A light snowfall was in effect, the flakes covering the ground and adding to the deep piles already present. The calm voices of the guards making their patrols was in contrast to the near constant battling that the Keep encountered against the Scourge. Overhanging like a malignant vulture, the floating necropolis hovered over the field silently.  Looking out the window at the abomination floating nearby, Acele set down the reports he was perusing on troop readiness and rubbed his face with his hands as a knock came at the door. "Enter." 

 

The door opened and his mentee walked in. "You wished to see me, sir?" Seella inquired.

 

"Yes Neophyte, I find myself suddenly in need of a walk. Come with me." Acele replied, standing from behind his desk. Taking his greatsword from the rack against the wall, he moved it in a few experimental swings. "One must always take things in moderation. Too much time spent behind a desk would render me a liability on the battlefield, don't you agree?"

 

Seella opened her mouth to answer then stopped, hesitant to reply. The recent memory of her hoof injury came rushing back to the front of her mind, causing a slight flush to darken her cheeks. Clearing her throat, she replied, "You wish for me to walk with you, sir?"

 

Lowering the greatsword, he looked at her directly. "Is your hearing affected by the cold, Neophyte? I believe I said for you to come with me."

 

Flushing anew, she shook her head. "No, sir. I mean yes, sir. I mean …" she stopped, floundering for the right words.

 

Sheathing the greatsword across his back, he said to her, "Get your weapon and shield, then. I'll meet you at the front of this building in a few minutes."

 

"Yes, sir." Seella walked out and returned shortly later, armed and armored.

 

As they passed the last checkpoint and continued down the path to the mine nearby, Acele stopped and turned to her with a wry grin. "You've been avoiding me. What is it?"

 

Her cheeks, recently chilled by the frigid air, burned again. "Because of my … reaction, sir."

 

"Your … reaction." He looked at her silently asking to elaborate.

 

"Yes, sir." Her gaze shifted away from him. "When you … fixed my hoof."

 

"Ah. I did notice your reaction, Neophyte. I… I was not offended in the slightest. If you are curious." He looked at the path instead of her to avoid embarrassing her further. Changing the subject as well, he continued, "It's not as cold today as it has been, although I doubt this land will ever have something resembling summer weather.”

 

"Winterspring does not have a summer, yet its landscape is beautiful." Her voice carried the warmth of hope. "Someday this place can be as beautiful again."

 

Continuing their trek, he nodded in agreement. After traveling in companionable silence for a while, he held a hand out to Seella, indicating that she stop as well. He turned to her, face drawn. "Do you feel that, Neophyte? There are undead nearby, possibly Scourge." She nodded at him, brow furrowed and goosebumps dancing along her flesh at the presence of undead nearby. As he unsheathed his greatsword and took a few steps forward to the mine entrance, the piles of snow next to him and Seella exploded as skeletal and zombie-like scourge erupted out in ambush. 

 

Reacting instinctively, Seella reached for the Light inside herself and sent it towards Ace, enveloping him in a glowing nimbus, as she drew her own mace and settled her shield on her other arm.

 

Thrusting his hand out at one, a ray of light shot from the palm, enveloping a standing skeleton and caused it to fall over limp, the bones coming apart. The flash of light also revealed ranks upon ranks of scourge undead with abominations in the far back, laying wait inside the mine's tunnel. Swinging his greatsword in sidelong swipes to make them keep their distance, he turned his head to Seella and said loudly, “Back, go back. There's too many…”

 

She backpedaled, keeping her weapon drawn and in front of her. A warning chill ran up her spine, causing her to wheel around. More undead were converging behind them. "SIR!"

 

"Oh, this is bad," Ace mumbled under his breath. Moving to her side and taking his sword in both hands, he spun as a golden radiance blurred around his form, shredding the zombies nearby. "Go!" he urged her.

 

She'd moved a bare hoofstep away from him when she felt a surge of evil rushing towards them from the mine's entrance. A filth-encrusted rusty meat hook shot out from the cave and embedded itself into Acele's shoulder, parting the armor and penetrating the flesh as if they were paper. Blood poured in a steady flow from around the wound as he yelled in pain, dropping his greatsword. The chain attached to him snapped taut, pushing the hook deeper, and began pulling Ace back to the mine. Seeing her move to help, he snarled "Back! Make sure none of them come at us from the front!" Lifting his hands to the hook, he closed his eyes and gasped out a pain-filled prayer to the Light. The hook became outlined with a golden halo that spread down the chain towards the source.  Halfway between him and the mine, the chain snapped, freeing Ace. Stumbling forward, he picked up his greatsword in the other hand and pushed at her with it. "Run! Back to the keep Seella!" He yelled and followed her, dragging the chain and hook still in his shoulder.

