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A Small Flame

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A pyre burned low in the dim, cool night. It stood alone in a vast ocean of darkness that reined as far as the eye could see. The Dread Wastes of Pandaria was no fine place to die. It was cut off from any decent folk by a massive wall, occupied by the wretched Mantid and worse creatures, but most importantly, over the wasteland was the overwhelming feeling of being watched. Something always watched you from the shadows. If you were lucky, it was something too small to cause any more than minor mischief, but on most days, it meant death lurked just around the corner.

The Shado-Pan rangers knew the risks coming to this land – and that it was necessary. Given the speed at which the last swarm came, albeit sped due to the Sha, they had to be prepared in case another was just around the corner. Due to the nature of their mission, there was never time to send the dead home. Swift funerals had to be completed during brief rests. But burial was no option – the buried dead did not stay buried long in this land. A pyre was needed, to free the lost brother or sister from the taint of the dark lands. A small fire, not enough to draw attention, but enough to grant the final honor.

            The head ranger Furan lifted his bowed head and replaced his hat and scarf. He called to the small party – even smaller after the prior night’s skirmish – “Put the fire out and let’s get moving. Our work here is not yet done.” Eight Pandaren replaced their coverings. One human followed suit, raising her hood and placing a smaller-sized hat on top of it. Waving a hand, the fire extinguished in a flash of sudden frost. Only cold embers remained where the fallen ranger’s corpse had been. While the other rangers gathered their spears and packs, Brinnea tried to remember a prayer her mother had taught her when she was a child.

            In the bitter dark, her quiet words went unanswered. Not certain what she had been expecting, she joined the other rangers as they moved out into the wastes.

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            Days passed uneventfully. Most nights while the rangers rested, she kept watch. She was good at that. A death knight needs no sleep, so she could stay awake as the others lay down their heads. The night air bore much noise in the wastes. Life preserved even in this dark and desolate land. In the twisting nettles which served as cover, she could only see a little of the dim passage they were travelling on, so she had to rely mostly on sound to sense if anything was watching.

The warbles of swamp cranes, the chirps of insects, and the distant howls of scavengers washed over her. One night in particular, in the cacophony of noise, she felt something hidden, veiled as if beneath many layers of water. She closed her eyes, and dove in.

Murderer. Her hands clenched defiantly. “No,” she murmured to the voice on the air. Murderer, it whispered back. She shook her head, baring her teeth angrily. “No!” she seethed under her breath.

You killed them. Killed them all. It was so easy, remember? Two swings of a sword and a wave of the hand, and the whole lot of them were doomed from then on. And later, after it all happened…

“Stop! Leave me be!” She clamped her hands over her ears. The voices persisted.

…But she deserved it, didn’t she? That black-haired bitch betrayed her own brother: your beloved. She would have left the girl to die. You did what had to be done.

She clawed at her head, biting back curses. She knew the rangers would be listening, their thin sleep easily broken. She forced herself to sit still and listen. It was her task.

What would you have done without me? Without your conviction? You would still be that weepy-eyed girl from Andorhal. Your father would have beaten you and your mother to death. You never would have survived as a death knight. The Horde would have caught you and put you to death as they so desire. You would have died a thousand times as you were! I made you strong! You survived because of me!

She cried out, ripping her sword from her sheath instinctively. The rangers stood quickly, hands on their weapons. The voice had fled.

“What is it? Did you hear something?” the Furan questioned grumpily. Brin sighed, putting her weapon away. “No. Er—yes, I thought I did. It was nothing.” The rangers tentatively lowered their arms.

“Are you certain?” Furan pressed, taking a few steps toward the death knight, “Perhaps we ought to take a look—,” she cut him off.

“I will look around alone. You carry on sleeping.” The head ranger shook his head. “You know the rule. No one travels alone beyond the wall. Not unless they are the last one alive.” The old Pandaren stomped out into the open without waiting for a reply. Sighing, Brin gathered up her hat and cloak, then followed after him.

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They patrolled the trail in silence for some time, sticking to the shadows like bugs on a log. Brinnea fingered the hilt of her sword, trying to keep her senses focused on her task, but her thoughts drifted to the voice on the air. She tried to push those thoughts down, and listen to the sounds of the wasteland around her, but she feared the voice would find her again.

Lost in thought as she was, Brin nearly fell over Furan when he stopped abruptly in front of her. “Quiet!” he whispered harshly. “Look over there, a small flame!” She followed his point, and saw it flickering in the distance.

