Part 14: Sailing, sailing, into the West

“Like a little hook, but very thin.”

“Um… How thin?”

“Could you make fishhooks?”

“Yes, we do. So you want a fish hook?”

“Yeah, but… straightened out, except for the barb on the end.”

The blacksmith scratched his head, and looked at the Gnome woman.

“Well, I suppose I could, but what do you want it for?”

Interalia pulled a wooden box from her pocket.

“To get this open. I’ve almost got it, but my pick keeps slipping.”

“Hmm. I can get that open for you, no problem.”

“I can drop it from the tower. That’s not the point. I have to pick the damn lock.”

“Uh… why?”

“Because I promised the Gnome who made it a Favour if I couldn’t.”

The blacksmith gave Interalia a filthy grin. “Heh. And you don’t want to?”

“Pf. Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. I just want to get the damn thing open.”

“Well, I’ll see what I can do for you. I think I have some steel wire lying about the place. That ought to do it.”

“Thanks.”

X

Interalia crept forward, to Stonewatch Tower, head quarters of the Blackrock Orcs. She wasn’t supposed to be here, but the rules of the land don’t apply to spies. Regardless of what their masters had promised not to do, in they went. Naturally, the other half of that law, where you do not mistreat soldiers who have surrendered, also didn’t apply. Getting caught was a wonderful opportunity for the Orcs to recall how many ways they knew to cause a lot of pain to a small woman. ‘Surprisingly many’, was the answer, and Interalia had no intention of finding out more than that.

She hid herself in a dark spot. All round her, Orcish grunts marched to and fro, on business of their own. Drill sergeants urged them on, singing marching songs that Interalia didn’t understand. There certainly were more of them than there once were. Better trained, too. Bigger. Stronger. She doubted that the Caer Bannog lot could get away today with a raid like they’d had a while back when Gath’ilzogg’s brother was still in charge. Jheren Gath’ilzogg was not a fool by anyone’s standards, least of all his imbecile of a brother, now deceased.

Interalia clambered up to the window to Gath’ilzogg’s bedroom, checked with her mirror to see if anyone was in, then climbed inside. Gath’ilzogg was a bit of a night owl, and would often prowl the corridors of the Tower when sleep wouldn’t come. Always useful to know. Since her last visit, they’d put some traps in the room. Trip-wires. A latch on the window that would shoot an arrow at her if she were drunk enough to miss it. Aww, how sweet of them to think of her. She’d fixed the trip-wires, and blocked the latch with a few splinters of wood. She checked. The splinters were still there. Good.

She made her way to Gath’ilzogg’s work room. She could hear voices inside, speaking Orcish, of course. She must really ask Scribble Man for a few pointers in Orcish. As it was, she could only tell that Big Green was clearly annoyed with something, and that the other, either Elf or Human, was laughing at him. Interalia sighed. Would be so nice to know what the hell they were talking about.

There was a crash inside, and the door opened. A tall, lean Human came flying out of the room and crashed into the wall right next to Interalia. His dark blue and purple robes fell over her.

Oh crap.

Interalia took a quick breath, and with inspired speed sprinted down the corridor. A dark, shadowy bolt of fire glanced her arm, and she gasped for air. She turned a corner, spotted a window and leapt, feet first. Shards of glass cut her as she sailed through, and landed on her feet outside. All round her, Orcs stopped and watched, gaping at her, trying to work out what the hell was going on. Hesitation was for Rogues with death wishes. Interalia reached into her pocket, pulled out a smoke bomb and in one fluid motion threw it on the floor. The courtyard turned into one big soup of smoke, and Interalia pulled out the goggles she’d permanently borrowed from Nix. Using these, she was able to dodge the Orcs blundering about the place. She set her teeth. She was bleeding from several cuts in her arms and legs, but get someplace safe first. She ran through the gate, hid herself between a rock and some shrubs, and pulled out her bandages. With her injuries seen to, she leaned her head back against the rock, and took off her goggles.

