At an hour before dusk, the three soldiers and the paladin set off south from Hearthglen. It was not a very far ride done the south road before Galin Riverwind led them off the road and into the rugged hills of Lordaeron. Orryl Hanley matched him stride for stride, his gangly features and experience on a Kul Tiran deck giving him ample footing. Rath ap Corrahnsfeld didn’t fair near as well, despite being a relative native.
“‘Ow long nae?” Rath muttered, using his spear more as a walking stick than a useful weapon.
“The hill ahead narrows the path,” Galin replied cryptically. “And something quiets the forest,” he went on in lower tones.
“We’re too far north fir Forsaken,” Aely frowned, surveying the rough highlands in the failing light. “Either Scourge or Scarlets if anythin’ is amiss. Orryl, cut through brush ta th’ left. Rath, come round the hill ta th’ right. Take it slow an’ easy,” she ordered, easing her sword from its scabbard. “Galin, take th’ lead. I’ll be right behind with room to swing.”
Rath and Orryl nodded at her orders, their training taking hold as they stalked into the wilderness. All of them had survived Northrend and weren’t about to have some skulking deaders or fanatics give them a ruckus.
Aely and the tall elf moved quietly along the path, and as they crested the rise she began to catch the faint smell of woodsmoke.
“Do ye smell that?” she asked, though she surmised the elf was already ahead of her in sensing it.
“Yes. A fire in the glen beyond. A small camp, to be so faint, so close.”
They moved more warily as they crossed the hilltop and down the other side. At the bottom the pair found Orryl, but Rath had not yet made it round.
“Campfire ahead. Small, maybe another Scarlet remnant,” Aely filled Orryl in as they waited.
“Never seems to be an’ end to ’em, ‘ey mate?” Orryl grimaced. “Me be they’ll be too hungry to fight and come along peacably.”
“‘S possible,”Aely replied absently. Where was Rath? Even with his bulk, he should have been able to find them by now.
“I do not hear him,” Gavin spoke, as if reading her mind. She frowned, concerned.
“Prolly fiddlin’ with his cod,” Orryl muttered. The wind shifted, and the scent of woodsmoke filled the air, as well as that of something juicy roasting over it. “‘Ere, mayhap he’s scopin’ out ‘is fire, steakin’ out an ambush. Let’s have a looksee a’fore they find us.”
She didn’t like it, but they had come this far. The sun was already set behind the mountains. “Awright. Ten paces apart. Galin, the left. Orryl, ye take the center. Nice an’ quiet now.”
They moved out, each of them drifting into the thicket like worgs on the prowl. Their strides were so soft that field mice would have sounded like a herd of elekks. The smell of roasting boar meat grew stronger, and the fading twilight gave way to a faint glow flickering through the trees.
There was a rustle to her left, making her freeze in place, sword rigid before her and ready to strike. Moments passed, measurable by the beaded sweat that slowly tracked its way down her face. A distant thump. Moments more, and the thicket was deathly quiet again.
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