I own nothing of this franchise.

Ashenvale Adventures

Rest and Request

They put Maurus down among a few dozen wounded who had been gathered some way into the valley, beside the others with twisted and crooked limbs. Some moaned and whimpered, some were still like the dead or sat, staring hollow-eyed at nothing, or simply waiting in silence. He counted eleven healers attending to the wounded and the pile of soiled linen and blankets told him that a lot more had already been treated.

He propped himself up on his good arm and gingerly found the least painful position for his leg. Compared to many of the others, he was lucky. The feeling of bone scraping against bone when he moved was agonizing, but at least he was now certain the bone had not pushed out through muscle and skin. Still, his breathing was strained by the pain.

"You have guts," Guth said gravely. He and the orcs straightened, faced the four others and saluted, raising closed fists to their chests, right above their hearts. "You all do. We wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for you."

Mathias and Maurus mirrored the gesture. So did Widget after a moment's hesitation, seeming confused at being addressed like that. Maurus winced as his shoulder protested against the movement.

Guth turned to fully face Arianna, who hadn't reacted. "You are a force to be reckoned with and you have proved your loyalty," he said seriously. "I apologize for our distrust. And the 'traitorous whore' thing."

"Thank you," she said flatly. She still didn't return his salute, but Guth didn't seem surprised. The other orcs bristled at her tone, but simply followed Guth as he turned.

"I'll take the news to the people in charge. Farewell," he said over his shoulder and they muttered goodbyes in response. As the orcs walked away, they heard him tell his surviving men, voice quiet and solemn: "Get the men we left behind."

Widget was also edging away, looking restless. She smiled a wide, uncertain smile at them and said: "Well, see you later." She pointed a finger over her shoulder and added: "I have to check up on my colleagues." They waved at her as she hurried off, leaving just Arianna and Mathias behind with Maurus.

"It looks like we have some waiting in store," Mathias said, dropping down to sit at Maurus' right. Three deep rents had been ripped through his cheek and the armor on his shoulder had been peeled back and the flesh beneath shredded. He'd wiped the worst of the blood from his face and neck, though some remained in his wounds, making them stand out starkly against his pallid skin. Maurus' felt a dull spark of amusement as he looked down at his own hands and saw a similar contrast, his raw and bloodied fingers standing out starkly against the white fur peeking out from under his armor.

Arianna lowered herself to sit opposite them. She moved carefully, trying to project her usual grace. She was only partially successful, unable to hide her exhaustion and discomfort. There was blood on her arms and legs and Maurus recalled glimpsing how torn up her back was while they walked.

'Strong and stubborn' he thought, as she cradled the crystal head of her staff and breathed deeply, seeming to draw more than just breath inside her. He frowned, but he couldn't deny that it seemed to be doing her some good. She sat up straighter and her eyes were brighter when she caught his gaze, a slight scowl on her face. "You are reckless," she said.

"It worked," he grumbled, wincing as his shrug sent a wave of numbing pain through his shoulder. He dug his hands into one of his pouches, rooting around till his abused fingers closed around a little roll of rough cloth and a small flask, which was miraculously still intact. It was filled with cheap, very strong liquor that only someone desperate for a buzz would drink, but it worked wonders at preventing wounds from festering.

"You should get patched up," he said, pulling the items out of the pouch. He followed her gaze when she pointedly looked down at his leg. As if in response to her look, a fresh wave of pain rolled up through him, making his head spin a little.

"My leg hardly needs bandages. Or disinfection. Your back, on the other hand," he said, his word only a little unsteady. He waved his hand in a little circle. "Turn around." A weird expression flickered across her face before she snatched the linen and flask from his hand and rose, walking away without a word. Maurus frowned.

"I take it modesty is not a big thing among tauren?" Mathias chuckled.

Maurus glanced at him in puzzlement. "Seems like a silly thing to let get in the way of treating a wound," he muttered sourly. Mathias tilted his head from side to side before answering: "You may have a point. But we Forsaken have a reputation as being too pragmatic, so I might not be the best judge."

