Book 6 – Chapter Four

Taveth sighs in the hot air as he crests a hill and sees Honor Hold in the distance. “Oh, much closer than I expected.” He frowns down at the orange sand underfoot and closes his eyes for a moment. “It’ll be fine. They won’t notice I’m an elf. Just get the armor, and some way to carry it…and get out. Easy.” He reaches into his satchel and finds the smooth stone with the lion’s head engraved on it. The pad of his thumb rubs nervously at the pattern as he takes another deep breath and forces himself to keep walking.

Orange dirt coats the elf’s boots and the tail of the cloak by the time he finds himself standing at the gates of Honor Hold. He swallows as his gaze sweeps across the new stone wall surrounding the Alliance outpost. He eyes the two guards and takes a breath. Taveth pulls on his hood and ducks his head. A guard cocks an eyebrow as he passes, then narrows his eyes across the way to his companion. The second guard shrugs and so the first turns to resume his stern scrutiny of the barren land surrounding them.

“I’m looking for an armorer,” Taveth says on a near whisper to the innkeeper.

The innkeeper looks up and nods wearily. “On the west side.”

Taveth nods to the man and exits the inn. He pulls on his hood and makes his way to the other side of the Hold, where a shop bears a sign with an anvil and hammer. Once inside, he goes to the shopkeep. “Do you have any armor that would suffice without being fitted to the wearer?” He eyes a suit of green plate in the corner on a display.

The man nods and scratches at his beard. “I have average sized put-togethers, if that’s what yer lookin’ fer.” He eyes the man before him. “But yer even too skinny fer that.”

Taveth gives an uncomfortable laugh. “They’re not for me. I need a full set for one man and one woman, plus a weapon. I hope that is a simple enough request.” He pauses, licking his lips as he thinks. “As for payment, I was hoping you’d honor this token from our king.” He mentally calculates which king would be holding the throne in this timeline.

The smithy takes the token and eyes it dubiously. He sniffs loudly before nodding. “Gimme a minute to rummage in back. How tall a man?” He hands back the token and sets his hammer down to dip beneath the thick cloth behind him.

Taveth holds up his hand over his head. “About two meters, give or take.” He hold out his other hand to indicate his cousin’s height. “The woman is about here.”

The smithy returns after a long while with the items in his arms and ties all the pieces together with a heavy thread, then wraps the bundle with a thick cloth. “Here ye are. Good luck out there.”

Taveth smiles and takes the bundle, first slinging the axe for Alisbeth across his shoulders. He lifts the armor and the weight drags him down, ripping his hood back and nearly tearing the clasp of the cloak free from the fabric. He drops the plate bundle and yanks his hood back in place, his eyes wide. “Heh. H-heavier than it looks.” He begins dragging the items to the door. “Heh. Heh heh. I b-better get going!”

The mean straightens and scowls. “Hey! Waiddaminnit.” He rounds the anvil and bends at the waist, then straightens. “Ye dropped yer gorget.”

Taveth flinches, then relaxes as he takes the item. “Thank you.” He carefully arranges the items to lift and set across his shoulders, cringing and bowing under the weight. He heads back out to the gates, keeping his head low and his hood pulled over his glowing eyes. The elf pauses as he gets his bearings, trying to discern from which way he’d come before. He finds a landmark he recognizes and begins the arduous trek across the hot land.

The scholar groans under the weight of the armor sets and stoops to set it on the ground. He straightens and rolls his shoulder. After a moment, he sets himself upon a large boulder to rest. “I would sell my soul for a map.”

An axe plants into the soft sandstone inches from his fingers. <<How about you work for it instead?>> a deep voice says in Orcish. The stranger rips the cowl from Taveth’s head, then pulls him to his feet by his ponytail. <<High elf,>> he growls and reaches for his axe.

He scrabbles at the hand pulling on his hair. <<I’m sure we can work this out peacefully,>> he insists, also in Orcish.

