In the morning, the paladin jumped up as if under a howl of a siren. Fiona walked around the camp constantly whine. Tarenar was still sleeping in his sleeping bag. Everyone was worried about something. And only the Riverey quietly peacefully slept right on the ground.
Zverago was the first to approach the paladin
— Gidwin had disappeared, — he said grimly. The paladin’s pupils dilated.
— What?! In the meaning is disappeared?! — here Bolingar began to regret that he still had not succeeded Riverey at the post. How could he even fall asleep if he knew that enemies were hiding in the shadows? What kind of moron is he so careless?
Suddenly, Riverey jumped on both legs, turned sharply and grabbed the blades: one from under the cloak, the other from the waist. Having examined the situation, she removed the weapon.
— What ?! What happened?
— Gidwin is gone. I went around the whole district, but he is nowhere to be found, — the first complained to Fiona. — Please help me find him! Suddenly he … No, I don’t even want to think.
— What do you remember the last, River? — Asked Zverago.
— I … I remember something touching my head. Something soft. I turned around sharply, but, barely seeing the bloody eyes, I collapsed to the ground. And then … then I woke up — being completely bewildered, the Riverey spoke. In addition, she was ashamed that she had let down the whole company, and that it was precisely because of her that Gidwin had disappeared.
— She was euthanized. That explains a lot, — Zverago finished for her. — Okay, let’s go look for the dwarf. Do not leave Fiona alone with her grief.
Several times the Riverrea carefully walked around the camp. Several times she looked under the jilliance. Several times she stepped off the road to the edge of the forest. But each time she returned with nothing.
— I can not believe it! No trace! Nothing at all! This does not happen. Unless Gidvin was taken away by a dragon. But you yourself know what probability. I don’t even know. Although wait, — with these words Riverey’s gaze fixed on Zverago.
— Understandably. Okay, I’ll try to smell him. Let’s hope that I can’t confuse the smell of dwarven beer with anything.
Bolingar walked quickly to Fiona.
— Do not worry. We will find him. Tarenar will not even have time to wake up. We will start the search immediately, but for now, stay here. In the forest there are dangerous creatures that you can not cope alone.
— And Gidvin? Is he not alone among the terrible creatures struck by the plague? I’m with you! — Fiona exclaimed.
— Ruled out! You will stay here. Someone must stay with Tarenar. And what about Gidvin, we will try to find him as soon as possible. He wanted to become a paladin, if before that he had at least some kind of training, they will be very useful to him now. Even the most basic knowledge should be enough to defend itself against the plague. And what about wild animals and other undead… — the paladin hesitated. — I hope he is a good fighter.
Here, at these words, Fiona began to panic.
He wanted to reassure the worgen, but he obviously did not succeed. Now Fiona sat cringing and crying. Nevertheless, she agreed with the paladin that she should stay with Tarenar.
— I beg. They are all that I have. Please! Return it home! — with tears in her eyes clung to the paladin Fiona.
The paladin peered into these eyes, full of not only fear, but also hope.
— We will return it. At all costs, — Bolingar said firmly and decisively.
They gave him than a warm welcome, and how did he pay for it? But this time he will not leave until he finds Gidvin. Even if him have to comb through the whole forest and look under each stone. Such determination gave him strength. However, the paladin was all shuddered by only one thought that the guy had already died. How would he look Fiona in the eye if he brought Gidwin’s lifeless body to the camp? And Tarenar? No, this will not happen.
— I think I know where they dragged him. Come on! — Cried Zverago.
The paladin took off and almost did not lag behind feral. Zverago constantly maneuvered, sharply turning each time in a new direction. Several times they went to the river, but the feral immediately turned back into the forest. Three times they went to the destroyed village, and the same one. When for the third time they went to the already familiar bushes along the river, Zverago broke.
— This is some kind of vicious circle! — exclaimed feral. — It feels like he is being dragged around. And many times faster than we run these circles! This is impossible!
— We have less and less time. I offer to split up, — suggested the Riverey.
— Is it dangerous. I think it’s worth sticking together, — said Zverago.
— The river is right, — the paladin said. — If we split up, we can cover a large area.
— They’ll catch you one by one! — protested feral.
— I would rather die than continue to procrastinate! — shouted Bolinger.
— And not only will you not find Gidvin, you will also be killed by undead! — answered Zverago, gradually turning to a roar.
— Enough! — The Riverey stepped between the paladin and feral. — We will split up. I agree with the paladin. I would rather jump from the mountain than return to Fiona with a dead boy in his arms.
— Well. Just don’t rush it, — feral said, a little coolly.
Zverago set off along the river. The River continued to patrol the forest nearby, and the paladin went to Scholomance.
