Albatros Bits

Forums

 FAQFAQ   SearchSearch   MemberlistMemberlist   UsergroupsUsergroups   RegisterRegister 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 

Divine
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next
 
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Albatros Bits Forum Index -> The Writers' Nest
View previous topic :: View next topic  
Author Message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Fri Jul 20, 2007 11:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yet life went on. Hoof camp was never easy, but as time passed, it became less brutally difficult. I felt my body, once unable to perform the requested tasks, merely violently protesting. I became stronger, and while I never would succeed as Ragth did, my muscles became more toned, larger, and my endurance increased substantially.

And Ragth. Always Ragth. While I failed less miserably as time went on, he succeeded grandly. His already massive frame came to support so much muscle that it almost seemed as though his body would collapse under its weight, except that the extra weight contributed to his fortitude. No task seemed too hard for him. While the Tauren who we trained with would only do slightly better than I, he would soar ahead. Not even Tuáne’s reassigned animosity could stop him. Tuáne had become bored with me after I stopped crying when he shouted obscenities at me. Instead, he directed his efforts to devising the most devilishly difficult tasks for Ragth, none of which seemed to bother the huge Gnoll one bit. Tuáne seemed to become more obsessed with defeating Ragth at every foiled attempt.

And then Hoof camp came to a spectacular end. Our final task, one which would make the others shiver and run away with their tail’s tucked beneath their legs. We would make the assent from the ground of Mulgore to the top of Thunder Bluff, without using the lift, or any other tool than our strength and wits. We were brought to the site fo the first assent of thunder bluff. Seemingly no different from the rest of the cliff, except for generations worth of notches cut into the stone by Tauren trainees who had the handicap of having hooves instead of feet or paws. In order to pass the test each potential brave, or in our case valiant, had to find their own path up, without taking advantage of the ladder like notches cut by previous attempts.

And so Ragth and I began to climb. The cliff was surprisingly textured, providing decent hand holds as we went up. Nevertheless it was difficult. No particular part was more difficult thatn the others, yet climbing hundreds of feet into the sky with nothing to prevent your death if you should fall is exhausting, mentally and physically. As we crawled slowly upwards, I realized that I would have been absolutely unable to make it had I not been through hoof camp. I wondered at the tenacity of the ancestors of these Tauren. Their lives could not have been that different from Gnolls originally. And yet no Gnolls had ever made such an attempt. Gnolls had been content to sit in their hovels in the woods. Something, desperation, or perhaps inspiration, had driven these Bovine creatures to seek the safety of the sky.

Time passed slowly. Ragth and I moved ever upward. And imperceptibly, glacially, the top moved closer. Ragth seemed to be taking his time, he would frequently turn and admire the view behind him, the wide open space that beckoned a quick death. It was as if he had no fear that he would fall, or even that he would tire.

I, on the other hand, was keenly aware of my diminishing strength. I pressed on, not allowing the ravenous space behind to distract me. And slowly I pulled ahead of Ragth, desperation fueling my speed.

Yet Nature seemed to be on my side. The wind seemed almost to push me upwards, and it seemed as though the path that I had chosen had more trees and bushes stubbornly jutting from the rock face. Their tough roots and branches provided more support than simple cracks in the rocks. And with their help, I kept going. Muscles protesting, I simply kept climbimg, refusing to allow this cliff be my end.

And then, miraculously, the top seemed within reach. Ragth was perhaps five – ten feet below me, as the end came into sight mere yards away. My muscles burned, but I was going to make it. My fingers clamped onto the top ledge and I began to haul myself up.

And then I heard his voice.

“Oh, so you managed to make it all the way to the top. So sad that you wont be able to enjoy your victory.”

Tuáne towered above me standing directly in my path, hoof poised directly above my hand, ready to send me spiraling into space.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Oh, I’m sorry. Am I In your way? Let me move.” His hoof came down and slowly ground into my fingers. I tried to scramble up quickly but as I made to move he began to put more pressure on my hand. I cried out.

Ragth, Feet below me still looked up and saw what was happening. His body tensed, shifting his weight to his lower paws. And then He launched himself upward. I watched in disbelief as his shadow slowly slid up the remaining stretch of cliff.

Suddenly the weight disappeared from my hand. I gazed up, dazed by what I saw. Tuáne, who had a moment before been about to send me into the yawning sky was now suspended out over empty air. Ragth’s hands were wrapped around the Tauren’s neck. I heard Ragth speak in a coarse voice, brimming with rage, labored and broken. “You… you will not hurt us again.”

His hands still on Tuáne’s neck, Ragth looked around to see if anyone was watching. “Made sure there were no witnesses when you killed us? Your mistake.”

Ragth let go. Tuáne’s body flew by me as he plummeted toward the earth below. I closed my eyes, unable, or unwilling to process what had just happened. A heart beat. Two. Three. Four. How had he not hit the- and then the sickening thump, A body broken by the unforgiving ground.

Detachedly I felt Ragth grab my arm and haul me up. I heard him call for help from the braves. A group of Tauren answered the call and rushed to the edge of the cliff to look down at the crushed corpse below. They asked urgently what had happened. His response was shocking.

“It is a tragedy. As we reached the top Tuáne reached down to help pull us up. However, as he leaned to offer his hand he lost his balance, and toppled over the cliff. Instinctively I reached out and caught his hand. Yet I was being pulled off of the rock face by our combined weight. Tuáne saw this as well. He looked into my eyes briefly, and I could see an iron resolve shining their. He voluntarily let go to let me live. I owe Tuáne my continued breath.”

The Braves looked to me to confirm his story, and it was all I could do to nod numbly. I couldn’t possibly contradict him, it would likely lead to both of our deaths. What he had just done was despicable, yet the more I thought about it the more paralyzed I was with its ambiguities. My view of the world and events going on around me for the next few minutes was dimmed, my thoughts turned inward trying to make sense of what had just happened.

It was increadible. Ragth’s actions alone, without his sudden bout of deceit, were enough to awe and confuse. He had leapt, nearly eight feet to the top of the cliff, stood up and hung Tuáne out over the cliff by his neck, in less time than it had taken Tuáne to react. And while I still struggled to process his outrageous and impossible abilities, I was also conflicted about Tuáne’s death.

Tuáne had been moments away from killing me. Yet I wasn’t sure that I agreed with what Ragth had done. Perhaps it was shock from the nearness of my end, and the sudden reversal of fate, but I felt pity and sorrow for Tuáne. Rul had said that Tuáne was a friend, a hard Tauren to please, but a loyal friend if won over. Had his estimation been so far off? Or had their been something deeper than petty prejudice behind his hatred.

But all this thought was made trivial by what Ragth had said. I would have to pretend that the Tauren, who had moments before been prepared to kill me, was some kind of hero. What was he trying to do? Perhaps he wished to decrease animosity by others who might disapprove of aliens in their capitol city, yet such a story would also increase dark rumors, which already followed us. The trial had not won everyone’s hearts, and neither this story, nor the truth would help. Yet as many times as I asked Ragth later, I never learned the answer. His motivations were an enigma. His thoughts, a shadowy specter dancing behind the scenes.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The next few days past in a blur. There was a hasty memorial for my would-be murderer. Thankfully most people mistook my confused moods with deep mourning. Most left well enough alone, except for Rul. He took it upon himself to comfort me, yet his inability to understand my situation made his words do more damage than healing. Phrases such as, “He was a good Tauren, he will be going to the Golden Plain.” served only to remind me just how deluded most of Thunder Bluff was. At the funeral Ragth and I sat in the front, next to the mourning family. Uncomfortable, to say the least.

But, when the immediate “tragedy” had passed from most people’s minds, Ragth and I were thrust into our training again. Hoof camp had concluded in spectacular fashion. And so we were to be assigned to our professions. This was the part that I had feared, even more than the impossible physical tasks of Hoof Camp.

As I entered the Elder’s tent to be tested, my stomach rolled around, upset by an imaginary ocean. Ragth followed behind me, showing nerves for the first time since I had met him. His calm had cracked, and the feral wolf that had reared its head briefly before the trial could be seen just under the surface. If Ragth, who was as natural warrior as had ever been born, was worried then what was in store for me?

