belltrigger: (madonya)
[personal profile] belltrigger
Post too large once more, so here we go again. Enjoy


“There were other things. Other than corpses, I mean. But, I'm pretty sure they had all been dead.” Feliks paled to match his knuckles. “Maybe more than once before.”

Antherion sat down on the cot next to Feliks and watched his friend. Poor Feliks had really gone to the battlefield, and probably without his brother. It had obviously been hard on him, and Antherion sort of wished that Kael'thunas had been here to slap Feliks on the back and bring him out of his combat trauma. But for now, Antherion placed his hand on Feliks' shoulder, and shook him lightly.

“You shouldn't think about it right now. You understand that you need some rest, right? Some food? I'll get you something.” Feliks didn't refuse, so Antherion stood up and rolled his shoulders. While Kael'thunas wasn't around, he could surely handle keeping the morale up. Antherion moved to the entrance of the tent, and glanced over his shoulder at Feliks before he left. The priest stayed where he was, hardly moved even when Antherion had stood up, and just stared ahead.

Feliks was either deep in thought, or trying hard to not think about what he'd just experienced. So Antherion left the tent; better to hurry to get the food so that he didn't have to leave Feliks by himself for too long.

However, once Antherion had left, Feliks turned to watch where his friend had just been standing. Something was off in Antherion's reaction, as if the tailor had hit his head, or was denying anything had happened to Kael'thunas. Feliks had most certainly expected a hysterical reaction from the tailor, considering how close Antherion and Kael'thunas were, but the tailor bounced so far past hysterical that he'd completely passed any sort of normal reaction.

Yes, Feliks was shaken up by the experience, but he was most upset about not knowing where Kael'thunas had gone. Even if Antherion was alright, there was no way that Kael had just wandered off. He'd be eaten, a thought which turned Feliks' stomach, or he'd been dragged away by the undead for some unknown reason. Eventually, Feliks would talk to Antherion about it, let him know that Antherion's positivity would only hurt him later. But until Feliks had gotten some rest and something in his belly, Antherion would be convinced that he was just in some sort of shock.

So, Feliks thought, they would be in equal contests about the state of each others minds. Antherion was acting too energetic, and surely the tailor thought Feliks was too withdrawn. But, aside from Kael'thunas missing, Feliks still had Fahr to worry over. When Feliks had tried to sneak back to Silvermoon, when he had been looking for Kael, the town had been destroyed, with many carts and floral accents around the city had been set ablaze. Feliks had not seen any survivors or even anyone left over fighting.

And still no contact from Fahr. Had his brother already fled the city, aware that something was set to happen? Had his friend tried to warn Feliks as well? Thinking back on those letters implied that they had indeed been aware of some sort of threat to Silvermoon, but it had been so vague. Of course Feliks had only been able to make the connection this late. The horde had come from Lordaeron, based on the path of death that Feliks had followed, and the mention of the Prince of Lordaeron had come too conveniently.

Feliks bit at his lower lip, stuck in his thoughts when Antherion returned with some food. It was a basic stew, and Feliks could tell there was some bat meat in it. There was always an obvious smell when bat was roasted, and Feliks felt his stomach revolt at the idea of eating anything as strong as bat. He glanced at the tailor, who sat next to him, and gauged if he could get away with avoiding eating the stew. However, his friend shoved the crude bowl right into his hands, and Feliks looked down at it with possibly the greatest dismay he'd ever shown in his life. At least, he hoped so because his stomach was already kicking at his rib cage.

“Antherion, I don't think...”

“Nonsense, you're not going to tell me that you're not hungry. So eat.” It was practically a demand, and Feliks gave Antherion a slightly dirty look. He wanted to tell his friend to not push it, to not try and fill the commanding hole in Feliks' life that was usually taken up by his domineering brother. But Antherion watched him so intently, was trying to mother hen all over him so intensely that Feliks returned his gaze to the bowl, and attempted to pick up the spoon.

The priest counted in his head as he ate, because that was the only way that he could ignore the liberal uses of strong spices in the stew. It was definitely the stew of a wandering clan, one who had to keep meat as long as they could. Needless to say, Feliks understood the method of cooking. But as exhausted as he was, his stomach had been empty for a good twenty-four hours, and something as strong tasting as heavily spiced bat stew was not the first thing he'd hoped to eat.

Feliks managed to finish the entire bowl without returning the contents, though his stomach was no happier by the end of it. It was food, at least, so his stomach couldn't complain too much. Feliks kept the bowl possessively in his hands, though, in case Antherion tried to force some other concoction into his mouth. The tailor made no move to produce more food, though, perhaps assuming Feliks would have asked for more if he'd so wanted. The priest couldn't have been more grateful.

“Alright, probably time for rest now.” Antherion stood up and Feliks sighed heavily.

“Does everyone have to treat me like a child? Or is this just a special case of 'shock'” He looked up at Antherion, and still held the bowl in his hands. He'd been in a battle, yeah, but that alone should have been enough for everyone. Feliks had survived.

“It's because you've just gone through a terrible situation, Feliks,” Antherion said as he finally plucked the bowl from Feliks' hands. He placed it down next to their packs, to return later, and moved back to sit on the cot again. “You need sleep.”

Feliks leaned in to Antherion, too close just to set the tailor back a few steps, and frowned. “And what about you? You look more exhausted than I am.”

“O-Oh...” Antherion sputtered, looked more like himself then than he had for the entire time Feliks had been back at camp. But then he straightened his back and squared his shoulders. “I'll sleep if you do.”

That earned him a raised eyebrow from Feliks, who seemed skeptical. “Nice try.” He leaned back against the flimsy support of the tent's side, and watched the Tailor. “I'll fall asleep, and you'll stay awake, right? That's the plan?”

“No, I'll really sleep. You know I'd never do that sort of thing to you.” He seemed to not be lying, but Feliks watched him for a bit longer. When he could tell that his red-headed friend didn't believe him, Antherion gave him an encouraging smile. “I promise, Feliks. I'll really sleep as long as you do too.”

