Join Date: Apr 2006
“What I wouldn't give to find some yew”, Guy said, watching the alien-looking trees growing in a nearby thicket. He'd inspected them earlier, and found them unsuitable for his needs. “A sword is nice when you're exploring a dungeon, but here in the wilds, nothing beats a good longbow.”
Sven nodded his head and idly watched the three magic-users lying on the ground. They all seemed catatonic. He had dragged them to this camp-site in the shadow of a large boulder while Guy was exploring the surroundings. According to the Lordaeronian, there was no sign of settlement in any direction.
The farmer hesitated for a moment and asked: “You don't think... this place is all wilderness?” He looked up again, and watched Azeroth in the evening sky, fading into the sky as the sun descended below the horizon.
“Well... where was that portal aimed toward?” Guy asked and sat on a stone next to their small campfire. He fingered the sword at his belt a little anxiously. “I mean, probably to the Blue Child, yes, but did that devil give any hints why he'd want to come to the Blue Child?”
Sven wrinkled his brow a little. It had all happened so fast, with so much explanation that he'd had a hard time keeping track of all of it. “I think this is... that thing's home world.”
“Ahah. I guess that makes as much sense as anything having to do with the damn thing”, the other man said and shook his head a little. It was hard to tell how old he was: he couldn't be more than thirty-five, and yet... his face carried the deep lines of stressful years on it.
“So, you're a woodsman, then?” Sven asked, a little afraid about the answer he'd get. “Since you know how to shoot a longbow.”
Guy leaned back and closed his eyes, bringing up a hand. He was wearing an archer's gloves: the fingertips missing to help him handle the bowstring better. Some of the dirt and dust had come off his clothes, revealing them to be a very worn leather outfit befitting a light soldier such as a longbowman. He'd dug out two strips of cloth from his pockets, as well, and tied a dark red one on his forehead and used the other to tie his long hair into a ponytail. “I didn't exactly grow up in the woods, but I shot some with my uncle. I took up the pursuit again after I joined the Crusade. They didn't think I looked tough enough for the front lines.”
The Crusade? Sven froze and stared at this man. Only distant rumours of the Scarlet Crusade had carried down to Azeroth over the years, but they all agreed the crusaders were dangerous lunatics who slew all strangers on sight. Though on the other hand, Windfarer hardly fit any description of the Forsaken from the very same rumours...
“Of course, you can probably shoot the bow better than I can, if you've hunted”, Guy continued, not noticing his companion's reaction. “Longbowmen aren't taught to aim: they must only learn the rough angle in which to shoot to hit a certain distance. The officer yells how many feet, and we shoot a volley without picking targets. I did do some more personal shooting too, but I'm not any marksman, really...”
Sven nodded. “I guess I'm the reverse, then. I hunted from youth, with my father, but I haven't used a bow more than once or twice in the past years. When I joined the Night Watch, I was taught how to handle a sword and shield. And after I found a huge two-hander from a slain foe, I took it up, thinking it was the same thing. Boy, was I surprised.”
The former longbowman laughed a little and opened his eyes. “So, who are these people, and why are you travelling with them?” He pointed at the unconscious Eric, Kra'osha and Windfarer.
“That's my brother, Eric”, Sven said, nodding toward the sleeping fool. “Or Latebrus... that's his wizard name. He's... he was the apprentice of Archmage Arugal.”
“Oh?” Guy said, raising an eyebrow. “Arugal died around the time I left Stratholme...”
Sven looked down and rubbed his palms against his eyes, telling himself he wasn't tired. “I don't know the exact details. That devil thing from before killed Arugal, if I've understood correctly. Then Eric picked up these two...” He pointed at Kra'osha and Windfarer. “They departed to search for the Scythe of Elune.”
The longbowman scratched his bearded chin and idly walked over to the three, watching them closely while asking Sven: “So... why was your brother on the Devil's side while these two were incapacitated?”
“I don't know. He's an idiot. He was going to let the Devil conjure a portal and teleport here, so then he wouldn't harm Azeroth any more, and Eric himself would get the Scythe or something... it's just like him, making some big plan and leaving others in the dark about it.” He remembered a few times from their youth when that had happened, and got them in trouble. “As soon as he wakes up, I'm giving him a piece of my mind.”
