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June 10, 2011 / Bika

Fiction Friday: The Right of All Horde IX

The end is nigh; what began as a silly late-night RP session between my druid and a geeky little hunter named Fenn seems to be drawing to a close after having spawned enough stories to fill a good-sized novel. The Right of All Horde will wrap up Part X next week with an epilogue to follow, as well as a little story about Cersei’s fate.

Please enjoy Part IX of this series, written by Verdus, co-authored by Claire (& me!). Missed any of the previous posts? Visit the links below:

* * *

After two long and awkwardly quiet days on the road, Verdus, Fenniel, Ysani, and the catatonic Cersei approached the end of their journey. The hushed, pristine forests of Eversong stood in stark contrast to the loud engines and thick exhaust of their motorcycles as they drove along the winding roads toward Silvermoon. Ysani was at the head of their mini-caravan, chattering often in Fenniel’s direction while he rode in her sidecar, mostly silent. Neither had spoken more than five words to Verdus since they’d set out from the Swamp of Sorrows and his own passenger wasn’t exactly a rousing conversation partner. At least, not outside the occasional burst of insane, terrified babbling. Lonely as the travel arrangements were, it was probably for the best. Verdus was sure he didn’t know what to say to either of them anymore.

If it weren’t for the circumstances, the drive could have been quite pleasant overall. The elves obviously cared a great deal about the natural state of their homeland. There was none of the barren industrialization that one found around the outposts of Garrosh’s orcs, nor any of the bleak, sickly despair that pervaded the former realm of Lordaeron. The trees and grasses were healthy and vibrant, frozen in an endless autumn moment. The fruits were plentiful and birdsong flitted through the cool air. It was a scene of perfect natural beauty, like riding through a painting.

For all that, though, it lacked something. It had taken Verdus hours to put his finger on exactly what it was, but once he saw it what it was it seemed painted across every bush and rock in sight. There was no depth to any of it, nothing wild. In Feralas, Stranglethorn Vale, or even the sedate plains of Mulgore, there was always sense of urgency coursing through the Emerald Dream, life and death weaving back and forth through the regions’ inhabitants. There was none of that here. These woods had meticulously groomed and manicured over thousands of years. The results were lovely to be sure, but tame. Domesticated, even. While it made for a beautiful scenic drive, it was nowhere that a druid like Verdus would ever want to live.

On the last leg of their journey the four riders camped for the night in the south of Eversong to collect their thoughts and, though they would never phrase it as such, get their stories straight. Ysani dove right in before they were even settled, sitting on her heels beside her bike and making eye contact with Verdus for the first time since they left the swamp. “I think you should leave.”

“What?” replied Verdus and Fenniel in unison, both blinking in surprise.

“I don’t think lying will fix this, but I think it might be best to, ah, leave some things unsaid. And unseen. Like you,” she said, pointing at Verdus for emphasis. She’d had two long, slow days on the road to think things over and it was all coming out now, whether she wanted it to or not.

“Why the change of heart?” Verdus asked, not quite believing what he was hearing. “You were the one who said I should turn myself into the authorities in the first place, if you’ll remember. Now you want me to run away?”

“The Magisters re-educate elves. They won’t give you the same treatment, which might be good, except for the part where they definitely kill you.”

“Yeah, Ysani. I know.” Verdus surprised himself with the matter-of-fact way the words came out of his own mouth. He hadn’t had to think about what arriving in Silvermoon would mean for him during the trip, but part of him had known the second they set out. Saying it out loud seemed to make it real, and for some reason the thought didn’t bother him as much as he would have guessed.

“Well, it’s like I said before. Killing Cersei wouldn’t have made Libby’s–” She looked at Fenn with a dubious expression and continued, red-faced, “–wouldn’t have made up for what Cersei did. And I don’t think that what the Magisters would do to you would make any of this right, either.”

Fenn fanned himself in spite of the cool evening air. “I don’t want Mister Verdus to get hurt too.”

Ysani moved across the grass toward Fenniel and put her arm around his shoulder. “I know you don’t. That’s why I think it would be best if he got out of town after we talk.” She looked pointedly at the druid. “I don’t think he’ll ever do something like this again, you know?”

Unbidden, the idea of repeating his acts of the past weeks bubbled to the surface of Verdus’s thoughts. A nameless, faceless criminal guilty of a horrible crime discovered, stalked, and executed. With the last of his lingering anger having bled out of him, the druid found himself feeling physically ill just thinking about it. He unconsciously looked down at the ground between the three of them and replied with a very small “No.”

