Disclaimer: All places, races, etc., belong to Blizzard. None of the characters are based on any player of WoW in particular. Any likeness in name or character traits to any existing WoW-player's characters is purely accidental.

Author's note: In my other WoW-fic, Wail, Baby, Wail, the characters had hearthstones that worked just like in the game. That was a humoristic story however, and this one is (mostly) serious – I'm trying not to incorporate too many game elements of the kind that are obviously made simply to be convenient for the players. Therefore, hearthstones do not exist in this fanfic. I hope that makes sense.

besides, yes, the plot would not work if they had hearthstones. Fanfic sin nr. 8, or something like that - "Ignoring canon for the sake of fic". I hope ya'll can forgive me this once. Besides, there were no sign of hearthstones in Circle of Hatred (Keith R. A. DeCandido). Just saying, so that there won't be any confusion.

There might be a second chapter to this story coming along, but it could also be a oneshot. We'll see.

Shades of Grey

Thomas couldn't remember when he had last ran so fast, and so desperately. "Like a bat out of hell" came to mind – or would have, if he had not been so focused on the fact that ten tons of giant lizard was practically breathing down his neck.

He was quite amazed that Collins still had enough breath to curse – but then, a rogue wore much lighter armor than a paladin.

Yet another reason to not like the backstabbing bastards. But, at least this wasn't Collins fault. Neither of them had noticed the giant monster until it noticed them, unfortunately. Still, Thomas was the one in the lead so far – glad to have chosen lighter armor than his usual wear to counter the humid heat of the jungle. He would probably have been gobbled up already if he had worn his usual armor.

Until he found himself chased by one, Thomas had always thought that the stories about the devilsaurs had only been the fruit of hungry travelers eating too many odd herbs in the Un'goro Crater. But its steps sounded too loud and its jaws and claws looked too sharp for the hallucination theory to hold anymore.

None of this really passed through Thomas' head at the time – his full concentration was focused on leaping over rocks and fallen trees and trying his darnest not to step on something hidden in the thick jungle vegetation which would send him falling on his face. The devilsaur had no such concerns, crushing its way through everything its prey had to struggle through and across.

The humans fully well knew that they were running towards the sides of the crater, which meant cliffs. Which meant unable to run any further. But planning is not a luxury often afforded by two men running for their lives.

If they were lucky, they could maybe hide in a-

Cave or something!

Thomas didn't even hesitate, only turned slightly to the left and dashed towards the crack in the cliff. If it was as deep as it looked or if the sweat in his eyes was just fooling him… well, he was in no position where he could chose whether to take a risk or not.

He dove in head first, and his helmet did not, luckily, immediately connect with solid rock wall. Instead, he stumbled forwards and into a small cave. The blast of relief was mixed with surprise, however, as he caught sight of green cloth in front of something brown and blue ahead of him. He looked up.

At first, he thought that he had fallen into a cavern already occupied by a small, human woman. Unfortunately for him, he soon noticed her long ears… and more importantly, the troll crouching behind her.

The three of them blinked quite stupidly at each other for a second before Collins burst in, stumbled, and landed on top of Thomas.

Under normal circumstances Thomas would have started a quite wordy rant about what kind of rogue Collins was supposed to be. However, considering the situation the paladin had more acute problems to consider, like the fact that he was lying in a small cavern with a rogue on top of him, and two members of the Horde sitting just a couple of feet away. He could practically smell the troll's sweat – not a pleasant one, though he could admit that after the trip and dash through the humid jungle, he did not smell like roses either.

The bigger – technically – problem made itself known again when he felt hot breath run over his legs and heard huge claws furiously scraping the cliff outside. Without thinking he scrambled forwards, grabbing Collins' arm and dragging him along.

If the troll had not stood up, they may have landed in his lap in their haste.

The Un'Goro Crater really wasn't agreeing with anybody today.

Thomas scrambled to his feet, hand halfway to the hilt of his sword when a huge blue hand with only three fingers grabbed his wrist and stopped him. He furiously tore himself free and grasped the sword, but before he had begun to draw it he found himself shoved against the wall with what was probably a dagger – but the size of a small sword – pressed to his throat.

He just remembered that trolls tended to move real quick for being so big.

In the background he heard Collins curse, though the voice almost drowned in the snarling of the giant… thing outside of their shelter.

