Part 10: Journey

Prophet Velen slowly opened his eyes, and took stock of his body. He was lying in a corner of his work area in the Hall of Crystals. His ribs were hurting. Probably cracked a few. He tried to move, and grunted. His leg was not cooperating,

“Creatures of Light, grant me your blessing.”

The Light flowed through him, mending his broken bones, healing his body. He took a deep breath, then got to his hooves. All round him, his lieutenants were slowly starting to move, and to cast their healing spells on themselves. The noise had stopped, so Velen assumed that they had arrived. No reason why it couldn’t start again, of course, but let’s deal with that when it arrives. One of his lieutenants was kneeling by the body of his comrade. He looked over his shoulder at the Prophet, sadly shook his head and laid his hand on the man’s eyes. Velen walked over to his console, trying to tap it into life. To his surprise, it worked. It didn’t have anything cheerful to report, though. The ship was a mess. All engines off-line, no connection to the bridge, the technical tier or the habitation tier. He closed his eyes a moment, and turned on the external monitor.

Exodar was lying on the shore of Azuremyst Isle, half buried in the only hard rock on the whole island. The bridge, habitation and technical tiers were gone. So was the cryo-core, with its escape pods. Thank the Light they had all been launched before they came down. At this speed, of course, survival was not a given. They’d have to see. Velen turned the view to the rest of the islands. Here and there, he could see fires, but they were small and had already started to go out.

“Oh no…”

Wherever he looked, energy crystals littered the area. Some of them were large as houses. They had stored the energy needed to propel Exodar through the Twisting nether. Now, that energy was leaking out. Into the soil. Into the drinking water. Into the seas. If he looked closely, he could see dying animals near the crystals. Strange tree-like creatures beating their fists against the invaders. Deer running away as fast as they could. Velen closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“Oh merciful Light, what have we done?”


“Morning Chief. I brought you some food.” Mareva smiled sweetly at Engineer Alard, who was lying on one of the make-shift beds in sick bay.

“Oh sure,” said Grofal, who was in the bed next to him. “He gets the fruit basket. What do I get?”

“I got you the same, but you have to wait. Rank has its privileges.”

“Yeah, yeah. Suck up to Management. I think you’re after my job.”

“I hate to tell you this, but it may be a while before Exodar flies again. We’d need to order in a new technical tier, to start with.”

“So we no longer have a ship,” said Alard. “But I think we have set the definitive record in building cities. Pre-fabricated elsewhere and flown in for your convenience.”

Grofal grabbed a bag of sweet Emarree, pulled the tab and started spooning up the goo. “Have we heard from any of the pod people yet?”

“Most of them came down more or less as designed. A few were sabotaged and blew up as soon as they cleared the bay,” said Mareva. “Sin’dorei bastards. Some of them came down in the sea, and we’re rounding them up with boats and pulling them to shore.”

“Viral?”

Mareva closed her eyes and sighed. “He made it. He came down on the other island. I’ll be joining him there in a few days. He was in the same pod as Gur’dan and Oraya. They are going to come back here.”

Alard nodded. “Well, it’s been a noisy arrival, but I’d say we have landed. Any landing you can walk away from is a good one. I assume we are invited to the wedding?”

“No. I try to keep business and pleasure strictly separate. Of course you are, you zlotniks. You will be the guests of honour. The engineer who made us not end in a cloud of vapour, and the only Chief Engineer who ever obtained Omega clearance and lived.”


Mareva was busy. She was wearing goggles, and in front of her, on her table, was a small gas burner. With her pliers, she held the slender wires of Thorium in the flame, to make them pliable. Then, she plaited the strands into a loop for her finger. Viral’s ring was done already, except for the jewels. She had asked him for a cast of his ring finger, and he’d sent it to her, demanding to know what she was going to do with it. Just for fitting the ring, my husband to be.

She turned up the heat on the burner, and melted the ends of wire. She was quite pleased with the design. Plaited wires of Thorium, with each gap filled with a small sapphire. She looked up at the wall, where she had stuck up his letter.
 