“Nix Steambender, I love you.” She chuckled. “Well, I love your goggles. But I can fake loving you.”

She sighed as the pain killers and healing potions in the band-aids started to work. Just a minute. She’d have to move soon, before they got the dogs out. She thought about the wizard type that had almost got her.

“Who, by the rampaging Titans, was that?” Interalia bared her teeth in a growl. “Next time I see him, he’s dead.”


The Wetlands that lie to the East of Menethil are vast, sodden, and dangerous to travellers. The stories about them were many, but tended to focus rather intently on sinking into bogs, being devoured by crocolisks or taken by Fen Creepers, slow-moving giants, well camouflaged in slime and rotting plants, that could creep up on even the wariest traveller. Nægling’s Paladin’s Charger, a horse created from the Holy Light, made its way at a light trot, along the road that the people of Menethil had built on the edge between the mountains to the South, and the swamp to the North. She had suggested taking a short-cut through the swamp, but Cullan, in the most polite terms imaginable, had told her she was mad even to think about it. Nægling looked at the sky, overcast and gloomy. The afternoon was getting on, and the ship would sail around midnight, at high tide. With her passenger, she was nowhere near as fast as she could be. Whether they would make it in time, was uncertain. Because of this man riding behind her, arms around her, hands on the least offensive part of her body he could find while still holding on. A wry smile was on Nægling’s damaged face. Gnolls had chewed and mauled her body. Her class-mates had kicked and beaten her. A Succubus had whipped her. A hand straying too close to her breast was unlikely to disturb her much, even if she hadn’t been wearing plate armour. Still, it showed respect, and not the respect naturally given to someone who could run you through with a very large two-handed sword.

“Where are you from, Mr. Cullan?”

“I was born in Gilneas, Sister,” said Cullan.

“Ah. I thought I recognised the accent. My granny came from Gilneas.”

“Really, Sister? What persuaded her to leave?”

Nægling laughed. “She fell in love with a Stormwind sailor, dressed up in men’s clothes and stowed away on board of his ship, hiding in among the cargo. My grandfather would come in of nights and bring her ship’s biscuits and rum to keep her body and spirit up.”

“That shows great dedication, Sister,” said Cullan. “And a strength of spirit I am sure I recognise in you.”

“More likely, a great deal of imagination on my Grandfather’s part. My grandmother was not one for hiding. And my grandfather, sad to say, thought the Truth was too precious to use, except on special occasions.”

“What kind of occasions, if I may ask?”

“They were married for forty-two years,” said Nægling.

“Most commendable,” said Cullan.

“And what persuaded you to leave the sight of Light’s Dawn Cathedral, Mr. Cullan?”

Cullan didn’t answer immediately. Nægling was a remarkably intelligent woman, and would certainly spot any lies.

“My employer and his family died to the most brutal of violence. I was obviously not among the slain, and therefore suspicion fell on me.”

“I believe that is an occupational hazard for butlers.”

“Quite so, Sister. There is a modest legal defence fund in Gilneas for just such occasions.” Cullan sighed, and his voice became serious once again. “It is a terrible thing, to be the suspect of such a brutal crime.”

Nægling looked over her shoulder, but couldn’t see Cullan’s face. To ask him would either insult him or force him to lie. They fell silent, and the only sound was the magical horse’s soft hoofbeats on the paved road, and the gentle rushing of rain.


The inn at Menethil was still open when Smitty’s small army arrived. Selena raised her head from Smitty’s shoulder, looked round and reluctantly slid off the horse. The horses were gathered up by two of the soldiers, and brought back to the stables. Smitty walked over to the docks and found to his relief that the good ship Aviana’s Wingbeat was still moored there. The crew were busy loading goods into the hold and provisions into the galley. Captain Andral Fairbreeze saw Smitty, and waved.

“Good evening, Lieutenant. Have you found who you were seeking?”

