It'll take a miracle, or some rather odd preferences, to get the brave heroes out of this. The question is, does the one smart member of the group care enough to try?
"/What/?" Sarah snapped.
The tauren shifted, then sat back, and finally returned to his original place - not that he could move much at all considering that he had his hands tied behind his back, and was stuck in a rather too small cage. But he did his best.
"Err, why are you staring at me like that?" he finally asked.
Sarah raised an eyebrow above the leather straps covering her eyes.
"... well, you know what I mean..." Damian mumbled.
"Ah. Yes. Of course."
Every last syllable whipped at the air like the crack of a lady demon's whip, only with no sexuality involved. Damian shuffled a little closer to the farther side of his cage, trying to look at anything but Sarah.
"I'm trying to kill you with my mind."
She sighed, turning away to lean her face against her shackled arms.
"The real tragedy is that normally I could do it, too..." she growled.
"You don't mean that..." Damian said, but he hardly sounded sure of himself.
Sarah looked up, lips curving.
"Oh yes, I do," she said.
"Don't listen to her, she's just a liar," came Celandria's voice from the cage behind Damian's.
One of the druids stopped in midstep in her quest to carry logs to the fire. The shining eyes turned towards the blood elf, then towards the Forsaken, and back again.
Pale, full lips parted to speak.
"If you're going to tell her that I could probably be called a whole lot worse things than liar," Sarah interrupted, "don't bother."
The druid looked at her again, then shrugged and went to fuel the fire. The fire under the bubbling cauldron, it should be noted.
Sarah's forehead dunked against her arms again. After a little while she straightened up and "glared" at the glimmering shackles fettering her wrists. The glow only intensified when she tried to think of a way to escape - apparently, the anti-magic runes reacted even to that much focus. Well, at least they did not drain her ability to think, though she felt heavy as a rock. Her very, unnatural existence itself seemed to take a toll from the restrains, leaving her on her knees and almost hanging by the chains.
Unless she thought of something, all three of them would be in the bellies of the snake-people and their pet lizards before the next two hours were up.
And the only thing making this worse was that their "hosts" looked suspiciously much like night elves. There was something seriously wrong with this whole scenario.
For a moment she toyed with the thought of Dor'ash coming to the rescue, but pushed it aside as an impossibility. Silly how hope still seemed able to peek up within her, even for rare spurts. Even if he had somehow survived the fall, he would at least have broken half the bones in his body.
And even then by some miracle he hadn't, Sarah had utterly lost track of the winding caverns the prisoners had been dragged to until they were tied up and locked up in these cages. And she had been there the entire time. Dor'ash had no ability to know where they were.
Nope. It was up to her. Her and...
She glanced at the other two cages.
Nope. It was up to her.
She frowned, looking around. One may have gone philosophical about her non-existent eyesight and rambled about mind's eye and all that rot, but even if there was some truth in all of that, Sarah really could not see much more than anybody else.
Several druids were standing guard by the fire, keeping a close eye on the prisoners. Waiting, watching while the one who had gotten the logs stirred the cauldron and dropped a peeled onion and a carrot into the water.
In the shadows beyond the firelight one could catch glimpses of scaly tails and murderous talons. The pets were waiting for theirs, too.
Sarah pondered the very limited options. She could try to chew through the chains. But, the druids would probably notice that very soon and put an end to that attempt. It took too long, and she did not have much time.
Maybe if she tore off her hands? If she could get free from the shackles, she should be able to use magic again.
She gave a tug, only to find that she could hardly move at all anymore. The flow of dark magic which sustained her body was truly drained. Probably had not recovered properly from that whole fall-apart-after-sheeping fiasco earlier.
Then, even if she did get free, she may not be able to do a single thing. Amazing that she still kept together at all anymore, really. Perhaps the last vestiges of dark magic focused on not letting her break apart again. Typical.
This did not look good at all. Sighing, Sarah slumped and wished that she could close her eyes.
"Come on, what are you waiting for? Get us out of here already!" an impatient voice said.
Sarah looked up, more surprised that it was not Damian's voice than anything. Celandria glared at her through the bars of their cages and her thick, blond eyelashes.
"Well?" the elf said, earning odd looks from the druids.
Though Sarah's mouth opened slightly, there was not a single thing she could think of saying.
She tried, with a despair that amazed her, to tell herself that the blonde elf was just being sarcastic. Or taunting the druids, in some bizarre way.