Satisfied, at least for the moment, Feliks nodded and yawned. He was tired, after all. But Antherion was acting so odd that he'd wanted to stay on guard. If Antherion truly was going to sleep as well, then there was nothing to concern himself over. Antherion was on edge as much as he was, forcing them to promise mutual relaxation to soothe the other's nerves. They both had a place to rest, although the cots weren't exactly luxurious, and they'd figure things out better in the morning, once they'd gotten some real sleep under their belts. After all, fainting or being knocked out against a tree hardly counted as rest.

However, Antherion was already awake when Feliks was roused from slumber by a stray beam of light that hit right into his eyes from the open flap of the tent. He sat up, rubbed at his offended eyes, and was surprised to find that Antherion wasn't on his cot. In fact, Antherion wasn't in the tent at all. “Just great. Because I'm such a sound sleeper that everyone thinks they can just wander off without waking me.” He got up out of his cot with a muttered obscenity for the world around him, and rolled his shoulders.

Hopefully, they had an idea of where they would be heading to gather themselves and find out what exactly happened to lead to an attack on Silvermoon. But for now, Feliks wondered where his friend had gone off to. If Feliks had any luck remaining at all, Antherion had not gone to make more bat stew.

Feliks left the tent with a bit of disorientation; when he'd arrived, it had been clouded by intense exhaustion, and he'd hardly had any time to see the layout of the camp. And now that he was up and aware, they were dismantling the camp to continue their move. So there were elves and humans everywhere, most carrying large bundles of thin wood or fabric. A few were attaching the bundles to strong horses, which almost seemed bred for war. For the first time, Feliks kind of missed the hawkstriders, and hoped that Merrith was alright. He had no idea, after all, if the stables had been a target, or even part of the goal.

Deep in his thoughts as he was, he was startled when Antherion appeared beside him, and touched his shoulder. “Woah, are you alright?” The tailor chuckled as Feliks gave him a hard stare for startling him. “You ready to move on? The humans said they passed a settlement that we can stay at a few miles south, and I thought we could go there to wait for Kael'thunas.”

The priest nodded to Antherion, even as he watched the bustle around the camp. “Are we the only ones going there?” Not that it particularly mattered to Feliks if they were alone; he just didn't want to have to worry about the others when he was so distracted by Kael and Fahr's disappearance. If he could just find out what happened to at least one of them, he would be in a much better mindset to watch over the young and elderly.

“Yes, the others will be moving further away, just in case the attacks spread.” Antherion moved to go inside the tent so that he could gather their packs. It was like he was just waiting for Feliks to wake up so that they could go. Honestly, if Antherion was that eager, he could have just woken Feliks up. Feliks had the vague feeling that he'd overslept, but there was no use worrying about it now. They would be on the road, and if they were lucky, the settlement would have all the necessities for a possible extended stay.

Feliks waited until Antherion handed him his pack before they set out. He didn't bother asking where they were headed. Feliks wasn't familiar with where they were in the first place, since he'd just sort of wandered in a direction that had been traveled by something living recently. So, finding out where they were currently would probably just bring up all sorts of questions in his mind about how mentally sound Antherion was in assuming Kael'thunas would be able to find them.

The area was nice enough, he supposed, with the foliage around them still alive. That was sort of Feliks' only prerequisite for a nice place at this point. Populated or not didn't really matter, so long as he wasn't surrounded by death. The animals that scampered through the forest around them were familiar enough, maybe colored slightly different than those right around Silvermoon. As they walked, Feliks recognized familiar plants as well, noting that there were quite a few that were useful as components in healing potions. That made him at least a bit more confident as they walked. Worst case scenario, Feliks could stop Antherion to gather the plants.

“Do you have anything in your pack?” Feliks noticed Antherion stiffen slightly. “Mine's kind of empty after the last few days. I haven't had a chance to refill it.” Antherion held onto the straps of his pack, and the laugh was a nervous sort that Feliks didn't like.

“Well, I have a few things. But we'll have to restock when we get to the settlement.” It was an obvious lie, but Feliks wasn't sure if Antherion was hiding a good set of supplies, or if he had nothing, and the pack was just for show. In fact, Antherion had been the one to handle his pack the entire time, with Feliks only getting to hold his own. Better to not worry for the moment, since he couldn't handle not trusting his only companion.

“Then, let's stop. There's some good herbs around here that we can use later.” Antherion stopped, and seemed to be deciding if he liked the idea. “We can process them when we get to the settlement, but who knows what supplies they'll have when we get there. Best to be prepared for anything, right?”

“Ah... that's true. We won't need to buy as much that way...” Neither of them were herbalists, though, so it was pure chance that Feliks was familiar with what the plants looked like. Antherion vaguely recognized plants as well, but only as methods of procuring dye. Though, worst case scenario, they could check with any merchants that happened to be at the settlement. There was no time to debate it anyway, as Feliks had already wandered into the field to gather the different plants. Antherion had no choice but to follow him, and he stuffed the plants that Feliks pointed out into his own bag.

There was a series of small ponds not far from where they gathered herbs, and Antherion noticed the faint shapes of murlocs on the far shore, wandering with seemingly no set goals around the ponds. A random afternoon patrol for the vaguely humanoid fish beasts. Antherion knew there was no chance they were friendly; no murlocs ever were, since they were basically instinctively prepared to attack anything that came into their ferociously guarded territory. As long as they didn't notice the elves, which would be easy to notice as they tended to make a gurgling war cry when they attacked, he and Feliks were fine.

“Hey, gather as many herbs as you can quickly. I don't want those murlocs to see us.” Feliks noticed the murlocs as well; it was hard not to when you had an apparently trained nose. Feliks had never known his nose was so particular before. Perhaps it was one of the many benefits of being filled with the light? A heightened sense of smell made sense in a bizarre way, after all. Using all of his senses as a healer, he could tell if something had become infected way before the visual signs began.

“That is just what I was thinking. My pack's almost full to bursting, so we probably have enough.” Antherion tugged his bag closed and pulled it up to rest it on his back. Feliks stubbornly snagged a few more plants near the edge, and Antherion was so sure that the murlocs were going to notice, that suddenly they were going to all raise their spears and shake them, gargling in anger.