"You can kill me, wretch, but the Alliance will not fall!" Thomas snarled.

It may have sounded more impressive if he had not already been gasping for air after all the running.

The troll looked at him for a second, then let out a series of grunts which Thomas recognized as Orcish.

The odd thing was, it did not sound like a threat. At least judging from the tone of the troll's voice. Everything else about what the lumbering thing said sounded like a boot stomping mud.

"I think he says that we have bigger problems right now," the blood elf said.

Thomas would have jumped in surprise, but he was a bit too aware of the blade on his throat for the moment.

"Uh," he said.

The troll gurgled something again, and the elf frowned up at the protruding face with all its tusks and hair. Finally she looked at the two men again.

"He says that if you agree not to start a fight he won't crush your heads like watermelons." She smiled slightly. "I think."

"I'd like to see him try!" Collins snarled in the background, probably reaching for his throwing daggers… only to remember he had already used up those, and not been in a situation where he could recollect them.

Oddly enough the troll looked at Collins, then glared at the elf. As if he was suspicious and not at all pleased with what she might have told the two humans. Slowly, he removed the dagger and put it back in the sheath by his belt.

Though still apprehensive Thomas let go of his sword – until a sudden snarl from outside made him spin around and finally draw. He aimed a slice at the scaly nose and massive teeth trying to dig into the too small hole – but though he hit as hard as he could, and the monster drew back with a snarl, he suspected that the pain in his arms was greater than the pain the gigantic raptor felt from the dent in its hard lower "lip".

The creature backed off, but only out of reach… and it remained outside. Waiting.

Thomas landed on his behind with a clatter of armor, the sword falling from fingers numbed by the rebound.

A moment of silence followed, apart from the paladin grumbling under his breath and rubbing his hands against each other. Then finally Collins cleared his throat.

"Well, ah, that cleared the air. Thanks, man."

Thomas turned around and studied the entire company of people trapped in a cave.

The precious little area available was quickly divided between Alliance and Horde. Though the two couples glared murder at each other, their tight situation – and the troll's warning – kept them from raising their weapons again.

Either way, there wasn't enough space to fight properly. The sound of Thomas' sword scraping its sheath hung heavily in the air even seconds after he had put the weapon back.


The blood elf was the one who broke the silence.

"We were having a break," she said in a poisonous voice, "when you came barreling through the forest with that overgrown raptor trying to have you for lunch."

"I didn't see you!" Thomas blurted without thinking.

It was true – he had only seen the wonderful opening in the cliff, big enough for a man (and a troll, apparently) to get through, but too small for the monstrosity on the prowl. Still, even if it was true it was hardly an excuse. He could feel Collins give him a disbelieving look, apparently agreeing that the pick of words had been odd. The blood elf seemed to agree, her glare only intensifying.

The troll just sat there, watching.

"I don't care if you saw us or not. This is your fault." The little lady with the long ears pointed at the exit. "The least you can do is go out there and get gobbled up so that we can sneak away."

Alright, that dismissed every need to be civil.

"How about I take your treacherous little elfish self and just toss you out instead?" Thomas snarled, reaching for his sword again. Though the elf's eyebrows shot further downwards, she did not recoil.

The troll made a warning motion with his hand, but it was Collins who grabbed the paladin's arm this time.

"Look here!" the rogue quickly said, throwing a quick glance between all of them. "There's a really big lizard out there who wants to eat us and I would very much like to get out of here somehow. Can we please try to focus on the bigger problem here?"

A tense moment passed, but then Thomas removed his hand from his weapon.

Seeing this, the blood elf turned to the troll and grumbled at him in a low voice. Though he did not understand a word, Thomas quickly concluded that the elf did not speak Orcish well at all. She stuttered and hesitated on almost every syllable. Apparently the troll had some troubles too, frowning as he tried to follow along with what she was saying.

Finally however, he nodded and looked up at the two men.

"Vo'don," he said, slowly and clearly while poking at the leather armor covering his chest.

The elf gave him a furious look, apparently not liking this turn of events.

"… Collins," the rogue admitted after a moment of surprise. He motioned at his companion. "This here's Thomas." He put extra weight on the name itself so that Vo'don would understand, apparently feeling generous.

For a little while it seemed like the elf wouldn't share her name, but finally she shrugged.

"I'm Shana."