“It’s too obvious,” Brinnea said as she shook off her daze. “A trap?” He grimaced. “Or a signal for help. Come, it isn’t far.” He went, stepping soft as a fox despite his girth. She stepped after him, at least half his size but twice as loud.

Not far from where the fire burned, they halted, still in the shadows, and watched closely. It was a campsite, by all appearances. A log was placed by the campfire, presumably for sitting on, and various cooking utensils, pans, and pots sat around the fire as if someone had been preparing a small feast in the woods. Brin eyed the camp suspiciously. There was no one in sight. Furan had a bow in hand, an arrow knocked and ready in case anything was amiss. Brin spoke softly, “I’ll take a closer look. Watch from here.”

Normally the captain would remind her he was in charge, but he agreed with her this time. She approached the camp carefully, drawing her long sword softly. Shadows swam all around her. Too many places to hide. She shoved down the feeling of vulnerability and crept into the camp ever so carefully, trying to keep her light metal armor from making too much noise.

There was no sign of any fighting even after a close inspection. Whoever had been there seemed to have just left without a fuss. Brinnea searched for tracks, but she wasn’t familiar with the hunters’ skills.

She heard a branch snap as someone approached the camp. She stood ready to defend herself. Unconsciously, she was aware of the spacing between herself and Furan’s bow. She shifted her stance to give him room to fire. A young orc warrior dressed in grungy leather armor stepped out of the gloom carrying a hatchet in a hand, and firewood under his arm. Brin’s guard remained sturdy.

“Who are you?” she questioned the approaching orc. “What are you doing here?”

The orc grunted and tossed his firewood down. He kept the axe at his side, but eyed Brinnea with a hint of annoyance. “You here to steal my food, pinkskin? What’s with that hat? Think you’re some kind of Pandaren?”

“We’ll be asking the questions, friend orc,” said Furan as he entered the firelight. His bow was on hand, but the string was not pulled. Brin cursed silently, reminded that the Shado-Pan were generally friendly with the Horde races. “What are you doing camping so auspiciously in the Dread Wastes, orc?” she asked almost threateningly. Furan gave her a sidelong glance.

“An orc has no need for subtlety if his axe-arm isn’t broken. Name’s Mokdeth. I’m here on business.” He swung the axe up onto his shoulder casually. Brin wasn’t amused. “Not specific enough, beastman. Better start explaining yourself or I’ll—,” Furan cut her off.

“Enough, Brinnea. The man has a right to his privacy, and our courtesy. But if you would, friend Mokdeth, perhaps consider travelling with our group? You seem a capable fighter, and our party has need of such.” This time Brinnea gave Furan a sharp glare. “We don’t know this orc, Captain! How can you trust him so easily?” Furan gave her an impatient look and she said no more.

Mokdeth yawned and replied, “Sure. Can I expect payment?” Furan nodded. “Wonderful. I’ve been meaning to see how you Pandaren fare in a fight.”

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Brinnea spent the next week of travel saying nothing except to answer Furan’s commands. The orc proved an unfaltering pain in the ass for her specifically. Whenever he got the chance, he would throw insults her way, or challenge her abilities with offhanded comments or sarcastic mockery. She rarely said anything in return, fighting herself internally to avoid smacking him across the face for his idiocy.

On the last day before their route turned homeward, he went too far.

“If you weren’t a death knight, you’d be about the least threatening human I’ve ever come across,” he said with a mouthful of morning bacon slurring his speech. He gulped down the greasy meat without chewing much. “I bet your father was some pansy mage your mother took pity on. Or maybe he beat you as a runty pup. Would explain your lack of spine.”

Flashes of her father rippled through her mind like waves in a storm. She remembered how he had loved her. And how the drink took that love away. She turned around to face the orc and punched him in the gut. He doubled over immediately, coughing up spittle at her feet. The rangers swooped in faster than Brinnea could believe and restrained them both.

They didn’t keep Mokdeth still for long. He shook off the Pandaren and charged at the still-retrained Brinnea. He shouted, “Did I hit a nerve, pinkskin? Here, I’ll find another one!” He kicked her in the groin and laughed as she doubled over. The pain was subdued compared to what a living person would feel. That said, it hurt so much her legs went limp, leaving the rangers to hold her up where before they had had to hold her back.

