Site Write Round 3
The Long Way Home
The sun sat high in the sky, half hidden by the orange smog of the Eastern Plaguelands. Were one watching from above they would have seen the creatures of the area, as diseased and mutated as they may be, running this way and that, going about their days. To the west stood the bridge that connected the Eastern Plaguelands to their Western, healing, sibling. Crossing it was a deceased Worgen.
Resting on his head was an old leather hat, its condition better than it should be based on its age. One could still identify a few black marks where, though they likely wouldn't know it, Beckyann Eastberg had cried against it while she waited for the Worgen to hopefully wake up after an incident. It had holes cut in the top of it for his ears to poke through while still doing its job, that being to cover his head. Below the hat the Worgen's face was rather neutral, glowing blue eyes signifying him as a Death Knight, his fur a darker shade of blue. The armor he wore was a black-blue, Saronite, covered with his black and white tabard a skull on both sides of it. Unlike some, he wore no pauldrons, no helm, and no cloak.
His pace was slow and steady, arms slowly shifting back and forth while he walked, eyes slowly shifting around to examine his surroundings, not that he needed to. He had walked down this path enough times to know the land well. Of course, there wasn't much land to see. Plagued grounds, and trees for some time, before the old homes would start, some in one pieces, others having degraded to the point where you could easily see inside them. As he came upon the first one, his pace slowed, before out right stopping as he stared at it. Rather, at those in front of it.
He could recognize it easily as the first house one might encounter on the road, as well as it being one of those that had survived well enough to be in one piece, roof still hanging overhead, walls still supporting it. In the past, though, it had been abandoned. Now there were three men standing outside of it. One was pounding his fist against the door, the other two standing behind him. Of those two, one was resting against an ax, the other a club.
“Come on! Open it up! We just wanna talk!” the man yelled, pounding more against the door. Redamous silently approached them, standing back, arms crossed. The man kicked the door, “Open it now! We can break it down! Ken back here's got an ax!” He glanced over his shoulder at the two behind him, namely the one on the right, “Get the ax ready.”
Ken nodded to the man, bringing the ax's head from the ground, holding the weapon with both hands now. He slowly stepped forward, offering it to the man at the door, who turned to take it. “Lewis, get ready to bash her brains out. Let the plaguehounds find her for all I care.” Lewis nodded, stepping up to the door, raising the club's head up and dropping it down into his hands over and over.
Red coughed into his hand, causing the three to turn with a start. The Worgen slowly looked them over, examining their respective weapons, before looking directly at the man knocking on the door. When he spoke, his voice maintained a fairly neutral tone, “Problems?”
The man knocking took in a deep breath, looking at the Worgen. He shot a glance to both of his sides, slowly offering Ken his ax back, before drawing a knife from his belt. Using the knife, he motioned for Red to continue on up the road, smiling as politely as a shark would to its prey, “Just. Keep going. Nothing to see here. None of your business.”
“Well,” Red said, looking at the knife, “When you put it like that, suppose it ain't none o' my business. But now I'm deathly curious, 'cause now you're kinda threatenin' me there mate. So. Maybe you folks should be the ones to keep walkin'.”
“Can't,” the man said, tapping the blade against the palm of his hand, “Kind of invested in this, you see.” He turned the blade in his hand, grabbing it by its tip, before flinging it at the Worgen.
Red ducked, watching the knife fly over his head. Turning to look at the men again, he frowned, shaking his head, “Oh you're gonna wish you hadn' done that one, mate.”
Without any warning, Red reached out, unholy energies slamming the two men at the knife thrower's sides against the ground, pulling them closer to the Worgen. The remaining man blinked, eyes widening as he retreated only to find his back hitting against the door. The Worgen charged, slamming into him, before grabbing his shoulders and tossing him to the ground. He stared down at all three of them, face the picture of calm. Lewis began to slowly rise from the ground, only to find the Worgen's foot pressing him back towards the dirt, and his weapon tossed somewhere. Ken didn't even try to rise, only hearing the snapping of the wooden ax across the Worgen's knee. Both of them watched, horrified, as the Worgen brought a claw close to their leader's throat.
“Now. You get a few options here. All of them involve you leaving. One of them involves you walking while you do that. Another don't. Take your pick,” Red said, not even trying to sound threatening by this point.
The man stared at him for a few short moments, testing to see if he could actually physically end the Worgen with his gaze. Sadly for him, he could not. “Fine,” he finally said, growling more than the Worgen had the entire time.
Red nodded, rising, motioning for them to leave. They slowly pushed themselves off the ground, the first two not even leaving the Death Knight a second to go back on his word, bolting The third stared Red down, before doing the same.
Once he was certain that he was the only one left nearby, Redamous turned to look at the house. He wanted to just continue up the path and leave it be, but a morbid sense of curiosity wasn't about to let that happen, especially not after all of that. Approaching the house, he looked left and right, trying to peek through the windows to find them too dusty for such. Slowly, he reached out to try the doorknob, surprised when he found it unlocked.