But they didn't, and Feliks hefted his own bag onto his back. The priest and tailor easily high-tailed it back to the main road without incident from the murlocs, and they both greatly preferred it that way. After all, being attacked by fish men was hardly something either of them needed.

“You didn't happen to see Fahr when you were escaping Silvermoon, did you?” The question was sudden, posed after several minutes of traveling the road. Antherion gave Feliks the strangest look, as though the redhead had asked him a grand, ponderous question about the universe.

“He wasn't with you? I would have thought he'd had headed to the battlefield as well.”

“Yeah, that's what I had figured too, but he wasn't home when I got up. And Kael'thunas had come to look for him from the fight.” Feliks looked down at the road, watched their steady steps instead of Antherion. He thought Fahr's disappearance had to do with the strange package he'd had, but without knowing the contents, he couldn't be sure. The package and Fahr's disappearance could have had nothing to do with each other, even though that option didn't make any sense at all.

“That's the strangest thing...” Antherion stroked the small patch of hair on his chin, voice full of contemplation as they walked. “To just disappear like that. It doesn't seem your brother's style.”

That drew a heavy sigh from Feliks. “Who knows with Fahr anymore. His motives and mentality are a mystery to me.” He finally raised his eyes from the road, and made a show of looking for road signs. “So who cares. He's probably off playing with his druid friend.” The topic was over, and Feliks didn't really want to pursue it anymore. If he was lucky, Fahr was just off with that night elf, and would be smart enough to not get himself hurt when he returned to Silvermoon.

They stopped when they came to a split in the road, one heading towards a moutain side, and the other continuing on into the open fields. Feliks stared directly at Antherion, because the blonde had been the one to decide where they were going, and Feliks would probably slap him upside the head if Antherion chose now to be disoriented or lost. “Okay, we should head to the mountain.” Antherion was saved from having the side of his head assaulted, for now.

They turned towards the mountain, and as they walked they could see a few dwarves at work, their large horned rams milling about as their masters worked. It was a lucky thing that the high elves and dwarves were on the same side, because they were in no shape to fight anything. The dwarves all had pick axes and various pieces of mining gear, whereas Feliks was ill-equipped to defend Antherion. Something told him that he couldn't hold off the four dwarves that were visible to them, let alone however many were hidden away in the cliffs, searching for minerals and expensive gemstones.

One of the dwarves hailed them, and Feliks let Antherion do the talking. After all, the blond knew where they were headed, and would know what questions to ask if they had the opportunity.

“Where ya'll headed?” The dwarf that had hailed them asked. He stroked his long gray-streaked beard as he watched them. He must have been the foreman, because his overalls were a little less rubbed than the others, and had far less dirty patches on it. He wore a cap that curled around the edges, but it still managed to hang low over his eyes, only bits of light giving a hint to where the beady eyes lay underneath that hat and scraggly hair of his eyebrows.

Feliks wasn't sure if the dwarf was merely curious about the passersby, or if he was trying to tell if they were somehow a threat. But he kept his mouth shut, just skimmed his eyes over the rocky walls of the mountain. The other dwarves continued to work, not at all concerned that their foreman had started to chat with some elves. That was good, because Feliks didn't need the stare of a handful of dwarves. Who knew where their cultures would clash in terms of body language and facial cues. The elves weren't exactly familiar territory to the elves, after all.

“We're just heading to the settlement that's up ahead.” Antherion left out a good portion of the story, which was probably for the best. There was not much these particular dwarves could do for the already trampled Silvermoon. Their kingdom would surely hear of the tragedy and send dwarves that were made for the task of taking on an army.

“Oh, aye! That one's been getting a lot of travelers lately! I should think it'll be it's own permanent village soon at this rate!” The dwarf laughed a gut-shaking laugh that echoed off the walls nearby. Well. The dwarves seemed to be a jolly sort, at least. Though Feliks didn't think he'd enjoy that kind of guffaw for extended periods of time. In passing it seemed alright, though, as it showed they wouldn't be having any trouble with the dwarves in the area.

Antherion laughed in response, and even though it seemed to be merely a polite laugh on the elf's part, the dwarf seemed satisfied. “Well, if yer passing o'er that way, maybe ye could bring this package to the leader of the settlement. We've got some business wit'him, but none of my boys can stop if they wanna make their goal today.” Another hearty laugh, and he dug something out of the satchel at his side.

The blond seemed hesitant to accept the request. But Feliks stepped forward. “This isn't some sort of contraband, right? Because we'll have none of that.” When Feliks practically demanded such information, Antherion got a bit nervous, and immediately snapped his gaze onto the dwarf.

Even though he'd been expecting the worst, Antherion was surprised when the dwarf just looked astounded and then laughed, his head thrown back as he did so. “Haha, you're a quick one! Nay, this isn't any thing of that sort, just some information in regards to our scouts and what they've seen lately.” He held the scroll out to Feliks, as though he was offering the priest a look before they accepted.

Feliks took the scroll with a measure of politeness that Antherion was pleased he put forth. The priest unrolled the scroll and skimmed the contents before he rolled it up once more and nodded. “Looks to be in order. Alright, we'll do it,” Feliks said as he tucked the parchment away.

The dwarf clapped his hands together once with a grin. “Glad we settled that! Ye folks have a good time over there, and if ye pass by again, maybe we'll have something else we can work out with ye!” The foreman then turned from them with a final laugh and wave, and returned to his work, calling out to one in a language that must have been some sort of dwarven garble. Feliks returned Antherion's bewildered stare with a blank one of his own.

“What?”

“Er, nothing. I'm just surprised you were willing to help...”

“We'll have a reason to speak to the leader of that settlement you're dragging me to if we have something like this.” Feliks sniffed, as though his reasoning was obvious. “Unless you'd prefer to just traipse into his home like we own the place and ask for assistance.”

“Uh, point taken, I suppose.” Antherion tilted his head as he looked over at Feliks. “Still, I'm surprised. You offered to help someone, no matter what your ultimate goal was.” Feliks shrugged and didn't dignify that statement. He wasn't a heartless guy. The dwarves were working, and that was a good enough reason to not have the time to head to the settlement with information. If they had merely been being lazy, though, Feliks would have only done it for the sake of gaining information, and maybe he would have bartered for a bit of a 'tip' for delivering the information from the dwarves.

