This is the final part of Angrethar, the story of The Battle for the Wrathgate from Aelflaed’s point of view. You can see all of the posts in this story on the Story Archives page, by searching for the Wrathgate category, or through this link. This last section actually happened in game, about 5 days after the events in Dragonblight, between Aelflaed and Phileas, her fiance. For reference, at this point, she’s thoroughly bandaged, with her arm in a sling, and her face and feet and hands are cracked and swollen from frostbite. She’s been confined to Stormwind, largely to her apartment in Old Town, where Phileas and Mrs. Cross are making sure that she’s recovering. This is a longer story than most of the others, so it’s behind a “read more” tag.
Note: Phileas’ accent is thicker than Aely’s. A few times he’ll use the word “greet” – in this context, it means “grieve”.
Phileas dusted his hands off on his pants as he rounded the corner to the Silver Shield. Aely had run him out of the apartment earlier in the day, so he had gone to the forge and attempted to vent frustration by pounding soft metal into usable tools. The rogue stopped short when he discovered Aelflaed sitting on the porch of the shop, gazing off into the Stormwind sky. He half-wondered what it was she was seeing before her, as he was pretty sure it wasn’t the clouds in the fading evening light. Given the way her eyebrows furrowed, he had a feeling he knew exactly what she was seeing – whatever had happened to her at Angrathar. Softly, he cleared his throat to attract her attention, and was a little relieved when she startled a bit and turned towards him.
Aelflaed waved shyly, and Phileas couldn’t help but give her an answering smile. For a moment, he could look past the damaged skin and the bandages and see his old Aely there.
The paladin cracked a half smile, trying not to wince. “‘lo again, love.” Seeing Phileas was both awkward and comforting, some combination of glad for his presence and sheepish at her various injuries, particularly given the state of her swollen face and hands. Sky was with him, as usual – the leggy puppy hardly left his side these days. He gave Aely an impish glance.
“Are tha’ goin’ tae run me off again, or d’I get tae stay ‘f I promise nae tae shed on Mrs. Cross’ furniture?” Aely did wince then, looking sheepish and feeling rather guilty for having sent him out so they could both get some air. Sky nuzzled up against her hands, and she managed a stiff-fingered scritch behind her fuzzy ears.
“I dinnae mean t’ run ye off, jus’… needed air, an’ figured it’d do ye good ‘s well. An’ it w’s good t’ see Annie an’ Threnn an’ th ‘wee one. They said t’ say hello.”
Phileas didn’t look entirely convinced, giving her an absent-minded “Mm” before staring off himself into the clouds. Aelflaed saw the rogue’s eyebrows furrow and was about to nudge him to find out what made him frown so when he said, without preamble, “An’ before tha asks, nae, I’m nae mad a’ thee…jus’ frustrated wi’ mysel’ muir.”
Phileas didn’t say anything, merely gave the paladin a long, pointed look that took in all her injuries. She sighed.
“‘s nowt ye, air anyone really, could’a done ’bout any ay this mess. ‘s mos’ly thanks t’ Jolly I’m… well, tha’ I’m here.” He nodded. “An… well, th’ Boss dinnae have owt but t’ send sommat down wi’ healin’ experience, he w’snae really pleased ’bout th’ whole thing. An…”
“An’ tha were wha’ he sent.”
“Ayeh. He couldnae send Threnn, wi’ her bein’ expectin’ an’ Bricu there. An’ he couldnae send Shad. Dinnae think there w’s much choice, an’ I dinnae hold ‘im f’r any ay this.” Aely leaned back against a crate sitting in front of the Silver Shield. Phileas didn’t respond.
She turned towards him, eyes still focused somewhere off in the distance, her voice somewhat distant. ” I e’er told ye ’bout any th’ folk I grew up wi?” He shook his head. “Nae. Tha spoke a bit abou’ thy mum an’ thy da… but only a bit.” Phileas raised an eyebrow, peering at her.
“W’s a lad I grew up wi’. Bertrand Johannsen. W’s three weeks older than I, an’ dinnae let me f’rget it one birthday. I’d… nae heard tale ay him – owt tha’ his family w’s burned wi’ th’ rest, after th’ Bloody Prince went through. Leas’, I’d nae heard owt ’till jus’ before th’ battle. He found me.” She hugged her knees, resting her chin between them.
“So he lived, hrm?” Phileas wasn’t entirely sure where this was going, but opted to just let her talk. Quiet and withdrawn were not usual traits of the woman he’d come to share his life with, and he figured it might be best to get to the bottom of things now, rather than waiting.
She sighed. “Nae. He died. An’ w’s raised. An’ then broke free. W’s wearin’ th’ colors ay th’ Ebon Blade.”
“Oh.” They both paused a moment before he continued. “Guess it shouldnae be surprisin’… maught be a Darrowman air three in th’ Blade’s ranks, aye?”
Aely closed her eyes, frowning slightly. “Prob’ly – I’ve nae thowt t’ ask. He died there, in th’ gasses, thow he wouldnae have lived wi’ th’ wounds he took. It w’s… bad.” She rummaged in her pocket and pulled out a little blue prayer rope, worn around the edges. “‘s w’s his. Must’ve been one ay th’ first I made. How he still kept it.. ‘fter all these years, I dinnae ken.”