They were silent for a few moments, before Mathias spoke again: "She's right though. You are reckless."

Maurus thought for a moment, before he chuckled. "I know people who swear that being reckless is a good thing. And she might have included you in that comment. You jumped too."

Mathias made a sweeping motion with his right hand, indicating his entire body, before pointing between himself and Maurus. "You weigh at least four times as much as me, and the elf is probably one more me on top. And I was further down."

"Well, we lived. Staying there being whipped seemed a bad idea, even if the landing was worse than I hoped." He looked Mathias up and down. "How are you faring?"

Mathias patted his legs and made a show of inspecting his torn and bloody wrists. "A couple of strains, sprains and fractures," he said. Then he poked the wounds on his shoulders, his fingers sinking disgustingly into the mangled flesh. "I won't bleed out, so these aren't an issue. They merely hurt a little."

"Sometimes you seem to have it easy," Maurus grumbled good-naturedly.

"There are drawbacks," Mathias said dully. There was a severity in his words that made Maurus hesitate to reply and when Mathias didn't volunteer anything else, they fell silent. Mathias dug out a cloth and a whetstone and began cleaning his sword. Maurus prodded his leg carefully, but even the light touch sent spikes of pain up the limb and he quickly withdrew the hand. Instead he took his cue from Mathias and also got out his whetstone.

They sat in a silence that was surprisingly comfortable considering the somber note their conversation had ended on and their gloomy surroundings. Maurus ran the stone down the edge of his axe, hardly even conscious of the motion, his eyes roaming the valley. Opposite the where the Canyon snaked back towards the Hellscream Monument were more tunnels and people were moving to and from them with some regularity. Maybe they were still exploring or maybe they had men trapped in there too. He didn't want to think about it. The bodies and wounded he could see, even sitting down, was ample proof that the cost of this venture was already high.

Maurus was glad to be distracted by Arianna's return. She looked little different, only the linen peeking out over the edges of her dress along her neck revealing that there had been any change at all. She handed the remaining linen and the flask back to Maurus and again lowered herself carefully to the ground. The flask was empty, and though it was not very large for Maurus, it was pretty big in her hands and he hadn't expected her to use it all. He looked from the flask to Arianna.

"Worse than I thought", he said, reaching out and putting a hand on her shoulder. Her skin was warm under his fingers, though a far cry from the almost blistering heat that ran through her while she wove her spells. "How are you feeling?"

"Pain is part of the art," Arianna said, briefly resting her hand on his. "And the price of admission in some places."

"You just took a whipping, a bad one judging from how much of this you used!" Maurus said, brandishing the flask for emphasis, both impressed and somewhat outraged she seemed to think it wasn't worth mentioning. "We have armor, but I doubt you hide leather or mail under that dress."

Her lips twitched a little and Mathias chuckled.

"I've grown accustomed to it," she said, holding out an arm that at this distance showed even more scars than he had noticed before. Maurus had no response to that and just squeezed her shoulder gently and lowered his hand.

"Some groups, like those serving the Shadow Council, are very enthusiastic about the ritualistic infliction of pain," she added in a more quiet voice. Maurus scowled. Mathias' whetstone slid to a stop and he raised his head from the weapon to frown darkly at Arianna.

"Captive or member?" he asked, the softness of his voice hiding an edge sharp as a razor. Arianna answered his frown with a cold smirk and Maurus could feel tension seep into him as well. The conversation was taking a worrying turn. He pointedly laid his axe on the ground and placed his hands in his lap. Arianna's smirk lost the ice as her gaze moved to him.

"I ingratiated myself with the satyrs at the Shattered Peak." She hefted her staff and added: "Took this from their leader's cooling corpse."

Comprehension dawned on Maurus. "So that's how it was," he snorted. He thought a bit more and mused: "The Shattered Peak is down south, around-"

"On the border between Ashenvale and the Stonetalon Mountains," Arianna confirmed, again laying her staff across her lap. Maurus felt a hint of a smile along his muzzle.

