Topic Blue Huntress
Edited by Fujiko on 9/18/12 9:40 AM (PDT)
Few Draenei were known to travel throughout Azeroth, preferring to stay close to the island where the great ship Exodar was perched, repaired after undergoing years of extensive repairs. Those of the blue skinned and cloven hooves who did choose to travel the lands of this living world found wonders not unlike Draenor. There were Draenei who did venture out into the world, eager to exlpore and follow whatever hopes and dreams beckoning them. Though an imposting race, they were an emotional people, perhaps a bit too trusting with warm hearts beneath stern visages.
Odyssei was such a woman. She was a huntress, cloaked for the fading grasp of winter as she slipped easily beneath the bare branches of the forest. Padding easily at her side was Skoll, a spirit wolf she found in the Storm Peaks in Northrend. The Draenei hid her features beneath a cowel, the puffs of each soft exhale wafting from her lips and nostrils. The soft glow from her eyes, a trait of her race could be seen from within the shadows of her hood. There were a pair of bumps along the sides of her head bulging beneath her cloak. They were her gently curving horns.
Her journey was of a personal matter. Long ago her brother had disappeared into the snows of Northrend during the war against the Lich King. He numbered among the thousands who did not return after the fall of Arthas. Odyssei had already found the place where he had fallen, but something disturbing and frightening had spurred her. The very shade of her dead brother had beseeched her to find his children somewhere in Kalimdor. Surprised her brother had managed time to start a family, Odyssei none the less decided to do her brother's final wish to the best of her abilities. It never occurred to her the journey would become a pursuit.
She learned her brother had not actually fathered a son, but had instead adopted a human boy...as well as an orphanage compromised of no less than a dozen children in all. Leaving them in the care of a Night Elf and a Gnome, Odyssei's brother had sworn to take them all to the Exodar after the war in the north was ended. The huntress felt the responsibility to see to a fulfulled promise was indeed now her responsibility. Not only because her brother had asked her, but also for the soft fondness she had for children. She never bothered to question the ghost why it was so important to get those children home. Nor did she find it bothersome to accept his responsibilities as her own. Scarheart's last wish came in the form of a spirit and no Draenei could deny the last wish of a dead relative. Odyssei loved her brother and was glad to do this for him.
Besides, she was bored out of her mind.
The house deep within the Stonetalon Mountains she had been directed to had been burned to the ground by the time she came across it. Judging from the markings and the trail, a sizable group of humans had come, captured the children and their two care takers and headed south towards Desolace. Naturally the huntress was concerned for the safety of the children and of course she followed the trail.
What irritated her was the southward movement. Centaurs were all over Desolace and she was not overly fond of the brutes. She had been following the trail of the abductors for the past two weeks. The winter weather had slowly begin to give way to the first signs of spring, but the days were still cold and the nights even colder. The band of humans were easy to follow, as they were guiding a large wagon pulled by a large kodo. Why they had taken the children was not hard to hazard a guess at, but she imagined the slave trade had something to do with it.
Greed was such a nuisance. Odyssei intended to show them the depths of her temper through the mercy of the muzzle of the gun strapped to her back. Besides, she also had her lightning enchanted spirit wolf to terrorize the crap out of her intended prey.
Hunting was fun, but this had the potential of posing a threat to the safety of a group of children she was responsible for, but had not yet met.
It was an interesting dilemma.
(Note: Feel free to comment on this thread. This is something I've been thinking about and hope to continue it as I go along. Constructive feedback is welcome. I hope you enjoy it.)
The trees were beginning to give way as she worked her way down from the peaks of Stonetalon towards the barren plains far below of Desolace. She hated the place, having come here some years in the past. Centaurs were savage creatures, were averse to bathing, and were not above partaking in the slave trade.
What was odd was the reasoning behind Centaurs becoming involved in slavery using other races. Then again, the Draenei huntress was not all that familiar with the numerous customs of many of the races on the continent of Kalimdor. She wanted to avoid the members of the Horde for obvious reasons. There was already rumors of war in the air. Theramore had reportedly been decimated...erased from existance. That had been a week ago upon meeting a traveling Tauren druid of the Cenarion Circle.
The Draenei woman was determined to stay focused on what lay ahead of her.
There were children to rescue and would-be slavers to punish.
Every now and again, as she followed the trail, she knew she was gaining on her quarry. Every once in a while a savage grin would flash across her smooth features. So far as she could tell, the children were unharmed. The Elf and the Gnome were also still with them. So long as no harm came to any of them, there could be a chance for fun to be had.
Odyssei sent Skoll ahead to scout as she paused to drink from her water skin. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, stoppered her skin and adjusted her hood as the wind gusted for a brief moment.
Inhaling deeply, the huntress let out a long sigh and smiled, revealing the small points of her upper incisors before breaking into a slow trot.
They would not be expecting her. Nor the spirit wolf. Odyssei was determined to find out who had taken her brother's children. The two week head start had been reduced to less than a day. Tracking an overconfident group had proven far too easy. They had to stick to the trails because of the wagon. Odyssei could cut across the country and over the obstacles her prey was forced to go around.
Tonight she would be within sight.
Tonight she would see what exactly was in store for her.
Skoll trotted back to her, his tail wagging as he stopped just before her.
"Found them, have you?" she asked her companion with a soft voice. Odyssei chuckled.