Phileas looked at the faded blue rope, trying to think of something to say that might explain the knotted cord. “They must hae browt him comfor’.”
Aelflaed didn’t reply, only nodded slightly, furrowing her eyebrows as she stared at the little knotted rope. As they sat there in silence, Phileas could almost picture Bertrand in his mind, the saronite gauntlets of a death knight counting out the prayers of Lordareon on the knots in a quiet moment.
Almost hesitantly, the rogue asked, “Did ‘e still b’lieve, even i’ th’ Blade?”
“T’ be fair, I’m nae sure. He said he dinnae. An’ he said tha’ findin’ me w’s th’ closest he’d been t’ believin’ since… well, since awhile.”
Phileas looked over at her. “Soun’s like ‘e were… fair fon’ a’ thee.” She shrugged slightly, hugging her knees tight. “He w’s my best friend, back home. I w’s th’ faster, he w’s th’ stronger. Sweet Laigh’, how d’ye deal wi’ a ghost ay the past wha’ comes real… an’ then dies alone again after ye cannae save ‘im an’ run t’ save y’r own hide.” Aely blinked hard, looking intently at the roof over the porch, as if to will herself back from the edge of tears.
“Tha ken… ‘e’s free nae, aye? Truly free, an ‘freer’n we air. ‘e’s beyon’ th’ reach ay th’ Bloody Prince… e’s safe.” He searched for words that might bring some measure of comfort. “An’ ‘f ‘ee were owt like me, he didnae die alone. Tha were wi’ ‘im in ‘is thowts, tae th’ en’. An’ muir… ‘f ‘ee saw tha get away… he died kennin’ tha lived. An’ that maught hae been worth th’ dyin’ fair tae ‘im.” He glanced at the paladin, struggling with herself.
“Aye, an… well, he told me t’ run. Saw me run. I ken if I’d stayed, I’d have died. Bu’ I cannae help feelin’ I’ve let folk down again.” She shook her head, the tears finally besting her attempts at control – streaming down her face and making little waterspots on her knees.
Phileas very carefully tucked an arm around her waist, trying not to jostle her bandaged shoulder. “Tha did wha’ tha could f’r ‘im… tha gave ‘im comfor’, gave ‘im knowledge ‘is death wouldnae be meanin’less… ’cause [i]tha lived[/i].”
Aely leaned against him. “Thanks mos’ly t’ Jolly. An how many folk dinnae make it out?”
“Tha cannae save ‘em all, love. ‘s fact. Sae greet ‘im… ‘e d’serves th’ greetin’ an th’ memory. An’ ask th’ Ligh’ tae hol’ im ’till we’re all in th’ worl’ after.” She broke down and wept into his shoulder as he spoke. “Tha saves them as tha can, an’ greet those tha cannae… an’ then let ‘em rest as they d’serve.”
“I ken fairly ay death – ‘ve seen folk die near on every week since I took oaths. Bu’ ‘f I cannae save th’ ones I love?”
Phileas smiled and pulled off his gloves. Very, very gently, he swept the tears off Aelflaed’s cheek with his thumb, doing his best not to cause her further pain. “Then tha ken that we’re nivver far awaa…even ‘f tha cannae see us.”
Aelflaed dabbed at her face with her sleeve as Phileas glanced up at the evening sky and added, “Close as thowt, far’s th’ rainbow. An’ one day, we’ll all be taegether again.”
Aelflaed managed a rather soggy half-grin as she caught her lover’s eye. “I thowt I w’s th’ Paladin.”
Phileas snorted and shrugged, his ears turning pink as he glanced away. “Feck…s’ sorta th’ talk I got frae my da when our aul’ farm houn’ passed when I were sivven. ‘s jus’ as true f’r houn’s as it is men.”
“An’ th’ one I gave t’ folk muir times’an I can count o’er th’ las… nine years.”
The rogue gently leaned his head against the paladin’s and said, “An’ Emperius allus did say th’ Ligh’ will fin’ th’ voice tha needs tae hear, tha ken.”
“Ayeh – an’ I’d ‘gree with ‘im.” She mopped at her face with her sleeve.
Phileas arched an eyebrow at the woman as he produced a handkerchief from the recesses of his armor and handed it to her. “Dinnae use thy sleeve, love…I ken thy mum taught thee better’n that.” She nodded, wiping her eyes and managing a somewhat more composed expression. Phileas chuckled, making a half-hearted attempt to adjust the arm he had around Aelflaed’s waist into a more comforting embrace. “I’d hug thee, but I’m afeared I’d hurt thee doin’ it.”
” ‘s a’righ’ – I’d prob’ly weep on ye again if ye did.”
As the paladin used the cloth to carefully dry her face, the rogue looked down at the faded prayer beads in her other hand.
“Here’s an idea for thee.”
Phileas smiled at Aelflaed, the devilish gleam returning to his eyes as he asked, “C’n owt ay th’ Riders draw thee a portrai’?”
