“You arrre cerrrtain you can’t…rrrr….heal yourrself?” growled Lubrici, her r’s getting dragged out into growls in the way he’d learned over time they always did. Aragh looked up at the death knight from where he was pressing a wad of fabric that had been a vest against the wound torn in his side by a demon and nodded slowly.
“I’m utter shite at i’,” he replied, his own voice made into a growl by his worgen form but not as extreme as hers. “Wish I weren’.”
That made the death knight frown, her glowing eyes somehow showing worry, and he watched her hands grip the hilts of her blades that she still had at the ready. After a moment she said, “I could trrry to…rrr…frrreeze it. Such worrrks for my wounds.”
Aragh just blinked his eyes up at her and stated, “Yer immune to fros’bite, Lu. Mite diffren’.” She growled in reply and then turned, her teeth bared in a snarl, as there was the noise of a footfall near the small cave that was their hiding spot in the wastes of Argus.
“Just me,” whispered a familiar voice and then their rogue’s human form separated from the shadows as he crouched down next to him. Reswin’s scarred face grimaced as he looked down at him, his one intact eye obviously taking in the fact that the vest he’d stripped off to try to staunch the bleeding wasn’t going to last much longer. “Shit, Aragh.”
He just blinked back at the younger man and lifted his lip to bare his fangs at him. “I’m nah dyin’ out ‘ere,” he growled sharply. Aragh was determined that he would make it home to his wife and his babies. His Lena wasn’t going to have some Alliance soldier show up on their doorstep to tell her that her husband was gone.
“Right,” replied the rogue, scrubbing a hand over his face. He then looked up at Lubrici, who was still standing with her back towards the entrance and her ears alert, and stated, “We’re cut off from the Päck and the rest of the Alliance by the demons. And there’s Horde moving in behind them from the looks of things.”
“Horrrde?” Lubrici growled, one ear flicking briefly back against her head. “Arre they searrrching the arrrea?”
“Not so far but we kinda left a blood trail. Might find it and come investigate.”
That made the death knight grunt before she grimly stated, “Then we…rrr…kill them.”
Flinching at her tone, Aragh growled, “We can’t jus’ kill whoever migh’ find us, Lu!”
She snarled, turning her head down to him and snapping her teeth in the irritated fashion of a true wolf, and growled, “I will prrrotect pack.” And he could hear how the word wasn’t capitalized to indicate that she was talking about their guild but that she was stating it in the way of the more feral worgen. It was a reminder of what she was: a death knight who had had her feral mind broken by the Lich King and had willingly sank back into the familiarity of its still remembered mannerisms after her freedom was won.
He still frowned seriously at her and hissed, “Only if they attack us firs’.”
Lubrici narrowed her glowing eyes down at him then nodded, growling out, “Fine. But I will…rrr…prrrotect pack. Prrrotect you.” Then her expression softened a little as she tilted her head and added, “Must get you…rrr…back home to pups.”
Aragh blinked up at her then smiled, laughing a little as he painfully slumped back against the wall of the shallow cavern. “Thank ya, Lu,” he murmured. When she just grunted roughly in return, he turned his gaze to Reswin. The rogue was still crouched next to him, worry etched onto his scarred features, and Aragh asked, “Goin’ to go keep an eye ou’?”
“Yeah, I’m going,” replied the younger man. He then scrubbed the back of one hand roughly along his chin before saying, “Just don’t go dying on me while I’m gone. I still need you around to be a big old bear of a distraction for me so I can stab demons in the back.”
Huffing out another laugh caused pain to lance up his side from the wound but Aragh managed to smile at the younger man. “Not plannin’ on goin’ anywhere,” he replied.
Reswin gave a strained smile in return before rising up from his crouch. He gave a serious look towards Lubrici, who let out a reassuring growl that made some of the tension wind out of the rogue’s shoulders. Then he let out an answering growl before he stepped out of the cave and disappeared from sight, his smell swiftly disappearing as well.
There was silence in the cave for a moment, only punctuated by the sounds from outside and his own ragged breathing, before Lubrici broke it with a low voice. “You arrre prrreparrred if we fail?” she asked. “Yourrr family is…rrrr…prrreparrred?”
Aragh knew what she was asking. She was asking if he was ready to die if there was no other option.
Huffing out a breath, he replied, “My Lena knew there was a chance o’ it when she tol’ me to go. I’m not givin’ up but if I go, I’m prepared. I know tha’ they’ll be taken care of.” His mother and father-in-law were more than willing to take their daughter and grandchildren in if it happened. His only regret would be that he wouldn’t be there for them if things went that way.