She scanned the area and found a partially fallen tree leaning against a large boulder covered by dead shrubs. Odyssei examined it for a few moments and nodded with satisfaction. "Whis will do," she said to Skoll. The spirit wolf lolled his tongue at her, tilting his head to one side. "Go watch them and stay out of sight," she told him.
Skoll loped off down the hill, disappearing behind some of the numerous boulders strewn about the mountain side. Odyssei set about making a small camp and soon had a small fire burning. In her pack she dug out bits of food. After dinner, she nestled comfortably against the boulder. An hour or two of sleep before dark would clear her mind and rest her body for the task ahead.
She settled her weapon across her lap and closed her eyes.
Skoll came for her, growling to get her attention. He followed it with a whine.
The huntress opened her eyes and turned her head to look at the wolf. There was someone with him. A very large someone.
"Do you intend to rescue those children by yourself?" asked a deep voice. It was coming from a large Tauren dressed in the leathers of a druid. Eagle feathers dangled from a warped staff cluched in his right fist. Warm brown eyes looked down at the Draenei with amusement. "Either you are truely confident of your abilities or you are very foolish."
Odyssei rose to her feet. She was not alarmed. Skoll would have let her know if she was threatened. Besides, she had met this Tauren before. It was the one she had met weeks before and had offered up the information regarding Theramore. The druid reached down with his left hand and scratched Skoll between the ears.
"It's nice to see you again, Anuu," she said simply. "Did you follow me all this way to make that observation or were you intending to help?"
The druid shrugged. "I have no pressing matters currently begging my attention. You do know you are going up against a score or so slavers."
"Don't you think that's a bit reckless?"
"Not really. If you've stalked a pack of wolves, this isn't really all that hard to do."
"But what of the children?" Anuu peered at her closely. "You surely have taken their safety into account."
Odyssei stretched her arms over her head. "I need to see how they have their camp set up and plan from there. I've had plenty of time to study their camp sites to know more or less how they arrange themselves. Their sentries are marginal at best from what I can tell." She made a gesture at the spirit wolf. Skoll laid his ears back for a moment before turning and loping off back down the hill. "Besides, I've got him," she said with a smile.
Anuu had followed the wolf with his eyes before turning to gaze upon the Draenei. "You are a clever hunter, friend Odyssei. My offer still stands."
She regarded him with pursed lips. "Having a druid along is always helpful."
"You have a plan?" Anuu smiled.
The grin she returned him was befitting a hunter.
Night fell. The darkness enshrouded three forms slinking in eased silence towards a camp marked by a large bonfire. Shadowed forms of men passed across the ruddy light of the flames. Rough laughter could be heard as the slavers were deep into whatever drink they had to share. Just out of the light of the bonfire was a wagon with a large cage with iron bars on it. Two guards sat next to it engrossed in a game of dice.
Odyssei paused to note the location of the perimeter guards. Her Tauren companion nudged her lightly on the shoulder, pointing to his left. She nodded at him and he disappeared into the darkness, his shaggy form surprisingly silent for its immense size. The Draenei crouched low and waited. This would be as good a night as any before they disappeared into Centaur country. After that, it would be a good bet the guards would be doubled. Though she was not worried about having to deal with extra human guards, she really did not want to have to deal with the Centaur.
As soon as the Tauren druid disappeared into the darkness, she sent Skoll in the opposite direction to the other side of the camp. It appeared the men were bound towards getting drunk. Odyssei wondered if the children were being fed. She decided she would be very put out if they had not been taken care of. The huntress had decided that back on the very day the hunt had started. Though she was an emotional creature, logic and calm thoughts had been taught to her from a young age. Her brother had laid the foundation long ago when she was a child.
Deep down in her heart, Odyssei really wanted to unleash a great deal of pain upon the slavers.
She studied the camp, watching the men. There were seventeen of them. Sharp eyes noted they were grouped mostly around the fire. There were the two at the wagon. Another one was tending to the horses. Five were arranged on guard duty on the perimeter. One such fellow was twenty yards in front of the huntress, sitting on a rock with a rusty halberd leaning on his shoulder. The shabby looking man was not paying attention to his duties. He was busy digging into a nostril with a dirty finger.
Odyssei made a disgusted face. "Humans." She rolled her eyes.
To her left came a great roar followed by a cry. Anuu was on the move. The camp came to life as men stood by the fire, staring off in the direction of the disturbance. Most were fumbling for weapons.
Skoll moved in, yelping loudly.
Odyssei's first target stood, startled and looking in both directions. "Ambush!" he cried.
The Draenei knocked him out soundly with the butt of her gun, striking the back of his head. The man went down in a heap. She moved passed him, picking her way in the darkness, her hooded form as silent as a wraith.
The huntress relished in the confusion as men ran first towards Anuu who was leading guards off in pursuit. Skoll was doing the same thing. Odyssei knew she did not have much time before whoever was in charge of the group manage to get the slavers under control. Depending on how skilled their leader was, it could be mere minutes before they realized what was going on.
It did not take long for the Draenei to identify their leader. It was a brutish looking orc with half his face scarred from what appeared to be an old burn. A ragged white beard ringed his square jaw. He bellowed orders with a voice the could shake the leaves from the very trees.
"Get to the perimeter, damn you! Find out what the hell is going on!" He was waving a scimitar over his head with one hand and heavily slugging men moving too slowly for his liking with the other. Well-placed kicks were planted for good measure. The orc was wearing mismatching plate armor.
