Still don't own. Unfortunately.

I'm trying for some dialogue here; I'd like to develop these two into the types that banter back and forth. I'd like the elf to speak a little more refined than the tauren, taking the slightly haughty elf and the noble, somewhat wise but more of a simple "savage". Please tell me if I succeed or fail.

Also, do I need more synonyms for horn-blowing? Please tell and advise. . Any suggestions for at useful herb one might harvest in Ashenvale? I can't easily find one and I've never been a herbalist. Any and all criticism is welcome as always.

Oh yeah, you think the chapters are too short? Please let me know if that's the case.


Ashenvale Adventures

Fury of the Forest

Maurus thundered after the elf, entering the clearing where the great, skinned bear still lay. Changing direction slightly, he picked up his backpack from next to the corpse and then followed the elf further into the forest. Arianna moved nimbly through the forest, bent low and not sparing a glance behind her. Maurus, being considerably taller, broader and heavier, loudly crashed through the undergrowth, shield first, occasionally hitting his head on tree branches.

Behind them, shouts and loud movement announced that the satyrs had resumed pursuit. More ominous though, was the fact that the deep blaring horns were quickly coming much closer. Judging from the different calls, at least four groups were closing in from the sides.

Jumping over a large root, Maurus bumped against a tree, almost missing a step. Catching himself before he stumbled, he plunged on, cursing under his breath. At least the elf wasn't leaving him behind. Though quick and agile, she was obviously not at home in the woods. It was only thanks to her small body and quick reflexes that she hadn't tripped, thus losing them their head start.

A horn sounded to their left, much closer than any of the others. Arianna cast a quick glance towards the sound and then changed direction to move away from that group. Another horn sounded to their right, apparently not much closer than it was before.

It didn't sound like the group behind them was gaining on them. As the satyrs were native to these forests, Maurus would have expected them to quickly catch up. Then the group behind them blew their horn and the tauren focused on running. Again a horn sounded on their left, but this time slightly further ahead of them. Turning further to the right, the pair pushed on, breathing heavily. Running at full speed through the dense forest, uphill even, was starting to take its toll on them.

Horns now sounding behind them and on both sides of them, the elf and the tauren moved through thinning foliage, open ground visible up ahead. Bursting out of the trees, the pair took a couple more steps before frantically skidding to a halt. In front of them, the flat ground fell away into a very steep slope, leading down to a wide, forested valley. Maurus felt his heart sink as he heard blaring horns closing in on all sides. Standing at the very edge of the slope, the pair turned around to see satyrs moving in all around them, cruel smiles adorning most of their faces. The few not smiling were scorched and bloody and their snarls were directed solely at Arianna.

"Damn it! How did you piss off so many satyrs?" Maurus whispered through gritted teeth. He counted at least twenty, most of them wielding swords and daggers. A few were marked as warlocks by the simple jewelry they wore and the crude staffs in their hands, pale imitations of the one Arianna wielded.

"Not now," the elf snapped. Her eyes darted left and right, desperately looking for a way out. Maurus glanced down the slope, then back at the satyrs. They seemed to have planned for this situation and were now cautiously moving forward. The warlocks had spread out among the other satyrs, apparently moving into specific positions in the combat formation.

As the warlocks began chanting, Maurus reached a decision, slung his arm around Arianna and jumped down the slope, dragging the elf with him. He could feel the spells' dark, corrupt energy narrowly missing him before he was out of sight. The elf and the tauren half tumbled, half skidded down the slope, Maurus doing his best to let him and his shield take the worst of it. Halfway down the slope they entered the trees and undergrowth of the valley, which shielded them from the satyr warlocks.

Bruised, battered and bleeding they reached the bottom of the slope. Maurus got to his hooves and turned, only to find Arianna already standing, looking slightly dazed but uninjured. Glancing up the slope, he realized it had been a terribly risky gamble taking that route. The slope was even steeper than he had realized and littered with rocks and small trees. It was pure dumb luck that they had survived the fall, and even more miraculous that they hadn't broken any limbs. Arianna followed his gaze. "We should keep moving. They probably think we're dead, but they're going to come down to check." Maurus grunted in agreement and they set off again.

A while later Maurus ground out: "Slow down."

The response was prompt: "No, we need to put as much distance as we can between us and them. It's not my fault you can't keep up in all that metal".

Maurus grabbed the warlock's shoulder with a large, armored hand and stopped, jerking the blood elf to a rough stop. Spinning her around, he growled: "We don't need to keep up this pace. You see those?"

He pointed to a couple of trees behind them, where bundles of bones, skulls, feathers and antlers had been lashed together with lengths of rope and string. More of the grisly collections could be glimpsed further away, hanging like strange fruit from the trees.