He hadn’t been truly scared to die since the Legion had come back and the realization had come to him that he’d sacrifice everything to keep his family safe.
Then he looked up at the death knight, at how she was alert and uneasy in the entrance, her furred knuckles tight on her swords, and asked, “Will ye be alright’, Lu?”
Both of her ears flicked back at that before she growled, “I will endurrre.” He imagined that she’d become quite prepared for everyone she knew to die and for herself to continue, her own life essentially frozen in time thanks to the Lich King’s power.
Nodding, he leaned back against the wall of the cave, his eyes focused on the world outside of it. After a few minutes, he noticed that his vision was starting to swim and no amount of blinking was making it better. Shit.
Reflexively he tightened the pressure on the wound torn in his side and grimaced.
He might have to very quickly become well and truly at ease with dying here.
Aragh lost track of how much time had passed but suddenly Reswin was back, his one eye wide as he emerged from the shadows with both hands held out towards Lubrici. “Don’t panic,” he stated firmly, “I found help. It’s just…unconventional.”
The death knight scowled and growled, “How…rrr…so?”
“Fuck’s sake, boy, just spit it out,” came another voice from seemingly nowhere, its rough and gravely nature something that Aragh was unfamiliar with.
The rogue’s spine went stiff and he took a step to his right, setting himself even more in front of Lubrici. “They may or may not be Horde,” he stated firmly.
“I know one of them!” snapped Reswin, his eye flashing a solid bright blue with his temper for a moment before he reigned his wolf back in. Then his voice dropped an octave as he said, “I trust him, Lu. That means I trust who he’s got with him.”
“Mighty fine of you,” stated the still invisible speaker sarcastically. Aragh frowned because in that tone he recognized the sound of a lowborn Stormwind accent. His father-in-law had that very same accent from growing up poor in the city until his mother had gotten remarried to one of the farmers in Elwynn proper. “Mighty fine.”
“Fuck, Nec,” growled the rogue. “I’m trying to make sure you don’t get stabbed!”
There was a chuckle and then another form melted out of the shadows behind their rogue. Slightly hunched shoulders, purple-gray skin, black leather gear bristling with half-hidden knives, and eyes that glowed from the back of empty eye sockets in a wasted face stood out sharply from the green-gray of Argus’ landscape. The undead rogue’s exposed jaw gaped open in what might have been his best approximation of a smile and he clasped a hand on their rogue’s shoulder that had only bone showing from within the ends his gloved fingers. “Not like getting stabbed does much to me,” commented the rogue wryly in Common.
Then those glowing eyes stared at Lubrici and Aragh could read the shock in the undead.
The rogue hissed something in a tongue he didn’t know, something guttural and inhuman, and Lubrici stiffened, her next breath coming out coated in frost. Then she seemed to force herself to relax and replied in the same language, for once not sounding like she was speaking with a growl since he’d met her upon joining the Päck. No, it sounded clear and clean and Aragh had a sinking feeling that this was something that only the undead like them shared.
“Good,” commented the undead rogue with a sharp nod to the death knight, “now that we’re done with pleasantries, let’s see what we’ve got here.” He turned towards Aragh then and his eyebrows went up in obvious surprise. “Shit.”
Laughing was painful but he did it anyway, working hard to keep his eyes focused on the rogue as his vision was starting to swim even more. “Tha’s a word for i’,” he managed to state.
“We need her now,” the undead said. He then swung out of the cave, gesturing at something, and there was a tense moment of silence as they waited. Then there was a very familiar dark furred horned cat in Aragh’s face, a warm tongue briefly licking his cheek as it nuzzled his face, once the shadows melted away from its form.
It couldn’t be…
Space in the small cave suddenly became even more cramped as there was suddenly the tall, heavy bulk of a tauren female crouching there. Aragh’s eyes widened as he looked up into the eyes of his first real teacher in druidism and he breathed, “Caren.”
“Fancy meeting you here at the end of the world, Aragh Thackeray,” she rumbled warmly in Common, her amber eyes fond. Then she looked down at his wound and her expression became worried, heavy brow furrowed. “Let’s get you fixed up.”
He started to open his mouth again but then warmth rolled over him as a green glow filled the cave. His nostrils flared as he smelled untainted plant life for the first time in so long on Argus, pure nature brought out from…somewhere. Distantly he heard Lubrici growl and the undead’s gravely voice say, “Hey, elfy, can you make this fucking cave invisible? I’d like to not die here on this planet.”
