The mist hung in the air, the sun’s futile attempt to banish it causing a sickly grey haze to fill the space between horizons. Tybilt kicked aside some hacked limbs and revealed a small stone in the gooey mess of decayed flesh, sinew, ichor, and body parts. Picking it up and depositing in his pack with the others, he allowed a distant hint of a smile to creep to his lips. Each stone was a small victory, each stone was more time for her...
Sitting down on the farm edge to rest, Tybilt’s arms and legs ached, and he felt heaviness in his chest. The stench that married the air of the Plaguelands burned his lungs as he gasped for breath ... bothering him much more so than after the hundreds of fights identical to this one he had previously fought. Halfway through his snack of spiced wolf ribs, he began to cough uncontrollably. His body convulsed violently with every cough until Tybilt finally spat a mixture of mucous and blood on what was once fertile and green earth.
His thoughts were of Pook. How unexpected ... although very welcome ... her companionship was, and how euphoric it felt every time she blushed, or smiled, or ran her fingers through his hair. He smiled despite the pain and soreness brought on by his latest battle, thinking of the way she would breathe in quick gasps when excited, and purr softly when she slept nestled in his arms.
Tybilt recalled watching her stalk the devilsaurs in the jungles of the Un’Goro crater, the visceral intensity of their combat with the great beasts, and the blissful elation that filled them as they celebrated each victory ... rushing to kiss each other as the great beasts fell. His mind darted from mischievously sneaking through the garrison with her - spying on Cromwell meeting with various people ... to every time they playfully raced each other to the griffin flight pads. (Pook would always beat him, unless of course Tybilt cheated and rode his horse.)
He thought of holding her cheeks in his hands, kissing her, and losing himself in her eyes as they passionately embraced. He thought of those wonderful nights sleeping next to her, the feel of her breath on his chest, the soft kisses, the tenderness of her touch. Finally he thought of their last night together ... it was the only perfect night he ever knew ... and Tybilt wiped a small tear of sweet sorrow from his eyes.
He took almost double the typical time he needed to rest after finishing his last battle. In the distance, he could see more vaguely humanoid forms shambling in the hazy mist. Approaching the now ruined farmstead and barn, there were two undead feasting upon what looked to be the remains of some hapless orc that had wandered too far east. Entrails hanging from their mouths, they looked up with glowing eyes all too late. Tybilt shot out of the shadows like a bullet. Blades flurrying and finding their mark, he eluded the swipes and bites as best he could, but he knew he was a step slower than usual.
After a minute of bloodier-than-usual combat, Tybilt’s first target lunged forward in a futile attempt to bite him, and it was sidestepped all too easily. He caught his blades on either side of it’s neck and with a quick stroke ended the horror’s un-life. The remaining undead turned to flee, allowing Tybilt to plunge his dagger in the soft decaying flesh covering it’s spine. He examined the remains but did not find a soul stone amongst the flesh and gore. Letting out a deep sigh, Tybilt sat down to rest his aching muscles again, his lungs felt like they were full of water.
Looking at the remnants of the farmstead buildings, he thought of sneaking through a secret room adjacent to Cromwell’s study only a few nights ago. The various traps and alarms Cromwell had set to keep out the casual visitor or the curious on-looker were little match for Tybilt’s skills.
In the dusty tomes and crust-covered scrolls, he had uncovered enough information to know that there was a cure for Pook. There was hope ... however distant and minute ... to cure her (and Prrow as well ... although Tybilt cared little for her, save that her life was tied to Pook). He knew that in order to take the next step, he would need Cromwell’s help.
Two nights later, he confronted Cromwell in the basement of the Cathedral. Cromwell flew into a rage upon hearing that Tybilt violated his secret library. Had it not been for Corvissia ... her presence as well as her words ... Cromwell would never have agreed to this desperate course of action. Tybilt knew that he now owed Corvissia a debt of honor ... one she may never acknowledge or ask for repayment ... but it would remain there until satisfied. Cromwell told him to meet with his "Masters" who resided in a small retreat in the Plaguelands.
"The Masters" Tybilt laughed to himself as he thought "A very dramatic name, but not a very good one."