Guy just nodded. He bent over and picked something off Windfarer. As he sat back next to the campfire, Sven saw that it was a knife. Carefully, the auburn-haired man brought the knife up and started to cut his beard. “I look like that damn Northman...” He mumbled as he started.
Sven just sat in silence, taking turns in staring at the fire and looking at the man. Guy didn't take very long: he didn't seem to care much for how his beard ended up looking (after all, he didn't even have a mirror), so long as it was short enough to not itch a lot. When he was done, Sven swallowed and asked: “If you don't mind me asking, are the stories they tell about the Scarlet Crusade true?”
The man froze for a moment and then sighed. “Well, that depends on the stories. And on which period of the Scarlet Crusade you speak of. I mean, I was there the day it was founded, and it was a pretty damn inspiring event...” He took a breath and closed his eyes, and then recited: “I swear to devote my life to the Light and its tenets: all of them rather than those I find convenient. I swear to give my body to the cause of the Light: to bleed every drop of my blood if need be. I swear to devote my mind to the idea of purging Lordaeron from the undead: I will not undertake other pursuits before this task is done. I swear to take up all who would help me fight the Undead Scourge as my brothers in arms. I swear to be a champion of the good, the virtuous and the oppressed."
Sven blinked his eyes. ”Those are some mighty words. But... you did fight off the Alliance and Horde as well when they came to fight the Scourge...” He almost expected the man to get angry, to just shrug the question off, but Guy nodded.
“That was years later. If they'd shown up the day we swore that oath, Sigmund Mograine would have allied with them in a second. After he died, though, things changed.” Guy frowned and fingered his ill-cut beard. “A lot of the people I knew took up the fanaticism because it protected them from being picked for interrogation by the inquisition. Others – including my sister – believed that the Light had refused to just burn the Scourge off the face of Azeroth because humanity was too sinful to be saved, and subscribed to whatever the new leaders told them because of that. Whatever the case, all the officers who'd been moderate had moved to the Argent Dawn the day it was formed, and their successors were hand-picked by the inquisition.”
Sven hesitated before asking: “So... what now?”
Guy stared at him for a good ten seconds before speaking: “I'm searching for someone. I need to get to Draenor, or whatever it's called today. Good luck with that, though...” He took a look up, at the planet visible in the sky.
The farmer leaned back and said: “So the Crusade is dead and gone?” He looked into the horizon. All that remained of the sun's light was a dark purple blotch in the distance. The stars were appearing in the sky now.
“No. I swore an oath. I'm still working to live by it. As soon as I figure how to find a way out of here, I'm back to saving Lordaeron”, Guy answered. He looked dead serious, and the look on his face was a little scary, it was so dedicated. “I left Lordaeron for the first time since my family moved in at the end of the First War, travelled through lands full of strange people I'd only ever seen in opposing armies, and almost got to the Dark Portal. I'm not giving up.”
“I understand, and I admire your dedication”, Sven said and hung his head. “I really wish I had something worth fighting for.” He stared at the campfire, and noted that it could use a branch or two more. He reached behind himself, but was interrupted by a loud howling.
Guy stood up and drew his sword in one smooth move, like he'd been waiting for a chance to do it all this time. The sword made an unnaturally loud ringing noise when drawn, almost drowning out his voice. “Wolves. You need a weapon. Take the knife.” He looked into the growing darkness around the camp, holding his sword steady. He had a very intense look on his face, and his voice had suddenly gained a throaty, hoarse sound.
Sven bent over the take the blade, holding it tight, wishing upon wishing that he had any proper weapon. “We need to protect these three.” He looked at the unconscious magi lying on the ground.
Improvising, he picked up a branch from the pile Guy had set on the ground and held it next to the fire, ready to wreathe it in flames the moment the beasts appeared.
Another howl, closer than before. “Wake up, damn it”, Sven grumbled at the napping trio. “If there was ever a time we needed your magic, it's now.” Turning his head around again, he saw movement in the dark, cracked, rocky landscape, and took a cautious step backward.
“It's worse than we thought”, Guy grumbled suddenly and and shifted his position a bit.
“Worse?” Sven asked just as the attackers started walking into the light of the campfire.