"So you came from the mountains and that's why you didn't know your way around Ashenvale?"

"This is my first visit to the lands of the Kaldorei," she confirmed.

Maurus whistled, impressed, nodded at Arianna and said: "You made it really far on your own and with all those satyrs after you. How do you find the Forest of Stars and Spirits?"

She raised an eyebrow and said: "That is not a name I've ever heard before."

Maurus shrugged. "That's what my people call it. It seems very well-chosen if I that drunken elf captain in Ratchet told me the truth about the wisps. So?"

"He was told the same thing I was," she said. She thought for a moment. "The forest is beautiful, wilder than any I have ever seen. And dangerous." She smiled at him and nodded at Mathias. "And the inhabitants were just a little less hostile than I expected."

Maurus chuckled and put his hands out, palm up, in a helpless gesture. "Couldn't leave a skinny little thing like you behind, could I? You'd have gotten lost and starved to death."

"Starving was the least of my worries," she said easily.

"It looks like it comes naturally to you though," Mathias put in. "Does food offend you?"

"No," Arianna said. "I just have standards, unlike you gluttonous rabble."

"I call you picky," Mathias said. The exaggerated emphasis he put on the last word convinced Maurus that he at least wasn't taking the conversation seriously. That was a relief. Since he had mentioned the Sunwell in the tunnels, he'd wondered whether their animosity was serious or just their way of interacting, but this exchange felt more like teasing than actual arguing. Still, he was not the best judge of such matters, so an interruption could hardly hurt.

"Well, today we have nothing else to do, so: Food," he said, interrupting the exchange as he dug the last morsels up from the pouches on his belt.

"Hm, roasted or raw?" Mathias mused, as he looked from the still smoldering pyre to the slope up the mountain.

Maurus fought to keep the revulsion off his face as he realized what Mathias was talking about. He'd heard many things about the undead, but had long ago decided to give at least the members of the Horde the benefit of the doubt, just like he did with the trolls. He wasn't quite sure if Mathias was serious or not, but he managed to keep his face blank as he said flatly: "I think both would be bad for you."

Mathias leaned back on his hands, smirking slightly, not giving Maurus any clue whether it was just a joke or not and answered, seemingly very seriously: "Well, we can't have me getting sick. I guess I'll wait till we get back to civilization."

Maurus shook his head and turned to Arianna, who was digging into her own food, which looked as unappetizing as Maurus' own. Now that Mathias had mentioned it, he couldn't help but agree that she was very thin. Of course, compared to tauren, anyone except maybe dwarves were skinny, but even compared to the smaller races of the Horde she was lanky. Only the forsaken and the trolls were similar and for many of the former the term 'skeletal' was very literal. Thinking back on the few other blood elves he'd seen, he couldn't decide whether she was out of the ordinary. Maurus shrugged and pushed the thought aside. He was a bad judge of what constituted being healthy in other races on the best of days and Arianna was the first elf he had spent any great deal of time with.

The conversation slowly trickled to a stop and the night passed for Maurus in a disjointed haze. His sleep was troubled by dreams of dark caves, unseen creatures stalking him and the feeling of suffocating, and he woke repeatedly, jolted awake, barely containing cries of pain, when he shifted and disturbed his injuries. When morning came, he was glad to give up on sleep and let himself be shaken to wakefulness by thin, strong fingers. The stench in the air and the dead, broken landscape around him was a gloomy sight to wake to but at least he was surrounded by allies, the blood red of the Horde uniform and the green and blue skin tones giving life to the black rock around him.

Arianna had woken him because a healer had finally appeared. After the terrible night, he was torn between hugging the troll priest and strangling him. In the end, he did neither and instead pointed out how little time it would take for the healer to attend to the worst of Arianna's and Mathias' wounds as the priest fixed his leg. The silver piece he slipped the troll, apparently only noticed by Mathias, probably had more to do with his success than his persuasiveness, but just the glimpse of Arianna's already soaked bandages made him decide that the silver was well spent.

