Part 4: Holy Paladins, Bannog!

Bannog was sitting at the table in the Blue Recluse, with Ariciel, Selena and Gerrig. The door opened and in walked the large Draenei hunter named Stetson.

“Good morning. Do you mind if I join you for breakfast?”

Bannog grinned. “Not in the least. Mareva might, though.”

A worried look appeared on Stetson’s face. “Why? Have I offended her?”

“She’s just left for the place where you’re staying. Wait! Don’t leave! You’ll end up chasing each other. Wait here. She’ll be back.”

Ariciel pulled back a chair for Stetson, and someone got him a plate.

“For what it’s worth, she called you a perfect gentleman.”

“Ah. That is a relief.”

“Not necessarily. Have some bacon and eggs while it’s hot.”

They were half through their breakfast, when the door opened again and Mareva stomped in, an expression like thunder on her face. She dropped herself into a chair, and breathed out a few flames.

“Dammit. He has left! Picked up his things and checked out. The first nice guy I have met in ages.”

Ariciel looked at her friend with large liquid eyes. “Oh Mareva, I’m so sorry. You were getting on so well!”

“Each damned day is a damned blessing.”

Selena turned red. Ariciel looked over Mareva’s shoulder.

“You are in my seat,” said Stetson.

Mareva’s horned head snapped round, then slowly turned back to Ariciel.

“Bitch.”

Ariciel picked up her tea, and smiled smugly. Stetson put down his plate in the place next to Mareva.

“Can I get you anything?”

“A plate of boiled Night-elf, please.”

Ariciel got up, giggling. “Stay where you are. I’ll get you some.”

Selena finished her plate. “Where’s everybody going?”

Gerrig sat back in his chair. He’d been dreading this moment. “Bannog and I are going to Ironforge and back. We’ll drop you off at Aunt Florence’s before we take the Deeprun Tram.”

“Oh really? And how were you planning on doing that?”

Gerrig looked at Bannog, who kept quiet. Traitor.

“Brute force if need be. Come on, Selena. She’s not that bad!”

“Yes, she is. She and her bloody tea parties with her undead friends!”

Stetson laughed. “Nobody has undead friends. They are not a friendly lot.”

“Huh. They’re weird. Walking round on bare feet, wearing sprigs of mistletoe in their hair. The place is always choked with incense.”

“Well, we can’t take you to Ironforge, so you’ll just have to grin and bear it,” said Gerrig.

Ariciel returned carrying a plate of fried things in one hand, a large glass of milk in a second hand and a bowl of cereal in a third, which she didn’t have, making the operation somewhat precarious. The food somehow landed on the table without accidents.

“What bear?”

Selena sulked. “They’re sending me to Aunt Flo and her weird friends. While they go out and play in Ironforge.”

“Ah. Well.” she looked at Mareva, who was devouring her breakfast. “We could keep you company there. It’s not like we have any plans for the afternoon.”

Mareva shot her a look that said in everything but words: Speak for yourself!

Gerrig smiled at Ariciel. “It would be wonderful if you could. They’re not as bad as Selena makes them out to be, but there’s only one girl there about Selena’s age. The rest are…”

“A bunch of old bats,” said Selena.

Aunt Flo’s house turned out to be a small place close to the Mage District. Ariciel’s head tilted slightly to one side. The window shutters were closed, and on the door hung a wreath of… laurel? An old horse shoe was nailed above it, tips pointing down. There were a few flower pots hanging from the wall, containing herbs. Ariciel glanced over them, then did a quick double-take. It couldn’t be… She looked more closely. Morrowgrain? What in Azeroth was that doing here? The plants were small and sickly, and no wonder. They didn’t belong here. They were used in curses, mostly. Arch-Druid Staghelm had enormous stores of it, gathered from strange parts by an endless line of questing adventurers. Goodness knows why.

Gerrig knocked on the door and waited. After some time, it opened and a wizened old lady appeared. She recognised Gerrig and Selena and offered them a weak smile.

“Gerrig, dear. How nice to see you, and Selena too! I’m sorry I didn’t come more quickly, but I was in the middle of a Cleansing, and you know I cannot interrupt that without… consequences.”

Gerrin smiled, nodded. “I understand, Aunt. I wonder if I may impose on you for a bit. We have some business in Ironforge. Can Selena and her friends stay with you for the afternoon?”

“Of course, Gerrig. As long as she doesn’t bring that bird of hers. Its aura disturbs my familiars.”

“She’s in kennels,” said Selena, clearly unhappy about it. The stable masters knew their business and would take good care of Hugin, but she liked to fly, which was the one thing she couldn’t do there.

“Thank goodness for that. I still miss Henry terribly. His spectral image is still there, of course, but it’s just not the same.”

“I said I was sorry. Hugin is a carnivore, after all.”

“All in accordance with the Great Circle of life,” said Aunt Flo. “Pray enter! Puissance is here, she’ll be glad to see you!”

“That would be a first.”

