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Tomb of Fire

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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.

Enjoy.

#

“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.”

Chapter Text

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.”

Chapter Text

Author’s Note:  See previous chapters for copyright information.

#

“Stop.”

Belidora muttered a word in orcish to get the wolf to halt.  She had only been halfway paying attention to where they were now headed.  After struggling with the death knight for several more minutes before departing from their last stop, she began to feel ill.  Soon she was trembling enough that he had sheathed the knife behind him instead of holding it on her.

At least he was no longer asking stupid questions.  In fact, other than directing her where to steer the wolf, he had barely said a word to her.

When he didn’t move, she muttered back to him, “Why are we stopping?”

“You’re sick.  Come on, get off,” he said, hopping off the wolf and halfway helping her off, halfway pulling her off.  He was gentler than he had been up to that point, which somewhat surprised her, almost as much as it did when he took his hand off her arm and pointed.  “Go sit down in that cave.  We’ll make camp for the night.”

Belidora nodded and, after giving a half second thought toward running again, she stumbled toward the cave entrance.  Running was out of the question, it appeared - she felt so cold and weak and numb and in pain all at the same time she wouldn’t make it a dozen meters before he caught her.  

She hobbled into the cave and leaned her back against the wall, sliding down into a sitting position.  The cave was small, probably ten feet wide, and did not go very deep into the side of the mountain.  Still, it would be an adequate hiding space from anyone looking for them.  

She wasn’t so sure that was a good thing.

The death knight walked in behind her and sat down next to the opposite wall, sighing when the wolf followed him in.  He looked over at the young elf and frowned, then reached up and removed his helm.  His skin on his face was much better preserved than the skin on his limbs, and other than the eerie blue glow of his eyes, he looked much like any other Forsaken.  

Belidora didn’t say anything to him, instead pulling her knees to her chest and burying her face in her arms, still shivering.  She stayed like that for a few moments before the death knight muttered, “You should lie by the wolf.  He’ll keep you warm.”  She glanced up at him, and he continued.  “Come on, don’t tell me you haven’t tried to use your pets for warmth before.  That blast I gave you sometimes causes a fever.  It’s usually not fatal, but the sooner you get warmed up, the better off you’ll be.”

She looked at him blankly for a moment, then motioned towards the wolf to come closer.  The beast did and plopped down next to her, and she lay down next to him, still shaking.  She closed her eye to go to sleep when she heard the death knight mutter, “I’m sorry.”

She glanced up at him and narrowed her eye, but made no move to get up.  “Sorry?  That’s all you can say?  You threatened to kill me and blasted me with your . . . your death powers.  And now you’re holding me hostage or…”

“I didn’t mean to make you sick.  I just couldn’t let you leave.  All you’d do is run into them and then we’d both be screwed.”

“Who’s ‘them’?” she said hoarsely, her formerly laid back ears perking up slightly.

The death knight narrowed his eyes at her.  She figured he wasn’t going to answer, so she closed her eye again, snuggling up closer to the wolf, when the man asked, “What’s your name, kid?”

She thought about ignoring the question, but finally she replied.  “Belidora Bloodfeather.  What’s yours?”

“Phantasmz,” he said shortly.  “At least that’s what you can call me.”

She opened her eye and looked over at him.  “Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

She snorted, which caused a coughing fit.  Still, when it was over after several seconds, she managed to reply.  “That’s a stupid fucking name.”

#

Belidora awoke what must have been hours later.  She looked around blearily and saw a small fire outside of the cave, with the death knight sitting next to it.  It briefly crossed her mind that she was next to the wolf and could hop on and try to make a run for it, but the thought quickly died as she remembered she no longer had her bow.  Even the wildlife in the Barrens was dangerous.

She walked over slowly after finding her strength had returned somewhat.  Phantasmz looked up slightly and regarded her, then back at the fire.  There was a small amount of meat roasting over it - a rabbit, from the looks of it.  “You need to eat.  Should be done in a couple of minutes,” he muttered.

She nodded and walked over, sitting down on a rock.  She was still shivering a little, but it could be because it was getting chilly out in the desert.  He stood up and pulled the skewer out of the fire, letting the flame extinguish and handing it to her.  She took it quietly and looked down at it for a few minutes.

“Sorry.  Don’t really have anything to season it with,” he said simply.  

He was being so much nicer now.  She looked up suspiciously.  “Where are we going?” she said hoarsely.

He crossed his arms.  “We’ll split up on the road outside of Bloodhoof Village.  I trust you can make it that far by yourself.  I hope you’re as good with that wolf as the stable master said you were,” he said nonchalantly.  “I heard they recently had a bower and fletcher move in.  They should be able to replace your weapon.”

She stared at him for a long time, her one eye glowing and narrowed.  Finally she stood up, tossing away the half eaten piece of meat.  “What the hell is your plan?  After all of this, we’re just going to split up for some reason?”  she blurted out.  It was insane to be arguing to stick together after trying repeatedly to escape, but this made no sense.

“Careful, girl, hate to kill you and have to do it myself,” he muttered.  “The rabbit dampened the lust a bit, but it’s still there, I assure you.”  When she did not sit down and instead stayed glaring at him, he rolled his eyes.  “Sit down and I’ll explain it.  We need to move again soon anyway.”