"Seriously, how long are you going to let them keep us here? I've got better things to do."
"Yeah!" Damian exclaimed with a bright, approving smile at Celandria. He turned to Sarah, expression souring. "So, what are you waiting for?"
Sarah opened her mouth, closed it, and then, in a weak, crazy moment she looked around with random hope that maybe they were seeing something that she did not. Like an approaching army of snake-hating trolls or something.
No such luck. There were only the same druids and skulking lizards, though the former were now looking around with suspicion - probably wondering about the same thing as Sarah.
Finally, the undead woman surrendered to the truth.
"You're serious?" she muttered. Then she squared her shoulders and looked straight at her allies. "What do you expect me to do?"
"Well, you're the one who kept agreeing with Dor'ash that we should take it slow and careful and such," Damian huffed. "And look where that brought us!"
The raptors had stopped moving, the druids had stopped smirking, the cook had stopped stirring. All were watching the show with perplexed looks on their faces.
When Sarah did not say a word, Damian shrugged - the closest he could get to throwing out his arms, since his arms were tied... actually, he had probably tried to throw them out, forgetting about all the rope. He had obviously warmed up to this whole talking big and triumphant thing, now that he had figured out that the attempts at tactics had not saved them.
"I say the time for planning is over! We must take action and burst free to fight our way through!" he declared.
Then he glared expectantly at Sarah.
After a moment, a bony fingertip tapped against a shackle.
"I'm tied up with anti-magic chains, Damian," Sarah said.
"Yes?" the tauren said.
One of the druids let out an uncertain chuckle, but seeing that nobody else joined in he quickly fell silent.
A loud sigh came from Celandria's cage.
"Great!" the elf said. "Now she's going to say that she can't use magic again."
The wind distantly howled in some faraway, unreachable exit.
Finally, Sarah gazed through the bars at the group of druids.
"Did you fetter her with the same kind of chains as me?" she asked.
A few of them even jumped at being addressed so directly. Glances were exchanged, and after a moment they all nodded yes to the bony lady. Sarah turned towards the other cages.
"They fettered you with the same kind of chains as me, Celandria. Can you use magic?"
"See! I told you!" the blood elf snarled.
"... Can. You. Use. Magic?"
"Well..." A pause, and then a sour, "no. And it makes me feel sick, you know!"
"Then...?" Sarah said, lingering on the N expectantly.
Another pause. Nobody breathed.
Then, with all the subtlety of a charging gnome...
"I told you she's a liar!"
"Yeah!" Damian shouted.
Sarah's face slammed into the bars in front of her.
Looking up after a few headcages (in line with the age old art of headdesking, of course), she found the druids still staring at their prisoners with a mix of amusement, disbelief, and horror on their pale faces.
"Are you hiring?" Sarah deadpanned. She straightened up when they started exchanging glances again. "Please. Seriously. I can burn almost anything, I can brew a wide variety of potions, and I don't need to sleep."
The druids began muttering amongst themselves. As they did, both they and Sarah tried to ignore Damian's continued insistence that she should get started with the breakout.
"Sorry," one of the pale elves finally said, and he did sound honestly sympathetic. "We have a Scaly Only policy."
"Damn..." Sarah sighed. She shook her head. "Well, no telling what Lady Sylvanas would send at me when she found out, anyway..."
One of the druids folded her arms and looked at the cages behind Sarah's.
"Say, why are you telling her to do everything anyway?" the pale lady asked, lips parting in her smirk to show off her fangs. "You should be breaking out yourselves."
The sarcasm passed by despite its flapping, metaphorical arms.
"I damn well would if I had my axe!" Damian snarled.
"But you're all out of axe," the druid said. She tilted her head, cooing out her next words. "And your little ladies are alll out of mana, as some say."
"Come a little closer and I'll rip your little entrails out for even suggesting that I'm his little lady," Sarah growled.
This time she went ignored while the druids chuckled amongst each other. In the silence - a sour silence, in the prisoners' case - that followed, the cook turned around and began tending to the cauldron again.
All seemed to at least be blessedly peaceful, a sort of respite in which one may think and plot again. But then, Damian's voice piped up once more, shattering the relative calm. At first Sarah tried to zone him out, but when she heard what he was actually saying she craned her head in his direction and just stared.