Finally, after a healing session that seemed to last forever, and during which Mathias excused himself to go somewhere, Maurus sat up and stretched his hands over his head, relishing the simply joy of having full use of his arms and legs, even if they were still very sore. Arianna was sitting at his side, her posture relaxed, looking to the east, a slight smirk on her face. She gave him a quick glance. When he didn't seem to follow, she nodded in that direction and said: "Look."

Maurus rubbed his eyes before he tried finding what Arianna was looking at and spotted it almost immediately, a weirdly shaped lump, half his height walking towards them. It took him a moment to realize that it was Widget, trudging along, carrying his own backpack, along with Arianna's and Mathias'. With all that had happened he'd almost forgotten that they'd left them behind when they entered the mountain. She appeared to have difficulty with comfortably carrying them, but she didn't seem unduly bothered by their weight.

"That is the smallest, greenest kodo I have ever seen," Maurus joked to Arianna.

"She's far more useful than one. And smells better," Arianna answered. It seemed the healing and the sleep had done her good. Maurus rolled his eyes, but smiled wryly.

"Are we having this discussion again?"

"I will not rest until you realize the shortcomings of your beasts," she said. Her face was blank but there was a hint of mirth in her tone.

"You have your work cut out for you," Maurus muttered amiably. He turned his attention back to Widget as she reached them. "Thanks. You didn't have to get those for us," he said, smiling gratefully at her.

"I was over in that-" Widget began, only to stumble when he grabbed his pack and lifted it off her and the sudden shift in weight put her off balance. She almost fell before he managed to steady her with his free hand. "Over in the other end anyway," she finished, handing Arianna her bag. She looked around for Mathias. "Where's dead guy?"

Maurus looked at Arianna who returned his look with an expression and a helpless lifted hand that said 'why are you asking me?' Maurus shrugged and said: "Probably out to find more demons to cut up."

He hefted his backpack. It was not heavy, but it wasn't exactly lightweight either and looked back at Widget, reassessing her tiny, wiry frame. "You're pretty strong," he said.

She shrugged, putting her hands out to the sides an answered: "We swing the hammer when we tinker. Plus, when you walk around with your own bodyweight in metal on your back, normal supplies begin to feel light." She bobbed her head to one side before adding, almost as an afterthought: "Though your backpacks are really unhandy."

Maurus snorted and Arianna smirked, but neither voiced what they both seemed to think. It seemed too obvious to point that Widget was less than half Arianna's height and at most, a third of Maurus'. He rummaged in his pack, his stomach grumbling in anticipation of the food he'd left behind and as he found his prize, he asked Widget: "So, any luck with finding your friends?"

Widget deflated slightly and Maurus would have sworn that her ears drooped.

"They are all still missing. I just hope they're all alright somewhere in there. We were the only ones to make it out the other side so far."

"Sorry to hear that," Maurus said, gnawing on his bread and dried meat. "I'm guessing you're staying to help too then?"

"Actually, I think I'll go back to the lumber camp and try to get some more dynamite," she said. Her tone grew less worried and more eager as she added: "A controlled explosion might be needed at some point."

Maurus snorted. 'Controlled' was not a word he would have used about any goblin device, not unless he tacked on 'barely', but he didn't see the need to say that. His snort seemed to have been enough though, as Widget scowled at him like she'd read his mind. Before she could say anything, Arianna calmly stated: "As prudent a plan as any, I suppose."

Widget nodded emphatically. "I know my strengths and I'm not much use here now that we've set off the traps and used all my explosives."

She looked up at the sun, which was a pale shadow of its usual radiance seen through the murk of the Canyon and put down Mathias' backpack. "Well, they're taking off soon," she said. "Are you coming?" she added, looking at Arianna.

"No, I will be staying," Arianna answered.

"Huh. Not sure there'll be much for you to do," Widget said, as confusion flitted across her features. Then she shrugged. "Oh well, a little break and boredom never killed anyone. Except for my third cousin and you might say he bought it because he tried to fight it. Say hello to the dead guy for me."

