Chapter OneEdit

By Krelle

Krelle cantered along the dark paths of Duskwood, ears alert for possible trouble. She ignored the chill night breeze, her cloak tossed carelessly over one shoulder, fluttering uselessly behind her as she rode. Uncharacteristically, her com was off, put away in a little pocket inside her old courier's vest.

She rode past Darkshire, cutting away from the path and heading south into the forest as she neared the passes where the caravan had been ambushed. Nargesh had found a half-covered cave in the mountains to hide out in with the prisoner.

After the battle in Deadwind Pass, Nargesh and Murithi had stayed behind, keeping an eye out for trails or straglers. Murithi had had a prisoner of her own to deal with, but Nargesh had managed to find a few others in the woods who'd been working for the druid. One of them had managed to survive his methods of "capturing" people. She wanted very dearly to ask this person a few questions.

The twin daggers that Nerrok had given her when he'd made her a Vanguard were belted at her waist, but the blade that was on her mind at the moment was the skinning knife tucked into her boot.

Useful things, skinning knives.

Chapter TwoEdit

By Nargesh

“Curse you! Curse you!”

Words of both anger and command fell on deaf ears as Nargesh patiently waited for Krelle to arrive. Murithi was out hunting down other possible stragglers, proving her efficiency as a Tiger. She is an impressive combatant, he thought to himself as he continued to ignore the wailing Orc. We are fortunate for her return.

Further in the woods, bodies lay strewn about, lifeless and now buzzing with insects. It was difficult attempting to take living captives; a grasp of the arm broke it, and the screaming brought a hand across the face, destroying the nose. Bleeders bother me.

His thoughts blended with the futile cries behind him, forming a reminiscent picture of what had transpired just the other day. The combat was intense; despite the power it must have taken to incapacitate Nerrok, Nargesh was not expecting such a show of force. The largest surprise to him was the worgs. Workable ones are not easy to find, and even harder to train. They were vicious, but not vicious enough.

It was after this the he noticed the both Kennia and Kya on the ground before a large bear. Kennia had been struck by the club-wielding Orc, and Kya was bleeding profusely from the neck. Without an after thought, Nargesh charged at the bear, taking almost no time to flat-blade the back of the Orc’s knees, breaking one of them.

Suddenly, Derona came from out of no where, her blade diving gracefully through the air, and met the beast’s neck. The bear had seen it coming, but only barely, and caused it to take the majority of the critical blow. Turning its attention to her, they began to dance, the elf flitting quickly amidst the whirling claws.

As the big Orc closed in, the fake druid caught sight and went to deliver a crushing blow to stop him. Dodging only barely below the swing, he jumped and turned swiftly, to bring the axe blade down on the extended limb. As it fell limply to the ground, Derona took full advantage of the distraction, hacking into the roaring animal with ferocity greater than the worgs’ display.

Seeing that the Blood Elf was handling the situation, Nargesh immediately went over to Kya. Dropping his axe and pulling out the purple Netherweave, he went to work to stop the mass of bleeding. After she was patched up, he turned to Kennia, to make sure she was alright. The light moaning was a good sign, but she needed better care than the forest floor could provide.

After that, the details became a haze, as everyone seemed to turn on autopilot. Sometime later, he’d began hunting for survivors, and found the Orc with broken legs quite a distance from the road.

I suppose that is why he complains so greatly, he thought at the sound of a particularly painful growl came from behind him. Should teach him better than to harm any woman in front of a man, especially family.

Chapter ThreeEdit

By Krelle

Krelle nodded to Nargesh as she slid off her undead horse, leaving the mindless creature by the cave entrance. She'd never named it. Lu's mechanostrider had more personality - and required more maintenance - than her mount ever would.

Nargesh led her worldessly into the cave. Her eyes adapted rapidly to the darkness inside, picking out the silhouette of the wounded orc on the floor.

"Bind his arms behind him," she said emotionlessly in the Cant. Nargesh complied silently. The captive cursed loudly but couldn't thrash much - his broken legs made movement painful. The orc twisted around to spit in his captor's face. Nargesh growled, raising a huge fist to backhand him but was pulled up short by Krelle's sharp "Hey!"

