As Bregan’s friends moved him through the sparse trees, the ground slowly rose beneath his faltering hooves. In a valiant effort to not pass out, he did his best to keep his eyes open and focused on the path before him. Though his wounds were mostly healed from his newly awoken Paladin abilities, there was no denying he lacked the proper skill to use any of the healing spells very well.
When he tripped on a rock, Thratar grunted beneath Bregan’s sudden shift in weight, though admittedly he had shed a few pounds due to the starvation and dehydration of his torture. It was still more weight than the Orc could easily catch on his own.
“Not much further,” Thratar reassured him in a low voice, and shrugged his shoulder beneath Bregan’s armpit, gaining better leverage.
“Hush–we are still too near the camp,” Rae hissed, and the three continued on.
While Thratar wasn’t incorrect about the distance, Bregan had little sense left to his mind where rational thought was concerned. Perhaps it was shock, but the next thing he realized he was lying down on a thin, woven mat, staring at the ceiling of yet another cave.
I’m going to pass out again, he inwardly sighed, irritated by the realization. Distantly, but coming into steady focus, he heard the concerned whispers of his companions, and lolled his head to the left toward the sounds.
“–more trouble than herding cats,” Rae grumbled, her irritation at war with an undertone of anxiety.
“Perhaps, but he is mostly whole, and after seven days at the hands of Zog, that is saying much,” Thratar said, mildly impressed. He did spit the name of the Orc, like something vile from the back of his throat, which meant he might be from the past Thratar was reluctant to tell Bregan about.
Mostly whole? he wondered, and began a self-inspection, only somewhat hampered by the screaming protest of his body. He could barely manage a twitch, let alone moving any limbs.
“Whoa, mon, take it easy. Ya took a beatin’ from dem kindly Horde soldiers, and it be best if ya take tings slow.” Ja’Ghan’s voice was near to his right, and Bregan turned his head to focus on the Troll, whose smile was made only somewhat menacing by the impressive tusks.
“Wh–” Bregan began, but launched into a coughing fit, his dry throat closing around the words before he could speak them. Delicate hands cradled the back of his skull, lifting it from the mat, while someone else pressed a cup to his lips as they urged him to drink. The water was cool, clean, and better than anything he’d ever tasted. He also dribbled the majority of it out of his mouth in his greedy haste to consume the entirety of the cup in one gulp.
The person holding his head up tsk’d–Rae–while Thratar’s familiar laugh, only somewhat lined with anguish at his friend’s condition, floated through the cave. Another cup was pressed to his lips, and with his embarrassment at his weakened state and inability to perform a simple task fresh in his mind, he drank in agonizingly tiny sips until the cup was empty.
“Should we try to sit him up so we can feed him?” Thratar asked, presumably Ja’Ghan, and Bregan did his best to not let his irritation stray into his thoughts as his mind cleared. He was going to say he wasn’t an invalid, but the current situation was proving otherwise.
“Ya, but slowly now.” With the help of all three, so Bregan had to use little of his own power, they sat him up. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been out, but even going slowly left his vision white on the edges and a vague sensation of dizziness whirling through his skull.
“What happened?” he finally managed to croak out. He kept his eyes closed, since it seemed to help with the grogginess that continued to mess with his vision, but his ears worked just fine, and the uneasiness in the silence around him sent his heart pounding in his chest.
“What was the last thing you remember?” Rae ventured, the first to break the quiet.
“I remember…” Bregan frowned in concentration, and pulled on the foggy memories of where he’d last marked time. “I remember the trees, and almost falling as the path started upward,” he finished, the words still harsh to his ears, and someone pressed a cup into his hands. It was only a passing thought that he realized his hands were bandaged, and while he couldn’t readily identify why, he imagined quite a few places were likely in a similar condition, so he left it alone for now.
Shaky and weak, he could barely manage to lift the cup to his lips, but manage he did. When the cup came close to his nose, he realized he was smelling broth, not the clean scent of water, and he had to stifle the urge to gulp the contents down and repeat his earlier mishap. As he drank, the liquid settled uneasily on his stomach, and he had to stop after a few sips to request a bucket.
“Ya stomach gonna be uneasy fer a while, between not bein’ fed and usin’ so much magic,” Ja’Ghan explained as Bregan heaved. It was worse than when he was a child and got sick one winter, though he knew now just as he’d been told then, the best answer was to drink more broth. The knowledge did little to settle his stomach, however, and he went through the motions of eating and vomiting twice more before anything remained down.
After they’d given him a hard, only slightly stale biscuit to nibble on when he’d kept the broth down, he ventured to open his eyes.