The door opened with a loud creak. He let it remain open for a time, peering into the small one room home, until he decided that it had to be empty. First one of his feet crept forward, before being followed by the other, until he had brought himself fully inside. As he peered further and further into the back of the room, he entirely missed the figure sneaking up behind him, wielding a large piece of wood, before slamming it against the back of Red's head. The Worgen dropped to his knees, before slumping forward face first onto the dusty wooden floor.
“Shit,” he heard someone say. A girl, and not too old by the sounds of it. “Oh shit shit shit,” they said again. He could feel a hand pressing up against his throat in a few places, checking for a pulse that they would never possibly find.
“He's dead. Oh shit he's dead,” they said, voice growing more and more panicked, their footsteps echoing around the room as they paced about, up and down to his right. “What the hell am I going to do with a dead guy? I can leave him here. Yeah, yeah. Who's gonna come looking for a dead guy? I mean really. They'll just figure bandits did it, or something. Yeah. Oh shit it's a dead guy. I killed him. I killed him. No. Wait. Maybe they killed him. I bet they hurt him, and I just finished him off. Yeah. That's got to be it.”
He could feel a hand poking against the side of his head, yet he still decided to keep his eyes closed, “Maybe I could take his hat.”
Red groaned, turning over to where he was on his back, slowly opening his eyes, just in time to see the girl recoil in horror. “You ain't stealin' my hat,” he grumbled, sitting up and rubbing his head. He slowly looked her over, blinking a few times, “What in the holy hell are you doin' out here?”
The girl couldn't have been more than fifteen, if she was that much. She was wearing a red cloth shirt that was untucked, leaving it to hang over ever so slightly her darker cloth pants. Her shoes were older, and worn, brown hair tied back to rest against her back. She slowly regained her composure, crossing her arms across her chest to stare at him, “I'm out here 'cause I want to be out here. Simple as that.”
“Well you shouldn't be, simple as that,” he said, still patting his head to make sure that nothing was damaged. He was looking for any sort of structural damage. The last thing he was worried about was brain damage.
“Not like it's any of your business,” she said, moving over to a spot on the windows that she had dusted off to have a view outside.
Red rose slowly, grunting slightly as he did so, “No, it ain't, but still, you shouldn't be out here.” Noticing what she was doing, he added, “They're gone.”
She let out a sigh of relief, looking back at him, “Do I have to say thank you?”
“Wouldn't hurt,” he said, “Maybe tack on an 'I'm sorry' while you're at it too.
She rolled her eyes, “Yeah, sorry about that. Can't be too careful.”
“Uh huh,” he muttered, staring at her, “Again. What in the world are you doing out here?”
She was only half paying attention to him at this point as she wandered around the room, picking up a few things scattered across the floor. A knife, what looked to be a few cans of food, a bedroll. All those things were shoved into a pack that soon went onto her back. She looked up at him when she was finished, shrugging, “Stuff.” With that, she headed towards the door, exiting the house.
Red blinked, following her. When he exited back out into the Plaguelands, he found her walking further up the road, the sun making quite some progress in its trek towards the west. Sighing, he followed after her, a voice screaming in the back of his head that he was going to regret it.
She could hear him coming up behind her, but she never turned to look at him. Instead her focus was on the sights around her, whether that be the number of dying trees, or the old ruins of homes. Occasionally an animal would scurry across the road in front of her, and she would try to follow it with her eyes for as long as she could.
“Oi,” Red said, trying to draw her attention while still keeping a distance behind her. She wasn't walking extremely fast, making that rather easy. “Where in the world do you think you're going?”
“This way,” she said, pointing forward.
Red sighed, “Why.”
“I feel like it, I guess,” she said, offering a simple shrug, “Let me guess. I'm probably gonna get eaten, aren't I?”
“Ain't my problem,” Red said, looking around himself. They were passing through by one of the old ruins of a town.
“Then why are you heading this way, huh?” she asked, turning around and walking backwards to look at him.
Red blinked, staring at her, “...'Cause.”
“Well if it isn't your problem, why are you walking this way?” she said, looking amused now.
“'Cause you shouldn't be walkin' through here. That's why.”
“Didn't you just say that wasn't your problem?” She was smirking by now.
She turned, walking forward again, “Then you're welcome to leave! Before you get eaten too! Besides, haven't you heard that old story about a Worgen chasing a girl through a dark forest?”
Red opened his mouth to speak, before shutting it and simply following along. She said nothing more to him, taking in her surroundings. They walked in silence, him a few feet behind her. After awhile, his ears twitched ever so slightly. He reached forward, resting a hand against her shoulder, feeling her tense up under it. She turned, looking prepared to run, but he shook his head, grabbing her shoulder to prevent her from doing so. When he knew she was going to be ready to scream, he put a finger against his lips, looking around again.