Engineer Mareva,

 
Please find enclosed my finger. Not my actual finger, as I’ll
need that for other things. Work here is progressing steadily.
The egg-heads are getting more and more worried about the
engine parts poor old Exodar has been spilling all over the
place. They seem to be having some sort of effect on the
wildlife here. They never seem to have enough strange bent
pieces of metal for their measuring equipment, so if I wanted
to, I could spend all my days here. I don’t. Missing you
terribly. Nights on this planet are cold. I get by remembering
that thing you did at our official sampling. I will never
regret the thing I did, as long as I’ll live.

 
Eternally, and I hope in the near future legally yours,

 
Viral.

 
PS: I have a vivid imagination. What do you need that finger
for?

 

With infinite patience, Mareva fit the little wires together, then watched the ends melt and join. She held the ring under her magnifying glass, and smiled. Ends neatly stuck together. Just a little grinding to do, and it’d be ready for the jewels. As the ring cooled down, Mareva fought the temptation to try it on. She knew it’d fit, and it was terribly bad luck to wear a wedding ring before the ceremony. But she wanted to see it on her finger. Even more so, she wanted to see Viral put it on her finger. She sighed.

The door chime rang. Mareva put down her tools, pushed up her goggles and went to the door. She grinned.

“Oraya! Gur’dan! Hut!”

Mareva wrapped her arms round Oraya and pinched her bottom. This would normally earn her a poke and a nasty look, but this time, nothing happened. She looked at Oraya. Her face was serious, sad.

“Can we come in?”

“Of course,” said Mareva. “What’s up?”

Oraya hit the button and Mareva’s bed rolled out.

“Sit down,” she said.


She had pushed Oraya and Gur’dan out of the door. She wanted to be alone. Her tears had stopped flowing, and she didn’t speak, so nobody could notice how hoarse her voice was. She walked to her table, and picked up her ring. She put it on. Watched the silvery bands round her finger. She turned her hand round and round, looking at it. Then, she turned up the burner under the melting pot as high as it would go. In went Viral’s ring. She looked at her hand one last time, took off the ring and dropped it in the pot. With dry eyes, she watched the beautiful metal objects melt, run together, until there was only a small puddle in the bottom of the pot. There was just enough to make one solid ring, for herself. Smaller than Viral’s, nowhere near as beautiful, but much more useful. She carefully poured the molten Thorium into the mould. The red gem was already waiting to be slotted in. More strength for her weapon arm.

Gur’dan had told the story. Simple enough, really. Blood-elves had descended on Viral’s research station like a pack of wolves, surrounded the camp, killed everyone inside. The Vindicators had run to the camp, but they had been too late to do anything but disturb their looting. Three of the freaks had been killed, the rest had fled.

Mareva tapped her hammer on the mould, and opened it. In the middle lay her new ring. Made from the Thorium of her and Viral’s wedding rings. Enchanted with death. She picked up her pliers and pulled the ring out. Quickly, before the metal could cool down too much, she slotted in the gem. She didn’t bother filing off the rough edges. Let it grate on her skin. She put it on her left hand, where her wedding ring would have been. Where it now was.

Mareva could not remember having been this angry before. She would admit that she’d blown up at people now and then, but those things were like rockets. Flared up brightly, then disappeared, leaving nothing but memories. This anger was different. Slow-burning, infinitely hotter, all-consuming.

“One more call to make,” she said, “And then, Blood-elves are going to die.”


“Can teach you no more. Your spirit is not at rest. Even if could, would not. You would be learning for the wrong reason. That is worse than not learning. Anyway, you strong enough already, for killing Sin’dorei.”

“I will find out,” said Mareva, “and tell you. I am going to Bloodmyst Isle.”

“Most likely, the ones who killed Viral already dead.”

“The thing about vermin is that you have to keep at it, or they breed and multiply.”

Farseer Nobundo’s expression, as he looked into her eyes, was impossible to read.

“You do that. Then, when you have learnt, come back and we will continue.”


Mareva ran. She’d asked for directions to the Vindicator’s Rest on Bloodmyst Isle. Now and then, creatures had attacked her. Cats, strange walking tree-things. Stags. It had given her the opportunity to get familiar with the mace she’d taken from Viral’s locker. It lay comfortably in her hand. It was heavy, and the spikes on its head were almost elegant. Viral was… had been, a good blacksmith. Half-way up a small hill, she could see the Rest. Vindicators paced to and fro, on guard. They took one look at her and let her through.