Before Mokdeth could follow up with another witty remark or low blow, an arrow impaled itself in his boot. It had missed his toes as far as Brin could tell; the orc reacted only by glancing sleepily at the arrow’s source.

Furan stood apart from the group, calmly knocking another arrow. The expression on his face betrayed his serene demeanor, but his hands were steady and unhurried. “Everyone back in formation. Now.”

The rangers released Brin as soon as she regained full use of her legs. They began to line back up to carry on down the path, and Mokdeth followed them, rubbing his core. He scoffed at Brin cockily. “Yeah, human. Fall back in line, like an obedient little zombie.”

She raised her fists. “Oh, you don’t even know how to shut up, do you?” He pulled the arrow out of his boot, but didn’t move. He gave Furan a sidelong look. “You really want to get in the middle of this, Captain?”

“There must be a way the two of you can work together,” the captain said with a hint of desperation touching his voice. “It cannot be this way forever. You’ll both end up dead out here if you cannot see that!”

Before Brin could tell the Captain what she thought about that, one of the rangers shouted a warning. A buzzing sound rapidly approached from above, and out of the darkness from all around, buglike figures appeared, advancing at breakneck speed and bearing armor and weapons of dull amber. The Captain shouted an order than Brin couldn’t make out over the sound of beating wings. Her sword flashed into her hand, deflecting an amber blade before biting into the Mantid’s exoskeleton with a savage counterattack aimed at where a human would have a collarbone.

One fell, and two more replaced it. The Pandaren rangers, human, and orc all stood together in a small circle, fighting the Mantid as they appeared. Brin thought their group had shrunk, and noticed a pair of Pandaren corpses out of the corner of her eye. Furan’s bow sat forgotten and trampled nearby. He had drawn his sword instead.

Mokdeth fought like a demon, striking out with a battleaxe and a hatchet in either hand. Each blow crumpled Mantid bodies like folded paper, leaving a messy pile for the rest to scramble over. Brinnea parried, countered, and hacked her way through those that advanced on her. These Mantid were clearly not blooded given their lack of skill, but the ambush had done its work by the end. Attacks from above claimed three more rangers before the insectoids fled en masse.

Six of them remained – four rangers including Furan, and Brin and Mokdeth. One of the Pandaren was badly wounded, and supported by two of her comrades. The amber blades did nasty work on the body – the spikes built into the blade made them cut unevenly, so they didn’t run deep every time. Instead, they left puncture wounds that bled more profusely than cuts, and some of the spikes even broke off inside the body to infect the bloodstream with viral infections. Brinnea knew the technique well. Too well.

The ground around them was riddled with blood, bodies, and equipment. Furan gave a few quick orders, clearly expending great effort to keep himself calm. Brin gathered their dead allies for a small pyre before she heard more buzzing in the distance. “They’re regrouping,” she warned, “Sounds like there’s more than there were before. We have to get out of here, Captain.”

Furan seemed torn. He looked at his fallen brothers and sisters in arms regretfully before sheathing his blade. “She’s right. There’s no time to tend to the dead. We need to get back to the Wall. Mei needs medical attention and we need to report this engagement.”

Mokdeth stood before Furan before he could lead a hasty retreat. “We haven’t checked the last location, Pandaren. Are you planning on abandoning the mission due to a few casualties? Sounds like fear talking to me.”

Brin took an angry step toward the orc before Furan signaled for her to halt. “We haven’t the time to finish the route, Mokdeth,” the Captain said with a level voice. “Don’t you hear the Mantid? There will be more – too many to handle. We have to get back alive.”

“We? Or just you? I can hear the fear in your voice, Furan. There’s a job to do and you’re too scared to see it through. How’d a coward like you ever make it as a ranger, anyhow?”

He’d gone too far. Furan struck him in the chest with an open palm. The orc collapsed onto the ground. “I sacrificed everything I cared about to get where I am today, orc!” the Captain put a foot down on Mokdeth’s throat, pinning him to the ground. Brinnea and the rangers watched on, unsure of what to do. They eyed he sky nervously as the sound of beating wings grew closer. “I have lost too many brothers and sisters to let it happen again! I refuse to be the last one standing this time, so get up and fall back to the Wall!”

He released the orc just in time to be struck in the side of the head by a metal sphere. Knocked off balance, he stared blankly at the burning fuse at his feet before shouting an order to run. Brin’s eyes widened and she reached for both Mokdeth and Furan with her death grip spell to pull them to safety as the other rangers scrambled to follow their captain’s orders. She only managed to tug them partway to her, unable to pull two people so far at once. They were still well within the range of the grenade, and they both knew it. The fuse burned low.

