Author’s Note: World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth and all associated characters, settings, and others are copyright Blizzard Entertainment. Used without permission or profit being made. The death knight character, Phantasmz, belongs to my friend Jay. Used with his permission.
“The enemy is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he is on.”
― Joseph Heller, Catch-22
This was turning into a nightmare.
Baine Bloodhoof had been arrested nearly two weeks prior, and since then no one had seen him. The Tauren had all but abandoned Orgrimmar since then (which was really something the Warchief should have foreseen). It was rumored he had been held in the area under Grommash Hold. It was also rumored that he had escaped the night before.
Belidora was not sure about the former claim. She was fairly certain of the latter.
The guards had been searching every soldier and civilian who walked down the Drag all day, interrogating them as to their whereabouts the night before. It had been even worse than when they had dragged people out of shops and houses, checking their clothes and hands for paint after some . . . vandalism after the Battle for Lordaeron. She herself had been stopped five times already that day, and as such she was making her way quickly to Phogrim’s hut to hide out.
“Miss! Miss!” a high pitch voice yelled after her. She stopped and turned around, looking around and then down. It was a young orc girl in a simple leather dress and bare feet. “Are you Miss Belidora?”
When the blood elf nodded, the girl smiled and shoved a crumpled up scroll at her. “I was told to give you this.”
“By who?” she started to ask, but the girl had already turned around and darted back through the crowds of merchants and shoppers.
Belidora sighed and walked off of the main path, sitting down next to the tailor’s shop and untying the twine from the scroll, then began to read it. It was short and to the point, but the contents made her feel both excited and terrified.
She sat there for several minutes, probably far too long, as she pondered what to do with the information. She didn’t want to keep the information to herself, instead desperately wanting to continue on to her friend’s house. She stood up to continue on her way, then paused.
There was a chance he’d been summoned as well, but if he hadn’t, did she have any right to do it? He had a family who loved him - she didn’t. It would be wrong to go seek out her troll friend, Jof, for the same reason.
If they showed up, they showed up. It would not be on her conscience either way.
She walked quickly, casually tossing the letter into one of the torches that lined the path, a trick she had learned during the Darkspear Rebellion. From there she made her way toward the back gates of the city, being careful to smile and nod at the Deathguards as she passed them. They didn’t smile back, of course, but it was best to be friendly.
There were always a few wolves that soldiers could borrow to get somewhere, and since she regularly lived in Orgrimmar and often sold meats and furs in the city, the stable masters knew and trusted her. She would get a wolf, claim to be going to Razor Hill to visit a friend, and…
Being blind on her right side, she never saw it coming. An unseen hand reached from behind the wall of a shuttered shop and snared her arm, jerking her behind the building. It took a moment for her to react, and she started to yell at whoever it was to let her go, but a hand clamped over her mouth before she could get a sound out.
The hand was terribly cold on her hot skin. It was one of the Forsaken. That only caused her to struggle more, desperately reaching for the knife on her belt. The Forsaken must have realized what she was trying to do, since he wrenched her other arm behind her back until the pain caused her to stop. “Stop it! I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you try to stab me. It won’t do anything, anyway,” a voice snapped in her ear. It was a male voice, and it echoed slightly.
After several more seconds of squirming, Belidora realized she wasn’t making any progress of getting loose, and the echo in the man’s voice told her why. Regular Forsaken could be abnormally strong - they didn’t feel pain, after all - but this was no regular Forsaken.
“I’m going to take my hand off your mouth. Don’t. Scream. And don’t look at me. Keep staring at that crate over there.”
When she nodded, he kept to his word and dropped his hand, letting her gasp for breath. After catching her breath for a few seconds, she whispered, “I don’t have any gold. I spent it yest-”
“I’m not a fucking robber, elf,” the man muttered tiredly, his voice sounding a bit insulted. “What use do I have for gold, anyway?” He loosened the wrenching on her arm, but kept hold of it, sighing. “I saw you burn that note and try to sneak out of the city. You know we’re confined to Durotar until the Warchief says otherwise. So, where you going?”