It turned out to be both far more nerve wracking and far less painful than I had expected. The Tauren had put generations of Braves and overly eager calves who fancied themselves adventurers through the tests finding their abilities and skills. Each group had a testing station, and after a quick test, where we were rated on a scale of one to ten we were assigned a class in the new army.

Ragth went first. He positively failed every test that included spell casting, except for the Forsaken priest, who gave him a sympathy point for his self healing abilities. A troll told him that he had surprising aptitude for stealth, despite his immense size. The hunters drooled over his fighting prowess, and he displayed some natural affinity with animals, though not to really warrant dedication to the class. His score on the Warrior test was undoubted though. The judge bellowed out ten before Ragth had finished his first display of strength and fighting prowess. He was welcomed into the ranks of the warriors, the pride of Thunder Bluff.

Then it was my turn. I was able to choose the sequence of the tests myself. I intentionally avoided the spellcasters. I had no ability to command any forces with my mind. Why even try? So I went first to the station where Ragth had so positively succeeded.

Four.

My heart sank. A minimum of seven was required to warrant acceptance.
I walked to the rogue station. The troll tester grinned at me, eyes seeming to glow with a spark unrelated to the sunlight streaming into the windows. He made me nervous. I passed through a series of obstacles testing my dexterity. Other such tasks followed.

Six.

Better. Six warranted a retrial should no other class be suited to my skills.

With a bit more hope I walked to the hunters testing station. My skill with ranged weapons was pathetic, though they insisted that it could be trained, and was the least important skill to have naturally. My ability to create and evade traps was average. Yet my fortunes turned when I was told to interact with an animal companion. The owl presented sat contentedly on my arm, allowed me to feed it, and even would respond to basic commands. In that regard I was a natural. So what did they equal all totaled?

Six.

A second chance would be given.

The non magical options exhausted, I moved to the priest test. – Two – Seemed that my connection to the divine was not as strong as could be hoped. Yet I had expected as much. I had never had any intervention from any celestial forces, Ragth excluded.

I moved hopefully to the Shaman station. Following Rul’s path appealed to me, even if I didn’t believe I had any strength in the art. Unfortunately, the spirits agreed with my estimation of my abilities. In trying to light a log on fire I nearly burned down the tent. – Three – Again, no surprise, yet some disappointment this time.

My final two possible paths remained. I pursued magecraft first, knowing full well that I would fail. The result of tapping into arcane energies was even more disastrous than the spiritual energies. All then that remained was druid test. It was this station that sparked in me some secret hope. I was a creature of the forest. Perhaps the Gnolls had not found the path of the druids, but our lives never separated us from the wilds.

Yet the test made my spirits sink. The concept was the same as all other spellcasting stations. I was told to put some mystical natural energy into a flower that had been attuned to druidic energies. Every bit that it grew gave me a point. The instructor told me to put my “Soul into the fabric of the flower.” And so I tried.

At first I felt nothing. The flower sat sadly, reacting none at all. The slowly I felt it. A trickle. My fears and worries, my sadness, my love, my everything flowed into the flower. Just a bit. My very essence seemed to reach out to the flower sitting plaintively before me. And it grew. At first just a quiver, that could have been mistaken. Then the whole flower shook. Its stem contorted and began to stretch. Little leaves sprouted on the sides. The petals of the flower grew, gaining vibrancy and color as it did. It grew until a couple inches. I looked hopefully into the eyes of the druid standing next to me. He looked thoughtful He announced my score with vigor.

Seven.

felt myself release my breath. I had made it. I had made it! My joy welled up within me. And I felt the connection between me and the flower respond. The plant swelled, the pink of the petals became deeper, tinged with a dark red near the center. A new bud appeared slightly below the head of the flower and immediately bloomed, bursting into another flower head, just as vibrant as the first.

The Instructors eyes widened. He stammered… “I – I removed the attunement. That growth was all yours. I stand corrected.”

Eight.

My mind reeled. Not only had I passed the test, But I was well suited for it. I would never be the Ragth of druidism, but I was fine with that. The relief was a bit too much for me. I promptly feinted.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And so I truly began my training. It began with a week long history lesson on druidic tradition. Most of it washed over me, leaving me with only a general impression of its importance. Yet near the end the things I learned began to mesh with my knowledge in other areas such as the importance of druidism in the third war. One of the things that I found most fascinating was that druidism, despite such cataclysmic events, was actually on the rise.

There were many theories as to why nature magic would become more prominent, ranging from the far fetched: nature magic was becoming stronger to counteract the forces of technology entering the world, to the widely accepted: that the destruction of the world tree freed much concentrated druidic energy into the world. Druids who scored ten on the ability test were assumed to be natural born druids, meaning that even without any training either they would gain some basic control over nature’s magic, or the would accidentally destroy themselves.

The knowledge that I was a druid of fair potential was surrprising, but also explained some of the recent events in my life. Had I not, just weeks before felt strands of energy holding the lift system together? I had dismissed it as my imagination, but if I had innate talent, it would make sense that such a concentrated use of druidic power would attract my notice.

Similarly, only days before, on the final trial of Hoof Camp, I had wondered at my good fortunes in choosing a path. It had seemed then that my chosen path had more plants to use as hand holds that Ragth’s course. And even the wind seemed to slightly push me upward. It was conceivable that in my distress I had tapped into some hidden strength deep within my soul, causing nature itself to help me in my trial.

The self conscious worry I had before being assigned a class melted away into an undefined pride. I felt as though I was glowing all through the historical lesson on druidism.

Then my training progressed into the more applicable exercises. We began with meditation, a practice that my two fellow trainees complained about constantly, but that brought me a wonderful peaceful emptiness. We learned the basic dogma of druidism. Respect all life. It was a mantra that would permeate all my training after. Intellectual exercises were introduced to drive home the point.

Should I decide to build a home for myself what would the consequences be? The obvious answer was the wood that I would have to consume in order to build the structure. Yet as I continued to think on it the more I realized that it went far beyond that. In building the foundation I would undoubtedly kill or displace thousands of earthbound insects. And their deaths would have a minor, but very real impact on the food chain above them.

Further Should I build my home on the bank of a river to help provide with water and food the consequences could be even clearer. Without careful planning my little plot of land could actually be destroying the nest of some bird, or other animal. And always there was an effect on vegetation.

Respect All Life.

The point of such intellectual explorations was not to discourage one from building a home. On the contrary, if one followed such logic to an end one would end up completely unable to act in any way for fear of destroying life. Yet to do nothing is to accept death, which is ultimately a great contradiction. Instead, the point of such thinking is to keep one mindful of his or her actions. In all things, thought and consideration are required.

Respect All Life.

When the druids believed that we, as a class had adequately learned the value of meditation and hypothetical exercises, we moved on. We began learning the theoretical concepts behind druidism. At this point the grumblings of my two peers became downright mutinous. They wished to recreate their bodies as animals, inspire plants to grow, or to heal grievous wounds; reading out of books on the fundamentals of druidic magic was not what they had in mind when they joined the ranks. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. It gave me reason to learn to read, without any other excuse to interrupt me. Though I clearly had to work many times harder than my fellow trainees, I found it rewarding, if at times difficult.

The basic theory behind druidism was that Nature, which does just fine on its own, cannot protect itself from the whims of sentient beings. The many races of the world unwittingly destroy nature for their own ends. Nature’s response is endowing some select members of the conscious races with its strength. The druids’ first call is to protect nature. National ties and loyalties come second. Though, druids are frequently pressured to reverse these priorities.

Respect All Life.

These fundamentals were hard to learn, though recanting them now is easy. For my peers especially, though I was certainly not immune, it was easy to slip into thinking of nature as a tool rather than as our ward. It is much easier to prioritize nature before nation and self on paper, and much more difficult in practice.

Yet we did finally grasp these concepts. And then, weeks into our training, we finally began to learn nature’s magic. It was a slow process. We began with simple things, such as making flowers grow. My peers and I struggled to do this without the aid of a druid. The flower that we had used in the test had been attuned to druidic energy. Flowers that were less able to absorb as much magic as possible were much harder to deal with. Within a couple of weeks I and my peers were able to consistently and easily make flowers double in size, bloom more vibrantly and expand their root system to its maximum. It became an exercise in repetition.

