Tussle in the Jungle - Chapter 3
The Least Stealthy
The better part of a day later, the eredar looks a bit smug as the pair of them fly over Zandalar on their way. A confident attitude, a thick Draenic accent, and a bit of military swagger was about all she needed to convince the Alliance troopmaster to lend them a berth on a warship and two hippogryphs inland for their "top-secret emergency mission" in the Horde territory.
She leans down low over her mount's neck and looks over toward Veldrinas as they make their way toward their target.
Veldrinas's hippogryph gives an annoyed squawk as a pocket of strong turbulence bounces it briefly before the creature regains control of its flight. In response, Veldrinas places a soothing hand on the beast's neck and bends down to whisper something in its ear. After hearing the night elf's calming words, the creature appears to settle down and stretches out its wings to their full span to glide almost effortlessly on the air currents.
The hunter's braided tail flutters manically in the high winds as he turns his head to return the draenei's look. He nods in the affirmative and points down below towards their destination.
Nestled in a pocket of bare land in the otherwise luscious jungle, was the camp he had spoke of. Its four wooden watchtowers were easily visible from this distance, their conical roofs with rows of iron spikes typical of orc construction.
The demon hunter steers his mount closer to Vasedra's in order to give his voice a chance to be heard over the howling winds.
"There it is! We need to find a place to land a safe distance from their sentries so that we are not spotted!"
His companion nods and scans the terrain below them before she lifts a hand and points at a clearing a good distance from the camp.
"They won't patrol that far out," she says, her voice carrying into the wind. "And we need to get out of the sky before they spot us."
The blue woman doesn't wait for his assent, nudging her mount into a diving turn.
The night elf bends low over the neck of his mount as the hippogryph pulls in it's wings and does it's own steep diving turn to follow the draenei's hippogryph downward. The wind tears at the demon hunter as the speed of his descent increases, seeking to dislodge him from his seat.
As the canopy of jungle nears, the elf's hippogryph expands its wings and banks sharply to slow its descent and almost lazily drifts in a wide spiraling pathway down into the empty clearing.
Sedra and Veldrinas spend a few silent moments securing the birds, giving them food and water and camoflaging their hiding place to ensure they're still there, later. After a while, the eredar wanders past him a few steps toward the treeline and the camp beyond.
"We need to scout the perimeter and decide on which of those holes in their patrol that you found gets us closest to your sister as an entry point. It will be dark, soon."
Veldrinas nods in agreement as his spectral gaze quickly sweeps the clearing and partway beyond. For a few moments, the only sounds to be heard were the chattering of insects, the calls of jungle creatures and the quiet munching of the hippogryphs eating their well deserved meal. Once he is satisfied they are alone, he takes a few steps after the void knight.
"There should be a higher concentration of patrol gaps on the more northern side of the camp, the direction of Dazar'alor, given that no one should be brave or foolish enough to attack such a well defended camp this deep in Horde territory."
The elf cracks a savage grin. "But we aren't just anyone, are we? If you would like, you could start in the north and I in the south, we circle around the camp and meet back here in an hour. If something goes wrong, you should be able to reach me through the guildstone."
Sedra smirks at him, and her voice whispers in his head. We most definitely aren't just anyone. And, this close, a guildstone isn't really necessary for me. But feel free to use it if it makes you feel better. I'll try to stay aware enough to know if you need me.
Her amusement trails the thought as she draws free her eerie, shadow-writhed blades and flips them around to lay them against her forearms, tips by her elbows. When she moves, it's with a speed comparable to a demon hunter's, though the wisps of energy that trail her are far more ice and void and far less fire and fel.
Veldrinas's amusement is evident as he chuckles in his mind. It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to speak to someone with telepathic abilities in this fashion. It certainly is a most efficient form of communication, is it not?
As this is communicated, the elf takes off like a shot towards his assigned location, his leather kilt fluttering as he goes.
Yes. It is... something I have come to miss. With that rather enigmatic thought, the eredar's attention turns away as she slows down and begins her careful survey of the perimeter and guards.
One hour later, Veldrinas breaks through the jungle foliage and somersaults into the clearing, pivoting around as he lands to face the way he just came, blade drawn.
His breathing is labored, as if he had just been running for his life.
The draenei in her dimly colorful leathers leans indolently against a tree trunk, arms folded across her chest and seething tattoos scrolling down her shoulders and across her chest. She raises a brow at him even as she straightens and reaches for her blades. Her question is silent and succinct.