Gerrig sighed. “Aunt Florence, allow me to introduce Selena’s friends.” He gestured. “This is lady Mareva, Hunter Stetson and Lady Ariciel.”

Aunt Florence’s eyes fell on Ariciel, and she took a breath. She made a mystic sign, and breathed. “Ishnoo Alla, fellow seeker! Welcome to my Circle.”

Ariciel smiled politely. “Ishnu dal-dieb,” she said. “pleased to meet you.”

Mareva took one look at the situation, then put her hands on Ariciel’s shoulders.

“My friend, much as I regret it, Hunter Stetson and I cannot tarry. Many momentous quests await us. Farewell, Lady Florence. Remember the lessons of the past.”

She gave Ariciel a little push and pinched her bottom. Ariciel looked round and glared at her. Mareva smiled sweetly, turned round and pushed Stetson ahead of her. Looking over her shoulder, she could just see Ariciel and Selena being drawn inside.

Stetson gave Mareva a quizzical look. “What momentous quests?”

“I’ll think of some.” Mareva’s eyes glinted mischievously.


“Ever been on the Deeprun Tram before, Gerrig?”

“I may not be the traveller you are, but yes I have. Visits to Uncle Berrin, remember?”

“Ah yes. Him and his swine. Here we go!”

With a great noise of tormented metal, the tram set itself in motion. After what seemed hours, it ground to a halt, and the noise actually increased. Tinker Town lay before them.

“Take a left here for the Military Ward. That’s where the Holy Ones hang out.” Bannog grinned. “Strangely, it’s also the best place for ale. Spiritual way of life, my arse.”

Gerrig just grunted, and they walked to the Military Ward. It was a busy place. Warriors and Paladins of all kinds ran to and fro, and in the back some engineers were ripping out the entrails of one of their tanks, covered in oil from top to bottom. Parts of the engine lay on dirty white cloths in neat rows.

Bannog walked up to one of the plate-armoured Dwarves.

“‘Scuse me? I’m looking for Paladin Peterselie. Do you know where she is?”

“Paladin? Either the Mystic Ward or the pub next to it. Other side of town. Past the Great Forge.”

“I know the place. Thanks.”

Gerrig and Bannog set off, walking past the lake of molten lava that was the Great Forge. Bannog pointed his brother at the various places, explaining what they were. Gerrig trudged on and let the words wash over him.

They reached the Mystic Ward. Bannog walked up to a random Dwarf and asked about Peterselie.

“Do I look like I walk about in a tin can, laddie? Ye want the Paladin Trainer over there!”

“Sorry!” He trudged over to the other side of the room, Gerrig in tow. They spoke to the Paladin trainer.

“Peterselie? Och aye. Taught her a few spells not an hour ago. She’ll either be out and about trying it out on the mobs, or in the coffee place.”

“Right. You didn’t teach her how to run faster did you?”

The trainer gave him a strange look. “No.”

“Good. That’ll give us a chance to catch up. Come on, Gerrig.”

Gerrig sighed and trudged after his brother. He was starting to feel like baggage, and he didn’t like it. Still, Bannog seemed to feel right at home among the Dwarves, and he knew the place better. Off we go, then.

Peterselie sat in the back of the little cafe, celebrating her recent achievements with a very small cup of extremely strong coffee. She sipped carefully, and felt the warm rush of energy surge through her. She looked at her friends.

“Re-speccing for Holy was the best thing I ever did. I seem to be getting all the jobs with demons and undead, and Holy Wrath tears through those like anything. That’ll teach the bastards to show what’s left of their faces here.”

“Hah. Just wait till ye get to Outland. Place is crawling with Abominations and Things That Should Not Be. Very good loot, too.” The red-bearded paladin took a big swig of his pint, and pulled his wife closer to him. “Kaylad got that helm she’s wearing from just one run there. Pity it hides her face!”

“Flattery will get you better heals. Keep it up!”

Peterselie grinned at the couple. For several reasons, the Regiment disapproved of couples fighting in the same place, but Korenwolf had told them all to stick it and brought his wife anyway. After the first few battles, nobody minded much anymore.

“Hey Peterselie! It looks like Longshanks there wants something from you!”

“Don’t fancy Humans.” Peterselie followed Korenwolf’s gaze, and suddenly grinned. “Though that one has cute buns! Hey Bannog, over here!”

Peterselie waved. Bannog walked over.

“Cor! And you brought your brother, too! Planning a raid on the bank, are ye?”

“What use is gold to me? All I want is to look at your face.”

“Knock it off, ye smarmy git! What do you want? And where is that Elf of yours?”

“In the loving care of my Aunt Florence. And I want some help and advice from you. We’re having Horde problems at Caer Bannog.”

The big Dwarven paladin’s red beard bristled. “Ye don’t have enough of ’em? I could send you some!”

Peterselie grinned. “Ah. I’m forgetting me manners. Bannog, Gerrig, allow me to introduce Korenwolf and his lovely wife Kaylad. Though you wouldn’t say it from looking at ’em, they’re extremely holy Paladins.”

