Rhoelyn: Valerio holds up his hand and looks back at Verune as the group stops, “I see their trail here going east. Does that match what you sense?”
Araatris: His gaze on the woods, Verune nods, speaking softly. “The den is near.” Kaerryn frowns, whispering. “Why haven’t we seen any signs of Nysse?”
Rhoelyn: Verune looks grim, “I’m not sure. We must prepare ourselves for the worst. He could have…” He can’t seem to bring himself to finish the warning.
Araatris: Valerio interjects at an annoyed growl. “Never in a million lifetimes. I don’t care how lost he is, Rhese would never hurt Nysse.” He scowls.
Rhoelyn: Verune sighs, “I hope you’re right.” Wrune moves next to Verune, “How do we proceed? If we startle him, I can’t imagine it’ll go well.”
Araatris: “Quite so.” The elder druid nods. “It will be best if he is still asleep. I can probably force him to stay docile until we can subdue him.”
Rhoelyn: “Kaerryn, watch Rylana.” Wrune gestures. Kaerryn frowns, but takes the girl’s arm. Val looks at the tracks again, “There’s two others with him.”
Araatris: The warrior scowls. “You’re going to be quiet, right?” At the girl’s sullen look, she frowns and pulls out a rag. “You’re going to be quiet.”
Rhoelyn: Rylana reluctantly nods, but Kaerryn gags her anyway. “We’re not going to take any chances.” Valerio stands, “I’ll subdue the others with tranqs.”
Araatris: Vulf dances eagerly at his side, sniffing at the ground. As he loads his rifle, Val glances at him. “Tsume is nearby. That’s a promising sign.”
Rhoelyn: Verune nods, “Let’s go.” The elder druid and hunter range forward with the others lagging behind. It’s not long before they find the cave.
Araatris: Within the shallow cave, the afternoon sun glints off the sleeping great wolf’s silver fur. His right foreleg and half of his back are black.
Rhoelyn: Nestled against his side is a smaller canine. Her brown and green dappled fur stand out against the silver. Near them is a familiar snowy form.
Araatris: Assessing their discovery, Verune’s eyes widen. Valerio looks at him, silent but questioning with his gaze. Vulf trembles anxiously at his side.
Rhoelyn: Tsume’s nose twitches and she raises her head as she sniffs the air. The group outside the cave tenses as her gaze swings towards them.
Araatris: She woofs excitedly and hops up, immediately waking the other two. Cursing, Verune points at Rhese and magic wreathes his hand as she rushes over.
Rhoelyn: Amber eyes peer out and Rhese starts to rise with a snarl. However, the magic hits him and he stumbles back to the ground shaking his head.
Araatris: The other wolf scrambles to her paws, leaping forward to snarl protectively in front of Rhese as he reels. Tsume pauses beside Vulf, looking back.
Rhoelyn: Valerio raises his gun at the brown wolf, but his shot goes wide as Tsume pushes him with a whine. “What in the world are you doing, Tsume? Heel!”
Araatris: Vulf snaps at Tsume in warning, and suddenly the two are squabbling at Valerio’s feet, jostling him. “Cenarius’ beard!” Verune curses, straining.
Rhoelyn: Val dives forward attempting another shot at the brown wolf. The larger wolf pushes her down and it hits Rhese’ paw instead. He snarls at them.
Araatris: As Nysse climbs back to her paws, Rhese leaps forward, vicious despite being slightly unsteady. Verune shifts and meets him as a bear.
Rhoelyn: Rhese’s sluggishness allows Verune to pin him to the ground. Rhese twists snapping at him. Val shoots at the other wolf again, “Come on…”
Araatris: Nysse yelps as Val’s tranquilizer pierces her shoulder, and she stumbles. The silver wolf redoubles his struggles, slashing Verune across the flank.
Rhoelyn: Valerio shoots Rhese a couple more times, narrowly missing Verune. Nysse falls to her stomach and whines. Tsume races past Vulf towards her.
Araatris: After a few more seconds and a couple more struggles with Verune’s ursine weight, Rhese collapses, his sides heaving. Tsume guards Nysse.