“Engineer Mareva. What a surprise.”

“Vindicator Corin. Dyonis A’ka. I wish to kill many Blood-elves. Do you have any going spare?”

Corin gave a small bark of a laugh.

“They are crawling like ants over what’s left of the Cryo-core, just ahead. Apparently, they need medication as much as we do.” She looked into Mareva’s eyes. “Perhaps you can see to it that they no longer do, and bring back the medical kits?”

Mareva simply nodded.

“I heard of your loss,” she said. “My condolences.”

“Gazpaar was on one of the pods that exploded,” said Vindicator Corin. “I asked for this assignment, for much the same reason you are here. I have orders to remain here, on guard. Make them regret what they did. Make them suffer. Make them die.”

 

“Spirits, hear my call…”

Two of the Sin’dorei had spotted Mareva, and came running towards her, swords out. One male, one female. Standing between her totems, elemental magic crackling on her skin, she watched them. No running out for her. Let them come. Her flame totem burst into fire, and the Elves screamed, burning. The female tried to run, the male attacked. Mareva deflected its sword with her shield and swung her mace. The Elf parried her stroke, counter-thrust. It scored a hit on Mareva’s arm, and she almost welcomed the pain. Lightning cracked, and Mareva’s shield spell bit back at the Elf. She swung her mace round, and down. With a satisfying crunch, it bit into the Elf’s leg. The Elf collapsed with a cry. Mareva’s hoof stomped on its chest, and her mace came down on the Elf’s head, once, twice. She didn’t even wait for the body to stop twitching.

The female Blood-elf had managed to put out the flames on its clothes. It watched Mareva bearing down on her, sword raised in two hands. As Mareva drew near, the sword came slashing down. Mareva raised her shield. The impact jarred her arm, but she paid no attention. She went for the Blood-elf’s legs, and the filth was too late to parry her stroke. It fell to one knee, sword raised above its hornless head. Mareva took one step back, swung her mace and hit the Elf’s fingers. The Elf screamed, and dropped the sword, cradling one hand in the other, looking up at Mareva. Mareva kicked it in the chest, making the Elf fall over backwards. She knelt onto the creature’s chest, looked into the alien green eyes. Even creatures from across the void show fear in their eyes. Good.

“You would not happen to know where the medical supplies are, would you?”

She raised her mace, called upon the Spirit of Fire to set it aflame. She looked down on the Elf, whose chest was rising and falling quickly under her knee. She pressed down harder, then brought down her mace, hard, on the Elf’s face, again and again, until it didn’t have a head anymore.

“Never mind. I will find them myself.”

She tore open the Elf’s clothes, snorted and pulled out a slender package of bandages. Well, what do you know? She put the bandages in her pack, and walked off to look for more. She hadn’t got farther than fifty yards or so, when a noise made her look back. Another one of those Blood-elves was kneeling by the corpse, holding the limp arm in its hand, looking at the bracelet the female was wearing. The Elf looked up, saw Mareva. Mareva looked back, mace raised, turning it round in her hand, showing the red blood that was still on it. She tilted her head slightly.

The Blood-elf roared, and charged at Mareva, slashing low with a two-handed sword. Mareva leaped high in the air, over the sword. The Elf’s back was exposed, and she brought her mace down hard. The Blood-elf fell, and lay with its face in the dirt, struggling feebly to get up. Mareva kicked away the sword, turned the body over, ignoring the gasps of pain. She found another package of band-aids.

“You will not need that where you are going.”

She stood up, took a few steps back, aimed her hands at the Elf, and shot lightning bolts at it till it died. Three medikits. Not too bad. Three dead Blood-elves. Even better. She looked up. The Cryo-core lay a few hundred yards to the North. More bandages. More red blood.

Good.

 

She walked into Vindicator’s Rest. Her armour was spattered with blood, both red and blue-green. Mareva upended her backpack. A stack of medical kits came rolling out.

“About two dozen,” said Mareva. “I had to destroy maybe three dozen. They weren’t all carrying our band-aids.”

Vindicator Corin gave her a lop-sided smile. “Not bad. Not bad at all. That’ll teach them.”

“They are dead,” said Mareva. “Teaching them is a waste of time. I am going back to Exodar. I may be back.”