Somewhere behind them, a twig snapped. Her eyes grew wide, and she slowly nodded, stepping slightly closer to him. Red's eyes shot around, this way and that, seeking out the source of the noise. A figure slowly moved through the trees around them, first appearing here, then there, before finally emerging to their left.
Its skin was rotting, and it was missing an eye that it didn't bother to cover. Adorned in leather armor, two knives on its belt, the Forsaken tried to grin with what was left of its face. He tilted his head this way and that, trying to make sense of the situation, only finding it more and more amusing. His voice was a horrible cracking tone, “Well isn't this interesting.”
Red slowly slid the girl behind him, staring the Forsaken down as it slowly inched closer to them. “Suppose you could see it that way,” he said, keeping his cool about him.
“Oh I think it is,” the Forsaken crackled out, tapping a finger against the side of his face, “A Gilnean mutt, and a bald little pup to go with him. That's quite the picture, you know. It's very entertaining.” He slowly began circling the pair, Red turning to make sure that he kept himself between the Forsaken and the girl. “Protective one, aren't you?”
“An' you're a patchworked creep,” Red said, staring, “Now that we're all established, why don't you just keep walking.” From behind him, the girl glanced up at him, looking thankful.
“No fun in that,” he cooed, stepping closer to the Worgen. The space between them was shrinking, the two of them waiting for the other to make a move. The Forsaken's fingers played over the hilt of his daggers, waiting. Upon the Forsaken's next step, Red muttered something under his breath, rushing forward.
The Forsaken grinned, trying to pull his daggers from their resting places, only to find that he couldn't down. He looked down to find that they had been frozen in place. When he looked back up it was in the split-second before the Worgen slammed into him, knocking him to the ground. Red stared down at the other undead, who hardly looked worried. The Forsaken brought his elbow up against the Worgen's nose, using the point where he lifted his head up from it to bring his knee against Red's stomach, flipping him over to where the Forsaken now sat on top.
Smashing a hand against one of his daggers, the ice around it broke and the Forsaken drew it against the Worgen's throat, “Someone decided to be all playful, didn't they. I knew you were a playful puppy all along. You just look it. Pent up rage and all that. So come on little puppy. Toss me around a bit. Or try.” He brought the dagger closer to Red's throat, smiling, “Off with his head, they said.”
He began the motion to begin cutting into the Worgen's neck. Red began to try to push the Forsaken off of him, before seeing the girl standing over them, a large rock in hand. She heaved it against the Forsaken's head, it landing with a large thud, his teeth slamming against each other a few breaking out. There was a horrible crack as Red could practically feel the thing's skull crunch. Red jerked his head to the right, nearly being hit by the rock as it slid forward off of the Forsaken's squished head.
Casually pushing the at least stunned Forsaken off of him, Red stood. Staring down at the it, he took a step back, running forward and kicking its head clean off for good measure. He sighed, looking to the girl, offering her a faint nod, “Thanks.”
“D-did...D-did I...” she covered her mouth, stepping back from the decapitated creature. “Did I kill it...” Her voice was hoarse, and worried. She didn't even wait for a reply, heading for a dry bush, retching into it.
Red sighed, walking over to gently pat her on the back. When she had recovered someone, he looked down at the re-deceased, “I think I did. So lets put that one on me, and you not worry about it. Okay?” She slowly nodded, hands still covering her mouth. For a moment, he was worried she was going to be ill again. He sighed, trying to lead her a bit further up the road. “Come on. You need to lie down, and it's getting late. You got food and a sleeping bag or somethin', right?”
She simply nodded, and said nothing more.
Night found the two sitting around a campfire that Red had started. He sat on one said, resting back against a log, watching her on the other side eat while curled up halfway in a sleeping bag. Her eyes mainly rested against the fire, a can of soup and a spoon in her hand. She slowly ate, he simply watched.
Earlier when she had pulled out the cans, she had offered him one, but he had declined, leaving her to give him an odd look. He was certain she was eventually going to ask, but as of yet she hadn't. Yet.
“So,” she said, glancing up at him, “Why are you out here?”
He looked towards the dark woods, before looking back to her and shrugging, “Live out here, I guess.”
“Odd place to live, if you ask me,” she muttered, looking back at the fire. “Do you have any family or anything?”
“Kinda,” he said, shrugging again, “Kinda. I got folks I hang around. I trust 'em enough. They ain't blood or nothin', but they're close enough to count. Make sense?”
“I guess,” she said, looking up at him again. She eyed him over, before looking up at his face, “Why are you following me?”
“'Cause. I ain't gonna let no kid get killed out here 'cause they ain't gonna turn around and be sensible.”
“Uh huh,” she said, looking at the fire, “I have to be out here. I have things I want to do.”
“And what kinda o' things are those,” he said, shifting forward a bit, elbows resting against his knees, “Gettin' yourself robbed or worse by bandits or whatever the hell those guys were? Maybe getting' eaten by an animal or somethin'. What could you possibly have to do out here?”