Rhoelyn: Wrune comments dryly, “I suppose this could be worse, but I’m not sure how.” He walks over towards Verune, laying a golden hand on his fur.
Araatris: Once healed, Verune shifts, watching Rhese as his eyes drift closed. He sighs. Val steps up, worry lining his face. “And still no sign of Nysse?”
Rhoelyn: Verune shakes his head, “Just our mystery wolf. Have you see that coloring before?” Valerio frowns, “No, I haven’t. Should I tranq Tsume for now?”
Araatris: Verune watches Tsume for a moment before answering, “No.” He approaches her and her charge slowly, holding out his hand. “You’re safe, girl.”
Rhoelyn: Tsume growls softly, but sniffs towards his hand. He waits patiently as she looks between Rhese and Nysse before lowering her head and whining.
Araatris: “We won’t hurt them, pup.” The druid pets Tsume, half his attention on the wolf sleeping beside her. He rests a hand on her brown shoulder.
Rhoelyn: The elder frowns and kneels next to her. Valerio walks up, leaning down to ruffle Tsume’s fur, “Something wrong, Verune?” The druid nods.
Araatris: He says nothing more, laying both hands against the wolf’s side. His magic glows softly as he uses it to explore the riddle he can sense.
Rhoelyn: Val watches nervously. After several minutes, Verune speaks softly, “This shouldn’t be possible. She’s not a druid.” Verune looks back at Rhese.
Araatris: Wrune joins them. “What shouldn’t be possible, exactly?” The druid frowns down at the oddly colored wolf. “We have found Nysse,” he announces.
Rhoelyn: Wrune blinks. Val growls, “He cursed her?” Verune shakes his head, “No, she’s a wolf not a worgen. He must have used the Umbral Scythe somehow.”
Araatris: “Can y-” He’s interrupted by Kaerryn dragging Rylana through the underbrush. “Are you guys done playing, yet? I’m getting bored, back here!”
Rhoelyn: Wrune sighs, “I’ll take care of her. Just… do something about this.” He turns to Kaerryn, “Good timing! I have a few questions for Rylana.”
Araatris: Wrune drags Kaerryn who drags Rylana back and away from the elder druid. Verune sighs, muttering, “He says this as if it’s that easy.”
Rhoelyn: Verune stands and turns towards Rhese. His gesture brings large vines to hold the massive wolf to the ground. Val frowns, “What about Nysse?”
Araatris: The elder shakes his head, staring thoughtfully at Rhese. “Druidic magic cannot change the form of others, Valerio. Forms are focused within.”
Rhoelyn: Verune removes a vial from his belt. He uncorks it and waves the pungent substance under Rhese’s nose. Moments later amber eyes are revealed.
Araatris: Predictably, the wolf struggles, snarling. Verune waits while he tests his bonds and finally exhausts himself, arms folded across his chest.
Rhoelyn: Verune rumbles, “Nysse is fine, you insolent cub.” He huffs, “Bring her forward, Valerio.” Val gently lays her between them and backs away.
Araatris: Rhese renews his struggles, straining for her, but he can’t move. Verune purses his lips. “You know what you have to do if you want to be free.”
Rhoelyn: He glares at him before looking down at Nysse. Tsume runs to him and noses his foreleg. He growls at her in warning and Tsume “wuffs” in reply.
Araatris: After one last stubborn attempt to break free, Rhese lays his head down and closes his lupine eyes. His magic glows, streaked with something dark.
Rhoelyn: It’s a slow transition, folding in on itself and fur fading until wild, golden eyes stare from a night elven face. He rushes to Nysse’s side.
Araatris: Valerio starts to smile and step forward, but he’s arrested by Verune’s hand on his arm. He stares at the black marks writhing up Rhese’s arm and chest.
Rhoelyn: “Rhese.” Verune speaks firmly. Rhese snarls as he pulls Nysse into his arms. He sighs, “She can’t stay like that, cub. She’s not meant to be a wolf.”