As it was, they were heading in the right direction anyway, and there was no need to demand a bit of grease for the wheels. It was enough to get a chance to speak with the leader of the settlement, instead of having to just ask random people that had stopped there. Although, Feliks was probably going to speak to the merchants, especially if he recognized any of them. There were certain merchants, after all, that he felt were more trustworthy than the others, and several had helped him keep an eye on Fahr when the mage had set off on yet another journey.

After a bit more walking, they finally noticed the rough wooden fence, made up of posts merely pounded into the ground with wire strung between them. “I suppose that's it,” Feliks said, lacking any enthusiasm. He gave Antherion a particularly unimpressed look, which Antherion shrugged off easily. He kept his eyes on the camp with all his determination, as if he were looking for something, even at the distance they were at.

He must have felt Feliks staring at him, because Antherion shook his head and then glanced at his traveling companion. “Feliks?”

“You really want to get there, huh? No matter how slap-dash it looks.”

“U-Uh, oh. Yes! It'll be nice to sleep in a bed, right?” The tailor seemed nervous, a bit of a tremor to his voice that sounded something like laughter. It was just underlying enough that Feliks couldn't quite read it, but it was strange, obvious enough that it caught on Feliks' curiosity. He didn't press Antherion on it, though, since it could very well be the tailor trying to be strong despite how much the thought of Kael engulfed his mind.

They were met at the gate by a human guard, decked out in fairly simple leather armor. He looked them over, and Feliks raised an eyebrow, quite possibly offended by the human staring at them so. He and the human stared each other down for so long that Antherion began to feel the tension crackling in the air between them. Finally, after Antherion was sure they were going to be kicked out and never allowed to return, the guard nodded to them and stepped aside.

“What in the world was that?” Antherion hissed, voice hardly hushed once they'd gotten outside of earshot of the guard. “You terrified me by doing that!”

Feliks scoffed, didn't turn his head to Antherion, but the tailor could see the smirk light in the priest's eyes. “That guy?” Don't look back, his voice implied. “A contact of Fahr's,” Feliks almost seemed amused to admit. Like he'd just gotten on up on Fahr by subduing a contact of his. Antherion let him enjoy his odd little victory, since he didn't want to have a fight with Feliks himself.

“Well, should we seek out the leader, or find a place to stay first?” Antherion attempted to change the subject. It seemed to work, because Feliks paused and crossed his arms to think.

“You go find us a place to stay, and I'll bring the information from the dwarves to the leader of this little settlement.” To call it a little settlement, though, was a bit off. Despite how thrown together the defenses around the camp seemed to be, the majority of the village was at least livable. There were a few buildings put together with roughly chopped logs, and many sturdy tents dotted the areas around the remainder of the camp. In the middle there was a large bonfire, surrounded by a circle of merchants that waited by their carts.

At the end of the camp furthest from the entrance, there was a large building, which Feliks could only assume was where the leader was. Was he considered a mayor, perhaps? Feliks felt a bit silly using the term 'leader' as if that was the official title, as opposed to just some vague word that implied 'boss.' As he made his way to the large building, Feliks took in the surroundings of the village. It appeared that they really were working towards having this place be permanent, since there were many crews of carpenters working away, back and forth from large piles of wood.

Feliks also noticed an herbalist trainer on his way there, and considered stopping there first. After all, the herbs they had in their packs were fresh, not dried, and the herbalist could tell him if any sort of care needed to be taken with the plants so as to not lose any of their value. The information could wait, he decided, and immediately changed his course to the herbalist.

The young human perked up when Feliks approached, and seemed eager to deal with someone. It wasn't obvious if he was hoping Feliks was a customer, or if he just wanted someone to talk to, since the merchants' stalls seemed to not be attracting any attention. Feliks placed a hand on his hip as he stopped at the cart, and made a show of looking at the human's wares. He noticed that the merchant stocked the herbs that he and Antherion had picked up, though the merchant's supplies were rather low.

“So, you train and sell, huh?” Feliks slid his gaze over to the human, who couldn't have been more than twenty in human years. They were approximately the same age, then, if you made allowances for the fact that the humans and elves had different life spans. The merchant nodded vigorously at Feliks' question.

“I sure do! I can teach you anything you need to know about these herbs and all of their applications.” He waved over the herbs as if to add a bit of flair to his statements. Feliks did not plan to engage in learning herbalism to any great length, he merely wished to uncover the care of the herbs he currently had in his possession. He had no current need of such depth in the field's knowledge as this human had proposed, so he shook his head.

“There is no need for that. I just hoped you were knowledgeable so that I could ask you a few questions about the herbs I found on my way here.” The human looked the slightest bit disappointed, but immediately perked up again at the thought of being able to show off his appraising skills and information in a different way. Feliks took the herbs from his pouch, and handed them over to the eager young man, watched as he checked the leaves and thin stems.

“Ah, yes... You found a really good batch. Resilient. Nice thick leaves. Oh, and strong here too.” Feliks let him investigate the plants, since he'd learned you never interrupted a merchant when he was valuing your goods. Any number of outcomes could occur if you did, and none of them had ever been favorable. So Feliks had learned to keep his mouth shut as a merchant looked over something, even if he babbled to himself when he did it. Finally, the young man looked to Feliks with a glimmer in his eyes. “I could give you about 4 gold coins for the lot of it.”

That was a rather fair sum of money to be sure, especially when Feliks had nothing worth selling otherwise, and no coin in his own pocket. What Antherion had was still unknown, but if he'd had to evacuate Silvermoon in the hurry Feliks imagined, it was unlikely that he'd had time to pick up any valuables or money. “Before that, though, tell me.” Feliks motioned to the plants as well. “Could these be used in healing potions? If they're valuable for many things, I need to know.”