“I don't think that's any of your damn business,” she said, glaring at him, for a moment sounding older than she was. “If I wanna come out here, that's none of your business. Didn't you already say it wasn't your problem?”
He frowned, “Yeah, I did.”
“Well it isn't your problem. And I recall you saying you don't care, either, so why are you really here?” she said accusingly.
“'Like I said. I ain't about to let you get yourself killed, kid,” he said, “'Cause you're in a place that ain't safe for you, and you got a bit of a ways to go 'fore I can make sure some paladin makes sure you get shoved on a gryphon back to Stormwind. That's why.”
“So you do care,” she said, pointing her spoon at him, “You just don't want to admit, right? Come on. Just say it. You're worried about me.”
“I ain't havin' you dyin' on my conscience.”
She sighed, shaking her head, “Good to know.”
They sat in silence for some time, her eating, him watching. Every now and then he would toss a stick into the fire, letting out a short sigh. Finally, he broke the silence again, “You got a name?”
“Well duh,” she said, sticking her tongue out at her, “Everyone has a name.”
“And yours is...” He sighed, tossing another stick into the fire. He was far from in the mood for this.
“Ashley,” she said. She set her can aside, now that it was empty, leaning forward to caustiously stick her hand over the fire, “Ashley.”
Red tried to smirk, shaking the hand, “Redamous. You can call me Red, if you want.”
She nodded, “I guess I'll go with...Red? Red works. You don't look very Red, though. More blue. 'Specially your eyes. What's up with that?”
“It's a long story that ain't worth tellin' right now,” he said, frowning slightly. No, she actually had no idea. Odd.
She let out a yawn, nodding, “Maybe another time?”
He nodded, “Maybe another time.”
Ashley tucked herself deeper into the sleeping bag, resting back against the ground, and closed her eyes. Silence over took the small makeshift camp again, leaving the Worgen to watch her, the only thought running through his mind being him questioning why in the world he was still there.
“I'm heading home, Dom.”
“Well I sure as hell ain't. If you wanna let some deader push you around, that's your problem, Lewis. Girl's probably still alive, if he didn't eat her or something.”
“And if he did?"
“Then I doubt he took her shit.”
“I'm with Lewis, Dom. I'm going home. Not worth it. How much do you even think we'd be getting?”
“Easily three hundred."
“You really want to do all of this for a hundred gold. You're gonna mess around in the Plaguelands for that much? Not worth it.”
“Well screw you then. Mine.”
“You're freaking nuts.”
“Hey, if he wants to meet his maker, let him. Not our faults.”
“Yep. Good luck with that, Dom. Really. Don't screw the pooch too hard.”-----
As she rolled up her sleeping bag and put everything back where it belonged in her pack, Red idly kicked out the remaining embers of the fire. Considering he had nothing to collect himself, they were only waiting on her.
“Sure you don't want me to carry that for you?” Red said as they headed off down the back.
She grunted a little as she adjusted the bag, shaking her head, “Nope. All mine."
“I ain't gonna steal nothin', you know,” he said, smirking.
“I don't care. I got it. You're just gonna keep following me, aren't you?” She didn't sound sad about that fact. Though she still didn't sound certain about it either.
“For now, I guess. At least gotta make sure you get to the Chapel. Gryphons are there.”
Even though she liked to think she said it quiet enough that he didn't hear it, his ears twitched slightly as she muttered softly “Keep telling yourself that.”
There was nothing of note for some time after that. The path was much like others in the Plaguelands, deteriorated. Around them, the trees remained dead, the ground dark and dead, the trees dying. Suffice to say the Plaguelands lived up to their namesake. Eventually a tower in the distance came into view, the bright light shining from its top shooting straight into the sky seemingly forever. She stopped in her tracks, staring up at at it.
“What is it?” she said, craning her neck as far as possible.
“It's a tower?” Red said, not entirely certain what she was asking.
“No, no. Why's it all bright up there?” she said, turning his head up towards the light.
“Oh. That? I dunno. Beacon or somethin'? Paladin's tower. Probably the Light or something,” he grumbled.
“Can we go look at it?” she asked, looking up at him. She immediately coughed into her hand, “I mean. I'm gonna go look at it. You can stay here if you want to wait for me or something.”
“Think I will,” he said, glancing at her, “Just. Please don't go running off without me.”
She shrugged, running up the hill towards the tower, “Don't start caring or anything.”
From where he stood, arms crossed, he could see her talking to one of the paladins at the tower. He sighed, shaking his head. Why in the world was he even still here? The obvious and most likely answer he hated. To make sure she was okay. Wasn't that the exact same thing he had criticized Beck for the other day? Trying to take care of a kid that wasn't her's? It was that or she was probably going to get herself guild, and like he said, there was no way he was going to let that sit on his conscience.
When he saw her returning, he frowned slightly. A paladin was following at a distance behind her, and as best as he could tell, she wasn't aware of it. When she got reached him, she began to speak, before the paladin beat her to it, “Has this man been following you?"