“Only because you asked so politely, old man,” snapped back a new voice, this one with an accent that was oddly familiar and foreign at the same time. Caren’s bulk was blocking his view of whoever it was, however, and honestly…honestly Aragh didn’t think he would have been able to see them anyway. His vision was tunneling quickly.
He felt her large hand grip his shoulder and then the other was on his where he was keeping pressure on his wound. Except…except his arm had already lost its strength at some point and he was no longer holding the blood soaked vest to the wound. Aragh could feel the blood welling from the wound and whined painfully, yelping in the back of his throat, as the fabric was fully pulled away from the wound.
He barely registered the quiet, rumbling apology that Caren said, her words lost and only the emotion remaining. Then her other broad hand covered the deep gashes that had been torn into his side and he slumped bonelessly against the wall as warmth sank into him, the pain fading away. Aragh closed his eyes as he just breathed, soaking in a moment without pain for the first time in what seemed like too long.
“What happened?” he dimly heard her ask in Common, obviously directing the question towards Lubrici and Reswin.
“We got separated from the rest, pushed back in a skirmish,” Reswin replied easily. “And a doomguard came out of nowhere.”
There was a low growl before Lubrici stated, “I did not…rrr…rrreact quickly enough. His right side was…rrr…open to attack.”
“And where were you, kid?” Aragh heard the undead ask then.
There was a beat of silence before the rogue replied, “Trying to see if the way to meet back up with everyone was clear. They got attacked while I was away.” If he’d had the energy, Aragh would have reached out to the younger man and told him it wasn’t his fault. If he’d been there, protecting his right side in the method they’d fallen into together…Reswin might have been cut down instead of him by that doomguard. It had only been because of his hasty return, bolting back in worgen form in a panic, that had even allowed them to make it out of that fight.
“If we aren’t careful,” commented the other voice a little snidely, “we’re going to be in the same boat as they were.”
“Only if we aren’t careful, elfy.”
Aragh blinked an eye back open then and found Caren shaking her head fondly, her braids gently swaying. He ran his tongue over his lips for a moment, his throat feeling painfully dry suddenly, before asking softly, “Are they always…”
“Like that?” she replied, her tone amused. “Yes. I told you of them. Nec and Hres.”
“Rogue an’ mage. Yer frien’s.”
She just smiled and then turned her head, closing her eyes and obviously concentrating hard for a moment. He could feel his muscle and skin knitting back together under her hand, certainly one of the uneasiest feeling things he’d felt in his thirty plus years. And that included the panic of being turned into a worgen, curse consuming him heart and soul.
Then her hand lifted from his side and she was proffering a hide wrapped canteen at him. “Here,” she said. “Shift back to human so I can make sure the wound is closed properly and drink this. You need to get water back in you.”
Aragh furrowed his brow for a moment, starting to open his mouth to ask a question. Then he just shook his head and focused, allowing himself to slip from worgen form back into human with only an unfamiliar twinge of pain along his right side. Caren’s hand was even larger now in comparison as she returned it to his side, thick fingers gently prodding at the tears in his leather armor. As he took the large canteen from her, he asked, “Was i’ bad?”
The tauren flicked her ears back and forth for a moment in what he’d learned months ago was an uneasy gesture before she replied, “Another few hours and you would have been carried back to your wife in a coffin. You were well and truly blessed with the Earth Mother’s own luck that we were amongst that group.”
“Y’think she’s got some reach ‘ere?”
Caren just smiled and said in return, “Of course she does. She merely works through us here.” Chuckling, she then reached into one of the pouches at her side, drawing out a heavy handful of dark soil. “And perhaps with a little help of my bringing a bit of her here.”
Suddenly he knew where she had gotten untainted earth on Argus.
Smiling at her, Aragh took another drink before he said, “Well, I’m glad I’ve go’ some of ‘er luck. My girl would’a been disappointed if ‘er da did’n come ‘ome.”
“Thank the Earth Mother I was nearby to keep such from occurring then,” commented Caren. She then turned her head and said to the others, “He will live. You should remain here for some time long, give him time to drink and eat something to regain his strength. He lost quite a bit of blood.”
“Might be best to move to another cave,” grumbled the undead. “My sense of smell is shit but even I can smell the blood. Demons might end up finding you because of it.” He then leaned over, making himself visible to Aragh over Caren’s shoulder, his glowing eyes obviously peering over at the bloody crumpled mess of Reswin’s vest that was now on the floor of the cave. “Though it looks like your armor has seen better days, kid.”