Brinnea was turning to get out of the grenade’s range, so she could only see what happened next out of the corner of her eye. Mokdeth grabbed the Pandaren by the scruff and tossed him back at the explosive. She somehow heard his hideous scream over the ear-deafening boom.

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            She found the other rangers’ corpses later that night. It didn’t take a master tracker to see that Mantid tracks riddled the area around their final resting place. Brin could hear the insectoid wings humming not too far off. She kept moving, not stopping for anything the rest of the night.

            As the sun rose, hidden though it was behind the thick cloud cover that hung constantly over the Wastes, she knew she was being followed. The stench of death hovered after her, close on her heels. A death knight had a nose for such things, though Brin would have given nearly anything to be rid of the stench. It seemed to exist no matter where she went.

A quarter of the way through the day, the orc made a mistake. He stepped into the open while Brin was keeping watch, awaiting his presence to draw nearer so she could get the jump on him. Mantid blood coated his leather armor, and a few roughly stitched wounds of his own glistened red in a beam of sunlight. His battleaxe had several nicks in its blade where he had forcefully parried Mantid strikes. His hatchet had been reduced to a billy club with a splintered edge. He seemed to be listening for something.

Brinnea was no master of stealth or subtlety. When his back was turned to her, she charged, knowing the element of surprise wouldn’t likely turn in her favor. As expected, the orc spun to face her, battleaxe swiftly raised, broken hatchet forgotten on the ground, and a sinister grin twisting his bloodstained face. Her long sword flashed like a bolt of lightning. Blue runes ignited, leaving a trail of dazzling azure in the wake of her swing. Mokdeth was terribly predictable. He smacked her strike as if cleaving through the trunk of a tree and aimed a counterstrike at her head. She ducked under the blow and swung for his legs. She was surprised he reacted in time, leaping over her sword. He nearly clobbered her over the unprotected head before she regained her stance.

“You dance well, death knight,” the orc spat, lowering his axe. To the untrained eye, he might have seemed tired and unable to continue the fight. Brin’s eyes were not untrained. “You killed the captain, pig! I will take vengeance for him and his rangers!” He scoffed. “His girth was useful for something. Not a bit of shrapnel got on me.” She roared as she thrust at his evil eye.

The orc’s movement was swift and, in a way, elegant. A high thrust was pointless against that move. She had seen it used before, only by a knight’s sword. That is why she did not strike high. She feinted, and thrust her blade through the orc’s leather jerkin. Mokdeth merely grunted with displeasure at the sword in his gut. Brin cursed under her breath as she quickly drew back her blade. Fool! she chastised herself. You missed his liver, intestines, or anything really important. Leave it to Bumbling Brin to screw up a perfect feint!

Growing more careful, Mokdeth stepped after Brinnea slowly, axe kept lifted in a more reliable stance. Brin aimed a few measured strikes at his feet, head, and hands. He dodged and parried them all, but did not counter. He seemed barely slowed by his wound. She pushed down her impatience and waited for an opening. That’s when she heard the Mantid’s wings rapidly approaching from behind.

Rather than make a quick escape, Brin made a riskier maneuver. She cast a howling blast at Mokdeth, who sidestepped it entirely and countered. Brin parried his attack and ducked around to flank the orc, who kept up with her footwork, ready to reprise any attack she threw at him. His cocky expression faded into confusion when she sprinted off into the shadows. Brin took great pleasure in the sight of the orc frantically whirling to face the attacking Mantid who came from behind him. His surprise had cost him a wounded shoulder. She hoped he would lose his head, too. She was so caught up in her success that she never saw the insectoid that clubbed her in the side of the head.

She fell head over heels into the dirt, her sword falling loose on the ground. Blood tricked down the side of her head, tickling her ear, though she could hardly feel it. A Mantid aimed a strike at her from above. She threw up her left hand to fend it off. The hungry-looking bug-man seemed surprised to hear a metallic impact when his blade hit her arm and glanced off. The leather of her glove tore, displaying the black iron hand she wore as a prosthetic. She kicked the Mantid off balance and drew her knife, plunging it into her attacker’s throat as she sprang to her feet. A second Mantid appeared. She hastily searched for her sword, but didn’t find it before she was surrounded completely. The dagger fell from her hand when she used it to block an attack. Desperately, she pulled the cord on her iron arm. The hand fell on a hinge, revealing the barrel of a cannon. Before she struck the ignition, a sword fell on her back. She felt the jagged blade slice through metal, leather, and skin. Her back grew damp. Now off-balance, her cannon shot flew with a deafening kaboom! By the time the smoke fell and the Mantid shook off their confusion, she could tell she had missed them all, sending the cannonball hurdling high in the air.