She slowly sunk onto the dirt and watched him silently.  He sighed again and continued.  “I need you to take the wolf and ride to the outlying villages and evacuate them.  Where you tell them to go, I don’t really care, although I’d suggest you steer them away from Thunder Bluff.  It’s going to be only marginally safer there than in the villages.”

“What are you going to do?” she muttered.

He frowned.  “Sylvanas knows that the Tauren are preparing for her arrival.  She’s sending small teams armed with things that are . . . similar to the small mana bombs that we used in Pandaria against the Alliance, but infused with blight.  They’re easily hidden around the shops and houses in the small villages and triggered remotely.  I’m going to try and intercept as many of them as I can, but you need to be there in case I fail so you can get everyone out.”

“Why can’t we go to Thunder Bluff?  It would be almost impossible to attack the city with it being on those plateaus,” Belidora started, but stopped when he continued.

“She’s planning on dropping the blight around the base of the plateaus.  The top will burn with the same catapults that were used in Teldrassil.  Those there will have a choice - burn or jump into the blight.”  He paused and frowned, looking her in the eye.  “If I were you, I’d choose the fire.”

“Then shouldn’t we evacuate Thunder Bluff first?  I mean, that’s where most people live…”

“They’ll notice that much movement and move onto the other part of their plan before we’re . . . ready.”

The young blood elf looked at him and finally snapped out of frustration.  “Why didn’t you tell me all of this on the way?  If I knew all of this, I would have never tried to run and we wouldn’t have had to stop,” she growled, desperate to blame someone other than herself.  “Why didn’t we talk about this right after we left Orgrimmar?  We’ve wasted hours because you wanted to be secretive.”

Phantasmz did not answer, not immediately.  Finally he said quietly, “You would have tried to go back to Orgrimmar and I need your help.”

She struggled to her feet and stomped over.  “I’m no coward,” she snapped.

He didn’t stand up, simply looking at her.  It was hard to read his face, but he seemed like he was sorrowful.  “I didn’t think you were.  I just thought you’d make your decision based on emotion.”  When she did not respond, he continued.  “Do you honestly think that thousands of Horde soldiers would gleefully march on Thunder Bluff and murder their comrades, no matter what their High Chieftain had done?”

When she frowned, he continued.  “Of course not.  Even now, parts of the Alliance - mainly the remaining night elves and worgen - are pressing their advantage on the city, but they’re not the only ones.”

Belidora nodded.  “That’s what they said the Alliance was doing when we were recalled to the city a few weeks ago.”

“The Alliance blockade . . . what little you know about it was true.  There aren’t enough to take Orgrimmar, but there are enough to surround it and make getting supplies past their barricade all but impossible,” he explained.  “That’s what the blight cannons lining the walls and bridges around the Drag and Valley of Spirits are for.  To . . . deal with that problem, and to have a solution for Thunder Bluff as well.”

She looked at him like he was mad.  What he was saying made no sense.  “By this time, the Alliance will have learned to bring gas masks if they’re going to lay siege to Orgrimmar,” she muttered.  “Even if they didn’t, their spies will report if she begins moving the blight cannons, and from where they are now, they wouldn’t reach the outside of the city walls.”

Phantasmz stared at her for a few seconds before answering quietly.  “You’re right.  They won’t reach the outside of the walls.”

Belidora stared at him, stock still, as the horror of what he was implying became clear.  She turned around and raced toward the wolf, which was still sleeping in the cave.  Phantasmz grabbed her arm after only a few feet.  

“Let go!” she yelled at him, trying to pull away.

“You can’t go back there,” he said evenly, but unlike the last time they fought, he did not increase his grip.  Still, he did not release her, either.  “It’s too late.  The only lives left to save are in Mulgore.  If you try to go back, you won’t get back here in time.”

“We have to get them out of there!”  she said, her voice panicked.

“It’s too late.  I’m sorry.  I had to make a choice,” he said, and for the first time, she heard real pain in his eerie voice.

Belidora finally stopped struggling against him and he let go.  Instead of trying to run again, she fell to her knees, kicking up dirt and burying her face in her hands.  He left her there for several minutes before speaking quietly.  “We need to go, girl.  We’re running out of time.”

She looked up at him and said quietly and shakily.  “My family is in Orgrimmar.”

Phantasmz hesitated at that, looking down at her.  “I asked you if you had family.  You told me they were killed by the Scourge in the fall of Quel’thalas…”

Belidora looked at him and said softly.  “My new family.”

#

“You should come with me,” Phogrim told his sister as she bounced the orc toddler on her knee.  He was in his hut, stuffing as many supplies and potions as he could into his bag before hefting it over his shoulder.  “I could use the help.”

“It’s one thing to sneak out by yourself, brother.  It’s another to sneak out with a child.  I can’t leave Krish here,” she said quietly, smiling as the child pulled one of her braids.  

“Mother will watch him.”

“No,” she repeated.  “You’ll make faster time without me.  Just go. I’m sure I can find ways to help from the inside.  I did the last time there was a rebellion.”  

The shaman looked at them and nodded slowly, walking toward the door.  Before he walked out, he turned around and walked over, giving her a hug.  “Be safe, Seneda.  Take care of my nephew and tell Mother that, well, you know.”

She stood up and gave him a kiss on the forehead.  “I will.  You’re the one who has the dangerous part.  Now go on, before they discover the path out of the city.”

He nodded and, sparing one more look back, walked out of the hut.