Eventually we no longer needed to even concentrate on the specifics to perform such magic. At first I had to slowly extend my consciousness to the plant and then feed it energy. My soul, I was told, acted as a conduit for nature’s magic. Because druids were instruments of the world’s magic our soul would naturally collect energy from the air around us to be used later. Yet soon I would barely give the flower a though, and would only expend the slightest energy to make the flowers grow. It was at this point that my teachers decided that it was time for my peers and me to be assigned to personal tutors to maximize our growth. I was pleasantly surprised to realize who they had assigned to my training. Sal, the healer, was to help me continue with my studies.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The events of my training did not occur in a void. I was absorbed in my studies, to be sure, yet other important events were in progress. The first and the one I remember most regretfully was my gradual drifting away from Rul. He had noticed my dour moods when he mentioned Tuané. Somehow, though, he interpreted my confusion and anger as being directed at him. We met less frequently and ceased discussing Ragth and his peculiarities. Our interactions became sporadic, and cordial. Had I not been so absorbed in my studies at the time I likely would have spiraled into a lonely depression, as I had almost done on many occasions in the past. Instead I focused on my training, and began spending more time with Ragth.

Ragth had settled in nicely to his life in Thunder Bluff. He was well respected amongst the warriors of the city, and in general he was seen as some bizarre hero. Only occasionally did he face any sort of racism, and he was more than capable of dealing with any threats. His training was going far better than my own. His instructors had immediately given him his own tutor, realizing that no upcoming warrior since Baine could possibly match Ragth’s fighting prowess. Instead Raght was assigned to General Skywind. The stalwart commander of Thunder Bluff’s defenses, Skywind had found himself with little to do because of the Scourge’s lack of action.

Skywind was nearly as large as Baine, and carried innumerable scars on his hide. Wielding his dual great axes, either one large enough for most warriors, he had beaten back Centaur invasion and alliance incursion at Cairne Bloodhoof’s side. This national hero had taken it upon himself to turn Ragth into the fighting machine that he had the potential to be. Ragth was putting in more hours than any other trainee among any of the army classes and improved in his already intimidating fighting faster than seemed possible. He was at first reluctant to use any weapon other than his own claws, yet after being beaten to the ground in a practice bout with Skywind he relented. And soon any weapon would come to life in his hands.

Yet, surprisingly his weapon of choice was the spear. It lacked the brute force of many other available weapons available, yet Ragth could provide plenty of force on his own without needing weight to supply more. And something about the simple design, a blade on the end of a long pole, spurred his fighting to create its own eloquence. When wielding it he danced to a deadly song.

We would discuss our training, his physically exhausting, mine mentally. And then we would move onto other subjects. He saw Baine one day, who saluted him then walked away without a word. Another day I had accidentally expanded a plant to a dangerous size, and the ceramic pot that held it shattered. Our lives had become very separate in our activities, but the challenges we faced somehow felt the same. I told him of my falling out with Rul, whom he had stayed close with, and he assured me that eventually things would get better. Occasionally I would make the mistake of asking about the events on the cliffs, and he would give me a stern look before changing the subject. Yet for the most part we became closer.

When I was not training or talking with Ragth, I would frequently walk along the plains of mulgore, enjoying the nature, of which I began to understand more. However, I would occasionally spend time in the library for reasons not druid related. After a few weeks of intense training I was able to read at a decent level, and books helped stretch my ever expanding vocabulary.

I began reading a book on the history of shamanism, how it had begun on the now twisted world of Draenor, though the connection of spirits and land was transferred to the lush world of Azeroth after the failure of the Orcish invasion. The Draenei fled to Azeroth later and were quickly integrated into the Alliance. The goals of shamanism were similar to druidism, though not the same. Druids serve nature as a whole, whereas shamans call on the spirits of natural beings and elemental forces to do their bidding. Shamans tend for nature, but only so much as it is required to make it do their bidding.

One interesting note within the book was the ways in which shamans gain power. The spirits listen to shamans for two reasons. First if it is in the spirits own interest. And second if the shaman has enough will power to bend the spirit in question to do his or her bidding. The shamans gain power by gaining the spirit’s fear and respect. It contrasted this with druidic magic, which grows as the druids do more to help nature. Thus though I was becoming more able to do nature magic because I was gaining more experience, I was also likely growing stronger as a reward for aiding natures growth durring my training.

While I was consuming this book, which I found astounding in its implications, I would occasionally run into Ragth in the library, which quite frankly surprised me. He, like me, was consuming an old dusty tome. He seemed irritated when I asked what the book was, though when he showed it to me it meant nothing. It was written in Old Taurhe. Though I had learned Taurhe from Rul months before, it was a completely different language. I could pick out a few words, but most meant nothing. He refused to tell me its subject and got angry when I pressed him. From then on when I saw Ragth reading in the library, I would leave him alone. His mood when he was reading that book, and many others like it, was similar to that of before the trial. His wolfish features became more pronounced, and he looked ready to tear someone’s throat out should he be interrupted.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."


Last edited by Keltor on Sat Aug 18, 2007 6:08 pm; edited 2 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sat Aug 18, 2007 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ragth’s occasional mysteries aside, everything seemed to be going smoothly. Skywind was honing Ragth into a razor sharp blade with remarkable speed. And Sal’s teachings had accelerated my training quite a bit. I was catching up with many druids who had been training longer than I. I learned how to heal decently serious wounds. I was able to call on the forces of nature to defend me. And most stunningly, at least for me, I learned to reshape my body in the image of nature’s creatures.

This shape shifting was the most difficult for me. Its principal methods of thought were so alien that I struggled. Unlike most nature magic, which only required knowledge of what of what you were trying to do and an empathy for the subject of the spell, shape shifting required that you think like the animal you were trying to be. A bear needed to understand its brute strength to survive, to know its place in the world. The greatest joys in life were fresh trout from a stream, a fallen bee hive, or the warm meat of a fresh kill. To undergo a complete transformation I needed to forget my humanoid pretensions. I had, at least for a moment, to understand that my only place in life was to survive, and make more little bears.

The process of molding your mind to mirror that of another being’s was difficult to understand at first. However, I seemed, even in this hardest of druid skills, to have a leg up on my peers. Unlike them I was first a being of the wilds, and second a beast of civilization. Gnolls are less removed from nature than most beings. Our tribes have their hierarchy, and some rudimentary magic, but ultimately no pretensions beyond surviving. And so, after a few months of training I was able to seamlessly shift into an animal with hardly a thought. Unlike so many of the tauren around me, I had no remnants of my previous form after shifting. I had no horns to retain. My being was wild, and so was my form.

And so Sal’s teaching came to an end. He had, in months, imparted much knowledge. I had mastered nearly all spells commonly known to the druids, and continued to grow in strength and knowledge on my own.

Sal, who had remained mostly reserved throughout my training, approached me one day. “You’ve done well girl. You may not be the best, but you do well with your means. You may be a better healer than I in time, and do a well in most things. Your animal forms especially are rather impressive. I just want to thank you. It was an honor to be your mentor as you joined our ranks.”

I was unsure how to respond. What did he have to be thanking me for? This was a druid of many years, greatly respected, and greatly learned, and here he was, thanking me, a druid of only months with no particular talent. “I… I don’t know quite what to say.” I stammered, which was more truthful than any other response that came to mind. “Your training has been incredibly helpful. I wouldn’t be where I am without it. And you do yourself a disservice (by this time my vocabulary had come to resemble that of the academics and druids around me) if you believe that I will ever be able to heal as well as you. Words cannot express how much your work means to me.”

Sal nodded, though he seemed to think that what I had said had come from false humility rather than bottomless gratitude. “You will do all right I think, even without my help from here.” he said with a smirk. “You have the right stuff to go far, and what with that oversized body guard you have with you most of the time, I can’t see much getting in your way. Good luck.”