As if it was listening, the devilsaur outside gave a loud snort, causing all of them to jump slightly and stare at the cave opening. But the monster didn't try to get in again.

Collins cleared his throat once more as things settled down.

"Well, it seems like our friend out there is prepared to wait for a while." He let out a nervous chuckle, then gave the elf and troll a hopeful look. "I don't suppose any of you have any pets or demons to distract him with?"

Shana shook her head.

"Mage," she said.

Despite her inability to call up a demon to distract the huge lizard with, neither of the two men could really feel too sad about that. Nobody in their right mind would want to be trapped in a cave with a warlock, not even one who normally claimed to be on your side.

Being trapped in a cave with a warlock on the enemy side just meant that you'd be eaten by something sooner or later. It was bad enough that there was a blood elf mage with a pet troll sitting in front of the humans.

Shana jabbed a thumb at Vo'don.

"He's a hunter, but he was coming here to tame a new raptor after his last pet got killed."

She pursed her pretty little lips hard.

"And before you suggest I set that thing on fire or freeze it solid," she said, "there's nothing I can do that will do more than make it angry."

"And I don't suppose your friend could charm that thing?" Thomas said, pointing at the shadow outside.

"If he could, we wouldn't have a problem now would we?" Shana snapped.

"Right, right…" He frowned. "But you're a mage. Can't you make a portal?"

"What, you want to visit Orgrimmar? Or maybe the Undercity?"

She smirked for a moment, but then the expression fell.

"I need a rune of portals to do that, anyway," she said, glaring at her lap. "And I don't even have a rune of teleportation."

With the look she gave him, one would think that this was all his fault too.

Thomas pinched the bridge of his nose, concluding that a fight with this charming little lady wasn't worth the effort. Instead, he turned to Collins.

"Any ideas?"

"Huh. Let me see if I can brew us anything. Don't get your hopes up though."

The rogue dragged his backpack off his back and set it beside himself. From its depths he grabbed a box covered with soft leather, which he placed in his lap. Opening it he revealed a mass of smaller boxes and bags within the container, all of them carefully sealed and marked.

The rest of the company remained silent as Collins began to dig through his collection of herbs and powders in the search for any combination that could save them.

After a minute he looked up, dangling a small bag between his thumb and pointing finger.

"I don't suppose anybody has any dreamfoil?"

He only got blank looks, and sighed.

"Come on, they grow everywhere out here. Please? Purple flowers shaped like blades?"

"You mean something like this?" Shana said, digging around in a pouch by her belt. "I picked some because they looked odd…"

She produced what looked like a handkerchief, neatly folded. When she shook it above her open hand, a few purple plants fell out. Almost flat flowers clung to a thick stem, forming what was definitely a blade-like shape.

"Looks like it!" Collins excitedly said. He snatched the flowers from Shana's hand as she offered them, giving them a quick study. "Yep, this is it. Perfect."

Thomas ignored the elf's smug look. He also resisted the urge to ask Collins why he had not stocked up on the herb himself, if they 'grew everywhere out here'. As tempting as it was, it was a too low blow. Below his dignity. And the Alliance definitely needed to appear as an allied front against its enemies.

World politics in a small cavern.

"Alright then, I think I can make something out of this…" Collins said.

During the next couple of minutes he worked his potion brewing skills. The others watched as the rogue crushed the dreamfoil in a tiny mortar together with a mixture of dried herbs and seeds from various bags and boxes. Finally he scraped the mixture into an empty vial, then poured some of the water from his flask into the container. When he shook the vial the contents mixed, giving the water a thick purple color.

With a triumphant smile Collins put a cork in the vial's mouth and held up the fruit of his efforts.

"Normally dreamfoil will make you perky," he said, "but this should be one heck of a sleeping potion."

His smile died.

"So, we have a sedative that should be able to knock out a kodo… I hope…" Collins cleared his throat. "Now, how do we get it into our big friend? I can poison our weapons but if we can't cut through those scales…"

"He was breathing all over us when you came in," Shana snorted. "It shouldn't be too hard for you to make him open wide enough to let you throw it into his mouth, now should it?"

"Right, right…"

Collins nodded, but they all saw the wild look in his eye and his Adam's apple bouncing with a hard gulp. He got to his feet, holding the flask hard enough for his skin to turn white. It probably didn't help his nerves any that he had a rather tense audience.

