The Farstrider outposts scattered across the Eastern Kingdoms had never been lavish, but Lor’themar could not remember when Quel’Lithien had ever looked so austere. A number of the walls were scored deeply from some sort of blade; the dark stains trod into the floorboards were surely blood. Yet the elves clearly took pride in the lodge’s keeping; the curtains, though worn, were carefully hemmed with even stitches. The ancient map of eastern Lordaeron nailed to the wall had been heavily annotated but in elegant script, with not so much as a single blot of ink upon its yellowed parchment. Looking upon these things, Lor’themar felt a strange hollow grow inside of him, as if he had rediscovered a forgotten lover’s letter. He had lived the life of a Farstrider scout, in a past that seemed so distant now as to be nothing but a dream.
Lor’themar took his seat across from Aurora. Renthar swept several scraps of bloodied leather armor off the narrow table before sitting next to her, and it almost made Lor’themar smile vaguely, the way they stared him down like judges at a tribunal.
At the top of the trail, nestled among the boulders and fading brush, the Quel’Lithien lodge rose in front of them. The fine wood had faded and pitted, undoubtedly due to the ravages of the plague, and the Farstriders had camouflaged its beams with rotting foliage. Lor’themar’s stomach pitched strangely as he looked upon the structure, and he tried not to think of the days when its surroundings had been green and his visits greeted with delighted shouts, not angry blades. Those days were lost.
He handed his hawkstrider over to one of the scouts; she collected it and set off to the stables, leaving him with a suspicious glare. One of the rangers who had stopped him on the trail had run ahead into the lodge. As Lor’themar watched, the scout returned, trailing two elves he had not seen in several years.