"So, wait..." Damian paused, then frowned as he pondered what he had just heard for another second. Then he suddenly perked up. "You mean that when you guys say that you're out of mana, you think that you can't use magic anymore?"
Even Celandria opened and closed her mouth a few times, blinking as she gaped at her companion. And in the end, while the Forsaken and the druids still stood stunned and mute, the blood elf managed to find her voice first.
"... yes. Yes."
She said it weakly, pleadingly watching Damian as if begging that he would not hurt her fragile head with anything equally painful.
No such luck. He perked up even more.
"Ooh!" he said with a nod. "I've always wondered about that."
This piece of information left Sarah so tired that she did not even feel like headcaging again. She just slumped. Well, that did at least explain a few things, considering all. About a whole lot of warriors. And other adventurers too, now that she thought about it.
She even heard some of the druids groan in mental pain.
Unfortunately, they soon got reason to be happy again.
"The broth is just about ready!" the cook cheerfully announced.
Time was definitely running out now. Two of the druids picked up a butcher knife each from the table, grinning widely at the cages. A hard, metallic tapping rose up as Sarah drummed her fingertips against the bars of her cage.
They would certainly not give their prisoners a chance to escape, probably taking them out one by one with everyone helping to make sure any attempt to break free would fail. These druids were not stupid.
Sarah wondered if she would "survive" being cooked and eaten. The ponderings called up no stirring of fear in the remains of her stomach. Those kinds of feelings were long left behind and rotting in the grave she had risen from.
But she was a Forsaken, and if there was one emotion that they all retained it was the hunger for vengeance. She looked around and glared at her two fellow prisoners. They glared back, but not with nearly the same venom. Still not realizing that they would die. Damian's mouth still moved, grumbling about taking too long breaking free.
Would that fool actually get to die without realizing his own guilt?
For the first time since she was bound, rage seethed through Sarah's exhaust. She would not die (again) without revenge.
"So, which one gets to be the appetizer?" the cook asked.
Sarah turned her head again, frowning at the druids. Her gaze was even in her fury helplessly drawn to the cauldron.
For a crazy moment, she thought that they were doing it all wrong. Meat always turned out better when fried before boiled and made into a stew, not soup. Unless it was long, slow cooking that took half the day, but they didn't seem to have nearly enough vegetables around to make that appetizing.
She shook it off. Such silly things had no use in her situation.
But then, like a suddenly cast healing spell in the middle of battle, an idea struck. Sarah started by the force of it, and then her lips parted in a vicious grin.
"Excuse me!" she called out.
The druids looked up from their discussion about whom to eat first, startled by the suddenly cheerful tone in the mage's voice.
"Now look," Sarah continued, "as a practicer of cannibalism I can assure you that us undeads don't taste very good at all..."
"Oh, that's no problem," one of the druids said with a wide grin. Now he didn't look at all sympathetic anymore, as he had a little while ago. "We have a lot of mustard."
Sarah wriggled a finger, nodding.
"Good call," she agreed.
This raised a few eyebrows. She got their full attention again, and smiled.
"So, if you would let me finish what I was saying?" She waited for a moment. "Thank you. Well, I was just thinking, mustard or not I'm really not much to eat."
A few smirks appeared. The druids apparently thought they saw where this was going, and mentally prepared the refusal of any attempt of the ancient "talking her way out of this" trick.
They were not prepared for what came out of Sarah's mouth next. Nobody were.
"So, I was wondering," she sweetly said, nodding at the other two cages, "since you've all got your minds set and all... would you mind killing the two of them first, and let me eat their brains? I'm sure that would fatten even me up."
One could almost hear the heavy thump as this silence fell.
Sarah emptied the remains of her glass of juice.
"And that's that," she said.
The silence in the bar was not too unlike the one that had occurred in the Wailing Caverns.
All three listeners started at once.
Holding the glass gingerly against her lower lip, pushing it down to show off part of her teeth, Sarah smiled.
"Yes?" she said.
Seeing as they all just gaped at her still, she lifted the glass and studied it.
"Dear me," she muttered. "And here I thought that remembering it all would make me want to get drunk again. That was pretty relieving, actually."
"You offered to join them?" Jonathan choked.
"How did that get you outta there?" the goblin asked.
"You ate ‘em, mon?" Rohdjinn blurted.
"Yes. It didn't. Jealous?" Sarah replied.