Araatris: They can both see him struggling to pull his thoughts together, holding Nysse protectively. He manages to croak out, “… hunters.”
Rhoelyn: Valerio pulls his arm from Verune’s grasp, “We know. We stopped them for now. We’re your friends, Rhese. We came to help you and Nysse.”
Araatris: Rhese looks down at Nysse, his brow furrowing. When Verune senses the odd magic churning between them, he stirs uncomfortably, frowning.
Rhoelyn: Nysse shifts more quickly than Rhese, but the black marks seem to crawl across her skin where his arm cradles her. Her eyes slowly open.
Araatris: Rhese gasps for breath, grimacing as he reins the odd power back in, and it pulls back from Nysse’s skin, leaving only a shadowed mark.
Rhoelyn: Nysse looks about with wide eyes. Her gaze passes over them to settle on Rylana. She suddenly turns towards Rhese and hides against his chest.
Araatris: Holding her tight, Rhese raises his gaze to the young woman, his lips curling back. Verune steps in his line of sight. “No, cub. She’s unarmed.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese snarls and manages to speak hoarsely and haltingly, “They. Caged. Her.” He shakes his head. Nysse whispers, “Rhese, what’s going on?”
Araatris: When Rhese struggles to answer, it’s Valerio who steps forward, speaking softly. “Nysse. We came to find you. Do you understand me?”
Rhoelyn: Nysse twists to look at Val. Rhese keeps his arms locked around her waist. She thinks for a moment before nodding, “I understand. Is it safe?”
Araatris: Valerio smiles. “It’s safe, Nysse. We’re here to help you all.” Verune stands beside him, watching them both quietly. He doesn’t smile.
Rhoelyn: She turns to Rhese and nuzzles against his cheek, then whispers into his ear. He frowns at her when she leans back and shakes his head.
Araatris: Wrune steps up, speaking softly. “What’s wrong with him?” The elder frowns. “Most immediately, he’s confused, still submerged in instincts.”
Rhoelyn: “Nysse?” Wrune watches Valerio attempt to coax Nysse to Tsume. Verune sighs, “Better than him. Rushing may send them back into their pack forms.”
Araatris: “Then we’ll take our time,” the paladin says. “What do you think about those marks?” “I sincerely doubt they’re doing him good,” Verune growls.
Rhoelyn: Rhese reluctantly releases Nysse and she runs to pounce on Tsume. They tumble on the ground like pups. Val blinks, “Okaaay.” He looks at Rhese.
Araatris: Valerio sets his rifle against a tree and slowly approaches his friend. “Hey, pal.” Rhese watches him silently. “This is quite the mess.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese slowly nods his head. The hunter tries again, “How are you feeling?” He tilts his head and seems to be searching for words, “Angry. Worried.”
Araatris: The draenei crouches a few paces away. “But you know you don’t need to be angry. Or worried. We’re your friends, and we’ll protect you all.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese finally breaks eye contact and rubs at his face with his hands. “Hard to think still.” He sighs and watches Nysse, “I’ll try.” Valerio nods.
Araatris: Verune and Wrune watch their exchange with silent interest. Kaerryn approaches, dragging the human hunter with her. “Now what, wise leaders?”
Rhoelyn: Wrune smiles, “Tie her legs and help me set up camp.” Kaerryn frowns, “I’d rather hit something.” He sighs, “You might get a chance if they find us.”
Araatris: The warrior grins at that, placated by the thought, and shoves Rylana down to sit against a nearby tree. “So, what do we do with the crazies?”
Rhoelyn: Wrune rummaged through his pack, “They’re not crazy; just confused.” At her skeptical look, Wrune sighs again, “They’ve been wolves for weeks.”
Araatris: With the hunter tied securely, Kaerryn straightens. “Might not be the best idea to camp in sight of their den, then. There’s a clearing over there.”
Rhoelyn: Wrune pauses, then nods, “That’s a very good idea. I hope they’re willing to sleep near the fire.” Kaerryn grins, “He will if she’s freezing.”
