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(( All player characters used with permission. All NPCs... well... if Innkeeper Allyson wants to sue me, then let's have at it. Special thanks to Kylazin and Keraph for letting me auto them so badly. xD ))

Dawn poured into the forests of Ashenvale, smooth and pink and silent. It melted frost off the grass, sent it dripping off freshly green leaves, running in thin rivulets down the trunks of trees. The day slipped by, slowly, warming the ground, and as it faded the forest filled with fog. It was then, wrapped in the thick white fog, that the pair of elves were finally putting effort into movement.

Rhowen pulled her blue-black hair over a shoulder, braiding it idly as he stood behind her. A passing thought sparked a smile; if she closed her eyes, she would be able to feel his breath on the back of her neck. Lids fell to hide smooth pools of smoky grey and she focused. Sure enough, his breath, warm and moist against the back of her neck. She could visualize, in her mind's eye, the slow machinations as he tied up the lacing on the back of her dress. Starting at the small of her back, those strong fingers that had moved so shyly, then so hungrily, over her flesh the night before ran the thin laces through eyes, back and forth, criss-crossing all the way up. With her eyes closed, she could feel his eyes on her, behind her, and it made her heart flutter and skip and she came close to trembling. The lines were tied off and tucked into her dress. Neither of them made a move. Then his voice came, light on her ears. The cool, solid tone of it, heavy like a thick cream, danced on her heartstrings.

"There you are, kestrel."

It took her a moment to regain herself, a deep breath drawn to steady herself as she flipped the braid back over her shoulder. Turning on her heels, she tried and failed to stop the wandering of her eyes, gaze drinking him in like a fine sculpture, over the sleek lines of his torso, moonlit blue of his flesh nearly radiating. The long, reedy fingers of her left hand trailed over his body, nails glancing over the curves of his ribcage as softly as the breath of a butterfly. The other hand hooked itself into the waistline of his robes, the top of which had not been pulled up to cover the heavenly sight of him. He was a fine piece of art, and she was the critic. Little gave her more pleasure these days than the sight of him. Oh, if only he knew.

His hands came to her hips, Rhowen in a constant state of collecting herself, and he held her, that way, while she brought the shoulders of the robes up, guiding his hands and arms through sleeves, pulling the fitted garment up over broad shoulders. Fingers slipped tenderly over those shoulders, and she found herself admiring him once more. A brisk shake of her head to clear her thoughts was little help. Far too often she was helpless under that brilliant blue gaze, under that soft voice that murmured such kind words. It was too much to bear, sometimes.

"We should go," she murmured in a voice like dark velvet. It was all she could do to tear her eyes from him, opting instead to watch her hands in their idle explorations.

"Why?" She did her best to ignore the rogueish grin he gave with his question. "No one misses us. No one will take note of our absence."

"Aye," she laughed, "But I left my things in Stormwind, and I have business to attend to in Ironforge and Feralas. You know that. I can't just disappear."

His smile faded only slightly, some of the playfulness dropping from his voice. "Why? Why can't you? You told me we could. Stay."

Her own smile melted, and she let out a long, drawn-out sigh. "...I can't, and neither can you. We can't go anywhere." Rhowen held a hand out to him, slipped her smaller hand into his larger, and gave it a squeeze. "Let's go back."


In the Gilded Rose, Rhowen paid her debt to the good lady innkeeper and collected her things. The bags were still in order, weighted just right, filled with the few valuables she wouldn't trust even to the great banks of Azeroth. The plate mail was a cool, heavy weight welcome back on her railish form. Pauldrons and helm were slung over her shoulder, and she ruffled the hair at the back of her neck to loose the braid.

"Yer cat, 'e's out back," Allyson intoned, giving a nod towards the back of the inn as Rhowen headed back towards the stables. "Feisty thing, that one, woun't eat naut'tin that'e gave'im. We tried't'feed'im, lady, but'ee woudn' have none'f'it."

The large cat was waiting calmly for her, in the stall, and upon the sight of her, he rose to his feet, stretching languidly. Another one of the few things that brought a smile to her lips, she grinned and reached in to pat between his eyes. "Aye, no apologies necessarily. He is a picky thing, this one."