Krelle smiled mirthlessly as her Vanguard looked at her. "You'll break his face, Narg. He needs his face to talk."

Nargesh grunted, wiping the spittle from his cheek as he stood. "You want a hand?" he offered, taking his cue from Krelle and speaking in the Cant.

She shook her head mutely. "I'll be fine. Watch the entrance."

Nargesh nodded once, giving the captive a kick in the knee by way of parting as he headed back towards the faint light of the Duskwood night.

  • * *

The big orc sighed, stirring up the fire. He'd been trying not to listen to the screams coming out of the cave for the past hour, but there wasn't much else to listen to out here. He found himself wishing that someone would come to investigate the wails, just so he could distract himself with a fight.

He wondered when she would start asking questions.

  • * *

The faint hints of dawn were touching the horizon when the small Forsaken finally appeared at the cave mouth. Nargesh stood up immediately, his hand going for his weapon, but she raised a hand to still him.

"None of it's mine, Narg."

He stood, unsure of what to say as she came and sank to a seat by the fire. Her hands and face where covered in blood, as though it had poured out of her mouth onto them. Drops of it had matted in her hair, and smeared her cheeks. Her knees were bloody too, and her arms, chest, and legs were spotted with the dark red stains. Her left hand still held her skinning knife. The big orc glanced towards the cave - the captive was obviously still alive, though his sobbing was growing fainter.

Nargesh looked back to the small silhouette by the fire, then shrugged philosphically and sat back down. He waited in silence, letting Krelle decide when to talk.

Eventually she spoke, not looking up from the embers. "They ambushed Nerrok," she said quietly, and Nargesh felt his hands ball themselves into fists as she continued. "Nightshade charged in, but there were ten of them. He wounded her badly and killed three others."

Nargesh waited.

She shook her head. "He finally fell, and Nightshade swooned. Apparently he managed to poison her. Her men brought her back to her house. When she found out they had forgotten to cut out his heart, she killed one of them in a rage. She sent two others back to go get it."

Nargesh had to remind himself to breathe as she shifted her weight on the ground.

"They went back, seveal hours later. They couldn't find the body."


"They cut out the heart of one of the orcs that Nerrok had killed instead, and told Nightshade it had been his. They threw the others and everything they could find into the lake, hoping she wouldn't find out. She never did."

The two tigers sat in silence as the sun rose through the trees. After a moment, Nargesh noticed that their prisoner had fallen quiet. He was faintly relieved not to have to go back there to finish him off.

Eventually, Krelle sighed and stood up. Her leather creaked as she brushed herself off. "Guess I should wash up," she murmured.

He pointed helpfully to the south. "Stream over that way, hundred yards or so."

She nodded absently at him, staring off into the woods as though distracted. He stayed quiet again, knowing that she needed time to think. Eventually she shook herself slightly, and turned back to him. "Thanks for waiting, Narg." She nodded absently to the small metal pot by Nargesh's feet. "What'd ya have for supper, then?"

He lifted the lid. "Beans." There were still some left - he hadn't been that hungry, for some reason. "Want some?"

"No thanks," she said quietly as she turned away. "I already ate."

Chapter FourEdit

By Krelle

Krelle knocked softly on the closed-over office door. "Tai?" she called, poking her head inside.

Tai grunted and looked up from the paperwork at his desk. "Eh?"

"Got a minute?" she asked, slipping in to the room and closing the door behind her.

"For you? I'd better," he joked. He pushed aside the papers he'd been reading and cocked an eyebrow at his fellow Tiger Master. "What's up?"

Krelle seemed particularly subdued as she sank into a chair. "Well, I got some news. Only, I'm not sure if I oughtta make it general knowledge, so I figure I'll just tell you and let you decide," she said with a little smirk, trying to make a joke of it.

Tai sighed a bit, shaking his head ruefully, but nodded at her. "Fire away."

Krelle nodded, looking down for a moment as she gathered her thoughts. Tai frowned as he picked up her mood but waited for her to speak.