Small faces were pressing against the iron bars of the wagon, wide eyes staring as the fire light bathed them in dancing orange light.
The orc dragged three forms out from the shadows. One was an Elf, the other a Gnome. The third was in between the size of the other two. The guards at the wagon helped. They ringed their captives, facing out towards the threats.
The huntress was moving quickly. From the direction of Anuu, the shouts had changed to shrieks as the druid decided to change to deadlier tactics. Terrifying roars echoed through the night. As if on que, Skoll was doing the same on his end. Frightened men gave up and ran off into the night. Those milling around the fire stared out into the darkness, wide-eyed and uncertain. Fear gripped them. Odyssei could see it clearly on their faces.
She smiled to herself.
Like a thief, she moved closer, weapon at the ready. She kept the barrel of her gun in front of her, just below her chin. Where ever she faced, the rifle was pointed. One bullet could blow a man's head clean off. She could fire seven rounds before reloading. It had bee expecially made to her specifications by a gnome in Ironforge less than two years ago. The rifle had cost her an arm and a leg, but it had been worth it. It was custom fit to her. A dwarven marksman had taught her how to properly fire the weapon. Odyssei was quite proficient now. She could hit the eye of a kodo at three hundred yards. The huntress was in a situation where she would have to act quickly and without hesitation.
Odyssei raised her custom rifle, sighting down the barrel. She chose her target and fired.
The man to the right of the orc went down, clutching his chest. The second shot followed and the man on the left dropped like a sack of potatoes. The orc cursed loudly and charged as soon as Odyssei appeared in front of him.
"Don't move, orc!" she commanded. He was dead in her sights as she glared down at him meaningfully. The Draenei's short tail lashed from side to side in excitement with the battle. "I'll be taking those children from you."
The orc hesitated. His eyes were filled with hate as he glowered at the huntress. They narrowed after a quick measure of her. His tusked mouth creased in a black smile. "Oh. I see. The sister comes." The laugh coming from him was short and humorless. "I was told there might be a chance you would show up."
"I don't really care. Release the children. Drop your weapons. Do it now."
Sweat was beading on the green forehead of the orc. He seemed to think on it for a moment before tossing his blade to the ground. Odyssei never took her eyes off him. At the last moment, she knew she was in trouble when he sneered in contempt. Burly arms wrapped around the Draenei's shoulders, reaching for her rifle and clamping a hand over her throat.
The orc reached down into a boot and pulled out a wicked looking dagger. "You're mine, girl!"
Edited by Fujiko on 9/18/12 12:37 PM (PDT)
Unnoticed behind him, the middle figure between the Gnome and Night Elf had reached the scimitar and had already gotten around to freeing itself from the rope binding its hands together. The hood bounced furiously until the rope fell free. Standing quickly, the small form hefted the blade in unsteady hands and charged at the exposed back of the orc.
Odyssei could see him now as the hood fell away. It was a boy, his face twisted with hate directed at the orc. She was already turning, twisting and stepping back and into her captor. She darted her fingers over her shoulder and just above where she could feel the hot breath of her assailant on her ear. Fingers found an eye and continued. There was a shriek and the Draenei was free. She spun, aiming a kick at the approaching orc. It struck him full in the chest, but he shrugged it off, catching her leg with his free hand. The orc jerked hard on her leg, his dagger poised.
Odyssei's eyes found his and they locked for a moment. The intent in his was unmistakable, yet she was not afraid.
Suddenly the orc stiffened, his back arching. The dagger fell from nerveless fingers. Staring at the Draenei in confusion, he turned, releasing her leg. A flash of a blade in the fire light angled across his throat and there was the spurting of blood followed by a horrible choking gurgle. The orc fell to his knees, then toppled to one side. The small, trembling figure of the boy was there. He could not have been more than twelve and was hiding his fear behind broiling anger pent up from the past few weeks of captivity.
There was the sound behind her of scampering feet as the man who had assailed her gave up the fight and fled into the night. Skoll padded silently from the dark and promptly sat next to the huntress. His tail thumped lightly in the dirt. Odyssei fell to one knee, regarding the boy with gentle, understanding eyes. She pulled back her hood so he could see her face.
The Gnome and Night Elf were busy freeing themselves. Anuu emerged into the light of the fire. "They all ran away after I made examples of a few of them," he said gruffly. Kneeling next to the bound captives, he assisted with freeing them. He ignored the boy with the sword. Anuu was giving him plenty of room.
The boy stared at the Draenei woman. Recognition flickered.
Odyssei placed a hand to her chest. "Do you know who I am?"
He nodded after a moment.
"Are you afraid of me?"
The boy shook his head.
"His name is Kelvier." The voice came from the Night Elf. She was being helped up by Anuu and rubbing her wrists. "Sir Scarheart told all the children about you before he left us. My name is Taalia. My Gnome friend is Blurt McBabble." Taalia was slight for a Night Elf, her mossy green hair a dirty mess from hard traveling and her homespun dress was nearly rags. Her lavender skin was smudged with dirt.
Odyssei smiled. "My brother spoke of you often." She looked at Kelvier. "I don't mind if you want to hold on to that sword, but don't go sticking anyone with it. Okay?" He nodded at her. "Good. Let's pack up what we can and get out of here."