“I have, Sir,” said Smitty. “There will be three more passengers for Stormwind, four if Paladin Nægling makes it back in time. I sent her looking for a straggler.”

“I see,” said Captain Andral. “Well, we can wait till midnight, or perhaps an hour after. Any longer than that, and we risk getting trapped behind the sand-banks.”

“I’m sure she’ll make it in time. If not, I will leave her enough money to take the flight back.”

The Captain nodded, and pointed at a stack of sacks, crates and barrels. “We still have to load all that. Afterwards, we’ll have dinner and prepare to leave.”

“I’m sure our men will be more than happy to give you a hand, if you like,” said Smitty, with a little private grin. A bit of manual labour was good for the men. Gave them an appetite for dinner and kept them from running off into town.

“Many hands make light work,” said the Captain. “As long as they don’t drop it over the side.”

X

Hieronimo walked to the docks, next to Selena. They both loved work and could watch it for hours, especially if any big strong men were featured, perhaps even with their shirts off. They walked up to the docks to find the soldiers running up and down the gangplank. Berrin was holding one end of a crate on his shoulders while Swordsman Gerald held the other end in front of him.

“Och great,” said Hieronimo, with a sneer.

“What?”

“It’s a Night-elf ship.”

“Yeah,” said Selena. “Looks like fun!”

“Huh. Night-elves are weird. Bunch of hussies.”

“Oh come on,” said Selena. “They’re not that bad. Ariciel is a riot!”

“Yeah, I’m sure she is.”

“What do you have against Night-elves?”

“Nothing. As long as they do it well away from me.”

Selena gave Hieronimo a slow look.

“Do… what?”

“Oh don’t tell me you ain’t heard the stories. A Night-elf will jump into bed with just about anyone. And not just the boys with the girls either. Disgusting.”

“No, they don’t. Not anyone. Just the ones they love. Like us, only… more.”

“How do you know?”

“Because my brother’s girlfriend is a Night-elf, and she told me.”

“Puh. She try it on with you?”

“No, strangely.” Selena scowled. “Because she’s a nice girl and I don’t fancy girls.”

“Ah. So she does fancy girls, then?”

Selena took a deep breath. “Yeah, she does. If you ever meet her, don’t give her any grief, because she lost her girlfriend.”

“Doesn’t surprise me. Here today, gone tomorrow.”

Selena looked down on the Dwarf girl, eyes gleaming with anger.

“Actually, some Lightless bitch killed her girlfriend. So if you can’t say anything nice, then shut up.”

X

Selena and Hieronimo, sulking at each other, watched the men load the cargo onto the ship. When the last crate was stowed and secured below decks, Elves, Men and Dwarves, like a miniature Alliance, maneuvered towards the inn, pushed several of the tables together and ordered most of the supplies in stock for dinner. the Captain sat on one end of the table, and the Lieutenant on the other. Captain Fairbreeze tapped his wine glass, calling for silence.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, On behalf of my crew, I welcome all of you to this table, and those of you who are sailing tonight, I welcome on board Aviana’s Wingbeat. We will be making for Stormwind, staying close to shore, and depending on the wind, we hope to make the journey in four days. I am Captain Andral Fairbreeze. Allow me to introduce my crew. First, Navigator Dorian Graycloud, to my right here.”

Everybody looked at the Navigator, a leather-faced Elf, gray hair matted with pitch, who raised his glass of wine at the company with a grim look on his face. These rounds of introduction were an idea of the Captain’s, to put the passengers at ease. Far be it from him to go against his Captain’s orders, and so far Cap’n Fairbreeze had not ordered him to like it. So he didn’t.

“Next, Able Seaman Freja Ravenwing, ship’s cook of renown, and our most senior crewmember. There is no-one alive with more knowledge of the seas of Azeroth.”

“It pleases the Captain to exaggerate,” said Freja, a handsome white-haired Elf woman of an age impossible to guess. With Night-elves, it could be anything between decades and centuries.