She turned suddenly to look at the paladin, mouth dropping open slightly, “Uh. Well. Kind of.”
“I see,” the paladin muttered, stepping forward, pushing the girl behind him much as Red had done the previous day. The Worgen was less than pleased with the motion. “Is there a reason for that?”
Red frowned, “I'm makin' sure she's not gonna get 'erself killed, pal. You got a problem with that?”
“Actually,” the paladin began to say.
“He's fine,” the girl said. When Red looked at her, her eyes shot straight to the ground, before she found the nerve to look back up at the paladin. “He's fine. I know what I'm doing, and if I say he's fine, then he's fine. It's none of your business, buddy.”
Red glanced at the paladin, smirking slightly, but shrugging. He scowled in return, mouthing the words “Watch it.” The Worgen nodded, tipping his hat politely to the man, before looking to the girl, “We movin' on?”
She nodded in return to him, “We're moving on. Have a nice day, sir.” She bowed slightly to the paladin, before they began to walk up the road again.
“Why'd you do that?” Red asked, staring at her back.
“Why'd I do what?” she said innocently enough, not returning his look.
“Stick up for me.”
“That? I don't know. Don't think about it. I don't care, if that's what you're thinking.”
“Not implying that.”
“He was gonna yell at you or make a scene when you haven't done anything wrong. Yet.”
Red raised an eyebrow slightly, “Yet?”
“It only takes once, I guess,” she said in return. “And you never know when that once will be, do you?”
“No, suppose you don't.”
They stopped further down the road when they came to a fork. To their left stood another tower, the road passing right by it. The road to their right ran off towards a town, a wooden signpost on it bearing a skull and crossbones. Beyond the sign, a number of shapes could be seen moving in and out. Some where transparent spirits, other more physical, yet ghoulish. She slowly backed up towards him.
“What's that way?” she said, peering up at him.
“That's uh. Oh what's it called. Corin's Crossing. Little town. Was a little town,” he said, looking down at her.
“Oh,” she said, peering back at the town. She started leaning this way and that, tilting her head as if searching for something, “My mom's from Corin's Crossing. What happened to it?"
“Well,” Red started, before pulling his hat off his head and scratching behind one of his ears, “Somethin' bad, obviously. Same thing that happened to the rest of the stuff around here. It got plagued, an' well. It wasn't a very happy endin'.”
“Oh,” she said again, frowning. Ashley pointed towards one of the houses that sat on a corner near the center of town, “I think that was my mom's house. She said it was somewhere near there. On a corner.”
Red nodded, glancing downward again, “Ain't your parents worried about you?”
She blinked, looking up at him, her voice never faltering once, “Nope.”
“Right,” he said, leading her towards the left path, “Lets not wait too long, then. Night's gonna be gettin' here soon.”
As they passed the tower, the Light not present at the top of this one for some reason, he could feel at least a dozen eyes on him, most of them with some degree of malice. All the same, no one stopped them, and they continued on without any sort of conflict from those of the Light.
By now they were following the river, their reflections barely visible against its dark waters. In front of them, a few slugs crossed the road. She stopped and stepped back when one of them grew close to them, but he assured her that it wasn't likely to harm them. If it tried, it wouldn't be too hard to either get rid of it, or leave it behind.
They eventually saw a pair of figures in the distance, slowly approaching them. Based on the noise, they were invested in their own conversation, and Red was fairly certain that they had yet to see him. He led her off the path, much to her annoyance, positioning them behind a tree. When the other pair passed, her eyes went wide and she pressed her back against him when she saw that they were two Forsaken. Red assured her when they were gone, shooting a glance up at the sky and the dying light. With that said, he went about gathering wood, and soon enough they were sitting at a camp again.
“What's wrong with those guys?” she said, much as he had expected her to, taking another spoonful of beans out of a can.
Red frowned, looking at the fire over looking at her, “Honest answer?”
“They're dead,” he muttered. Red glanced up at her, noting the odd look she gave him, “Well. They were dead. They aren't now. Somebody kind of brought 'em back. 'Cept they ain't alive again.
“Oh,” she said, looking down at the fire, “So they can get hurt worse and stuff? That must suck. Are they all mean like that?”
He chuckled, shaking his head, “I'd like to think not all of us are mean like that, no.
Ashley blinked, finishing off her food and setting it aside, “Us?” She gulped, realizing what that meant, “Is that why you don't eat or sleep or anything? Because you're like them?”
“Not entirely, I guess,” he said, shrugging, “We're put together differently, if that makes sense. Held together by different things. Kinda like how you can make somethin' outta different metal, I suppose.”
“Sounds like a shitty deal,” she said, frowning at him.
“Kind of is, I suppose. Things could be worse. Could be some mindless thing looking to kill folks or somethin'. I sure as hell ain't that. An' no. I ain't gonna hurt you or nothin'. I'm not like them in that regard,” he said, smiling at her.
“Hey,” she said, raising her hands defensively. “I never said anything like that. You did.”