"After the Caravan, Murithi and Nargesh fanned back to look for any stragglers. Nargesh found some. He tends to kill people by accident, but he managed to catch one alive. Both legs broken."

"At least he wasn't going to run on you."

"Heh. Yeah...Narg told me and I asked him to hold off on killing him. I headed down to Duskwood. Narg had him holed up in a cave there. I asked him a few questions. The heart we got, with this…" she pulled out Nerrok's bandana. "It wasn't his, Tai. Ten of them ganged up on Nerrok in the fight, Nightshade with them. He wounded her, though, and she passed out. They left Nerrok for dead and took her home. She sent them back to get the heart, but his body was gone."

Tai remained silent, absorbing the news. After a moment he reached for the bandana and she handed it to him as she continued. "They took the heart of an orc he'd killed and pitched everything into the lake. Nightshade never found out."

"What about this?" Tai asked quietly, holding up the bandana. His fingers rubbed the rough material thoughtfully.

"They beat him in the fight, Tai - he left a lot of gear on the field. But... I'm not the only one who knows how to play possum," she said. Tai had seen her play dead before - quite convincingly - but it wasn't necessary to be Forsaken to pull off that trick.

Tai nodded slowly, frowning at the bandana in his hand. He took a deep breath before speaking, treading very carefully. "So… you're thinking…"

"It doesn't prove anything," Krelle interrupted. "He might have crawled off to die of his wounds, I know - It would explain why he hasn't come back to us. But, like I said, I won't take anything as writ unless I see the body," she said with a frown. "That's what caused this Nightshade mess in the first place."

"What caused the Nightshade mess was Nightshade. Period."

Krelle remained silent as Tai muttered a few choice oaths, carefully keeping her face blank. She didn't argue, recognizing the rebuke, but she gave no sign of agreeing with him either.

Tai took a slow breath, then handed the bandana back. Krelle took the cloth gravely, folding it back up and stashing it back in a pocket.

"I want him back too Krelle," Tai began, choosing his words with obvious care. Krelle kept her face a neutral mask as he spoke. "Thing is ...This is good to know. But does it change much?"

"No," she said simply. She already knew that.

Tai nodded. "We looked high and low for him. Blew his comm… Krelle, between you and me... I'm not sure either of us would believe it even if we saw a body," he said with a little shrug. Krelle's lips pressed together, but she didn’t voice her disagreement. A body was exactly what would convince her.

"We have to keep moving," Tai continued. "Tell me this. If we share this ... how does that help Nerrok, the Tigers ..or us?"

Krelle nodded at him. Clear enough. He thought she ought to keep it to herself. "That's all I wanted to know," she said, slipping off of her chair. She paused beside it as Tai spoke again.

"You ok?" he asked, obviously worried he'd said the wrong thing. It was a touchy subject.

"I'm fine," she said flatly, and felt a momentary pang of something. She realized she felt guilty for keeping her guard up around Tai. They were usually totally honest with each other - a rare thing to be able to do in their profession. She spoke again. "Of anyone, Taai is the only one still clinging to the hope he's alive, though. Aside, of course, from us," she said with faint irony. She looked up at him. "Do you think it would be ok to tell her?" Taai and Nerrok had informally adopted Krelle into their strange little family and Krelle felt a sense of duty to report what she'd found to her "mother." She knew that her own position might make objectivity impossible, however. It's why she'd come to Tai.

Tai stroked his mustache, still watching Krelle. "Honestly?" he asked. She just waited. "I think it's a mistake."


"She's a wreck already."

"If it was Kennia, would you want to know?"

Tai paused again, leaning his chair back with a creak. The silence stretched out for a long moment. That's what I thought.

"If it were me? I would willingly stick my hand into razors to grasp at anything that gave me hope," he admitted. "That doesn't mean it would be the best thing for me though." Tai pursed his lips as he thought. Krelle frowned pensivley, her thumbs hooked into her belt, looking down at her feet as Tai continued. "I'm a practical man, Krelle. I'm just looking at this in terms of what's to be gained and what the cost is. Taai's started to move forward, getting ready to have that baby…"

Krelle nodded slightly, not looking up. Tai let out a breath. "Whatcha' thinking? I've been wrong before."