She chuckled and put the glass on the table, folding her fingers beside it.
"I wasn't serious for real, Jonathan," she said, looking at her kindred. "You know that."
The smile died and she sighed.
"But no," she continued, "that didn't get me out of there. It did fatten me up though, and then the druids broke me up and cooked me too."
This time, Jonathan at least did not stare at her. Noticing the confused looks from the other two people in the audience, Sarah shrugged.
"Well," she said, "after they'd gnawed all the flesh off, they threw my bones all over the place. Luckily, there was enough magic left in me to drag myself, in pieces, over to where they'd thrown my backpack. The hearthstone got me here before they noticed anything."
She sloughed back against the backrest with a loud sigh.
"I've been here all day trying to recover. I haven't gotten half my body weight back, but I'm getting there. It was a pain in the ass when I first managed to put myself back together. People kept attacking me, thinking I was of the Scourge."
"... you ate their brains." The goblin said it in a blank tone, looking very much like he could not decide whether that was horrifying or amusing.
"Yup," Sarah said with a chuckle. "And, Celandria did learn a few better things to call me. At least before they stuffed her mouth full of garlic, the sweethearts."
The goblin thought for a moment. Then...
"How were they?"
He met their stares without blinking, at least for a moment. Then he shrugged.
"What? Just kidding."
Even the two undeads visibly relaxed, surprisingly enough. The silent consensus was definitely that you never, ever knew with goblins and their noses for business. Feeling secure enough to be cheerful again, Sarah dropped her verdict.
"They were fat enough to almost clog my throat."
"Not a good ingredient for pizza then... I'm kidding!"
The goblin threw up his hands when he got the Stares again.
"I think you just can't fight your nature," Jonathan finally said.
At that, the goblin's grin actually grew a bit wider.
"Why thank you, good Sir," he chortled, then gave Sarah a meaningful look.
Her lips curled in a wicked smile. Indeed, one should not fight what nature - or tragic fate - has grazed you with. Especially not when it comes to making the best out of even the stupidest situations.
She was about to take the chance to order yet another drink, when she was interrupted.
"I almost feel ashamed that I do not feel rage for the death of old allies," came a growling, deep voice from the door.
Sarah merely tilted her head at the massive shadow and wriggled her fingers in greeting.
"Still breathing, I see," she airily said.
"It was a deep chasm indeed."
The newly arrived orc, whom the others by Sarah's greeting recognized as the now-famous Dor'ash, held up his hand. The pale white hearthstone in his wide palm gleamed slightly in the sunlight glaring through the windows.
He lumbered over and pulled out a chair, which he more fell onto than sat down on. Though it creaked dangerously, the piece of furniture survived the rough treatment.
"I got out of there half a second before hitting the ground," he summed his fate up. Then he looked at Sarah. "And now there are a few taurens back in Thunder Bluff who will want to think that their calf died proudly in battle. Can we agree on that?"
Sarah snorted, but waved her hand dismissively.
"Of course," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, he got killed by those two raptors that knocked him unconscious."
Dor'ash nodded, satisfied.
"What about the elfie?" the innkeeper piped up when the matter seemed settled.
"You couldn't pay me to go to Silvermoon..." Dor'ash muttered.
With a clatter, Sarah clasped her hands and turned her face towards the ceiling.
"Corrupted night elf druids!" she moaned, slowly shaking her head. "She fought valiantly until they overpowered her with sheer numbers. And stuffed garlic in her mouth, but we can leave that out I suppose."
Though Dor'ash shrugged, it was still apparent that he cared a whole lot less about the elf. Probably because Silvermoon was far, far away. The orc turned to the innkeeper, who perked up at once.
"Bring me anything edible with a lot of meat," Dor'ash said. "I'll give you ten silver."
"Coming right up, Sir!"
And off was the goblin, disappearing into the kitchen.
For a moment Dor'ash just sat back, closing his eyes and letting out a deep breath. But then, just as suddenly he straightened up and took a good look at the rest of the nearby patrons.
"I assume that neither of you are going to give me trouble by telling people the real story?" the orc said.
Rohdjinn grinned, while Jonathan just shrugged as to say that he could care less about spreading the word.
"Too bad wif' the good story, but I get ya," the troll added.
"Speaking of good story, where have you been until now?" Sarah said, raising an eyebrow at Dor'ash.
The orc made a vague motion towards the windows.
