Monday, July 20, 2009

Kaledain & Khaotic: Plagueland

Kaled is not a morning person. >.>

Khaotic yanked the covers off the bed. "Come on, Kaled. Time to get up!" she told him, then shook his shoulder. He groaned loudly, then buried his face in the pillow. "Kaled!" she said sharply. "We need to get going if we're going to make any sort of time. It's a long trip to Light's Hope." He half-raised his head and looked at her blearily. "But it's still dark," he mumbled. "Nonsense, I've got the lamps lit," she retorted, then grabbed his legs and pulled them off the bed. Kaled got himself to a sitting position, then blinked at her. "Outside, I mean." She sighed at him. "We need to be leaving Undercity by daybreak if we're going to reach Light's Hope early enough to do anything. You're the one that wanted to help that girl find her sister, remember? Now come on." He mumbled something unintelligible, but got himself up.

They did manage to be leaving the Undercity by the time dawn broke over the horizon. Alti paced at the heels of Khaotic's hawkstrider, while Argus followed Kaled. They made it to the Bulwark in good time, and passed through the Western Plaguelands without incident as well, having familiarized themselves with it before. Once they crossed the Thondoril River they relied heavily on their map and followed the road, until they neared the town of Corin's Crossing.

They stopped a healthy distance away. Even so, they could see the movements of the undead within the town. "Light save us..." Kaled said quietly, eyes wide. Khaotic said nothing, her gaze sweeping over the closest buildings. Finally she reached out and touched his arm. "Let's go," she said quietly. "We can find a way around. That's too many for us, and we have a promise to keep." Kaled nodded and followed.

They cut across country once they were clear of the town, but wound up too far south, at Tyr's Hand. They backtracked and, after studying the map more, finally found the Chapel. There they asked after the Redpaths, but no one knew what had become of them, save that most of the family was believed dead. That didn't faze them much, since the girl from Everlook, Jessica, had already said the same. They did find a member of the Argent Dawn who knew where Darrowshire was; he marked their map, then told them to be careful. They were preparing to leave Light's Hope when Kaled ran across a cat-formed druid, sitting near the inn and sniffing the breeze. It took Kaled only a moment to recognize him.

"Bearkat!" he exclaimed. "How have you been?" The druid purred at him. "Hello, Kaled. I've been well, how are you?" Khaotic came over and joined in the greetings, then Kaled said, "We were about to head out to find Darrowshire. We met someone who wanted us to try and find her family. Would you like to join us?" "Why not?" Bearkat replied. "I do know the area, though it's been awhile since I was here last."

The three headed out shortly. Alti growled at Bearkat once, but after a light cuff from his mistress and an admonishment to behave, he seemed to accept the druid. They had to steer clear of Corin's Crossing again, but reached Darrowshire without incident.

Kaled wasn't sure what he had expected. After what Jessica had told them, he didn't really think they would find a thriving town, but he hoped it would not be another Corrin's Crossing, swarming with undead. Yet, as they approached the outer buildings, and they saw the state of disrepair that the nearest house showed...

Khaotic whispered, "Kaled..." He reached back and took her hand as they all came to a stop. "It's... dead," he said, looking all around. There was no sign of life at all, not even Scourge.

Bearkat sniffed the air, then headed toward one house. "I think I smell something," he called back to them. "It smells odd, though." The two elves dismounted and tethered their hawkstriders, then followed the cat to the house. Alti was pressed against Khaotic's leg, growling softly as he watched all around. They got to the doorway and stopped again.

"Hello," said the little girl. "Have you seen my family? I've been waiting for them a long time. Do you think you could help me find my doll?" She looked at them expectantly, seeming to be completely normal except for the fact they could see right through her.

"Kaled," Khaotic gasped. "She's..." "Mmhmm," rumbled Bearkat. "That would be why it smelled wrong." "Light..." Kaled said softly. He reached out to pat her head, but his hand went right through her. He shivered slightly, then looked at the others. "Let's see if we can find her doll."

They found the pieces scattered throughout the other buildings, and Kaled did a fair job of stitching it back together again. He placed it on the ground in front of her and looked into her face. "Is there anything else we can do for you, Pamela?" he asked.