“Malicious rumours!” said Korenwolf. “I’m a Protector.”

Bannog frowned. Korenwolf was obviously a nickname of some sort, and he struggled on the translation.

“Your war-name, it means Grain-wolf or something like that? A wolf that hides in the corn?”

“Aye. A fearsome beast, it is. It’s also the name of a beer.”

Gerrig stirred. “Really? How large is it?”

Korenwolf grinned, and held up his hand, thumb and index finger about two inches apart. “About that size. It’s a relative of the Hamster.”

“You have named yourself after a tiny creature like that? Why?”

Korenwolf sat back, put his arm back where it belonged, round Kaylad’s shoulders, and took a pull of his pint. His eyes gleamed at Gerrig.

“Compensation,” he said. Kaylad giggled.

Peterselie saw Gerrig’s face, and laughed. “So. What’s the Horde up to at Caer Bannog, then?”

Bannog scowled. “Parked two hundred of their orcs round it, with about twenty mages for seasoning. I want to get rid of them. They don’t go with the rest of the decor. We were looking for a bunch of soldiers to help us, but no luck.”

“But you got a bunch of soldiers there already. Are they sitting still?”

Gerrig stared at the table. “Essentially, yes. They’re not up to fighting all of them at the same time. Nothing much we can do. We need to get them in shape, quickly. So here, of course, I thought of you. You were always very good at bringing out the best in us.”

“Hah. I suppose I was. Steel toecaps good. Still, I can’t just wander off here. I’ve got duties.”

Korenwolf gave Peterselie a look. “How long d’ye need, you think?”

“Don’t know. Bannog, what are your troops like?”

Bannog thought about this, and gave Gerrig a sidelong look.

“Problem’s mostly between the ears, I think. They are strong enough, fit enough and healthy enough to make mincemeat of the Orcs. They just don’t know they are.”

“Hmm. Pep talk then. Perhaps lead them in a few sorties till they lose their stage fright.”

Korenwolf looked from Bannog to Gerrig. “What sort of orcs are they anyway?”

Gerrig looked Korenwolf in the eye. “They belong to the Blackrock Clan. They have been plagueing Redridge for months now, driving out even the Defias Brotherhood.”

Korenwolf raised his eyebrows. “Blackrock orcs? Ye gods, whatever will you do?” He laughed. “With the rest of yer afternoon, that is!”

“Oh give ’em a break, Wolf,” said Kaylad. “Remember when we first started out? Deadmines? Wanna explain about that? And don’t lie, I do your laundry!”

“Yes dear,” said Korenwolf. “Pee-Ess, I say you go with them and show them what the inside of an Orc looks like. I’ll explain it to the captain. You used to live at Caer Bannog, didn’t you?”

“Not really, I worked there, and I stayed there the while, but…”

“Ye’re not helping here. Rushing to the aid of the place that saved ye from hunger, despair and destruction, and showed ye the Light, is what I’m aiming for. If it hadn’t been for the gentle, but firm hand of the kindly Humans there, ye wouldn’t be standing here. Sort of thing. Catch my drift?”

Peterselie laughed. “Ye know, that’s exactly how it was.”

Kaylad freed herself from Korenwolf’s grasp. “Get going then. Show those Humans how to kick arse. Demonstrate on them first. Ye remember yer healing spells don’t ye?”

“Wouldn’t want just to rush off.”

Korenwolf barked with laughter. “I always rush off. I’m famous for it! Get out of here. We’ll cover for ye here. Gods know you’ve earned it in that last run.”

Peterselie got up. “Alright then. See ye in a week or so. Get cracking lads?”

She trotted out of the pub with Bannog and Gerrig, Korenwolf’s cry in their ears: “A whole week? Slackers!”


“Are you sure about this?”

“Positive. I said I’d find something momentous.”

“But, we only know each other since yesterday afternoon! Shouldn’t we wait a bit? See how we work together?”

“No. Now stop complaining and get it off.”

“Oh alright then.”

Stetson’s massive arms grabbed the edge of the tombstone. His muscles tensed and there was the sound of stone grating on stone. He jumped back, and the heavy lid fell onto the floor of Raven Hill cemetery. They looked inside. The tomb was empty. Stetson sneered.

“They do get about, these corpses, don’t they?”

Morgan sniffed the air, and gave a growl. He sped off in an Easterly direction. Stetson grabbed his crossbow, aiming. About thirty yards away, Morgan attacked a group of five… things. Undead. Nasty creatures, who had once been Human, but now walked Azeroth, looking for living creatures to devour. Stetson pulled the trigger on his crossbow and with practiced speed fit another arrow. Mareva watched him for a moment, then sent lightning bolts at the ghouls. Between Morgan’s teeth and claws, Stetson’s crossbow bolts and Mareva’s lightning, they destroyed the group in less than three minutes. Mareva’s eyes burned brightly as she looked at Stetson.

“See? I knew we’d make a great team!”

Stetson grinned. “Yeah, mind you, why here? There’s things I’d rather meet than rotting corpses.”