"I dunno, Tai. I'm not an expert on manipulating these kinds of emotions," she said honestly. She'd had plenty of training in dealing with greed, anger, fear… but nothing about the dangers and rewards of continued hope. "Taai already clings to the idea he's alive, though. And I think she believed me when I claimed it might not be his, that it was a bluff from Nightshade. But.. everyone else has mourned him and moved on. She... talks to herself. I think she's afraid she's crazy, like she's in denial, to even cling to the hope. This... well, it would tell her she wasn't crazy. Maybe."

"But Krelle …" Tai trailed off as she looked up at him. He swallowed, then asked in a low voice "... what if he never comes back?"

"Honeslty?" She waited for his nod. "At this point I doubt he will. But at least Taai will know his heart wasn't ripped out, or his body desecrated. Maybe he crawled off to die. I'd prefer that version to Nightshade's. Personally I think one of his pets came and took him away. I doubt he could'a crawled far enough to get away from the two who looked for him." She shrugged. "But he hasn't come back. And it's been a long time."

"Maybe you know Taai better," he admitted. "My gut is that it's not the way she thinks Nerrok .. It's not the way Nightshade told us Nerrok died. It's that she thinks Nerrok is dead. She doesn't want to believe it... Say Nerrok comes back. She can be overjoyed," he said, trying a grin. "Say Nerrok doesn't come back …" Tai shrugged again. "Sharing this with her? Prolongs her agony."

Krelle frowned, uncertain of what to do. "Do you think it would be better if she thought he was dead then?" Should I lie? Say the heart was his? But then what if he did come back? Tai let out a slow breath but she spoke before he could "I'm not... I'm just trying to do the best thing," she tried to explain.

"I don't know Krelle. I prefer to work backwards from the worst case scenario."

"Maybe I just won't say anything, then," she said in a quiet voice.

"I want Nerrok to be alive," Tai said gently. "But right now?" He sat forward, leaning on his desk as he looked at Krelle. "Right now, I think we're all better off operating as if he's not coming back. You know why?"


Tai smiled softly, trying to ease the blow. "Yeah, I figured you might."

Krelle couldn't help but snort a bit at that. "I ought to." Operating like he's not coming back is my life right now.

Tai chuckled despite himself. Krelle let out a long sigh. It was decided, then. "Ok. Nargesh knows. You should proll'y tell Kennia - I meant to tell you both together, but Phealea walked in, and... stuff." Tai nodded slowly at her and she shrugged, feigning indifference.

"If you want to tell the others …I won't second guess you," he said carefully. Tai had made a point of never even appearing to order her around once she'd been officially promoted to the position of Tiger Master. She knew he had much more experience than her, though - especially with things like people. It was why she had come to him for advice. "If you decide to keep this to ourselves? You should know that you can always come find me and we'll head out to a rooftop, and we'll tell each other how we figure Nerrok pulled this off."

Krelle finally let her guard down, giving him a small, almost girlish smile. "I... would like that," she managed. She ran a hand through her hair, trying to shake off the indecision. She looked up, giving Tai a crooked grin. "I have my theories."

"These I have to hear. You know how he thinks, after all. I like the pet idea," he said with an answering grin.

Krelle made a wry face. "It's the one with the best odds so far. I give it 2:1 for being 'how he got out of the clearing'. The idea of magical faeries carrying him away has somewhat lower odds."

Tai snorted derisively. "I'm not putting money against you on this .. no way."

Krelle smiled at him as the tension slowly left the room. "My odds are perfectly fair, I assure you," she said in mock protest.

"Uh huhn."

They fell into a momentary silence and Krelle rubbed the back of her neck awkwardly. "I've got stuff to see to but, um. Thanks for the advice," she said as she took a step towards the door. She paused thoughtfully, then added "Y'know, Tai, I think Hakk would have liked you."

"I gotta hear more about this Hakk, then," he said with a wink.