“Won’t be the first time I’ve had to requisition a new one,” Reswin replied from somewhere behind Caren. “Thankfully nowadays they keep ones in stock that are spelled for transforming.”
The undead grunted then stepped forward, leaning one hand on Caren’s shoulder as he peered down at Aragh. Without his eyes blurring or tunneling, Aragh could see the former man better now and noted that for an undead he didn’t look very rotted. Yes, the skin on his face was drawn tight and there was darkened bone exposed around his mouth as well as at his fingertips but there was no stench of death about him. That and there were neat, careful stitches around his mouth, keeping the skin there from fraying away.
The rogue said something specifically to Caren, speaking in a guttural language that he’d heard the orcs speaking in. She replied in turn in the same language then shifted back into Common as she said, “If you’re sure, Nec.”
“Can’t let the kid die, which means I’m not going to let his pack die,” replied the undead with a shrug of his slumped shoulders. “He helped save my life, remember?” Aragh frowned at that, wondering what he was talking about, as Caren’s eyes darkened. What had happened after he’d left her, having learned all he could from her and getting handed over to a druid who could better teach him of how to reach and control the bear form? “We won’t go far. There’s bound to be another cave around here.”
“Just be careful.”
The undead scoffed at that. “Aren’t I always, Care?”
The tauren scoffed in return and the undead gave a particular tilt to his head, the skin of his cheeks twitching, and Caren smiled. Then the rogue turned away and he heard him call Reswin’s name before they were hidden again from his sight by Caren’s bulk.
“Wha’ are they doin’?” he asked.
“Going to see if there is somewhere else for you three to move before we leave to catch up,” she replied. She then frowned, tilting her head up towards the very close ceiling. He hadn’t had an issue as he’d collapsed inside and Reswin hadn’t because his human form was short enough. Lubrici was the only one who’d had an issue, standing as Caren had some time ago when he’d met her, her head lowered and her shoulders hunched slightly. If his packmate was having such an issue, Caren wouldn’t be capable of straightening to her full height at all. “I think,” she said lowly, “that I will transform again. If you are feeling well still.”
“Food an’ rest an’ I’ll be righ’ as rain,” Aragh replied with a smile before he finished off her water and handed her back her canteen. “Be more comfor’able, shan’do.” The Darnassian word was still unfamiliar on his tongue despite having used it for his teacher after her and his usage made her chuckle.
“As you say, thero’shan,” she replied with the proper return term, sounding as unfamiliar with the other language as he did. Then she took the canteen and returned it to her belt, smiling at him before he watched as her amber eyes shifted just so, the pupils flattening into a slit, and her form flickered. The large horned feline left in her place yawned widely, showing off gleaming fangs a match to any worgen, before she stretched out on the ground next to him. Tentatively, Aragh reached out and rested a hand on her back, to which she snorted at in a way that sounded amused.
Then he glanced up and noticed that Lubrici was staring almost incredulously at him. Her glowing eyes flicked towards the entrance of the cave and he followed her gaze to see the third person in the little Horde group. The red robed elf leaned against the wall by the entrance, his arms crossed across his chest and his eyes a brightly glowing green. Judging by what he knew of him from Caren, he was a mage…yet that idea was a little unsettled by the hilt of the sword that hung from his belt.
The elf grinned wryly at him before stating, “So you’re the student Caren took on at the behest of Yerieth, I’m guessing. The harvest-witch who wanted to learn to fight.”
“I am,” replied Aragh. He then glanced down at the transformed druid at his side before asking, “She’s spoken o’ me?”
“Quite proudly. Though I see why she said you were shit at healing.”
Caren left out a huff of an exasperated sounding breath and then Lubrici was stepping forward with a growl. She still had her blades in each hand so Aragh stiffened immediately in response but he noted that the mage just remained casually leaning against the wall. If anything, he looked bored. Caren didn’t look to worried herself but he felt her spine shift underneath his hand nonetheless.
“You,” she growled out, “learrrned underrr this one?” The death knight gestured down at Caren at she spoke, twirling the tip of one sword slightly enough to indicate the direction without being directly threatening. “This is one who…rrr…taught you beforrre you joined us?”
“One o’ them,” answered Aragh. “She taugh’ me my basics tha’ I’d missed.” He then leaned forward and stared hard at his packmate and growled, “She is safe, Lu.”
“She is Horrrde,” snapped the death knight back, frost snapping in the air around her.
