"Over the hills and far away,
she prays he will return one day.
As sure as the rivers reach the seas,
back in his arms she swears she'll be."
- Nightwish: Over the Hills and Far Away.
Inexorable - Part Two.
I meet Nouala at the Gates of Ironforge. It was cold in the evening, but my twins were well clothed and covered, shielding them from the coolness of the Dun Morogh air. We wasted no time after recognising one another - she wearing a hat that almost covered her eyes – I in a hooded mask, the only thing that would give me away being the lack of a right eye.
And we ride on, under the snow covered trees, across the frozen ground from which only winter flowers bloom. And what seems to take hours is suddenly passed as we venture through one of the gates leading to the Valley of Kings. Normally I would’ve stopped, pondering the statues of the Dwarven Kings of old; one of the Bronzebeards and one of the Wildhammers, forever holding their weapons high in defiance to the Dark Iron treachery that had threatened to force them to become extinct. The War of the Three Hammers was long past, but my war seems to never end till the day I die.
I am angry as I recollect all this. I am angry that my children are paying for what I have done, for what I am doing.
This was my fight. Not theirs, but my foes, if they are there, do not care. They just want to hurt me.
That Nouala is with me is comforting; even more so when we stop in Thelsamar for a rest. We rent a room in the cellar below, ordering a meagre meal of water and bread. Then we lock the door, taking time to eat. I am tired and lie down for a rest, holding the basket with my sleeping twins close to me, my sword right by the bed in case we were followed. Nouala sits down comfortably by the wall, her bow in her hand as she keeps vigil. I doubt she even blinked much as she eyed the locked door.
I’m not sure if I dozed off, but I do not remember closing my eye as I gazed at Iohannes and Annika. They are so sweetly ignorant of the turmoil, and I feel grateful that they are.
At one point I decide that I’ve been lying for long enough in the bed and I get up – putting my mask on, retrieve my sword and pick up the basket after covering it again. "We should continue, Raven," I say to Nouala, not using her name directly, but instead creating a new one from her last name. She nods, rising up and likewise covers herself in her disguise. Then we open the door and depart.
I do stop, though, one last time in Thelsamar. I ask there in the graveyard where Ulgarf’s grave is situated. Nouala shows me, and I kneel down by it, picking up the peacebloom I had taken with me for the occasion. I whisper my thanks for what he did for me while he still breathed, of how he jumped in after me after I took a dive from the gryphon post in Stormwind, plunging myself into the lake below in the Valley of Heroes. He pulled me up, saved me from drowning though I didn’t want to be saved back then.
Now he’s dead and I am here.
I place the peacebloom on his grave, and pray that he rests peacefully in the Light. I partly envy him, but I tell myself that he saved me for a reason, not just because I was his friend. I am still here and I have children to care for.
And for the fourth or fifth time, the phrase echoes in my mind. I snap out of it, get back on my horse we ride on for Dun Algaz.
It went better than I could hope. One Orc spotted us. I ended his life quickly after leaping down from my horse and standing ready for him to come close enough for me to cut him down. We then hurried along, in case any of his compatriots would’ve heard his death cry.
But it was pouring rain. I didn’t want to continue. The blanket and the basket would’ve become soaked; my twins as well. They’re still so young! They could catch a pneumonia or worse!
Nouala, bless her, quickly volunteered her oiled cloak. "It will keep the water away," she assured me. I accepted, wrapping the basket into the cloak, we continued from the third tunnel down to the fourth after dispatching after yet another Orc.
And as we came through, beholding the vast Wetlands, the rain had gone.
From there to Menethil Harbour, things were quiet. We were both tired, riding most of the way in silence, occasionally meeting a passing traveller. Only one asked us to stop - some Kaldorei with an animal that I can’t remember, followed by a Draenei. The Kaldorei male was in need of provisions for his animal companion. As we had none, we could do naught but to direct him to Menethil Harbour, where he’d most likely be able to acquire some, unless he could hunt for it himself. He thanked us and both of them took off ahead of us.
Again the silence thundered.
Tiredness is a warning to us, really. Fortunately we did not take that long to reach Menethil Harbour, where I spent a few minutes writing two hurried letters to two friends and sent them off. It wasn’t exactly how a Paladin would try to achieve knowledge about some supposed foes, but those two had their ways of sniffing out things. For my children’s sake, subtlety was required. I trust they will find out if any assassins have been sent to kill me soon enough. I choose to trust them.
Having done that, the first part of the journey was completed. All that remained was the trip over the seas to Auberdine, and then the rest towards Moonglade itself.
Light, Richeron. I miss you so much.
Come to us.
We need you.
I need you.