Several hours after he had left the apartment in Booty Bay, Rob carefully led his horse down into Un'goro crater. He had a premonition that he needed to check the area out after talking to Krelle earlier that morning.
Earlier in the week, Rob had been having problems with his com making constant, high pitched sound. It was driving him crazy and so he frantically spun the wheels and flicked switches trying to get it to stop. For a brief moment he heard Phealeas voice faintly humming though the static.
"..could use your help. No one knows Un'goro like you. Can you spare a moment?"
Rob drew his hands up and away from the com, thinking he might have made it work again. He thought he heard a higher voice peeping through, but then his com popped and went completely silent. He hadn't thought anything of it, but after talking to Krelle, Rob realized that that was the last he had heard from Phea, and since Krelle had seen neither her nor Talula in some time he began to worry.
"Ha ha ha! Kenne that beast go any faster?" a small, brown bearded dwarf shouted back at Rob.
Rob made a rude gesture back at the ram-mounted dwarf as he silently and carefully rode his horse down the steep path. The dwarf waited for Rob to catch up and then rode next to him as the ground leveled out.
"Ye still haven' told me what ye brought me doon 'ere for. We been friends fer a long time now, but ye never stop supprisin' me lad."
"You're the best tracker I know Borin," Rob said. "And I think a couple of my friends might have run into trouble here."
"Look 'ere lad," the dwarf said pointing at some muddy footprints around the tar pits. "There was a fight 'ere, that's fer sure. Saw a bit 'o blood back there, an' there's footprints everywhere."
"Can you tell who left the footprints?" Rob asked anxiously.
"Tha gnome was all over 'ere. Few Night elf and 'uman prints too. But look lad... this is tha best part." The dwarf leaned down, holding his beard to keep it out of the mud. He traced the outline of a large feline footprint, with mud raised up around the side.
"So what is it? They got in a fight with a cat?"
The dwarf took out a pipe and stuck it in his mouth. "Nah. Druid more likely." Standing up, he calmly lit the pipe and took a few breaths of smoke into his mouth. "Not many mammals in 'ere. Few gorillas, bein' tha exception. A feline this big would be unlikely."
He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts. "I'd wager yer 'uman friend was standing 'bout ere. The night elf, who would be tha druid in this picture, likely attacked from over there an' got in a fight with the gnome. This part's got me stumped though... The track's just sort of end next ta where yer standin'. Some odd erosion goin' on over there too."
The dwarf blew a ring of smoke out of his mouth. "Might take me a while to figure this oot."
"I have to get back to Booty Bay by sundown. Think you can handle it alone for a bit? Shouldn't take too long I think," Rob stated.
"C'mon..." He held his arms out to the side with his hands open. "Who're ya talkin' to 'ere?" As Rob laughed the dwarf continued. "There's a cave just to tha north o' ere. I'll wait fer ye there."
"Right. Thanks Borin." Rob turned to leave and suddenly slipped in a wet spot of mud, sliding down closer to the pit. A grave expression came over his face as he looked down next to his feet and pulled a shiny mithril wrench out of a tar puddle. He wiped it carelessly on his pants. There was no mistake. "Talula..." he whispered.
Phealea slowly opened her eyes and slowly lifted herself up to a sitting position. She gently put a hand on her head as a dull pain still persisted. Slowly she gazed about her surroundings to try and figure out where she was. A blast of warm air and red kicked up to remind her she still sat in Hellfire which caused her to frown. She rolled over to rest herself on her hands on knees as her strength began to return to her limbs. One of her hands hit a hard glass bottle with a few drops of a blue liquid inside and caused it to skitter away.
"Finally awake, huh?" A familiar choked.
Phealea turned to face Sarina with her long raven hair falling around her face instead of up in its normal bun. The arcane mage looked no worse for wear, except for a bandage about neck. She looked down at her weakened sister and frowned deeply.
"From the claw marks on your back, I take it you and the druid had a parting? Tch, that thrice-damned tree-bitch is lucky I showed up too late. She tried to get those blasted lizards after me." Sarina said as she shook her head.
"That knife trick was something though. A dagger coated with the same magic you used to persevere things. The wound was shallow and it still made me go numb. You have gotten better, for a few moments in that battle I thought you were really going to kill me. Good to know you did not lose yourself completely." Sarina said as she rubbed her neck.