"That raptor tore me up while we fell, so even when I got back I was in a bad shape. Friend of mine's been putting me back together until now."
"And dat friend be thinking ya oughta still be restin', mon."
And in marched a lady troll, judging by her gear and the totem in her hand a shaman by trade, just as Dor'ash. Rohdjinn perked up at once, a wide grin taking over his features.
"I oughta put earthbind totems ‘round your bed if ye gonna run away when ya get hungry," she went on, swishing over and putting a hand on Dor'ash's armored shoulder - and not giving him a chance to reply either. "If you gone an' told me so I'd have sent a hunter out to catch us something. And-" she didn't even miss a beat turning to Rohdjinn, making it quite clear that she had not at all been concerned with Dor'ash since entering the inn. "- dat be a fine example right here."
She completely abandoned the orc and bent towards Rohdjinn, grinning widely around her tusks.
"Fancy seein' you in dis here dustbowl, Erece," the hunter said.
They relocated to another table so quickly that afterwards, nobody could really tell what exactly had happened.
After a moment, Jonathan looked at Dor'ash.
"You sure aren't having much luck with the ladies, eh?"
The orc, who had not even bothered to turn his head at the trolls' antics, just shrugged.
Dor'ash pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a heavy grunt.
"I still have a job to finish inside those blasted caves," he said. "I'll write a few letters to friends in Orgrimmar this time, to back Erece and me up. I'm not going to give another kid with an axe a chance to prove himself."
The chair creaked beneath him as he leant back and closed his eyes.
After a moment he opened one eye, curious about the rustling sound. Sarah had opened one of her bags, lifting a small herb pouch out of it. Snapping it open she peered inside, then shrugged and stuffed it back down.
"I never got a chance to pick enough serpentblooms," she said.
Dor'ash quirked a huge eyebrow.
"I'd never thought anybody would like to go back inside a place where they got cooked and eaten," he said.
"Come now, darling. I'm a Forsaken. Revenge is my reason for moving."
She turned towards the rotting man sitting across her.
"Oh Jonathan, sweetheart..."
But the male mage folded his arms with a loud clatter.
"I don't know," he slowly said, turning his face towards the ceiling. "I don't really have a reason to go in there myself. And I've been across this entire dustbowl in the last two weeks."
In the way he said it though, one would think that he could be easily talked into changing his mind.
In retrospect, Dor'ash knew that he should have known better than to keep watching the events unfold. He definitely should have ducked and covered his ears the moment Sarah stood up and placed one hand and a knee on the table, leaning across the wooden slab.
And if he didn't act in the beginning, he definitely should have made a break for it when Sarah reached forwards and ran her sharp fingertips along Jonathan's jaw line.
"You can relax when we get back, gorgeous," the undead lady murmured, leaning even closer. "Sit back, relax... and let me claw your eyes out. Hmm?"
On the hum, she took his face between both her hands, tilting her head.
"How about it, Schiller?"
A truly unpleasant smile crept across Jonathan's features.
"You foxy little woman," he said.
"Oh, you don't know half of it..."
Dor'ash loudly cleared his throat. The two undeads looked up at him, failing miserably to look like they had no idea what the matter was.
"I was planning on having dinner, Sarah," the orc said. "Don't spoil my appetite."
"Well, if you insist, cap'n."
Sarah crawled back on her chair, but the wicked smile on her face prompted Dor'ash to reinforce his point.
"No flirting on the job."
"Hey, what do you take us for? Gnomes?" Sarah said with a snerk.
"I'd be more concerned about those two, if I were you," Jonathan said, pointing towards the table the two trolls had moved to.
Thanks to Erece's burst of loud laughter, Dor'ash didn't even have to turn around to get the idea. Not that he needed that many clues anyway. Show a troll a troll woman - or night elf lady, if some nutty stories were to be believed - and you have a distracted fellow on your team.
Despite all this, Dor'ash did not in fact hear any whispers of "doom, dooom" from the spirits this time. Before, he had just thought that they wished to warn him about the dangers of the Wailing Caverns itself. Only too late had he realized that they had his allies in mind.
"So..." Dor'ash said, teeth showing in a nasty grin. "We going back there?"
Sarah turned her face towards the window, smirking in the general direction of the Wailing Caverns.
"Rematch, bitch," she murmured.
"But no second helpings for you," Dor'ash added.
"... oh, fine."