”
Rhoelyn: “If I’d known you could do this…” Nysse runs her fingers over his tattoos. He licks her cheek. “Ah! What are you doing?” She falls fully back.
Araatris: When his rough tongue hits a ticklish spot at the corner of her jaw, she gasps, shoving him. “S-stop!” she says, breathless. “Don’t lick t-there!”
Rhoelyn: The druid takes a risk and ducks his head to lick her stomach. She cries out, startled, then exclaims, “Rhese!” Nysse shoves his head away.
Araatris: Rhese withdraws, satisfied with her performance. He turns his face to the wall and shifts back to his native form. His shoulders shake silently.
Rhoelyn: Nysse frowns in confusion. She sits up and lightly touches his shoulder. “Rhese?” He holds up a hand for her to wait and she watches worriedly.
Araatris: When the paroxysm of laughter finally passes enough for him to speak, he turns, wiping tears from his eyes. “Light! That was better than I expected.”
Rhoelyn: Nysse flushes and hisses, “Are you making fun of me? You keep talking cryptically and now you’re laughing at me.” She narrows her eyes angrily.
Araatris: He sobers and braves her anger to lean closer and lower his voice. “Calm down. I’m not making fun of you. Just get some rest, now, okay?”
Rhoelyn: The anger evaporates into a morose tiredness as she rubs her face. The huntress whispers, “I don’t know how to deal with you. You can sleep first.”
Araatris: Rhese grins gently and then says more loudly, “Rest, my dear. You’ve pleased me.” He turns away, shifting back into the cat and plopping down.
Araatris: The next day, as their sabers pad along the hard-packed road toward Hallvalor, Rhese watches Nysse’s stiff back, sighing. “I already apologized.”