“I believe you, Verdus. I don’t think you’re a bad person, and that’s why I don’t want to just turn you in. You work hard for the Horde. What a senseless waste it would be..!”

Fenn turned to look at Ysani, and quirked an eyebrow. “No one is hurting Verdus, right?”

“Not if we can help it. It just might be a little tricky.” The saddlebags on her motorbike were seriously depleted of their usual candy stash, but she dug out the last of it anyway and set it on the ground between her and her friend. “We can say that I went to talk to Cersei and she wasn’t at her post, so I went to look for her and found her like this.”

Fenn frowned and unwrapped a piece of candy. “Why would you talk to my sister?”

“You’ve been distraught. Maybe I thought Cersei could help cheer you up,” Ysani said around a lollipop. Fenn’s immediate reaction made her reconsider and she tried again. “Or maybe I went to question her about the incident with your–with Libby.”

“Then what was I doing there?” Fenn’s stomach gurgled and he mumbled an apology. Ysani unwrapped three more candies lickety-split and put them into his hands for quicker ingestion.

“You were there in case Cersei tried anything and I needed help. Weren’t you?”

His eyes widened.

“And when she wasn’t at the post, we went into the swamp to look for her and found her tied to a tree. Right?”

He shook his head. “Everyone knows I’m terrified of my sister.”

“All the more reason for me to be there. I’m not scared of anything–well, not Cersei, anyway. I suspected she might know what happened, so I asked your permission to go speak with her, then we went to Stonard together. You were going to wait with the guards while I talked to her, but she wasn’t there. So I went out looking for her.” She looked at the druid, then back at Fenn. “Does it sound even remotely feasible?”

Fenn talked around a mouthful of candy, licking his fingers. “Ysani, what if we get caught? What if they find out we lied?”

Verdus was still looking at the same patch of earth that he had before Ysani had begun outlining her story, lost deep in thought. A long moment passed in silence between them before he looked back up. “So that’s it?” he asked. “We just walk away from this and pretend it never happened? After all the terrible things that have happened…” His voice trailed off into the night, lost for words.

It was nearly dark now, and stars were beginning to twinkle overhead in the gaps between trees. Ysani looked to them for guidance and found nothing. She shrugged. “If you haven’t suffered enough, you will. It seems like your own conscience will provide ample punishment if that’s what you’re looking for. As far as plans go that’s all I had. But we can keep thinking. Something will come up, it has to.”

“I’m not saying it’s a bad plan, I’m just um…” Fenn polished off the last piece of candy. “I don’t know what the Magisters would do to us if they found out we were lying.”

Ysani stared glumly into the forest and chewed on a huge wad of taffy. “I think I know.”

Fenn went back to fanning himself. “I think I do too.”

The conversation flickered out at that point. The three of them went about their now-familiar tasks in silence, thoughts weighing heavily on each of their minds. Ysani set up camp, laying a fire and putting out bedrolls for each of them, including Cersei. Fenniel hunted for game and established a perimeter around the camp, setting traps to signal and ensnare any uninvited guests. Verdus tended to the catatonic warlock and, once Fenniel returned from his hunt, prepared dinner for the lot of them. Fenn and Ysani were still talking quietly with each other when Verdus turned in for the night, no doubt getting the details straight on the lie they’d have to sell once Verdus left in the morning.

The druid was still staring up at the stars long after the other two retired. Sleep hadn’t come, of course, nor was he sure he wanted it to. While he’d snatched a few fitful hours since pulling Cersei from her would-be tomb, they had hardly been restful, plagued by the nightmares that had haunted him since he put her there. They were always the same, with Verdus down in that miserable hole instead of her. There was no light, no sound, only the damp pressure of the mud compressing him from all sides. He couldn’t have moved even if he had the strength left to try. He’d screamed his throat raw days ago. The only sensation that Verdus felt in the dream at all, apart from the crushing weight of earth above him, was the half-imagined wriggling of burrowing insects as they moved through the dirt along his skin. Only guilt and despair lived down there.

Verdus woke with a start from the dream he hadn’t even realized he’d been having. Trembling and drenched in sweat, he struggled to calm his frantic breathing while not panicking at the familiar blackness all around him. The fire had long since died down to mere embers, but they were enough for him to focus on as he fought down the disorientation of waking. Gathering his wits and calming his nerves, he realized there was little point in staying until morning. Ysani and Fenniel didn’t need him to make any more a mess of things and waiting would only bring awkward farewells. They probably didn’t want to see him again anyway, not after all that he’d done. Besides, even thinking of going back to sleep scared him. It was better this way.

