The scent of smoke burned in her nostrils, but not as much as the urgency in her chest. Mirium had leapt onto Fleet’s bare back with more agility than she knew she had, driving the mare back to the cottage as fast as she’d go. For once, the strong-willed charger didn’t fight her, seeming to sense her rider’s fears, or, perhaps the horse’s own nerves had gotten the better of her at the scent of smoke coming from her stables.
Keelath met Mirium on the road, his brother and a couple of the stallions that hadn’t been in the pasture that day following behind him.
“What’s going on?” she called wildly to him. Tyrric was about to answer, but Keelath cut him off sharply, urging quiet.
“The village is lost,” he told them quietly as he brought the horses around. “The two of you must take these and flee.”
“Are you mad?” Tyrric snapped, and Mirium was glad he was voicing the anger that she didn’t quite dare to herself. “I won’t run off with my tail between my legs while you face the danger alone! I will fight by your side, brother. We always do, and always will!”
“No!” growled Keelath. He shivered, but this time, Mirium didn’t think it was anticipation for the battle ahead. That’s when she knew this time was different. This time, something had gone terribly wrong.
Tyrric just stared at his sibling in shock. Keelath cut in before he could continue to argue.
“You must take my wife, Tyrric. You must ride for Silvermoon and warn them that the humans were right. The orcs are real, and they have allied with the forest trolls–“
“Evelos,” Mirium said suddenly, a lump rising in her throat as she thought of her son stationed in Stromgarde. Would the humans’ high stone walls have protected him?
Keelath spared a glance for her, then rounded back on Tyrric. His blue eyes were like twin flames.
“Swear to me you will protect them. Swear to me!”
Tyrric’s throat worked as he tried to find the way around it, the light-hearted words that would make them all believe this was little more than a wayward childhood excursion through the woods on a rainy day, easily solved by just going back indoors and downing something warm and sweet and sitting up front of the fire until they were all dry again. He had always had the wit and aplomb of a king’s jester, but this time it failed him.
“Swear!” Keelath barked into the heavy silence.
“No,” said Mirium.
Keelath crossed over to her, taking one hand in his. He just looked at her, drinking her in. Mirium read the love in there, and the finality. Her throat was closing rapidly, but she refused to cry, refused to let her tears put a veil between them.
“Come on, Mirium!” Tyrric said suddenly, fiercely. “Brother, once I have delivered the message, I will return, and then we will drive these beasts from Quel’Thalas once and for all! Tal anu’men no quel’dorei!”
Keelath didn’t answer. He just swung up onto his mount. Rosen jerked its head up and pawed the ground restively. The last Mirium saw of it and him was Keelath’s shoulders bobbing in time with the rolling canter of his horned destrier, as he turned the corner of the road and disappeared behind the trees.
Where the burning village and the raiders of the Black Horde awaited him. He would buy them time. It would cost him his life.