The orc sneers at how his gruff language sounds through the tongue of an elf. <<Take it up with the general.>> He turns and drops Taveth to his feet facing south. He prods him hard in the back with the end of his axe. <<Walk. Or I drag you by your hair.>>

The elf flinches and for a moment contemplates fighting back . Instead he closes his eyes,  lifts his hands in the air, then begins walking. <<How far are we going?>>

<<Zeth’gor.>>

<<What’s your name?>> the elf asks, peeking over his shoulder. <<I’m Taveth.>>

The orc merely growls in response, already mentally preparing himself to gag his prisoner.

<<I have many friends within the Horde,>> Taveth continues, knowingly stretching the truth. <<I’m an ambassador. If you harm me—>>

<<Then there’s going to be one less ambassador. Now shut up.>>

Taveth clenches his jaw. Where is that succubus when I actually need her?

Back at the hut, Tryxora carefully eases the infant from Kel’ori’s arms. In a swirl of purple a tattered cloth appears in her other palm. She swaddles Bel’theas in it, then tucks him back into the crook of the high elf’s arm. <<So precious.>>

The orc and his captive arrive at a bustling yet broken down encampment. Hellfire orcs mill about, sparring and honing weapons. The guard at the entrance regards them.

<<New prisoner?>>

The orc behind Taveth nods. <<Quel’dorei. I’m putting him with the rest until Morkh decides what to do with them.>> He gives Taveth a push forward. <<Hut on the right up ahead.>>

Taveth purses his lips and dutifully goes where he’s directed. He keeps his commentary to himself as he takes in the orc outpost instead before being shoved into a dark Hut. Once his eyes adjust to the dark he takes in the several draenei and one blood elf shut within.

The blood elf–a man with long, bright crimson tresses–perks. He smiles, his green eyes glowing in the darkness. “Welcome to the party hut. Catering’s running a bit late—”

“Shut it, Illidari.”

Taveth smirks at the elf as he drops to the dirt floor. After the orc slams and locks the door, he turns back to the man. “That’s a shame, I hear the food is to die for, here.”

The sin’dorei gives a quiet laugh. “Oh, you’ll die for it.” He gives Taveth a brief inspection. “So what were you up to? Spying, perhaps?”

He lets out a long breath of exasperation. “I bought armor for my friends and was taking it to them. I stopped for a break and he got me by the ponytail.” He releases a small scoff of a laugh, then mutters, “No wonder he cut his off.” He clears his throat. “How did you get caught? He said you’re an Illidari?”

The red haired elf nods and leans back on his palms. “Was. We were on our way to our initiation ritual. Decided to run off instead.” He shrugs as though unashamed. “Found me hiding in a cave further south.” He tilts his head, grinning. “Who cut their hair? Your boyfriend?”

He blushes. “N-no. Heh. Just a friend.” He fidgets in the darkness, then holds out his hand. “I’m Taveth, by the way. Taveth Nightheart. Scholar of Stormwind.”

The elf takes his hand. “Baemalen. Dawnwhisper. Traitor and coward.” He gives a wide smile. “A scholar, eh? How is that working for you?”

Taveth chuckles. “It’s a great profession for cowards, if you don’t mind spending most of your time locked in a library.” He frowns then. “Why did you run off? Illidari life not what you thought it’d be?”

Baemalen scratches at the nape of his neck—the only sign of his unease. “I guess I just got cold feet. Most elves die during initiation. I was nursing a hangover. The odds weren’t in my favor.” He chuckles. “Maybe I’ll look into being a scholar if I ever get out of here.”

Taveth thinks for a moment about the repercussions of him even being in that location, let alone if he changes anything. Against his better judgement, he takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. “My friends…are probably coming. Maybe. Eventually. I’m not sure they’ve noticed I’m missing, yet. Heh. They were rather preoccupied when I left.” He clears his throat. “I’m sure they’d help free you, as well. Maye you can talk to my friend. He’s a demon hunter, as well. Perhaps he can provide you the courage you need to finish your initiation.”

Baemalen tilts his head, then pulls his hair over his shoulder so it no longer touches the floor. “Is that so? Then perhaps.” He gives a laugh with only a hint of nervousness. “I wouldn’t hold out hope. To be honest, I was looking for the portal home and the orcs brought me really close. Now that I know where it is…” He shrugs. “Though I hope you get out of here unscathed.”

