"I want to know who fired that shot, and I want to know it now!"
Shouting was painful. Llorrin could feel blood tickling out of his wounds, making his bandages wet and sticky. Their irritating touch only served to rile his anger further.
Llorrin paced back and forth behind his desk, staring his subjects down. He couldn't recall having ever been this beside himself. The looks he was given told him his companions were as alienated by his anger as he was, but there was nothing he could do to help it. Chuth, Irewyth and Wheann all stared at him as though they no longer recognized him, and he was certain Carekon would have done the same if he were here. The only one who didn't seem to care was Jeredan, but that didn't come as a surprise. The bastard could count himself lucky Llorrin had more important things to do than having him be thrown overboard for disobeying orders.
It didn't come as a surprise that Chuth was the first to open his mouth.
"I'm tellin' ya son, Cap'n Adane's orders were clear! That... elf was tryin' ta escape, he must'a been lyin'! We need ta return!"
If looks could kill, Llorrin's eyes would have frozen Chuth and blasted him into a million pieces right where he stood. Llorrin had never felt so alone. He knew he could've expected this reaction, especially from Chuth. Only he knew why the druid had really fled, but who was going to believe a Naga warrior had actually spoken to him? Llorrin wished they could've taken one of the Naga alive to confirm what the Myrmidon had said, but they had all fled or died. He changed the subject.
"I want to know who fired that shot" Llorrin said coldly. "Was it you?"
Chuth's frown ran deeper than ever before, his eyes matching Llorrin's gaze. The sniper's jaw clenched.
"Does it even matter who shot 'im? Orders 'r orders and orders were t' shoot that bastard if he tried ta run, an' run he did."
Llorrin resisted the urge to punch Chuth. Narrowly. The look the sour marine Chuth had appointed as his second-in-command wasn't helping either.
"Why do you think they retreated as soon as Elduin hit the water? It was him they were after! He must have realized they were coming for him..."
Llorrin's voice caught in his throat.
Why didn't he tell me? He could have told me...
Wheann raised his hands diplomatically, stepping in between Llorrin and Chuth.
"Wait a moment, Llorrin. The Naga have attacked us before, what makes you so sure it was Elduin they were after?" he asked, cautiously.
You shouldn't even be here Llorrin thought as he looked at the half-elf. No doubt Irewyth had simply brought Wheann along to insult hm.
"One of the Myrmidons told me" he said, breaking eye contact. He realized how unconvincing that must have sounded. The face Irewyth made told him as much.
Chuth's eyes were wide with disbelief. "Are you insane, boy!"
It wasn't a question. Llorrin slammed his fists into his desk as he leaned closer to Chuth, knocking over his ink in the process. His wounds stung and he was certain his bandages must have turned bright red by this point.
"He did it to save us! He saved us all!" Llorrin insisted, his voice heavy with emotion. He experienced Irewyth's gaze upon like the edge of a knife upon his skin, but didn't care.
Chuth stepped closer defiantly and slammed a fist on the desk as well, raising his chin in an attempt to make up for his shorter height. Llorrin could feel the sniper's disgusting breathe against his skin, but didn't flinch.
"The only reason he tried ta escape, was because he saw an opportunity ta run! He was lyin'! We need ta call off this mission! We'd be disobeyin' orders if we don't! We'd be branded deserters!"
Llorrin could see it now. The man was terrified. The reason the sniper had never risen through the ranks during his time with the navy was all too clear to him now. Llorrin cursed himself for ever believing Chuth could change. Men like him were followers, unable to take decisions when it mattered. They lacked the mindset that allowed one to aspire to greatness. Llorrin suddenly felt very calm. He had nothing to fear from someone like that.
"I'm in command here, and I'll be the final judge of Elduin's intentions, and if you disobey my orders, I'll be the one to brand you as a deserter. You think I'd risk your lives if I wasn't so sure about this? We're not going back. We sail on" he said slowly, enjoying the sight of Chuth's face paling. He thought he saw Irewyth smile for a split second.
Chuth backed down a little, but didn't give up just yet.
"Ye let that druid poison yer mind, son. All yer interested in is yer own petty vengeance against ta Horde. Ye'll get us all killed in ta end" he growled.
Chuth's words no longer reached him like they used to. This was just like their old discussions, simply on a different scale of importance. The sniper just wouldn't listen to logic. He had assumed Chuth was as eager to face the Horde and avenge Daelin's death as he was, but right now it seemed to him Chuth simply wanted to oppose him out of spite, cowardice, or perhaps something else. Who could tell? Maybe it was just force of habit. Llorrin wondered what was stopping him from flogging the guy for insubordination right then and there.
"Commander Llorrin" Jeredan suddenly said, only right on time. The respectful way he addressed him was surprising enough to gain his attention.
"If this… dwarf doesn't want to follow your orders, I could always take over his job" he offered, looking down at Chuth with contempt.
Were it not that he had lost all faith in Jeredan since the battle with the Naga, Llorrin might have actually accepted that offer. Relieving Chuth of his office seemed like the logical thing to do at first, but doing so would mean admitting he had made a mistake to everyone, and most importantly, to Irewyth. Demoting someone who had otherwise been doing quite well at the first signs of defiance didn't seem like the kind of thing a strong leader would do, and Llorrin had to make sure to keep the crew on his side.
"I don't think that will be necessary, Jeredan. I'm sure Chuth and I understand each other perfectly" Llorrin said calmly, keeping his eyes on Chuth, who had begun to clench his fists, but at least kept his mouth shut.
Wheann tried to play the diplomat again.
"I'm not picking sides, but it's true you're taking a big risk here, Llorrin. Captain Adane won't be very happy if it turns out you were wrong. I hope you've thought this through."
"I have thought it through. Believe me. The course is set" Llorrin said, using one of captain Adane's sayings on purpose. Certainly acting more like him would instill some respect in his men. He sat down and gestured towards the doorway. Only then did he notice the ink stuck to his knuckles and desk. He sighed, realizing he shouldn't let his anger get the better of him like this, but anger was the one alternative he had had to bursting out in tears.
"Yer gonna regret this, son" Chuth promised, but his voice already seemed distant, insignificant. The sniper turned and left, quickly followed by his sour-looking cronie. Llorrin resisted the urge of throwing something at them.
Jeredan regarded him with a strange kind of respect before turning away, and Wheann looked worried above all as he stepped outside. He caught a glimpse of Irewyth's familiar smirk, but he couldn't tell whether it was meant to encourage or mock him.