"Do you know where my family is?" the ghost asked. "Auntie Marlene told me to stay here, but then she left and never came back! And my dad... have you seen him? Maybe Auntie Marlene knows where he is. Can you ask her? She lives near Andorhal, in a house to the south. I think it was on a hill... she said it was on a hill. And sometimes, when it's nighttime, I can hear my Uncle Carlin crying. It sounds like he's far away, to the east. Will you find my uncle and tell him I'm alright? If you find him say I'm waiting for him, and I want to hear the funny story he used to tell." Kaled looked to the others, and at their nods, he told the girl, "Yes, we'll find them."

As they walked back to their mounts, Khaotic started mumbling to herself. "What's that, love?" Kaled asked her, and she said, "Uncle Carlin is to the east. Wasn't there a Carlin Redpath with the Argent Dawn at Light's Hope?" "That's it, love. You've got it!" Kaled exclaimed, then stopped and looked at Bearkat, then back to Khaotic. "Which do we go to first?" he wondered. Bearkat looked up at the sky. "We have enough time to get to Andorhal and back before dark. Shall we go the longer trip first?" Khaotic nodded, and Kaled said, "It's settled then. Let's go."

They were all quiet during the trip, although Kaled broke the silence once after they crossed the Thondoril River. "Never would have thought I'd consider the Western Plaguelands to be 'clean'," he said quietly. Khaotic grunted noncommittally, while Bearkat simply looked at him, then back to the trail ahead.

They found the house, right where Pamela had said. Bearkat went up the stairs inside ahead of the hunters. "Uh," he called back down. "Brace yourselves, elves." Curious, Kaled and Khaotic came up and joined him in a bedroom, where they saw what he was talking about. "It's another ghost," he said, unnecessarily. Marlene, like Pamela, looked at them all, quite plainly able to see and hear them. "Marlene Redpath?" Kaled began; the ghost nodded at him. "We've come from your niece, Pamela. She wanted to know where her family is, especially her father...?" The ghost's eyes turned sad at that. "I wish Joseph could be with his daughter again, but it cannot be so. His soul was twisted by the Scourge, and he became a monster," she told them. "But perhaps we can change his fate. Search the graves outside for Joseph's monument. His body's not there, for it was trampled and destroyed years ago, but under the monument is his wedding ring. Take that ring to Chromie... a strange gnome with very strange powers. She is staying in the ruined inn at the northwest corner of Andorhal."

Kaled and Khaotic had both had dealings with Chromie before, so they were able to go straight to her. The "gnome" was still where she had been last time they had seen her, and didn't really seem surprised to see them. After listening to them explain everything, she said, "To save Joseph Redpath, we must first discover his past. We can learn this in the Annals of Darrowshire, a book held in the city hall of Andorhal. Bring me that book. We can then learn Joseph's fate, and with luck... change it!"

The town hall was not easy to get to, as there was a large group of undead milling in the square nearby. There had been a lich as well, but with help from their friend Rajji, Kaled and Khaotic had dealt with him some time ago. Even without their leader, the remaining undead were still dangerous, so the three slipped into the big building as quietly as they could. Khaotic had to speak sharply to Alti as he tried to go after the closest group. He reluctantly returned to her side, rumbling deep in his chest. Bearkat eyed him cautiously before turning his attention to the books scattered everywhere. "Which one are we after?" he asked as the two elves poked through the mess. Khaotic picked one up, but it promptly fell apart in her hands. Almost as if that was a signal, a large ghostly shape sprang up from nowhere and rushed at her. Alti lunged at it with a snarl, finally finding a target for his aggression, and the shape scattered to wisps beneath his claws, then vanished.

Kaled looked at the others. "Um, I hope neither of you think any less of me for this, but to be honest, all these ghosts are starting to freak me out a bit," he said, rather shakily, and Khaotic managed a laugh. Bearkat continued to poke through the books on the floor. "I think I've found it," he said. "Come take a look. Hands are better than kitty paws for this." Kaled gingerly picked it up, expecting another ghost to attack, but nothing happened. He checked the first few pages. "This is it," he said. "Back to Chromie."