Anuu was unlocking the cell holding the rest of the children. They had crammed to the other side of the wagon. "Fear me not, little ones," he rumbled as gently as he could. "I am to help you find your way home." The druid swung the door open and stepped away from it.
The Gnome Taalia identified as Blurt McBabble was already climbing to the iron door. "Out, kids! All of you! We're getting the heck out of here! Come on, come now! We have little to fear now. We are rescued!"
Blurt McBabble was a typical Gnome, with a shock of white hair grappling with a bald spot complete with a horride comb over. A shaggy mustache hinted at once being neatly kept wrapped around his face. Bright blue eyes gleamed merrily, if a bit tired from beneath shaggy brows. Odyssei noted absently most of the children filing out of the wagon were larger than him. She was satisfied they were safe and motioned Skoll with a slight gesture. The spirit wolf came over to her and nudged her hand, his appearance questioning.
"Bring me one of the slavers," she told him. Skoll trotted off.
Anuu was leaning on his staff. He was indifferent to the dead bodies, but angled his bulk to prevent the children from seeing the carnage. It was perhaps a moot point, considering the violence had happened right in front of them.
"Thank you, druid," said Taalia simply to him.
He nodded wordlessly as she herded the children together and took a head count. She looked over at Kelvier. "Put the sword down and join your brothers and sisters, if you please." Her tone was commanding, yet gentle. The boy sighed and did as he was told. The sword clattered to the ground. A resigned sadness seemed to overcome him.
Odyssei did not understand this child. He was oddly submissive and had not said a word. "Does he even speak?" she asked the Elf as she watched him go to her outstretched arms. They enfolded him protectively.
"He does not," Taalia replied. "But he's a good boy." She looked around. "Where do you want us to go?"
Anuu cleared his throat. He made a sweeping gesture with his staff. "Follow me, if you please. It's going to be dark for another hour or so. Stay together." It began to glow at the head with faerie fire to light the way.
Taalia began herding the children. She picked up the smallest. Kelvier picked up another. The Gnome brought up the rear. They were all tired and worn from their ordeal, but the new found freedom had given them renewed energy. Frightened as the children were, they seemed more alert and eager to be away from the place. Nervously they followed the druid to safety.
Odyssei watched them trundle off into the night. She sighed and straightened up. She irritated the boy had killed the orc. He might have had information useful to the Huntress. Why did that orc know her? What connection was there concerning her brother? Why had he adopted a bunch of children to begin with? It was not the first time she had asked herself that particular question. The urgency of the quest had seemed strange to her from the outset. No matter how she tried to reason with it, something seemed to be out of place with the whole thing.
Skoll returned dragging an inert form. It was the guard the huntress had knocked out earlier. She shouldered her rifle and waited for the spirit wolf to deposit the slaver at her feet. She took one of her hooves and rolled the man on his back. She knelt down and began slapping his face.
The man groaned in pain. He opened his eyes. They blinked incomprehensively, settling at last upon the stern gaze of an unforgiving Draenei. Flinching , arms came up to ward off the blue skinned woman. She slapped them away. "Stop that," she snapped irritably. "I'm going to ask questions. You are going to answer them. Tell me what I want to hear and I'll let you go free. Do we have an accord?"
He blinked at her stupidly.
The huntress sighed. "Well, if you still need to clear some cobwebs from your skull," she left it hanging, swinging the muzzle down until it rested uncomfortably under the man's chin. "Is this clearing your thoughts?" she asked politely. It would never do to be rude.
"What do you want to know?" The man squeaked. His eyes were bulging from their sockets.
The huntress retracted her rifle from his chin. "What were you doing with those children?"
The terrified man swallowed hard.
Odyssei stuck the muzzle again under his chin and pressed hard. "I have an itchy trigger finger, friend."
"The Naga! We were takin' them to the Naga!"
The answer confused the huntress. "Not the Centaur?"
"I swear it was the Naga. Please!"
He shook his head -rather he tried to- with the muzzled still pressed beneath his chin. "I don't know! Talgosh knowed but he's done got hisself dead! I'm just hired muscle. I swear!"
The Draenei woman swore under her breath. Maybe the Elf or the Gnome might know. "Fair enough. Now, where along the coast were you going?"
"Talgosh had hisself a map, Lady. He always kept it on him." The man was practically blubbering now. He pointed at the orc's body.
Odyssei was not one for rifling through dead bodies. There was something unthinkable for the huntress to think about. However, it would appear the answers would have to be gotten by uncomfortable means. She shuddered briefly. "Last question: Answer truthfully and you will leave here a free man."
"Anything!" he promised.
"Why was the boy tied up and separated from the other children?"
The man blinked. "Talgosh done ordered it. Said the boy was something special. He didn't say what was so special about him. Got weird powers, or something. Can I go now? Please? I promise I'll never do something like this again!"
She regarded him coolly. "You'll go back to it. Back to harming others and taking what is not yours. However; I am a woman of my word. Begone! Flee into the night before I change my mind and let my companion play with you."
As if on que, Skoll growled at the man, standing on all fours with his hackles raised.
Gibbering unintelligably, the man scrambled on all fours, whimpering and simpering as he went. He disappeared from view, crashing loudly through bushes.