There was silence for a long moment after that, the tension tight as a wire, and then the mage laughed. Shaking his head, the elf said, “We’re working to keep our people safe the same as you lot are. And how to tell the Legion to keep their dirty rotten paws off of our planet.” He then focused his fel-green gaze on her as his eyes narrowed into dangerous seeming slits. “And none of our allegiances are strictly to the Horde. They’re to each other and our families. The fact that those families are mostly within the Horde is irrelevant.”
Lubrici snapped her head towards him, nostrils flaring, and Aragh looked at him too, catching on. “Mostly?” growled the death knight curiously before he could ask.
“Mostly,” confirmed the mage sternly. “Which is all I’m saying. Your…packmate…the rogue, he knows.”
“Know what?” asked Reswin as he ducked back inside. He then immediately seemed to pick up on the tension and Aragh watched his good eye flicker to canid for a moment before it resettled to human. “What’s going on?”
“Lu’s worried we’re nah safe,” Aragh noted.
Rolling his eyes, the rogue turned to the death knight and said, “Look, Lu…”
“You…rrr…know the undead,” she growled, interrupting him before he could finish. “He said you…rrr…saved his life. How? Why?”
Reswin let out a heavy sigh and lifted a hand to rub at the back of his neck before he gestured feebly with the other. “It’s…shit, Lu, it’s…it’s SI:7 business.” Now Aragh arched his eyebrows high and Caren lifted her head from where it had been resting on her paws, letting out a low rumbling growl. The rogue threw up his hands helplessly while looking in the tauren’s direction before stating firmly, “He helped me get shit done is all I’m going to say and I helped keep his family safe.”
Then he stepped forward into the death knight’s personal space, his voice dropping several octaves as he breathed, “They…someone was threatening kids, Lu. Four of them. No more than ten years old at the most.”
At that Lubrici’s eyes went flat and hard (as hard and flat as brightly glowing eyes could go anyway) and she growled, “Thrrreatening pups?” Then she snapped her gaze over to the undead as he reappeared next to the mage, leaning casually against the wall next to the elf. “Pups rrrelated to…rrr…him?”
And Aragh knew right then that she would have no more arguments against these three. Lubrici didn’t stand for people threatening the pack first and foremost…but threaten a child – any child – and people tended to find themselves bowled over by several hundred pounds of angry plated worgen coated in a storm of ice. He wasn’t exactly certain why she had such a strong reaction but he put it down to her deliberately sinking back into the feral mindset that was familiar to her. Given his own feelings about his children, however, he could highly appreciate her strike first-ask questions later attitude when people threatening kids was involved.
“My sister’s,” explained the undead before Reswin could say anything else. So, Aragh thought, he had human nieces and or nephews that he cared about. And had somehow been tangled up in SI:7 business?
What exactly had Reswin been involved with? It must have been before he’d come into the Päck, because Aragh couldn’t recall the rogue not being around since he had come to them.
Lubrici nodded then she tilted her head at the undead, asking what sounded almost like question in that inhuman language. His eyes seemed to glow brighter in response and he growled back something in the same tongue.
The death knight nodded approvingly at that then said, “Good. Those who…rrr…thrrreaten pups deserrrve death.” She then asked, “Find a…rrr…new place?”
“Yes,” replied Reswin. “There’s a deeper cave not far around. We can rest up for a few hours and then make our way to the rendezvous point. Hopefully before the rest of the Päck has started a search party looking for us.”
He then looked towards Aragh and asked, “You ready to walk?”
“I think I can,” he replied, shifting his legs to start to push himself up. Caren purred deep in the back of her throat as he did so, rising slowly to her feet to help provide a crutch for him to stand. He did so very carefully not only because his legs still felt a little shaky but also because he wasn’t entirely sure if the entire cave was the same height. With Lubrici having problems, it might be low enough in some spots to give him problems at his full height. Thankfully, as he straightened up fully, that didn’t seem to be an issue where he was currently standing.
Reswin was abruptly at his side, slinging one arm over his shoulders, and Aragh looked down at the younger man with mild amusement. Then he frowned and asked, “How are we gettin’ there wi’out bein’ seen?”
“Don’t you worry your fuzzy head about that one,” replied the mage, cracking his knuckles. His long ears flicked as he pushed himself away from the wall, hands already moving in the air before him. The air sparked with magic and Aragh’s nostrils flared involuntarily as he abruptly smelt burnt air in response, like when a lightning strike came down to earth. Then something rippled across his skin, making him shiver, and the mage nodded in satisfaction. “There. We have about half an hour before the invisibility spell starts to collapse. Even with him limping we should make it way before that.”
