(Part 7) For a complete list of this series, please go here.
“Hrmpf,” Aerissa groaned as Locke nudged her awake. She rubbed her eyes as she sat up, noticing the moonlight bathing the inside of the building. Locke was growling at something on the other side of the dying fire.
“What is it, Locke?” Aerissa squinted her eyes, trying to focus on the shadows outside the door. The figure made a hissing noise as it skittered back and forth. She stretched her arm out, groping for her bow as her mind was still clouded with sleep.
Locke growled louder as he crouched, his hind legs dancing as he readied to pounce. The hissing from outside got louder as it moved closer, the fire and moon lighting up what looked like a hundred legs. It spat at Locke, spewing webbing over him, hindering his movements. Quickly, Aerissa reacted by taking aim and firing off an arrow. The arrow flew straight into the spider's mandible, choking off its hiss. The legs flailed and tangled over themselves in uncoordinated desperation. The spider tipped backwards, giving Aerissa an opening to fire at the underside of it's midsection. The force of the kill shot knocked the spider over onto it's back. The legs twitched as the life ran out of the large spider.
Aerissa slapped each of her cheeks, as though making sure she was awake. She stared at the dead spider for a few moments before Locke's whimpers brought her mind back.
“Oh no, look at you…” She clucked as she removed the webbing from the lynx. She plucked the sticky threads from his fur. She tucked some of it away in her back, hoping to find it useful for crafting. Locke nuzzled his nose against her cheek.
“You are quite welcome,” she replied. She tilted her head back, looking up at the sky through the partial roof. The stars still twinkled in an almost cloudless sky although they were no longer sparkling bright. The stars were beginning to fade as dawn approached. The sun soon to rise as the moon began to set.
Aerissa yawned, covering her mouth. She closed her eyes for a few moments, then reached for her pillow. Locke laid down, lazily licking at his front paws. Though groggy, Aerissa shoved her pillow into her pack. She decided that it was best to move through the woods of the Ghostlands with as much daylight as possible. Plus, it would be hard to fall back asleep after the spider attack.
She kicked her boot at the logs in the dying fire, stoking them. She rummaged inside one of the packs, withdrawing the last of the dried meat. She placed the strips of meat near the fire to warm them. While they waited, she munched on some of the nuts and dried berries she had gathered.
“We'll go as soon as the sun rises enough to hide the stars,” she said to Locke as she turned the meat strips over. “That way we should be out of the dangers of the night and be able to arrive at the settlement before the next night fall.” She chewed slowly, the flavors of the nuts and berries intermingling upon her tongue. “I hope,” she mouthed, swallowing hard.
They finished their meager breakfast and moved on. They walked for many miles through the woods. Aerissa lost track of the time as the woods continued to be dark despite the sun that attempted to infiltrate the dead canopy of the trees. Every time Aerissa started to slow down, Locke would nudge her to continue onward.
“I just need to catch my breath a moment,” she whined, leaning against a tree. Her muscles ached from walking all day. She looked up at the sky, noting the sun was falling behind them.
It will be dark soon.
She looked at Locke questioningly before moving along again. Her feet dragged and she couldn't muster the strength to go any faster. Aerissa's sharp ears twitched at the chattering cackle unique to the Gnolls, indicating there were some near by in the forest. She shuddered, not wishing to come upon any. Where there was one, there were many as they tended to travel in packs.
As they moved along, Aerissa thought she could see yellow glowing eyes amongst the trees, following them. She stayed close to Locke, unable to judge how near or far the eyes were. As the sun continued to give way to the night, she could hear the noises of the wood's creatures. Shrieks, yelps, and skittering hisses, announcing warnings to all that there were intruders among them.
Aerissa's stomach felt knotted. She did not know if it was fear or hunger that pained her. They had eaten the last of the food many miles ago. Abruptly, Locke stopped, his hackles raised. He bared his fangs as he peered around them. Faint whispers upon the wind swirled around Aerissa, making her dizzy as she tried to focus on what they were saying. She felt warmth rising in her throat.
“Ungh-” Aerissa bent over and wretched onto the dead grass. Spitting out the last of the vile liquid, she wiped at her mouth with the back of her wrist. She pulled out the skin of water she had in her pack, drinking the last few drops of lukewarm water.
Aerissa looked at Locke with bewilderment. “What?”