He turned to leave and a sudden thought coursed through my mind. “One last thing,” I said as he began to walk away. “I meant what I said, though I maybe didn’t express it right. What I should have said was this. Your training has been helpful, but your teaching is irreplaceable. I owe nearly all of my power to you, and I will never be as good a druid as you. You vouched for me and Ragth when no one else dared raise a word in defense for us. Your wisdom outshines anything I could hope to achieve. And I hope that you understand how much your efforts mean to me.”

He stopped, briefly, but did not turn around. His head fell, and I heard him speak in a whisper, “You give me too much credit. I simply do my part to atone for the sins of ones such as Baine and Tuané.” And with those words he left. Leaving no indication as to how he learned the truth of Tuané’s fall.

Ragth had succeeded far more wildly than I. He had been fast tracked into tactical training to be a general in the new army. And his fighting was otherworldly. Skywind could rarely land a blow on Ragth by the end of his training, and even Baine had no real chance in a duel. It took a minimum of five fully trained warriors to subdue Ragth, and even then they would have to get lucky. He was, quite possibly, the most able warrior ever. Historical accounts that documented Thralls fighting prowess in his prime could not even boast such results. And upon completing his training with full honors Baine had presented Ragth with the Wyrmfang. An ancient spear fashioned from a tooth stolen from Deathwing himself: a national treasure given by a former accuser to the rising star of Thunder Bluff.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our training was over. Normally this would be time for relaxation and celebration, but suddenly everything went horribly wrong. The hammer hit the anvil and the ringing resounded through the entire world. The scourge, which had seemed dormant, began their invasion with as little explanation for starting as they had for waiting. Reports of all types flooded in at first, some wild and impossible and others overly skeptical. Ragth, as the newest general in the army, was privy to almost all of the information and relayed it to me.

Eventually the hysteria faded to a dull roar. Reports of the horrors continued to flood in daily, but over time they gained a certain consistency. The invasion had begun, not in the northlands near old Lordaeron as had been expected, but rather in Winterfall. The scourge had stormed into the frigid land that so closely mimicked its homeland. Once washing over this province the had moved into the lands of Felwood.

Felwood had only recently been restored. Druids from both the horde and alliance had worked for decades to remove the demonic taint from the land. Eventually, with the help of local furbolgs, they had succeeded. While the land remained scarred, the new wildlife and plants were untainted. The rivers, which had previously flowed as a sticky green ichor had been converted into murky, but serviceable water. And the scourge undid decades of work in weeks. As a druid, this news was particularly troubling to me. This was no petty squabble between races. This was a matter of life and death, for all creatures, regardless of allegiance.

But I felt helpless. I was just an average druid. Suddenly the disparity of skills between Ragth and I came crashing home. It had never bothered me before, but with the recent turn of events I realized just how different our roles were. I was a soldier. He was a general.

It seemed likely that Ragth would soon use Wyrmslayer in battle, leading the Tauren under his command into battle. I would be led by some other druid, and would have only a marginal effect against the undead. It seemed unfair. I was the one with an understanding of how best to fix the world. I had nature’s wisdom. And yet it was Ragth who would make decisions.

And I began to see my own role in the war in a very different light. I needed to be a soldier, yes, but I needed to be a friend to Ragth first. Helping him discern right from wrong, and know what to do in difficult times.

Looking back such an attitude seems manipulative, but at the time it seemed right. So I grafted myself to his side. I was with him whenever I could be. I was determined to be nature’s advocate. Yet it was that decision, making myself close to Ragth, which led my life spiraling out of control.

A couple months after the initial scourge invasion the Horde and the Alliance, working together again for the first time since the third war, began their counter offensives. The Tauren joined with Orcs and Night Elves to assault the new undead Stronghold in Felwood. Ragth and I shipped out with the other recently recruited Valiants as well as some of the Braves.

After a few days ride on kodoback we arrived at Astranaar, which would be the seat of our combined counter offensive. I had read of Night Elves in my druidic history, but had never before seen one. They were impressive, graceful creatures, though something in them seemed weary, as though some unseen force were slowly grinding them down.

Their magic city, which was a strange mix of trees coaxed into assuming the shapes of buildings, and the harsher built modern buildings. Glowing balls of energy (which I was informed were the souls of Night Elves) floated around lazily while Elves hurried in their preparations for war.

The Tauren had set up camp just outside the city and all the warriors were holding their breath waiting for the generals to decide on a course of action. Our travel tents were bare of decoration, giving the camp a harsh, practical feel.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Sun Oct 28, 2007 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And then it was time. The battle was to begin. We were gathered together as the plan was explained. The Night Elves, who knew the surrounding area best, would lead the first strike. After breaking through the initial defenses the Orcs and Tauren would follow. We would plow our way to southern Felwood, where refugees had reported seeing a citadel being built. While we had little chance of defeating the Undead in the area, the hope was that we would be able to cause enough damage to delay an invasion until reinforcements from the eastern kingdoms could arrive. It was hit and run. Destroy what we could, then retreat to minimize losses as much as possible.

We rode. The initial phase of the plan worked. The night elves were able to use their affinity and familiarity with the woods to harass the undead at the border and lead a number of them into an ambush. After the ambush, the remaining undead who acted as a whole, eerily moving together without command, began to retreat to the fortifications at the border, but were unprepared for an onslaught of Orcs and Tauren. The tall spires, with ominous spikes jutting out at improbable angles showed our forces little resistance as wave after wave of warriors poured over them. Orc warlocks cursed the undead forces while shamans from both races called on the elements. Druids waited in the back and served mostly as healers, though those with animal affinities were seen charging through the ranks of undead, horns proudly protruding from snarling bear heads. Within minutes the border was overrun. The undead lay in piles being burned by peons. I had seen no action, though had healed a couple minor wounds. Ragth on the other hand had ripped apart dozens of skeletal warriors.

Then we mounted up. Ragth lead from a huge, armored gray Kodo. I followed on wolfback, in Orc fashion, with the rest of the army. We poured over the countryside, which was hauntingly silent. The ground under my wolf’s paws was dried and cracked, like all moisture and life had been drained out. Any grass or vegetation that existed had turned a strange grey brown due to a similar absence of life. Yet no Undead forces were present. The occasional plagued wolf would attack, but would be put down before it would even reach our forces.

As we passed the dead corpses of wild animals, I was shocked to see the amount of decay that the plague had already brought them. Wolves had segments of fur and hide pulled back, hanging limply at their sides. The removed hide exposed sickly pale red muscle that reeked of death. And the wolves muzzles were locked into hideous snarls that expressed extreme agony and rage. I wondered at the power that could do this to an animal in such a short period of time. It was no surprise that it had taken the druids two generations to repair the damage caused by the first invasion. No life was left where the Undead had passed. The work that had been done in Felwood had not been purifying the existing life, it was transplanting and reincarnating a whole forest.

We rode on. Our forces became more and more agitated as only dead land greeted our eyes as we continued on. There was no sign of scourge activity, and only rare encounters with plagued animals reminded us that we were anywhere but a barren wasteland. Eventually, our mounts were exhausted from hours of running. We camped for the night. This far north the difference between day and night was slim. It consisted only of a slight darkening of the already grey sky. Our camp was surrounded by gloomy pin pricks of light from the sentries’ torches.

I set up my tent next to Ragth’s. Neither of us were particularly in the mood for speech, a sentiment seemingly shared by the rest of the army which remained as silent as the land around us. We both retired as quickly as we could, though I don’t think either of us slept. The wind that whistled harshly outside my tent throughout the night and the unearthly howls made by decayed throats made sleep unattractive.

The next day we returned to the chase. It was an ominously empty day once more. Ragth and the other commanders began to wonder if the scourge hadn’t anticipated such action and consolidated forces at the border of Winterfall. The only entrance between the two regions was a small cave that could be almost indefinitely held, especially by an enemy immune to the starvation that a long term siege would bring. Such action by the scourge, while not helpful for an invasion would make their position in Winterfall unassailable.

On the final day of our ride signs of the scourge reappeared. No soldiers, but spidery buildings jutted from the ground. The scourge had been here, but they were all gone. Fear of the entrenchment by Winterfall continued to grow. As we reached the incline that leads to the caves that bridged the two regions the tension was palpable. Our exhausted mounts were left behind as we continued on foot. We climbed. Although it was a rather small distance, the fear that a horde of Scourge soldiers could appear at any time made it stretch far beyond the actual space.