The undead nodded and then pointed toward the still transformed druid at Aragh’s side. “Caren’ll watch our backsides from stealth. I’ll be up front making sure the coast is still clear. No need to chance getting our asses jumped.”
“You need me with you, Nec?” asked Reswin.
“Help your packmate, kid. I may no longer have actual eyes in my head but they work just fine. He needs your shoulder and your lady here is more than capable of laying down enough damage on her own if we need defensive. Trust me, I remember watching death knights fight. Elfy there packs a mean punch too.”
Aragh didn’t particularly want to examine that one comment any further. It rang far too heavily with the implication that he wasn’t talking about the current freed death knights. Which implied a number of disturbing things involving the undead’s memory.
The elf snorted in more amusement than anything before commenting, “By punch he means fireball.”
“No, I mean punch, so don’t put words in my mouth,” repeated the rogue sternly. “I’ve seen you in a bar brawl, Hres. And your sister too. I know exactly who taught you how to throw a punch.”
As the mage threw back his head and laughed, Aragh tilted his head and regarded him for another time. The sword wasn’t the only thing that made him strikingly different from the mages he usually met as now he took note that the elf’s shoulders were broad and his arms were well muscled. Just what sort of companions did Caren keep?
“We move,” growled Lubrici suddenly, her impatience obvious, and the group settled into their positions. Aragh looked around them with a great deal of interest as they moved forward out of the cave, not noticing that anything was different about the air around them unless he squinted his eyes. Only then could he make out that vague shimmer that surrounded them out of the corner of his eyes, like something slipping in at the edge of his vision. From what little he knew of arcane magics from observing the mages in the Päck and others, it seemed like quite the little working.
Thankfully they ended up at the cave without the ass jumping that the undead rogue had been worried about.
Reswin carefully lowered Aragh to the floor of the cave around a curve inside of it where he couldn’t be seen from the outside, Caren padding along beside him. Then she was suddenly herself again, her hands glowing with healing energy as she examined him again. A small smile crossed the tauren’s face and then he felt her hand ruffle his hair with obvious affection.
“You’ll be fine,” she assured. Then her large fingers lightly touched his chin and Aragh looked up into her amber eyes at the gentle urging. “Rest up, eat, and drink some more,” she said firmly, with the faint tone of an order, “I don’t want to hear that you didn’t make it back home.”
“Yer leavin’?” he asked, frowning slightly. It had been months since he’d seen her that last time in Moonglade, when she had introduced him to the night elf druid who had taken over from her. And sometimes he’d been terrified of the thought of running into her on the field, haunted by the idea of having to turn teeth and claw against someone he respected.
Nodding, Caren replied, “Our own will be worried about us the same as yours. The last thing you three need is for us to be in the same area as you.” Then she tilted her head and asked, “Are you worried for me, Aragh Thackeray?”
He had always been honest with her – such a fault, she’d commented once with a warm laugh, honesty from the Alliance to Horde – and so he nodded. In turn, she smiled even as her eyes flickered, shifting to feline in that manner that was disturbing in so many ways. Feline eyes had no place in a tauren’s face.
Patting his knee, she said firmly, “Worry about making it home safe. If anything should happen to me…what was it I always said to you?”
It took a moment for Aragh to sift back through his memory for the words in her own tongue and they stumbled off of his tongue, as unfamiliar as the Darnassian he’d spoken earlier.
“Theia-shoush ahmen,” he replied thickly. “So i’ will be.”
“Theia-shoush ahmen,” confirmed Caren with a nod. “I will pray that the Earth Mother continues to watch your path, Aragh Thackeray. Be safe.” With that her form flickered into the large horned feline again and she let out a little chuff of breath before leaning forward to carefully lick his cheek. Chuckling, Aragh lifted one hand to stroke his fingers through her mane before he nodded firmly at her.
“Be safe yerself, teacher,” he said softly as she stepped away from him. Her amber eyes seemed to smile at him before she turned away, padding back towards the entrance where Lubrici was standing with the undead and the elf. Next to him Reswin let out a low breath and then pressed his canteen as well as a bundle of wrapped food into his hands.
“You really care about her,” commented the rogue softly.
Nodding, Aragh swallowed thickly before he replied, “She was my firs’ real teacher beside my gramma. An’ she never feared me. Not li’ others ‘ave before.” He hadn’t had very many people treat him like that after they had found out what he was. And he imagined that even though Reswin was a newer worgen that he had discovered much different treatment himself.