It was nighttime, and the fire that burned deeper in the cave revealed the tense, drawn faces of his three companions. Ja’Ghan and Thratar had small smiles, and Rae simply wasn’t scowling as much as usual. Shame and guilt washed through him, since it was, after all, his fault they were in this position.
“Would it be too trite to say I’m sorry?” Bregan asked, and at Rae’s scoff and the chuckle of the other two, a knot of worry eased a little somewhere in his chest.
“Certainly not, friend, but I’m sorry, too,” Thratar said, and held up a hand at Bregan’s protests. “No, I should have known you’d do something like that, given most people would have left Talida for dead and not gone on such an excursion in the first place. You were already frustrated by the delays, and being someone who was headstrong in their youth, I should have recognized the signs that you were going to make a great escape.” Thratar’s sincerity and self-deprecating analysis helped Bregan let go of the rest of his perturbation.
Bregan nodded, not trusting his voice.
“At any rate,” Rae interrupted, clearly uncomfortable in the face of such raw emotion, “we’ve been here for a little over a day. Not nearly long enough for you to recover from all your injuries, but I imagine that will do little to sway your thickheaded antics,”she continued, not unkindly, but disapproving all the same.
“Also…” she began, but stopped and looked to Thratar, who cleared his throat and cast a sympathetic look to Bregan, whose mind immediately scrambled to the worst-case scenario where Talida was concerned.
“Is everything alright? It’s not about Talida, is it?” he pressed, giving a voice to his dreaded thoughts.
“No, nothing to do with Talida,” Thratar reassured him. Bregan sighed in relief and slumped his shoulders. “But you need to be careful with your left hand. We salvaged most of it, but after being tied up for seven days…I’m just sorry there wasn’t more we could do.”
Bregan looked down to his left hand, and realized how much smaller the bandage looked there than on his right. The upper left portion was gone, meaning he’d only lost one finger, and he snorted in weary contentment. His three companions exchanged distressed glances, but Bregan waved them off with his partially severed hand.
“It was better than I had hoped–I expected to lose the whole hand,” he explained, and the three let out a collective sigh.
“At any rate, we should eat and get to sleep, then head out tomorrow. Ja’Ghan was scouting Grimtotem Post in his ghost wolf form when they emptied it to attack the Horde camp, and he found where they’re keeping some prisoners. He couldn’t free them on his own, as they were among the few things still guarded, and he didn’t know what Talida looked like,” Thratar finished. He stood, stretched, and headed to the fire and began doling out the remainder of the soup into four bowls.
As he ate, Bregan was thankful the solids of the stew were staying down, though they did so under only slight protest, and despite waking up recently he found he was incredibly tired.
“What’s the plan?” he asked, after finishing his bowl and handing it back to Rae, who was taking the dishes out of the cave to rinse them out. He yawned, and did his best to keep his eyes open as the others moved around the cave to pack up what they could.
Thratar turned and let Bregan see his impish smile.
“Well, we figured the explosion and fire worked so incredibly well in the Horde camp–yes that was us,” he interjected at Bregan’s expression of mild surprise, “we figured we’d do the same at the Grimtotem camp. Since the Grimtotems didn’t do it, as the Horde suspect, it won’t necessarily be old hat when we use it on the Grimtotems,” he finished, and Bregan shook his head and chuckled.
“Besides almost burning me to death on the whipping post, the plan went swimmingly,” Bregan noted wryly, and Thratar chuckled weakly and scratched the back of his head in chagrin.
“What ya complainin’ fer? Almost only counts in horseshoes and Goblin grenades,” Ja’Ghan commented sagely, and Bregan’s laughter burst from him in surprise.
“I suppose you’re correct,” he assented, and dipped his head.
“Plus, if we’re lucky, the Horde will counter with an attack of their own when the Grimtotems are running around trying to put out their fires,” Rae said when she brought the bowls back inside. At Bregan’s worried look, likely remembering his ‘almost’ incident, she waved him off as he’d done to them. “The prisoners are kept at the back of the camp, against a cliff face, and yards away from the nearest hut; they’ll be in no immediate danger.”
Bolstered by the plan, and the fact that it was happening the next day, Bregan felt some energy and purpose returning to his body, mind, and soul. He worried he might have trouble falling asleep, but exhaustion won out over the frenzied glee of anticipation.
His final thought, moments before drifting off to sleep, he sent out into the night like a prayer; Hang on, my love, we are coming for you.
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter One
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Two
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Three
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Four
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Five
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Six
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Seven
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Eight
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Nine
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Ten
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Twelve
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Thirteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fourteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fifteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Sixteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Final Chapter