Phealea looked at her sister for a moment and then smirked weakly. "Yeah well, one of my best friends is still missing because of me. The ritual is broken and now that sense of guilt is turning my stomach into a broken spell matrix. Now I suppose you are here to arrest me and take me back." She said as she rested herself on her knees.
"Phealea Spellfire, the second Spellfire in history to take a liking to the power of frost. Took it upon herself to attempt a ritual that only a handful of other mages have attempt. Succeed but with the same results as the others. During which time you broke almost every law of the Alliance and attempted another ritual that has never even been conceived through the use of both the arcane and the dark arts. Killing of bandits, orcs, demons and blood elves all in the name of study. Sheesh Phea, you got quite a list. Though in truth you have been busting the laws of the Alliance since you joined the Tigers." Sarina said as she looked up at the chaotic sky.
"But, I am just a Minister of the Land. I am no agent of the Kirin Tor nor law agent of the Alliance and I would certainly not dirty my hands with the arresting of a criminal. Plus we Spellfires would never do such a thing. No witnesses and all that so who would testify against you in court? Things may have been different if you had acquired that demon heart, but then you would have been strong enough to kill me and go about your machinations." Sarina said with a odd smile as she turned back to her sister.
"Don't bullshit with me. I have no where to go. The druid escaped me, Lula is still gone, and I am weakened. Plus, I can't go back to everyone. I will bring more turmoil to them and only hurt them even more." Phealea spoke in a soft voice as she looked down at her hands, holding back tears.
Sarina stood up from her rock and grabbed Phealea's torn shirt and quickly dragged her up to her feet. She then brought her fist across Phealea's jaw which caused her to fall back to the red earth.
"Quit being stupid Phea because you don't have time to play the self-loathing little girl. Yeah, your friend is gone so go and get her. Isn't she important to you? So what is more important to you right now? Running away or getting her back? You are a Spellfire, no time for weakness damnit!" Sarina scolded.
"Plus you haven't lost any of your powers, you just expanded all your energy when your body reacted to the frozen shell breaking. You did what few frost mages have done. You survived that damned ritual. Most either stay emotional-less automatons or go crazy when the heat of their emotions touches the ice of their powers. " Sarina said as she turned her back to her sister.
Phealea looked up as she held her mouth. It was then that the muck had been wiped from her mind and a startling clarity came to here and she knew what she had to do. She slowly got to her feet and nodded at her sister.
"No rest for the wicked. So that druid must be pretty damn tired, easy prey." Phealea said wickedly.
"Hey, you slit that bitch's throat for me. Now quit your slacking and get going." Sarina said with a grin.
"Sometimes Rin, I wonder whose side you are on." Phealea smirked as she pulled out a rune stone.
"Why, the same team I was always on. The Three Troublemakers of Spellfire." Sarina winked as she took out her own rune stone.
The two women exchanged a quick hug and warm expression. Then both vanished into the ether.
Phealea appeared some ways away from the Bay. She gritted her teeth as she pushed her batter and wounded body past the guards of the port city and up to her door. The wounds on her back still ached but she refused to let that interfere right now. She fumbled with the lock and once it was open she stormed inside and cursed as Krelle was no where to be scene. She ran up to the lab and pushed things aside as she searched for a spare com to replace her ruined one. Once she found it she clicked it to a private channel and contacted Von.
"Hey, this is Phea. This is a emergency Von and I need to see you right now."
The white cat thundered along the gravel path, kicking up a massive cloud of dust. Von was headed to Honor Hold, to see if Nightshade had been seen in the area. As the castle came into view, a staticy message rang in his ears.
He hauled on the reins of the big cat, peeling it off the road and towards the Dark Portal. A large crowd of demons stood in his way, weapons drawn. Von spurred on the cat, charging through the middle. As he shot up the steps, the portal nearing, he glanced behind with a smile, seeing them far in the distance.
Coming through the portal, he reactivated his comm.
"This is Von. I'm in Azeroth. Where do you need me, Phea?"
Phealea frowned deeply as she made her way through the house to her room. She began to rifle through some of her old notes as she waited. Her back still ached and she realized she was hungry but there was still work that needed to be done.