The human nodded, and brushed some of his clipped brown hair from his eyes. “They can be used in minor potions, and some poisons. Uh,” he paused, as if recalling his texts on the plants he studied. “And you can also use them for inscription, I've heard. But that's kind of a new thing that not a lot of people work with, so you probably wouldn't get anyone looking for that use...” Feliks had never heard of 'inscription,' but if it was something so new, he had no interest in learning about it for now. This merchant probably didn't know much about it, since he'd struggled to recall that use.

“Four gold sounds fair, then.” The merchant looked excited that the elf had taken him up on his offer, and Feliks had the faintest idea that he could have gotten more if he'd headed to an auction house, but found himself unable to consider that option. The closest auction house he knew was Silvermoon, and Lordaeron, neither of which were a viable option. The young human gave him the gold, and immediately began dismantling the plants for sale. Or possible use. It was hard to tell, but Feliks had to bite his tongue with displeasure at being dismissed so obviously.

He pocketed the coins, and resumed his route to the large building at the end of the village. Feliks would tell Antherion to keep his herbs if he hadn't already bartered them for something, such as the ability to stay in what Feliks assumed was an inn. If the herbs had such powers in potions, then Feliks wondered if they could be used in other ways as well. Proper investigation would be had in due time, perhaps that night when Antherion slept.

Once Feliks came to the entrance of the building, he was stopped by another guard. “What is your business here?” The guard asked in a matter of fact manner, as if such a thing was only part of the job. He didn't seem to have any particular care if someone entered, but probably earned his copper by asking such mundane questions of everyone who came.

“I have some information from the dwarves by the mountain pass.” Feliks shifted his weight to one foot, willing to answer only because he was sure the man couldn't care otherwise. “I just wanna deliver it personally, since I said that I would. Matter of word of honor, you know.”

The guard nodded as if he understood that, and Feliks wondered if perhaps he'd gotten this job because he owed the leader of the village something. But, the answer had satisfied the guard regardless, and he stepped aside. “Just don't cause a ruckus,” was the last thing the guard said before he resumed his post in front of the door.

Feliks was surprised to find that the building was much smaller on the inside, though there was a low inclined stair case wrapping around the wall of the building. It lead to a platform above them, probably what made up the second floor. The insides of the building were decorated with various hunting trophies, and had a desk at the far end where another human sat, scribbling away furiously on a scroll with a quill pen. Feliks vaguely wondered if everyone at this village was human. He'd not seen a single elf since they'd arrived other than Antherion, obviously, but none of the humans seemed all that surprised to see them. Maybe he and Antherion had run into the village during an off season of elven travelers.

“What?”

The human spoke so suddenly, as if he'd waited for Feliks to say something, though the frustration in his voice sounded as though he'd been waiting for far longer than Feliks had been there. Trouble with his own issues, no doubt, and so Feliks stepped towards the desk, placing the scroll on the hard, polished wood. “Just delivering something for you, from an apparent acquaintance.” Feliks ignored the confused look the human gave him, merely motioned to the scroll with his chin.

When Feliks didn't give any specifics, the human sighed in the most put upon way Feliks had heard from someone other than himself. But the man reached for the scroll anyway, and unrolled it, eyes flicking over the contents with hints of annoyance. It was almost as if he expected some sort of demand in the writing of the scroll. But then, after he must've gotten about halfway down the letter, his eyes widened and then narrowed in concern. “Thank you for bringing me this letter,” he said with equal abruptness from before, and it made Feliks begin to think that maybe the man just talked like that no matter what.

“Forgive me for prying, but might there be something troubling in the letter?” Feliks found himself asking this before he'd even considered that he'd wanted to help the man. The question caught the man off guard, and he straightened up from where he'd been leaning over to take something from a nearby drawer.

“It's nothing that should concern you, so I'll just get your payment, and you can be on your way.” Feliks' eyes followed the man's hand as he slid twelve silver coins across the table to him. “I'm the mayor here, and I'll take care of our troubles.”

The healer rolled his eyes, but reached out for the coins. “My comrade and I were hoping to stay here for a few nights, and it'd be a true trouble for us if something were to happen to the first place we've found with decent accommodations.” The mayor watched Feliks place the coins in a pocket of his robe, as if he had begun to consider changing his mind in regards to Feliks' assistance. The elf was tanned, so he had to have been accustomed to being outside, and those robes hid any of the elv's frame besides his waist, so he might have had some muscle on him.

At least, that's what Feliks was sure the human was thinking, since humans tended to gauge others based on their physical conditioning instead of their magical prowess. It was sometimes worthwhile, since that would have been a great way to determine someone like Kael'thunas' worth. But it was a failure as a gauge in regards to Feliks. But he let the human consider. If he refused a second time, then Feliks could at least have the comfort that he'd tried, and could be on his way with a clear conscience.

But the mayor seemed to understand that even if he couldn't tell how strong the elf was, it was at least another body willing to assist them. And one person could end up being what they needed. “Alright. Fine. We've been having a problem with kobolds lately, taking our mining veins and keeping us from maintaining our pathways to other towns.” Feliks had to hold himself back from pointing out that this was a rather severe problem for such a small settlement.

“Well, my friend and I could get rid of these kobolds for you, if they're causing such trouble.” The rat like humanoids were ornery beyond comprehension, and extremely selfish, immediately laying a ferocious claim to whatever shiny objects they could get their gnarled little fingers on. Feliks had dealt with them in his travels to Stormwind a few times, but had not actually directly fought any. It was rather surprising, though, that they had become a problem, since it was rather rare for them all to work together besides allowing each other to be in the same general area.

“No, that won't be necessary. Unfortunately, they are somewhat necessary in these parts, so direct attacking of them would be a bit heavy handed.” The mayor turned in his chair, and clasped his hands together as he leaned back in thought. “But, perhaps you and your friend could go and recruit this mercenary troupe that is directly through the pass. They could work as guards to keep the kobolds at bay.”

Well, that was easier than killing kobolds, Feliks supposed. Especially since Antherion had absolutely no skill in fighting. Feliks couldn't afford to keep him healed as well as do all the damage when fighting the kobolds. “I'm hoping you're implying you'll be giving me their advanced fee,” Feliks said, hoping he didn't have to inform the mayor of his absolute lack of funds.