Aelflaed nodded, not quite sure what he was getting at, figuring he’d explain his idea in his own time and his own way. “Ayeh – ‘lanna’s a fair hand wi’ charcoal.”
“Have ‘em draw thee a picture of thy frien’…Bertran, tha said?”
Phileas smiled and tapped the hand that held the prayer string. “We’ll make thee a book. Tha keeps thon beads an’ that picture in i’. ‘s time passes…an’ i’ will…when tha has a happy memory of ‘im, tha write it in th’ book.”
Aelflaed nodded, waiting to hear the rest of the idea before she said anything.
“Eventually, tha’ll hae a memory for every bead, tae bring smiles ‘stead ay tears.”
Phileas’ face blurred in Aelflaed’s vision as she teared up again, covering her eyes with the handkerchief. “An’ when thon day comes… tha c’n carry th’ beads if tha wish an’ ken ‘e’s smilin’ down a’ thee an’ all th’ good tha’rt carryin’ wi’ thee.”
She chuckled into the handkerchief, emotions running ragged between extremes. “Ayeh – bugger always w’s better a’ climbin’ trees.”
He shushed her. “Give it time, love. Res’ thyself f’r now… an’ ken tha’ c’n allus call ‘f tha needs a shoulder of me.” Aelflaed nodded against his shoulder, still leaning against his arm. After a moment, he started to chuckle.
“Like tha coul’ get rid ay me anyroad, hrm?” He tugged gently on the end of her braid
“Oi! An’ I bloody well hope nae.” She sighed, holding up her blistered hands. “I cannae wear my ring, ’till my hands ‘re normal ‘gain.” Phileas looked to the shield necklace that he’d had made for her and noticed the engagement ring hanging next to it.
“Better tha wear it there than have tae have i’ cut off, aye?” She nodded, wrapping her fingers around it in a gesture he’d come to recognize as one of comfort. “Ayeh, air have it damage my hands. Shad saw t’ gettin’ it off, afore they started bein’ puffy from th’ frost.”
Phileas sighed heavily, leaning his head against hers. Aely nudged him. “Ye a’righ’?”
“Jus’ wish I coul’ do sommat muir’n hover. Call th’ Ligh’… sommat.”
“Ye do plenty. ‘s nae much wha’ Light can do f’r this, jus’ needs t’ heal frae th’ frost. An’… well, bein’ lonely’s worse.”
“Jus’ feel so feckin’ helpless.”
She nestled against him snugly. “Ye an’ me th’ same.”
Phileas glanced over at his fiancee, curled against his shoulder and trying to avoid the spikes on his armor. With a wry smile, he said, “Suppose I shoul’ try tae fin’ summat tae wear as doesnae need tae be covered by armor…’specially ‘f tha’re goin’ tae be in th’ habit a’ doin’ that.”
“mmrph? ‘s nice..”
He snorted. “Bollocks. I’m fair th’ only Rider as shows up tae th’ Pig lookin’ like I’m headed f’r Icecrown.” And he was, really, though recent events had kept him out in Northrend more than back in Stormwind anyway. Aely chuckled. “I mean’ th’ leanin’, nae s’much th’ armor. Anyroad – ye’d be fine wi’ jus’ sommat simple. Soft leather air whatnot.”
“Ayeh – have tae fin’ sommat… afore some’un sics Delion on me.”
She made a face. “Oi – best be careful ay that’ un air he’ll have ye in curlers too.” Phileas laughed back, both at the expression and the thought of someone trying to get all of her hair into curlers. “Some’ow I dinnae think hair like thine’ll take well tae thon curlers. Ringlets, f’r Ligh’s sake…”
“Oi – ayeh, tha’s what I said. Bu’ nae – Del’s set t’ make ‘em all even-like. An’ ringlets… I look enow like a lion anyroad. I’ll end up a lion inna fancy dress.”
He grinned. “Th’ Lioness ay Lordaeron… soun’s fine tae me.”
“Pfft. Soun’s like trouble.” She laughed.
“Why? It fits, says I.” He grinned at her, enjoying the laughter after several days of pensive near-silence.
Aelflaed said, “Fair enow,” but the end of the sentence was almost lost in a sigh that attempted to cover a yawn.
Phileas arched an eyebrow at his fiancee, seeing the drowsiness around her eyes, but only commenting with a curious “Hrm?”
“Torn b’tween stayin’ here an’ tryin’ t’ sleep.”
The rogue smiled quietly. He knew Aelflaed too well, knew that her Northron stubbornness would make her stay up unless he made the decision for her – at least, this once, he would. “We’ll make thee up some tea tae get thee a bit sleepy, an’ tha c’n res’. Hell, I’ll read tae thee if tha wants.”
Aelflaed smiled tiredly. “Tha’d be a good way t’ fall asleep.”
“Tea an’ a fairy story? Aye…soun’s pleasan’.” Phileas gently tucked his hands under Aely’s uninjured elbow and helped her to her feet, leading the way back into the Silver Shield. “C’mon. We’ll get thee settled. An’ I’ll make sure tae pick a story where, leas’ for t’nigh, tha c’n hae a “happy e’er after” tae sleep on.”
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