“I always get the filthy jobs. Felwood, Searing Gorge, Bloodmyst Isle. If it oozes or glows, they send me there. See if we caused it.” She pointed to their right. “Incoming!”

The undead creatures came running at them. Stetson sent Morgan out to deal with them, and they fell one by one to their attacks.

Stetson put away his crossbow and fed Morgan a few pieces of meat. “Bloody rude to interrupt us while we’re trying to talk!”

Mareva agreed. “Manners are the first things to go when you stop breathing. Want to go somewhere else?” Mareva wiggled her eyebrows at Stetson. “There’s a small hut over there!”

“Bound to be occupied by something nasty.”

“Good. Let’s go kill it.”


Bannog banged on the door to Aunt Flo’s, and was let in. He found his girlfriend in the middle of a group of women… hold on, no. One was a man, but he had long hair and was wearing long robes, and playing a harp. Ariciel was smothered in love, and drowned in herbal tea. Bannog looked at Ariciel’s face. Her friendly smile looked like it would need a priest to remove. Next to her sat Selena, and she looked like she was enjoying herself here for the first time since first she came here. Ariciel noticed him, and gave him a pleading look. Everything but her voice screamed: “Get me out of here!” Surreptitiously, she wiggled two fingers in a walking motion at Bannog, who smiled at her. He knelt beside her and whispered in her ear.

“What’s it worth to you?”

Ariciel’s smile didn’t even flicker. “I won’t stab you in your sleep.”

Bannog chuckled, and raised himself to his full height. “Ladies and Gentlemen, news has reached us. We must away. Not even in a gathering such as this can we tarry. Follow me, my Lady. To Caer Bannog!”

Selena followed Bannog and Ariciel out. Damned if she was going to stay behind. Safely out of earshot, Ariciel let out the scream she’d been holding back all afternoon.

“Bunch of stupid, deluded, clueless, insufferable idiots!”

Bannog radiated innocence. “Who?”

“Those, those… women! They manage to get everything wrong! Every. Single. Thing!”

“Really?”

Selena looked at Ariciel’s face until she exploded with laughter.

“Oh cut it out!” Ariciel glared at Bannog. “You couldn’t have been a bit quicker, could you?”

Bannog gave her a smile. “What’s wrong with them, then?”

“Everything! There is perhaps one single tiny little clue flitting furtively between the lot of them, trying to stay out of trouble.” Ariciel took a deep breath. “They think that sitting in a circle somehow gives them power! You stupid women! You sit in a circle so you can keep an eye on each other’s faces while you do heavy magic in case someone passes out!”

“Mm-hm?”

“And what kind of an idiot would have bloody Morrowgrain growing outside her window? It’s a miracle her place isn’t crawling with insects by now!” Ariciel took another deep breath. “And not a one of them has even a single drop of mana! They’re the only coven I’ve ever seen where absolutely nobody has any magic whatsoever. Oh, except…” she raised a finger. “There’s one girl there who has some genuine power, and would you know it? She’s a warlock!”

Ariciel rolled her eyes up to the skies and touched her forehead with her wrist, “It’s only with my Demon Brethren that I feel truly… at peace.” She looked back at Bannog “Did you spot her? Easily the youngest one there.”

Selena grinned. “Ah. Puissance. Come on, Bannog! The only pretty face in the group? And you didn’t spot her?”

“I have eyes only for my love,” said Bannog.

“Pf, said Ariciel. “That girl could get ten times as pretty as she is now, by doing one very simple thing.” She took a deep breath. “Smile! Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But no! Does she think men like girls who sit around in a sulk all day?”

“Ah,” said Selena. “She doesn’t… care, for… such things. Nobody loves her anyway. People are so… cruel!”

“I sincerely hope she doesn’t lose control of any of her minions. They’ll explain the difference to her between cruelty and simply not giving a toss.”

Selena gushed. “Aww, she just needs someone special to love her.”

“She needs to get laid,” said Ariciel, with conviction.

Selena gave Ariciel a look, then she laughed so hard that she had to sit down. Ariciel glared at her.

“What’s so funny?”

Selena had trouble breathing. “Puissance. In bed. With a boy. Ye gods! Poor lad’ll be scarred for life!” She took several deep breaths.

“I suppose, some,” Selena sighed, “Arousal… would be… too much to ask?”

“Not a problem. We have spells that’ll take care of that. You will bloody enjoy yourself, if it’s the last thing I do, bitch!”

Selena paused. “Eh?”

Ariciel took a quick breath. “Uh, just channeling her exotic Elf lover.”

“Ah right. Heh. Maybe we should find her a nice Elf boy.”

“What have Elves ever done to you?”


“But all I want is a bottle of Zombie Juice, to warm my old, chilled bones!”

Stetson growled at the hermit. “Get stuffed. Walk to Darkshire yourself if you must. Do you good.”

“Speaking of which,” said Mareva. “The day is getting on. Shall we take the flappy back to Stormwind?”