She paused, too long, but soon recovered and said quietly, “I’m trying to get back home to Silvermoon.”
The Forsaken snorted, or as much of a snort as he could make with his partially functioning lungs. “Back to a city blockaded by the Alliance and starving for supplies? Come on, you seem smarter than that. Also, you’re a terrible liar.”
Belidora was still thinking of a way to respond when he continued. “You’re going to take me wherever that note was beckoning you. You’ll make it further with a Forsaken escort than without one, anyway. The Deathguards will ask fewer questions, and I don’t think you’d bluff them if they were asking you what you had for dinner with your skills.”
He paused. “I’m going to let go of your arm. Keep your hands off that bow and that knife and keep looking forward. No looking at me until we’re on the road. Which, by the way, will be an easier journey for you if I don’t have to keep a knife pressed between your ribs the whole way, so play nice.”
Belidora winced and rubbed her arm after he let go and pushed her forward slightly. Still, she didn’t look at him. After several moments of staring at the crates, she said shakily, “You’re just going to have to kill me here. I’m not telling you where they are.”
There was several moments of silence, and she fully expected an axe or sword to strike her head off. Instead, there was a snicker, then slightly louder laughter. A gauntleted hand patted her head, a bit roughly, and she absently wondered why he seemed to be wearing only one glove. “You’re a good rebel, kid.”
She started to turn her head slightly, but he gave her a warning push on her shoulder and reached around, jerking the skinning knife from her belt. She made no move to stop him - trying to wrestle him for the blade would only get her face or chest sliced open. She felt it pressed to her side, underneath her cloak. “Walk. Stable master,” he muttered.
Belidora gritted her teeth and did as she was told, walking back out from behind the building and through the gates. She noticed that the crowds of people now gave her a wide berth. No one tended to like getting close to a death knight. Other than that, though, no one questioned what was going on.
The new stables were set up just outside the gates of the city. She looked around as they approached and noticed Murog lugging a bucket of water over to a trough for some hawkstriders. He glanced up and must have seen her first, because he started to smile and wave. The smile died on his lips when he saw who was behind her, and his brow wrinkled in concern.
“Excuse me, sir,” the death knight said with the first polite tone he had taken since she had encountered him. “We require a wolf for a few days. It’s important business.”
Murog kept his eyes on the young blood elf and answered evenly. “I can spare two wolves. Same price. Blackspirit here needs the exercise anyway, and Miss Bloodfeather is a great trainer. You’d probably prefer Bledig, sir.”
“Blackspirit it is,” the death knight replied pleasantly, and Belidora saw Murog’s face fall as he continued. “I’d hate to put you out too many mounts. We may be gone for a little while. We can ride together, can’t we?” He pressed the knife slightly harder to her ribs and she quickly nodded.
Murog sighed and went to ready the massive wolf. After a few minutes he walked over, grim faced, and handed Belidora the reins. She forced a weak smile for him and he reached down and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze, shook his head, and turned around to continue with his work.
Belidora couldn’t blame him for not doing more. The last time she had seen him a few weeks ago, he had said he and his mate had just welcomed a new, strong baby girl into the world. He needed to look out for them.
For months, there had been stories of vocal dissidents disappearing, after all.
The young huntress climbed onto the back of the wolf and gripped the reins, pulling away from him as much as she could when the death knight followed suit, so at least she wasn’t leaning against the ice cold armor. She muttered a command in orcish and Blackspirit started off from the stables at a trot.
“Where are we going?” she finally asked after a few minutes.
The death knight wrapped his arm around her shoulder, and she started to jerk away from him again until she saw the knife held loosely in it. He had an almost casual manner about him, the same way she’d ride with her friends if they were sharing a mount. That made it all the more disconcerting. “Well, like, I said, where you were headed is where I want to be headed too.”