“On my left here,” continued the Captain, “Able Seaman Kuryon Swellrider.”

Kuryon stood up, and bowed to the company. “Gentlemen, Ladies. If there is anything I can do to make your journey aboard the Aviana’s Wingbeat a more pleasant one, you have but to ask. My deeds in the pursuit of your pleasure are the subject of lay and song and poem all along the coasts of Darkshore and the Eastern Kingdoms, and would be on all other shores if our journeys would have taken us there. I…”

“That’ll do, Mr. Swellrider. Finally, if you haven’t noticed her already, the latest addition to our happy family, Sailor Filyen Mistgaze.”

As it happened, several of the men had noticed her, a willowy Night-elf woman with long dark blue hair, dark purple-hued skin and the bottomless deep glowing eyes of all Night-elves. Her gaze passed over the men, not unfriendly, but distant. She raised her cup of mead, tilted her head. One of these men, she recognised from the trip out. Even from the front.

Smitty nodded at the Captain. “Thank you, Captain. Allow me to introduce in return the men and women I laughingly refer to as ‘under my command’.” He pointed to the woman sitting on his left.

“This here is pikeman Sandra Pike.”

Berrin laughed. “Pike by name and pike by weapon?”

Sandra Pike turned to Berrin. “You’ve been to Caerbannog right? Remember Quartermaster?”

“Aye, lass.”

“His sense of humour ain’t as good as he thinks it is.”

Smitty looked at Pike in an are-you-finished kind of way. “To my right, Swordsmen Jack Alan, Stanley Gerald and Brian Rhodes.”

The men each waved their hands as their names were called. Smitty looked round. “Not present at this time, as she is on a mission to search for a lost companion, is Paladin Nægling of Northshire Abbey. The lost companion…” Smitty looked at Selena, “I believe his name is Cullan, but I don’t know him. Finally, seated next to your crewman Graycloud is Lady Selena of Caer Bannog, and her safe return to the castle is the objective of this mission. Her Dwarven companions I will leave to introduce themselves.”

Thorfin looked up at the mention of Dwarves, gave Smitty a look, then looked round the table.

“Thorfin Stoneshield. Hunter trainer of Stormwind,” he said.

“Will you be joining us on this journey, Hunter Stoneshield?”

“Nay, Sir. My plans have gone awry and I need to take counsel with my brethren.” He looked darkly at Smitty. “I leave my students in your care, don’t bugger it up.”

Smitty only nodded. Everyone looked at Hieronimo.

“Hieronimo Wildheart,” she said.

Kuryon gave Hieronimo a winning smile. “How does a fine Dwarven lady like yourself come to be given a man’s name?”

Hieronimo’s eyes narrowed. “Ain’t none of your business.”

Kuryon closed his eyes. “Hmm… double negatives. Some people think they reinforce each other, but I find they often indicate precisely what they say.”

Captain Andral gave Kuryon a look, and Kuryon stopped talking.

Berrin cleared his throat. “Ye can call me Berrin. I suppose this hunter training trip is over?”

Stoneshield nodded. “Can’t run round in Stranglethorn without enough bodies. Ye need to be able to fight off the wandering Hordies there.”

“Thought as much,” said Berrin. “In that case, an it please our Captain, I’d like to tag along to Stormwind.”

“Welcome on board,” said Captain Andral. “Miss Wildheart, passage is available for you as well, if you wish. Once in Stormwind, Ironforge is but a train-journey away.”

“Um,” said Hieronimo.

She looked from Kuryon Swellrider to Filyen Mistgaze, back to the Captain. ‘Not with a bunch of bloody long-eared perverts’ didn’t seem quite the thing to say. She looked at her companions. Berrin was going, Selena was going, that meant she’d be left alone with Stoneshield. Oh deep joy. She took a deep breath.

“Count me in,” she said.