“Very well. Favour the road travelled by few.”

Mareva nodded, waved and trotted off, following the road to the South. Anger still growled within her. Not a thousand dead Sin’dorei would ever make it go away. Her mace swung at her belt, the fire magic on it not quite spent yet. She thought about her fighting style. As a would-be Mage, and later as a Shaman, she shot enemies from far away. Today’s work had been up close and personal. She’d wanted to look at them up close. Smell their fear. Taste their blood.

Far away in the back of her mind, a little voice asked if she’d ever be satisfied. None of this would bring back her beloved Viral. Not the point. The Elves she’d killed would not hurt anyone anymore. As long as they existed, they were a danger to her, and her friends. Get rid of them. All of them? Yes. As many as she could, before she herself was slain. Thirty to one was a start. A hundred to one would be better, but we’ll see.

As she ran slong the road, there was a noise to her right, behind a few shrubs. In a heartbeat, Mareva’s mace and shield were in her hand, and she faced the attacker, knees bent, weight balanced between her hooves. Her eyes narrowed as she peered ahead. Slowly, carefully, ready to react to anything that might jump her, she skirted round. She could hear… what? It was a sad sound, soft howling. Mace raised in the air, she stepped forward. On the ground lay a big ball of fur, slowly moving. As Mareva approached, the creature stirred, sniffed the air, turned towards her. It looked vaguely bear-like, but it wasn’t a bear. Between its claws, it clutched a glowing piece of crystal, maybe twice the size of Mareva’s fist. She recognised it as a piece of Exodar’s energy crystals. Pure poison to anything living. The creature was pressing it to its chest like a doll or a child.

“Don’t do that, little one,” said Mareva. “It’s bad for you.”

The furry creature’s ears twitched, and it looked towards Mareva, or at least tried. It was blind. Its eyes were a milky white.

“Oh you poor thing. Give me that!”

Mareva tried to pull the crystal out of the creature’s paws, but it suddenly growled at her, and pulled back. Mareva stared. Then, she pulled an Emarree out of her pack, pulled the tab and cut it open so that the creature could eat it. She held the food under its nose. It yowled, and turned its face away.

“My compliments on your taste. In food, that is, not in toys. A bit of water, perhaps?”

She got out her water bottle, and carefully poured a bit onto her hand, held it in front of the creature’s face. It lapped up the water greedily. Mareva poured more water into its mouth from her bottle. Clutching its power crystal to its chest with one hand, it grabbed the bottle with the other and tipped it up, drinking fast, spilling water onto its fur. It threw away the empty bottle. It curled up again, making small whimpering noises. Then, suddenly, it got up on all fours, and retched. A burst of vomit spouted fom its mouth. Mareva could think of nothing else to do but stroke its fur with her hand. As she did, great swathes of hair came loose.

“You are so sick,” said Mareva, “Did we do this to you? I’m so, so sorry.”

The creature’s ears twitched at her voice, and it rolled onto its back. Its fur was soiled with the Light only knew what, and it stank. Mareva thought of putting the poor thing out of its misery, but could she? Would it get better with perhaps a few healing spells? Or would that just prolong its agony? She sat down close to its head, and ran her fingers through its filthy hair. The creature laid down its head, with an undefinable sense of finality. Its flanks rose and fell, laboured. Then, they stopped. Mareva sighed. She reached between its paws, and picked up the power crystal. For a moment, she considered throwing it away, but some other creature would pick it up. She put it in her pack instead. The people at Azure Watch would know what to do with it.

“This is also the fault of the strivs who made us crash,” said Mareva, but her liver wasn’t really in it. This was precisely the sort of thing that spacers were trained to avoid. True, determined sabotage was not in the standard operating procedures, but still. Gently, she put a hand on the shaggy head.

“Forgive me.”


“You go back there tomorrow, no? Clear up bit more trash?”

Mareva shook her head at Nobundo.

“I don’t think so. I have better things to do with my time than pest control. I have spoken with a few of the scientists. Two of them knew Viral. They are assembling a team of people to gather information on the effect we are having on this planet. They’ll want scientific information about all the places where our engine parts landed. They have a theory that some of the corruption is not our fault.”

