(Credit given to the other roleplayer involved in this post, Xin’thalore)
She hadn’t seen the Wastelander until it was an inch away from her face, literally, and owing only to her quick reflexes, it hadn’t lived long, it’s throat cut, body bleeding out into the sand at her feet, and she wiped the dagger blade along her thigh, to remove the remaining blood from it, cursing herself as she did so for her own stupidity. She knew better than to ever go out into the desert at night alone. Ever.
“You … stupid, wreckless, fool of a girl! Were you trying to get yourself killed, Ana? Were you?!”
“I didn’t think. I’m sorry, Val. I didn’t…”
“No, you didn’t think. Where is your mind? How many times have I told you, huh?”
And then more appeared. She actually heard them before she saw them, and suddenly, there in the middle of the sands, she was surrounded, the full moon allowing her to see in almost as much clarity as if it were full daylight, what her death looked like. She stopped moving then, her arms dropped to her sides, the dagger still in her hand, but she wouldn’t raise it again, for the next few seconds seemed to move in almost slow motion as she stood there breathing hard, inhaling, exhaling, leaned slightly forward, her hands resting on her knees and she had one of those moments that could only be described as seeing your entire life flash before your eyes, and with it, all her fight dissipated.
She’d come to the desert with a specific purpose, a mission, and it had been successful, she was home free now. All she’d had to do was simply leave, and then this happened because of some idiotic nostalgic notion of saying goodbye to Val all over again.
You never learn, do you?
It seemed more than a little apt that here would now be the place that she met her end. After all that had gone on before this, and even recently, this place, the place that she most identified with as home would be where it would all end. And then he appeared in a flurry of blades, and lithe movements, despite the mans sheer size, and amidst the carnage that unfolded in front of her, the sounds of the wastelanders screams and the blood flying everywhere, all she could do was stand, transfixed, as if what were actually happening right in front of her eyes was not even real. The sand soaked with blood and littered with who knew how many corpses, Ana gaped at him and then, her face pale and her voice slightly shaken, she managed,
“Who are you?”
He stared at her for a moment, before glancing back over his shoulder to the surviving mercenaries that accompanied him. She hadn’t even seen them until just now.
“Keep the convoy moving. We must get through the jungles before morning.” He commanded them and then turned his attention back to her, and with a tilt of his head, quipped.
“An unfortunate series of events, eh?”
Ana blinked in disbelief and then moved her hand across her face, wiping her eyes and face in a gesture that was meant to give her a moment to think before she spoke, but she still couldn’t speak for a moment, and then he told her his name.
“Lord Van’analesh. Yourself, dove?”
Say something. You should be dead right now, Ana.
“If you are a Lord, then I am a Lady, “she finally responded, looking him up and down, thinking to herself that he looked like no Lord she had ever met before, “Lady Singsorrow-Blackcrest. I should … I should thank you for just saving my life.”
And he’d bowed his head, moving towards her slowly, and moments later offered her an escort out of the hostile desert, and for whatever reason, she wasn’t afraid, not of him anyway. She’d learned to trust her gut instinct and right now, it told her that he didn’t mean her harm, at least not immediately. What had almost transpired just now had her more rattled than the violence she’d just witnessed that had put an end to it, and she looked at the man, this Van’analesh, unable to judge him any further by the expression on his face, or even his eyes because of the mask that covered it, but she answered in spite of this.
“Where are you headed?”
His hand extended to turn her attention to the convoy ahead that was getting ready to move onwards, telling her.
“This dual-headed serpent slithers for the dense jungles of Un’goro Crater. Though, I personally assure you we’ll transport you to the location which you desire. Travelling these sands proves … too dangerous, alone.”
Ana frowned as she looked over his shoulder and off into the distance, but she was loath to refuse his offer. He had said that the natives had been excessively hostile recently and she’d been witness to that first hand.
“Well, I could fly out from there, I suppose. I was headed out of this area completely, too. Back to the city …”her voice trailed off for a moment, and she shook her head in disbelief once more, “I still don’t know what I would have done if … well, it’s convenient that you and your … people appeared just now. I’ve been out here for days and haven’t seen a soul.”
She appraised the man with her eyes then, fully taking in his appearance as he remained silent, and she chewed on her bottom lip, not sure what to say now. He was tall, and not just a little bit taller than her, he towered over her at at least a foot or more in height and the tight fitting leathers he wore really left little to the imagination, he was clearly more than a little toned and in exceptional shape physically. Absently she wondered if she could even fit both hands around one of his huge upper arms. She forced her eyes back to his face then, the helmet now removed, displaying a face that wasn’t exactly unattractive, but scarred and a little unkempt, and she managed a small smile.
“You look like somebody I used to know, and …you really don’t look like a … city kind of man, either.”
“We’re all from the Motherland of Quel’thalas, dove. I’m simply expanding the territory, “and with a nod he added, “with our escort you’ll be back in the motherland before you know it. Safely. I insist…”
“Will you be escorting me yourself, personally?”
“Heh, I’m no city boy. You’re right, “he said, rubbing at the scruffy facial hair, before arching his elbow to respectfully offer her his arm. “Come. It won’t be long before the Devilsaurs start looking for food.”
She cast a sideways glance at the man’s profile when he looked ahead and slipped her arm under his, hooking her elbow in the crook of his, resting her palm and splayed fingers on his upper arm. She shook her head and laughed a little as they began to walk.
“Well, you might not be a city boy, but you at least have the manners of one. I feel like the clichéd damsel in distress, here.” She shakes her head, adding, “Maybe I’ve spent too long again in the city, myself in recent months. It was stupid coming this far out in the desert alone. I should have known better.”
He finally snickered at that.
“My mother just taught me right, perhaps. And don’t feel ashamed. You didn’t cry for my help. But, I’m no knight in shiny armor, “he flicked at one of his leather spaulders.
“I thought I was dead already, to be honest, and you want to know something? That was okay. Everyone meets their end eventually, no?” She shivered a little and rubbed at one of her bare arms with her free hand and then shrugged, before laughing, “And no, definitely no shiny armor there. Like it makes a difference though? You clearly don’t need it.”
“I might’ve found you dead if it wasn’t dark. These sands get cold during the moon light, and it saves us all from the heat. Are you cold? Oh, and … I apologize for my future appearance.”
She shot him an odd look at the last comment, before talking again, nodding.
“Oh yeah, I know all about the cold out here. And yes, I’m freezing, “she admitted, rubbing at her arm again, “I sent my things ahead hours ago thinking I’d be well out of here by now. I did live out here for a long time. Like I said, it was stupid to come out here this far alone and unprepared. Never did go near the ‘Crater, though. I was always told, when we lived out here, not to. Then again, I was told never to wander out into the desert alone, too.”
She laughed a little at herself at that, and pressed herself closer to the man as they walked, feeling a little warmer than she had just minutes earlier. He was like a giant, walking heater. She yawned and had to almost fight the urge to close her eyes, but then the landscape changed, and Un’goro Crater was right ahead. He told her that she was to stay back until he told her it was safe to move again, and she trusted his words. He’d saved her once already. If he said it would be okay, and he would make sure she was safe, then it would be so, and with that, he drew an arrow from his quiver, calling out to his soldiers as they moved into the eerie Crater…