Araatris: The warrior leans down and tosses Rylana over her shoulder carelessly, earning herself a muffled protest. “Shut it, kid.”
Rhoelyn: They set up the camp in clear view of the others and get a fire going. Kaerryn frowns, “We don’t have extra bedrolls, but we have some blankets.”
Araatris: “It’ll have to do for one night.” Wrune frowns, watching as Nysse goes to sit down with Rhese and Valerio. “We’ll get back to Amberpine tomorrow.”
Rhoelyn: Wrune puts a pot over the fire, “We’ll split watches. I’ll borrow yours when you’re on watch. They can have mine. Rylana can use the blankets.”
Araatris: “Pft.” The warrior kicks at Rylana’s boot, earning herself a glare from both of them. “She can freeze, and -I’ll- use the blankets on watch.”
Rhoelyn: Wrune speaks warningly, “Kaerryn…” Kaerryn grumbles and tosses a blanket at Rylana. “She would’ve had the fire.” Wrune pinches his nose.
Araatris: Verune leans against a tree, watching as Valerio tries to tease conversation out of Rhese and Nysse. His frown is less dour than it was.
Rhoelyn: Nysse shivers and looks around with a frown, “My cloak.” Valerio shakes his head, “Must have been lost, but I have an extra. The fire’s up though.”
Araatris: Rhese, who’s been quiet despite Val’s best attempts, rests his hand on Nysse’s arm. She squirms, and Verune snaps his head up. “Rhese! Don’t!”
Rhoelyn: Rhese tilts his head in confusion at Verune as Nysse shifts, “Cold.” Verune curses, “Then ask for a blanket, a cloak, or go to the fire. Not this!”
Araatris: The elder crouches and rests his hands on the green-streaked wolf, cursing yet again. His touch glows with healing magic as Nysse whines.
Rhoelyn: He growls at Rhese, “Are you trying to kill her? She’s not been trained to handle shifts like this.” Rhese frowns as Nysse nuzzles his hand.
Araatris: He strokes her fur gently, unsure of himself. Verune sighs. “Change her back, Rhese. I will ensure you don’t damage her.”
Rhoelyn: Reluctantly, Rhese pushes her change. She whimpers as the darkness dances across her skin once again. Verune’s glowing hands hover over her.
Araatris: After an agonizing minute, Nysse lays curled across Rhese’s lap, gasping painfully. Verune grits his teeth and pours healing magic into her.
Rhoelyn: Rhese’s eyes crease with worry, “She’s hurting.” He continues to pet her hair. Nysse sobs in relief as the green magic gently wraps around her.
Araatris: “Yes,” Verune says harshly, spearing his protege with an angry look. “Because of your foolishness. You will not change her form again, Rhese.”
Rhoelyn: He looks between Verune and Nysse as he processes. He slowly nods and cradles her. “Didn’t know. No more changing.” Rhese pauses, “How bad?”
Araatris: “Bad enough.” The elder growls… and then relents, sighing, “… but she will be fine with rest. Valerio, please take her to rest by the fire.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese pulls her closer, but at another glare from Verune lets Valerio take her. Valerio gently supports her and settles her into a bedroll.
Araatris: He watches them go until Verune reclaims his attention, speaking in Darnassian. “Why haven’t you pulled your thoughts free from the wolf’s?”
Rhoelyn: Rhese sighs, the words flowing much easier in Darnassian, “It pulls me. It felt right when we…” He gestures in frustration. “Can’t find words.”
Araatris: Verune frowns in that stern way he used two decades ago, when Rhese still called him shan’do. “You have to be stronger than the form, cub.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese has the grace to wince and look abashed. “Yes, Verune. I’ll… balance myself.” The elder druid sighs, “Do it quickly, cub. She needs you.”
Araatris: He closes his eyes. Satisfied, Verune starts to rise… only to pause. His eyes narrow as he watches the marks writhe on Rhese’s skin.
Rhoelyn: The churning settles as Rhese takes a deep breath, but don’t fade or lessen. They shift slowly, rhythmically, as if in time to a heartbeat.