He sneaked up to the exit on silent feet, and stuck his hand out in a very quick wave. Half a second later he was scrambling backwards while three huge claws cleaved the air where he had been a moment ago.

The devilsaur roared in anger, from the sound of it twisting its entire body against the cliff as it struggled to reach its prey. Sand and pebbles rained down, forcing the four prisoners to duck with their arms over their heads.

After an eternity the scraping and thundering ceased, and the monster furiously backed off again. They could hear it snort in anger – but it did not take off to look for an easier snack.

Stubborn as hell.

Collins straightened up first, shaking his head to get the sand out of his hair.

"I think he doesn't want to get cut on the lip again," he croaked, picking the flask from his lap with shaking hands.

Thomas didn't bother to look at Shana. Her loud groan told him all he needed to know about the way she glared at him right then.

Well, they had a mage… if they could get her to share her ability to summon food and water they could probably stay here for quite a while.

Thomas could swear he felt the air vibrate with a collective mental groan, as if they had all reached the same conclusion. It wasn't a pleasant thought at all. He wondered how long the huge raptor would bother to guard the cave until it got too hungry and irritated to stick around waiting.

If it worked like other, normal sized raptors it would call on any of its friends getting within earshot, and then there would be an entire party of giants waiting for the little humanoids to give up.

A heavy silence ruled for a moment, until Vo'don tapped Shana's shoulder. This earned him a glare instead, which he didn't seem too bothered about. Instead of mourning the fact that the blood elf was annoyed at him, he said something while pointing at the vial and then waving his hands around in a way, with a tone of voice, that carried the universal meaning of "what the heck is that thing anyway?".

Though she replied, stumbling as her language skills were, Shana showed no sign of being embarrassed for neglecting to explain it to him. Only annoyance at the fact that the troll hadn't understood something so simple on his own.

As she fell silent, Vo'don slowly nodded to himself. He didn't say anything, but pulled his big dagger out of its sheath – slowly and shaking his head at the two humans not to make them even more jumpy. A huge blue finger tested the weapon's edge, but then the troll shook his head once more and put the dagger away again.

Now he was in the focus of everyone else, though he did not seem to get rattled at it. One could almost hear the movement of his thoughts as he glared at the exit and the huge shape hulking outside.

Finally he let out a deep breath through his nose and shook his massive shoulders. Then, as everyone else watched, he began to loosen the straps holding the leather gauntlet on his left arm.

It probably hit them even at that early stage what he was planning, but nobody spoke. Perhaps it seemed too absurd an idea to believe.

Still ignoring the questioning looks from the humans and the elf, Vo'don reached back and dropped the gauntlet into his backpack. His expression remained the same as he looked around the cavern, finally setting his eyes on a jagged rock in the back of the cave.

He shuffled over and sat down on his knees, laying his left arm on the rock. Then he pointed to Collins, then to the thick end of his own upper arm. The three others stared at him, blankly. Not changing his calm expression, the troll pointed to Thomas and finally made a cutting motion towards his bluish elbow.

"You're shitting me!" Collins blurted, voicing everyone's opinion.

Though Vo'don probably didn't understand the words, the twitch of his lips showed that he did catch the meaning.

"Uh…" Shana started, then let out a series of stumbling words of Orcish, waving her hands about nervously.

Vo'don just nodded.

"He's serious," Shana said.

"But… why would he…?" Thomas started. "I know they can… uh, regrow limbs but why does he…?"

"Oh, he hates you," Shana said in an odd voice, as if she tried and failed miserably to sound cheerful. "He just wants to get out of here alive."

"And he doesn't think that Tommy here will cut off his head and throw both of you out as bait instead?" Collins not so helpfully asked.

"I wouldn't do that!" Thomas snapped.

"You said something different ten minutes ago!" Shana countered.

At that the troll looked up and glared at all three of them, finally telling Shana something again. Apparently he caught something vital, or perhaps misunderstood something, about their babbling.

"He says that he doesn't believe in human paladin honor," Shana said, watching the two men, "but he's taking a chance that you believe in it."


The word was so startling and clear coming from the troll's lips that his entire audience jumped slightly. Thomas uneasily found himself fixed with a glare from the sunken eyes, as Vo'don repeated the word.

"I-" Thomas cleared his throat. "I wasn't on mount Hyjal."

"I been."

