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Shadows in the Valley, Part 3

Lirriel's picture

“This is a terrible idea,” Yshul said as Rhiswyn used the enchanted trinket. A Shadowmoon orc suddenly replaced the half-elf; even her clothes were enchanted to look like a shaman’s robe.

“Quite probably, dear, but choices are limited,” Rhiswyn said. Her voice was gruffer than normal, which could only help the disguise. It had been two days since her Light-fire had burned a chunk of the Blademoon Bloom, and the smoke—and likely the screaming—had affected her throat. “We need to get to the bottom of this. Hatchlings have died, and the children could be next.” When Rhiswyn had brought back her samples of the berries, D’lina had told her about the hatchlings. Several of the children were getting worse. The berries were waiting for testing in stasis while Rhiswyn searched for the next probable source.

“The Shadowmoon village has been restless; it is possible they wish revenge for the loss of Ner’zhul and so many of their people,” Yshul said. “I will wait outside; if you need help, send up the signal.” He grinned. “Though given how you dealt with the botani, I do not suppose the orcs will be much trouble for you?”

Rhiswyn frowned as she picked up a new staff the local merchants had found for her. “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, dear.”

Yshul shrugged and faded into the shadows along the road as the priest made her way into the village.

******

She passed herself off to the elderly guards as yet another Shaz’gul refugee looking for somewhere safe to recover. The villagers were too worn to dig too deeply. Ner’zhul’s bid to join the Iron Horde had left the clan fractured. Even those who didn’t join Rulkan’s exiles found themselves without a generation’s worth of warriors and shaman, either joined with Hellscream in Tanaan, or killed by Alliance adventurers and draenei defenders.

As she walked through the village, Rhis noticed it held mostly elderly and children, and the sick and injured, crowded into small huts and pavilions. They outnumbered the healthy.

She stopped to help a young pregnant woman—little more than a girl, really—lift a millstone into place. “The big round hut on the north hill has food for newcomers,” the girl told Rhis. “We haven’t much, but I take them bread each day.”

“Thank you.”

“Just mind, it is also the sick house, where the worst of the ill and injured are now. If that bothers you, well…no one else has anything.”

Rhis nodded, whispering a subtle blessing on the pregnant girl as she turned to leave. The priest made her way to the sick house, keeping an eye out for the clans’ wolves. Her disguise would not survive their scrutiny. There were far fewer than had been reported earlier. How many had died to battle and infection?

Rhis walked up the north hill and entered the hut. The stench of infection and illness, the moans and soft sobs of pain, struck her instantly. She paused in the open door, swaying against the assault to her senses.

“What do you need?” a woman growled. Her head was shaved but for the long purple braid starting at her crown; it hadn’t been washed in a few days. She worked at a long table covered in herbs, bottles, pestles and mortars, and flickering flames warming alchemical solutions.

“I am Rhis. I was told I could get food here. Also, I thought I might help with the healing, if needed.”

The woman grunted and gestured to a pot hanging over a fireplace. “You probably have to clean your own bowl and spoon, but the stew’s hot and keeps well.”

“Thank you,” Rhis said. “The well was just outside, right?”

The woman grunted again. Rhis took that as an affirmative and carried a basin outside. She filled it, quietly blessing the water with a cleansing spell before returning to the hut and placing the basin over the fire near the stew. A little rummaging produced soap, and Rhis began cleaning dishes.

“Thank you. I am Frulla. You said you heal?”

“Yes. An honor to meet you, Frulla.” Swallowing her customary ‘dear’ was taking effort. “Injuries and infections from the battles at Shaz’gul and Karabor?”

“Not so much now,” Frulla said. “Most of those are dead, or recovering in their own time. Now it is an illness among the children that concerns me.”

Rhis paused, a soapy plate in hand. “This is not the first I’ve heard of an illness among young. I hear even the botani and the draenei have sick children.”

Frulla snorted, carefully pouring a blue potion into a bottle. “The draenei are the ones who brought this sickness; if their own young are sick, then the spirits punish them for it.” She paused and looked at the pallets. “Perhaps they punish us all for choosing to follow Ner’zhul.”

“Berries,” Rhis said, putting the plate back in the water. She stepped over to Frulla’s worktable. “The children ate berries that have been poisoned?”

Frulla looked up at Rhis, brows furrowed. The orc stepped to the end of the table and opened a box. “The children found berries near the stream. They look similar enough to a favored treat that they were tricked. One has died from the ravages it visits on their small bodies.”

Rhis sucked in a breath as she peered into the box. The glowing red berries sat in various states of alchemical testing, still faintly glittering. “You say they look similar to another berry?” She asked, damaged voice rougher from Frulla’s news.

“To kula berries.” Frulla picked up two pieces of fruit, holding one in each hand. “See how the leaves are shaped, so close but not quite the same? And the consistency of the stem?”

“The seeds are just a bit off, too,” Rhis said.

Frulla nodded. “These appeared a few weeks ago. I didn’t know the children were getting into them until it was too late.”

“And you think it was the draenei?”

“The Iron Tide comes for us all, and they struggle not to drown. Their off-world allies stopped the Dark Star—at a high cost. Now some are…turning.”

“Turning?”

“They have always been decent enough neighbors, if left alone. Now, though, I do not think they will stop in their vengeance. They call on their lost cousins for aid, and they will wipe out or change all life on this world.”

Rhis shivered. She had a very good idea about what the other healer meant. “The sick children—may I?”

Frulla turned from the table and led Rhis across the room to the sick children.

She recognized the symptoms, noting that as always, the orcs were hit harder; their color off, growths and changes to their small bodies. She ran a glowing hand over one sweaty little boy, and was not surprised to see the taint resist the Light’s caress. “Fel magic. They’ve been exposed to fel magic.”

Frulla watched her, eyes narrow. “It is…wrong. Corruption, in a way even the Dark Star’s power was not. This twists in other ways.”

“Indeed, dear. This is the work of the Sargerai.”

Frulla watched Rhis smooth the child’s bald head, shushing his whimpers and helping him sleep with a softly spoken spell. “You are not an orc.”

“No, dear. But I am a healer.” Rhis looked up, blue eyes blazing through the disguise. “And I am also quite angry.”

Comments

Jormund's picture

yay for unoriginal titles!! 

yay for unoriginal titles!! 

"When there is a will there is a way"

"Lead? Me? Nope, no no no no. Bad things happen when I lead. People die and I appear somewhere in Horde territory... with no pants!"