And then we were there. The cave yawned expectantly before us. The first grunts crawled tentatively forward. Then we pushed forward. The cave swallowed me in darkness, and only the constant push of people on all sides kept me going as I continued. We pressed onward spreading through the caves. We found no sign of the native Furbolgs who had inhabited the caves, but no sign of undead either.

Days later as our forces spread through Winterfall, still finding no scourge soldiers, we realized the frightening reality. The invasion of Kalimdor had been a feint, and an effective one at that. The live forces of Kalimdor had spent weeks in preparation for a counter offensive, and had given no thought to the eastern kingdoms. Many generals and commanders fatalistically thought that the fight was likely already lost there, and that we should take the time given by the scourge’s invasion plans to fortify our positions. I counseled Ragth otherwise. The world needed our saving, not just the sentient races. My ride through Felwood had emphasized that. Nature couldn’t recover if the entire eastern continent were killed. He agreed, though he was only one voice among many. It was decided in war council that each race would return to it’s province and fortify, and be ready to aid another when the invasion should come. I prayed that Nature would forgive us.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Thu Dec 20, 2007 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both Winterfall and Felwood were ravaged beyond quick repair, so the druids and I returned to Thunder Bluff with the rest of the Tauren forces. It felt strange to think of the Tauren city as my home, but nothing else fit either. I resigned myself to helping with the fortifications of Thunder Bluff. The druids and shamans were working together to discover a way to rig the lift system not to work for any undead, thought the forsaken inhabitants of the city were less than pleased.

Meanwhile I continued to talk to Ragth about the needs of nature. He was far more sympathetic than I had expected him to be, almost as though he had been feeling pushed away from the standard military hard line. However that didn’t make sense. He was more ingrained into the Valients and Braves than anyone but his mentor, General Skywind. And he carried Wrymfang with him at all times, as though his life depended on it. His life revolved around his position as a general, and I couldn’t understand why, despite it, he seemed almost hostile to the combined forces of the Alliance and the Horde.

Soon after returning to Thunder Bluff I asked him about his feelings on the alliance. We were standing in his personal training yard alone, and though he said more than usual, the conversation was less that satisfactory.

“Strategically, teaming up with the Alliance and fortifying our position is the soundest plan. What of it?” He said in response.

I faltered, expecting him to give a little bit more. “I mean… why do you seem so cool to the idea, if it is, as you say, the best plan?

He gave me a wide grin that didn’t quite glimmer in his eyes and said, “It’s like you have been telling me, just because it is the soundest decision doesn’t mean it’s the right one. Nature, and generations of descendants will not forgive us if the world dies around us. Why are you so curious? Aren’t you the one who has been trying to make me feel this way?”

“Well yes,” I said tentatively, trying to avoid eye contact, “But you have never been the type to take advice. Rul…” I paused shaking off uncomfortable and conflicting feelings about the old Tauren, “Rul always gave you the best advice, but that never made you listen to him. Remember his advice at the trial? I mean, you won, but if you had listened to him there would have been no doubt. And Skywind is always telling you how to fight better, and you only half listen to him.”

At the mention of Skywind’s name Ragth began to absentmindedly perform practice drills with his spear as he continued to speak. “Yes well, Skywind, as good as he is, isn’t right about everything. But who says I’m doing more than half listen to you? I haven’t done anything to change the course of action that our forces are taking. The only thing that you have accomplished is to make me feel like I made the wrong choice.

“However, I have listened to Skywind and one of the things that I have learned is how to take advice. I may be the biggest and best fighter, but I can’t win a war alone. One needs to realize his place in the world, and though mine may be more important than most, the opinions of others are still important. I didn’t understand that during the trial, or I probably would have listened to Rul. But that doesn’t mean I can’t begin to listen to you.”

I paused. Ragth had never opened up this much before, and I was afraid of destroying it, but I couldn’t help but ask the question that continued to burn in my mind. “So then If I told you not to lie about Tuané’s death, would you change what you said?”

He continued twirling his spear for a moment before expertly, terrifyingly and playfully swinging it inches above my ears. “I’m not really sure. My reasons for that action are my own, and you haven’t given me a reason why I should change my mind and tell the truth, except that it makes you uncomfortable.”

I changed the subject quickly, afraid that I had asked too much, and thinking to change to what I thought would be a less volatile subject, but still one of interest that I might access with my newfound access to some of Ragth’s thoughts.

“So then if you won’t explain that to me, will you at least tell me what you have been reading in the library?”

Quicker than I could see, Ragth hurled his spear across the room where it sunk, the eight inch black blade completely enveloped, into a log set up for combat practice. He said, with a completely flat voice, “I will tell you that in time. But until that time I would prefer it if you would not bring it up. Am I clear?”

I stood stalk still, subconsciously afraid that any movement would spurn him into a bloody frenzy. “Sorry I asked. I didn’t mean anything by it. You are perfectly clear,”

We stood silently, deliberately not looking at each other for a moment, then he turned and walked away without a word, pausing only to retrieve Wyrmfang with one mighty tug. I let out the breath that had been hiding in my lungs. Something about his mood had suddenly reminded me, for the first time in weeks, of the terrible expression on his face when he had killed that first Ghoul. He hadn’t made it since, not in practicing weapons, or in briefly facing the scourge on the border of Felwood. And its memory sent chills down my spine. Even his mood now, frightening as it was, was a vast improvement to seeing that face.

I took consolation in the knowledge that he had not brought his rage to the fore since that Ghoul. Somehow he had even kept it mostly contained when Killing Tuané. I supposed that was good news.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was after this conversation that I decided that I would attempt to make things right with Rul again. Ragth was a good companion, one who I could increasingly talk to easily, but he was still a bit distant. Rul had only been distant when he was accidently alienating me because Ragth and I were lying to him. He was always present, and when I talked to him, he tried to understand in ways that no one else ever did.

So the next day, as preparations and defensive measure continued to be put up around me, I walked to Rul’s tent and tapped politely on the post next to the tent flap. From within I heard Rul’s voice rumble, “Come in.”

I walked hesitantly in. Before my eyes could adjust to the dimmer light inside the tent I felt myself enveloped by Rul’s furry arms. I awkwardly returned the hug, too surprised to really know what to do.

“Where have you been?” Rul asked with a warm, indignant tone. “It’s been days since the Valiants and Braves returned, and not a word. And you didn’t even let an old Tauren say good bye. If I weren’t so glad to see you, I would scold you. Come, come, sit down.

Before I could mumble a reply I found myself seated on a mat next to Rul.

“Before I ask you the details of what happened, would you mind if I pry and ask why you have been such a stranger recently?” asked Rul with a touch of humor to his voice. Clearly he had not noticed the growing hostility that I had felt for him.

“Oh…” I began hesitantly, “I was busy with preparation, and I didn’t want you to worry about me. I suppose it wasn’t very considerate, but somehow I think I was just too nervous.”

“You silly girl,” Rul chided, “What if something had happened to you and I hadn’t been able to say good bye. You know, I may have raised Ragth, but you may be more my daughter than he ever was a son. He’s always so distant, but you, you are always so engaged, so full of energy, even when you are confused, and in way over your head. Do promise you won’t do it again? Won’t leave without saying goodbye, that is.”

I smiled back. “Of course I promise.” I had forgotten how much I missed these frequent conversations with Rul.

He launched back in without waiting for more from me. “So, did you meet any cute Tauren men on your trip?”

I stared back dumbfounded. “I… Um… I don’t really…”

Rul’s face cracked into a open mouth grin and mirth poured from his belly, his laughs tickling the canvas walls of the tent. “I’m sorry, that was something that came to me while you were gone. I was a bit lonely, and too worried to get much of anything done, so instead I came up with nonsense questions to ask you and Ragth. Not terribly productive, but it did get my mind off of worrying. How about this one. If you were one kind of weather, what would you be?”

I grinned, “I suppose it would be too easy to say sunny. How about partly cloudy with a strong shifting breeze? How does that strike you?”