Krelle smiled. "You might still meet him someday, Tai - I never found his body either." She waggled her eyebrows at him in her version of a wink as she opened the door.

"Heh .. alright."

"Phea's waiting. I'll talk to you later."

"Krelle..? Night."

"Yeah. G'nite, Tai," she said, slipping out of the room and closing the door softly behind her.

Tai sat quietly for a very long time before getting back to his papers.

Chapter FourEdit

By Krelle

Taai entered the apartment, dropping her bags by the door with a "whew." She shut the door behind her then gave a start as she spotted Krelle. The little Forsaken was perched on the edge of the bed, reading an old book. Taai broke into a smile as her adopted daughter closed the book and grinned. "Krelle! It bae so good ta see ya."

"Hey Taai," Krelle said happily, hopping off the bed. She went over to the human and gave her a hug, apparently less shy about affection now that they were in private. "You look great you know. I think this whole fat thing agrees with you." Taai spluttered, flushing.

"I mean pregnant," Krelle amended hastily. "Pregnant thing!"

Taai laughed. "Wait… jus' you wait until I bae getting' as big as a walkin' house," she said, rubbing her side and shaking her head ruefully. "I think I am startin' ta feel the wee fellow kick… it is all fluttery around me ribs."

"He's kicking?" Krelle asked, intrigued. "Why would he be kicking?"

"He bae Nerrok's son," Taai snorted. "He bae testin' the limits of space, an' stretchin'."

Krelle nodded, looking a bit bemused. "It's funny, y'know? I never really gave much thought to where people come from. Watching one grow, sort of, is… kidna neat. Hey, have a seat, you. It's too hot to stand around."

Taai nodded, following Krelle over to the bed and sitting beside her. "Aye. I tend ta fret sometimes. Hopin' everythin' is good and will bae."

"I'm sure he's fine in there! Big healthy parents like his, he'll be fine. Wait - how do you know it's a boy?

"Oh," Taai said with a mysterious smile. "I joost bae callin' the babe a he.. maybe it is a girl, but I got a frog followin' me.. so .. I bae thinkin' it is a little boy."

"A frog? "

"Yes. Well... he was... maybe he's off swimmin'.. " she shook her head. "Strangest thing, havin' animals followin' me."

Krelle frowned, a bit confused. "Is that a superstition I don't know about? Animals following you around means its a boy?"

"I dinnae know.. joost that.. been havin' animals followin' me.. I don't smell, do I ??"

Krelle leaned over with exaggerated care and sniffed Taai. "Only like usual."

Taai chuckled and nudged Krelle with an elbow, her eyes twinkling.

Krelle grinned back. "It's a good smell," she teased.

"Mmmm," Taai said, stretching and kicking off her boots. "Feels good ta bae inside, was gettin' hot out there today." She wiggled her toes. "Dare ya ta smell those."

"'I'm good, thanks. Can I get you a drink? There's berry juice in the recoldulator."

"Mmm. Aye. I could go for a drink."

Krelle nodded with a smile and hopped up to get her one. She went to the safe-like, humming box and opened the heavy door, pulling out a jug of juice. She poured a tall mug of the stuff for Taai, then put the jug back in the cold box.

Taai watched Krelle move around the room, absently rubbing the spot over her ribs. "Yer lookin' good too."

"I am?" She peered down at herself as she handed over the mug. "Got some new gear, I guess. It's pretty sharp."

"Aye." Taai nodded as she took the cup, shifting to balance the mug on her thigh. "Mm.. somethin' about ya.. the very air.. it is, " she mused, pursing her lips trying to pinpoint the effect. "More.. refined? Grown up.. .. swirlin' about ya.. charsima. Aye, that's it."

Krelle grinned crookedly. "Well, thanks, Taai. I feel a bit more grown up I guess. I've changed a lot since I met the tigers, anyway."

"Aye - but in a verra good way!"

"Heh. I think back to how I was at first, it's ... almost embarassing how little I knew," she said, remembering the feeling of staggering ignorance that had greeted her when she'd first left Tiristfal. "Hard to catch up on what I ought to know when I've only had six years of living to do it in - and the first four of those were in the Undercity."