 

Something swelled inside of her and surged out in a wave of Light. The closest scourge around them screamed, dropping weapons as they covered their eyes and cringed at the flood of Light rippling from her. Reaching back to grab his hand, she ran, dragging him along, her hooves finding better purchase in the snow than his boots.

 

As they reach the point to where the paths split, one going to the keep, and the other headed deeper into the frozen wastes, Acele let go of her hand, stumbled to his knees. Dropping his sword, he panted, "Wait…. Seella, wait."

 

Equally winded, Seella turned around, Light blazing in her eyes. "You are badly wounded." The Light in her eyes burned brighter as she knelt in front of him. Her hands moved to his shoulder, gently touching and probing the extent of the injury. The embedded hook radiated evil, causing a responding surge of Light from her eyes. "It will have to be removed before I can heal you." 

His face going ashen from loss of blood, Ace nodded.  "Do it," he gasped. 

 

Putting his hands over hers, they pulled at the hook together.  As he yelled in pain, it slowly slid out of his shoulder with a sick, wet, sucking sound. Fumbling at the straps, he tossed the ruined shoulderplates aside to expose the gaping wound. The flesh around the wound was discolored, a hint of the smell of putrefaction already oozing from the gaping hole.

T

hough her eyes blazed, her touch was soft and comforting as her fingers moved along the wound. Light pulsed around her hands in time with her heartbeat as she focused upon driving the disease from his flesh. "I will do enough healing to last until I can get you back to the keep. We should not stay here any longer than we must." She spoke calmly as if they were safe at the keep. "You have lost too much blood, sir. I will carry you the rest of the way."

 

Breath coming in short puffs, he nodded assent. Lifting his uninjured arm up for her to grasp, she pulled Acele to his feet, looping his arm around her shoulder.  Her other arm went to his waist, supporting his weight. Together they slowly made their way back to the keep, step by agonizing step. As they approached the outlying checkpoint, the guards there rushed out, recognizing the Grand Marshal leaning against his mentee. Rolling his head in pain, he relayed the information to them about the army of scourge hidden inside the mine.  When they moved to help, he demanded they remain at their posts and staggered with Seella as they made their way across the courtyard to the keep.

 

Kicking the door open, Seella half-dragged, half-carried Acele into and through the keep and past his office. Wilks sprang up from his desk at the interruption and half drew his sword. Taking in the seriousness of his wounds, and the look on Seella's face, he slammed the sword back in the scabbard and stammered out the words, "I'll … uh, I'll find a priest," and left the office at a run. They moved up the stairs to his room, his weight shifting more and more to her.  As she set Acele down on his bed, he lay back with a loud pain filled groan, the shoulder wound seeping through the covers, staining the sheets crimson. 

 

Seella's fingers deftly worked the strap and buckles of his breastplate, quickly removing it from his chest. Glancing around, she noticed a ceremonial dagger sitting by his bedside. With a mental apology to whomever gave him the blade, she sliced through the padding and cloth covering his upper body. She tossed both dagger and the ruined clothing to the side and focused on the wound. Noxious tendrils of death and undeath, unable to be seen, wormed their way through the wound, seeking to infect the surrounding flesh. The Light in Seella's eyes flared as she sensed the evil attempting to invade his body. A Draenic song flowed from her lips as her hands covered the ghastly injury. Light swelled around her, pulsing in time with her voice and his heartbeat. Though her face grew strained with the effort of both healing the gash and fighting the plague, her singing never faltered.

 

Closing his eyes in weariness and pain, Acele faded into unconsciousness. Feeling her hands on his chest, pulsing with warmth at the same rhythm as his heartbeat, his body relaxed. The last sound in his ears was Seella's voice singing, hitting notes and tones that no human could reach.

 

Drained, Seella looked down at her work. The evil endeavoring to invade his body was gone and the wound was mending. Her strength completely gone, her eyes rolled back and she collapsed, falling into a deep sleep.

 

Within minutes Father Narinder burst through the door, but stopped before reaching the bed. The Grand Marshal lay there, peacefully sleeping, the horrific wound on his shoulder in the process of healing. His mentee, the young Draenei woman, was draped partially across his chest. Stepping back quietly, he exited the room and closed the door behind him, breathing a quiet prayer of thanks to the Light.

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