The mayor turned back to face Feliks directly, and nodded, his thick beard hiding his mouth when he firmed his lips into a thin line. “Of course, of course. They'd be protecting us, so of course we'd be the ones to pay them,” the human said as he pulled that drawer open again. He pulled out a large sack of coins, and they clinked inside the sack as he dropped it on the table. Judging from the sound, it was full of gold, and Feliks felt cheated again for the second time in only a few minutes. This village had so much money, it was ridiculous. They should have really spent a larger portion of this money on the fortifications.

Feliks reached for the bag of coins, and hefted it. Yup, that weight was definitely that of gold coins, and Feliks placed it into the pouch that hung from his belt. He would go and see Antherion from here, see how the tailor had done in procuring them a place to sleep. It was late in the afternoon, and although it would be light for a few more hours yet, Feliks had no real idea how far away the mercenaries had set up camp, since obviously they weren't close enough for the mayor to simply send a normal messenger to.

He left the building, and headed to the building that seemed to be the inn. Inns had a habit, after all, of having mailboxes placed out in front of them, a much more efficient way of drawing notice to the fact that travelers were welcome there. Feliks found Antherion waiting in large waiting room of the inn, and to the left was a larger room that housed a bunch of hammocks, cots and a few fine beds. Likely, you had to pay a larger and larger sum to get better accommodations, though none were able to avoid sleeping in the same room as other patrons.

“Feliks, there you are,” Antherion smiled to the priest as he neared him. He seemed restless though, as if he had been waiting for Feliks before coming to any sort of decision. Likely, he hadn't had enough funds for obtaining a room, but hopefully he'd at least tried to discuss it with the innkeeper.

“Yes, here I am. How did it go?” Feliks didn't give Antherion any more time to ask what the result of seeing the mayor had been, instead wishing to learn if they could actually stay in the inn or not. Feliks flicked his gaze to the innkeeper, who was a pale elf with her light, wheat colored hair tugged back into a severe ponytail. Surely she'd offer a discount for her own kind, unless this inn was one of the places where the village obtained most of their gold...

Antherion glanced over at her as well, though less subtly than Feliks, and then returned his gaze to the priest. “It's twenty silver a night each. But I don't have anything on me.”

“Not to worry,” Feliks said as he reached for his personal funds. It was rather steep, he had to admit, but maybe they could find themselves some odd jobs to do around the village while he waited for Antherion's positivity to run out about Kael'thunas returning. Once Antherion had accepted that their friend had been killed in the battle to defend Silvermoon, they could both move on to the grieving period. But Feliks couldn't mourn his friend with Antherion still stubbornly refusing to believe what could be the only probable situation. Worst case, Feliks could sell his healing services for the cost of living.

Antherion merely blinked in surprise as Feliks headed over to the woman who ran the inn. “Excuse me, my friend was telling me that the stay is twenty silver?” The stern looking woman nodded, but said nothing. “There's not a way we can barter that down a little, is there?” Feliks asked the question lightly, airily, as if he was making no assumptions, and was merely curious.

“Twenty silver” the elven woman said, voice surprisingly young for how severe she looked. She didn't look like she would make any sort of adjustments on the price, but Feliks was not the type to simply accept that sort of blunt answer, especially when he'd already been manipulated into a less than fair deal in the same village.

“Perhaps twenty silver for the both of us? Unfortunate situations back in Silvermoon have caused us to be without much of our personal funds for the time being.” The mention of trouble back in the main elven city sent a flicker of concern through her blue glowing eyes, but she made every effort to stay firm in her prices.

“I'm sorry, but twenty silver each, each night.”

“How about this? Thirty silver for the both of us. I'm serious when I say we're quite without anything except for the clothes on our back and a few healing herbs.” It was steeper than he'd wanted, but he knew that they had to bend a little, lest they be sleeping outside for however long they were in this village. And he was sure he would already be spending quite a bit of time under the stars doing odds and ends to earn some money. If he had any luck at all, anyone he encountered outside this rich little settlement would be a little less stingy with their rewards for assistance.

“Alright,” the innkeeper finally acquiesced, which caused Feliks to finally give her a smile. She seemed to sense that he wasn't going to give up without some kind of discount, and that she probably would have lost them as customers otherwise.

“Glad that's settled.” The red head pulled a gold piece out and handed it to her, and she counted out the change into his hand. She'd taken enough for two days worth, and Feliks was alright with that, because they were definitely staying that long at least.

Antherion looked relieved behind Feliks, perhaps worried that Feliks might have only succeeded in getting them kicked out. But no, Feliks worked some sort of magic on the innkeeper, and Antherion was thankful when they were finally able to put their packs down and sit. “You're pretty good at this, Feliks.”

“Hm?”

“The whole wheeling and dealing thing,” Antherion said as he waved his hand about. He shut his eyes, and leaned back on the cot, content smile on his face. “You're sure good at saving money.”

Feliks decided this would not be the best time to tell the blond that he'd probably missed out on two deals already, and this unlucky innkeeper just happened to be the next one that Feliks could actually make up for his previous failures with. “Yeah, something like that.” He imagined they could have gotten a better deal if he'd known they were only in the cots. Or if Antherion had just let them sleep in the hammocks for less money.

But, the fact that he'd promised to go and see the mercenaries didn't allow him to have too much relaxation. He needed to get something to eat, and maybe get some supplies before he went out into the mountain pass. If the kobolds were causing trouble, he didn't want to have to go into the situation unprepared. He quietly pondered over whether or not he should let Antherion go with him.

“Feliks?”

The priest perked when he finally noticed his name being called. He'd been lost in his thoughts again, mind having wandered to some checklist on what materials he might need, and looked to his friend. “What's wrong now?”

Antherion clicked his tongue in annoyance, but it was a fond sort of sound, the sound you made when you knew someone was just being themselves. He'd grown to expect Feliks' penchant for being withdrawn with his thought process, never one to think out loud and brainstorm with others. “You never told me what happened with that message you had to deliver,” he said, expectantly, as if eager to hear the grand tale of Feliks meeting with the settlement's leader.