The soil around the ruined buildings was rotten. And there were hungry ghouls hiding in the ruined houses. Suddenly, the paladin was attacked from behind by a plague wolf. But the determined paladin flung it off with a sharp movement, and with a single spell burned the unholy flesh to ashes, leaving only the charred bones of the dead wolf.
Breaking into every house, the paladin didn’t care that he made too much noise and thus attracted the ghouls. After all, the more noise he makes, the more ghouls will run to him, and the fewer ghouls Gidwin will meet on his way. The plan is as simple as two coppers. In addition, the destruction of the undead is a direct responsibility of the paladin. So there was no doubt about it. To the paladin’s surprise, he seems to have managed to attract all the undead in the area. But Bolinger was no stranger to battle against the numerical superiority. In addition, the paladin took up a defensive position in one of the buildings, taking a very convenient place in the passage. So he could not be surrounded by the undead. They all rushed through the main door of the old barracks.
Exactly until a huge piece of meat with hooks and a huge cleaver broke through the wall of the barracks. Dodging a blow with a cleaver, the paladin was able to break through the main entrance through the ghouls and run out into the square. An abandoned castle loomed ahead. The paladin rushed there, hoping that this butcher would not fit through the gate. Surprisingly, the fortress was empty. There weren’t even any undead there. Once on the second floor, the paladin barricaded the stairs with old cabinets, hoping they would hold.
Halfway up the second floor, the paladin came upon the entrance to the tower. It was destroyed and it is not safe to climb it. But Bolinger again, didn’t care. There were more important things at stake than a safe climb to the tower. He climbed up and looked around.
The view was beautiful. Fiona’s caravan was clearly visible. The Riverey was not visible under the canopy of trees. The paladin turned his gaze to the river. Along it, heading to the caravan, went Zverago. And next to him was Gidwin!
The paladin exhaled deeply. Thank God, everything went well. Gidwin is still alive. Safe and, it seems, even unharmed. Now somehow I had to get out of Scholomance. The paladin circled the entire tower and came across a locked chest. A very rusty lock. With a cry of «Keys for weaklings!» he smashed the lid of the chest with a hammer. Removing the broken boards and opening the lid, the paladin found in the chest a pair of arrows, an old musket, some powder with bullets, 23 silver and some strange gnome invention.
Gently pulling it out of the chest, the paladin straightened it. It was a glider. Fortunately, instructions were attached to it. However, there was no time to read it. The undead broke the barricade and headed towards him. Turning the glider in the right direction, the paladin went to the edge of the tower. Looking down at the rocky shore, the paladin doubted his idea. What if the glider can’t handle it? The man started to think about a backup option, but then the ghoul grabbed his leg, and the paladin hurried to free himself. There was no more time to think; he jumped down from the tower.
Bolingar in his head went through all kinds of prayers for the light, while a sonorous wind roared in his ears. He was scared to see the sharp reefs getting closer and closer, so he closed his eyes. A sharp click and the fall slowed. The paladin opened his eyes. The glider has opened, and now it is flying over the sea surrounding Scholomance.
The paladin was as happy as ever. This horror is finally over. All are alive and well. However, due to the fact that the paladin’s glider opened too late, Bolingar realized that he would not reach the coast. Gradually he was declining. As soon as he fell into the water, it flooded his armor, pulling him as deep as possible. Bolingar tried to cling to parts of the airframe. But they were drowning as soon as the paladin touched them. Bolingar tried by all means to stay afloat. But the plate armor confidently pulled him to the bottom. The paladin tried to row his hands towards the shore, but the water flowed into plate gloves and boots, and he became heavier and heavier. After swimming a couple of meters, the paladin was exhausted. Water began to fill the lungs, and the eyes began to stick together. There were no more forces. Bolingar completely plunged into the water, gradually sinking deeper and deeper.
Suddenly, he felt the touch of a clawed hand. Then the water surged through his mind, and the paladin passed out.
They pressed mercilessly on his chest, and turned his head every now and then in different directions. Bolingar tried to take a breath, but the lungs were immediately burned, and he remembered. He was drowning when they pulled him out of the water by the scruff of his neck like a cat. The body refused to obey. He would roll over and get rid of the accumulation of water in his throat. But there was absolutely no strength.
— Hmm … You see, formally he is not injured, — he heard. — And I don’t know how to help him.
— Damn it, Zverago! Are you a druid or not? — the voice of the interlocutor trembled.— Don’t you have a single suitable spell?
Zverago and Riverey. Apparently, one of them saved the paladin. And now they tried to give him first aid.
— River, since you can swim, I hope you can give first aid to the drowned man? — said Zverago.
— To be able to swim and save the drowned are completely different things! — retorted the hunter. — Our time is running out! And he is still unconscious and about to die!