“Hmm. Today, I walked to the sea shore, and stood in the water. Water spirits here are not pleased with us. But they are also not pleased with other, greater evil. Almost got Spirit of Water to tell me who.” Nobundo scowled.

“Oh? Then what happened?”

“Some Dwarf zlotnik ask me what by name of Titans I am doing.” Noundo made some rumbling noises in his throat. “Tell him am minding my own business and trying to concentrate. By time I get trance back, Spirit gone. Will return tomorrow.”

“Dwarf? What is a Dwarf doing in this part of the world? They live on the other continent.”

“Disturbing my meditation, that is what.”

“No respect for the Spirits.”

“Pah. They think spirits is yeast, hops and barley. Zlotniks. Ah well. Managed to explain what would happen if he disturb me again tomorrow.”

Nobundo laid his hand on Mareva’s shoulder.

“You finished with revenge, no?”

“Blood-elves are still stealing our oxygen, breathing,” said Mareva. “But it is more important to find out about the effect our… accident has had on the environment here. The scientists are sending out lots of people. Oraya and Gur’dan have also volunteered. I have a meeting tonight.”

 

They were meeting in the old Deviants’ club house. Someone had thoughtfully removed the score board, though Mareva could still see one of the stories left stuck up on the wall. She remembered reading it with Viral. Very inspiring. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes and slowly let it escape.

“…cannot stress this enough. Do not try any of the local food. We have not yet ascertained its effect on our metabolism, and it’ll almost certainly give you stomach upsets or worse. I know that Emarree are sticking in everybody’s throats, but they are the only known safe thing to eat on this planet.”

One of the men raised his hand. Mareva recognised him as one of the former Deviants. She searched her memory. Ah. Two and two.

“Are we allowed to examine what the local population is like in bed? Some of the Night-elves look tasty! It would provide valuable data.”

Mareva watched the speaker’s face turn pale and had to bite her knuckle not to burst out laughing.

“Have you gone completely mad? No! The last thing we need is to catch any of their diseases, or to give them any of ours.”

“Oh. Thank you for clearing that up. I will tell her, no more.”

“I wish that damn Wildoor had started a sewing club instead. No bloody sampling the local wildlife, sentient or otherwise.”

Mareva snorted. She grinned at her fellow Deviant. The speaker brought his thoughts back to the matter at hand, and continued.

“Right. Assignments. Starting with a difficult one, because it’ll involve travelling to the other continent. It’s a control, because we’re fairly certain that we didn’t drop anything there. A very interesting place called Searing Gorge. Arid, possibly due to past magical contamination. Signs of industry. We want soil and water samples. Anyone fancy it?”

Mareva raised her hand.

“I’ll do it. Give me a chance to stretch my legs.”

“Excellent. Here’s the necessary maps and directions. Good luck. Next, Kalimdor. Place called Tanaris…”

 

Mareva wandered through the Traders’ Tier, down to the central hall. Someone else was in Viral’s place of trade, selling things never mind. She’d read her instructions for getting into Searing Gorge. Two trips on the boat, long trips on foot once she hit a place called Menethil. People to meet everywhere. Whole continents to explore. She walked into the Engineers’ tavern, and looked round. She pushed up to the bar.

“Double Qrovna, please.”

The bartender grunted, poured her drink and pushed it across the bar. Mareva paid, picked up her drink. As she turned round, she noticed, with some surprise, a familiar face next to her.

“I thought this was a stokers’ tavern,” she said. “I didn’t know people from behind the mast were allowed in here, Helmsman Debaar.”

Debaar slowly looked round to her.

“I am no longer ‘Helmsman Debaar’.” She looked back at her pint of ale.

“Why not?”

“Not that it’s any of your business,.. well actually, it is. Do you remember when we got the final Deviants’ scores?”

“Vividly.”

“I think I told you I made a gamble, right?”

Mareva sipped her drink, then remembered what she was drinking. Ugh.

“Yes.”

“Well,” said Debaar, “A few hours before close of score, I volunteered for bridge duty on landing, just like everybody else. Baqiir told me the bridge officers had already been chosen, and that I wasn’t among them.”

“Yes? Well, you are alive today because of that. So it can’t be all bad.”

“Probably not. But I really, really wanted to be on the bridge for landfall. So I told him if he would reconsider, I’d do anything he wanted.”