The demon hunter remains still for a few more moments before he answers, his spectral gaze still fixed in the direction of the horde camp. The elf's long ears twitch slightly as he listens for anything out of the ordinary, the unnatural rustling of brush, the snap of a twig. His silent answer sounds quickly in the draenei's mind as he continues his watch.
I had almost finished my sweep and was about to return to our rendezvous when I could have sworn I spotted an unnatural shimmer in shadows not ten paces away from where I was concealed. It was definitely humanoid in shape, and if my suspicion is correct, it would mean that they have stealthed rogues patrolling in and around the camp.
I can only hope she wasn't paying attention at the moment I broke cover to return here.
We can both hope...
His companion steps quietly to his side, her brow furrowing. Even through her glamour, the light of her eyes dims a bit as she tries to shove through the shadows infecting her psychomancy and send her thoughts questing through the jungle for any presence with malicious intent.
The effort is brief, and finally Sedra glances over at Veldrinas. I think you've been fortunate, for now. We know to watch for the rogues, at least.
The hunter grunts softly in approval, their combined efforts enough to satisfy his suspicion that no one was pursuing him. He slides his sword into its sheath and adopts a more relaxed stance, turning his gaze to the draenei.
"I found one, perhaps two short gaps in their patrol during my sweep," Veldrinas's brows furrow as he continues, "but it may not matter much if there are rogues out there to watch the gaps."
Sedra considers that for a moment, keeping her blades in her hands. "One good thing about sneaks... Their own can't see them any better than we can. We can make our own hole as long as we kill quietly. I'm guessing you're good in the trees?"
Veldrinas shrugs nonchalantly, the growl of a rather large prehistoric beast sounding off in the distance.
"I haven't had the need or occasion to climb trees recently, but I believe I will manage."
The night elf crosses his arms and jerks his chin towards the draenei.
"Do you have something in mind?"
Nodding, the void knight steps closer to him. "Let's get closer to one of the holes you identified. I found a tighter weave of patrols in the north. Once we're closer, I can find what our eyes can't see."
Her expression is dark as she regards the demon hunter. "I'll find them, and you kill them."
With an expression of grim certainty, Veldrinas nods. "Very well."
The hunter jerks his head in the direction of the horde encampment.
"Follow me, as we get closer to the camp, I will take to the trees and we can communicate with our minds."
The elf continues as he begins walking towards the camp.
"These rogues have somehow found a way to stay more hidden than most, even with my spectral sight, they are barely discernable to me. They might have experience in dealing with demon hunters like myself. Or perhaps they know we are coming."
Following along behind him, the void knight's brow furrows. "That sounds ominous. If they know we're coming, then this could all be an elaborate trap with your sister as bait."
She smirks slightly at his back. "Are you that much of a pain in the Horde's side, Veldrinas, that your capture or death would be worth all this?"
The hunter chuckles warmly at her words. "I doubt it. I had not involved myself in the faction conflict until today."
Veldrinas turns to face the draenei behind him and halts for a moment.
"It could be a trap, but I doubt it is for me alone. There were many names on the list I confiscated, not just my sister's, perhaps it is a more general trap for any Alliance soldier foolish enough to try a mount a rescue."
The eredar flips one sword around her hand, the smirk still twisting her midnight lips. "Lucky for us that we're not Alliance soldiers, then." Sedra sobers. "Still, let's be wary. If it is a set up, there will be signs after their extra stealthy sentries. Let's not stumble into what they want us to without realiz-."
She stops, suddenly, and holds up her hand for silence, her head tilting as her false blue gaze goes distant.
It seems you were followed, after all. Disappear. I'm seen, but not you. Yet. I, apparently, get to be the bait. She grips her swords tighter, the only sign in her relaxed posture that she knows there is a hostile presence nearby.
The demon hunter nods wordlessly and crouches low to the ground. He then bolts to the nearest tree, disappearing soundlessly into its branches with a single leap.
The eredar can feel a sense of calm preparedness from the elf as he replies.
I will await your signal to strike.
Sedra calmly walks slightly closer to Vel's hiding place. Her thoughts falling silent.
After a moment, she frowns slightly. She's trying to figure out where you've gone. I'm going to need to be a softer target to lure her out. Please don't be late. I'm not wearing my usual stab deterrent.
The eredar slips her swords into their sheathes and yawns melodramatically, wandering along beneath the branch he's perched on. She manages to look surly and impatient, like someone who is unhappy about settling in for a long wait.