The yellow eyes had come closer, becoming a large, scrawny lynx. It licked its chops as it watched her.
Locke let out a low guttural growl at the other lynx, snapping his powerful jaws in the air. They stared intently at each other, neither seeming to back down.
“I can't just leave you-” Locke snapped his jaws at Aerissa, swiping at the air inches from her stomach. She looked at him, feeling a mixture of hurt and confusion as she started to run. Her heart beat furiously in her chest as she picked up speed, sprinting forward despite the protest of her muscles. She could hear Locke yowl behind her as he began to chase after her.
Twigs snapped underfoot, branches scratching at her face. Aerissa ran and ran until she thought her lungs would explode. She looked over her shoulder and couldn't see anything. She slowed down, stopping. Placing her hands on her knees, she gasped for breath.
I have gained us safe passage, but only for a short time. We must continue.
She looked up with a start to find Locke a few feet from her. He stared at her, panting, his sides heaving heavily from the run. He padded up to her, rubbing against her leg. She smiled meekly, petting him. He lifted his nose and sniffed at the night air.
We are close.
* * *
Aerissa's eyes widened as she saw buildings in the distance. There was smoke billowing up, which gave her hope that this was the settlement she'd been searching for. A screech from overhead confirmed this, as she watched a rider descend among the buildings upon a large bat. They were finally here!
“Oof-” Aerissa stumbled into a guard as she watched the rider descend.
“Welcome to Tranquillien, Elf,” the guard said without any inflection in his voice.
The guard before her stared at her with cold, clouded eyes. The stench of decay emitting from him and offended her nostrils. He was tall and lanky, his armor seeming too large for him. She guessed that he was once a man, but now he was unliving. Undead. Or, as they preferred to be called, Forsaken. She had never been so close to a Forsaken before, but knew they were to be trusted in the fight against the evils of their land. In a world ravaged by war and corruption, they knew what it was like to be betrayed. Or so she hoped.
“Tranquillien?” She looked down at Locke, who bobbed his furry head. The guard stared at her with a crooked smile. At least, she thought it was a smile. It was hard to tell as he was missing a portion of his flesh and upper lip. She could see some of his teeth were missing as well.
“Yesss,” his voice whistled through the gap of his teeth.
“I-I seek refuge, sir.” She brushed her hair away from her face and smoothed her hands over her clothing.
“Don't we all, Huntress.” He eyed Locke, who continued to stand at her side. “The Inn's just up tha' road there.” He jerked his thumb over his shoulder.
“Thank you,” she stammered as she headed toward the Inn. She looked over her shoulder and saw the guard shake his head.
As Aerissa and Locke approached the Inn, there was a lot more activity. There were Forsaken and Elves all over the place as well as a smattering of Orcs, Trolls, and Tauren. She was comforted to see other Sin'dorei, or Blood Elves, such as herself. This had once been their land, after all.
The sagging door creaked open as she entered the Inn. These buildings were of similar architecture to the ruined one she had slept in the night before. These buildings were in better shape, or at least, had been patched up. No one gave her or Locke a second glance as they entered. She looked around with uncertainty.
“May I help you, Huntress,” hissed a hunched over old Forsaken woman. As she hobbled closer, Aerissa could smell the stench of her. Aerissa froze up, unable to speak, as she stared at the empty eye sockets. “Ahh, well, I can tell ye are travel weary, yes?” The Innkeeper cackled.
Aerissa let out a long breath, nodding. “Yes, please, may I have a room?”
The Innkeeper nodded. “You best be getting some rest, child, before you are put to work.” The Innkeeper hobbled over to a small desk, digging through a drawer.
“W-work?” Aerissa stammered. Locke nuzzled her hand with his nose.
The Innkeeper cackled again, shaking her head as she produced a small key. “Why, yes, dear. These rooms ain't free and I am bettin' you don't have any money. But we'll worry about that in the morn, now.” She pressed the key into Aerissa's hand, patting her on the shoulder. “Get some sleep.”
Aerissa nodded slowly, starting to head for the spiral staircase. “Oh, Miss, can he…” she gestured at Locke.
The Innkeeper nodded. “Aye, he may share your room. The smell of a cat ain't gonna hurt this place none.” She waved her hands, motioning for them to go upstairs.
** Please note that some of the events included in RP pieces are based upon actual in-game role play. Also, some of the events and/or character names may have been altered during the transition from in-game RP to story formation. **
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