Well, if he hadn't needed to do Antherion's task as well as his own, he would have had time to explain. But the priest kept that internal commentary to himself, not needing the hassle of having to deal with an upset Antherion. “I've gotta go talk to some mercenaries about a kobold problem.”

Antherion made a confused sound, as if that would pull more information out of Feliks. But the red head stayed silent. Antherion leaned in. “You can't just say that and not elaborate, Feliks.” The priest opened one eye, and it slid to watch Antherion.

“Why not?”

“What do you mean, 'why not'?” Antherion leaned back again, exasperated. “Because that's a really vague statement. Why do you have to go see mercenaries? How did you find out there is a kobold problem? Why is this our concern?”

“My.”

Antherion blinked, caught off guard when Feliks interjected with only one word. “Excuse me?”

“My concern. I don't know if I want you to help or not. It'll be dangerous, probably, and you have no combat skills at all.” Feliks' tone held no room for argument, and Antherion didn't really have much of an argument in the first place, other than the fact that he didn't want to be left by himself in that village while his only companion wandered off.

“But, you can't go by yourself...” Antherion attempted to begin an argument, so that he could properly explain himself. “Mercenaries? Kobolds? Even if you were in a battle, that doesn't mean you should run off into combat whenever you can find it!” He let out a large huff of breath, feeling relieved by getting that off his chest. Antherion was a bit surprised at himself, though, that he was more frustrated than he thought at the idea of Feliks not being willing to take him along.

If the real reason he'd come to this settlement played out, though, Feliks would see that Antherion wasn't some incompetent civilian who couldn't protect himself. The attack on Silvermoon, Feliks' heartbreaking news about Kael's likely fate... It had bothered him more than he'd like to dwell on, but he had a goal in mind, so he needed to at least keep his attention on the reasoning behind his decision.

“But what if Kael'thunas gets here? If he's looking for us, neither of us will be here to tell him that we're waiting here for him.” Feliks wasn't sure why, but something about Antherion's mannerisms had reminded him that Antherion was still responding to things in a strange manner, not quite the way he usually did. So, he hoped that reminding Antherion of the tailor's original intent in coming to the settlement would gain him an advantage in the argument.

Something shifted in Antherion's gaze, and finally the tailor sat back. “Okay, Feliks. I won't go with you.” It seemed too easy, even though Feliks had always thought Antherion was a little bit of a push over. Feliks usually got his way when it came to the blond, but Antherion's agreement came a little too soon after his vehement refusal just moments before. Feliks watched Antherion with a suspicious look which prompted Antherion to laugh lightly. “No, I mean it. You've convinced me; after all, if Kael'thunas does get here, I want to be the first to greet him.”

That broke Feliks' suspicion and pulled a laugh out of him. “Of course you do,” Feliks said as he shook his head, and straightened in his seat, leaning back against the wall behind the cot. “And I don't want to be around to see that mushy stuff. So it works out perfectly, don't you think?” Antherion nodded, and smiled, since Feliks apparently missed the tailor's use of the word 'if.'

“Just make sure you're careful, and bring enough supplies to keep you safe.” Feliks considered Antherion's words, and how he hadn't yet told his friend that he'd started to truly understand the warmth of the light. So, of course, his friend would assume he just needed to stock on health potions and bandages. Maybe a few herbs here and there.

“Of course I will be. You seem to have forgotten who you're talking to, Antherion,” Feliks threw in a cocky attitude mostly for his blond friend's sake. “More importantly, you should hold on to the rest of the gold since I'll be going out of town.” He pulled the remaining gold pieces out of his pouch and passed them to Antherion. Feliks had faith that Antherion would not frivolously spend the coins, and if they were lucky, the blond wouldn't need to shop while the priest was out. Though, maybe if Antherion had a bolt of cloth to keep him busy, that wouldn't be so bad.

Antherion tucked the gold away in some hidden pocket of his robes. Such was the advantage of making your own clothes; you could apply all the tricks of the trade, and make your clothing the most convenient outfit ever. After he had tucked the gold away, though, Antherion frowned a bit. “How are you going to get supplies if I hold onto all of the money?”

Feliks waved a hand airily again. “I have the supplies I need already.” Antherion's brows then knitted together, suspicion and worry tied up into one easy to read expression. But Feliks didn't explain more than that, which left the frown firmly on Antherion's face. “Stop worrying so much,” was all Feliks offered him for his concerns, and then faked a yawn. “I want to rest up for the trip tomorrow.” The priest stretched his arms above his head, and although he was mostly faking the need for rest, it didn't hurt to get some sleep, so that he was alert and not sore when he set out.

“I suppose a nap couldn't hurt,” Antherion mused, though he seemed like he might be too tense to sleep. But he stood up anyway, and moved to the cot next to the one they had been sitting on. “After that, I think I'll take a look around the settlement, since you apparently had a little bit of time for a stroll.” The statement was accompanied with a soft laugh as he sat down.

Feliks nodded and stretched out on the cot; it wasn't great as far as beds go, but there nothing could be gained from being picky, he supposed. Best to just handle it, and if they managed to make a nice supply of gold, they could always upgrade to the decent beds later. If they even stayed in the town that long, Feliks thought as he began to drift off to sleep. He must have been more tired than he thought, since only a few moments after he shut his eyes, he had already fallen asleep.


Chapter 4

He felt cold.

That was the first thing the young man thought as he was magically compelled to stand. Only, the feeling of being cold was a distant one, as if it danced just on the edge of his senses. He didn't feel it so much as he was aware that, given the temperature around him, he was most likely cold.

Also, he wasn't quite sure why he thought himself a young man, but the feeling was definitely there, gnawing at the back of his consciousness like a hungry maggot. The first vision of that which popped in his head distantly revolted him. But again, it was a distant feeling, like he was being told he felt it, somehow, instead of actually experiencing it.