Again, Taveth thinks on the consequences of saying anything and bites his tongue. “I wish you luck, then. Whether you accept help from my friends and me, or if you stay here… Good luck. I hope you get home.”

Baemalen perks at a commotion outside. He casts a sideways smirk to Taveth. “Well, it seems that time has come sooner rather than later.”

Taveth gets up and listens at the door, then finds a crack wide enough to look out. Seeing no guards, he takes the opportunity to try summoning Keeshokin. After a moment of nothing happening, he tries for the succubus again. He deflates when she again doesn’t appear.

Baemalen rises to his feet and stretches. “I guess it’s time we make our exit?”

Taveth backs up as the shouting grows more intense. Something pounds against the door and he hops backward. After a moment the blade of a large axe smashes in through the boards, twists, then rips the door completely off the hinges.

Keeshokin tosses the door aside, then glares in at the high elf. <<I was hoping to find your corpse.>>

“Heh. Not today, I’m afraid.” He motions for Baemalen to follow, then urges the other captives out as well.

Out in the small outpost, an orc runs past, screaming as his robe burns with green fire. A shivara runs past, chasing down a group of four, a sword in each of her hands swinging at them. A fireball crashes to the ground then comes together as an infernal, stomping on orcs and crushing them under its feet.

Tryxora lands beside the elf and slams into him. <<You’re okay!>>

“Wh-where are the others?” he asks, somewhat in shock over the sight.

<<Over there.>> She points toward the largest gathering of orcs in the area, all beating against a weakening barrier shielding the five.

Baemalen stands but makes no motion to move. He goes to the door when it’s cleared, brow furrowed. “You’re a warlock?!” he exclaims, stepping away when a pack of imps scrambles by. His grin returns. “That’s awesome!” He picks up an abandoned sword and twirls it in his fingers, then slices through the leg of a rushing orc.

Taveth flinches, then blushes as a small smile spreads across his lips. “Th-thanks. It was an accident. Heh.” He blinks as the shouting breaks his small spell of happiness. He withdraws the spine dagger and the flaming skull of Thal’kiel shimmers into view.

<<What an odd locale.>>

“Time to help my friends. Over there!” He points and the demons all make their way to the gathering of orcs, killing any that get in their way.

Tryxora pokes her head in a swirling portal, then steps back. A dark hound leaps out, shakes its purple mane, then looks at the succubus. She hops on the large demon canine’s back and charges across the area, screaming a battle cry.

Taveth furrows his brow. “Oh, no, I’ll just walk. I’m fine.”

Alisbeth throws herself sideways as a huge rock foot comes down to crush the orc she’s fighting. Koltira yanks Anarchaia to the side as a few stray fireballs shoot past the orc the imps were aiming at. With the distraction of the demons, he begins cutting down enemies with renewed vigor.

“Something tells me she found Taveth,” he laughs to the mage.

Anarchaia gives a small, half laugh. “Y-yeah. Thank gods.”

Grimory rushes past the mass of burning orcs and chaos toward Taveth. “Tav! You’re okay!”

The red haired elf perks his ears and turns his head at the voice. He slowly lowers his weapon. “Silversong?” he says quietly, then grins again. “Grimory!” He turns to join the other two elves, but doesn’t get far. A heavy axe digs through the flesh of his shoulder and chest. He stumbles before falling face first into the dirt.

Grimory’s smile turns to a grimace of horror. He grabs at the sides of his head in anguish and disbelief. “Baemalen!

Warlord Morkh rips his weapon from the dead elf and scowls at the other two. He growls as the other Illidari runs toward him. He stops the smouldering claws with his axe. <<Are you two the cause for all this uproar?>>

Eyes flickering with rage-fueled fire, Grimory kicks the massive orc away. He runs at him again and the two enter in a sort of dance where one counters the other. Eventually, strengthened by his need for vengeance, Grimory sees an opening and slashes his claws across the orc’s neck.

Morkh stumbles back, a hand over his throat, then slowly sinks to his knees and dies there, held up by his armor.

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