Damn the luck, she thought to herself bitterly, abandoning hope. I’m sorry Charlotte. As she awaited the blade that would end her miserable undeath, something caught her eye in the near distance. A small flame. It grew rapidly, engulfing the Mantid around her before fading. Searching for the spell’s origin, she saw someone that filled her with both unparalleled happiness and infernal dread.

Her five-year-old daughter, sitting high in the saddle of a deathcharger along with the wolflike boy who she called brother, spoke down to her, “Not to fear, mama! Your heroes have arrived!”

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“What were you thinking? Riding off into the Dread Wastes, not even knowing where I was or what state I was in – you could have gotten hurt, or lost, or worse! And since when do you ride a horse? Let alone a deathcharger!” Brin ceased fuming long enough to glare questioningly at the girl, hands on hips and eyebrows raised expectantly.

“Sissy Friede showed me,” Charlotte mumbled, her eyes downtrodden. “And Sparklehoof isn’t that different from a normal horse. He’s just cold and strong, like you, mama.”

Brinnea blinked, her stern expression broken. Light, what do I say to that? she wondered to herself frantically. Though Charlotte had been born five and a half years past, Brin was still not used to being a mother. The girl had been taken care of for five years by a dwarf paladin-turned-orphan-matron named Sister Friede. Brinnea was often surprised to hear of the things the dwarf had taught Charlotte, and felt a twinge of envy at missing much of the girl’s upbringing.

“Who’s Sparklehoof?” Brin questioned, trying to maintain an air of authority. The façade was slipping.

“Your horse! Just look at how sparkly his hooves are; they’re like diamonds!” Charlotte’s cheerfulness returned quickly. It seemed she thought the new name and a charming smile had made Brinnea forget her anger. She was mostly correct.

“I never thought to give it a name before,” Brin mused out loud. “Never really seemed alive enough to need a name.” Charlotte patted the undead steed’s leg affectionately. The worgen-spawn August was sitting in a nearby tree, watching out for any more Mantid. Brin had been concerned when taking him in that she would have to protect him as attentively as she did Charlotte, but the boy had proven rather independent, if starved for affection. August was eight years old, so he was more developed than Charlotte in some ways. When he had come along with them, however, he barely knew how to speak the Common tongue. Charlotte explained he had been raised by worgen since his human mother had been taken by the Scourge. Brin made an effort to teach him proper speech. He learned rather quickly, despite the death knight’s amateur teaching skills.

The boy took his duties seriously, so Brin was in the habit of letting him help out with things she normally preferred to take care of herself. He helped with cleaning, cooking, (thankfully his nose for food was better than Brin’s – being a death knight meant she didn’t need to eat, after all), and he watched after Charlotte when Brin was busy elsewhere.

Resuming her lecture, Brin turned to August first. “And why exactly did you let her come here? I told you to stay at the farm.” The boy’s unnervingly yellow eyes blinked down at her fearfully. He replied in his abrupt and uncertain manner, “Couldn’t stop her. Came along instead. Safer together, Lupa says so.” Lupa was August’s name for Brinnea. He never said why he called her that, and Charlotte had no idea either. He was right about what Brin had said, though. She warned them that if danger ever came, they would be safest together.

“I suppose that is acceptable, then,” Brinnea said forgivingly. She turned to Charlotte, who seemed to think the conversation was over, and had begun brushing “Sparklehoof’s” dark fur. “I didn’t say we were done talking, young lady. Put the brush away and look at me. Now, how did you two find me? The Dread Wastes are vast, what made you come this way?”

Charlotte showed Brin a red stone she had on a necklace. “We used Colin! He can sniff you out from miles away!” Brin looked skeptical. “No, really! He’s smarter than a normal dog, grandpa always said so. He ran off to find you, and we’ve been following him.”

