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Argents and Apples

Lirriel's picture

Alynore rode into Fort Fordring, Tenacity’s wings of Light flaring as they came through the gate. Kunz had the whole company turned out and in formation to wait for her. Everyone stood at attention, gear and Argent Crusade tabards clean, but the expressions on many faces were apprehensive, if not hostile.

She would have much rather avoided any pomp and ceremony, but this did present opportunities. She pushed her goggles just up to her hairline, as if to hold back her fiery hair—but she flicked the “record” switch, the lenses tilting and whirring and the audio crackling faintly as it kicked on.

Nore took in a breath and dismounted. She couldn’t help but smirk as Tenacity snorted and pawed when an orderly ran up. “Not needed. Thanks, though,” Nore told the young orc. She then turned to look over the troops, gloved hands clasped behind her back. “At ease, everyone,” she ordered. As they relaxed into parade rest and Kunz opened his mouth to announce her, she made a ninety-degree turn on her heel and walked to the end of the first row, beginning her troop inspection right there.

Some of the Crusaders she knew, though mostly it was only visual recognition. She used names where she could, asked about home, families, injuries and scars, or obvious nicks and repairs in armor, weapons, and uniforms. It took a decent amount of time to make her way through the company, looking each of them in the eye, whether she had to crane her neck or kneel to do it.

As she was heading back to the front, a child among the gathered civilians cried, squirming in her mother’s arms in frustration. The draenei woman’s cheeks blushed purple as she tried to settle the little girl, but Nore just smiled, strolling over while pulling a gear-covered box from her pocket. The girl’s eyes widened as the box unfurled into a small bird, colored glass sparkling for its eyes, and along its mechanical wings. It fluttered and buzzed on the end of a small string, which Nore handed to the now giggling child. The mother smiled with relief and Nore smiled back. She continued on to the front of the formation; that couldn’t have been timed so well. Besides, she liked making toys and giving them away to kids who needed them.

“Nice thing about Shadowmoon Valley,” she said, loud enough for anyone in the courtyard to hear. “No hot sun while we’re all standing in formation, right?” She grinned at the soldiers, and a few smirked back. “I know you’re worried about Sir Dolraan, and it can be frustrating to not get word. The Meddler and Dragoon healers are working on the situation, so you can continue with your mission. Sir Dolraan, y’see, was concerned for, and cared about, all of you too. He made plans, just in case—foresight some wouldn’t expect, perhaps.”

As she spoke, she kept her eyes traveling over the crowd, meeting gazes. “I know I’m not a Crusader, but I have stood shield-to-shield with Sir Dolraan through many trials, and like him, am called to serve in the Light. Now, I ain’t here to replace him—he’ll be back. Our enemies will not succeed. I am here for now to help my Brother and his--your—mission as needed, until we stand together again. We’ll continue to protect both our worlds from such petty evils.”

She took a breath. Looked up at the star-strewn sky, and then back to the assembled Crusaders. “I’ll be checking each area to see what’s needed where. I still have the Dragoons to run too, so will be delegating as necessary. But if you need anything, I got an open door policy. Or just walk right on up, whatever.” She grinned. That got a few chuckles, anyway. “All right, dismissed. Back to whatever you’re supposed to be doing this time of day, and I’ll likely be there in a bit.”

Kunz was scowling, but that was all right; the XO was a bit too rigid. His annoyance would score her points with some, she was sure, while making others uncertain. She listened to the Colonel’s information, looked over the papers he pushed at her, and then she personally inspected the various buildings; the mines, the gardens, the storage, the merchants, even the pond.

By the time Nore excused herself, she was utterly exhausted and ready to drop into the bed of the small rented room in the inn she’d asked for. It was a compromise; she didn’t want a room in the main hall nor the barracks, but security was a factor. Besides, it was just for tonight, so she could pick up in the morning, stop by her own garrison, and then catch a portal to Stormwind. There was, however, one more stop she needed to make.

She grabbed the crate of fresh Elwynn apples she’d secured from the Dragoon kitchens before leaving, and headed for the stables. Tenacity was pretending to eat hay in the yard, making conversation with various other beasts. Nore made an inquiry of the grooms and hauled her crate to a stall in the back of the stables.

Quincy, Rhianon’s elekk, stood in the back corner, head against the wall as if asleep, but his tail flicked too often. Nore set her crate down where he was sure to see it. “Well, there’s the handsomest elekk on Draenor. Must be bored, huh?”

Quincy’s eye cracked open, a large foot stomping on the hay. His trunk swung uncertainly toward the crate, and then he sniffed as if in disdain, closing his eye again. Well, that was worrying; she knew the elekk was moody, but this was new. Was he actually worried about Dolraan?

Nore smiled anyway and picked up a curry comb, giving Quincy a good shoulder rubbing as she started to groom him, the way she’d learned in the stables of Shattrath—her old broken, shattered Shattrath—as a teen, and kept talking. “Smart, too. Bet you’re bored, with everyone so busy. Don’t they know how useful a good elekk is? S’ok, though; I’m pretty sure you can help me out, and help Rhianon out in the process, too. We find who did this and upset the smooth running of your world, and we can get things back to normal ‘round here. What d’you say, Quincy? For that whole crate of Elwynn Delicious, think you can point out to me who doesn’t seem right ‘round here? Not just unlikeable—there’s always gonna be those—but the ones you, handsome, think don’t belong among all these Light-slingers and Scourge-fighters? I’m sure you’ve noticed.”

The elekk’s ears perked up and flapped a bit, his tail swinging becoming more energetic, and his trunk definitely reached for the apples this time.

‘Never underestimate a finicky, too-smart-for-its-own-good, loyal mount,’ Nore thought as he munched the first apple. ‘Nor an elekk’s instincts and nose.’ It wouldn’t be perfect of course—but it’d be a start.