The paladin felt a blow to his face with something soft and clawed.
— I did everything I could, — Zverago answered indifferently.
— Moron! — The River growled evilly.
Judging by the sounds, she collapsed next to Bolingar on her knees, and he felt her breath on his face.
— Artificial respiration in wolf form? You gnaw off half his face like that! — Bolingar tensed when he heard the words of Zverago.
— I have no time to change form, — Riveray retorted. — Everything is better than standing and doing nothing.
The paladin felt a neat touch of paws on his face, and then an awkward poke of a cold nose.
— This is certainly very romantic, but your boyfriend is running out of time, — said Zverago. — Maybe, let me try?
— What? You?! Paws away from him! — the hunter twitched, and from the push, Bolingar rolled onto his stomach.
The water rushed out of his throat, and he coughed and coughed.
— Oh, he came to himself, — said Zverago indifferently.
— How are you?! The Riverey grabbed the paladin, holding it by the chest and clapping it on the back, helping to get rid of the water in the lungs. — You almost drowned!
Bolingar just nodded, feeling his cheeks burn. He almost kissed the worgen! True, she believed that he was unconscious and simply wanted to help so … But the fact remained. The paladin wanted to forget about it, and as soon as possible.
— Zverago. Please. If I drown before your eyes. Let me die. It will be more merciful than your attempts to save anyone, — snapped Riverey, looking at the feral.
— I’m not on purpose! — the feral justified itself. — Confused, with whom does not happen. I’m just scared of water.
Feral waved his paw, and the bloody scratches on Bolingar’s face disappeared.
— What about Gidwin? — hardly getting up, the paladin asked.
— It’s okay. I have already returned it to Fiona, — Zverago answered. — Of course, I was very pleased that the young boy praised me all the way as a great savior. But I was more afraid that some undead would come running to his cries.
— What exactly happened to him? — The paladin asked.
— Oh. Gidvin will gladly tell you, I don’t know how to describe so colorfully, — Zverago smiled.
When the whole company finally returned to the caravan, they were greeted with joyful cries by Tarenar and Gidvin.
— Excuse me if you were detained. The caravan is ready to set off, — Fiona said, feeling guilty. — I’m sorry you had to experience all this.” But I don’t know what I would have done without you. Maybe I can help you with something else but to take to the ghost lands?
— No, Fiona. You life is not easy. And we were happy to help you, — Riverey flatly refused.
When the camp was finally assembled, the heroes joined the caravan to move on.
— Gidwin. What happened? — The paladin asked. — Zverago told me that you would tell me everything.
— Oh, you asked him in vain, — Tarenar whispered.
Gidwin really was like a clockwork bomb. And he needed only the slightest excuse to bring down the full power of his epic story to poor listeners.
— Wake up I mean I’m in the middle of the night, open my eyes, and there nerubians! Look around. There was no Fiona, no Tarenar, no one around. But my sword and shield are lying nearby. And then I realized that I had to act! My hands were not tightly bound, and I was able to free myself from the web and grab my shield and sword! Several Nerubs instantly reacted! They were trying to catch me! But I was damn quick! Again and again, I was struck by their thin legs. But for some reason they didn’t fall. They were ignoring my attacks! They tried to tie me up again! But I fought back with my shield and ran for the exit! I ran so fast that it seemed even a Cheetah would have envied my speed! And when I almost ran out of the cave where I was being held, I got caught in something! My cloak. One big Nerub pinned him to the ground with a claw. He grabbed it and started pulling me toward him. I tried to pull off my cloak. But not in time. This monster grabbed me faster. Suddenly I heard a voice.
Gidwin tried to imitate some strange hoarse growling voice, as if mimicking a stranger:
— You Idiots! What have you done!? Why the hell did you just tie him up!? It was clearly said. Wrap in a cocoon! Idiots! And if he could escape?! Have to do everything myself!
I wanted to turn my voice. But the nerub held my head. Suddenly, something touched my head, and I collapsed to the ground.
The last thing I heard was that the stranger continued to threaten the Nerubians.
— If he escapes again before my next visit, you will regret that you got out of the masonry altogether!
— It’s definitely some kind of necromancer or death knight! I don’t know why, but I’m sure of it! So these cockroaches will get what they deserve! In General, as soon as I woke up the second time, I was in a cocoon. And this time it is firmly bound. After standing for about half an hour in a cocoon, I began to hear the noise of the battle. And when the sounds died away, The beast was torn apart by the cocoon with one deft movement. Around him lay a pile of dead nerubians. Damn it! I wish I’d seen him tear them all up! I also wish I could have taken part myself.
— And thank God you couldn’t take part! — Fiona exclaimed.
— Zverago tore them all solo! There were … one second. One, two, five, in general a lot! Wouldn’t I have been able to handle even one?!