X

Smitty looked at the clock. The evening was getting on, and Nægling still wasn’t back. His decision to leave her to search for Mr. Cullan was still sound. Selena was his first priority. Nægling could hold her own against unfriendly troops. Still, he fretted. He didn’t want to come back minus one company member. He had half a mind to go out looking for her, but in the gloom, that was madness. Anyway, Nægling still had four hours to return, five if Captain Andral was generous. What was keeping her?


Nægling reined in her horse. Cullan felt her body stiffen against his own.

“Is something the matter, Sister?”

“Undead,” said Nægling. “Ahead of us. On the road.”

Cullan looked. At a glance, he could count six or seven bodies in the gloom. Even in his Human disguise, he thought he could smell them.

“O dear,” he said.

“Bother,” said Nægling.

“Quite.”

They dismounted, and Nægling’s horse disappeared. Nægling concentrated, altering her sight to include those members of the spirit world that should have stopped moving when they had died.

“Seven,” said Nægling, with a look at Cullan. “I may not be able to defend you from all of them at once.”

“I see,” said Cullan. “They have rather inconveniently placed themselves on our path.”

Nægling looked into Cullan’s eyes.

“It is still too dangerous for us to take a detour through the fens. Also…” Nægling looked up the road. “I don’t want to leave these Undead to harm others.”

“We are already late,” said Cullan. He looked at Nægling, bright grey eyes, scars and all, as if he were debating something with himself.

“True,” said Nægling.

Cullan took a deep breath.

“Sister Nægling, how good is your memory?”

Nægling raised her eyebrows. “Fairly good,” she said. “Why?”

“If I were to ask you to forget certain events that are likely to occur in the next few hours, could you?”

“You have a secret,” said Nægling. “And you wish me to keep it.”

“Yes. Will you?”

Nægling considered, looking Cullan up and down. Beneath the surface of his polite, helpful manner, she could see dark things stirring. This man had done things that he was ashamed of, so much she could tell. There were two sides to his personality. He was offering to reveal another side of himself to her, and only to her. Would it be something that she could not afford to keep from the Lieutenant? It might force her to break her word, which was… painful. On the other hand… Nægling smiled to herself. She really wanted to know now what it was.

“Mr. Cullan, unless your secret will in some way endanger my companions, I will not reveal it to anyone.” She put her hand on her breast, bowed her head. “You have my word.”

“Thank you, Sister Nægling,” said Cullan.

“So now, will you tell me?”

“No,” said Cullan. Before Nægling could say anything, he raised a hand. “I will show you.”

X

Cuchullainn stood before the Shining One. Her breath had quickened. Her eyes were on him, and he rejoiced in her gaze. Slowly, she moved her hand to his face. He could see the wounds on her arm, slowly healing, the tendon in her wrist that had been cut, so that she could not move her finger well. Her touch was steady. Cuchullainn blinked.

“What… are you? A shape-shifter?”

“Yes,” said Cuchullainn. “What you have seen, is my Human disguise. This is who I am, though once I was Human like you.”

“You look… impressive,” said Nægling.

“When I am angry, I cannot keep my disguise. The Lady would be frightened of me, and perhaps shoot me with her bow or set her hunting bird on me. That is why I hide.”

“I see,” said Nægling. Suddenly, she grinned. “Are you offering to fight with me? Is that why you have told me your secret?”

Cuchullainn bowed his head. “I would be honoured. The Beast within you is strong. It makes me glad to see it unleashed. Let us slaughter these rotten corpses together.”

“How do you fight?”

Cullan drew his daggers and sniffed them. He produced a small bottle, and took off the top, which had a brush attached. He coated the edges of his daggers with a sticky substance.

“Worthless mongrels like these, I stalk from the shadows. I burn them from within with poison. They are not worth fighting honourably. All that matters is that they perish.”

“I agree.”

“I can move by stealth around them, so that we have them between us. But I will need some time. We must strike at the same time, from both sides.”

“How do we know when to strike? How much time do you need?”

Cuchullain thought a moment, then laughed quietly.