She gritted her teeth. “I told you, I’m not going to…”
“Oh, I know, you’re not going to tell me. That’s alright. I bet I can guess where you were headed…”
He leaned up and whispered in her ear. “Let’s go to Mulgore.”
Author’s Note: See previous chapter for copyright info.
Wellington also belongs to my friend Jay. Used with his permission.
“Why are we stopping?” the death knight demanded. He had kept his position behind Belidora, twirling the knife in front of her and asking questions about random topics, most of which she deigned not to answer.
The young elf sighed. “The wolf needs to rest and drink,” she said, having it trot up to the river. “So do I.” It was the truth - they had been traveling for hours, and Belidora was somewhat surprised that their mount hadn’t collapsed yet at the brutal pace the death knight had forced them to take.
He shrugged behind her. “Fine, whatever. We’ll take a break for a few minutes,” he said nonchalantly. He withdrew his hand holding the knife back behind her and grabbed her collar, dragging her off the wolf.
She grabbed his fingers and tried to pry them away. “I can get a drink myself!” she snarled.
He laughed and, to her surprise, let go. “Fine. Knock yourself out.”
She had to fight the urge to turn around and stare at him, but she decided it was likely to make him angry and endanger her newfound relative freedom. Instead, she walked over to the stream and fell to her knees, cupping her hands and sniffing the water. It smelled clean enough, so she took several large gulps, then splashed a little on her face. It was always scorching in the Barrens.
“We need to keep moving, elf. Take as little time as you can,” the man behind her ordered, and Belidora stared at her reflection in the water. She still had her bow and quiver - the Forsaken obviously counted on his superior strength and dark powers to keep her submissive. So far it had worked - in close quarters, she had no chance against him.
So she would need to gain some distance.
She glanced over her shoulder slightly and, for the first time, caught a glimpse of her captor. He was tall for a Forsaken, with black and purple plate armor. He had evidently been dead for quite some time, or had been unable or unwilling to tend to his risen body, since a great deal of it was rotted down to the bone.
That only made it easier to aim.
She grabbed an arrow from her quiver and spun around, still on one knee, and fired. It found its mark, lodging in the death knight’s knee joint. He roared, probably more in surprise than anything, and spun around toward her. She had already nocked her next arrow. “Don’t,” he snarled, but she loosed it anyway, this time striking him in the shoulder, between his breastplate and pauldron.
There was no way that simple arrows could fell him, so she stopped at that, turning and sprinting into the river. It was less than a foot deep all the way across, and she had run through creeks and rivers since she was young, trying to cover her scent while she tracked her prey in Eversong or fled her enemies in war. She was extremely sure-footed.
Which is why she was surprised when her foot suddenly flew out from under her halfway across the river, sending her crashing down onto her side and smacking her temple on the ground. To her shock, she did not fall into water, but onto a solid, thick sheet of ice.
Of course, she thought dumbly for a millisecond, and started scrambling for purchase again, desperate to at least get to the other side of the river.
Belidora had just reached the other side and pulled herself to her feet when the ground flew up at her face again, this time when a hard, ice cold and painful blast of air hit her square in the back. She covered up her head with her arms this time, curling up and gasping for breath. She was so cold.
“Stupid girl!” the death knight snapped behind her, clomping across the ice in his heavy plate armor. Belidora could hear him getting close and she willed herself to try to scramble to her feet again. She barely got to her knees before chains of ice wrapped around her arms and legs, jerking her down and pinning her on her stomach.
The death knight walked around her and stood in front of her, tossing the two ichor-blackened arrows down in front of her face. She tried to glare defiantly at him, but all she could see was up to his bony knees. He was muttering some curse words in gutterspeak as he bent down, prying the bow out of her hand. Without a word, he held it in front of her and coated it in a layer of ice, then snapped it at its upper limb.