They all stared at Vo'don, Shana most of all – trying to decide if he understood more Common than he had let show, or if he had simply heard similar phrases before.

When nothing happened for another couple of seconds, thick blue lips drew back from big, sharp teeth in a snarl.

"Whazza mattah, 'oman?" Vo'don gurgled with an accent so thick one could hardly make out a single word. "Sca'd ta cut troll?"

"It's not about being scared, it's…"

Thomas trailed off when he was only met with a blank stare.

How the hell had he gotten into a situation when everything he knew about moral screamed that it was wrong to raise his sword against a member of the Horde? And a troll, at that. A troll who was staring at him with the most taunting expressions he had ever seen.

Weak, scared little human can't swing his sword against an enemy anymore.

We're still enemies?

He almost jumped again when Shana moved, reaching towards Vo'don's face with a folded piece of cloth in her hand. The troll glanced at her, and she murmured in Orcish – much softer than anything she had said before. With a single nod, Vo'don plucked the cloth from her grip and bit down on it.

To keep from screaming.

As quickly as she had appeared, Shana backed off and nervously pressed her back against the cave wall, trying to get as far away as possible.

A numb feeling spread from Thomas' chest. When he drew his sword it was only the trained motion that seemed familiar to him, everything else so alien that he wondered if he was dreaming. Everything, their breathing, the heat, the kneeling, silent troll. Too surreal.

Vo'don was staring straight ahead and not at the paladin. For a moment of complete insanity, Thomas thought he could see the blood rushing through the troll's veins.

There was just enough space in the back of the cave to let him lift his sword over his head. His final thought before beginning the downward arc was a prayer that the rock was not so low that force would be lost. He did not want to have to perform a second slice.

He didn't actually realize that it was done until he saw Vo'don throw his head back in agony, gripping his left upper arm convulsively, a choked gurgle grinding through his throat but stopped by the cloth. He twisted, threw himself against the wall and finally stilled, rocked by his breathing and gritting his teeth so hard one could hear the screeching. Blood coursed from the severed stump of the arm, splattering over his lap and the ground.

Thomas dropped his sword and gripped the severed arm without thinking, turning and throwing it within Collins' reach before the taste of bile could overtake him. In the next moment the paladin was on his knees before the panting troll, raising unsteady hands towards the wound.

"B-by the blessings of the Light, I p-pray this creature's pain be eased…!" Thomas hoarsely whispered.

For a second he thought that his disarrayed mind made it impossible to work the magic, but then finally a soft, warm glow enveloped his fingers. Almost slumping in relief he reached closer to the source of Vo'don's pain. The glow reached out when it got close enough, melting into the raw flesh and broken bone.

The troll's shoulders fell and he tipped his head backwards, breath growing easier by the second as the flow of blood slowed. He still clutched his arm, however. The soaked cloth slugged out of his mouth, probably pushed by his tongue. Then it stuck on his lips, and Vo'don made no attempt to remove it.

After a little while, Thomas left the maintaining of the magic to his left hand and moved his right one away from the wound. Vo'don opened one eye and peered at the gloved hand reaching in between his tusks, but remained still even as Thomas grasped the piece of cloth and let it fall to the blood soaked ground.

"I, I've got some water," came Shana's voice from the side. She shook her head as if waking up when Thomas and Vo'don looked at her, stuttering out the same phrase – presumably – in Orcish. The bottle in her hand, obviously conjured, probably informed Vo'don before he got to hear it in his own language.

An exhausted smile touching his lips, the troll shifted so that Shana could pour the clear liquid from the bottle over the wound, washing away the worst gore. But when Thomas reached out to continue the healing, he found, to his amazement, that with the blood washed away it became apparent that the wound was closing. Or rather, a layer of skin was growing, creeping from the outer edges of the stump and covering the flesh, bone and already shut veins.

Now, Thomas had been lucky enough not to have been forced to heal any lost limbs before, but despite his lack of experience he felt quite sure that that couldn't be how it usually worked. At least not with most races. He found himself blinking, and looked up in the search for an explanation. But Shana looked just as perplexed… which was a bit of a relief, actually.

A tired chuckle made both of them look at Vo'don, and he lightly patted the remains of his arm.

"Be good. Soon."

With that he took the bottle from Shana's hands and drank what was left in a few deep gulps.

