Three quick flashes of bright hair between the trees. A blink would have missed it entirely. Only the slightest rustling of leaves could be detected. After waiting for several minutes with no further movement and the orca moved on. The trio hiding under the fallen tree snickered.

Elindara gave Melina a hard shove. “You’re an idiot! That was way too close!” She pulled her long green braid around, picking leaves and twigs from it. “How would I explain it to your mother if something happened to you?”

Melina grinned back at her. “Oh come on! They didn’t see us! Besides, now we can tell Cenarius where the next camp is. That has to be worth something, right?” She turned to the last of their little group. Kyrion scowled at her, teal hair stuck to his face with mud. She laughed and reached to help him clean off. He slapped her hand away. With a pout, she asked, “Oh you aren’t mad at me too, are you?”

“You’re reckless. You don’t account for scouts, which is stupid considering you are trying to be one. You need to use your head! It’s not just your life out there! It’s us too!” He was older than the others by nearly one hundred years. But he acted like he had far more experience. Nevertheless, he was right. Melina sighed.

Elindara pulled a small pack around and dug out some food. She spread out a bit of cloth and laid out everything for them to share. “Look, I agree it’s good information. But we’re only in training. We should be back at the village, learning how to do things the right way. I don’t know about you two, but I’d like to make it through this nightmare. And doing something like this is a sure fire way to make that not happen. Ok?” Taking out a canteen, she wet down a rag and gently wiped the mud from Kyrion’s face. He covered her hand with his for a moment before taking the rag from her and finishing himself. She looked away quickly, blushing, and leaned against the tree.

They finished their small meal and gathered up their belongings. Moving from tree to tree they worked their way back to the camp where Cenarius had set up the troops. Cenarius was not there so they passed on their information to the commanders and went back to their tents. Melina was called back shortly after.

Elindara was reading quietly in her tent when Melina came back. She looked properly cowed and Eli chuckled. “They were grateful for the intelligence but you got a reprimand, right?” Melina nodded. “There are rules for a reason, Mel. I don’t like them either, but I’d rather have my best friend in this tent than some other person. So just do what they tell us, please?”

“Yeah, ok. By the way. The captain asked if you’d go back to Astranaar and get the order from your dad.”

“Damn. That’s a two hour ride.” She sighed and started cramming things into her pack. She went and gathered her mount from the stable and took off.

Late into the evening, she rode back towards the camp. The sky was dim, even dark under the ancient trees, but the all too bright glow ahead warned her off. She set her saber off into the trees and crept in on foot. As she approached, the sounds of battle grew. Climbing into the trees, she slid across the limbs. Closer and closer she moved until a scene of pure horror found her eyes.
Hundreds of them tore all over the camp. Bodies were strewn everywhere, as the red skinned orcs killed everyone indiscriminately. She covered her mouth and used every fiber of her being to not scream.

They followed us back.
You didn’t wait long enough.

Stepping through the ruined bodies and burning tents, her mind rang out with every mistake they made that morning. The ground squished under her boots, red and brown caking them the further in she went. And then she saw them and her world froze.

Some time the next morning, a small group returned. They found her standing in the middle of the trainee tents. At her feet were two bodies. Her expression was blank. They called her name for some time before slowly walking her clear of the area. She was placed in a wagon and taken to her parents.

Her mother pleaded, cried and called her name. She tried cooking her favorite meals and treats. Nothing seemed to reach her. She ate. She slept, but behind her eyes, there was nothing. Until one day she disappeared. She vanished for almost a week before she strolled into Astranaar carrying two orc heads by their hair. “Elindara! What did you do?” Her mother cried out. “Why did you go out there alone?”

A cold stare turned to greet Nadyia. “Elindara is gone.” And she strode to their house without another word.