Minutes later, she was mounted up, the nightsaber aching to run. She leaned over the lanky form and scratched between his shoulderblades, voice in little more than a murmur. "Soon enough, my darling, you'll be wishing you hadn't been in such a bloody hurry." Night fell, silently, full of hesitated time as she heeled the cat forward and out of Stormwind, and northward. Ever northward.


Aelendil Silversong sat, by himself, at a table in the Gilded Rose. A drink lingered in front of him, untouched. He chewed at his bottom lip, eyes vacant and far-off and full of thoughts, and a hand rubbed a pair of fingers over the odd half-moon shaped mark. She had come here, and picked up her things, and been off. And judging speed and time and preparations for distance, and lack of using the tram - Haggle had not seen her, and not even coin had coaxed otherwise from him - it was not Ironforge she was off to. Her tone, her mood... there was only one place she was going.


The ruins of Lordaeron sat before her, silent as a tomb. T'isn't that funny of a metaphor, girl. The ruins of Lordaeron, and beyond and below, the Undercity. The madness of her actions hammered away at her, somewhere in the back of her mind, and she did her best to ignore it. This was her chance. Her one opportunity to get ahead, and have them be in debt. She'd be a fool to let it slip away. At least, these were the things she told herself as she lie in wait. The nightsaber had been set to his own devices in South Shore, left at the stables there. And now, she waited.

The buzz and click of the carrion bugs that flourished here would have driven her mad, were she not so completely on edge. They were not going to get the drop on her. She was so overly aware, she was missing the little things. The mangled edge of her ear itched. Old scars long healed over itched. She itched, the anticipation hanging on her like dirty sweat. Breath, she told herself, breathe, and relax. They won't kill you just yet. Not yet.

"Lady Elf."

Rhowen cursed as she jumped and spun. Kylazin stood behind her, grinning his broken, rotting smile, his voice the texture of dead leaves blowing over the road. It made her skin prickle. He regarded her with the same snide disgust, a rawboned hand running fingers through dismal, dry dark hair. Rhowen bowed as graciously as she could muster; he'd gotten the drop on her and he knew it as well as she. There went the advantage. He motioned for her to follow, his joints grinding audibly. It turned her stomach.

"Come, Elf, he doesn't have all day," he intoned, and made a move towards the city. She rose to her feet, and as she did, the swords she still wore upon her belt came into full view. The priest eyed them, but did not ask her to remove them. Nor was she about to do so. A silent prayer was issued to that wretched Elune, curse her bones, that they maintained that understand. But she could not believe she was about to be marched into the Undercity, on display for all.

They travelled up the road, not a word spoken between the two of them. The city came into sight, and she made the conscious effort to lift her chin higher. The undead glanced back over his shoulder at her; she chose to ignore the faint sound of laughter coming from ahead of her. You would not be laughing, were my blade between your neck and skull, Forsaken... but the thought was all she allowed herself. She was in their hands, she was at their mercy. Her stomach turned and pitched again. It was dirty, it was underhanded, but it was necessary. She needed to get ahead. She needed to get them into her debt.

If the Undercity was a deplorable hive in the daylight, it was a thousand-fold worse at night. The dredges of the Horde lingered in the entrance, mostly Forsaken with a smattering of Orcs, a few Trolls and a Tauren or two. They leered at her with blood-hungry eyes. The few gazes she met, she returned with equal fervor. The silence was palpable in the ruins as she entered them. The clink of her platemail echoed off every broken piece of stone. And not once did the warrior let her confidence slip. To show weakness now... well, she might as well put a blade to her throat and do the work for them.

He led her down into the same crypt where they had met up the first time. Keraph leaned against the wall, more relaxed than she had ever seen the Forsaken. And why shouldn't he be? In sparse armor, grinning in a twisted way that only the undead could, he was picture perfect confidence. She was the deer, in the bedroom of the hunter. It rattled her. Keraph spoke, but only after letting the weight of the situation sink in.

"My lady warrior requests an audience, and so it is given. It had better be good."

It was a shock that her voice came as smoothly as it did. "...I have something you want. And you're going to make it worth my while to give it to you."

This was necessary.

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