Lauren staggered back into the narrow strip of land that separated the tilled farmland from the woods that surrounded Felstone Field. She figured out pretty early on that the area was relatively safe – too far from the giant spiders that lurked in the shadows of the trees, far enough to stay hidden from the unseeing eyes of the skeletons. Here she could catch her breath.
The warrior retrieved a runecloth bandage from her pack and began to apply it to a long and bloody slice on the side of her neck. One of those horrors had gotten in a lucky strike and pried its axe into the gap between Lauren’s helmet and her pauldrons. She unrolled the slender length of cloth and touched it to the wound when a sudden fit of coughing overtook her. The girl’s body wracked violently and she dropped the bandage to the ground; instantly it turned a pallid shade of grey and began to crumble into dust, its healing power sucked dry by the diseased land itself. “Son of a—“ Lauren cursed in frustration. If the walking dead couldn’t kill you quickly with a blade, they’d do it slowly with their sickness.
With a tired heart Lauren once again turned her attention to the farmland and the giant cauldron at its center. Get the key, undo the lock, steal a sample of the fluid inside, get back to base. The mission seemed so simple, and indeed it had been from the journey around Andorhal to the farm. Felstone itself, however, was different. The enemies here were smarter. They hit harder and they had ways of infecting you if you weren’t fast enough. Wren smirked ironically – she’d trained to be tough, not quick. She’d trained to protect Khrystina and her friends. A lot of good that training was doing her now.
The skeleton guards around the cauldron were well trained too, or at least had been animated by someone who was. Their pattern was regular enough to ensure proper protection of the field, but chaotic enough to prevent Lauren from finding a gap to exploit. She’d already attempted three feints at her target and was rebuffed each time. It killed the warrior to admit it, but she wasn’t up to this task on her own.
“Fancy meeting you here, Montrose.” Wren stifled a yelp as she wheeled around, the razor tip of her sword instantly at the speaker’s throat. “Whoa, whoa! Put that thing down before you hurt somebody!”
The blonde let the sword stay at the soldier’s neck for a moment, making a point before relaxing her arm and pointing her weapon at the brown earth. “Kiel az, don’t do that! Next time you’re not gonna be so lucky.”
Barrien’s face broke into a wide grin. “I’m always lucky, Montrose. Fortune is my middle name!”
“Draenei don’t have middle names,” said Lauren as she rolled her eyes and turned back to study the intricate dance of the undead.
“Neither do you, Montrose. What’s your point?”
Wren closed her eyes, gritted her teeth and clutched the grip of her sword. “Is that why you came all the way out here, Barrien?”
“No, I came to save your sorry human tail.” The jovial sound that had been in the draenei’s voice a moment earlier had disappeared entirely.
“Don’t need help,” said the warrior under her breath as she continued to scan the field of battle. “What I need is… there!” Wren sprinted back into the fray, sword aloft.
“Goka veni no” Barrien sighed. He bowed his head, touched two fingers to the silver insignia on his cloak and began to run after the blonde.
Lauren managed to catch one of the skeletons unawares, and with a mighty chop severed the skull from the remainder of the body. Undeterred, the headless nightmare fought back at its attacker with uncanny precision, crushing its morning star directly on top of the girl’s shoulder and causing her to briefly buckle in pain. Wren compensated by swinging hard with the back of her shield, sending the skeleton reeling. She quickly hacked at the bony torso, chipping the ends off three of its ribs. A smile crossed her face as she pivoted for another swing, but it was replaced by a grimace at the sight of a large ghoul running her direction: the cauldron lord had spotted her.
Reacting on instinct, Lauren stomped the blighted ground with enough force to send shocks up her legs and into the small of her back. The knees of the undead minions buckled and the remainder of the bony figure dropped to the earth, unmoving. The ghoul, however, lunged forward and clamped its slavering fangs around the warrior’s sword arm. Wren groaned and kicked with her heavy boots at the monster, trying to force it to release its grip. Tighter and tighter the hideous beast closed its jaws. The sharpest of its teeth punctured Lauren’s heavy plate armor and she let loose with an agonized scream.
Suddenly and inexplicably, the ghoul released its bite and bent backward, howling in agony. Fueled by adrenaline, the warrior hacked time and again at the wailing creature, dark green ichor flying in all directions until at long last the fiend lay still in the dust.
Lauren stood straight and gazed down at her opponent’s unmoving and broken form for a few seconds before falling backward: a rigid and painful fall caused by the locking of the girl’s muscles. Her blue and tear-filled eyes scanned back and forth in search of an explanation and only relaxed a bit as the huge draenei stepped forward where she could see him.
“You’re going to die, Montrose.”
Wren wanted to scream, to cry out for help, but could only lay paralyzed and panicked. She could feel her chest tightening, breaths getting shorter and shorter.
“This is what happens out here,” continued Barrien, his voice level and calm. “Out here, you fight alone, you die alone. This isn’t some safari in Stranglethorn, Montrose. This is war. The Plaguelands may no longer be the front in the fight against Arthas, but it remains crucial to our victory.” He bent down close to Wren’s face. “Argent Dawn soldiers die every single day here, Montrose. And every single one of them that falls does so because they come alone, trying to take on the Lich King singlehandedly. You are part of an army now, Montrose,” said the draenei, his hands beginning to glow. “Time you started acting like it.”
The great blue-skinned being knelt, laid his left hand on Lauren’s forehead and his right hand on her stomach. A light green haze began to issue from her nostrils and mouth and steaming green tears rolled out of the corners of her eyes and into her ears. She coughed violently and Barrien turned her on her side. He whispered a prayer and vitality surged through Wren’s body, giving her the strength to move once again.
The draenei stood. “On your feet, soldier.” Haltingly, Lauren obeyed. “Retrieve the key to the cauldron from your enemy.” The girl staggered to the remains of the ghoul and fished loose a golden key from the fetid corpse. “Use your hearthstone. Go home and rest. Return to Chillwind in three days’ time and no sooner.” For the first time since her fall, Lauren looked up with pleading blue eyes, silently shaking her head. “That is an order, Montrose.” Scowling, she pulled her hearthstone loose from the leather holster on her belt and activated its magic. “Three days, Montrose. Don’t disappoint me.” Wordlessly, Wren straightened as best she could and slowly saluted Barrien just before fading from view.
The draenei looked across the fallow tilled rows at a robed gnome attended to by a hulking demon and sighed. “Class is back in session,” he said to himself as he melted back into the shadows and awaited his next pupil.
writing/the silver cord ch 02.txt · Last modified: September 3, 2011 by Dave Leach