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“So there we were, fighting a few orcs. One of them cracked his axe against my head. Broke my goggles; I felt the enchants just melt. I got knocked to the ground, cuz ow. Axe came back down, I rolled out of the way, felt something go THUNK and come loose and for a minute thought I'd lost part of my skull and hadn't realized it yet. Nope; just my hair.” Alynore took a swig of her drink, listening to the music in the Blue Recluse.

Venner winced. “Ouch. Well, I'm glad you're alright.”

“I stabbed the guy that did it when I came back up. Then Wes had me sit against Avalanche for a while, ‘til my head stopped spinning so much. Direhorns are good for that. My stylist is a miracle worker, to make it look this nice, but I don't trust those tonics they offer to grow it back faster,” she admitted.

“You look cute with that haircut. Maybe Annelise will ask for Mommy to cut her hair short to match you.”

“So long as she don't try it herself, I guess.” Nore grinned, and Venner grimaced. It was something every small child did eventually.

“Ran into Wes at Marshtide,” Venner said, changing the subject. “He made a very convenient tent to keep the rain off.” Venner raised his arms to refer to Wesley’s stone drake form.

Alynore started to laugh, then stiffened as the call came over her guildstone. “Harrigan?”

“You okay?” Venner asked, unable to hear the Dragoons’ comms.

“Something’s wrong,” she replied, concentrating.

“Uh...Dragoon trouble?”

“It's Harrigan,” Nore said as she stood and smacked her enchanted bracer, civilian clothes swapping out for her armor and weapons. Venner followed, tapping his belt buckle to make a similar change.

“Need a hand?” He asked.

“BENNET HARRIGAN DON'T YOU DARE DIE!” Nore snapped into her comms as they hurried through the startled dinner crowd and to the door.

“I'll take that as a yes,” Venner said, heading for his gryphon. Alynore whistled sharply, and in a flash of Light, Tenacity stood on the patio, whinnying.

As they flew, hard and fast for the Blasted Lands, Nore sent commands over the comms. A few Dragoons were already down there: Beloric, Maralina, Pinapple. Nore tracked movements via the enchants on the bracers, and between the guildstones.  ‘Please don’t let us be too late…’ she prayed. The flight over the forests was a long one, and there wasn’t enough distraction.

“I told your ma I'd keep an eye out for you and I am! DON'T become what I did!”
“You wanna compare me to her, then this is what Forrester women do: we go through Dark Portals to save our world.”

Over the guildstone, the three Dragoons already on scene found him. “Arm is mangled, about a hundred yards or so west of our lines,” Beloric reported as they began first aid. The cluster of stones and bracers together made it much easier for her to home in on. Pinapple cursed, voice wavering.

Harrigan was lying in the shadow of one of the iron star transports, his right side badly mangled. Judging from the limbs scattered about, two other humans and four orcs had caught it fully. Harrigan was lying practically on top of another orc. He had driven his sword through it left-handed, the blade still stuck in the cooling body. A trail of blood showed how far he’d charged to kill the brown-skinned orc before it could finish killing him.

“I don't want you becoming what I am, dammit! Will you listen for once in your damn life?!”
“Do you want me to promise not to burn villages of women and children? Want me to swear I won't execute helpless prisoners? You can't scare me with what you are!”
“I want you to be a gods-damned hero! A living one! Not whatever you'll become with me!”

Tenacity looked worn out for a creature made of spirit and Light as Nore landed, Venner’s tired gryphon right alongside. “Keep them off us while I work on him!” Nore ordered. Mara, Bel, and Venner moved to defensive positions. Pinapple knelt next to Harri, watching Alynore work, her eyes teary.

Nore tried to get the bleeding under control, using bandages and the Light to knit Harrigan’s mangled right side back together. Pinapple paced and fretted, but Nore was too busy to be annoyed. She’d take the Major aside later.

“He’s going to need a transfusion. We have to get him just stable enough to get to Marshtide, and the surgeons there.” She let Pin help, much as the gnome could, while the others fought orcs and ogres, avoiding more iron stars and keeping the attention off the paladin trying to save her old soldier.

“You don't get to decide who I am or what I get to be. Frankly, I'd rather die young doing what's right, and needing done, than—“ She stopped herself. His big, rough hands grabbed her shoulders, shaking her.
“Than what? THAN WHAT?!”
“Than be you.”

Wesley came down, using his stone drake form to scatter a few nearby snipers before landing. He watched Nore, murmuring assurances as she strapped Harrigan and herself onto Wes’ back. The others kept the Iron Horde busy while they flew away from the field, over the ruins of Nethergarde and across the hills to Marshtide Watch.

Orderlies came to help carry Harrigan to a hospital tent. Wes remained outside in drake form, watching; just knowing he was there helped calm Nore to a degree. They were a team, things worked out when they were together. She followed the nurses inside.

The surgeon entered as Nore pushed her refurbished goggles to the top of her head, rubbing her tired eyes. “Did what I could in the field,” she said. “He needs a proper surgeon, though.” Once again, she wished that Anwyna or Lirriel had been out there; they were much better at the nuts-and-bolts of healing. For Nore, it was all instinct and panic, sling the Light until it stopped hurting.

“Miss, this is going to take a while and it's not going to be pretty. You might want to go find something to eat and a place to crash for a while,” the surgeon said gently.

“It’s Commander, and I am staying,” she answered, crossing her arms and glowering.

The surgeon straightened, nodded. “Yes, ma’am.” It would take orders from the King himself to remove her.

More time, with not enough distraction. More time to replay the fight they had had last week, a fight that ended in a bar brawl and spending the night in a jail cell.

“Some of us ain't as afraid as others. Light, is it really even me your scared for? Or just seeing history repeat itself?”
“I'm not afraid, girl. You have to have something to lose to be afraid.”
“So then why you so determined that I stay like some desk jockey?”
He actually paused for a moment. “Do whatever the fel you want, girl. Not like I could stop you. Just don't say I didn't warn you.”

They let her and Wes carry Harrigan on to Stormwind, to the Cathedral and its resources. “If we were as isolated as the old days, I'd be taking that thing off and moving on to the next patient,” the surgeon said as they prepped him for transport.

“We’ll save the arm, or I may as well have left him on that beach,” Nore said, tone harsher than she meant. It wasn’t the surgeon’s fault. Harrigan would not be a cripple. Not if Alynore could help it. She let the healers in the Cathedral know it, too.

Darlain came in; calm, competent, personal. She checked on the work, and then took a long look at Alynore’s strained face. “’e's stable, and the wound ‘as been cleaned, I can leave you two for a bit. Do y’want me to do that?”

“Well, I'm not leaving.”

Darlain nodded. “I know. I'll be back fer treatment in twenty minutes.”

“Thanks, Dar.” Darlain stepped out of the room. Nore made unnecessary checks of the IV, the bedding, his bandages. She knew it was all in order. She rubbed her eyes again; they felt full of grit and soot from the Blasted Lands.

She sat next to the bed and leaned close to Harrigan’s ear. His face and body still had fading bruises from last week’s throwdown. Alynore still had a few, too.

“Ben,” she said, voice low. “You're not allowed to die yet. Or get off on retirement for this. I still need you, you stubborn bastard.”

Alynore slumped back in her chair, and waited. Maybe, if by sheer willpower she could make him hang on for a while longer, she might even get to tell him that she was sorry.

Did not, would not, change her mind—but she was sorry.