Chapter 16

Shakily, Laina released her vice-grip on Jerlis. She stumbled backwards and sat with a thud on the turf, then flopped flat on her back, fingers twined tightly with the grass. Her eyes grew glassy and her face twisted in a manic grin.

"Laina? Are you OK?" Jerlis leaned over her, red hair dangling in her face.

"Yeah," she said, "never better." She dug her fingers in the dirt. Jerlis looked doubtful. "Just give me a few minutes." She said. His face disappeared from her view as he straightened up. She stared upwards at the stars, focusing on the feel of the ground beneath her. Safe, safe back in the outlands. Demons and chasms and weird green skies and portals that nearly kill Jerlis and falls that never end… were all safely behind her now. She breathed deeply of the untainted air. It was good to be back.

Finally, she decided it was time to get up. They still had to get back to their respective people. With a deep breathe, she rose from the grass, brushing off stray blades. "Let's get going," she said. Jerlis nodded. "Any ideas?" she started to re-don her armor as Jerlis spoke.

"I don't know who has Halaa today. Let's see if we can get close enough to see the flag, and then make our decision. Whoever can, should go through Halaa." Jerlis suggested.

"Sounds good to me." she said. In a few moments she was armored again, and ready to go. Together they set off eastward.

As the sun rose, they could make out smoke on the horizon – the still smouldering ruins of Sunspring Post. From there, they should be able to see the flags of Halaa. It should be an easy thing to avoid the Broken who wandered the ruin.

They walked for most of the day. It was wonderful to feel grass underfoot rather than cinders. The sky was a brilliant blue, and the sun was shining warmly, and though they were both bone tired, the sun overhead gave them endurance.

By the time the sun had started to set, they had nearly reached Sunspring. It was too dark to see across the horizon to Halaa, and neither wanted to mess with the Murkblood at the village. They made a little camp near the lake, and Laina cooked a rabbit she had caught on their trek across the plains. Jerlis had gathered some plants he swore were edible and even tasty, and they had a decent meal for the first time in ages. True, it was a little rustic, and certainly the comforts of civilization were missing, but after their ordeal, they both swore it was the best thing they'd ever tasted.

They awoke to thick fog, which cleared shortly after dawn came to sear it away. Across the lake, they could see Halaa, shining in the early morning light. Proudly flapping above the spires was the Horde flag, clear as the day.

Well, I guess I'm taking the long road, she thought. She turned to the mage and clapped him on the arm. "Looks like it's your people in control today. I get to walk." She smiled at the elf. "Good luck, Jerlis. I won't say I'm pleased to have been in the situation we were in, but for what it's worth, I'm glad to have met you." She said, quietly.

Jerlis was quiet for a moment, then he spoke, earnest eyes on her face. "For what it's worth," he repeated her words, "I am pleased to have met you too. I hope our blades never cross, Laina." He said, his voice also quiet.

For a brief moment, she wondered what it might have been like, if his people had joined the Alliance instead of the Horde. She might have pursued a relationship with him, he was a decent sort. But their people were enemies. Such a path was not meant for them.

Whether he shared her thoughts, she didn't know, but regret seemed to tinge his fel-green eyes as well. He returned the shoulder clap, and then turned towards the path to Halaa. She watched him walk for a short while, before turning to her own long, dusty path to Telaar. Who knew, maybe she'd see him in Shattrath, and maybe they could get a little revenge on the dwarf who set them up.

~fin