Trolls were really, really scary when it got down to it. The bastard was already looking better than he had a minute ago, which was disturbing even with the magic speeding up his natural ability to heal.

A cough caused all three of them to look around and up at Collins. The rogue sat on the ground, the opened vial on the ground beside a piece of severely stained cloth. In his hand was a bloodied dagger, and before his knees laid the severed arm. Blood still dripped out of the cut end, but the worst seemed to have already been drained. To add up several new cuts had been added to the poor limb, which explained the blood on the dagger.

Shana looked away quickly, letting out a disgusted sound. Even Thomas could feel his stomach churn at the sight, averting his gaze and trying to cleanse his memory of the peacefully bent, dying fingers.

He wondered, briefly, what Vo'don thought of seeing his arm lying there.

"I've stabbed it through with the poison," Collins reported, waving the dagger. "I'd drench the whole thing to be sure it's enough but then our friend would probably smell it."

He only got hesitant looks for this.

"You really think it'll be enough?" Thomas said. He suppressed a shudder at the thought of having to cut off another arm in case this didn't work.

Collins shrugged.

"Should make him dizzy at least," he said and dried the blood off the dagger with the stained cloth.

Trying not to look at what he was doing, the rogue then grabbed the arm by the severed end and tiptoed towards the exit.

Vo'don muttered something under his breath.

"What did he say?" Thomas asked in a faint voice.

"I think he said that he'll be, ah, royally pissed if that thing out there doesn't eat stuff it hasn't killed on its own," Shana translated.

Though he wouldn't admit it, Thomas knew that he would feel something quite similar if the beast let them down. He had had enough trauma for one day.

He also had a creeping suspicion that if he got out of this alive he would look back at it and laugh hysterically at the madness of it all.

"He doesn't look like he's of the picky kind," Collins said with a strained smile over his shoulder, shattering all musings. "Here goes nothing!"

And with that, the rogue pulled back and flung the arm out of the cave. They all heard the soft thump as it landed in the grass, followed by a surprised snort from the devilsaur.

A collective breath was held.

After a moment a heavy stomp came from outside as the lizard moved to inspect the strange treat. The refugees kept holding their breath while their adversary let out a series of sniffs, causing the tall grass and plants to sway violently.

"Craaap…" Collins muttered at the silence that followed.

But then, after a second of their hearts sinking, there was a whisper of hard lips brushing vegetation.

Thomas recognized the sound, eerily similar to the almost lapping of a horse smacking its lips against delicious grass as it chews its meal from the ground. Except this was far louder, and there was a disgusting crack of bones breaking between gigantic jaws.

Without thinking Thomas threw a glance at Vo'don. At first he thought the troll was just staring at thin air, managing to faze the sound out with a force of will unimaginable.

But then, the paladin noticed the thick lips, pressed so tightly against each other that they were turning pale blue. Before his spying had been noticed, Thomas quickly looked away.

The gulp was disturbingly loud, and closely followed by a suspiciously smug hiss. Collins looked around, an eyebrow raised.

"I think he just told us our bribe is pathetic," he said.

"Is it working?" Thomas just hissed through his teeth.

At that, Collins waved his hand in a calming motion.

"Hey, give it a sec. You gotta let the magic work before you panic."

"This is not magic!" Shana snorted.

When the two men looked at her, she followed her tone of voice up with a glare that could make one think they had just said her firstborn looked like a gnome.

"It's just a figure of speech, lady," Collins said.

"Well, it's annoying," Shana said. "I don't go calling your poisons tea, now do I?"

"If you did that I'd just think you were joking or crazy."

"You wouldn't understand, human. We live for magic, especially a mage like me. Distinctions are important."

"Yeah, whatever."

One could clearly see that the dismissive wave of Collins' hand set Shana's blood to a boiling point. Her face sure took on an amusing shade of red.

Thomas didn't even bother getting involved in this discussion. He just shrugged and shook his head at Vo'don's questioning look, trying to let the troll know that he didn't really want to know what the argument was about.

"I should turn you into a sheep, you-"

Even Shana fell silent at the grunt from outside. All four of the rag-tag group perked up.

A couple of stomps, definitely from giant, stumbling feet, called on Collins to crawl closer to the exit. He peered out, left hand forming a victory sign at the sound of another stumble. Looking around he held up the bottle of sleeping potion, grinning widely at them all.