"Yes", the elf spat irritably, "what's so important about the crude art of the denizens of Ashenvale?"

"They're furbolg markers. They mark the edges of their territory. And they're quite territorial." As he spoke, Maurus began dragging Arianna further past the markers into the furbolg territory. The elf resisted, but Maurus dragged her along effortlessly.

"Wait, if they're so territorial, why are we going into the area? We don't need crazed bear-men to further complicate this!"

The warrior walked cautiously forward, walking as fast as possible without making too much noise. "They mostly patrol the outer areas", he said quietly. "If we're lucky we can slip through. Furbolgs hate demons and their ilk and the satyrs know this. So I doubt they will actually follow us in here."

At that comment, Arianna stopped resisting and began walking beside the tauren. Maurus removed his hand, glanced at her and smirked slightly. "Unless whatever you did pissed them of so badly that you think they'd risk provoking an entire tribe of easily enraged furbolgs," he added.

Arianna rubbed the shoulder the tauren had grabbed. "I doubt they are that desperate to catch me." She matched his smirk. "Shielding our escape from one group of insane forest dwellers by running into the arms of another. Very devious. And it is at least a little more than jumping down an almost sheer drop."

"Well, we're not dead yet," Maurus grumbled, "now try to be quiet and use your eyes and those ears."

She glared at him again but didn't answer and they pressed on in silence. A couple of times the warlock picked up the sounds of movement and each time they hid as best they could. At no point did they spot any of the patrols, but Maurus didn't question the elf's superior hearing. Noon came and went as they moved carefully through the forest. They were well into the afternoon before they saw any of the bears. Moving around a particularly dense patch of trees, they suddenly found themselves just a few feet from a large, grey furbolg. Like most furbolgs, he wore a loincloth, leather bracers and numerous cords, decorated with carved stones and bone, hung around his neck. On his head he had a leather headdress, decorated with feathers and small bird skulls.

He was kneeling on the ground, apparently interrupted in his task of carefully uprooting a jagged, purple flower. Beside him lay a dark, wooden staff topped with green stones. The three stood frozen for a long moment. Then the furbolg snarled and a grassy green glow appeared around his hands. Arianna immediately started casting as well.

As Maurus drew his axe, both casters finished their spells in quick succession. Thick vines burst from the ground, wrapping themselves tightly around Maurus' legs up to his thighs. Arianna's spell sent the furbolg fleeing in blind terror. Cursing in his native language, Maurus furiously hacked at the roots holding him in place. The warlock quickly turned around, murmuring the words of a spell. The spell scorched the vines, making them brittle and Maurus tore himself free with a grunt of pain. The flame hadn't just burnt the roots.

"Well, I guess that's it for stealth then," Arianna sighed. Her ear twitched. "The druid's coming back. With friends. Lots of them."

"At least we got a couple of hours of rest," Maurus replied wryly, putting away his axe again. He took the lead and they began running.

This chase was different. There were no horns blowing, and the furbolgs moved noisily through the forest, more akin to Maurus' clumsy run than the satyrs' elf-like lope. "At least the pursuers are not raving, demonic satyr, merely pissed of bears," Maurus thought.

"We mean you no harm, we're just passing through!" Maurus yelled between breaths. The only response was enraged growling. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the elf roll her eyes at him.

"Worth a try," he ground out.

They raced through the forest, the sound of heartbeats mingling with the shouts and growls from behind them and the sound of the world around them. They dodged trees, crashed through bushes and jumped and stumbled over the uneven ground. Maurus felt a jolt of pain and heard a shout of: "Left, now!" Moving without thinking, he only narrowly dodged a green glowing bolt of energy flying through the air where he'd just been. His momentary annoyance that the elf had hit him with her staff again faded instantly at the sight. He grinned at the elf, who merely turned her attention forward again.

A few moments later the warlock excitedly pointed forward. Maurus breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the telltale skulls and feathers indicating the outer edges of the furbolgs' domain.

The pair sped up, moving past the markers. Almost immediately the sound of their pursuers' crashing through the forest ceased and the furbolgs half shouted, half roared as they gave up pursuit. Among the growls, Maurus thought he picked out the shaman adding, in a heavy accent: "Keep running and don't come back!"

A while later, Maurus and Arianna stopped. Maurus stood, hands on his knees, trying to get his rapid breathing under control. Opposite him, the elf likewise tried to catch her breath, sitting leaned against a tree.

Finally out of danger, Maurus let the calming sound of the forest wash over him, enjoying the distant sound of animals, wisps and the loud creaking of the trees. If only the wind had blown, cooling the warm afternoon air, he would have been satisfied. And if he didn't have that nagging feeling that he was forgetting something.