Worgen. Dozens of them. They snarled, spraying spittle, and brandished their claws, as they walked toward the two men. Sven held the knife out, but suddenly came to a realisation. “No wait! My brother! He knew the Worgen! Eric... Laterbrus! Laterbrus is here!”
The worgen seemed to listen to him, but they did not slow down and certainly did not stop. Suddenly, there was a growl behind them, and they froze. A bark, and they took a step behind, and then made room to let someone through.
He was a worgen slightly smaller than average, with a mangy, white coat and a muzzle a bit longer than the others'. His yellow eyes stared at Sven and Guy in turns, and then past them, at the three sleeping figures. Guy looked like a taut bowstring: about to jump forward and start killing people any second now. Sven hoped it didn't come to that: he had no illusions about being able to hold even one Worgen at bay with nothing but Windfarer's belt-knife.
The worgen turned his eyes back to Sven and Guy, and suddenly spoke in raspy, yet understandable, Common. “How do you know those three?”
There was a moment of awkward silence. Talking to them had been a desperate attempt. Sven hadn't expected them to actually talk back. He breathily said: “Laterbrus is my brother. The other two are his allies. I journeyed with them for a while. Then... we ended up here. We want to go back.” He glanced up into the sky, but Azeroth was barely visible right now.
The spokesman among the beasts fiddled his claws a bit, and growled in his throat. “Why are they asleep? They should awaken from this commotion.”
“I don't know”, Sven answered. “They've been that way since we arrived... here.” His eyes drifted to the dark, starlit sky for a moment before coming down again.
“Who are you?” Guy asked bluntly and raised his sword a bit, as if to remind the Worgen he was still armed.
The beast looked at him for a moment and answered: “I am Renthlivend, or Renthlos, as your friends called me when we sought to transport my people to their home from Silverpine Forest. I thought I'd seen the last of them, and yet, the Wise One sent us here today, and warned us we might run into humans.”
Guy and Sven's eyes met each other for a moment. “What did this 'wise one' send you here for?” Sven asked, a bit worried.
“People from another world arrived here today. You truly see no reason for us to investigate?” Renthlos asked them, crossing his arms over his chest. Both the men fell silent, so the Worgen looked past them and said: “I trust that you are no invaders, and pose no threat to this world or our people. Please lay down your weapons, and let us return to our village. I am sure the Wise One will look forward to meeting you.” The others around him did not seem so trusting, but slowly started to stand straighter and lower their claws when he gave a barking order.
Sven lowered his hand and put Windfarer's knife onto the empty sheath of his own belt knife. “Who is he? Or she...” He eyed Guy, who also hesitantly put away his own weapon.
“He is the greatest sage in our world”, Renthlos explained and stepped backward. “He is the only one who knows magic as Laterbrus and Dab'ra do. Human magic.”
“Maybe he'll know why these three aren't waking up”, Sven said and looked back at them once more. None had moved an inch.
“Maybe he'll be able to send us back to Azeroth”, Guy added, finally losing his angry voice, and flinched a little as Renthlos barked another order, and one of the hulking worgen walked past him to grab Kra'osha and put her across his shoulder. The lot of them were apparently letting Renthlos speak for themselves. He must be their leader or something, Sven thought. Or maybe they don't know Common.
“What are your names?” The worgen asked and seemed to consider something, before choosing to do nothing more.
Sven hesitated, giving Guy time to speak his loud and clear: “I am Guy Sliverberg.” Sven introduced himself afterwards in a more lame manner.
“I see. Let us depart”, Renthlos said and barked something at the other worgen. They moved out fast, on all-fours and using the terrain to run almost as fast as horses without showing any effort. Sven, Guy, Renthlos and three worgen who had the unconscious magi on their shoulders. The worgen leader started taking them in the same direction as the main pack, but stayed upright and did not go uncomfortably fast. “It is not a very long journey, even this way. It is good that we found you when we did. The wildernesses are not safe.”
Guy stayed behind the others and kept quiet during the short bouts of conversation Yorgen and the worgen occasionally had. The sword hanging from his hip felt very heavy, and whenever he did not focus on ignoring it, he could feel it calling for him.
