[Story] Soloridan

Soloridan scattered soil over the remains of the fire, watching until the last wisps of smoke finally faded from sight. He doubted that the rangers would come looking for him, but it was always best to be safe. Scourge would avoid fires, but living people would not.

You were always too stubborn for your own good, Solo.

Soloridan could hear Tanris’s voice as if it had been yesterday. He could even hear the feigned exasperation, the way he’d shake his head when he said it. And he’d always hated that nickname, especially now when it seemed more prophetic than cute. He had been on his own since the Scourge attacked, moving to various sheltered places in the forest. Some were ruins, which were the most comfortable, but in the last few years people had begun to return to them again. There were fewer ruins to camp in now. Going back to his own house was out of the question; even if there was any of it standing other than charred beams and crumbling walls, there were too many memories. He didn’t want to take the risk of seeing anyone he’d once known. Most of the time, Scourge were too far decayed to recognize — but not always.

He’d taken note of the rangers before, they always patrolled the same routes, though there were different ones at different times of day. It was simple enough to hide from view when the patrol was due. He hadn’t know about the late-night one though, with Scourge — correction, not Scourge. They looked and smelled like Scourge, but they still had their minds — or so the rangers claimed. They made Soloridan nervous, because he knew it was only a matter of time before their minds would break down. It wasn’t well documented what happened to sentient undead when that happened, but he imagined that it wasn’t good. They had them in the village too, in the same shops and buildings that he’d shopped in his old life. It was repulsive to see them there.

He had finally talked himself into approaching them, to offer his services and expertise. After years of stalking and killing them, he considered himself skilled in the subject, though of course there was much he didn’t know. He suspected there must be some magical way to dispatch them, but he had no magical training at all. Ordinary fire was very effective, but posed the risk of setting the rest of the forest ablaze — something Soloridan wanted to avoid, having witnessed the Scorched Grove himself. The captain had seemed intrigued, and directed him to the trainer, but things seemed all wrong from there. The man was a fellow veteran, had even lost a leg in the attacks, but had outlandish ideas about how to combat the Scourge menace. And he spoke more about killing spiders and bats. Soloridan had no desire to destroy the living things that belonged here in the woods, distasteful as they may be. Perhaps the rabid bats, so they didn’t spread their disease further, but that didn’t seem like a ranger’s job.

Frowning, he fastened the straps on his heavy pack and hefted it onto his back. It carried his bedroll and his little cup and pot for cooking, his carving knife, as well as all of his weapons. Most had been scavenged from the ruined estates; some farm tools and building tools, whatever had enough weight and heft to break bone. The head had to be removed from the rest of the body to effectively stop one, even better if it could be crushed entirely. Soloridan had been surprised to learn just how difficult it could be to crush a skull, especially when the rest of the body was still clawing at you.

You could go back. You’d have someone to talk to, at least.

Soloridan’s ears twitched faintly. Someone alive, Tanris meant. Talking to the dead wasn’t something healthy, especially for someone who hunted undead. But living people were much more difficult, he’d learned that lesson well enough yesterday. Oddly, the person he had talked to the most was the death knight, after the others had gone back to their cabins for the night. It was an unsettling feeling, half of him wanted to stay and talk while the other felt his hunter’s instincts urging him to take advantage of the opportunity. In the end he did neither, instead studying the death knight and trying to discover what made him different from the other Scourge. Maybe that’s why they had him there too, to better learn and understand the enemy. That would make sense. Little else of what they said had, though.

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