Quietly gathering up his things, Verdus walked his motorcycle away from the darkened camp so as not to wake the others. Almost too late did he remember the perimeter of traps that Fenn had established, narrowly avoiding one in his path. But before he’d even gotten a dozen yards from camp, he heard a quiet crunch of leaves from the darkness to his left.

“Sh-show yourself. I’m a trained Farstrider of Silvermoon.”

“Fenn? Is that you? Stars and stones, what are you doing up?” Verdus replied in a shocked whisper. He was so sure he’d gotten away unnoticed.

“Oh, Mister Verdus.” Fenn took a step towards Verdus, barely illuminated in the moonlight. “I couldn’t sleep. Where are you going?”

“I couldn’t sleep either, Fenn. And, well…” Verdus fumbled for words for a minute, before letting out a defeated sigh. “I’m taking Ysani’s advice, Fenn. I’m leaving. I just… I thought it would be easier not waiting until morning. Then I wouldn’t have to…” Verdus’s voice trailed off, not finishing his thought, Then I wouldn’t have to face you again.

“M-mister Verdus it’s okay, I mean, you don’t have to go right now.” He cleared his throat and lowered his gun, letting the barrel sink into the dirt. “Are we… are we still going to be friends?”

The question was so unexpected that Verdus felt himself rock back from it, as if the small elf had almost knocked the massive tauren over. For several seconds he could do little but gape and blink. “What do you… I… what?”

“I just want to know if um… is this… are you never going to talk to me again?”

“I… I’d like to, Fenn. I really would. I just… If someone had done to me what I’ve done to you here… I don’t know what I’d do. You’re one of the best friends I have, Fenn. I wanted to find the truth for you, to make whoever had hurt you pay. But… it got turned all around somehow.” The words came with great difficulty at first, but now they poured out of the broken dam and it was all Verdus could do to keep from breaking out in tears. “I… I was afraid you’d hate me for it, Fenn. That you’d… I don’t know, never speak to me again, throw me to the magisters, come after me yourself. I wanted to help you and I screwed everything up! I’m sorry, Fenn, I’m so sorry!” His last vestiges of self-control gave up the fight, and Verdus fell into incoherent wracking sobs, still standing only because he was leaning on his motorcycle.

Fenn stood there for some time, open-mouthed and blinking rapidly. “I…well. I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t really know how Cersei is gonna be after this.” He shrugged. “Maybe it’s better I know. Maybe it’s not. I don’t really know. My head is um…kind of a mess. But I don’t want you to not be my friend anymore.”

“You still… but… why?” Verdus stammered as he blinked through the tears streaming down and along his snout. “I don’t… I don’t deserve that, Fenn.”

“I don’t have a lot of friends.” His shoulders crumpled. “People make mistakes. It’s okay.”

“I…” Verdus started to say, but stopped and simply nodded. He stood up straight from his bike as the tears slowed and stepped over to where Fenn had stepped out of the trees. “If you’ll still have me, I’d be very happy to be your friend, Fenniel.” Verdus enveloped the comparatively tiny elf in a mammoth hug, trying very hard not to crush him in the process. A smile began to creep across his face for the first time in weeks.

Fenn stood limply for awhile before patting his friend on the back, pulling away and wiping his face with the back of his sleeve. “It’s okay.” He smiled faintly. “It’s okay. We’re still friends.”

“You’re too good to me, Fenniel. You deserve a lot better than this messed up bull.” Verdus took a step back, one mammoth hand still on Fenniel’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he said. “I’ll talk to you soon, Fenn. I promise.”

Fenn smiled weakly and nodded, then turned and walked back toward the camp. Watching him go, Verdus wondered what had ever possessed him to think that such a gentle man would care the first whit about revenge. All Fenniel had ever wanted was his wife back, his life back. Verdus knew that now; everything else had been about his own selfish anger. As he turned south and started his long walk back home, he knew that there was nothing he could do to give Fenniel what he really wanted. Nobody could. Libby was gone and, Earthmother willing, had found a greater peace than she had known in life. Maybe, though… Just maybe he could help his friend build a new future.


One Comment

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  1. Verdus / Jun 11 2011 4:50 pm

    Err, part ten *is* the epilogue, silly nub. 😛

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