“Good plan. Do you think the Recluse has more rooms free now the concert is over?”

“Bound to. The ones with one bed in are cheaper. Just saying.”

Stetson slowly turned his large head towards Mareva. “Am I hearing what you’re saying?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Oh good. I’m not sure what I would think about women who get turned on by fighting rotted corpses.”

“My wife is a rotting corpse,” said the hermit. “I miss her so.”

Mareva and Stetson both looked at the hermit.

“Shut up!” they said, at the same time.


“Pselie!” Selena squealed, and hugged the Dwarf woman.

“Hello, little one. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yeah,” said Gerrig, staring at Bannog. “Fancy that.”

“Aw, come on. We’re not leaving Selena with those daft old bats!”

“What if Caer Bannog is overrun?”

Peterselie scowled at Gerrig. “That sort o’talk stops right here, right now. Caer Bannog is not going to get overrun, and we’re getting rid of the vermin. Right?”

Gerrig looked back at her. “Right,” he said. Now all he had to do was believe it.

Selena pointed a finger at him. “And if you even suggest it again, I’ll disinherit you!”

Peterselie chuckled. “I see the old measures against foul language are still in force!”

“What?” said Ariciel.

Bannog laughed. “Our sweet young innocent sister used to threaten us with a sturdy kick to the vulnerables. Daddy did not approve of such language. She found a solution.”

Ariciel blinked prettily at him. What?

“Kick hard enough, and you will produce no heirs,” said Bannog.

“Oh. Ow.”

“Yep.”

Peterselie smiled at Ariciel. “How did your business go?”

Ariciel’s face fell. “Badly. Tell you later.”

Peterselie simply nodded.

The door opened, and Morgan bounded in, ran over to Selena and head-butted her for scratches. Stetson followed, with Mareva. They looked in good spirits. Stetson wandered over to the bar to book a room. Mareva joined the party. Peterselie looked up at her.

“Another tall one, dammit! Bannog, get me a chair.”

“Even better, let’s all get chairs and sit down.”

Gerrig grinned. “Hear, hear!”

They ended up getting two tables, Gerrig, Bannog and Stetson on one and Peterselie, Selena, Mareva and Ariciel on the other. Stetson looked over.

“I wonder what they are talking about.”

“Us,” said Bannog.

“That is what I was afraid of,” said Stetson with a grin.

“Did you hand in your tablets?”

“I did. He was as appreciative as one would expect. Not very, in other words.”

“So. Are you leaving, then?”

Stetson glanced over to the other table. “I am not sure. It depends.”

Gerrig turned his glass of wine round in his hands. “You could give us a hand with our Orc problem, if you are inclined. Still a few guest rooms left at Caer. I’ve heard no complaints from any other Draenei.”

Stetson gave him a dark look. “You are offering me a job with… benefits?”

Bannog grinned. “Well, having three-foot thick walls between yourself and the girl you fancy is not very desirable.”

Stetson nodded slowly, his eyes shining. “That is true, but it would be even better if we both were outside the walls.”

“Hm. Can’t argue with that, but I think Mareva wants to keep an eye on Ariciel. See she’s alright.”

Stetson smiled. “Mareva is a good friend.”

“She is. Nice to look at, too.”

Gerrig chuckled. “I think it’s only fair to warn you that there will be no bunking up together. Father won’t have it.”

Bannog rolled his eyes. “Creaking floorboards, sticking doors. Light sleepers all over the place. People now think Ariciel has a very weak bladder.”

“You are not making a good case, my friend. I must confess I do entertain certain plans involving Engineer Mareva.”

Bannog raised his eyebrows. “Well I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t told me! How does that sort of thing work for Draenei, though?”

Stetson grinned. “Do you see those bits of cloth and leather? The first thing to do is to remove those, making sure that the girl thinks it is her idea.”

Bannog laughed. “Thanks for the advice! But what I meant was, we Humans tend to be a bit formal. Get married first, then do what you want, like my brother here.” Bannog glanced over to the girls’ table. “Night-elves will do more or less what they like, if they fancy the other enough. Blood-elves, as far as I can tell, are… just weird.”

“With Blood-elves, I do not bother taking their clothes off,” said Stetson. “Their heads will do.”

“Hmm, yes. Mareva said. You’re at war with them. So how does this work between Draenei then? Do you have to get married first, or what?”

“That is not necessary. As long as both are adults capable of making such decisions, we are free to enjoy whatever we wish. We have ways of avoiding… undesirable consequences.” Stetson looked at his glass. It was empty, and he put it on the table. “If I wanted to, I could simply walk over to Mareva and ask her. But I do not want to do that yet. Such couplings, though they are enjoyable, do not generally result in long friendships.”

“And you do want a long friendship with her.”

Stetson glanced over. “Yes. So I hold off the coupling for a while, and do other things with her instead.”

“Such as?” asked Gerrig.

“Kill things, mostly. Strange, that. I have never met a woman that I enjoy hunting with almost as much as… other things.”