Debaar’s eyes slowly turned to Mareva’s.

“Anything.”

Mareva raised her eyebrows, and slowly breathed in.

“You tried to seduce the captain into letting you onto the bridge? Oh my…”

“I was already tired of this shithole. I was helmsman, but to tell you the truth, I’ve touched the main helm maybe twice on this whole Light-bereft trip. So if Captain went for it, I’d have my day on the bridge, a nice couple of hours’ fun, and twenty style points. Would have beaten you by eighteen.”

Mareva looked at Debaar, playing with her cup on the bar.

“But you did not.”

“No.”

“Sounds like a long shot,” said Mareva. “Captain Baqiir, may he be part of the Light, was very much married to Lady Foori.”

“I know. But it beats having to hand in a letter of resignation.”

“So. What are you going to do now?”

“Finish my drink, and get my sorry tail out of this place. Kalimdor. Eastern Kingdoms. Maybe run away with a circus. Tame something big and nasty and hunt with it. Anything but play at being an officer.”

Debaar picked up her drink and poured the contents down her throat in one long draught. She put the mug back on the bar, and turned round. She took one step, then looked over her shoulder at Mareva.

“Sod it, I want to know.”

“What?”

“Would you have held out another round? At our sampling?”

Mareva grinned. “I would have held out, or died in the attempt.”

Debaar laughed. “We must have a re-sampling sometime. To the death.”

She shook her head, and without another word walked out of the Belltower and Rifle.

Mareva watched her tail disappear out of the door, then spotted Grofal sitting alone at a table, pouring himself another drink out of a bottle. Marva walked over and without asking sat down opposite him.

“That much Qrovna is very bad for you,” she said.

“Yeah. Wanna help me?”

Mareva tossed back her drink and put her cup on the table.

“Sure.”

Grofal looked at Mareva.

“She’s still in that bloody controller room. Can’t get her out. Door’s closed, and if you blast through it, you’ll flood the whole ship.”

“Yes.”

“If I’d hold her in my arms, I would die of the radiation. She was so beautiful, and now she’s radio-active waste.”

Mareva was silent. She looked into Grofal’s eyes. A small, mirthless smile was on his face.

“And yes, I would have loved to hold her in my arms.” He tossed back another drink. “And I never told her. Am I a sad zlotnik, or what?”

“You never asked her?”

Grofal shook his head. “She wasn’t the least bit interested in me. She liked big strong military types like that Lieutenant, not little geeks whose most powerful feature is cynicism. So I’d save us both the embarrassment.”

“She said you were handsome, once.”

“Hah. So I would have had a chance, after all.” He sighed. “More knowledge is always good. Not always pleasant, mind, but good.”

“I’m sorry.”

Grofal saw Mareva’s cup was empty, and poured more Qrovna into it. He looked up into her eyes, and smiled at her.

“Don’t be.”

Mareva bent over her cup, watching the vile purple liquor. She looked up.

“Before you make the same mistake twice, and I am too stupid to catch it. Have you any such feelings for me?”

Grofal looked at Mareva with his mouth hanging open. Then, he held up his cup to her.

“Engineer Mareva, if ever I had to choose between two ships to serve on, and you were on one of them, then I would choose that ship, regardless of whether it was the best of the two. I would love to work with you. Even more than I’d want to sleep with you. You are the most sexy colleague I have ever had,” Grofal tossed down another cup, and shook his head. “But you are not her.”

“That would be academical,” said Mareva. “I would be on the best ship.”

“Excuse me? Do you mind if I join you?”

Grofal raised his cup, and pulled back a chair.

“Lieutenant! Join us! Save us from alcohol poisoning.”

Mareva got up, walked to the bar on wobbly legs, and got a cup for the Lieutenant. Grofal poured them all drinks.

“Nazdrovye!”

They drank. Lieutenant Giraz coughed, thumped his chest.

“By the Naaru! What is that stuff?”

“Qrovna. Nectar of the gods,” said Mareva. “Not particularly nice gods, though.”

“They demand the sacrifice of virgins,” said Grofal. “I think I’d better make myself scarce.”

Grofal got to his feet, with some difficulty. Lieutenant Giraz put a hand on Grofal’s arm.