"No rest for the wicked." She reminded herself as she chewed on a pencil.
She slammed one of her books shut in frustration when a voice popped into her ear.
"This is Von. I'm in Azeroth. Where do you need me, Phea?"
"Fel Von, where were you? No matter we got problems, druid problems. Nightshade captured Talula and then she escaped from me when we fought on Hellfire. She was wounded from our fight but she flew off. You are a damn good tracker and you know Nightshade. The trail should only be about two, maybe three hours old." Phealea said as she scrambled to throw a few of her notebooks into a bag. She swore she heard Von's jaw tighten at the sound of the druid's name and that caused her to curse softly. She then bolted from the house to make her way to the wind rider.
"I will meet you at the Dark Portal. If she crossed over you might be able to find a spot where she landed or lost some feathers. If not we will cross over to see if we can gather anything that may help us in tracking the druid." Phealea spat out quickly as she twisted around people to avoid a collision that would send her into the Bay.
The weekly guild meeting at the Booty Bay office had gone as badly as Rob expected. He had intended to keep what little hid did know to himself, a least until he knew more. When the subject was brought up and people started expressing concern however, he felt it would be cold of him to keep everyone in the dark. Everybody got upset... flew into a panic. Precisely why Rob wanted to keep his mouth shut about it.
Rob pulled his wide-brimmed hat down and walked along the wooden docks covering the city. Smelling the air, he was suddenly reminded of how much he hated fish. The last ship of the night would be heading to Ratchet soon.
Phealea dashed through the streets in a hurry. "Watch it lady!" an irritating voice shouted up from somewhere behind her. Making her way through a crowd of local fishermen returning home for the evening a hand suddenly wrapped around her arm, pulling her off to the side. She looked up angrily, preparing some harsh words for the fool wasting her time.
Rob let go of her arm and tipped his hat. "Evenin' Phea. There's some folks looking for you."
Phealea paused and turned ready to unleash a string of curses at the person who dared to hold her up. She opened her mouth yet no words came forth. She looked like she had been through hell and back. Red dirt and dust covered her clothes, while her hair remained a tattered and tangled mess. Dried bits of blood, sweat, and dirt still clung to her face as realization sparked in her eyes.
"Evenin' Phea. There's some folks looking for you." Rob said rather nonchalantly.
Phealea shook her head and frowned. "Bigger fish to fry Rob. No time to dally around! Got to head down to the Blasted Lands, on the trail of the damned druid. Gonna meet Von there, welcome to come along as long as you don't slow us down." She finished with a smile and then turned and dashed to the wind rider.
The large claw marks on her back became visible as she sped off.
Rob wasn't sure if his search had just become easier or more complicated. She'd obviously been through hell recently, and the determination in her eyes told him that she wasn't finished yet. Although he didn't show it outwardly, he was immensely glad she was safe. Still... finding Phealea meant he was only half way finished with his job.
"Oh, Phealea," Rob shouted casually as she began to run off.
She spun frantically to look back at Rob. Her eagerness to keep moving was clear in her posture.
"Sorry to keep you, but have you seen Lu lately? I figured she'd be with you."
She stopped again and spun on her heels to stare at Rob as he shouted something after her First annoyance flashed in her eyes until she heard his next comment.
"Sorry to keep you, but have you seen Lu lately? I figured she'd be with you." Rob asked inquisitively.
Phealea blink then felt a hot flash of anger and rage course through her. She was angry at herself and the druid. She then looked back at Rob as she held back her anger for the moment, there would be a better time to unleash that.
"By the Light Rob, why do you think I am hunting that damned kaldorei across the Dark Portal? She captured Lula and longer we mill about her the longer Lula is in her clutches! So either you are coming or staying here, I don't have the luxury of rest at the moment." Phealea said as she balled up her fists and put turned once again.
As she ran off to the wind rider she narrowed her eyes as a bit of fatigue was catching up to her. "No rest for the wicked.... Damn it Lula, you better be safe when I find you." She thought as she pushed some people out of her way.
It was not long after Phealea and Rob caught a gryphon that her com buzzed to life once again.
"Is Phea still around?" Von's voice asked in her ear.
"Von? This is Phea. This is an emergency meet me at Nethergarde"
"What are we hunting? Cats?"