The younger man just hummed in response before he settled down next to him on the floor of the cave, leaning his head back against the rough wall behind them. “Nec says she’s good people.”
Aragh frowned then asked, “An’ ye know ‘im from some SI:7 business?”
“Secrets I can’t spill,” replied Reswin seriously. He then flashed a brief grin before jokingly adding, “Otherwise I’d have to kill you.”
Snorting a laugh, Aragh glanced over the rogue’s head towards the entrance, seeing the undead was saying something that he couldn’t quite hear to Lubrici, gesturing vaguely with his hands as she spoke. Their death knight was nodding in turn, her arms crossed across her chest as she looked down at the former man. He noticed as well that the elf was leaning against the wall of the entrance, a look of concentration on his face as he cast some sort of magic on what looked like a small crystal he’d pulled from somewhere on his person.
As he watched, the two undead beings finished their conversation with a sharp nod from each and then Lubrici took the crystal when the mage abruptly offered it. The elf made a brief gesture with his hand around it and Aragh heard him ask distinctly in Common, “You got it? It’ll give you an hour or so of invisibility since its bound to a crystal but no more.”
“I…rrr…have it,” replied Lubrici. Then Aragh saw her wrinkle her nose before she took a step back and bowed before the three Horde members. “Thank you…rrr…forrr aid. And saving my…rrr…packmate.”
“I owe the kid for a shit ton more than this,” commented the undead rogue loudly, which caused Reswin to turn to look at them as well. “But you’re welcome.”
“Any friend of Caren’s is a friend of mine,” the mage added. He then winked at Aragh, having noticed he was watching, before he flicked his hands and disappeared from sight. Caren let out a growl after that and he watched her pace out of the cave, her feline form slipping into the shadows before she was entirely through it. That left only the undead standing there before Lubrici.
“Look,” he said after a moment, “if you lot ever need anything…”
“Berrrton Stafforrrd,” growled Lubrici abruptly, interrupting him. “I seek…rrr…him.”
Aragh frowned, tilting his head curiously at her tone, and he noticed that Reswin had picked up on something weird going on with their packmate as well. The undead tilted his head, eyebrows furrowed, and then asked, “For what?”
There was silence for a long moment and Aragh could see Lubrici’s hands clenching, her claws no doubt digging into her palms. “Closurrre,” she replied through bared teeth.
“And you know he’s an undead? Or just suspect he might be?” The rogue then crossed his arms before he said, “Tell me the deal with him and I’ll make it happen. We’ll call it a favor for making sure the kid stays in one piece.”
“Nec,” growled Reswin and Aragh couldn’t help but chuckle. He then turned his attention back to Lubrici, who looked distinctly uncomfortable. But then the death knight growled out between her teeth and opened her left hand to gesture vaguely at herself.
“Was with…rrr…me,” she growled out. “When worrrgen werrre summoned into worrrld. He is not…rrr…worrrgen. I have…rrr…looked since rrrememberrring.”
“Rememberin’?” he whispered curiously to the rogue next to him but just earned a hissed shhh in response. Huffing out a breath, Aragh kept his gaze on her all while wondering what exactly she was talking about.
There was silence from the undead for a moment then he lifted a hand to rub at his exposed jaw before saying, “So you think instead of getting turned like you that he might’ve ended up getting raised. Since that would’ve been…what…right at the start of the Scourge invasion?”
“Yes. We werrre…rrr…helping Arrrchmage Arrrugal rrresearrrch.”
Aragh frowned as the undead abruptly straightened up in surprise, the slouch of his shoulders almost disappearing for a moment. Then the former man softly said, “You weren’t always a fighter, were you?”
Lubrici just shook her head in response and the undead nodded sharply. “Alright, I’ll look for him. Fuck, this means I’m probably going to have to go to the Undercity. Hate that damned place.” He then tilted his head up and her and asked, “What if I don’t find him?”
She shrugged slightly in response before replying, “Then he rrrests in peace.”
“Light, I hope he does for your sake then. This life…well, it’s shit…but you know that as well as I do.”
Their death knight just nodded solemnly and the undead coughed before he nodded his head. His glowing eyes then turned to regard them and one of his cheeks twitched before he called out, “Keep an eye on that one, kid. And try and keep him from ending up dead? I’m not particularly inclined to have a hundred pounds of tauren mourning in my lap again because of someone dying.”