Taai took a sip of the juice, swallowing a few gulps. "Eh, everyone starts that way... and there is so much more ta learn, so much more out there. Well, not in the Undercity.. but ya know wot I mean."

"I know," Krelle agreed. "I've still got a lot to learn about lots of stuff. But I'd like to think I know most of the basics, by now."

"Ya do! And then some."

Krelle flashed Taai a grin. "Maybe a little. Actually," she continued, her smile fading. "There's something I learned just the other day."

Taai's grin also faded as she got a curious look to her eyes. She sat back, drinking from her mug. "Mmm? Wot's that?"

Krelle leaned back on her hands, considering something. "Can you keep a secret?"

Taai arched a brow and searched Krelle's features, seriously considering the question. "Aye, I've been known ta keep quite a few." Her gaze sharpened and her brow furrowed "Yer not in trouble are ya?"

Krelle smiled a bit at her tone. "No ma'am. And I'll tell Tai and Kennia, and Nargesh knows. But I'd rather it didn't go past the Tiger Masters - and you."

Taai canted her head to one side, but noded. "Verra well, wot is it?" she asked as she set the cup on the table and turned to face Krelle evenly.

Krelle sat forward again, resting her elbows on her knees and speaking in a lower tone. "You know that Nightshade sent her men after our caravan right?"

Taai: nodded slightly. "Aye."

"Well, after the ambush, Nargesh and Murithi stayed behind, sweeping the forest to see if there were any stragglers or a rearguard. Nargesh found a few and managed to actually capture one without killing him. For Narg, that's a feat in itself," she said, flashing a brief grin.

Taai chuckled a bit. "Indeed."

"He caught an orc who'd been in Nightshade's service for a while, and kept him for me... I had a few questions to ask him, you see." Krelle rubbed her hand over her mouth absently, pausing as she remembered. "Yeah," she continued. "So I asked him and he told me about... about the day they fought Nerrok. He was there," she said, looking to Taai to gauge her reaction.

Taai gasped and went as white as a sheet, her heart skipping a beat. She stared at Krelle, visibly trembling, choking out "Tell me."

Krelle nodded quickly. "I'll tell you everything, Taai, but don't faint on me, ok? I dunno much first aid. He said that a bunch of men had hidden in an ambush in the trees, but Nerrok surprised them and set his own traps, making them move to his ground."

Taai took a huge breath, the color coming back to her cheeks as she listened.

"It took ten of them, plus the druid to beat him in a fight," Krelle continued with a distinct note of pride in her voice. "In the fight that this orc saw, Nerrok wounded nightshade badly, poisoned her or something. Nightshade fell, and Nerrok fell a moment after. He'd killed four of the orcs already. The others left him for dead and took Nightshade back to her house."

Taai listened closely, her eyes alight with a fierce pride.

"When she was healed a bit by some other druid, a few hours later, she asked them where his heart was - since she wanted to send it to us in a box." She paused, allowing herself a tight grin. "They didn't have it. She killed one of them in a rage and sent two others back to the clearing to get it."

A smile slowly started to tug at the corner of Taai's mouth.

Krelle lowered her voice a bit, telling the secret. "When they got there, Nerrok's body was gone. Only the other dead remained, and a bunch of his gear that he'd left on the field. The two orcs cut out the heart of another orc that had died and threw everything in the lake. They went back and said it had been his. Nightshade never found out."

Taai nodded catching up her lower lip, already thinking and wondering where he might be, if he was okay... Her gaze snapped back to Krelle's and she grinned broadly. "We were right."

Krelle sat back a bit, biting her lower lip as she nodded "Yeah. You were right. Y'know what I think? I think one of his pets came and took him away after the fight. That'd be why he left his gun behind, and his things."

"Nothin' can bae takin' down that stubborn, strong, hunter of an Orc," she beamed, leaning forward to envelop Krelle in a crushing hug. Tears wet her eyelashes and she sniffed a bit, crying and laughing at the same time.