“So where is the rascal now? I haven’t seen him.” Charlotte shrugged. “He ran off earlier, but then we found you with all those bug-people. I can summon him if you want, though!” Brin assented, and the girl gleefully sang an incantation to the red stone, which flashed brightly. When the light faded, a dog apparently made of lava, wearing a sparkling blue collar, romped around in the grass at the girl’s feet. Charlotte immediately tackle-hugged Colin, giggling as the molten corgi lapped at her face affectionately. Brin was thankful at that moment for her father’s specially-made collar. Colin would joyfully melt anyone’s skin off with his fiery tongue without the warding spell it kept on him.

“Well that’s one problem solved. Likely ran off chasing a varmint or something. In any case, we ought to get moving. I have to finish my mission, seeing as I’m the last one standing. We should make good time on the horse.”

“Sparklehoof!” Charlotte corrected, struggling to pick Colin up off the ground.

“Right. Sparklehoof.” Brinnea bent over, helping the girl ease Colin into the saddle-pouch Charlotte had insisted on buying for the dog a few weeks ago. That way, he could stay with them as they rode places. The sight of a deathcharger carrying a dog on fire must certainly look rather peculiar, but Brinnea humored the girl anyway. Colin nestled into his cozy pouch, tongue lolling from his mouth excitedly.

 After helping Charlotte into the saddle and calling August down from the tree, she mounted up and urged the deathcharger to begin out into the open where they could pick up some speed.

“Old Da taught me a few songs for long journeys,” Charlotte said as they picked up the pace. “Want me to sing for a while? Da says I’ve got a good singing voice.” Brinnea agreed with the old farmer, but she shook her head.

“Singing is for foot travel. You could bite your tongue while riding.” Charlotte nodded, a little disappointed. The boy was glancing back at the woods with great focus. Too much focus to be simple caution. Brinnea asked, “You see something, August?”

“Something…green.” Brinnea swore softly. “Sissy Friede would wash your mouth out with soap for that one, mama!” Charlotte chided playfully.

“Don’t talk, you’ll bite your tongue.”

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            Brinnea was frankly baffled that they reached the Wall without incident. No Mantid, no ambushes, and most surprisingly, no Mokdeth. Since she’d arrived in Pandaria, her luck hadn’t been this good. In all honesty, her luck had never been this good. Charlotte slept most of the way, unable to stay conscious without talking, it seemed. August kept glancing back at the road in case they were followed. Brinnea tried to keep up a brave face for the kid, but found herself taking a few chance glances herself.

            Brinnea took in the view of the Serpent’s Spine from a near distance, stirring Charlotte so she could get a good look. It was truly one of the world’s greatest wonders, a testament to Pandaria’s both beautiful and troubled past. During her first visit to Pandaria, the Wall had been besieged near constantly by Mantid raids, but now the massive doors were freshly repaired. They even opened widely as she rode forth and sounded the Shado’pan horn. She felt an odd surge of emotion witnessing something so grand moving at her call.

            The Ranger Commander Yao met her at the gatehouse, with a grim expression written across his face. Brinnea dismounted, and helped Charlotte and Colin down as well. August hopped down unaided, and took the charger’s reins dutifully.

            “You alone return from the excursion, Outsider?” Commander Yao questioned, barely containing his grief. Brinnea nodded sadly, and the Pandaren commander’s head drooped. “Captain Furan was among our wisest veterans. Without him, our ranks will suffer. He knew the Wastes as well as any of our number.”

            Brinnea sighed. “I wish I had better tidings, Commander. The captain died bravely, defending his followers.”

            “Tell me, Outsider, how did Furan meet his end? Did you get the chance to burn his body, lay his spirit to rest?”

            “The Mantid ambushed us in the wilds near Set’vess. They were young, from a new spawn. Likely looking for intruders to test their mettle. We tried to flee, but only I escaped with my life.” Brinnea saw Charlotte racing off towards the young Pandaren training with crossbows off to the side of the courtyard. August walked the charger in that direction, keeping the spirited girl within his sight.

            Yao replied, “Even without a full swarm, the Mantid hound our steps. You nearly completed the route, at least. Come with me, I will need a full report.” He turned and gestured for her to follow him. She did so, speaking to the children as she passed them, “Stay in the courtyard, you two. No wandering off. I’ll be back soon. Deal?”

            “Deal!” Charlotte cried gleefully while trying to wrestle a crossbow from a training Pandaren twice her height. August gave her an affirmative nod. Then he tugged Charlotte by the collar away from the practice session she was disrupting. Brin sighed, rubbing her head with concern. She sure is a handful. Was I this bad at her age?

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