Aragh just blinked even as he registered Reswin nodding before he realized who the undead was referring to. The orc Caren spoke of when they met. That was surely it, wasn’t it? Caren had said that he had died during the battles in Northrend to take down the Lich King and, judging by their close comradery, her companions had been there with her. Or, more accurately, judging by the undead’s words he had been there.
The undead then snapped off a flippant salute against his temple with two bony fingers before he disappeared, vanishing into the shadows after his companions. Lubrici stood in the entrance of the cave for a long moment, rolling the crystal given to her between her fingers, before she turned to come join them. As she sank to the floor across from them, freeing her swords from the sheaths on her back to have them at the ready, Aragh softly asked, “Lu? Who’s Berton Stafford?”
There was a heavy sigh from the death knight before she leaned against the wall of the cave, her glowing gaze fixed on the entrance as she shifted the crystal between the clawed fingers of either hand. “A frrriend,” she replied. “I…rrr…forrrgot him. We werrre togetherrrr at the…rrr…end and I forrrgot him. I would…rrr…see him again if he surrrvived.”
“You think he did,” commented Reswin, ignoring the comment about forgetting as easily as Aragh did. They both knew the base details of the death knight’s issues with her memory and had never asked further than what she was willing to share. “You think the curse didn’t take to him though and his body got tossed. And that the Scourge got him instead.”
As she nodded, Aragh asked, “Why now? Why tha’ undead?”
Lubrici just huffed out a breath before replying, “I trrrust my pack. Rrreswin trrrusts him. So I trrrust him. And he is a rrrogue so he can…rrr…find things.”
The rogue let out a little laugh that was more to himself than anything before he nodded, saying, “That wasn’t the response I expected out of you, Lu, but thanks for trusting me enough to extend it to someone else.”
“You arrre not a…rrr…fool. If you did not…rrr…trrrust him, you would not have brrrought him to us.” Her left eye then turned towards them, a slightly brighter glow in the center the only indicator of direction. “You trrrust the drrruid, yes, Arrragh?”
He stiffened a little at the question – mostly because he’d been asked that previously by some who’d found out who his first teacher was and he wanted to tear out throats at the implication that Caren would do him harm – before he nodded. “I’d trust ‘er wi’ my children,” are the next words out of his mouth because that is the highest level of trust he can give. His wife, his Lena, she knows how to protect herself and can as she’d ably proved to him more than a few times. His babies, though, they don’t have that ability. To trust someone with his daughter, with his son, is a feat.
And he trusted that Caren would defend them with her life if it came down to it.
“And she trrrusts him?”
“Yes,” he replied immediately, having heard none too few stories of the rogue who called himself Necronim.
Lubrici nodded sharply then her gaze shifted back towards the cave entrance. “That is…rrr…enough for me. And he is…” She trailed off, frowning, before finishing, “He is not Forrrsaken.”
Reswin jerked next to Aragh and asked, “How do you know that?”
“Forrrsaken do not…rrr…speak the Scourrrge tongue anymorrre,” she replied a little sharply. “It was…rrr…all I could speak forrr a shorrrt time, beforrre I rrrememberrred Common. They rrrefused to speak it…rrr…to me but underrrstood.”
“Oh.” The rogue exchanged a curious glance with Aragh but he shook his head at how he read the question in the younger man’s single blue eye. Neither of them were aware that the Scourge even had a spoken language but he wasn’t particularly inclined to ask anything more about it.
Lubrici nodded in response to that small reply then turned her head, her lip drawing up to show her fangs. “Eat,” she ordered sternly, ceasing the movement of her fingers just enough to jab a claw at the food still sitting wrapped in his lap. Aragh blinked at her and then flushed as she growled, “Yourrr drrruid told you to…rrr…get yourrr strrrength back.
Dropping his hands to the food Reswin had pressed upon him while ignoring the rogue’s cheeky grin at his getting scolded, Aragh unwrapped whatever was within. It was just a simple half loaf of hardy bread and dried meat that wouldn’t go bad quickly while in the field but it was food and he’d need whatever it could give to replace the energy healing had taken out of him. Even if he had ended up being a terrible healer, Caren hadn’t let him get out of learning the ins and outs of how it worked because there were things to know there as well. Such as that he still had to replenish his depleted reserves despite the fact that his side was healed.
As he ate with Lubrici sitting watch across from him and Reswin’s shoulder leaning against his, Aragh allowed himself a small moment to thank whatever gods might be listening for putting Caren and her companions in the right spot to save his life.
Thanks to them, he had a chance to go home again.