“Right,” Red said, nodding, “Just wanted to make sure you got that.”
“Like you would tell me if you were gonna hurt me,” she said.
Red frowned, nodding, “Right.”
“So are you as uh,” she said, breaking the silence that set in after his last word, “Those people you talked about earlier. Do you act like this around them? What's the word for it? Detached?”
The Worgen frowned even more, staring at the fire and thinking. After a bit of time, he shrugged, “Maybe. Sometimes.”
She yawned, resting back and working her way deeper into her sleeping bag, “It sounds lonely.”
After he was certain she was asleep, Red muttered to himself, “I guess it is.”
By the middle of the next day, they stood outside of the walls surrounding Light’s Hope Chapel. The Worgen’s arms were crossed, the girl staring back and forth between him and the Chapel itself. Inside the walls, people were going about their business. A dwarf was smithing, a few of the guards were talking amongst themselves, while others were haggling with a merchant or two. Somewhere in the camp Red could smell someone cooking.
Ashley looked between the Worgen and the Chapel, frowning. She shook her head, pointing back down the road, “I’m going that way.”
Red sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, “Just how far are you goin’, exactly?”
“The ocean,” she said, looking past the Chapel to the lands behind it. “We’re close, right?”
The Death Knight sighed, nodding, “Yeah. We’re close, I guess.”
“Well,” she said, “I guess if I have to, I’ll just make sure one of those guys gets me there. Sound like a plan?” He shook his head. “What? It’ll be ‘safe’. That’s all you really care about, right? Besides, if I die, it won’t be your problem.”
“You ain’t doin’ that,” he said, turning to walk back the way they came.
She stared at him in disbelief, walking after him, “And why the hell not?”
“’Cause. No need to bother those folks when I’m already makin’ sure you’re gettin’ there.”
Behind him, the girl smirked. She bit her lip and shook her head, doing her best to hold off a remark.
They stopped in Tyr’s Hand come the evening, and he rested by the fountain, allowing her to wander the settlement. He could only hope that she wouldn’t run off without him, what with the light of the day fading, but they were close enough to her destination that he was certain that should she decide to do so, he would be able to catch up quickly.
A few of the people walking around the settlement shot him odd glances, but most were polite enough to offer him a faint nod. The Ebon Hold was close by. The last thing they wanted was to make one of its inhabitants angry. In return to their nods, he would politely tip his hat, and offer a smile in return. Though it struck them as odd, they weren’t about to deny the seemingly passive Death Knight that he was at least courteous.
Every now and then he would see her leave one building and wander on to the next, moving from the inn, to the library, to the chapel, and finally up the hill to the large Cathedral near the northeast end of the settlement. As it got later and later, he could smell food being cooked somewhere and hear people talking. A glance over his shoulder confirmed that there was smoke rising from one of the buildings, and probably most of the settlement’s inhabitants wandering over in that direction. He spied Ashley among them.
He sat, enjoying the constant buzz of conversation somewhere behind him, eyes closed, before someone nearby coughed. A single eye opened, looking around, before it settled on an older woman standing in front of him.
Redamous sat up a bit straighter, nodding politely to the woman, “Somethin' I can help you with, miss?”
She slowly eyed him over, taking him in. The Worgen was pretty certain he was being judged in some way. Without any forewarning, she squeezed in beside him on the bench, staring at him. She sounded somewhat amused, as she spoke, “Quite the pair, if I may say so myself.”
He blinked, an eyebrow slowly raising, “Pardon?”
“You and that girl,” she said, smiling. “A giant dead Worgen, and a teenager. I've heard a lot of odd pairs in my time. But that's the oddest I've heard in some time.” His eyes shot around for a moment, noticing that no one else was nearby. She chuckled, shaking her head, “Give an old girl points for at least trying to be subtle, please? Fine. The point. Why are you with her?”
Red shook his head, trying to find the words, before managing to mutter, “I don' know.
“You don't know,” she said, sounding more and more amused, “You don't know, but you're doing it anyway. Oh if that isn't the funniest thing I've heard in some time.”
“'Cause if I didn't, she'd get 'erself killed,” he grumbled, “I'd have trouble sleepin' if I knew that.”
She laughed, shaking her head, “You would've passed a number of people coming up this way, my friend. Unless you tried to avoid them, which doesn't look very good in your favor does it? Large man, escorting a young girl around, trying to avoid other people. That would sound a bit weird.”
“Suppose I did,” he said, nodding, “We walked by the towers an' such. What about it?”
“Well you could have easily passed her off to some well-to-do follower of the Light, who would have seen her safety as his sworn duty,” she said, laughing again as if the thought was silly. “But you didn't. It's interesting.” He stared at her, but she simply winked, “I'm old. I don't exactly get out much. I thrive on this kind of thing. I'm just curious. I'd like to think she'd have run off if this was a bad situation. And that looks very good in your favor.”
Red sighed, looking off forward, “It's...Nice. I guess.”
“Nice, hm? Interesting way of putting it,” she said, prodding his side. “I need more.”