“Wait. You two, you were Inuuri’s best friends. One of you should know.” The Lieutenant looked at each of them. “How did she die? Did she suffer? I am truly sorry if this is painful for you, but I must know.”

Grofal gave Mareva a look. Then, he turned an unsteady gaze to the Lieutenant.

“She got hit by the second explosion. Cut off in mid-sentence. Probably never knew what hit her.”

Giraz looked into Grofal’s eyes.

“Thank you,” he said.

“Thank me? For what?” Grofal turned round, and with swaying steps left the tavern.

Giraz looked down on the table.

“For lying to me,” he whispered.

Mareva looked at her cup, still full, in her hands. Then, she looked up at Giraz.

“Would you like to forget the world for an hour or so? Pretend that everything is alright?” She put down her cup. “I could do that for you. Could you do it for me?”


It was no use. He had his hands in all the wrong places. He was nice enough to look at, and they would probably have done well out of each other in points, but she didn’t want the expert techniques, the incredible stamina or the dedication to business. She wanted the warmth. She wanted him to know where exactly the softest bits of her skin were. She wanted him to be… someone else. He bent over her, looking at her face.

“It isn’t working, is it?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. I have applied the wrong tool to the job.”

They ended up lying next to each other, naked, hands behind their heads, not speaking. It wasn’t what they’d planned, but still, it was strangely comforting.

“I wonder,” said Mareva, “I wonder what they would say if they could see us now.”

Giraz laughed. “Get on with it, you zlotniks. That’s what Inuuri would have said.”

Mareva smiled, and said nothing.

“I should probably go,” said Giraz.

“Stay the night,” said Mareva. “You can sleep here as well as you can in your own cabin.”

“You are right,” said Giraz.


Mareva walked up the path to the new exit, or the place where the cryo-core used to be before it broke off. She tried not to look at the few remains of the technical tier. She still could only half believe that they’d pulled her, Vindicator Corin, Alard and Grofal out of there with nothing more than a few cuts and bruises. It was going to be a long, slow trip. Prophet Velen had expressly forbidden introducing their technology into this new land, so it was going to be walking all the way till she could get a riding elekk or another mount. But at least, there were ships. Sailing ships, even! They didn’t need poisonous energy crystals. Just a breeze, and off they went. So what if they couldn’t go against the wind? Mareva looked round her. She’d come to the ragged edges of Exodar. Some of the cables were hanging loose, sparks still flying from them. Mareva sighed. So now the Draenei had arrived in Azeroth. On a whim, she walked to one of the walls of the corridor, and put her hand on it. Very softly, she sang.
 

Carry
Carry me
Carry me safe
Carry me safe to land

 
Set
Set me
Set me down

 
Where there is air, and water, and ground
Fire, and the fruits of the sea and the sand
Carry me safe to land.

 

Oraya had asked her about this song. She’d tried to explain. You can survive without air for a few seconds. Without water for a few days, if you push yourself. You could swim for weeks, and go without food for a month, if you drank. So, Oraya had asked, why wasn’t love in the song? Well, you can survive without love for a lifetime. If you never knew it, you’d never miss it. If you did, you could still survive. You might not want to, but you could.

Mareva took a deep breath, pulled her sleeve across her face and stepped out into the fresh air. She pulled at the straps of her backpack, and set off for the ferry.


Mareva pulled her scarf up over her face, to keep out the dust of Searing Gorge. The place was as nasty as they had told her. How did the stupid bastards expect her to find water samples here? If she found any, she’d probably drink them. She turned to the Dwarf flight master.

“Does anything grow here?” she asked, in Common. The words did not yet come as easily as those in her native tongue, but she was learning.

“Nothin’ but demons and ogres,” said the Dwarf. “If it weren’t fer the Fel Iron, nobody’d be here. Thorium we can also get in nicer places.”

“We are not interested in the nice places,” said Mareva. “We want the nasty, diseased, corrupted places, and cleanse them.”

“Cleanse this place? Hah! Yer off yer rocker, lass! Ye’d need to drop a whole ocean on this place to cleanse it.”

“If we have to,” said Mareva, “Then that is what we will do. May your days be long, and your hardships few.”

She took a deep breath, and ran down the path.


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

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