“I wonder what the boys are talking about,” said Selena. Mareva smiled.

“Us.”

“Damn right. They should be,” said Peterselie.

“I thought you’d gone Holy,” said Ariciel.

“Aye. Holy, not sanctimonious.”

“Right. Say, that driver from my caravan. How is he?”

Peterselie gave her a sad look, and shook her head. “Dead. Couldn’t take it. We were keeping an eye on him, but he wasn’t locked up or anything. So one day, he got up, walked to the top of the tower and jumped off. May his poor soul find rest.”

Ariciel sighed. “Poor man.”

“Feel like tellin’ me how you fared, now?”

“Bannog, Interalia and me. We found Berciel.” Ariciel swallowed, and her voice was choked. “She’d gone over to the Horde. They… made her.” She glanced at Selena.

Mareva got up, and nudged Selena. “Let us order food. It is the time for it.” They walked over to the bar.

Ariciel watched them go, and turned back to Peterselie. “They were torturing my Mother, and telling Berciel she could stop it if she learnt their magics. They told Mother they’d start on Berciel if she gave up.”

Peterselie’s eyes narrowed. Playing one against the other. Using their love against each other. How well they knew that to watch a loved one suffer could be as bad as suffering yourself, or even worse. Bastards. Peterselie was a kind soul, but people like these were the reason that she could kill without hesitation or remorse if she needed to.

“You had to kill her, didn’t you?”

Ariciel took a breath, then nodded quietly.

“Don’t hold it against her. There’s nothing she could have done differently.”

“I know. If only I…”

Peterselie raised a finger. “No. Don’t blame yourself, either. Place the blame where it belongs. Not your sister, not your mother, certainly not yourself, but the bastard who did this to them.”

“Berciel was enjoying herself there. She said so. She could do things she never could have done at home.”

“Makes no difference. Who did it, did it. Sounds stupid and obvious, but it’s true.”

Ariciel stared. “Our foes lie dead, while we draw breath.”

Peterselie smiled. “Ever be it so.”


They were getting ready to ride to Caer Bannog. Stetson towered above the rest, on a large purple-skinned Elekk. Mareva sat behind him. Ariciel shared with Selena, for reasons of weight. Bannog and Gerigg each rode one of Sir Arthur’s horses.

“Oh no,” said Bannog. “Peterselie is going to have to run behind us on her little legs!”

“Would ye like me to remind you what I have on the ends of those little legs? I wear plate now, ye lummox!”

She held out her arms, and magic started to flow. A few moments later, There was a subdued sort of explosion, and Peterselie was mounted on a war-charger with large, gleaming eyes. Wisps of steam were about it, and it was armoured as she was, in plate.

“There. A magical horse for all weather, and all terrains, and all you need to do is pledge your life to the Light Eternal. Move out, suckers!”

They rode East. As they were all mounted, they could move fast, and Bannog, Gerrig and Selena were eager to reach their home. Morgan ran along easily beside them, and the great bird Hugin flew above. Suddenly, Selena looked up at her bird, with a worried look on her face.

“She’s spotted something. A bit ahead, to the left of the road. She makes that noise for enemies.”

Gerrig stood up in his stirrups, and peered ahead. “What kind of enemies?”

“The kind that doesn’t like us. Either Orcs or those Gnolls. And they’re up to something. Hugin doesn’t get spooked if they just move about.”

Peterselie spurred on her horse, followed by Bannog. Gerrig hesitated. Was she really going out to attack them? Ariciel jumped off Selena’s horse, turned before his eyes into a yellow spotted cat and ran after Bannog. Gerrig drew close to Selena, and drew his sword.

“Stay with me!”

Selena looked at the disappearing shapes, then at her brother, then ahead again.

“Stay here, Selena. It’s too dangerous.”

Selena nodded, leapt off her horse, and concentrated, melding her mind and sight with that of Hugin. The great bird screeched, and set off after Bannog and Peterselie. Stetson looked back at Mareva.

“Are we going to follow them?”

Mareva looked at Gerrig, then at Selena.

“No. They can take care of themselves. Selena cannot.”

Stetson gave a short nod, and dismounted, calling Morgan to him.

Peterselie rode on, not caring whether anyone could keep up with her. Some poor creature was in danger. She had to help. To do anything else was impossible. Also, this was the first lesson for Bannog, and especially Gerrig. You might respect your enemy, and if you knew they were stronger than you were, only a fool would attack them. But you couldn’t let fear paralyse you. Peterselie smiled. Precisely where Selena had pointed, there were noises. A fight was going on. Riding on at full speed, she peered ahead. Oh great, it was bloody Gnolls again. A whole pack of them were attacking a bear. Peterselie immediately spotted the white markings on the bear’s shoulders. This was not a normal bear, but a Druid in bear shape. No telling who it was. Bannog pulled up next to her. She pointed.

“Anyone you know?”

Bannog looked. “That’s not my bear! Its fur is too dark.”

“Oh well. Sort that out later. Let’s go help it.”