Edited by Fujiko on 9/19/12 8:21 PM (PDT)
Odyssei suddenly found herself muttering under her breath. She had forgotten the most important question to ask: Why was an orc in command of a band of humans? Such a thing was extremely rare, mostly due to the emnity between the two races. Ever since the orcs had invaded Azeroth years ago, if the two sides weren't at war with each other, there was distrust and a deeply seeded hatred seeping deeper and deeper between them. The Horde and the Alliance was thus affected by that animosity. The Draenei gnawed on a fingernail as she cursed her own stupidity in not asking.
Something was going on. It involved the Naga. Anything involving them was never a good thing. The twisted mutations of what was once a race of High Elves, the Naga were always scheming and plotting under the leadership of Queen Ashazara, a powerful sorceress. Odyssei found herself wondering if she had somehow stumbled into something far bigger than a simple request from a dead man.
The huntress and her four footed companion brought up the rear, making sure no one was following. In her hand was the map she had found on the orc's body. It was stained with his blood. Her mood was dark as she fumed. It was daybreak by the time she made it to the camp. Anuu was the first to greet her, his expression bemused at the sight of her own.
"Something vexes you." He murmured.
"Obviously," she sighed. "I wanted to find out why humans were working for an orc."
The Tauren tapped a finger on the tip of his snout. "Would you venture to hear a simple explaination?" he asked.
"Greed?" she suggested with a shrug.
"Indeed." He nodded and leaned the top of his staff towards the camp. "There's some food ready. And water. Rest and aquaint yourself to your new family." The druid was smiling as he spoke, happy to have been able to be of service for a work of good.
Odyssei grinned. "I owe you a debt, my friend." She handed him the map. "What can you make of this?"
He took it but did not open it. "First see to yourself and your wolf. I shall examine the parchment as soon as the sunlight allows me the luxury of making it out. It would, perhaps, be better if we examine it together."
She nodded and thanked the druid again before wading into the throng of activity surrounding a modest camp fire. Logs had been dragged up to it and children sat along the length of them. They were talking quietly, going over their ordeal. The encouragement to speak came from Taalia and Blurt who took the time to examine and question each and every child in regards to their health and well being.
Taalia saw the Draenei approach and stood, smiling gratefully. "Again, I thank you, Odyssei," she said. "They were going to sell us all into slavery to the Naga." She bent over and kissed a little human girl on the top of her head.
"I don't think this is an isolated incident," said the huntress after smiling and nodding modestly to the Elf. "As soon as the children are rested, we are all going to make for Nigel's Point. It's the closest refuge and will take us three days to get there."
"How do you propose to get them there? These children can't possibly make the journey on foot." Taalia protested, her eyes like flints.
"I'm going to go back to the slaver camp and get the wagon. After I discard that iron prison on it, I'll load it with supplies and catch up to you. Anuu has agreed to escort you to Nigel's Point. You'll be without me for roughly a day. The point for now is to keep moving. We're in Centaur country and I do not want them to find the children. If they stay put for too long, it'll just invite problems. Also, the slavers who ran off might decide to recoup their losses and try to take us. We were very lucky to catch them unawares. I really don't want to wager our chances if they come with blood on their minds." Odyssei sat in the dirt in front of the fire and regarded the children with warmth. "No serious injuries, I hope?" She looked at the Elf.
"None. They took care to ensure none were harmed."
/stalked you from Isenhart's thread after you mentioned something about a story!
I've never read a serious Warcraft inspired story before, but I actually quite enjoy this! It reminds me of a good fantasy novel I'd pick up at a library and start reading :)
My favorite thing about it would have to be your character development, I adore Odyssei and Anuu's personalities/interactions with other characters, the dialect is good as well.
The only criticism I would give is sometimes the sentence structure seems a bit choppy and there seems to be a repetition of the same words/phrases close together at some points. I picked up a few spelling errors along the way -hardly any, only 3 to note.
I'll keep reading if you keep writing c:
Edited by Fujiko on 9/20/12 1:24 PM (PDT)
@Seliah: Yeah, I know. It's imperfect, but I'm having fun. :P
I'll go back and fix stuff after I'm done with this story. Right now, it's important to write, write, write, and write....the little things can be fixed later.
Edited by Fujiko on 9/20/12 2:10 PM (PDT)
Blurt waddled over to the two women. He offered the Draenei bread and cheese. She noticed for the first time he had a rather large nose. For some reason, it occurred to her all Gnome males had rather large noses. His blue eyes twinkled as she accepted his offering gratefully. As she ate, Taalia recounted what the huntress had said to Blurt. He nodded, adding his own interpretation as she went. The little man, Odyssei noted had an odd habit of adding a word here and there to someone else's conversation. As the Draenei ate, it was an amusing play to watch.
"We'll be taking the children to Nigel's Point," Taalia said.
"Alliance outpost filled with bored soldiers," added Blurt in his squeaky voice.
"Odyssei says it'll take us three days."
"Three days of listening to complaining children who are tired and hungry."
"She's getting the wagon."
"Not without removing those bars."
The Elf regarded him without batting an eye, apparently used to this. There was a hint of mirth in her voice as he always countered her sentences. The Gnome appeared to have the same sort of feelings for her. Odyssei noted this with nary a twitch of her eyebrow. It was really none of her business. Besides, it was cute to watch. Even so, she finished her breakfast and washed it down with water.
"How long have you two been married?" she queried politely. Well, it may not have been her business, but she had to satisfy her curiosity.