"Only one and it shapeshifts."
At that there was silence as Phea could almost feel the anger following through Von. She scowled as that anger only brought hers back to the surface. It was Kya who broke the silence.
"Damnit!" Kya yelled into the coms.
"Von, this is serious. Do not go there alone." Tai warned through the com.
"Phea has a lead on Nightshade. This is the best chance we got in a long time and I will not pass it up." The tension in Von's voice was clear.
"Tai, Phea will be with him." Kya said in a claiming voice.
"Nightshade is not to be underestimated. I want all available Tigers at Nethergarde to meet with you Von. I want you all to be careful. That is not a suggestion." Tai order.
At that there was silence again and Phealea quickly leapt from the gryphon and ran to the gate of the Keep. There Von was waiting in his full bear gear.
"Where are we headed?" Von asked as his jaw tightened
"Hellfire, that is where we got into a fight. I burned her bad but the damned druid was able to escape me." Phealea said through her teeth.
They both exchanged a quick nod, climbed onto their mounts and ran off like a bolt of lightning. They raced across the Blasted Lands and dove right into the Dark Portal without a second thought. They pushed their way through the demonic surge at the gates and continued to the valley where everything began.
Phealea dismounted and quickly made her way to the spot of the battle and scanned the area for any returning demons while Von began to examine the ground. After a few moments of seraching Von spoke up.
"Here. I found blood and it's not humans." He said as he pointed at the ground.
Phea peered over at the spot and saw the dried dark spot. "Think it is elven? Or maybe demonic?" She asked curiously.
"Demon blood glows... this is hers. Since you said you burned her this means you must have hit her good for this to happen. But its dried and cold. Did you see where she went when she flew away?"He said as he looked up to the mage.
Phea nodded and pointed towards the portal. "Last I saw before I blacked out."
"Hmm, what is near by that she could hide in? Red Ridge, Duskwood, Stranglethorn, The Swamp, Deadwind, Searing Gorge, Burning Steppes, and the Blasted Lands." He said as he thought. "Most likely she went to Stranglethorn as that is her home." He assessed.
"Why Stranglethron? You know that place like the back of your own hand. If there were anywhere on both worlds you could find her at it would be there." She said with a huff of frustration.
"She knows it just as well as me. Though she would stick to where there are trees. A wounded night elf would stick out too much in Red Ridge and Duskwood. That leaves the Swamp of Sorrow and Stranglethorn." Von explained.
"Hmm, lets get back to the Keep and see who all is there. Tai will get worried if we are too late. We can decide our next course there." Phea said as she turned back to the small valley, still marred with destruction.
Von nodded and climbed upon his mount and headed back to the Dark Portal. Phealea lingered for a moment as she stared at the site. She held back her tears as she knelt down. Thoughts of Talula dance in her head and then thoughts of Nightshade swirled which brought back her rage. She bite down hard on her lip to bring that copper taste. She spit a glob of dark blood to the ground and frowned.
"I swear I will find you Talula. No matter what." She vowed quietly to herself. With that she too climbed atop of Ateria and ran off.
When Phealea arrived at Nethergarde Keep Von waited with Ollie and Rob. Phealea climbed down and apologized for her tardiness.
"Here is the plan. Phea and Rob are going to search the Swamp while Ollie and myself will search Stranglethorn. Everyone know what we are hunting?" He said as he scanned between the three humans.
Ollie shook her head. " 'Fraid I don't. Been outta the loop." She said with a light shrug.
"A wounded night elf female. Search any caves or clearings. Talk to the locals to see if they saw anything." Von explained.
The group exchanged nods again and then they broek off into teams to hunt for Nightshade.
Phealea exited the Blue Recluse with a brooding expression on her face. She was greeted by her second, Daniel. The raven haired man smiled at the mage and bowed slightly. Phealea frowned and waved her hand dismissively.
"What is it Danny-boy? Can you not see that I am not pleased?" She said as she walked past the man.
"Oh, I can see that very plainly Phea. It is just that I have the records of the earnings of house from the month you have been busy in study. Not only that that but I have schedule of the next few shipments of cargo from Ironforge and Darnassus. They will be sent to their prospective buyers. Still awaiting your word on any connections your roommate could give us." Daniel said as he rushed to keep up with the mage.