Krelle hugged her back, rocking back and forth gently. "That's what I said. I said I'd buy it when I saw the body, Taai - and now we know we don't have the body."

Taai sighed, finally releasing her daughter and sitting back a bit. "Aye… aye. And how right ya were. So strong, like steel ya are."

Krelle grinned. "I'm always right. I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken." She took Taai's hands as the woman laughed. "But really Taai - we can't get too crazy. I mean, I have hope that he's still alive, but, well… If he is, then he's been prevented from coming back to us some way, right? He could…"

Taai shushed her, bringing up her hands to kiss the back of her fingers. "Shhh. Ya've been a pillar of strength through this all, and I am verra proud of ya. Verra. Don't worry 'bout me. I can see why it should bae kept secret. I do thank ya fer tellin' me."

Krelle hesitated, then sighed, almost deflating. "It's hard, isn't it. Everyone thinks we're crazy, still waiting for him. Heh. Except Kareth. Kareth keeps the gun clean and the rum stocked up."

Taai nodded. "Aye.. but that joost shows how much everyone loves him. He truly is admired, from all sides."

"Yeah. Taai? I was wondering. How long do we hold out hope for?"

"Fer as long as it takes."

"You'd never stop waiting for him? Not even after years and years?"

Taai smiled softly and tilted her head, one hand over her swollen belly. "Would you? Nae.. I have the paitence of a rogue.. waiting is in our nature."

Krelle nodded and relaxed a bit, seeming to accept that with a smile. "Yeah. Heh. I'm holding out for Hakk - may as well hold out for our orc, too. The way I see it? Not being sure someone's dead until you see the corpse is only sensible. I mean - look at Nightshade, right?"

Taai nodded again. "Exactly.. nae.. the only way I would move on, per say.. is iffin' I bury Nerrok's corpse or.. Or if he told me he no longer bae lovin' me.. "

Krelle frowned. "Well he's hardly likely to say that, considering that we can't even find him."

Taai laughed despiter herself. "Then I bae not movin' on ..any time soon."

Krelle nodded, like something had been settled."Ok. I wanted to tell you. I thought, this way, even, even if you did give up some day? You'd know it wasn't her who got him. That she never cut his heart out, you know?"

Taai leaned back and met Krelle's gaze. "Aye, thank you again. It does mean a lot ta me."

Krelle regarded her with equal seriousness. "He might still come back, Taai."

"Hmph. He'd better," she said, cracking a grin. "He bae havin' to change at least one diaper! Even his boy bae twenty and nine when he returns."

Krelle considered that one. "Well, maybe then he could change his grandchild's diaper?"

"Egads! That means I would bae a grandmother!"

Krelle arched an eyebrow. "Well, yeah? Isn't... that what's supposed to happen?"

"Well....maybe. But not any time soon!"

"Well no, this little guy still has to grow up," Krelle said reasonably, poking Taai in the tummy.

"Aye," she agreed with a grin, looking down and rubbing her belly again. "And play with Talula's gadgets."

"Heh. Yeah, she's got plans," Krelle said with a grin. "I've seen them."

Taai laughed quietly. "Joost make sure he always comes home with ten fingers and toes."

Krelle snorted in mock fierceness. "I'll keep an eye on her! This kid won't touch anything his big sister doesn't say is safe," she said, crossing her arms defiantly.

Taai grinned at her, looking faintly relieved."Good good. I need ta take a hot soakin' bath now, before I sleep. I need ta unwind after this news!"

Krelle nodded. "Okay. I'll tell Tai and Kennia, alright?" she asked. Taai nodded and Krelle gave her a grin. "That way you won't have to listen to Tai going 'Well now that doesn't prove anything,'" she said, doing a pretty sharp impression of Tai's voice.

Taai laughed out loud, then leaned forward to give her daughter a kiss on the forehead. "Stay safe and well Krelle, I will look fer ya on the 'morrow."

Krelle nodded, grabbing up her satchel as she stood. She stopped herself from her usual "shadows keep you", instead saying "Walk in the light, Taai."

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