“Your grandmother. Did she sing to you? Did she sing of the Vrykul?”

“Sometimes,” said Nægling. “Why?”

“There is a song about the Vrykul, called the Crown and the Ring. Do you know it?”

“High and mighty, alone we are King,” said Nægling.

“Good. We will sing it together, while I move round behind our foes. With the words ‘Kingdom of steel’, strike.”

X

From a battle I come, to a battle I ride…

X

Nægling crept up to the group of Undead, their stench on her every breath. Mr. Cullan, or rather Cuchullainn, was lost from sight. They didn’t look like they were doing anything, just sitting on the road, waiting, no doubt, for unwary travellers. Recruiting. Which one should she take on first? There was no obvious leader, no spellcasters. That made things easier. Cull their numbers as quickly as possible. Strike the weakest first, to remove their swords from the fight. Save the strongest for last. Nægling strained her senses, sight, smell, Second Sight. Cuchullainn was nowhere to be seen. No matter. There was still time.

X

Heroes await me, my enemies ride fast…

X

Cuchullainn moved like a ghost through the gloom. He’d had to leave the road, to avoid walking into the Undead. Safe in his world of shadow, beyond the eyes of enemies, he grinned. Sister Nægling. Soon, he would be fighting by her side. The thrill of it surprised him. He had fought with his Worgen Brethren, imbeciles that they were, but on that occasion, it had been mostly pity that moved him to strike. The desire to spare an unknown woman much suffering had been his only reason. There were no women here. This was prey. Not for anything they could provide him, but purely for the kill. Could they simply have given this group a wide berth? Probably. They might have met the creatures that crept in this swamp, and the noise of their fighting might have alerted the Undead, but the possibility was remote. Even his weak Human form could hide. Sister Nægling could not. Not because she lacked the skill, but because every one of her muscles, every one of her thoughts, was tuned to fighting these creatures. She could no more have left them behind than he, Cuchullainn, could have allowed the Kind Lady to come to harm.

X

Hodir, I await thee, your true son am I…

X

Nægling took a deep breath, and prepared her battle spells, offering a quick prayer to the Light. Cuchullainn was still nowhere to be seen. It was always a bit unnerving, fighting with Rogues. They’d sneak off to strategic positions, and you never quite knew whether they would be there when needed. Nægling grinned. Somehow, she doubted that this one would pass up a chance to a good fight. He looked savage. Nægling drew her sword, focused on her first target.

X

I pledge you my sword, and to no man I kneel

X

Cuchullainn crouched down, daggers out, ready to spring. A growl started deep in his throat. Wait for the Shining One… Wait.

X

Ours is the Kingdom of Steel.

X

Nægling sprang up, chanting the last syllables to her battle spells, and the Light streamed from her towards her enemies. All thoughts vanished from her, except where to run, who to strike, where to strike. The edge of her sword gleamed as it tore through and through the first stolen body of some son of Menethil, pressed back into service. A great back-handed swing slashed open the stomach of the next enemy. Nægling spun round on one leg, slashed down on a third.

With a roar, Cuchullainn was upon the enemies. One of the undead turned towards him, too late. Cullan stabbed him with his poisoned daggers, and it fell to the ground, twitching. Final Death came to them quickly. But no matter how strong his poisons, no matter how fast he could stab, slash, disembowel his enemies, Nægling was faster. Cuchullainn’s heart leapt in his chest. This was what Nægling did best, and her battle rage was beautiful and terrible to see. Rather than take the last one himself, he shoved it towards her, for the pleasure of watching her slash it in two with her great two-handed sword.

In one voice, at the same time, Cuchullainn and Nægling roared.

X

Cuchullainn watched Nægling, who was down on one knee in prayer, her forehead touching her sword. With the final glow of battle still coursing through his every vein, she looked to him like the most beautiful creature alive. He knew the feeling would fade, be replaced by the dull, servile thoughts of Mr. Cullan, but for now, he drank deep. She got to her feet, the pain of her injured leg just below the surface on her face, and smiled at him.