Rul looked to be in deep thought for a moment, before he grinned back, his old face covering with wrinkles not quite hidden by his fur. “I suppose that does sound about right, though, like sunny, it may apply to all of us. The only difference is that sunny unites us in self delusion, and partly cloudy unites us in honesty. I suppose I like partly cloudy more then, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I guess so. What’s got you in such a good mood anyhow?” I asked.

“Well, you I suppose, though it helps that I just helped Famu Runetotem devise an enchantment that detects undead, and causes the lift to throw out its occupants, being they so absent of life, right before it reaches the top. He would have figured it out eventually, but by incorporating some basic healing magic, which does not affect the undead, the lift determines the mortal status of its riders. The forsaken won’t be much pleased, seeing as the solution fails to detect that they aren’t alive, which technically they aren’t. But frankly I can’t say I feel too sorry for those shambling horrors.”

I was shocked, I had never heard Rul say anything bad about any anyone. Ever. That he would classify a whole race negatively, admittedly frightening and occasionally morally ambiguous though they may have been, surprised me, but our relationship still felt fragile enough to me that I didn’t feel like pressing him on it.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, “One last one. What would you do if singing let you fly around?”

I really didn’t understand this last question, and so I just gave a withering look as a response.

Rul responded by mumbling, “I suppose that wasn’t the best one was it… should have figured that one out a little more.” He began again in a more assured voice, “So, to the point, how was your little adventure. I understand no one got quite as much action as they were expecting, but still, you must have some reactions.”
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought for a moment before responding. “Well, I was more than a bit unsettled. The absence of Undead bothered me more than their presence likely would have. The cold calculating precision of their attack and then sudden secret retreat is more bothersome than any enemy would have been. Their ways of thinking are so alien, so indecipherable.”

"I wouldn’t be so sure that their being gone was worse than fighting them would have been.” Rul interrupted, “The undead are far worse than the forsaken that you have seen. They make no attempt to cover their rotted flesh. Their stench alone could defeat an unprepared army. And their unholy strength is a force to be reckoned with.”

He was probably right, but I responded lightly, “Maybe, but I think you asked me my impressions, not yours. In any case, that unsettled me. And further, as a druid, the destruction to nature was appalling. That forest had finally been restored, and in a matter of days the scourge turned all they touched into dust. That influence won’t be repaired for decades of work, assuming that we are even able to fight them off in the first place.

“I think that given that the undead decided to pull this hit and run move to distract us from helping the eastern kingdoms in the first place, we are doing the wrong thing in holing up. They didn’t want us to help the kingdoms across the sea, and now we are playing into their plans by sitting here and doing nothing.” I noticed that a tone of bitterness had crept into my voice as I had made this last series of declarations. I hadn’t known that I was so emotionally invested in this issue.”

Rul spoke in a calming tone, noting the edge to my voice, “It’s an understandable feeling. In fact I share the sentiment. But you have to understand, self preservation is a powerful motivator. In fact, few things are so powerful in making people make up their minds in one way or another. Before you get up in arms at others for choosing their own safety before others think about how you felt the first time you entered the camp, before this whole thing began. You were scared nearly out of your hide. I am more than a little impressed with you. That you are putting the needs of others before your own, for people you have never met, for a land that you have never set foot on, shows me that you have matured more than most people ever do. That truly is an admirable quality. Make sure that in your anger, however well motivated it is, that you don’t lose that. Others before yourself, it isn’t the most comfortable way of living, but in the end it truly is the best."

As Rul continued his tone, which had been consoling, became more and more reflective. "I reflect on my self-exile, my inability to understand other people’s feelings, and wonder if I did the right thing. I left because I was uncomfortable, but When I look back , what did I do to make the world a better place? I may not see too much more of it, I’m getting old, have I done enough to help others?” He trailed off, completely lost in though.

I said, “Rul, don’t you for a moment begin to question yourself. You started one of the world’s first truly equal communities, a peaceful one. A community whose only failing was be so peaceful that it was unprepared to deal with an external threat large enough to swallow up the whole world. That isn’t a real failing. In fact, it may be a virtue. Even if your exile was motivated by self interest, the result wasn’t. You gave back, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of."

Rul looked up, as though stumbling out of a patch of fog, and said with a tone of pride, “See, this is why you are like a daughter to me. First I seek to make you feel better, and you end up reassuring me that my life was worthwhile. One could not choose a better daughter if they tried.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. I was a gnoll, he was a tauren. It still seemed like that divide should have meant something, but when he said that, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.

"Well, Unfortunately as glad as I am to have you visit me, I’m afraid that I must keep working. Even if I don’t endorse our isolationist strategy, there is plenty for me to do. Next Famu want’s to see if we can find a way to set up wards to summon elementals if the scourge approaches. Madness, if you ask me, but I suppose you didn’t, and unfortunately neither did Famu. Make sure you stop by again soon. Seeing you warms my old bones.”

“I will, I promise. It was wonderful to talk to you again.” And it really was.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."


Last edited by Keltor on Sat Dec 22, 2007 1:11 pm; edited 3 times in total
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2007 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I clearly had my misgivings about the course of action being taken by the military leaders, I had to admit that my life really was quite pleasant. After the slight hiccup caused the question about the books in the library, Ragth and I had settled into a much more friendly relationship. As long as I avoided those prickly topics he and I got along quite well. We discussed the affairs of the Tauren nation, but more frequently we had begun to talk about our heritage. He really had no concept of what Gnoll society was like. In fact, his biology (and given his size barely that) and his ability to speak the language were the only things Gnollish about him.

He was fascinated in the way that the hierarchy of the Gnoll societies was built around two competing power sources: muscle and magic. The two cooperated in times of war, and the occasional tribal council, but beyond that, not at all. Magic really was a force pushing for more urban living. The shamans believed that through their magic Gnolls could create a society to rival the other sentient races. However, the brutes and overlords, in part from fear of losing power, opposed such moves at every turn. This fundamental disagreement encouraged war and unrest in Gnoll societies. It did seem, however, that success from the magic users was met by disaster. Should a more advanced Gnoll society arise, within decades they fall. I suggested that perhaps Gnolls were not meant to live in cities. Ragth looked thoughtful before reminding me that he and I were doing just that.

But I was again enjoying time with Rul. He and I would talk for hours, realizing afterwards that neither of us could remember quite what it was that we were talking about. He even had allowed me into the team of shamans and druids in charge of setting up magical defenses around Thunder Bluff. I knew I was as much of a hindrance as I was a help, but just being part of something that big felt good. The city was practically impenetrable without some sort of disaster, which, as Rul continually remind us, was all to common against the undead. My abilities as a druid had grown, but not all that much. I was at best a middling druid. But unlike before, the gap in abilities didn’t bother me anymore. It was like Ragth had said, One needs to realize their own place in the world. And if mine wasn’t to become powerful or influential, that didn’t bother me. I was content to be what I was, friend of Rul, companion and adviser to Ragth, and a decent druid as well.

So I was content. Until Ragth shattered it all.

He came to me one day and began to speak. I can’t remember the setting of our conversation, but the words were vividly seared into my mind. His manner was unusual, which put me on edge. He wasn’t angry exactly, so much as agitated, like he was saying something that he might later regret. “I didn’t want to tell you this yet, but it’s probably the only time to do it. You remember our conversations about Gnoll societies. You mentioned that advanced Gnoll societies have a tendency to fall within decades? I know why, and it has nothing to do with our natural disposition. When such societies appear, the other races hire adventurers to bring them down. They intentionally destroy our civilization for fear of competition. They kill us off under the pretense of honor and glory. Our civilizations are actively hunted by the others. The records going back generations, in old Taurhe, confirm this, and allude to other races doing the same.”

I laughed. I didn’t know what else to do. The idea that the races of the world, who except for fighting the burning legion and the undead had never worked together before, would agree on a massive attack plan on Gnoll society was insane, unbelievable, laughable. Trying to phrase it in as placating a manner as possible, I told Ragth just that.

