I found one of them killing spiders nearby. Tarenar was a tall, leggy blood elf, but overall tolerable, for a paladin. And a blood elf. The other fellow was a bit harder to locate - I tracked him all the way north along the coast, made easier to follow by the long path of still-twitching spider bodies. He had gotten himself into trouble and was trussed up in a web tighter than a debtor behind on his dues. I cut him loose and discovered a dwarf only a little taller than me. I practiced my Common with him until we reached Fiona's caravan, and then it was time to push off.
Turns out Tarenar's Common was better than mine, and he launched into an animated conversation with Gidwin - that's the dwarf - as soon as we were moving. I gave up trying to follow after a few minutes. Talk about an odd couple! Fiona knew a little bit of Orcish from her trading, so we cobbled together a conversation after some effort.
The paladin pair (I had taken to calling them Storky and Stumpy in my head by this point) took off just as soon as they could, practically frothing at the chance to kill more Scourge. I followed them for a while, but ended up doing some odd jobs in the area instead.
I returned to the tower just as Fiona was getting ready to leave. I don't think she would have left without me, but I'm glad I showed up at that time all the same. I couldn't imagine wandering through the putrid zone all by my onesies!
We followed what was left of the old royal road and for the most part avoided the sickly things that terrorize the forests, but it got a bit dicey when we went through Corin's Crossing. They tell me it used to be a wealthy trading town, but now it's little more than dilapidated houses and enterprising Scourge. They set upon us just as soon as we passed the first house, and to no one's surprise the paladin pair leaped into the fray and smote holy justice on everything they could reach. For my part, I climbed on top of the caravan and rained ice on the monsters to slow them and keep them from pursuing us.
Fiona was much easier to barter with after that little scrape. Who said brawling ain't good business sense? Her good mood also meant that she graciously translated what Storky and Stumpy were saying for my benefit. They talk big, and bicker constantly, but they're clearly good friends! Even Fiona looks after them, even though she's only just met them.
Argus spoke fluent Orcish, so we had a nice chat about the Crusade. He didn't try to sell it to me, not really, and I suspect they want only truly devoted members in their ranks, but I found myself impressed with his speech anyway. When we arrived at Light's Hope, I headed to the Chapel and met up with the paladins. Coasting on their collective excitement, I pledged to help out the Crusade, and before long we were killing Scourge in a nearby village.
Things went into the red when Tarenar wanted to take a detour. I didn't think anything of it and went along, but when we returned from our expedition Gidwin had ran on ahead, alone and into the heart of a Scourge town! We followed him, but all we could find were signs of a struggle and Gidwin's abandoned prayerbook. The look on Tarenar's face...he looked like he'd lost a fortune. We met Fiona and Argus at the nearest tower, and Argus advised us to search the Plaguewood and Stratholme. Fiona whipped the horses up and we raced to the tower on the edge of the Plaguewood.
Tarenar argued with Fiona in Common, berated himself in Orcish, and muttered to himself in Thalassian so quietly that we couldn't hope to understand. He vaulted off the wagon before we had even arrived at the watchtower and tore into the trees, looking for Scourge to slaughter. At Argus' suggestion, I searched the nearby Scourge outposts and managed to beat some information out of the engineers I found there. Then I went into the Plaguewood, looking for Tarenar.
If I thought just being in the Plaguelands was stomach-turningly disgusting, the Plaguewood was worse. The stench of rotting is like a physical barrier and half the time I felt as if I were slogging through soup. The plants are striped with mold and beaded with a thick, blood-like sweat. My boots may never be clean. I followed the path to Stratholme, trying to avoid Scourge patrols that might sound an alarm. Tarenar was just outside the bridge leading to the overrun city, surrounded by an impressive mountain of skeletons and dessicated flesh. He looked torn between rage and despair and couldn't stop pacing, so I told him what I had learned right away.
The scene was comically incongruous, but also oddly intimate, so I silently excused myself and met them outside. Gidwin was walking very slowly, having been marched to the Plaguewood and held without food, but between me and Tarenar we got him safely back to the tower. Fiona knelt to hug him - I don't suppose she can lift a full grown dwarf in plate mail. Frankly, neither can I.
Tarenar packed Gidwin into the wagon soon after, insisting that Gidwin needed to rest at Light's Hope. If he looked like he lost a fortune before, now he looked like he had made back triple his investment. Argus asked me to escort him to the final tower for his repairwork, so Gidwin lent me his hearthstone so I could return quickly to Light's Hope and meet up with them.