Blurt beamed at her proudly. "Seven years!" Taalia blushed demurely, inclining her head.
"I'm pleased to see matrimony agrees with the two of you." She added as she hauled herself to her hooves. "Now," Odyssei said as she surveyed the children. They were all looking at her, nudging each other and whispering. Awed by her presence, many had open mouths. All had huge eyes. Draenei were an inspiring race to be around. "Let's have your names, then!" A glance at Taalia was a hint.
"Of course!" The Night Elf rose and stood next to the huntress. She went behind the children, starting at one end of the first log and working her way down. "This is Kelveir. You already met him. He's the oldest and I trust him enough to mind the children when Blurt and I go for supplies."
The boy did not react. He had been staring openly at Odyssei with a peculiar look. It was a bit unnerving. She stared right back at him. Kelvier flinched, blushed, and stared into the fire. A strange child, indeed.
Blurt sighed and was at the boy's side, whispering into his ear sternly, kindly. Things were implied along the lines of discipline. Taalia had already moved on to the next child, continuing with the introductions. For the most part, they were understandably shy to the stranger. A few smiled. There was one orc boy, slightly younger than Kelvier. He appeared unafraid of the huntress. Odyssei had not seen him earlier. It had been dark. Taalia called him Mirk. He was friendly enough, smiling.
In the end, the tally was seven boys, five girls. Their ages ranged from twelve to three years in age. The youngest were twin brothers Arl and Quint. The youngest girl was five and was named Eliana. Then there was Quirk, Anne, Beatrice, Marcus, Max, Johanna, and Candice. Odyssei gave them her winningest smile, her gentlest voice. Deep down, she was feeling a gnawing from within. There was a slowly growing knot of fear as she wondered what it was she had promised her dead brother. She hid it well enough and decided now was not the time to face the ramifications. Now it was more important to get this group headed towards Nigel's Point. She spoke her intentions to the Elf and the Gnome. They nodded and bade her luck. A few of the children waved goodbye. Mirk and Kelvier stared after her.
They watched the huntress go, saw the blue wolf appear at her side seemingly out of nowhere. The two boys shared a look and grinned.
Anuu watched the huntress head back towards the slaver camp. The druid's tail swished in contemplation. Though he was a member of the Cenarion Circle, his motives for helping Odyssei had nothing to do with order. He could have gone about his business after their brief meeting days before. Duty could have been his excuse to move on towards the task given to him by his superior, but this woman intrigued her. Her journey was interesting. The fact she was a Draenei -very unusual to see on this continent- pushed the curious druid towards following her. Odyssei's behavior reminded him of the women of his own people. He had never met one before, but Anuu had heard stories of them. Draenei were considered honorable, capable warriors with a healthy respect for others. They were slow to anger and final in their strikes. One simply could not expect an easy fight against these blue-skinned people.
If she had a bit of fur, she'd be pretty, he mused to himself.
His shaggy brow rose as two small forms darted after her, apparently thinking no one was watching. The druid almost said something. A slight breeze whispered into his ear to stay his voice, to mind the twelve people under his care. A gentle caress of air swirled at his snout.
This must happen.
Anuu was worried, but he was still. A quick prayer to the Earthmother was uttered under his breath. There would be a few hours yet before they would be moving. He hoped those two boys would be safe with the huntress. The druid also hoped she would not kill them for following her. Idly he scratched the side of his neck an noticed something tugging at his tunic. The Tauren looked down and noted with some surprise a little human girl trying to get his attention.
"What can I do for you, little one?" he asked kindly. Anuu had learned the human tongue years ago and found it strange coming from his lips. The thinking was a bit odd, but it amusing to speak.
"Are those horns real?" The little girl stared with huge, green eyes. "Can I touch them?"
The druid felt other eyes upon him. Curious gazes were focused upon him. Anuu realized this was perhaps the first time these human children had ever seen one of his own kind.
"Beatrice!" Taalia hurried over. "That's rude!"
Anuu held up a hand. "Oh, it's quite all right. There is no harm in a question asked innocently." He bent his head forward. "You may touch them, little one."
Hesitantly, small fingers reached out as a sense of wonder came over Beatrice. Gingerly they touched the Tauren's horns. "They're pretty!" she exclaimed. Then there was a small avalanche of humanity as children began milling around the druid's massive form. It was not an unpleasant experience.
Blurt had held his breath during the whole encounter. He let it out, glad something as big as the Tauren was not annoyed at being mobbed by a bunch of children. The Gnome slumped in relief on a rock. The little throng appeared off for some reason, but the tired little man could not quite figure out what was amiss. He was tired. Very tired. Sleep had eluded him and his wife for the past few weeks since they had been captured. Blurt McBabble was still trying to figure out what had just happened. He realized there had been a rescue and he was happy about it. Scarheart had spoken of having a sister before, but for some reason the Gnome was thinking she would be a paladin, not a hunteress. There was certainly a wildness about Odyssei. She was about as much a free spirit as the Gnome had ever seen. As for the Tauren.
Blurt had fought them before. In a former life as another person. But that was long ago. He was married now, with a family, albeit extended. It had been happy, back when Scar had been alive, when the adventures with Taalia had sent the three deep into the heart of Outlands so long ago. The idea of raising orphans had been the Night Elf's. Seeing what wars had left in their wake had opened eyes towards the healing. What better way was there than to reach out to the children left behind?
