"Were any of you priests or Vindicators--wielders of the Light "
All three shook their heads. "I cannot speak for Akama, but Estes and I were simple craftsmen, unaccustomed to wielding a weapon of any kind. That was why we were assigned to the caves: to be a last line of defense."
Korin asked Nobundo, "When you escaped, did any others make it with you Were there more survivors We heard the orcs in the lower levels, but we did not want to risk discovery, so we fled."
Nobundo thought of the piled bodies in Lower City... heard the pleas from Aldor Rise, tried to force the tortured screams from his mind.
"No," he answered. "There were no more that I know of."
Velen, their prophet leader, had visited them two days ago... or was it four Lately Nobundo found it harder to remember some things. Velen had come from one of the neighboring camps. His exact location remained a closely guarded secret, in case one of their number was taken alive and tortured. The draenei could not give up information they did not possess. At any rate, Velen had spoken to them about their future, about how they would have to lie low for quite a long time, possibly years, to watch and wait and see how events concerning the orcs would play out.
According to Velen, the greenskins had begun construction on something that seemed to be monopolizing their time and resources. The project had apparently diverted their attention from hunting down the surviving draenei, at least for the time being. What the orcs were building, not far from their base citadel in the scorched lands, appeared to be some kind of gateway.
Velen seemed to know a great deal more that he did not say, but he was after all a prophet, a seer. Nobundo thought the noble sage must know many things, things he and others were simply not wise enough to understand.
Nobundo watched now as Korin waded into the water with her fishing spear. Something about her appeared different. It seemed to him that her physique had changed in the past several weeks. Her forearms had grown slightly larger; her face looked drawn; and her posture had deteriorated. As improbable as it sounded, her tail seemed to have actually shrunk.
Herac and Estes approached, and Nobundo could have sworn he saw similar transformations in them. He looked down at his own forearms. Was it his imagination, or did they appear swollen He had not felt right ever since... ever since that night. But he had assumed he would recover in time. Now he was becoming increasingly worried.
Korin approached. "I am finished for today. I need to go lie down." She handed Nobundo her spear.
"Are you okay " he asked.
Korin attempted a smile that lacked conviction. "Just tired," she replied.
Nobundo sat atop the mountains overlooking Zangarmarsh, eyes closed. He felt tired, tired to his very bones. He had come here to be alone. He had not seen Korin in several days. She and the other two had holed up in one of the caves, and when he enquired as to their condition, his enquiries were answered with unknowing shrugs. As for the one called Akama, he was still unresponsive, barely hanging on despite Rolc¡¯s continued efforts.
Something was drastically wrong. Nobundo knew it: he had seen the changes in himself and in the other survivors, Akama included. The rest of the camp knew it as well. They seemed to speak to him less and less, even Rolc. And just the other day, when Nobundo had returned to camp with a few small fish, he was told that they had plenty, that he should eat the fish himself... as if whatever malady was plaguing him and the others could be spread by touching the same food he had handled.
Nobundo was disgusted. Had his service meant nothing He had taken to spending long hours here among the hilltops, quietly contemplating, forcing his mind to focus, trying desperately to achieve what still remained unattainable: access to the Light. It was if a door had been closed to him, as if the part of his mind that had been able to make contact simply no longer functioned, or worse yet, no longer existed.
Even simple musings such as these made his head ache. Lately it was becoming more and more difficult to articulate his thoughts. His arms had continued to swell, a swelling that would not go away, and his hooves had begun to splinter. Pieces of them had actually fallen away and not grown back. And all the while, the nightmares... the nightmares persisted.
At least the patrolling orcish war parties had grown less frequent. Reports had come in that whatever the orcs were constructing was nearing completion. And it did appear to be some kind of gateway, just as Velen had predicted.
Good, Nobundo thought. I hope they go through it, and I hope it carries them straight to their doom.
He arose and slowly, deliberately made his way back toward camp, grateful for the support of the hammer, which had grown so heavy in recent weeks that he carried it head down, using it more often than not as a walking stick.
Hours later he reached his destination and decided to see Rolc. Together they could call a meeting to address the issue of the increasing intolerance displayed by--
Nobundo stopped at the entrance to Rolc's cave. Korin was there, lying on a blanket. She had now transformed so that she almost looked no longer like a draenei, but rather like some parody of their race. She was sickly and emaciated. Her eyes were milky, and her lower arms had swollen to a massive size. Her hooves had sloughed away to twin bony protuberances, and her tail was nothing more than a small nub. Despite her frail condition, she was struggling in Rolc's arms.
"I want to die! I just want to die; I want the pain gone!"
Rolc held her firmly. Nobundo quickly approached, leaning close.
"Don't be foolish!" He looked at Rolc. "Can you not cure her "
The priest frowned at his friend. "I have tried!"
"Let me go! Let me die!"
A glow emanated from Rolc's hands then, soothing Korin, subduing her gently until her exertions lessened and finally stopped completely. She broke down into racking sobs and curled into a fetal position. Rolc motioned with his head for them to leave the cave.
Once outside, Rolc fixed a stern gaze on Nobundo. "I have done all I know. It's as if her body, like her will, has been broken."
"There must be something that can--some way to--" Nobundo struggled to properly communicate his thoughts. "We have to do something!" he finally blurted.
Rolc was silent for a moment. "I worry for them, for you. We have received reports that Shattrath survivors in the other camps are undergoing similar changes. Whatever this is, it is not responding to any kind of treatment, and it is not going away. Our people are afraid that if measures are not taken, we will all be lost."
"What are you saying What has happened "
Rolc sighed. "Just talk. For now. I have tried to be the voice of reason, but even I cannot defend you and the others for very long. And, truth be told, I am not sure that I should."
Nobundo felt bitter disappointment in his friend, in the one person he thought he could trust, who was now succumbing to the same narrow-minded paranoia as the others.
At a loss for words, Nobundo turned and walked away.
Korin's condition worsened, and the decision that Nobundo dreaded, that Rolc had spoken of, was finally rendered a few days later.
Nobundo, Korin, Estes, and Herac were gathered before the camp members. Some wore grim expressions; some appeared sad; others were unreadable. Rolc, for his part, simply appeared conflicted but resolved, like a hunter who prefers not to kill, but knows he must eat and is preparing to deal his prey a mortal blow.
As it turned out, it was Rolc the camp had chosen as their spokesperson. "This is not easy for me, for any of us...." He indicated the stoic assembly behind him. "But we have spoken with representatives from the other camps, and together we have come to a decision. We believe it would be in the best interests of everyone involved if those of you who have been... afflicted commune together, but... separate from those of us who remain in good health."
Korin, looking particularly forlorn, spoke in a harsh rasp: "We are being banished "