Bannog drew his sword, gave a great shout and sprinted off right into the middle of the group of Gnolls, large, dog-like creatures that walked on their hind legs. The bear growled, snapping at them and aiming great swipes at the swift moving shapes. It was clear that one on one, the bear could take on these creatures without a scratch. With this many of them, though, it was in mortal danger. Bannog’s sword lashed out as the Rage took him. He crossed his arms, took a deep breath and let his mind lash out at the enemies in a great surge of energy. The dog-creatures howled, and lost all interest in the bear. Bannog grinned. Hah! It worked, then. Now to do this again, and as often as necessary. He was dimly aware of Peterselie joining the fight. Then, she became a shining figure to his Warrior’s senses as she used her magic to strengthen herself and strike out at the enemies. The Druid bear stalked off to the side, then turned back into her Elf shape. As fast as she could, she healed herself, then held ready to assist her unexpected allies. Suddenly, there was another great growl as Bear-Ariciel joined the fray.

The tide had turned. Bannog, Peterselie and Ariciel were slaying Gnolls left, right and center. The Druid shot them the occasional heal, but nothing was really grievous enough to warrant it. With a final Thunder Clap, the last of the Gnolls fell, and they stood still, catching their breath. Bannog pointed.

“That’s my bear!”

The Elf Druid looked at them, from under her dark hair.

“Oh blast. It’s Blondie. I’ll never live this down!”

“So we meet again, Lady Mira,” said Gerrig.

“I’m very glad. I was having a slight overdose of rabid Gnolls.”

Ariciel grinned. “So we head bashers do have our uses now and again!”

“When have I ever said otherwise?”

“Want me to do you an essay? What were you doing here anyway? You’re going back to Kalimdor, aren’t you?”

“Meeting someone in Morgan’s Vigil, then flapping off to Stormwind Harbour. I haven’t met the flight master there, so I couldn’t fly there.”

Gerrig smiled. “We are not far from home. If you would like, you can join us for dinner, and then continue on.”

Mira looked doubtful. Her orders were to talk to as many flight masters as she could, then return. This would allow her to fly anywhere in the Eastern Kingdoms. But to the south of Redrige lay the Swamp of Sorrows. She could pick up the flight point there as well. And it would allow her a look at where Blondie was going to live, which could be fun.

“Gladly, Sir Gerrig.”

Their journey would take them to Arthur Halloran’s ranch shortly after sunrise. They didn’t say anything as they rode in the dark, under the trees. Each one was busy with their own thoughts, of fear, duty, determination. Finally, they reached the borders of Arthur Halloran’s orchards. They had ridden faster than they thought and it was still not fully light. Selena dismounted and sent Hugin out to scout. As she stood concentrating, they could see her face turn pale. She broke her spell, and whispered.

“Trouble. There’s been a fire, and I couldn’t see anyone there. Fire’s put out, though. Hope our side won.”

Ariciel dismounted, and turned into her yellow spotted travel form. She dashed off in the direction of the farm. When she reached it, she switched to her black cat form. Immediately, she could sense all Humanoids at the farm. They were not Orcs, which was good. Cat-Ariciel made herself disappear, and walked carefully to the farmstead. There were no lights. She could see that doors and windows had been barricaded, and that men with bows and arrows were behind them. She wondered what to do. If she’d just appear in front of them, they were likely to shoot her before she could move or speak. In her cat form she could not call out, or rather she could, but feline roars were not what was needed now. Nobody inside was likely to know Wildspeech. Oh well. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. She prowled right up to the wall, and changed back into her Elf form. She could hear the archer breathe behind the broken window.

“Hello?”

“Who’s there?” The voice was nervous, scared.

“A friend. I’m Lady Ariciel.”

“Show yourself!”

“I will, only don’t shoot me!”

Carefullly, making no sudden moves, she raised her head above the window sill. She heard the man inside take a breath, then his voice was heard.

“By the Light! You’re a Night-elf!”

“My goodness! When did that happen? Is Sir Arthur there?”

“He is wounded, and cannot come out.”

Ariciel cast her eyes at the sky.

“Are you going to let me in today?”

“Oh! Of course. Come to the door.”

Oh good. Ariciel crept slowly to the door, which was opened for her. Quietly, she slipped inside. The place was a mess. Broken furniture here and there, and signs of fire. Burnt curtains, broken windows, shards of glass everywhere. A lanky youth stood in front of her, crossbow in hand.

“Where’s Sir Arthur?”

“In bed, Lady. He was hit by an arrow, in the side.”

“Take me to him. I may be able to do something.”

Sir Arthur Halloran opened his eyes, and stared at Ariciel.

“Alright, you can have an apple. Just don’t set fire to my house.”

Ariciel smiled. Sir Arthur’s eyes were still bright, and he hadn’t lost his sense of humour.

“How are you, Sir Arthur?”

“Been better, lass. Arrow in the side. I may need the attention of a healer priest.”

Carefully, Ariciel lifted the blanket. Sir Arthur winced. The broken-off end of an arrow protruded from the man’s side.