Solemn faced he responded. “You would be right, if that were the way it happened. It was no particular plan. But each of the races are constantly producing a large number of independent adventurers. The state, in each case, has a stake in these adventurers doing things to make the nation stronger, and while Gnolls are not a large threat to the civilizations, they are a stepping stone. The adventurers would get massacred should they try to go slay dragons immediately, but if they work their way up, eliminating minor threats as they gain more experience, they eventually have a chance. Gnolls would likely have created, if not as advanced a civilization, a noticeable presence on the world stage, but they are seen as an inconvenience and a training ground. They want our land, what little wealth we have, and the training that killing us gives.”

I didn’t laugh this time. What he said actually made sense. Back before I had been welcomed fully into Thunder Bluff I had heard Tauren say things like “Don’t we kill their kind?” The answer was yes, they did kill our kind. Ragth and I were living among people who slaughtered Gnolls. Not every Tauren had struck the killing blow, but each was guilty in their own way.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2007 2:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

“So why are you telling me this. What can it possibly accomplish but make me feel uncomfortable with the people around me. We can’t change the past, and by striking back, we would only confirm their views of us.”

“That’s the thing, we can do something. This war against the undead gives us the perfect opportunity.”

I interrupted him, shocked at his implication “You want to use the war to hurt the alliance and Horde? Whatever they have done to Gnolls doesn’t justify that. Nature, if nothing else, deserves to be protected, and by destroying the only line of defense between the undead and the world as a whole you would seal nature’s fate for the worst.”

It was his turn to laugh. “You misunderstand me. I don’t mean to destroy the alliance and Horde. On the contrary, I want to show them the mistake that they made by crippling Gnoll civilization. If we come to the Alliance’s aid with an army of Gnolls at our backs, their actions will end. A Gnoll civilization would arise, and, perhaps, in time, would come to rival any of the races that this world has yet seen. We don’t use the war to hurt the world, we use it to prove our worth.”

It made sense. A lot of sense. But how exactly would we raise an army of gnolls? We were two souls, not exactly a military force to be reckoned with, even with Ragth’s fighting prowess. “How would we do that? The Gnolls in Kalimdor are very tribal, and not likely to amass quickly. And I couldn’t tell you a thing about the ones over in the eastern continent.”

His eyes gained a dangerous glint. “Remember how you said that power came from two sources: magic and muscle? Last I checked we two have those aplenty. The shamans of the tribes use very basic, crude magic, as you told it. And we both know that even unarmed I could match even the strongest overlord, not to mention if I bring Wrymfang. We join a tribe, rise to the top, and so on until we have the support of all the Gnolls on Kalimdor, then we do the same in Azeroth and Lordaeron. And even if we aren’t done until after the hammer falls, we will have done more good than we could possibly do here.”

He was right. Again. But I didn’t want to leave. Not then, when my life had fallen into place for the first time. But it was enticing, being part, no not part but starting something bigger. And it satisfied what Rul had told me about living my life for others. It was not necessarily what I would have chosen, but it would leave my mark on the world for the better. In the end it wasn’t much of a choice. “Yes. But, I promised I wouldn’t leave without telling Rul goodbye.”

He looked disgruntled at this. “I was hoping to leave without telling anyone. The city will not be pleased to lose its newest star general. Would you absolutely have to?”

“Ragth,” I said, “I made a promise, one that meant more to Rul than it meant to me. Whatever we may feel about everyone else in this city, we owe him a goodbye at least.”

He nodded silently, and said, “You go speak with Rul, tell him goodbye for me. I will prepare any provisions for our trip. “

And so we briefly parted ways, his harshly utilitarian, and mine overly sentimental. I walked to Rul’s tent and knocked on the tent post. I heard Rul say with a distracted voice, “Come in.”

His eyes warmed when he saw that I was the visitor. This likely being my last time in his tent, I soaked in the details. The leather bound tomes laying haphazardly about, the warm light pouring in from the window, the intricate runes chasing around the leather of the interior. All considered, it was a pretty Spartan living, but one that nonetheless gave me comfort.

“What brings you here this fine day?” He asked. I was regretful that I would have to ruin his good mood with a goodbye.

“Before I tell you, will you promise that what I tell you now stays between us? That you won’t tell anyone?”

“Of course, I wouldn’t dream of giving you away.” He said with a conspiratorial wink that didn’t quite jive with my mood.

“I promised that I would say goodbye before I left again. So here I am.”

“My, I haven’t heard of any military deployment. This is quite sudden. What is your mission; it must be important if you swore me to secrecy.”

“No mission. Ragth and I are leaving, unexpected, unordered. We are going to fight this war, whether or not that is what the rest of Thunder Bluff is doing.”

His eyes widened. “I… you…” he stuttered before finding his tounge. “I’m surprised you convinced Ragth to do something so rash. What are two going to do against an army of the Undead. I know you were bitter about the Tauren decision to avoid conflict, but surely this isn’t the solution.”

“It was Ragth’s Idea, not mine. And as for what we two can do, you would be surprised. I’m sure you will find out eventually, but I would rather not spoil the surprise. I’m sorry that I can’t tell you more, but this visit really is just a goodbye, one shared by Ragth by the way.”

Rul was silent for a moment, and I could tell that he was struggling to keep down emotions. “I can’t say that I agree with this decision, but you two go with my blessing. May the Earth Mother watch over you.”

Unable to resist, I rushed to him and embraced him. “I’m going to miss you Rul. I know it doesn’t seem this way, but It isn’t going to be easy to leave.”

He held me at arm’s length and looked deep into my eyes, reminding me of how he had first taught me to speak Taurhe, then he embraced me again. “Goodbye.” He said. “GoodBye.”

And we left. The lift found us alive enough to bear us to the ground, and we headed away from Thunder Bluff. It was odd, I was leaving home, to go home. I didn’t quite know how to feel about it.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Fri Jan 04, 2008 12:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

We stood outside the Gnoll camp. We had traveled for a little over a week before getting to it. By the estimation of the most recent maps, this camp was the closest Gnoll tribe to Thunder Bluff. The moonlight barely filtered in through the treetops above us. This forest was not far from where I first met Ragth, and mixed in with the pine and birch trees was one of the Bloodwood tree’s that had made our first meeting so eerie. Thankfully, though there was little light, Gnoll eyes are more suited for seeing in the dark than most races, though not quite so much as Night Elves. We looked in at a camp at rest. It was peaceful by night, and though this was not my tribe I felt immediately at home. We would wait until morning, and then we would enter. Ragth would challenge the leader of the tribe, and soon we would have an entire band of Gnolls fighting at our backs.

At least, that was how it was supposed to happen.

We were sleeping outside of the camp, waiting for dawn, when I felt a sharp jab in my side. My eyes flew open and I saw before me an unfamiliar Gnoll looking down at me. He had a knife at my throat. And Ragth beside me was in a similar predicament with another Gnoll.

“Who are you.” Barked the Gnoll above me harshly. He was a grizzled Gnoll, but not a particularly large one. He would never have gained much rank, and spent most of his time on the fringe of the tribe as a scout. The one standing over Ragth was similarly sized, and would not have stood a chance against Ragth were it not for his fortuitous position.

“We are outcasts from another tribe.” I said hesitantly, thinking as quickly as I could. “My brother was called a demon, though he hurt no one. We ran because they were going to kill us, simply because he is big.” Having not used my native tongue for months, the words felt strange in my mouth, and I realized that I was struggling to find equivalent words for ones I knew in Taurhe. We came here to join you if we can.”

The gnoll standing above me growled before answering. “Maybe, but you could be from a rival clan spying on us. What clan are you from.”

I answered as truthfully as I could, and prayed that our two tribes were on good terms. “Moss Stone Tribe.”

“Hmm…” He considered for a moment. “Well, the overlord will know what to do with you.”I was roughly tied up, as was Ragth. Our equipment was confiscated, and we were led into the camp.

In the center of the camp, the Gnoll howled once, and the tribe blearily awoke. By the growing light it was almost dawn. Within minutes a crowd had gathered to stare at the two strangers in their midst. The overlord was immediately recognizable when he appeared. A full two feet shorter than Ragth, he was nearly as thick, heavily muscled, and dense. He carried two long handled axes on his back, and his hide looked like the aftermath of a tornado. He saw Ragth and snarled, immediately sensing a rival.