They were a cabal of dark individuals who dealt in vile and unholy arenas that no man, (or gnome, dwarf, elf, orc, tauren, or troll for that matter) were ever meant to walk. There was only one thing that mattered to them ... power; how to accumulate it, how to wield it, and how to prevent others from employing it. Cromwell told him that this path that Tybilt chose would exact a steep price. However, Tybilt knew whatever the cost, she was worth it.
Tybilt realized he could no longer indulge himself in these blissful daydreams as another undead loped over the small hill and onto his resting self. Even though taken by surprise, he reacted quickly and dispatched the beast with efficiency. Reaching into the sternum of the fiend, Tybilt’s hands moved aside decaying organs to grasp the soul stone that was left behind. He examined it closer for a second, the arcane markings and odd texture to the stone, causing him to recall his bargain with the Masters struck earlier today.
Even though only a few hours old, his thoughts of the meeting were already evaporating like water under a blazing sun ... and Tybilt knew that whatever dark magics the Masters used would soon claim the entire memory, leaving him only with his answer.
He could recall speaking with them. Well whatever "them" was behind the tall somewhat formless shapes and disembodied voices that he spoke with. It no longer mattered, the Masters had agreed ... yes, Tybilt could remember that much ... they had agreed to show him how to manipulate and harness the power of the harvested soul stones for his own purposes. It was difficult, and Tybilt would certainly incur the wrath of the ever-vigilant Argent Dawn, but then again who would notice one more enemy these days?
What Tybilt did not know was that this course he chose meant that the magics of the Argent Dawn were no longer watching over him. The healing wards and protective rituals had been dispelled by the Masters and replaced with something far more sinister.
The contagions that saturated the air, water, earth, buildings, and creatures of the Plaguelands were beginning to take hold in his body. While Tybilt knew that the pain and fatigue he felt was not normal, he had hope that his strong constitution could stave off the infections, and if not, there were many talented healers that could be called upon to help.
Tybilt readied his blades and began to stalk another target. He would relentlessly continue until his mission was complete. This was his mission, not commissioned on a contract, not received as orders from a superior officer, but a promise that he had to keep.
Pook's heart fluttered as she read the note left for her by Tybilt over and over again. It had been slow going at first, reading was still somewhat of a puzzle to her, but now she nearly had every word burned into her memory. A poem. A poem of love for her, from him. Better even than the ones in the volume she'd borrowed from Tiktok, although she was biased.
She sighed and let her head hang down the side of the bunk she slept in at the Westbrook Garrison, her hair cascading down. Hopefully he'd come back to her soon.
She'd had a general idea that he was going - he'd said as much, to find a way to sustain her other half Prrow, the half of her created by the ritual that had transformed her into what she was now. Prrow was sick and fading, and she was what kept Pook tied to a state in between light and dark, all of her feelings of love and joy and compassion stemmed from her.
She'd known that something was wrong, though, by the way they'd looked at her when she'd arrived the other night.
Cromwell and Corvissa had glanced nervously at each other, neither one eager to tell her what had happened. Cromwell took her to his secret study and told her of what Tybilt had done, what he intended to do, and more. Her heart sank as Cromwell detailed what he'd have to undergo, his eyes piercing her with a familiar sadness.
"Please...tell me..." she'd said. "Don't sparrre me...does he have any chance at all to succeed?"
After a long, dreadful moment Cromwell had admitted that there was a chance. As long as she loved him, believed in him, had faith.
Pook dreamily thought back on Tybilt's face. The grim, sad look he'd had when he'd first started coming to the tavern. The first grudging smiles he'd given her when she'd tried to cheer him with her simple ways in her old life. The nervousness and bewilderment he'd had when she'd approached him to toy with him shortly after her transformation. His look of amazement and surprise when she'd first approached him and confessed her feelings on the cliffs of Azshara. She remembered gazing on his face upside-down as he laid his head in her lap to look up at the treetops in Teldrassil, trying to memorize every line and nuance. She remembered the intensity and directness of his gaze when he'd first told her he loved her. The deep sadness of his eyes when he'd come to her before leaving, telling her of his plan. She thought on how she brushed her lips against his face as they embraced one last time before he left.
He would be back, Pook thought. She knew it with every part of her being. She could trust him to the ends of Azeroth and beyond. If there was a way, he would find it and he would do it. She wandered to the roof of the Garrison to find the highest point she could to wait for him. She knew he would find her there.