Maurus chuckled and held out his hand. "Take care. Don't blow anyone up."

Widget took his hand in both of hers, her fingers barely wrapping around more than one finger and shook it, smiling hugely. Arianna nodded at her: "Try to keep your ears and hearing intact." Widget's smile widened even further before she raised a hand in greeting and walked away.

"I would have expected her to stay," Maurus said as Widget vanished from view.

"She's right, there most likely isn't much she can do for her friends," Arianna said. She was riffling through her backpack, probably checking everything was there. He'd done the same, though it had only taken a moment, as he didn't have much in his pack that he thought people might find worth stealing. After a few moments, she looked up again, seemingly satisfied.

"Well," Maurus said, getting to his feet, stretching once more and relishing having full mobility again. "That seems like enough lazing about. I'm going to find out what I can do."

"Let's say we meet here later," Arianna said as she also rose. "And please don't ruin the fine healing you just received," she admonished, in a tone that was usually reserved for unruly children.

"I'd say the same, but I doubt heavy lifting is what you're going to be doing. Take care," he said, waving a hand as he walked toward the tunnels.

For many of the workers, it seemed Widget was right on the money using the word 'boredom' for the work, but Maurus had little attention to spare for boredom. He instead found himself shamefully anxious as he worked. He spent the better part of the day hauling rocks out the tunnel with hands that slipped on the stone from how clammy they were and he had to force himself into the tunnel mouth each time, his breathing labored, less from the exertion than from fear. The corpses they slowly uncovered as they cleared the way only worsened his fear, terrible reminders of what would happen if the walls didn't hold up. He cursed and growled at anyone looking at him and somewhere under the anger, beneath the fear, he was aware that the only reason he hadn't been sent away was because he really was useful.

Somewhere around evening, they began to make out voices coming from behind the stone and the sound of Orcish spurred them on, giving them a burst of energy, though the overseer barked them down from digging too frantically. Maurus' hand slipped on the stone he was carrying away from the mound when he heard the smack of a hand hitting a cheek and a harsh admonishment. There was a whimper, but it was quickly drowned out as greetings passed back and forth through the small hole they had cleared, the shouts from Maurus' side cheerful, the others anxious but happy.

It didn't take them more than an hour to clear enough room to allow the soldiers to get through. There was a rush of green, blue and red as orcs and trolls rushed through and raced down the corridor towards the exit. After the desperate first wave had passed, others followed at a much more sedate pace. They all looked much worse than Maurus and the others had. Their armor was in tatters and not one of them were untouched by blood and dust and dirt. Many limped and had haphazard bandages on their chests and faces. Some of them were being led or pushed along, seemingly insensate to their surroundings.

Zolan and a group of other soldiers Maurus recognized came out last, walking backwards, still on guard, shields up, dented and broken weapons held at the ready.

"Get out, all of ya," Zolan said sharply, his tone brooking no argument and Maurus happily obeyed. All day, only his pride had kept him working through the worsening anxiety, but now he had a reason to leave that he could accept and he hurried out on the heels of the other workers. Merely being out of the shadow of the mountain made the stiffness in his muscles melt away and despite the worrying state the returning soldiers had been in, he found himself smiling as he found Arianna and Mathias.

Several hours passed with sporadic conversation. The moons climbed high in the sky, but none of them felt the call of sleep, not even Maurus, despite the wretched night he had had. Neither, it seemed, did Zolan, as he appeared some time later, waving at them as he approached, his face again split by a wide grin. He looked far too bright and awake for the time and the events of the last few days. His smile seemed an affront to the dead and wounded and it made Maurus clench his fists as his mood soured.

"Well, ya two others are also alive. That's good," Zolan said by way of greeting. He crouched down between Mathias and Arianna, leaning slightly on his spear, a new one, Maurus noted.

"In a manner of speaking," Mathias said, after slamming a fist to his chest in salute. Arianna also saluted the troll and Maurus grudgingly did the same. Zolan rolled his eyes at Mathias' comment and waved off the salutes.