Odyssei's trip back to the slaver camp was quick. The first slivers of daylight gleamed against the frosy white summits and through the gray clouds rolling at the front of a late winter storm. She set her lips grimly at the prospect of unpleasant weather. Skoll was gone for now, resting in a place where only spirit beasts knew of. He would return later. For now, the huntress was alone in the wilderness and completely at home. Her hoof steps made nary a sound on the dry, gravely ground. Even the fringes of Desolace was sparse in vegetation, save for the forest that had sprung suddenly in its heart in the wake of the Cataclysm. Perhaps the madness of Deathwing had brought about some good in the end.
She had heard about it, seen the devastation in just a few remote places. Odyssei had even felt it. Once, she had caught a glimpse of the Aspect of Death from miles away. Even his form, blurred by the heat and the distance of that day had sent chills down her spine. Now he was dead, she heard. The land itself had assured the Draenei girl of this.
Odyssei was one with her surroundings, moving as a silent cloaked wraith. There could still be eyes out there, searching, seeking vengeance. Slavers were a notoriously unforgiving. The huntress had met their kind before. She had dealt with them. It was a point detrimental to her to see to it a slaver deprived of his cargo in the most humiliating of fashions. The girl had made it almost a hobby to free slaves for not only the obvious morality railing against humanoid sales, but for the danger that went with it. There was quite a bounty on the Draenei's head.
As she worked her way to the camp, an idea began to form in her mind. Perhaps the children were not a simple matter of kidnapping for sale. She began to imagine they were to have been held against her. A ransom of their freedom for her bondage. It made sense to her. Odyssei found herself cursing herself again over not inquiring about the orc more directly. Then there was that map. Anuu had it now. Though she did not know him, Odyssei had come to trust members of the Cenarion Circle. They were a secretive lot in many ways, but they served with dignity and purpose. The Draenei girl really found no real difference between druids and those who served the Light, the paladins and priests. She imagined if one were to cut through the ideology, there really wasn't much difference between the two other than mortal views fashioned through mortal faults and thoughts. Either could be twisted to serve a purpose not originally intended. Both powers were tools, albeit powerful and sentient.
Her glowing eyes searched expertly for subtle trail signs. It had been three hours since the camp had been scattered and here she was on its fringe. So far as she could tell, no one had yet dared to return. Odyssei dropped to a crouch and paused. Her nostrils tested the air. She could taste the wind on the tip of her tongue. Pointed ears caught the whispers upon the soft breeze within the gathering gales. Yes, the storm was approaching. The storm within the storm. The huntress could sense it, knew where it would come from. But when?
Time was quickly running short. Everything around her feet told her a looming danger would soon be upon her. The children would soon be in danger.
She spun, her pale tresses flailing in the wind as her wide eyes suddenly spied two boyish forms caught in the act of attempting to sneak up on her. "You little fools!" Odyssei was upon them, grabbing arms, her instincts screaming at her. "You should not have followed me. By the Light!"
Mirk and Kelvier were frozen by her sudden anger. They misunderstood, thought it was directed at them. Sullen faces riddled with guilt stared up at the tall, raging beauty with the wildly lashing tail.
"Come! Run! This way!" She tugged on them, heading up the hill towards a massive pile of boulders that might provide safety and protection. Mindlessly, they followed, suddenly feeling terror grip their hearts.
Something roared behind them. It was a vast sound, echoing through the mountains as if to usher in death itself. A massive shadow passed over them, blotting out the light. The very ground shook as a great weight slammed into the earth. The sounds of great claws tearing through stone made agonizing fearfulness the only thought.
Mirk was screaming. Kelvier was screaming. Both orc and human were squatting among the boulders, clamping their hands over their ears. Odyssei knelt between them, encricling her arms around their shoulders and drawing them close. She could not see what it was, but this was no monster facing them. This was no dragon seeking them out.
This was far, far worse.
The roars changed, twisting themselves into a maniacle cackling laugh. It was a dark, evil sound.
Edited by Fujiko on 9/23/12 5:52 AM (PDT)
A voice, all too familiar to Odyssei pierced her ears and filled her with dread. It was the voice of one who should have been dead. "Come, girl! Come and embrace me as you once embraced me before! Come and let your killing blow again be music upon my ears. I hunger for your hatred of me, Odyssei. It has been so long." Another peal of laughter reached out to her, mocking her. Antagonizing her.
She quieted the boys and went forward, daring a quick look around one of the massive rocks. What came in view had her inhale sharply as she fell back into hiding. Unslinging her rifle, she wondered what good it would do against someone she saw killed earlier.
The orc known as Talgosh was waiting for her. His clothing was still soaked in his own blood, his eyes blazing crimson slits of pure evil. Next to him stood a tall gaunt figure in black robes seething with malevolance. The necromancer. The one who had killed her brother. Three years dead. Or so she had thought him to have been killed with her own arrow straight through his heart. A blur of confused thoughts returned, the past mingling with the future like oil and water, clouding her mind. Why now? Why would the past return to haunt her when it should have been rested peacefully long ago? The grip on her weapon tightened until her knuckles turned white.
With ghoulish glee, the dark robed figure gestured imperiously with his right hand and the undead orc shambled forward with unbelievable speed. In its hand was a wickedly barbed sword. The orc formerly known as Talgosh opened its mouth and uttered a dreadful howl only the undead could utter.