He found himself in a large open room, piles and piles of bodies slumped against the pale stone walls. Towards the only exit of the room, there was a group of people chanting, channeling some sort of glowing purple magic. They did not stop as he took a few shaky steps towards them, strands of pale blue hair hanging limply in his face. His breath came out in a rattle, or at least he hoped it was his breath. Although his chest rose and fell, the air which filled his throat was cold and dusty, and he was fairly certain that it wasn't actually a required action. Perhaps habit that his body refused to give up, despite not needing to enact that habit any longer. Not that he understood why breathing was suddenly an option.

The pale haired man stumbled past the casters, noting that they all had strange dark markings under their eyes, which he had originally thought to be dark circles from lack of sleep or proper nutrition. But no, the casters seemed perfectly happy to endlessly call forth magic, and made no moves to stop him as he passed.

Once outside the dark room, he was bathed in the glow of green, fire-spitting lanterns. There were any number of lumbering atrocities moving throughout the much larger hall he'd stepped into. In the middle of the grand hall, there was what appeared to be some sort of miniature gladiatorial arena, where many had gathered. The young man felt compelled to head towards the arena himself, though he was not sure why. There was no feeling, though, that he should refuse the compulsion, so he made his way over there, stopping only to let past some large, lumbering creature whose guts where half-way to spilling out.

The young man stopped just behind the crowd at the arena, and tried to gather what was going on. Down inside the pit, many different races fought against each other, blades clashing loudly. There were all sorts of humanoids in the pit, from human, to elf, to troll to corpses of the apparently undead. In fact, it seemed all members of the Alliance and Horde fought against each other, though none seemed to heed the rules of who was on which side.

And somehow, the young man didn't feel the need to either, watching the fights through his scraggly hair. He did, however, push the hair from his face, and had to hold back the urge to simply rip it away. No use wounding himself simply over hair.

Before he had a chance to see a troll finish off an unfairly small gnome, he was shoved into the pit. Far off in his mind, he knew he should have been startled by the action, but instead, he merely picked up a rather vicious looking ax, which sported a nicely curved handle, and advanced on a dwarf that was currently fighting a ferocious looking orc.

Although the young man felt no love for either dwarf or orc, the blade of his axe sunk into the back of the dwarf first, if only because it was closest. He'd intended his next target to be the orc, who was dripping spittle and blood from his short, sharp, protruding tusks, but his body swung the ax to parry an incoming blow from the side. He dragged his gaze to whomever had attacked him from the left, ax following his eyes instinctively. He did not wait to see who had done it, only realizing after his ax had sunk most of the way through the neck of his attacker that it had been a human that had attacked.

The human fell to the ground with a wet, dull thud, like the sound of a slab of meat hitting hard rock. The young man whirled easily, continuing the strike into the handle of the spear the orc had been using. The ax's blade easily sliced through the thin wood, and continued to plant itself right into the chest of the orc. The eyes of the orc bugged out as it dropped to the ground, hands tight on its chest in an attempt to keep the wound closed. The pale haired man kicked out with his boot, and caught the orc right in the chest, easily crushing its ribcage.

This combat continued on until a tall human with short cropped hair called out to him. “You there.” Somehow, the pale haired man knew he was the one being talked to, despite not having a name or any identifying features called. He did not lower his weapon, but flicked his attention to the human that was decked out in glorious sharp blue armor. White bone accents glinted along the metal of the armor, running like veins across waterlogged skin.

The pale haired young man felt himself being pulled out of the area with some sort of purple and black magic hand, almost as if he'd been grabbed by a grappling hook. Now that he had no enemies advancing on him, the young man devoted his full attention to the man in armor.

“I am Instructor Razuvious,” the human said, and the young man found his attention briefly flicking to the impressive sword that was sheathed on the much taller human's back. “And you've just proven yourself capable of undergoing the true training.”

The pale haired young man listened without any emotion, as if a trained soldier listening to his commanding officer. He knew well enough that this man was his superior, both in rank, skill, and general worthiness. The question of 'worthy to who' was quickly answered by his mind: The Lich King. He wasn't even sure, until that very moment, who the Lich King was, but suddenly it felt as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.

He was amazed he'd not known that.

In fact, he felt a voice echoing in his head just then, eyes unfocused as he listened to the commanding tone with the most rapt attention. The armored man in front of him was silent, as if he knew that the Voice of the Lich King was reaching the pale haired man in front of him.

The voice in his head, now attributed to their leader, told him in no uncertain terms that he was now a chosen knight, picked among the many to carry the will of the Scourge and the all-powerful Lich King. It was granted because the Lich King was all seeing, and had noticed his skill and great loyalty. And now, he was ordered to seek out those who opposed the Lich King, named the Scarlet Crusade of Light's Hope Chapel, and destroy their work against the Scourge.

Once the voice had stopped, Instructor Razuvious began speaking to him again. His timing with the voice in the young man's mind had been perfect, almost to the point of having been practiced. As though he was aware of the voice, perhaps through the powerful magic of their Lich King. The young man would not have been surprised, because the Lich King surpassed all. “So, you are now aware of your given task, and from here on, you shall be one of our great master's chosen death knights.”

The rank and title sat well with him, he noticed, and immediately, he was eager to being training. The Instructor must have seen the energy creep into his body, for he laughed a somewhat menacing laughter. “Do not think it as easy as that. You still need to get accustomed to the new powers you have been given. You were only just resurrected for His service mere moments ago, and no amount of eagerness to serve will cover up the fact that you still have much to do before you are more than a mere recruit. Follow me.”

Razuvious turned on his heel crisply, and led the pale haired young man to a weapon rack. “You should pick out a weapon that better suits your new rank,” Razuvious said as he clasped his hands behind his back. “Although you will train here in Acherus, you will surely need a fine weapon with which to sow our King's vengeance into the hearts of those that would oppose him.” The young man nodded, and immediately dropped the ax that he'd been holding. However, for some reason, he wanted to continue using such a weapon, and he reached for a much heftier two-handed axe. The weight of the ax was great in his hands, and the craftwork that went into every detail amazed him. There was a skull melded into either side of the ax's large blade, with sickly green gemstones placed in the eye sockets.

“Now that you have your weapon of choice, take a look around. Forge a rune into your blade once you have finished investigating your surroundings, and meet be back at the arena. You have one last task before we send you down to terrorize the Scarlet Crusade.”

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