Fancying how happy you were if I could be with you and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)
— Walt Whitman, Full of Life Now
She looks up at the faces of doom and …
The air smelled of thunder. The stormclouds rolled in from the sea, spraying the land with a hammering rain not even the murlocs enjoyed. Dense clouds slithered down the mountainsides from Dun Morogh. Crackling lightning turned the snowy cliffs a pale blue and white. Thunder echoed between the mountains, rolling down with a dull boom towards the Wetland plains.
Shuanna tossed in her bed. The stone cabin was warm, the fire crackled in the fireplace and the faint smell of wax candles still hung in the air. She dreamed, a dream she had dreamt so many times. Always the same. Always.
(“That one! Kill the rest, spare the bitch!”)
(“Incoming! Damned ghouls I will flay you alive! I TOLD you to look out for him! I to–“)
(“Is she alive? Maraad?”)
Shuanna woke up with a faint gasp. For quite some time she stared at the ceiling, watching the shadows dance in the dying firelight. It wasn’t the thunder that scared her. It was the dream, short as it were – fragments, really. Just a few minutes of crystal clear images in her head, mixed with recollections of war and sometimes unknown phantasms of the mind. By now she was quite used to the dream. It didn’t exactly scare her, not anymore. It worried her. That’s why she always woke up whenever it appeared.
She had never even been to that part of the dread citadel. Others had fought the horrors inside, not her. Not until the bridgehead had been established and the lower levels of Icecrown was in the crusades hands had she been ordered to go inside. It was some sort of preparation; how to motivate the troops that would take part in the final assault. She had followed in the footsteps of half a dozen grim crusaders, all cross the rickety iron bridges. Then, as they stopped in the archway to the inner chamber, her legs froze. She couldn’t move. The … thing!
She’s almost naked. The cold is making her skin crawl. She’s not afraid, not scared. She’s resigned, knowing what will happen. It’s that last moment when you know all hope is gone, that only death awaits. There’s no reason to be scared. There’s no strength left inside you to fuel the fright. She looks up at the faces of doom and … That’s where she always woke up. Those dead eyes staring into her soul. Ready to rip it apart.
She sighed, closed her eyes, tried to go back to sleep. It didn’t work. Instead she swung her legs over the side of the bed, annoyed. She sighed, yawned, stretched and stood up. With the blanket over her shoulders she stoked the fire and swung the sooty kettle into place.
“Tea, girl,” she said. “Gonna perk you up. Tea and a smoke.” She chuckled. “Or two.”
That’s when a sudden sound made her scream. A sharp knock. A voice, calling out:
“‘ullo? Yer in dere, lass!?”
She didn’t scream long. It as more of a frightened yelp. Instinct took over in a split second. Her hand grabbed the iron poker as she pushed the blanket off her shoulders and held the poker as a mace in front of her. As she carefully moved towards the thick oak door she called out:
“’tis me, ye stoopid! Murgun!” A short pause, then: “Yer neighbur, daftie!”
“What’cha doing out there in a storm like this!?” She lowered the poker, placed it against the wall and opened the door just as Murgun called out:
“Gott’a mate fer ye! Foun’ ‘im wand’rin’ lookin’ like a wet cat!”
Shuanna was about to say something witty in response but her words froze. With mouth half open, eyes wide with suprise and fear, she saw the tall looming dark shadow behind the dwarf. A thick coat made from well-oiled skin covered most of the apparition. Water was gushing down the wide shoulders as he – it was clearly a man – moved closer. He let his sturdy quarterstaff rest against his shoulder as he bowed. Water spilled out from his wide brimmed leather hat.
We go a long way back, her and me.
“The weather could certainly need bit of an improvement,” he said, and looked up. The firelight from inside the cabin lit up half his face. “Wouldn’t you agree, vindicator?”
“M… ” Shuanna swallowed. “Ma … ” She took a deep breath, steadying herself. “What the flying fuck are you doing here!?” She clapped her hand to her mouth, looking horrified. Then she said through her fingers, in a small, almost childish voice: “Sorry!”
“Ye know each one?” Murgun said, looking from Shuanna to Maraad.
“Indeed.” Maraad nodded, a faint smile on his lips. “We go a long way back, her and me. It’s good to know she still curse like a sailor.”
“I said I was sorry!” Shuanna lowered her hands. Then she twitched, realising she wore nothing but her underwear. “Oh shit, I … Come in, both of you before you freeze to death!”