“I was going to let you keep that in case we ran into some trouble, but forget it, you miserable little whelp,” he muttered, using the knife to slice the strap on her quiver. He jerked it off of her and tossed it away. With that done, he waved his hand and the ice chains suddenly melted away, but before she could move, he dragged her to her feet and pulled her back across the river toward their mount, her thrashing in his grip the entire time.
“Stop it,” he growled.
“Let me go! What do you even want from me?” she yelled back at him.
“I’m trying to help you, you fool,” he snapped, dropping her into the dirt on the other side of the river. He had removed the axe from where he had been carrying it on his back, so she simply glared up at him instead of trying to run again.
“How? By dragging me away at knifepoint?”
“You were trying to leave anyway! I just assured that you would make it out of Orgrimmar alive. That probably wouldn’t have happened if it had been up to just you,” he muttered, rubbing his pale face. “Why would I have let you keep your weapon if I planned on doing you harm?”
“I don’t know,” she said, halfway ignoring the question. “You must be a fool.”
The Forsaken sighed and explained slowly. “I’m trying to help you.”
“Well, my many thanks, but I’d like to leave now,” she said, starting to sit back up, but shrunk back when he aimed the axe at her throat.
“You can’t leave. I need you to find the others,” he said in the same slow, patient tone.
Belidora narrowed her one good eye at him. If he had been closer, she would have spat in his face. Instead, she simply snarled, “I told you, just kill me. I’d rather die than tell you.” When he sighed and shook his head, she gritted her teeth. “What, do you get some sort of thrill over tormenting me or something, rat?”
“As a matter of fact, we all do,” he replied snidely, then crouched down to close to her eye level, still holding the axe in front of her. “If I wanted to kill you or to force the information from your lips, I would have just dragged you before the Banshee Queen. Let that fool Nathanos have fun with you for a few hours and you’d talk. I imagine the information you have would give me riches and prestige enough that I would never have to go to war again.”
He lowered the axe, then stood up, staring down at her. “And yet I didn’t do it. Don’t you want to find out why?”
Thrall pushed the flap of the tent back and walked up to where the young Tauren chieftain was resting on some sleeping furs in the middle of the floor. He glanced over at the seer tending to him, a fairly young Tauren with black fur that made him look like one of the Grimtotem Tribe (although Thrall was not about to ask if he was). “How is he doing?”
The priest started slightly, glancing up at the former Warchief, then turned back toward his chieftain. “He’s not in any pain, I made sure of that. Couldn’t find any signs of poisons or potions in his system, so that’s good. He’s just very weak. It’s likely he’s had little more than water the past few weeks. I haven’t asked him, though. I thought it would be better if he was able to rest for a day or two,” the priest said quietly.
Thrall nodded absently, looking down at his young friend. Baine let out a soft moan and fidgeted unconsciously with the furs covering his body. The seer silently reached out and put his hand on the warrior’s, calling on the Light to help him back to a more restful slumber.
“What’s your name?” Thrall asked quietly.
The seer took a moment to respond, as if he wasn’t sure if the shaman was speaking to him. “Wellington, sir.”
“You’re a gifted healer. Thank you for spending so much time with him. Still, you should get some rest. You’ve been tending to him for the better part of twelve hours.”
“It was an honor,” Wellington muttered, but nodded, getting to his feet. At full height, he towered over the orc, as all Tauren did. He thumped his chest and started to depart, then stopped, turning back around. “Sir?”
Thrall had dropped to his knees next to Baine, but he turned his head to look at the priest, who continued, “Do you think we can win this?”
The shaman paused, then looked back at Baine. He told himself it was concern when the chieftain fidgeted, but it was mostly so he could break eye contact with the other Tauren. “We can only pray to the ancestors that we can.”
I've decided to post short chapters more frequently. I'm trying to work on my writing speed. Hopefully I'll have one or two more chapters up by the end of the week.