"So," Arianna began, "you think we're done running headlong into danger yet?"

"Maybe. Hopefully," Maurus breathed.

"Could we please go on then?" the warlock continued, sounding bored. "I'm quite sure you're more familiar with the area and we might actually be able to go somewhere civilized if we take the time to think about where we're going. Provided this forest doesn't kill us first."

"North," Maurus grunted, pointing behind him, "Ashenvale Road, it'll lead us straight to Splintertree Post." Maurus raised his head. "And the forest isn't trying to kill us anymore than-" Maurus trailed off. "Wait, forest trying to kill us…"

And then everything happened very quickly. Maurus felt the blood drain from his face, even as he began moving forward. "Very noisy this forest isn't… it," the elf said, looking up, her expression changing from boredom to alarm even as Maurus grabbed her ankle and pulled. With a sound trees groaning and branches breaking, a gnarled, ivy-covered hand moved almost sluggishly, crashing into the ground where Arianna had just sat mere seconds before.

Maurus heaved the annoyed elf further back, grasping for her arm with his free hand. Pulling her to her feet and almost throwing her behind him, the tauren got a look at their huge attacker.

What the tauren had assumed to be a couple of trees, growing very close to each other was now pulling its hand out of the ground. It was around twenty-five feet tall and now that it moved, he could see that what had looked like the crown of the tree, actually looked more like a beard and hair made out of leaves, almost obscuring its face and shoulders. More foliage covered its two legs, making it look like they consisted of smaller trees and bushes surrounding two solid trunks.

The contours of a face could clearly be seen through the dense cover of leaves. A hooked nose of a branch stuck out from the foliage and two large, emerald eyes glared balefully down at him. The two arms were almost as long as the entire walking tree. The thing creaked and cracked like a forest in a storm and with a roar like the sound of a colossal tree falling, the giant treant lashed out with its other hand.

Maurus had already half-turned to run when he was hit. The blow lifted him into the air and sent him crashing into the trees ahead. Trying to take the worst of it by throwing his arms in front of him did little and the tauren felt sharp pain and then saw only darkness.

"Maurus!"

Something hit his cheek, hard, bringing faint pain.

"Stupid cow, wake up!"

A frustrated grunt and mumbled gibberish, followed by sharp, burning pain at his neck, made Maurus open his eyes, wondering why he lay face down in earth and trees. A sharp tug at his arm made him get up and follow the curious little, pointy-eared thing dragging him along. Behind him, a tree creaking and crackling managed to sound both desperate and angry. Something was burning, or at least smoldering.

He began to turn, in order to figure out what was on fire, but he was interrupted by slap and an angry admonishing: "No! Now we run, he won't take long to put out the fire."

Glaring at the blonde, pointy-ear, he nonetheless followed her, ignoring the noise behind them, even though it sounded like the very forest was furious.

"Just do as I say for now," the blonde continued.

A couple of seconds later she looked back at the sound of breaking branches. She gasped, pulled sharply on him and shouted the direction: "Left!"

Following, Maurus felt the ground shake, and looked back to see a huge rock, the size of his torso, lying in a crater that had appeared in the spot they had been in mere moments ago. A couple more rocks followed, of varying size, but the pair managed to dodge all of them and soon the projectiles stopped coming and the roaring of the forest died behind them.

Maurus ran, clumsily, stumbling often, but managing a brisk jog. As they ran, his clouded head began to clear and he noticed the grumbling elf was still dragging him along like an unruly dog. Though he couldn't quite understand what the elf was saying, he was sure it wasn't flattering. She seemed to notice that his movements were getting smoother though. Shaking his arm free of the elf's grasp, he grunted: "Fine now. Thanks."

"Good, then I don't have to drag you along like a kid," she said between breaths.

Maurus huffed. "Injury to the head, it happens," he ground out. "Especially when you need to protect small frail casters from huge treants. Without me, you'd be a smear on the ground by now."

"And you would be a smear on the ground several times over if it wasn't for me," the blood elf retorted. "So are we going to get to the main road before we run into more catastrophes?"

Maurus stopped, took a deep breath, and then looked carefully around him.

"Could we please keep moving? Every time we stop it seems something attacks us and I really don't want to die today."

"Just getting my bearings. Where did we run when the treant attacked?" Maurus said, still looking around carefully.

"More or less the direction you pointed, I'm guessing that was north," the elf answered, looking around for any trace of a threat.

Maurus frowned in confusion for a moment. He didn't remember pointing anywhere. Then the tauren shrugged and set off, waving for Arianna to follow. The elf matched his pace and they ran, determined not to let anything get in the way of them and the relative safety of the Ashenvale Road.

"Wait, why is it you have to ask me to show the way all the time?"