The forsaken woman creeps closer to the eredar on silent feet, her daggers slipping from their sheathes with nary a whisper of steel. As her stealthed form nears the break in the foliage, she raises one dagger next to her head and swiftly throws it straight towards Vasedra's exposed neck.
Sedra shifts just slightly, a waver combined with a sudden gust of frigid-dark air that sets her black hair swinging and turns a deadly strike into a hair's-breadth miss as the dagger flies past her and sinks into another tree's trunk. Without turning, she smirks.
The forsaken rogue, furious that her strike had been deflected, springs from her hiding spot with a battle cry.
"Death to the Alliance!" The woman shouts as she charges the void knight, oblivious to the unseen danger that lurked in the branches above.
She makes it barely halfway to the draenei when Veldrinas emerges from the leafy canopy, his swords angled down. The rogue didn't even have time to realize her blunder before one sword had simultaneously pierced her through the base of her neck while the other stabbed through the bottom of her skull, killing her instantly.
The demon hunter withdraws his blades from the now truly dead forsaken and returns them to their sheathes. He turns to regard his companion.
"Cut that one rather close, did you not?"
The void knight shrugs slightly, her dark lips twisted in a dry little smile as she turns and drags the re-corpse into a nearby bush to hide it. "Consider it a compliment. It's a testament to my faith in your skills."
She straightens, wiping a bit of blackish undead blood from her hand.
"Let's keep moving. I will try not to let any more of them surprise us."
The demon hunter nods curtly. "Indeed. I will be more alert as well. Perhaps I can discover a pattern to their movements and thus find them more easily by sight."
The elf motions for the draenei to follow. "Come, I will show you our entry point into the camp."
Sedra gives a short little nod and follows after him as he dashes through the jungle trees. The two move quickly, but carefully, and between them both, they successfully avoid being detected by another three cloaked scouts along the way.
Finally, Veldrinas pauses and approaches the treeline, the eredar a cold presence at his side.
Veldrinas kneels down as he points toward the horde encampment at a spot between a couple of tents.
"There. Do you see it? If my calculations are correct, there should be a small window of opportunity to slip past the patrols in a minute or two at that location."
The elf turns to regard his companion. "It should be dark enough that we will not be seen, but it would help if you could use your shadows to help conceal us from detection."
Sedra looks back at Veldrinas, silent for a moment, but then she nods. "Yes. Shadows would help in this situation. Drawing them together like that is more... Ary's forte, but I will do what I can."
She takes a deep breath and, with a forced nonchalance, pulls the little metal tiara from her hair. The glamour of her luminous blue eyes, growing more conspicuous in the dark, drops away, revealing her gaze of stygian darkness and the metal filigree that wraps her horns from the felsteel rings at their base to their tapering tips. The eredar simply ties her headpiece on her belt and stares out at the camp as if she didn't just reveal her hidden appearance for only the second time.
"Say... say when, Veldrinas."
The elf stands and puts a hand on Sedra's shoulder, his touch almost uncomfortably warm due to the felblood coursing through his veins.
"I will not force you to do anything you do not wish to. If this will be uncomfortable for you in any way, we can use more mundane methods of entry into the camp. I did not realize you might not possess abilities with shadows similar to what Ary has."
Veldrinas grins. "I must confess, even though I spent many years at the Outer Gate, my knowledge of the void and its many different users is still quite lacking."
The eredar snorts, sidling away from Veldrinas' touch. "Yes, in that we are alike, Veldrin. I am trying to learn what I can, but the void is infinite and so are its variations." Her lips twist up, and she chuckles. "And, as it turns out, teachers of the void tend to be either evil or mad, themselves."
Sedra looks out at the camp quietly for another moment before she mutters, "I have tasted Ary's shadows recently enough..." Her dark hair bobs by her cheek as she nods with determination. "I will do what I can. Look."
With a jut of her chin, she indicates the slight commotion as a guard hails another while they pass. "Our window is opening. Let's move."
It's not the creeping mist of dark that Araatris Valryss can call, but still as the eredar straightens and clenches her jaw, her gaze going just slightly distant, the hints of shadow still buried in the night, the dappled echoes of the leaves around them and the canopy above them formed by the moon's pale light, gather in closer, hugging their forms. In a pair of heartbeats, they are painted like silhouettes among shadows.
The void knight darts into motion.