“They wanted… to pull it out. I told them not to.”

“That was wise. Allow me. This may sting a bit.”

She laid her hand on Sir Arthur’s forehead, the other on the arrow, and extended her senses. Damn. War arrow. Barbs. Well, there was only one way to deal with that.

“On the count of three, Sir Arthur. One…”

With a sudden jerk, she ripped the arrow out of Sir Arthur’s side. She dropped it on the bed and immediately cast her healing spells. Healing Touch took a few moments to kick in, but when it did, it removed most of the internal damage the arrow had done. Next, she cast Regrowth, which took effect immediately, but took longer to do the actual healing. Sir Arthur cried out in pain, blood staining the sheets. Come on! She kept on channeling her energy into the thin man’s frame till he lay back on the pillows, and sighed.

“I knew you were going to do that.” He took a breath. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Please don’t get shot again. I want to steal your apples for many more years.”

Sir Arthur lay back, savouring the blessed absence of pain. “As many as you like, Lady. As many as you like.”

“You took your bloody time!” Bannog glared at Ariciel, as she re-appeared before them. Ariciel smiled.

“Thanks for caring. I had to stay with Sir Arthur a while, and get rid of an arrow. They’re mostly allright. Cuts and bruises. It was just a raid, not a concentrated attack. The horses are gone, though. They’ve left us the apples.

Peterselie frowned. “How about a little patrolling to see if the bastards have all left, and it’s safe to come out?”

Bannog nodded. “Just the thing. Coming, Mr. Stetson? Let’s hunt some Orc!”

“Gladly. Ladies, please be so good as to guard my Elekk. Morgan, Walk with me. Slay all you see!”

The great cat’s eyes seemed to light up, and he started prowling back and forth.

Bannog, Stetson and Peterselie trotted off, weapons in hand. They made a full circuit of the farmstead. The aqua-striped cat ran back and forth, sensing scents, following them here and there with the occasional growl. Nothing presented itself. Having made their round, they walked up to the farmstead, Bannog first, on the grounds that they were least likely to shoot him. His voice rang out.

“All clear, people! No enemies in the vicinity.”

The door opened, and Sir Arthur came out, pale-faced, but alive and defiant.

“Welcome to my farmstead, Sir Bannog. Pardon the mess, We had a rather wild party last night.”

“Orcs?”

“Yes. Together with one of their mages. We managed to wound several, but kill none.”

Stetson nodded grimly. “Even better. They have to heal the wounded ones. The dead they just leave to rot.”

“Indeed, Sir…”

Stetson smiled. “I am Hunter Stetson. Good health, long life.”

“Arthur Halloran, keeper of this farmstead. Welcome. And Lady Peterselie, I know of course.”

“Paladin Peterselie, Sir Arthur. I hope you have recovered well?”

“I have. The young lady has a firm hand, but an effective one.”

They returned their horses to the stables, sadly empty of horses, and set of on foot. Or, as the case might be, on four paws. Mareva and Ariciel went on ahead to scout. They found the castle mostly as they had left it: surrounded by Orc camps, impervious to their efforts at getting in, but cut off from the world. They ran back to the group, and led them to the secret entrance. Bannog looked at the keep, quite certain that someone had seen them and alerted those inside. They had to carry an unwilling Morgan into the tunnel. Hugin simply flew to his perch in the keep. Gerrig pulled the bell cord, and the door was opened for them.

“Afternoon, Quartermaster. Can we come in? We have one Dwarf, no less than two Night-elves, two Draenei and one cat. Oh, and my brother and sister. No large band of soldiers, I’m afraid, but we’ll see what we can do with what we have.”


“Did I not tell you to leave Selena in Stormwind if you got no help? Then what is she doing here?” Old Bannog stared hard at Gerrig, who looked uneasy.

Bannog raised his hands. “Father, she’ll be perfectly safe in the castle. Once we get rid of the orcs…”

“And how were you thinking of doing that? Our men aren’t up to the task, and you haven’t brought us any help!”

Bannog closed his eyes for a moment. Then, he suddenly frowned, looking his father straight in the eyes. His heavy fist hit the table, making it shake.

“I am tired of hearing that! There are men in the barracks now who could knock me on my back if only they knew not to be afraid! When I first arrived, I was told not to disrespect the men. So why do you not give them the credit due? If I can beat handsfull of these orcs, then so can they! We have here a fighting force that could be the envy of all round us. Either use it, or stay here behind the walls till the Orcs can be bothered to attack in earnest.”

“Would you send them out to die against these Orcs? Would you send them out to fights they cannot possibly win?”

“They are Warriors! If they had wanted a safe life, they would have taken up carpentry or farming instead. As you know perfectly well, there is no guarantee that all of them will survive. But as a group, they will. I’m sure of it.”

“Then on your head be it. I appoint you Master at Arms, and order you to rid us of these troublesome Orcs. And may the Light shine upon us all.”

Bannog was silent for a long, long moment. Then, he nodded grimly.

“I accept.”


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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