(Part 35) The rest of this series, please go here.
At sunrise, Aerissa hurried to get ready. She had to stop and vomit a few times as she pulled on her leather armor pieces and located her dagger, bow, and quiver. She assumed it was nerves, she was going to be venturing out on orders without her faithful companion after all. She glanced around the room one last time before rushing down the stairs two at a time.
“Rissy, don't ye be thinkin' that ye can skip breakfast now,” Twyla called as Aerissa reached the front door of the inn.
Aerissa looked over her shoulder at Twyla. “I don't have time, I need to be going right away lest High Executor Mavren changes his mind.”
Twyla shook her head. “Tsk, tsk. ‘though I suspected ye might need some supplies.” She gently lobbed a knapsack at Aerissa.
Upon catching it, Aerissa peeked inside and saw there was water and snacks packed to keep her sustained throughout the day. She smiled warmly at Twyla. “Thank you, I appreciate this very much. I will see you later!”
Aerissa jogged across Tranquillien to meet with High Executor Mavren. She couldn't be sure, but thought she saw him give her a rueful smile.
“Better late than never,” he grumbled as he shuffled through a stack of parchment. Frowning, Aerissa started to apologize, but he waved her off. “I'm assigning you to Windrunner Spire today. Scout it out and report back to me, ya hear? We're working to retake the Ghostlands and don't know where all those filthy Alliance bastards are hiding out. Or Scourge for that matter.” He spat out the word scourge, making his disdain for them and his current state clear.
“Sure, I can handle a little scouting.” Aerissa felt relieved as a scouting task could surely be done without combat.
He waved her over to the table, bending over a map. He raked his hand across the parchment, tapping a location on the western coast of the Ghostlands. “There's a trace of a road from here to there that runs southwest. I'd suggest you stick to it the best you can. But I warn you, it crosses the Dead Scar. Don't stray too far south or you'll be headed for Deatholme… which is not a place you should ever go to alone.” He paused for effect. Her eyes met his as she nodded solemnly.
“I'd also suggest,” he continued, “that you return before sundown.”
* * *
A few hours later, Aerissa's stomach began to rumble. She found a small clear area off to the side of the broken and beaten path she was following. She sat against a tree while eating some of the fruit and cheese Twyla had packed for her. Aerissa couldn't help but feel in good spirits that she was being tasked with something useful.
And important, she thought. We have to know where the enemy is stationed if we're going to plan a successful attack to drive them out of our lands. She smiled to herself as she prepared to move along the path.
At times she thought she had lost it. The road was badly destroyed from years of wear, erosion, and destruction. Thankfully some old sign posts were still standing. Although the signs were barely legible, she felt confident that she was heading the right way. She only wished she had a copy of the map and a compass. Aerissa made a mental note to request those items for next time or to ask Tomber if he had any for sale.
As Aerissa stepped onto the black earth that marred the land, she knew she had reached the Dead Scar. The hairs on her arms and on the back of her neck raised and prickled. It was eerily dark and quiet. Like a superstitious schoolgirl, she tried to hold her breath until she was safely on the other side. Aerissa clenched her bow tightly, prepared to defend herself if necessary.
She quickened her pace, wanting to complete her mission before the sun began its descent. The air started to feel cooler and the winds a tad stronger. I must be nearing the coast. As soon as the thought crossed her mind, she froze in her tracks. Her ears twitched, feeling and hearing faint whispers and cries, much like she had during her journey to Tranquillien.
Taking a deep breath, she urged herself to be brave. A few more steps forward and something crunched underfoot. She looked down and saw a rusted, broken sign. Bending down, she brushed the dirt away from it.
She was here. Aerissa brushed her hands off on her pants. She cocked her head, listening intently. Again, the only sounds that filled her ears were faint whispers and cries. Aerissa marched forward, slinging her bow over her shoulder. Surely if there was an enemy encampment here, she'd hear something, right?
The road led up a steep incline. As Aerissa climbed it, the spire came into view. She stopped, taking in the sight. She observed that this place must have once been breathtakingly beautiful with it's tall spindly towers with the sea as a backdrop. She almost wished she could be here at sunset to see how the colors of the evening sky played off the remaining stained glass windows…
A loud wail from the spire broke Aerissa out of her daydream, sending a chill up her spine. Her throat went dry as her palms became sweaty. Bringing the bow off of her shoulder, she carefully notched an arrow against the taut bowstring. Sidestepping, Aerissa crept further up the path.
“Waaaahhhh~” A ghostly being appeared before Aerissa, flying straight at her as it wailed. Aerissa, startled, fumbled with her bow, misfiring a wide shot past the apparition's head. It's arms stretched out before it, floating above the ground as it came at Aerissa. Aerissa closed her eyes, ducking her head as the ghost flew at her and through her. Trying to shake off the uneasy coldness, Aerissa spun around as she notched another arrow. The ghost continued to wail as it sailed down the path. Aerissa bit her lip, forcing herself to focus her aim. The ghost dissipated as the arrow appeared to pierce it.
Aerissa stood there, her heartbeat thundering in her ears. She wasn't sure if she preferred finding ghosts here rather than Alliance. At least I'd know for sure if I killed a living being… that thing might come back. She shuddered at the thought. Looking back and forth on the path, she tried to decide if she needed to scout any further or not. Curiosity won out, and Aerissa continued the ascent to the spire.
The spire was still beautiful despite how rundown the outside appeared. Aerissa wondered if the inside was better preserved or not. Spying an ajar door, she slipped inside. To Aerissa's dismay, the inside appeared as though it had been ransacked. Bookshelves and chairs were topped over, candles and books splayed across the tattered rugs. Aerissa bent down to examine a torn portrait that fluttered in the corner of the room.
“Geeettt ooouuttt~” echoed a hallow voice.
Aerissa looked up to see a slim, pale form emerging from another room. It stood tall in a long, black robe, and a mask enshrouding it's face. Aerissa noted their empty, vacant stare. She stood up slowly, holding her hands up, trying to appear non-threatening.
“Ooouuuttt~” shrieked the acolyte, it's hands moving to summon a spell.
Aerissa yelped as she felt a burning sensation over her body. She scrambled to the side and nervously prepared her bow. She fired off a couple arrows. The first glanced the acolyte's shoulder, interrupting the next spell. The second pierced it's neck, causing it to crumple to the ground.
Aerissa braced herself against the wall, panting. She winced again as the pain spell faded. Cautiously, she approached the still corpse. She nudged it's side with her boot. The corpse laid there. Feeling more confident that it was no longer a threat, she pressed the back of her hand against it's neck. It felt cool to the touch. Aerissa knitted her brow and rifled through the pockets of the robe. She heard a tiny jangle sound and closed her hand around a small metal object.
Withdrawing her hand, Aerissa looked curiously at what she had found. It appeared to be a locket. Aerissa looked again at the corpse, thinking this piece of jewelery was much to beautiful to have been in that creature's possession. She turned it over in her hand, finding an inscription:
To Sylvanas. Love always, Alleria.
Without further hesitation, Aerissa pocketed the locket and cut a swatch of the acolyte's robe to take back to High Executor Mavren.
* * *
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