Chromie took the old book from Kaled and promptly started casting a spell over it. Finished, she handed it back. Khaotic quickly took it and started leafing through the pages. Chromie explained, "The Annals of Darrowshire, through my magic, has gained pages at its end, and now it extends its history beyond the battle. One of the extra passages tells of another Redpath, Carlin, who survived Joseph's betrayal. Carlin's now in the Plaguelands to the east, at the Light's Hope Chapel. Go, take the book and speak with him."

Kaled turned toward the door, then noticed his wife. He chuckled and went over to her. "Reading it already, love?" he asked. "Mm," was all she said. Kaled began reading over her shoulder, and even Bearkat's curiosity got the better of him. He changed to his Tauren form and came over to read over her other shoulder. She obligingly waited until they had caught up with her before turning the pages.

They read through the first parts quickly, then came to the chapter pertaining to their quest:
The battle continued, and Captain Redpath led his militia bravely. And it might have been won, had the captain not been corrupted by the death knight Marduk the Black.

In the middle of the fray Marduk rode up to Redpath, and with black magic he tore loose Redpath's spirit, twisting it into an evil shadow of the brave captain.

The corrupted Captain Redpath then spread his evil taint among the defenders of Darrowshire, who betrayed their allies and slaughtered them. They then turned on the town of Darrowshire and killed all who hid in their homes.
They finished reading in a state of shock. Finished, Khaotic closed the book with a thump. "Anar'alah belore," she said fervently. "I think I agree, love," Kaled replied. "So that's what happened to the town..." "Dor rini dath," Khaotic muttered to herself. "Uh, language, love," Kaled prompted her, as Bearkat raised a curious eyebrow at her. "Oops, sorry Bear," she said apologetically. "Sometimes I forget what language I'm speaking. The poor girl." Bearkat waved off her apology. "Yes, now we know what happened to her," he said, shifting back to a cat. Kaled cleared his throat. "Let's get back," he told them. "I don't want to be here when darkness falls."

They wearily rode into Light's Hope as the sun sank below the trees. After giving the book to Carlin Redpath, they stood and waited while he read it. "
What is this book? The Annals of Darrowshire? That was my home before the war... my home before the battle that destroyed it! Why did you bring me this book? But look here! At the end there are pages that tell tales of the days beyond the battle! Here is a passage about me! And one about my brother Joseph! Is this book true? We must discover the truth!" He looked at them anxiously. "Will you help me?" Kaled looked at Khaotic and Bearkat, who both nodded at him. They had come this far, now they all wanted to see it through to the end. "Yes," Kaled told Carlin. "We'll help. What do you need?"

"The Annals of Darrowshire tells of the villains of that battle," Carlin told them. "It tells how the ghoul lord Horgus the Ravager was destroyed by Alliance forces during the battle. His body was cast into a lake, northwest of Corin's Crossing, and his skull remains there.

"Marduk the Black was never defeated, but his fabled sword was shattered and lost. It lies at the bottom of the gorge west of Corin's Crossing. Retrieve these items if you can. I know not why, but I am certain their fate lies with you." Kaled nodded. "We'll start in the morning, sir."

The trio walked back to the inn. It was crowded with Argent Dawn soldiers and officers, but Khaotic managed to get inside and order a couple bowls of stew and bread from the innkeeper. She brought them out to a quiet corner of the camp, where Kaled had already spread their bedrolls. He took his supper gratefully, and they ate in silence. Afterward, he took Khaotic's arm and pulled her close. They sat together for a long time despite their weariness, finding comfort in the other's warmth and presence. "Tomorrow will be even busier, unless I miss my guess," Kaled said quietly. Bearkat opened one eye from his sleeping place on a nearby wagon. "Yes, but we'll find out what happened here, one way or another," he replied. "Maybe we'll even help that little girl find peace." "I hope so," Khaotic broke in. "To think she's been alone here all this time, waiting for her father to come home..." She trailed off, but Kaled noticed her hand moving to her belly, and knew she was thinking of their own baby. He squeezed her reassuringly. "We'll help her, love," he whispered to her. "Come on, let's get some sleep before morning." She let him pull her down next to him on the blankets, and finally they all fell asleep.

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