Arthas pressed a hand against Sapphire's chest as she lay on the ground. She whimpered as he felt her ribcage. As he pressed more firmly, Sapphire started to cry. Three times she yelped in great pain. She squeezed the doll in her arms tightly. Each time Stub and Rot, curled up between Sapphire's legs, lifted their heads in concern. Eventually he finished checking each rib.
"I am not doing this for fun. You have three broken ribs."
Sapphire sniffled. Her cries and obvious pain had caught the attention of the wolves, where a few of them came over to circle the two people. Greenstalker had led Arthas to his family's cave for protection. The cave itself only spanned a few hundred feet. Stalactites dripped with water, echoing throughout. The wolves, or Thornclaws as Grendel called them, had lived in the cave for generations. Some bones littered the cave floor but in general the cave was surprisingly tidy.
In a corner of the cave, Grendel had shown off the difference between him and his family. This was where Sapphire lay. As a human, Grendel need more than rock floor for a home. Rough fur skins covered the primitive room. He also had an urge to collect things. Rocks, pinecones, feathers and other things found in the forest.
One of the wolves, which Arthas guessed was Grendel's mother, leaned forward to lick some of the girl's tears. The girl reached up to pat the wolf's head. Stub, suddenly deciding he wants attention to, sat up and made cackling noised. Sapphire tried to sit up to pet him, but Arthas stopped her.
"Did you not hear me? Broken. Ribs. Unless you want to puncture your lungs or aorta, Stay down."
Sapphire winced at his harsh tone. Arthas sighed.
"Please, just rest. All right?" He asked in an apologetic tone. The girl nodded.
It had not been long since they had entered the cave. Arthas had expected Gorak Tul to retaliate but it seemed he and his so called Huntsman were licking their wounds instead. For now, they seemed safe.
Greenstalker himself lay in the middle of the cave, literally licking his wounds. All of the Thornclaws were nervous, pacing around their leader. Grendel sat next to him, mixing a variety of herbs in a bowl. After preparing the poultice, he stood up.
Arthas looked over at the boy, expecting him to offer the stuff to the wolf, but Grendel did not even glance at Greenstalker. He headed straight over to the two humans.
"I made this for Snowfur," He said happily, offering the bowl to Arthas.
He hesitated to take it. While the boy had been helpful, Arthas did not entirely trust him.
Grendel frowned. "It's for her bones. So they will heal quicker!"
He then smiled shyly at Sapphire. Arthas realized that the boy seemed to like her. He took the bowl from the boy.
The gesture pleased Grendel and he then tilted his head. He looked critically at the state of Sapphire. It was not just her ribs that were damaged. Her dress had been ripped extensively. This seemed to give the boy an idea.
"Snowfur needs new clothes!" He declared. Arthas watched in astonishment as the boy rummaged around his own belongings until he pulled out a few shirts, pants, and even a proper Kul Tiran long coat. The boy himself wore rustic leather and fur clothing. Grendel looked back at Snowfur and then sized her up to find clothes that were roughly the same size as her.
Sapphire seemed very intriqued at the clothes. "Why do you have those clothes but wear furs?"
Grendel looked up. "Oh, they smell like human. I don't want to smell humany...but I still like them."
He finally found a plain white shirt, some faded leggings, and a few accessories as well. Arthas took the clothes from the boy. Grendel stood there for a second but his mother growled at him. The boy jumped.
"Oh! I'm sorry. Mother says I should leave for you to change. Sorry!" He then scurried off back to Greenstalker. Grendel's mother forced other curious wolves away from them.
Sapphire scowled as he left. "He's a weirdo."
Arthas snorted at her statement. He had expected her to be more subdued from the pain, but she was in good spirits. With that, he carefully sat her up and helped remove the ruined clothes. She looked sad as Arthas threw the dress away.
"Volugg gave me that..." She whispered. At least her other belongings were mostly intact, including the ugly hat that she seemed particularly attached to.
"It's just a dress. Besides, these clothes will be better for travel," He tried to say comfortingly. Sapphire nodded obediently, then picked up the longcoat. She pulled it on and looked up at her father.
"It's too big," She complained. The sleeves especially were too long.
Arthas proceeded to roll up each sleeve. "You'll grow into it."
After she was dressed, they both sat in silence. There was an uncomfortable tension between the two. Arthas wanted to break it, but did not know how. Rot stared at him intently.
"I do not believe saying sorry is enough, is it?" Arthas began slowly.
Sapphire suddenly became very interested in the buttons on the longcoat, not deigning to answer. Arthas persisted.
The girl looked up at him, eyes watery with unshed tears.
"Not Snowfur. Not Kalma. I'm just Sapphire."