"No need for that. I'm here to give you the news. You done great at this and the information you brought, well, it might be saving a lotta lives," Zolan said, tone turning more serious. "While I was in the caves, the ones out here sent word to the farms and Orgrimmar. With luck, the demons will be stopped before they make too much trouble. Ya might have just stopped the farmlands from burnin' down."

"We were lucky," Maurus grumbled, hands running idly over his dented shield, which lay in his lap.

"Ah, luck counts as much as anything else," Zolan said blithely. He detached a small leather purse from his belt. "What ya managed to do with that luck, that's all ya to claim." He tossed the purse towards Maurus. It jangled through the air and clinked audibly as he caught it and he noted with surprise how heavy it was.

"So's that," Zolan added as Maurus fumbled the string loose and heavy gold coins spilled out into his hand. He stared at the money. He did earn some coins here and there but more often than not, he survived on his own, with little need for money, and this was more money than he would earn in a month, or three, of seriously trying.

"Let never be said the Horde don't reward its heroes," Zolan said. When Maurus raised his head to look at him, he saw Zolan's lips curl in a lopsided smirk around his remaining tusk. "Even if they're just accidental ones."

"Thanks," Maurus said dumbly, still shocked at the small fortune in his hand. Zolan's eyes fell on Maurus' legs.

"I heard about your stunt. Reckless, but well, ya're never a fool unless ya fail. Ya're free to go. We can live with a little less manpower, now."

Maurus looked Zolan up and down. His armor had been mended, but it was still severely damaged and the smell of blood and sweat was heavy around him, easy to pick out even against the stink of the valley and the stench of the people around them. He frowned.

"What happened in there? I thought most of the demons had left," he asked.

Zolan's face darkened and his smile turned bitter. "They had," he said quietly. "Seems their boss likes his sport though. The Dreadlord stalked the caves and it took us some time to even notice what was happening."

He spat to his right and his smile vanished completely. Arianna's and Mathias' expressions grew dark in answer and Maurus clenched his teeth in anger.

"Too long," Zolan continued. "We've left at least half a hundred warriors behind in the caves and the Dreadlord got away. One of my windriders spotted him exiting the caves on the south side, so there must have been some way through." The muscles in his jaw stood out sharply as he clenched his teeth angrily and stared down onto the ground. Then he froze and raised his gaze from the red of Arianna's gown to her face.

"Could ya track him?" he asked, voice low but intense.

Arianna sighed. "I doubt it. I have a vague feel for him, but he has a huge lead that will only get bigger."

"Will this help?" Zolan asked, holding out a sharp piece of what looked like obsidian, about the length and width of his palm.

Arianna's eyes widened before she smirked, the expression harsher than it usually was on her face, and accepted the rock-like object. She raised and lowered it, seeming to weigh it. "You're smarter than you look, troll," she said. "This would do nicely." A moment later, however, her smirk faded and she shook her head. "We can't defeat a Dreadlord."

"I don't expect you to. Just find him and contact the soldiers, then we'll take care of it," Zolan said promptly. He clenched his fist. "I can't leave my post, but we can't lose his trail. The dead deserve vengeance."

Maurus and Mathias nodded in unison. That, it seemed, was something they agreed completely on. Arianna however, still looked doubtful.

"I'll get a windrider to take you over the mountain," Zolan said. He glanced at Maurus and Mathias and continued: "Ya two will have to do it the slow way."

Maurus gave Zolan a flat look. Mostly out of contrariness, he asked: "What makes you think I'm going along with that mission?"

Zolan snorted. "For one, I'm guessing ya want to see things through to the end and the only other way ya can contribute is by helping us make sure the tunnels are properly clear."

Maurus eyes were drawn to the tunnels and his heartbeat sped up momentarily at the sight of the yawning openings in the rock. He realized he'd gladly give up all the gold he'd just got to never enter those caves again. Zolan nodded, seemingly satisfied, but didn't elaborate, and for that Maurus was grateful. His pride had suffered enough today.

