The venture through the pass and down into the Stonetalon Mountain region was relatively uneventful, though the kodos didn’t seem to appreciate navigating the mountainous terrain in the dark. Because of the pitch black their trek had to be slow and careful, lest they fall off the side of the mountain, but the delay ate at Bregan’s mind and heart. At least the Grimtotems had retreated, for the moment, though Bregan and Thratar continued to proceed with the utmost caution.
At dawn they made it to the top, and Bregan got his first glimpse of Stonetalon. Trees that towered overhead with needle-like growth along the branches instead of leaves, dappled the light on the sparse undergrowth and ruddy, rocky terrain. Since crossing the mountain between Mulgore and Stonetalon, the rain had made way for the early morning sunshine, though the thinner air made breathing a more laborious exercise than usual for the plane-dwelling Tauren.
“You’ll get used to it soon enough,” Thratar reassured Bregan, who merely nodded.
It wasn’t long until they came to the path Cheota described, and they headed North-West as per her instructions.
“I wonder why we haven’t run into anyone yet,” Bregan commented, and glanced around to make sure the statement was still true.
“The various battles in Stonetalon aren’t near this portion, if I’m remembering correctly. Most of the Horde have gathered near the Ashenvale front, though things are likely at a standstill now that Garrosh has been deposed,” Thratar replied, but Bregan noticed he kept one hand on the kodo’s reins, and the other on the hilt of his sword.
The sun was still low on the eastern horizon, and the weariness of the long night settled in Bregan’s bones as no other exhaustion ever had. His eyelids began to droop, and the wind whispering through the trees lent a soothing lullaby to his ears. Bregan fell asleep in the saddle, the rocking movements of the kodo’s gait making him sway gently back and forth.
It wasn’t long before the motions stopped and Bregan jerked awake, his mind muddled by the catnap and eyes gritty. He rubbed them, and once his vision cleared he saw why Thratar had brought the kodos to a halt. A decent distance in front of them were trees lined with large spider webs, and though the light from the sun provided some visibility in clearer areas, the darkness was thick between the trees.
“I don’t see any dwellings,” Bregan said, and scanned the area with Thratar.
“Not likely to have it out in the open. Buildings in the open are asking to be raided and burned. It’s probably close by, but hidden.”
Then Thratar and his kodo let out surprised grunts, which spun Bregan in the saddle to see a hooded figure on Thratar’s back. His hair was gripped in one delicate, gloved hand, with a wickedly curved dagger held to his throat with the other.
“How clever and observant of you,” the thin, lithe figure hissed, her smooth, cultured voice holding such a level of animosity it nearly took his breath away. Bregan shifted in his saddle, but the figure further tightened her grip on Thratar’s hair, and pulled his head back to make his throat taut for the dagger.
“Move again, and I give your friend the biggest smile he’s ever had, from ear to ear right across his throat,” she warned, and Bregan stilled, the need to move itching along every nerve and muscle in his body.
Bregan gave a small, slow nod. “My name is Bregan, and this is Thratar. We were sent here by Cheota, are you Rae?” he asked, and noticed just the tiniest twitch.
She turned to face him, her glowing emerald eyes assessing and wary, but no longer one-hundred percent hostile. Bregan got his first glimpse of why a Blood Elf would decide to live in the depths of the mountains instead of the sprawling cities they were so fond of, as the first rays of light shone on the many scars over her lightly tanned face. The largest one started near the hairline of her long, white-blonde hair, over her left eye, then continued all the way down to her jaw. It was a major feat she hadn’t lost the eye, and Bregan could understand how this would make someone overly cautious, if not actively hostile to perceived threats.
“And why would Cheota send the two of you my way?” she asked, never loosening her grip Thratar.
“A woman from my village was taken by the Grimtotems,” Bregan replied, and the skin around Rae’s eyes tightened, as though in pain. “She is very dear to me, and Cheota said you might be willing to help,” he finished, and held his breath as Rae considered his words. The seconds almost ticked by audibly in Bregan’s mind.
In one swift movement, she let go of Thratar, moved the dagger away from his throat, and jumped from the back of the kodo to the ground. She was fast, and it was no wonder she’d gotten the drop on them, though from Thratar’s scowl Bregan deduced the Orc didn’t feel the same way.
“I’m willing to hear you out, but it’s time to ditch the kodos. We can’t take them where I stay, and we can’t leave them down on the ground or it’ll alert patrols that someone is there,” she said, voice brooking no argument.
The two men nodded. With a quick efficiency, Bregan and Thratar dismounted and pulled their supplies from the saddlebags. A firm slap on their haunches, and the kodos headed back the way they’d come. Bregan knew the kodos would find their way back to the village Bregan and Thratar had borrowed them from, though it felt like a small piece of home was leaving along with them.
They both turned to Rae, who nodded, and headed straight for a cliff, not far from where the spider webs began. When they got closer, a thin trail that barely allowed Bregan to keep his hooves, wound its way up the cliff. It appeared more as something naturally occurring, than a path to a dwelling. About halfway up the cliff-face the trail ended, but Rae slipped around a blind corner, and the two followed her inside.
It was a decent-sized cave, big enough for two people to live comfortably if they didn’t mind close quarters, and in fact Rae made her way over to a small bundle on a low bed at the back of the cave.
She pressed her hand against something in the bundle and frowned, her lips pursed and jaw clenched. Her words were low, and if there was a response from the bundle Bregan never heard it. Rae stood and came back toward them, near a fire pit not far from the entrance.
“Make yourself useful,” she glared at Thratar, and motioned to the wood. Thratar grit his teeth, but obliged, as did Bregan when Rae handed him potatoes and carrots to clean and dice. It wasn’t long before she had a decent-smelling stew going, and Bregan felt hunger gnaw at his insides for the first time since learning of Talida being taken.
“I’ll hear you out, but I won’t guarantee anything, and I’ll need your help with something before I can help you,” she stated, and removed her cloak, hood, and boots. The leather of her armor made no sound as she moved, and though she’d invited them to her cave and they had Cheota’s recommendation, she did not take it off.
“That sounds fair,” