((More story time about Vaelanys and how he ended up with his garrison. The part of Damarianth (top screenshot) is played by Seish, who got his hair done for the first time ever for the role.))
Portal was worse than he had ever imagined. He thought it had gone worse than
any of them could have envisioned. Vaelanys had expected battle. It had been almost a massacre. Damarianth's
Lynxes had been a proud company, nearly fifty strong, but they were routed,
more than half their number lost. What remained fled before he and the paladin
beside him, a long, straggling, broken line whose beginning was out of sight in
the jungle. He thought the rest of the Horde's forces had lost even more.
escaped unscathed. He wasn't sure any of them had, but the pain in his wounded
leg was minor and troubled him far less that the distant sounds of battle
behind them. He and Damarianth turned as one to look, but for the moment there
was neither pursuit nor the more welcome sign that some straggling Lynx would
have been. Neither of them spoke, though when the paladin tugged the reins to
keep his charger at a walk, Vaelanys mirrored the gesture and felt the
hawkstrider tense under him, ruffled feathers scraping at his leathers.
watched the last red and gold tabard vanish over a small rise ahead of them,
and once more Vaelanys looked over his shoulder, and then back at the dense
trees ahead of them, wondering if what they were running into was really any
better than what they fled. "Where will we go?" he asked finally and
was pleased to find that his voice sounded calm and steady even if he felt
nothing of the sort.
don't know." The paladin tucked one gauntleted hand under the opposite
elbow, pulling the heavy glove off long enough to let his bare fingers push
sweat and hair from his eyes. "Have to find a place we can retreat to and
try to fortify. Regroup, tend the wounded then see if we can contact any of the
Horde forces that are left." If there were any left.
nodded. What neither of them said was that all that depended on whether they
even survived the jungle. "Are they okay? At the front?" His head
tilted slightly in the direction the vanished line had gone.
at the front. He'll be watching them."
turned another look over their shoulders. But no more red tabards straggled
into sight, no more fleeing mounts ran past them. More than half. He had known
them only a week and Vaelanys's heart ached for it. He couldn't imagine what
Damarianth felt. None of it showed in the paladin's face, but Vaelanys knew the
look of a noble's composed mask when he saw it. He wore it often enough
himself. "Let's catch..." But before he'd even finished the words an
earth shattering roar made Tyrn spin beneath him. He caught a brief and
dizzying glimpse of what looked like a moving hillside before he steadied the
warstrider beneath him.
In the ringing silence that followed the roar he heard Damarianth's prayerful
whisper. Both of them stared up at the Gronn. Into its single mad and furious
eye and then higher to the heavy cannon mounted on its hunched shoulders.
dropped out of Vaelanys's stomach, and for a moment his hands on the reins were
numb. Beside him Damarianth seemed similarly frozen, but it was the paladin who
moved first, slowly tugging his gauntlet back on and then very deliberately
reaching up to loosen his shield and mace from his back. Vaelanys stared
at him, but the paladin's eyes were fixed on the gronn.
couldn't mean to fight that. There was no way the two of them could possibly
win. But then it moved again and Vaelanys understood. It covered what felt like
half the distance between them in a few strides. It had been only moments since
the last of the Lynxes had vanished from sight. One numb hand lifted over his
shoulder to close on his staff.
them out, Vaelanys." The paladin's eyes stayed on the gronn. "You
keep my people alive and you get them out. Do you understand me?"
can't stop it, Damarianth. No one could. I can't let you..."
is an ORDER, Sunthorn. You get my people. And you get them out."
has to be another way." His own jaw set as he stared up at the gronn and
it moved again.
Go." The paladin heeled the reluctant charger forward one walking step.
"And tell Kieryl..." Their eyes met as for the first time since the
gronn appeared Damarianth looked at him, but a second later the paladin shook
his head and turned away. "Never mind, I'll catch up. But don't let them
wait. Keep them alive. GO!"
will try." He obeyed. Vaelanys hated himself for it even as he did but he
turned Tyrn and heeled the strider away.
he heard Damarianth yell and one glance over his shoulder showed him the paladin,
long white braid whipping behind him as he rode the charger straight at the
gronn. "Fangs of the Eversong!"
He didn't look back a second time and he felt
like a coward as he dug his heels into the strider's sides again and leaned
forward against the feathered neck. But he didn't want to even hear what would
happen. Sunwell, he did not want to hear that.
can't wait any longer." Vaelanys told the weary, dirt smudged, rebellious
faces around him. He'd disobeyed that much, let them wait a few moments miles
away in the lee of large stone, though it had been more for the wounded than
any real hope for Damarianth. "We have to move."
NOT LEAVING!" Kieryl snapped at him, throwing his shield to the ground at
his feet. "We're not leaving him. YOU might be coward enough to run and
leave him to fight alone, but the rest
of us will stand with him."
own anger rose, along with his own stinging hurt that he knew was no match for
the smaller paladin's agony. The butt of his staff slammed the ground as he
stood. "I followed ORDERS! And he told me to go and he told me to get you
out and I will be damned to a place worse than this if I fail! Now get the rest
of them up, get the wounded up and MOVE!"
you can go straight to wherever that is." Kieryl snarled. He could see the
muscles working as the smaller paladin's jaw clenched tight. "Because I'm
not leaving him."
understood, Sunwell but he understood the pain in Kieryl's voice and face. It
tore at him until it took every ounce of his own control to keep it from
showing in his features. "You are." He said firmly. "Either on
your own feet or hog-tied over Tyrn's back. He gave me an order. He gave us an order and we are going to obey
it. Pick up your shield."
surprised him a little when after spitting at his feet the smaller paladin
obeyed, picking up his shield and turning his back. Even through the plate he
could see the angry set of Kieryl's shoulders. But that sign had been what it
took for those that hadn't yet risen to begin, rising and tugging the worst of
the injured to their feet.
Anrastas onto Tyrn. I can walk." Vaelanys watched them move to obey,
scooping the barely conscious warrior onto the warstrider's back. Tal'efir
picked up the last tattered red and gold Lynx banner from where it had been
propped up against the stone.
stood a little away, his back to them, looking not the way they'd go, but back
the way they'd come. His armor grated once with some small movement and
Vaelanys wondered if he wept. But when he turned back his eyes were hard and
bright and dry. "Where we going?" He demanded.
of this jungle. Somewhere we can fortify." It wasn't really an answer but
it was the best he had. "What we're going to do first is stay alive."
He wished he had some balm for their grief, and for his own. "You can
leave him a sign. I'm sure you have one, some secret sign for missions. Leave
some as we go. If he can come he'll know where to look." It felt wrong to
say it, to offer hope where he knew there was none but if it gave them even a
fragile thread to cling to and keep moving Vaelanys would use it.
watch as Kieryl moved to scoop up rocks and scrape at the stone where they'd
rested, but he waited until he'd finished and until they'd all begun to move
out before he followed. Vaelanys didn't look back. His attention was focused on
the way ahead of them and the promise he'd made. He'd never wanted this
responsibility. He didn't feel qualified to handle it. But what he wanted
didn't matter. It was his now. They were his now, to protect if he could, or to
die like Damarianth in trying.