His voice was rhaspy, and more quiet than his physique suggested. Here was a Gnoll who was used to his words being heeded quickly. “Thart,” He demanded of the Gnoll who had captured me, “What is this trash that you carry to my door?”

Thart suddenly looked like he wished he had never found us. “They say they are outcasts of the Moss Stone Tribe, greatness.”

The overlord snarled quietly. “The bitch looks good enough, but the other looks like trouble. Why were they banished?”

Thart answered quickly, “The Moss Stones accused him of being a demon for being so big.”

The overlord walked slowly around us, examining before speaking again. “That sounds right. He has a bad look to him.” He thought for a moment. “The bitch can stay. He cannot. At least not until he has proven his worth to the tribe. Thart, he will be a scout with you for a few days, report his usefulness. If he kills you before you come back, we will know his worth.” The brutish Gnoll grinned evilly at the scout. Then he looked at the rest of his tribe, “Everyone get to work. This is done.”

The overlord grabbed my arm and hauled me roughly toward his tent. As I was being dragged I looked back to see Ragth’s restraints being removed. I half expected him to immediately start fighting, but he kept his wits and demurely left with thart.

The overlord’s tent was twice the size of any others, and was inside was filled with the pillages of previous conflict. Half eaten meat lay haphazardly on the ground. And the bones of Gnoll’s, probably challengers to his chiefdom, lay imposingly in the corner. Everything about the tent reaffirmed his authority, from the loot, to the intentionally wasted food to the corpses. This Gnoll was in charge, and no one had bothered to challenge that in a long while. He looked at me appraisingly. “What of your mate? Did you leave him behind?”

I cursed in my mind. I had hoped he wouldn’t ask this question. “I… I don’t have a mate.”

The Gnoll laughed. “You would be a prize mate, you are fit, attractive, why did you leave your mate behind?”

I answered carefully, hoping that my words didn’t backfire. “My brother, Ragth prevented me from mating. He fought off anyone who tried. He never hurt anyone, and he never tried to gain anything, but he made sure no one would claim me.”

The overlord looked stunned. “Gods… no wonder he got banished. Why did you go with him? He has ruined your life.”

Again he had asked exactly the wrong question. For all his brutishness, this Gnoll was cunning. “Ragth would not leave without me, and he was large enough that no one could really stop him. The a group of fighters could have killed him, but he was to be banished, not killed. “So rather than cause him and others to die, I chose to go with him.”

He looked at me again, reappraising me. Clearly he was pleased with what I had said. “You did the right thing, coming to us. We will deal with your brother in a way that will not endanger anyone else.”

I interrupted urgently. “Do not ambush him. He has done bad, but he is still my kin. Promise me that much.”

The overlord looked oddly pleased, though his expression did not match his words. “No one tells me what to do. I shall make my own choice, and you shall stay quiet. Now go join the women, there is work to do.”

“Before I go,” I began plaintively, “what is your name?”

“Gthak, though you shall call me greatness, or lord. Now leave.”
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Keltor



Joined: 29 Sep 2005
Posts: 212

PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I left the tent and cast about for some indication of where to go. Ragth would not be back for days, and even then he would likely not be able to challenge the Overlord’s rule for a while after. I needed to gain acceptance in the tribe. About 15 meters away a group of females were huddled inside a semi-open tent. I walked demurely up to them. When I got closer I saw that the tent was a makeshift house of healing. I barked softly and asked the crowd of females if I could help in any way.

An old, stern looking Gnoll turned to me and asked? “can you help? The Moss Stones are not known for their medicine.”

It was true, we frequently relied on forest trolls to do our healing for us. So I tried to use that to my advantage. “I learned a bit from a troll who healed for our tribe once and a time. I can help, if you let me.”

She took my arm and led me to into the tent. Inside it smelled like illness and death. There were strong fighter Gnolls laid out on linen cloths all over the tent. Many had serious festering wounds. I wondered what had happed to them all, that so many warriors had been injured.

She took me to one with a smaller gash on his leg. The broken flesh had turned a green tinged purple. “Help him, if you can. Gods know we can’t.”

I looked at the woman and asked her, “What happened to him? This is no normal cut.”

She looked grim before answering. “The walking dead, they have been in the area, and the cuts they make can’t be healed.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. The undead were here? But if it was another full invasion this tribe would already be dead. But that didn’t matter right now, I had work to do if any of these were to live, and if the tribe didn’t want to be swarmed with undead Gnolls.

“I need a knife, as sharp as you have, I don’t care if you need to steal it from one of the men.”

The old Gnoll turned to one of the younger healers and Relayed my message. A moment later a young girl returned with a short dagger. It wasn’t particularly sharp, but it would have to do. I turned to the females around me. “Hold him down.” A moment later, after a brief warning and apology to the patient, I began to cut into his leg. I cut out as much of the offending, tainted flesh as I could without damaging a vital bloodline. As I went deeper, the flesh became a darker red, rather than purple. The flesh oddly and thankfully did not bleed. I supposed that would be the taint of the undead. I hoped however, that enough of the plagued flesh would be removed that I could heal what remained. I sent up a silent prayer to the earth mother, and the Gnoll gods for good measure.

I called out to the spirits of nature. I asked them to aid the healing process in the patient’s body. My hands began to glow green, and I felt a gentle warmth creep into my body. I let the energy flow into the wound, I watched the effects. The semi-plagued flesh did not want to heal, and a great deal more magic than usual poured into the gash. The dark red flesh began to lighten, and then, slowly the muscle began to regrow, the flesh knit itself together again, muscle, sinew. I stopped far short of a complete healing. This Gnoll would live to fight another day, and I had many more such wounds to heal.

Drained, I slumped to my knees, and gasped for a breath. A few moments later I stood and saw the other Gnolls staring, awestruck at me. I looked at them, and then said, “Give me a moment to regain my strength. We have more work to do.”

---

Hours later, when I was too exhausted to continue, the task seemed no smaller. The numbers of plagued Gnolls was still overwhelming, and as I began to tackle more serious wounds, the tasks became more daunting. The larger and deeper the wound, and the longer the Gnoll had been injured, the more deep seated the plague was. Each successive wound required more of nature’s healing to combat, all while my stores of energy were dwindling, and nature was becoming more and more fed up with my incessant requests. By the time I was unable to heal any more, I had only healed a third of the patients, and they were by far the easiest patients I would be treating. This wasn’t a job for one mediocre druid.

Beyond preventing an invasion of zombies coming out of the tribe’s own sick tent, I was worried how the tribe would see my healing. My story about learning healing from a troll was only half baked at best. Troll shadow priests are notoriously secretive, and not likely to have taught a lone female Gnoll anything. Further, already the healing that I had done in one day was superior to anything all but the most experienced forest troll could have done in a week. Not to mention, that in healing the Gnolls I was likely crippling some for life. After I had sawed into their wounds to remove the plagued flesh, many Gnoll warriors would never be able to fight again, which was not likely to endear me with the tribe. I knew that I was giving the tribe far more than they were losing, but would they, Gthak especially, realize that.

Thankfully, in the frenzy of activity, I had managed to pass the time, for which I was thankful. While engrossed in my healings, I had not once considered the predicament that Ragth and I had gotten into, nor worried about what Ragth and I were going to do about it. I had simply thrown myself into the tribe, doing what I could to help. And that was likely the best thing I could do to convince the tribe of our good intensions – that is, if my actions were not misconstrued as an attack.

I gratefully sank into my bed, makeshift as it was, when my day was over. The old healer woman had offered me a place in her hut, and I had appreciatively accepted. I slipped into sleep quickly, and awoke the next morning, seemingly with no time between.
_________________
Sapphires vie for your attention. She dances. They mean well in their way. The priest says please, "I can't stand my knees and I cant bear her raven tresses caught up in a breeze like this."
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
Display posts from previous:   
Post new topic   Reply to topic    Albatros Bits Forum Index -> The Writers' Nest All times are GMT - 5 Hours
Goto page Previous  1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Page 3 of 4

 
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot moderate your topics in this forum


Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2005 phpBB Group

 

Art by
A

fansite



© Albatros. All rights reserved.