“It's nice to have a place to go, a person to watch, I guess. Somebody to talk to, a bit. I mean. We don't talk too much or nothin', but it is nice,” he said, “I've had some trouble with that as of late, I guess. Knowin' where to go, or havin' a place to go. Or havin' somebody to have to watch.”
The older woman offered a gentler smile this time, nodding, “I'm sure it is. Aren't there plenty of your kind to have to watch though, hm? I've seen many of them pass through here. All high and mighty and making a fool of themselves. Why you'd think they were a person of the Light.” She chuckled to herself, elbowing him, “That one stays between you and me.”
He brought his right hand up, nodding, “Got my word. An' I suppose you're right, and there are times I do try to do that. But I guess they just happen to be grown folks, an' for the most part, the ones I can watch know how to take care of 'emselves. This is different.”
“Well then,” she said, staring forward herself, “That will make for an interesting story. If you ask me, it appears to be going well. Don't screw it up.” She laughed again, elbowing him, “And take an old woman's advice, would you?”
Red smirked, “I'm listenin'.”
“Enjoy it,” she said, slowly standing back up, resisting his attempt to assist her, “Stuff like this only lasts for a bit.”
“Right,” he muttered, watching her walk off. “Right.”
Once she had finished eating, they moved into the Enclave, making camp there. He had to search high and low to find any wood worth using, but in the end got the job done. She didn't need to worry about cooking anything, having already eaten alongside everyone else, and simply took to her sleeping bag, staring into the fire.
“Hey, Red,” Ashley said, not looking up from the fire.
“Yep?” Red said in return, glancing past it at her.
“Thanks,” she said, sitting up a bit to look at him. “For this.”
“No problem,” he said, smirking slightly, “We ain't there yet, you know.”
“It isn't that far, is it?” she said, trying to squint past him into the gloom.
He shook his head, laughing, “No. 'Bout maybe half an hour from here. Not that far.”
“Well I'm gonna be up bright and early to get to it.”
“Bright an' early,” he said, shaking his head, “Darlin', you've been up at maybe nine each mornin', every day. That ain't bright an' early.”
“Yeah, well. I'll show you,” she said, sticking her tongue out at him.
“And what exactly are you gonna do after all this?”
“I don't know yet,” she said, trying to shrug as best she could in the sleeping bag. “I'll figure it out when I need to. Right now, I know where I'm going, and I know what I'm doing.”
“Good feelin', that,” he said, chuckling softly, “Guess I do too. Up until tomorrow.”
“And what do you plan on doing?”
“I dunno yet. Guess I'll figure it out, won't I?”
“I'd hope so. Unless you're really boring or something.”
“Sometimes, yeah. Yeah I am.”-----
After she had nodded off, the Worgen remained awake. He rested back against a house they had decided to camp near, staring up at the sky. He could see no stars, and the moon was barely an outline. Every now and then he would sit up, poke at the fire or maybe toss a log in, and then rest back.
There was something calming about the quiet of the night, yet his mind was anything but calm. Try as he might, he couldn't dispel the thought that maybe, for some ungodly reason, he did care. There was no reason to care. He couldn't think of anything he had really cared about, beyond his own people, in years. Even that was pushing it, sometimes. It was hard to believe he 'cared' when he couldn't even bring himself to blink at one of them acting stupid and getting in trouble. Maybe that was natural.
He allowed his arms to cross, sighing quietly to himself. The morning would come soon enough, they would hike out to wherever she wanted to go, and then he would make sure she was on a gryphon back towards Stormwind or somewhere safer than this. That would be that. And then what? What would he possibly do after that? Go back to prowling Stormwind here and there?
Red sighed again. He was boring. More than sometimes. This was at least something different. Not only that, but he let himself actually laugh at things today. He had actually conversed with people outside of his own kin. Yet once this was all said and done, what was he likely to do? Go back to sitting around brooding. Dig himself back into the rut he'd created at some point in his un-life.
She started turning a bit in her sleep, the smallest of smiles on her face. Red allowed one of his own as he watched her. It was a sight he certainly hadn't ever planned on being able to see again.
Savor it. The woman had told him to savor it. He might as well.
Once she had quit tossing around, Red lay his head back against the wooden wall of the house, watching the sky. He pulled his hat down over his eyes, closed them, and waited for her to poke at him to get up. Without even trying, somehow, someway, the Death Knight found sleep. A dreamless sleep, but sleep nonetheless.
Red jerked up, hat falling off of his face and landing on the ground. Blinking a few times, he rubbed his eyes, looking around. The sun was barely poking its way over the nearby hills. He had to blink a few more times before he realized that he was alone. He quickly rose, brushing himself off and silently cursing. He should have known she was going to do something like this.
In the distance he heard a shrill scream. Were his heart still functioning, it would have began to beat quickly, but instead his entire body was still, calm. When the scream came again, that calm was gone.