— Yes, you could handle it! — Zverago supported him. — The fighters they were so-so. It’s amazing how they even managed to quietly drag you out of the camp. Riverey, are you aware that you were deceived by a small group of Nerubians who can only steal children? — teased Zverago.
— I can remind you how you save drowning people, — Riverey answered the impudent feral.
— Was someone drowning? — Tarenar and Gidwin asked in together.
— Yeah. Valorous paladins, as a rule, float like an axe, — it seems that Zverago did not even think to stop teasing.
And did not even think to stop. But Bolingar considered him silent. But with children, apparently, he began to behave more relaxed. Maybe he also lacked a little childish laughter and fun in his life? The paladin, though he did not know Zverago at all, had a rough idea of how he was feeling. After all, usually Bolingar was also laconic. But these two. They will cheer up anyone.
Riverey sniffed at feral.
— Wait. Are you drunk?
— It is I gave him a drink! — proudly declared Gidvin.
The paladin struggled to restrain his laughter. Really. Alcohol will untie anyone’s tongue.
— Well, Gidwin treated me to some kind of beer, because I saved him, and so what? If I am in the form of a cat, this does not mean that I can only drink milk.
— Not some cheap beer! This is my special mead! — objected Gidvin.
— Well then it is clear! — Dwarven beer makes even dragons drunk — the paladin concluded.
All his previous thoughts turned to dust. The reason was so banal that he could not even think about it.
— Wait a moment. And then what happened? — Tarenar asked.
— Bolingar went looking for Gidwin on Scholomance. I don’t know what happened there. But to be honest, I was shocked that he had jumped from the tower before my eyes. At first I thought that he was not all right with his head. But then a glider opened right behind him. But our hero did not reach the coast.
— And you saved him too? — Gidwin asked.
— No, not me. Let it be known to you that cats cannot swim.
— But you are no ordinary cat! You are a druid! — did not restrain Gidwin.
— Nevertheless, the Riverey pulled him out of the water, Zverago continued, ignoring Gidvin. — In general, having tried several ineffective methods, the River had to do artificial respiration.
— Wow! Did they kiss?! — Cried the elf.
— Tarenar! — Fiona shouted at him.
— I’ll strangle you! — hissed on the Zverago River.
— Now will Bolingar become a worgen? — didn’t stop asking Tarenar.
— Are there worgen paladins? — joined Gidwin.
“— If Riverey begins to strangle Zverago, he will gladly hold his paws so that nothing will prevent retribution from happening,” — the paladin thought.
Riverey understood that if the topic was not urgently changed, they would be bombarded with questions from both of them. And they know how to ask uncomfortable questions. Fortunately, Fiona intervened.
— As you both know, the worgen curse began with the mage Arugal.
— No! Just not again! — The young paladins howled. — Anything, just do not need again these historical lectures!
— Well, fine! — finished Fiona.
They drove the rest of the way in silence. They were just approaching the tower of the North pass when smoke suddenly billowed from behind the mountains.
The entire group looked up at the sky, which was slowly being covered with clouds of smoke. The same again?
— Are you here, sister? — whispered River.
— Do you really need to go there? — Fiona asked. — Apparently, things aren’t going well with the elves right now.
— Exactly, — Riverey answered. Her attitude was resolute and firm. Whatever happens to them, it won’t stop her. It will even make it easier to get into the crypt. Whatever’s going on there now, it’s good for her.
— Sorry, Fiona. But I don’t have time for a long farewell. I have to go, — the hunter said, still in a firm tone.
— Take care of yourself, — Fiona said, embracing Riverey goodbye.
Before the trio of heroes left the caravan, Fiona graciously threw the paladin a satchel with supplies. Several potions, herbs, magic amulets and some gold were stored there. Gidvin didn’t want to let Zverago go. Farewell dragged on.
— We’ll meet Again! Do not worry! — the feral calmed him in every possible way.
Zverago stood on his hind legs, clutching Gidwin’s shoulders with his front paws. Feral’s eyes flashed with moonlight.
— Wow. Not only paladins can bless? — Shouted Tarenar.
As soon as Gidvin realized the whole point of speech, he fell to his knees in front of the feral.
— I will not forget your blessing, Master, as well as the fact that you saved me! I swear from now on to honor nature as zealously as the paladin’s prayer book!
— Good! And now, let me continue the way, — Zverago smiled.
Gidwin instantly retreated from feral.
Honestly, Bolingar himself was in shock. He also did not know that druids could bless. The paladin thought it was solely the privilege of the paladins and priests. But apparently everyone has their own tricks.
When the heroes finally left the caravan, they headed to the burning city of the blood elves, Tranquillion, where an insidious fate awaited them.