"So, could you lend us a brand of real magic, m'lady?" he said. "I'd like him so annoyed that he'll yell at me."

"I think I can do that, human," Shana replied, but as she crept forwards while rubbing her hands, she showed no remaining signs of being irritated. Instead, a slightly disturbing look of excitement took over her features.

She stopped just behind Collins and he wisely ducked down when her dainty hands began to glow blue to the sound of a whispered spell. A confused grunt came from outside, probably due to the devilsaur noticing the sudden light. It got no time to realize what it was, however. With a snarl, Shana flung her hands forwards and bolt of ice flared through the air, striking the giant in the throat.

It roared in fury, shaking the ground with its heavy steps as it stomped forwards.

And, dizzy with the drug, it did not remember the sword that had struck its lip earlier. It bent forwards and opened its mouth in a roar. Shana staggered backwards with both hands pressed to her ears and fell to the ground. Two of the men did not have the luxury of being able to do so, but Collins, using one hand to at least protect one ear, braved the mind-blowing force of the sound and flung the vial right into the devilsaur's mouth.

The glass shattered against the upper row of giant jaws, on the inside – sending the purple liquid and sharp shards all over the lizard's tongue. Howling, the monster drew back, snarling as it struggled to spit.

Breathing heavily Thomas looked up and slowly removed his hands from his ears. He could tell that the ringing in his head would be staying around for quite a while, but it was a small price to pay as he saw the triumphant look on Collins' face and the thumbs up he was doing.

As he turned his head Thomas noticed that poor ol' Vo'don had curled forwards and, lacking the normal means, pressed the side of his knees against his ears. Now he had straightened up as much as a male troll normally did, smacking the side of his head with his hand.

"Eh?" he said, looking between Thomas and Collins.

The rogue's gesturing probably informed Vo'don about everything he needed to know, if the furious noise the devilsaur performed was not enough. It heavily staggered back and forth, snarls sounding more slurring by the second. Still Thomas met the troll's eyes and nodded.


A relieved grin spread across Vo'don's face.

Thomas could not, in that moment, for the life of him remember why he normally thought of trolls as enemies. Without thinking he reached forwards and patted the big blue shoulder of the remaining arm in a friendly gesture. Catching himself he quickly withdrew, unsure how many racial conventions he had just broken. But though Vo'don raised a fleshy eyebrow, he showed no sign of anything but mild surprise.

"People, people!" Collins cheerfully called, catching everyone's attention again. He pointed outside, grinning from ear to ear. "Tiiimbeeer!"

They got up to check the outside world just in time to see the devilsaur beginning its tip. It stumbled one last time, and then its legs gave away. Letting out a final snarl it tumbled.

The crash caused leaves to fall off the nearest trees. The giant legs and the in compare tiny arms sleepily scratched at nothing, but after another moment the beast grew completely still.

Collins held up a hand, but nobody was about to rush out either way.

They waited.

After a little while, the birds in the area got over their fear of the mysterious sounds and began chirping again.

Finally Shana stepped forwards and raised her hands, beginning a second incantation. A second later a new bolt of ice hit the devilsaur's side, spreading a layer of ice across the thick scales.

No reaction.

"Is it dead?" Thomas asked, squinting in an attempt to see if the monster's chest still moved.

Both Shana and Collins shook their heads.

"I can see it breathing," the rogue said. He looked up. "Give it another shot just to be sure, okay?"

Apparently Shana was in no state of mind where she felt like complaining about being given orders by warriors of the Alliance. She simply obeyed, using a stronger spell this time.

Not even the larger icebolt managed to rouse the knocked out devilsaur.

The humans, elf and troll exchanged glances.

Quickly, Collins packed up his tools and slung his backpack over his shoulder. He headed out first, sneaking along the cliff in a wide arc away from the devilsaur with the others closely following. Shana walked second in the line, holding her staff in both hands should anything happen. Thomas went last, keeping a close eye on the sleeping monster until it was completely hidden by the trees. He threw an occasional glance on Vo'don along the way, as the troll kept turning his head back and forth, apparently listening carefully for more enemies.

But nothing came at them, and they sped up after losing sight of the devilsaur. Nobody said anything – it wasn't needed.

All four of them knew that they would be friends at least until they reached Marshall's Refuge, where they could breathe out once and for all.

After that, nobody knew what could happen.

But right then, that wasn't important. For the time being, they were a great team.