“Thank you for that fight, Mr. Cuchullainn.”

“It was an honour, Sister Nægling.”

Nægling sheathed her sword, raised her hand and summoned her war-horse. She reached down to Cuchullainn. Cuchullainn shook his head.

“Ride fast, Sister. I will run.”


The clock struck eleven, and Captain Andral looked meaningfully at Smitty. The crew, the hunters and the soldiers were just about to start on desserts. Neither Nægling, nor the mysterious Mr. Cullan had made an appearance yet. Lady Selena was chatting with Miss Mistgaze. Kuryon Swellrider was using unbelievably cheesy chat-up lines on Sandra Pike, who was rolling her eyes more and more pointedly. Young miss Hieronimo Wildheart was sitting, silently prodding her food, with a gruff expression on her face. Most of the men were looking at the pretty Night-elf. Smitty looked round. Mr. Thorfin Stoneshield had just put down his fork and sat back in his chair, eyes closed. He almost looked like he was shaking.

“Mr. Stoneshield? Everything alright?”

Stoneshield looked up.

“Who cooked this dinner?”

Sandra Pike pointed to the kitchen. “My aunt Bernice, I think. Anything wrong?”

Thorfin Stoneshield looked at his plate. At that moment, the cook came out to see if all was well, and saw Thorfin, who looked at her, pointing at his plate.

“Did you cook this?”

Selena and Hieronimo both turned their eyes to Stoneshield, preparing to burn him to a crisp.

“Aye,” said Aunt Bernice. “Anything wrong?”

“Madam,” said Stoneshield. “When I were a young boy, I would go with the hunter groups. We would find boar in the woods, and rabbit and pheasant. And perhaps, one of my shots would have found a mark. The hunters would tell me I was worthless. And then my mother would come, and take the hunters’ spoils, and cook them for us, and in all of Loch Modan there would not be a better meal to be had.”

Stoneshield pointed at his clean, empty plate.

This, Madam. This, is what it tasted like. Thank you.”

Selena and Hieronimo stared at Thorfin Stoneshield, their mouths hanging open. Then, they looked at each other.

“Please, Madam,” said Stoneshield. “May I have some more?”

Aunt Bernice grinned broadly at the Dwarf.

“Of course love. Spicy enough for ye?”

“Perfect,” said Thorfin.

X

The door opened, and Paladin Nægling walked in, followed by Mr. Cullan. They were greeted with cheers, even by Selena, despite her misgivings about the Gilnean butler. Smitty noticed that Nægling’s armour was less than completely clean of blood, but stowed his questions away for later. They settled their bill, and said goodbye to Thorfin Stoneshield, who looked like he wanted to stay forever, and perhaps marry Aunt Bernice. Aunt Bernice packed dinner for Nægling and Cullan, and they all walked to the ship. Kuryon bowed to Pikeman Pike, waving her on board. Sandra Pike snorted. Captain Andral and Navigator Greycloud went aft to the helm. Kuryon, Filyen and Freja raised the mainsail, cast off fore and aft and pulled in the sheet. With a creaking of wood, and the soft noise of waves against the hull, Aviana’s Wingbeat set out to sea.

X

Selena stood on the fo’c’sle, close to Second Lieutenant Joseph Smith. The night was clear, and a half moon shone over the waves.

“Joseph? Thank you for coming to get me.”

Smitty didn’t move a muscle.

“It was my duty, Lady Selena.”

“You saved my life. We couldn’t have beaten those Undead.”

“Glad to be of service,” said Smitty.

Selena looked at his face, calm, emotionless, eyes looking out over the rolling sea.

“Joseph? Aren’t you even the least bit pleased to see me?”

Smitty sighed, but before he could say anything, there were unhappy noises next to them, and the splashing of Menethil Inn’s best fare disappearing into the ocean.

“Bloody waste of money,” said Swordsman Brian Rhodes.

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