No wonder that Laterbrus had recognised the sword. It was called the Shadowfang, and he'd been the apprentice of the Lord of Shadowfang Keep. However, something seemed wrong. When he'd drawn the sword, its power had felt two times stronger, and yet... more focused. It had taken him a long time to learn how to control its rage. Now, he'd barely needed any trying.
He looked down at the ugly blade. Maybe it had been damaged in the teleportation?
The worgen seemed friendly for now. However, this Renthlos was hiding something. Something was wrong here. What was the Devil up to?
Clearing his mind, he fingered the hilt of the Shadowfang and, in his mind, prayed to the Light for clarity.
Sven's feet hurt and he felt tired when they finally arrived in the village. It was a collection of tents and small wooden hovels with strange designs, made of strange hides and strange lumber. When they came to the hill overlooking it, several of the guardsmen gave the Azerothians of the group odd looks, but did not try to stop them from entering.
“Most worgen remain awake throughout the night, and sleep during daytime”, Renthlos explained. “I hope you do not mind meeting the Wise One before you sleep.” Despite the seeming politeness, he did not ask for their opinion on the matter.
“I guess it'll be all right. I'm happy to testify we're nothing but regular folk who got zapped here by accident”, Sven muttered and yawned loudly. He saw several villagers stare and whisper amongst themselves as they walked into the midst of the tents. Most of these Worgen seemed to have white furs, unlike the majority that he'd seen in Duskwood. There were muscular and sinewy men, tall and lean women, small children, old folk...
Renthlos gave a barking laugh. “Even if you think that is true, it is not. I knew your brother for a relatively short time, but I know that no one associated with him is 'regular' by any definition of the word.”
Sven frowned. For the first time since the worgen showed up, he remembered Eric's actions in that temple, before the warp. The bastard had wanted to sell them all out to that Druj thing, and use the Scythe of Elune to overtake Azeroth... with an army of worgen. The farmer looked around himself, imagining those people just vanishing all of the sudden, called to another world to serve as the footsoldiers of some power-hungry wizard's quest for conquest.
He wanted to think of something else. “You speak excellent Common. Did Arugal teach you, or...?” They were approaching a clutter of larger buildings ahead.
“The Wise One taught me when I was a child”, Renthlos said. “I am a son of the chieftain of my pack. All chieftains send their children to the Wise One to be taught.” He barked something at a nearby worgen woman, who nodded and ran ahead of them.
“Ah, that makes... no, wait, what?” Sven almost stopped walking when the realisation hit him. “Your sage knows Common?” He stared at the wolf-man in complete bewilderment.
“All will be explained soon enough. Just follow me”, Renthlos said and led them to the largest building, in the middle of the village. It wasn't big: barely as large as the Yorgen household, but it still towered over the single-floor huts and tents around it. Many cloths with tribal symbols painted on them hung around it. It had no door, but just a large entrance with a hide hanging over it, causing all visitors to have to bend down and lift it to enter. It was a strange choice.
As Sven entered, he was instantly surprised by the heat inside. It was almost uncomfortably warm, and the air felt somewhat stuffy. He soon saw that the inhabitants were burning incense, which explained some of it. He also seemed to remember a lack of windows when approaching the building.
Guy stepped in behind him, but Sven hardly noticed. He was engrossed with taking in the room he'd come to. It was a large hall that seemed to hold a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom in the same space. Worgen walked around, most of them busy with chores, ignoring the newcomers. At the end of the room were a group who were sitting on small stools, talking with each other in low voices. Sven stepped toward them, and squinted his eyes as he saw the farthest one.
It was a human. A very old human with pure white hair and flaky, wrinkly skin. He looked almost deadly thin, but his eyes shone with inner power. He wore a purple garment wrapped around himself, more clothes than any worgen in the village. He must be the wise one.
The man lifted his eyes, and he saw Sven. Tilting his head a bit, he called out: “Yorgen, is that you?”
Happy birthday, Zula.
I've been suffering from writer's block. I used the occasion as an excuse to make myself hammer through it. There's probably a bunch of typos and errors in this initial version, but it'll be worth it, just to get it done.
Co-creator of UFS, a joint urban fantasy setting.
Originally Posted by Pliny the Elder
True glory consists in doing what deserves to be written; in writing what deserves to be read; and in so living as to make the world happier for our living in it.
Last edited by Kerrah; 02-27-2012 at 04:39 PM..