Stub whined and rubbed his head against her arm. Rot licked her hand. She picked up Rot and hugged him. She refused to look her father in the eye.
"I've heard worse names," Arthas replied, attempting humor.
She nodded. "You once killed a deathknight because their name was Harmony."
He laughed. "Did I? I do not remember that."
The girl nodded once more, and grew upset. "You didn't like my name either. Marwyn named me after Sapphiron but you...you didn't like it."
A single tear ran down her cheek. Arthas sighed.
"I am sorry about what I said a couple days ago. I am sorry about Marwyn."
She returned to playing with the longcoat buttons and muttered that it was all right. Before Arthas could attempt more conservation, there was a deep growl. Greenstalker it seemed had gotten to his feet and limped over to the newcomers. His green eyes were locked onto Arthas. The man left Sapphire in the care of Rot and Stub to stand before the wolf.
"How is your offspring?" Greenstalker asked. There was something dark and familiar about the wolf that Arthas could not figure out. Nothing good would come of making Greenstalker an enemy.
"A few broken ribs but good," Arthas said. The wolf looked at the teary eyed girl briefly, then brought his full attention back to the man.
"Physically and emotionally damaged. You have made a great many mistakes, Arthas Menethil," The wolf accused.
Greenstalker knew who he was. Arthas gritted his teeth defensively and would have rashly retorted but the wolf's eyes flashed dangerously.
"You have no Helm nor Frostmourne anymore. Nothing more but a common, if skilled, deathknight. Think before you speak."
The wolf knew too much but the words rang true. No longer did Arthas have the same unlimited power as he had as the Lich King. He could kill dozens if not hundreds of humans. Greenstalker had hidden power and Arthas doubted he could take on the wolf if it decided to kill him. But Greenstalker seemed, if not an ally, at least neutral to Arthas.
So Arthas heeded the wolf's advice. "Will we be safe here?"
The wolf huffed and seemed to contemplate the question for a moment. "Not long. Gorak Tul is persistent. A day or two perhaps."
Sapphire needed weeks for her ribs to heal properly. Arthas voiced this concern but the wolf did not seem very concerned.
"This is not an important matter at the moment. Right now I need to know what your intentions are."
Arthas scowled. "Intentions? About what?"
Greenstalker looked over at Sapphire, who had found a stick in Grendel's collection and was now throwing it for Stub and Rot to chase after and bring back. Two Thornclaws had stopped to watch the exchange curiously. One decided to join in and snatched up the bone from Stub before the hyena could get it. Stub appeared deeply offended.
"The child. I saw the scars. I know of you. Are you intending on harming her?"
Arthas shook his head fervently. "No. I mean...I have harmed her in the past but...That's the past."
Greenstalker seemed to approve of this answer but continued on. "Where do you intend to go?"
This Arthas could not easily answer. Until recently all his plan consisted of was finding Sapphire. At first he thought to take her to Stormwind, but this part of his plan had been diverted briefly.
"I suppose take her to Stormwind."
The wolf stared at him unblinkingly. "That seems unwise. Neither of you are compatible with other humans."
Now the wolf was irritating Arthas. Arthas had mistreated and abused Sapphire but she was still young. Despite her naivete and ignorance of the world, the girl was still alive. During his search for her, he had briefly thought that she should be taken to Stormwind and everything would be alright. The girl would just become a part of normal human life. The traitorous deathknights of Acherus had been accepted by both Horde and Alliance. Arthas could easily blend in as one of them and no one would be the wiser. Everything would be fine.
Greenstalker seemed to know what Arthas was thinking. "Sheep do not tolerate wolves in their flock. And like a wolf, you stand out with your bared fangs and hackles raised. The small one will be worse, growing up thinking she is a sheep but the second her fangs grow, the flock will reject her."
Arthas immediately rolled his eyes. "As much as I enjoy analogies, I can't say this one is very accurate."
The wolf snorted. "Your arrogance blinds you."
The man did not feel like tolerating the wolf's remarks anymore. "I am grateful that you saved Sapphire from Gorak Tul, but you don't understand what I'm trying to do. Sapphire is human. She needs to be with other humans."
"Perhaps you are right. I cannot judge what one parent feels is right for their offspring."
This gave Arthas pause. The wolf was a father as well. Grendel was a human, but lived amongst wolves. Greenstalker might feel what Arthas said as a slight against himself. Arthas softened his words. "Yes. I could be right or I could be wrong, but I don't see any better options for me."
Greenstalker inclined his head. "Reasonable words. I shall help you. Tonight I will request aid from a friend that will take you swiftly to the mainland, out of Gorak Tul's grasp. From there, you decide your offspring's fate."