“We gunna drown first I reckon,” Murgun said and chuckled. “But no me, lass. Me gunna git home, missus worried sick she is.” He looked up at Maraad as the tall draenei almost bent double to fit into the doorway as he entered the cabin. It was a lot roomier inside, if he moved carefully he wouldn’t have to collide with the chande– “Watcher dere!”
Shuanna burst out laughing.
“Yer be aight in dere I reckon, night.” Murgun chuckled, shaking his head he flipped the well-oiled canvas hood over his head and soon disappeared into the dark. She closed the door and turned to Maraad.
“Your noggin allright there?” she said.
“Fine, fine,” he said, smiling. “Mind if I sit down?” He gave the brass chandelier a worried look. “I’m afraid I’ll bounce into that … whatever it is. Again. It’s a lamp?”
“Uh-huh.” She gave a cursory look of the chandelier. It was almost 3 feet wide, roughly 200 pounds. It could hold up to twelve candles in each ring. There were seven rings in total, each adorned with a skull carved from ivory and plenty of other details. “Murgun brought it here a couple of days ago. He … ‘found’ it, he says, in an abandoned castle up north. Scholomance.”
“The necromancy school?”
“Used to be. No one’s sure where the bastards scurried after Andorhal.” She went over to the fireplace, pulled down two pewter mugs and filled them with hot, steaming tea. “Tea?”
“Please.” Maraad slowly pulled off his heavy raincoat. Not sure where to put it he ended up simply dropping it on the floor beside him. “I don’t suppose you got something stronger? Just to, you know, chase the chill out of these old bones of mine.”
A few minutes later the sat on opposite ends of the stone table, tea, tobacco and a jug of Caraway Burnwine on the table. They didn’t talk much. Instead the were simply watching each other, carefully. Shuanna had dressed herself, just a simple farmers outit — blue overalls made rom sturdy linen. At length, the silence between them started to bother her. She knew of his tricks, how he sometimes (involuntarily as he claimed) “probed” a mind. She didn’t want him to find her dream. As terrible as it was it was her dream. So she said:
“I got your note. At least I think it was yours. M?”
“Oh, I almost forgot about that one,” he said, smiling. “I sent it … must have been four months ago.”
“Mail’s slow in these parts.”
“Why did you come?”
“Why do you think I came?”
“I dunno. To get laid?”
“Really now!” He burst out laughing. “I have that covered, thank you very much!”
“Oooh, secret girlfriend?”
“Not in a thousand years and ten thousand more, dear friend. Some secrets are worth protecting.”
“There are three people in this world that may call me that. Me, the prophet and the bartender at a small hole in the wall in Lower City.”
“That blind orc? He who claims he used to be a blademaster before he took an arrow to the knee?”
“That’s the one.”
“Huh. He usually calls me honey.”
“He’s probably sweet on you. I can see why.”
“My my, vindicator … are you flirting with me?”
“I wouldn’t know how.”
Shuanna laughed. Maraad joined in. They laughed together for a long time. Then the laughter ebbed, replaced by a cosy, friendly silence. The finished off their tea and rum. As Shuanna got to her feet to find some bread and cheese, Maraad said:
“I wanted to see how you were doing, friend. Nothing more. I’m not sure how long I can stay, or if I can return another day. Thing’s … are happening. I can’t tell you more than that, I’m sure you understand.”
She put out bread, Dalaran Sharp and Darkmoon Faire spiced sausage on a platter and sat down. As she made herself a sandwich she nodded, careful not to ask even though she was curious.
“Why the mystery?” she said.
“You know why.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps not. Suffice to say – my … informants. Speak of a person of interest.”
“I’m sure I don’t want to know.” She sighed. “And even if I did you wouldn’t tell me.” She took a bite out of her sandwich and spoke while chewing. “Beshidesh, shit’sh gonna hit the fan I’m shure n’ people go shtir crashy again, yeah?”
“That’s likely to happen, yes.” He sighed. “Still, I got enough time to give myself a much needed vacation. Last thing I did was a bit … troubling.”
“Like wha’?” She swallowed, hard, and poured herself a new mug of tea and rum.
“Oh it’s nothing, really. I got gouged by a thorny wine summoned by a dark shaman, who later was eaten alive by virmen.”
Shuanna almost choked on her tea.