The boy orc Mirk drew her attention, his eyes wide. "Don't abandon me like my father did," he begged fiercely. "Are you a coward?" Kelvier watched the Draenei intently, his shoulder touching his friend's.
It was unnerving to deny those intense eyes. Odyssei grit her teeth, knowing it was not just her life on the line, but most certainly the human and orc's as well. She rose from her crouch, spinning on her heels as she whipped her rifle around. Three rapid cracks echoed through the mountains. Gore and ichor burst out from the undead orc's back. Still, it came on, hefting its sword over its head now, mouth opened in unthinking rage. Odyssei set herself calmly, took careful aim, and fired a fourth round. The orc's head shot back, skull, blood, and bits of brain matter splattering behind. The charge faltered, legs suddenly giving out as the corpse pitched forward, limbs twitching in the dust coming off the ground.
The storm was almost upon them. The wind picked up, cold and unforgiving. Odyssei trained her sights on the dark figure, the necromancer. The one whom she knew nothing of other than he had killed Scarheart and she in turn had killed the evil thing. But why now? Why after so many years?
A ragged finger was waving at her in admonishment. The wind carried a dark chuckle to her ears. "Nay, my dear. Not yet. You could not kill me then and you will not kill me now."
The huntress pressed the trigger. The rifle spat flame one more time.
The necromancer disappeared in a puff of black smoke, quickly taken up by the cold, swirling air. It seemed to take with it insane laughter. The winds seemed to carry the words, 'until next time' with a forboding promise.
Unnerved, the Draenei woman trembled on weakened knees, leaning forward and bracing herself with an unsteady hand upon the rock. Small hands were there, supporting her. Mirk bore an expression of pride. Kelvier bore a sage and grateful visage. It appeared odd on a child's face, seeming more for someone who was far, far older.
"What was that?" asked the orc boy in a trembling voice fighting to sound brave.
Gazing at him sadly, Odyssei placed a palm against his cheek. "A lesson from the past not yet learned, apparently," she said sadly. "I fear the two of you are now a part of it, I'm afraid."
Edited by Xerun on 9/23/12 12:29 PM (PDT)
Flakes of flurried snow was swirling in abundance by the time they made the slaver camp less than an hour later. The first rolls of dark clouds broiled overhead. Thunder rumbled ominously. Kelvier and Mirk both bore looks of adoration for the huntress. They followed her commands without complaint and helped her to find a way to push the iron cage off of the wagon. A biting cold was now surrounding them. The two boys were ill equipped for this sort of weather and they had to pause while they rummaged the camp for warmer clothing.
Odyssei narrowed her eyes thoughtfully as she considered what the other children were wearing. She found what she was looking for on the cage and shifted Mirk and Kelvier to searching the three tents for clothing and anything else that might be useful. Food was also stressed. The cage itself was a simple matter of untying a series of ropes and simply pulling the structure off from the back. Little well maintained iron rollers ran along two lengths beneath the cage allowing for versatility. Odyssei admired the handiwork long enough to see she needed the slightest tug on a rope to coax the cage from its resting place on the wagon. Once one end had clattered to the hard ground, the huntress left it lying there and began moving the growing pile of supplies into the wagon.
"I'll hitch the kodo," offered Mirk without blinking. "This one's pretty nice." He went off to do just that without asking.
Kelvier held up some blankets he had found over his head triumphantly after emerging from the last tent. A grin creased his young face as he ran with his find to the wagon. Odyssei noted it was a very large pile and had to get down from the wagon to help. While the orc boy coaxed the kodo in front of the wagon, the draenei and human quickly threw everything of use into it. Soon they were heading back the way they had come, loaded with enough food for at least a week. The edge of the cage still on the end of the wagon clattered to the ground behind them after dragging a few feet when the beast first hauled easily on its load. The boys sat one on each side of Odyssei, hunkering beneath her heavy cloak and wrapped in their newly aquired blankets.
The snow falling now was heavier, wetter. The ground was not cold enough for it to stick, but the sparse shrubbery caught and hold the flakes. The huntress felt it would change back to cold rain at any minute. She was glad the ground was mostly rock. Dealing with a wagon wheel stuck in mud presented all sorts of amusements she really did not care to deal with.
As they rode, Mirk spoke a little about himself. The orc boy was not afraid to talk about it, having come at some point in his young life to realize it didn't hurt to say what he felt was on his mind. He had seen his entire village swallowed up by the earth during the Cataclysm. The boy's father had apparently saved himself and abandoned his son along with a few other survivors. Only Mirk emerged from that group, he related through clenched teeth. He wandered alone through a shattered Barrens for days, weeks, perhaps even months. Eventually, Taalia found him wandering the wilderness, hungry and half wild. She brought him to the house with the other children. There, he met Scarheart and Blurt. Kelvier was the first boy he met and they quickly became friends. That had been years ago.
Odyssei found herself putting an arm around him and rubbing a shoulder reassuringly. It made her problems seem too strange in comparison to his tragedy. Kelvier said nothing. He never indicated he could speak. But he did at one point near the end of Mirk's story reach over and pat his friend on the arm. Odyssei realized the two boys were reliant upon each other and had become as brothers. The orc finished, his eyes locked on the back of the kodo. His little face turned up towards the draenei.
"So, what's your story?" he asked hopefully. "What was with that scary dark man back there?"