Araatris: The elder settles back down, watching as his protege struggles to rein his thoughts in. Every time his breath hitches, they pulse erratically.
Rhoelyn: Rhese frowns and they spike before finally calming. He sighs and opens his eyes, “You’re still here? I really messed up this time, didn’t I?”
Araatris: The elder raises a wry brow. “I found you lost in a forbidden form, infected by who-knows-what and holding your mate in a shape not her own.”
Rhoelyn: His cheeks burn furiously as he cringes, “Yes, I’m an idiot. I don’t even know what to do to fix it or how to get rid of this.” He flexes his hand.
Araatris: Verune reaches out and pats his untainted shoulder. “Luckily, you are no longer alone. I have learned some from our reluctant guest, too.”
Rhoelyn: Rhese calls the scythe to his hand, “So, you know what this is?” Verune nods, “It’s called the Umbral Scythe; a cousin to the Scythe of Elune.”
Araatris: “The Scythe of–! Rot!” Rhese grimaces, regarding the weapon in his hand with a new revulsion. “I didn’t know the cursed Scythe had a family.”
Rhoelyn: Verune sighs, “Neither did I. It grants the wielder the ability to create new worgen like the girl there. They revere and want to capture you.”
Araatris: Rhese blinks, chuckling. “They… revere me?” His elder gives him a droll stare. “I think you got distracted from the important part, cub.”
Rhoelyn: Coughing, Rhese continues, “So, that’s why they’ve been hunting us, but what about these marks? I don’t remember anything about the Scythe corrupting.”
Araatris: Verune looks thoughtful. “A curse is a form of corruption. I trust that’s how you were exposed to this one? Your mission to cleanse the region?”
Rhoelyn: He nods, “We found it in the middle of it all. We were trying to take it back to Amberpine for research when it broke through the wards.”
Araatris: “And this is how it ended up binding itself to you?” Rhese winces slightly. “More… or less. I used it to slay a fiend that was attacking us.”
Rhoelyn: Verune growls, “You’re right. You are an idiot.” He pinches the bridge of his nose, “Why exactly did you think that was a good idea, cub?”
Araatris: Rhese sighs and mumbles, “I was sick at the time. Tsume was already wounded, and it was hurting Nysse. It… I… acted on instinct.” He winces.
Rhoelyn: The elder druid closes his eyes for a long moment, “Does seeing your mate in danger drive all sense from your mind, thero’shan?” He crosses his arms.
Araatris: Rhese blushes at that word, again, lowering his eyes. “No, shan’do. But I also…” He sighs. “Can we talk about something else? What next?”
Rhoelyn: Verune smiles, “I thought you enjoyed talking about your mate.” As Rhese groans, he continues, “We rest. Tomorrow we see what Wrune can do.”
Araatris: “Then, with your leave, I’d like to go check on Nysse.” Verune stands. “Very well. Make certain you let her rest, Rhese.” The young druid nods.
Rhoelyn: Rhese stands and moves to Nysse’s side; kneeling. Valerio mumbles, “She’s sleeping.” Rhese whispers, “I won’t wake her.” He grasps her hand.
Araatris: Val watches him for a minute before whispering, “Got quite a talking to, huh?” Rhese winces. “If you’re planning on adding to it, can it wait?”
Rhoelyn: The hunter frowns, but shakes his head and gestures to Nysse, “No, it’s not me you need to talk to. Try to rest. You’ll need it for tomorrow.”
Araatris: Rhese nods and offers his friend a smile. “I have a feeling I’m buying a lot of rounds when we get back.” Val grins and claps his back. “A lot.”
Rhoelyn: “Now get some rest.” Valerio hands him a bedroll and wanders off to talk with Wrune. Rhese lays it next to Nysse and lays down; touching her hand.
Araatris: “I’m sorry, love,” he whispers softly, watching her until his eyes drift closed. Soon, he is fast asleep, his marked hand on hers.
Rhoelyn: Valerio holds up his hand and looks back at Verune as the group stops, “I see their trail here going east. Does that match what you sense?”