"I want to go back to the Barrens and never see another demon again," Maurus grumbled. This time, both Mathias and Zolan snorted.

"Well, I doubt the second part of that wish will be granted," Zolan said. His gaze flicked briefly to Arianna. "But the first one is what I'm asking of ya. Ya might even get some of the glory ya're missing by not being part of the force that kills the demon army in a day or two."

Maurus frowned, as it began to sink in that he was accepting Zolan's request. It almost made him tremble, as fear clashed with a surprising, feverish eagerness. The Dreadlord was a truly formidable foe to hunt. A mad smirk tugged at his lips and he nodded.

"Guess I'm in."

"Of course," Zolan said. There was no hint of surprise in his tone. He looked at Mathias. "And ya?"

"I won't be satisfied till every demon in that mountain is dead," Mathias said darkly, studying his sword, his expression grim. "And the Dreadlord is on the top of my list."

Zolan chuckled. "Some people would have just wanted to spend that reward. I like ya persistence. Ya have a lot in common with Guth."

The reminder of the orc dampened the feeling of electric excitement racing up and down Maurus' spine. He'd spotted the remaining orcs climbing the mountain to reclaim their comrades' bodies, but he had no idea how it was going for Graka.

"Shame about those two," Zolan muttered. "But they say Graka is past the worst."

"The spirits are kind," Maurus said solemnly, a slight weight evaporating from his heart. Zolan echoed Maurus' words, nodding gravely, before he stood from his crouch. "I thank you for taking this task," he said. "Just don't get yaself killed. Find him and make sure he gets dead, but don't take too many risks. He got enough of us already."

He gave them a perfect salute and they returned it, before they muttered goodbyes. Zolan turned to go, stopped and said: "Ya might, mind ya, I say might, get some company. Guth would probably be eager to kill the one at the top of that army." Then he hurried off and quickly vanished in the gloom.

Maurus looked down at his hand and realized it was shaking. He put it firmly on his thigh, but still, the trembles spread through his leg. "I must be mad," he said, his lips still pulled into the unnatural grin.

"Or really foolish," Mathias said blandly. The comment made Maurus bark out a short laugh.

"Only when we fail, remember? You volunteered too."

"I'm already dead, that messes with your priorities. What's your excuse?"

Maurus snorted, shrugged and looked up the mountain again, towering over them like a dark, scarred colossus It looked even more unwelcoming from this angle, all sharp edges and coal-black rock.

"We just made that climb," Maurus grumbled half-heartedly.

"At least this time, you won't have to worry about demons or dropping me," Arianna said blithely.

"I wasn't worried about dropping you at all," Maurus answered with exaggerated indifference.

She sniffed contemptuously. "You might be able to make the whole climb this time."

"That's the idea," Maurus said, lying down and closing his eye. "Now, you might be getting special treatment, but I would like some sleep before I have to trek back over that mountain again. So, hush."

He opened one eye just in time to see a look of mild irritation on Arianna's face. She gave him a mild glare and said quietly. "Sleep well then, cow, we don't want you splattered out over the mountainside."

"What about me?" Mathias said, though he didn't sound like he cared either way.

"We can most likely just stick you back together and you'll be fine."

Maurus expected them to continue bickering, but instead, they quickly fell silent. Despite the nervous energy coursing through Maurus, he also felt the pleasant, heavy feeling of a day's hard work in his body. Without throbbing pain to disturb him and with the reassuring presence of hundreds of Horde members around him, his drowsiness quickly overpowered him, ushering him into a deep sleep.

So, what do you think? Less action, but character interaction is something I also want to have. Please review, I love seeing those little messages and if you have suggestions, ideas or corrections, please mention them.

And to the guest reviewer from last time: Thanks for the review, but could you point me towards the kind of typoes I have issues with?

Now, I hope I can update again within a fortnight, but I will be busy. So I promise to try. I have a general idea of the next chapter at least.

Till next time!