"Danny-boy, you have been a real asset over this last month, but I am not in the mood. I have to deal with my boss, who will not be pleased with my failure to show up to places on time and my disregard to orders." Phea muttered as she balled her fists and bit her lip.
"Oh, well I suppose that is why you are here in Stormwind and not with the caravan that The Tigers are pushing through Stranglethorn. Though it was a bit odd to see Miss Nali there in her current state and all." Daniel said with a curt nod.
"What state are you talking about?' She asked as she stopped and looked at Daniel through a sidelong glance. The worry in her voice was more apparent than she wished.
"Well reports from some of the men down there said she was pregnant." Daniel stated.
Phealea spun on her heels and her eyes narrowed at her second as if to discern any lies or falsehoods in his manner. When she found now she bit her lip again and frowned deeply.
"Fire and Fel! What the in all the Nether could those fools be thinking! Has the whole fel conceived company lost all of the brain power they were blessed with! Tai is too much of a worrier to...." She trailed off of her rant and scowled. "Daniel, head back to Goldshire and make sure all goes as planned for tonights game. Have someone check the shipments and remember to add in the cost of giving to the 'Guard Widows and Orphan' fund. I have something to attend to. Oh and make sure I get copies of all those statements." She ordered as she made her way from Daniel.
Daniel offered her a nod and then walked away to attend to his work. Phealea clicked on her com and whirled it to a private channel with Tai Jiang. She made a audible sigh and bit her lip to force the sleep from her mind for the moment.
"Tai, this is Phealea. We need to talk."
Tai was thinking about the problem Litto had presented. Screwing with Borri could be dangerous. He'd told Litto he would think on it. The priority right now was catching up with Rob and following even the slimmest of leads on Talula's whereabouts. He'd sent Litto off with the promise to deal with the matter as soon as possible. That dream he'd had had been unsettling. Could Talula really be ...
He stopped mid-thought as Phea's voice crackled in his ear.
"Tai, this is Phealea. We need to talk."
She sounded tired, worn out - but then again so did a lot of the Tigers lately. Tai glanced around the inn, and the others around him seemed preoccupied. He coughed into his hand and then tapped his own comm, "Phea, damn good to hear your voice but ... unless it can't wait, I need you to catch up with Litto and Rob. Word is they've got a lead on where Nightshade might have Talula. Your abilities might come in handy."
Tai paused, waiting for a response.
Phealea paused for a moment as she regarded what Tai just told her and then she smirked to herself. Crafty bastard, must be psyhic or something. she thought. She wanted to talk to him a bit more but time was not her ally in this endeavor. She then broke into a jog as she headed to the wind rider.
"Where are they? And what is this I hear about a caravan going through the jungle with a pregnant Kya? What is the play this time?" She asked quietly into her com as she went.
She then made a mental note to give Daniel a raise for being so damn useful.
"Last I heard, Litto was headed to Menenthil but I haven't gotten a report. Worth checking the open frequency."
Tai hesitated now. Kya had volunteered to be bait and then Korttie had suggested that she appear to be pregnant. Korttie's idea had been a good one, a damn good one - if you looked at it objectively. Trick was, that was hard to do. Kya was a tough one, tougher than some thought, but using her and Ben as bait had left a knot in Tai's gut since he'd agreed to it.
He took a breath and continued in Cant.
"We double baited the hook, Phea. Ben's been in her crosshairs, but we stacked the deck. Kya looks to be carrying a child - just to see if we could get Nightshade to get angry enough to make a mistake."
Tai could hear the pause and continued, gruff now.
"Plenty of Tigers on that caravan Phea. I need you to help those two find Talula. Got me?"
Tai rubbed his eyes as he waited for a response. He needed to get some air. Maybe he'd head to the docks. Something about being by the water always cleared his head.
Phealea bought her ticket and mounted the gryphon. She gave the creature a pat and frowned that she was unable to have Blizzard this side of the portal. She shook her head as she took in what Tai told her.
"No argument here. I am heading to The Harbor now and I will track those two down and then we find Lula." She said with that old familiar cocky tone of hers.
She was determined now that Talula was back in her sights. The druid would pay a high toll but now, she assured to herself. Phea then clicked her com to the public channel.