Red started sprinting towards the noise, before dropping to all fours, rushing forward as quickly as possible. His mind focused on the source, vision narrowing to nothing but the ground in front of him. As he ran across the land, in the distance he managed to identify shapes in the growing light.
He skidded to a stop, the dirt crunching under his feet, and stared. Before him, the man he had seen pounding against the door days ago was sitting on top of Ashley. Red could barely make out the glint of steel against her throat.
In that short moment, something in the Worgen simply snapped. He charged forward, letting out a horrifying growl as he did so. The man looked up in time to see the creature slam straight into him, the both of them sliding across the dirt, Red on top of the man. The Worgen looked down at the man, letting out a loud snarl, spit flying over the man's face. He flinched, looking away in fear. Red raised his fist. In most instances, he would have stopped himself, or at least tried to stop himself, but this time he let loose, punching the man's face over and over. After he had landed a few blows, he raised his hand, the fist uncurling, prepared to begin slicing into his flesh.
“Stop!” He almost didn't hear the voice. Almost.
Red held his hand in the air, glancing over his shoulder to look at her. She had her hands covering her mouth, a look far too close to how she had looked when he'd finished off the Forsaken days earlier. He clinched his fists, steeling himself. After a tense moment, he dropped his hand to his side, looking down at the man. His face by this point looked closer to tenderized meat than actual flesh, but he was still alive.
The Worgen slowly rose, the man letting out a faint groan when he did so. Red turned to look at her, eying her over. She was in one piece. That was enough.
“You alright?” he said, letting out slow, even breaths.
She simply nodded, looking around. When she spotted it, she retrieved her bag from the ground. “Lets get this done,” she said, heading for the shore. Red shot the man a final glance, before nodding and following after her.
She found her way to a dock, sitting down and crossing her legs. He followed suit. Tugging her backpack in front of her, she began to rifle through it, finally pulling out much to his surprise, a small vase, with a layer of clear plastic across the top. She peeled it off, shaking the vase's contents, before standing, walking over to the side, and dumping the contents, dust by the looks, into the water below.
Red blinked, realizing the object was an urn, looking up at the girl. She smiled sadly, offering a small wave to the ashes as they fell into the water, before bowing her head and muttering softly. His eyes never looked away from her.
Having finished her business, she turned back to look at the Worgen, smiling sadly, “Guess I should explain?”
Red simply nodded. She brought the urn up to where he could look at it, offering it to him. He took it, looking it over. It was a simple thing, and far from expensive. “My mom was born in Corin's Crossing, and she always said she liked coming up here.” Red blinked a few times, looking up at her, motioning for her to go on.
“She,” Ashley hesitated, rubbing her arm awkwardly, “She got sick a couple months ago. And we couldn't really afford any medicine, and the priests couldn't really do anything. And then a couple of weeks ago she. Well. You get it.”
He nodded, sighing, “Yeah. I get it.”
“And she always talked about how much she'd love to see this again, the ocean. She said she walked over here a lot when she was a kid. So I figured it would be nice if she could. Those guys were supposed to help me get up here, but they really just wanted the urn. It's not even that expensive. Guess they didn't know that.”
“An' your dad,” Red muttered, guessing he wouldn't like the answer.
“I don't know,” she said, shrugging, “Never met him.” The Worgen was silent, nodding slowly. She sat down, staring at him, “So.”
He ceased staring at the wood of the dock, looking up at her, “So?”
“So,” she began again, “What now?”
“I got an idea,” he said, “Involves gryphons. You probably won't be partial to it, but I think it's good for now. From there, well. I guess we'll figure it out, won't we.”
She nodded, “I think I owe you at least going along with you. This one time.” She held up a single finger, “This one time.”
He smirked, holding up a single finger himself, “This one time.”
They sat on the steps of the Stormwind Orphanage, watching people pass by. Every now and then one of them would chime off a number, going off of the number of people who looked at them oddly. They were up to thirty.
“Thirty-one,” she said, looking over at him. “So you really think this is gonna go okay.”
“I don' know about that,” he said. Smirking, he offered a small nod to the woman who passed by, gawking, “Thirty-two.”
“You think somebody'll adopt me?” she said, not sounding interested in the idea.
“Possible,” he muttered in return. “Guess we'll see where that winning personality gets ya. Thirty-three.”
“You know what I think you are?”
“Full of shit.”
“Anybody ever tell you that you got a really...Colorful vocabulary?”
“Why ain't I surprised.”
“Because you shouldn't be. Thirty-four.”
“I think this'll do for now, for you. We'll see what happens.”
“Hey, you could always take me home.
He glanced at her, shaking his head, “I don't know about that. See those people lookin' at me? That's the kinda look the people inside'd give me if I tried that one. Not sure things allow for that right now either.”
“Oh,” she said sadly. “You'll at least come around, right?”
“Oh, I'll come around,” he said, elbowing her. “I owe you at least that one thing, don't I?
She grinned, nodding, “Yeah, you do.”
“Then I'll be around.”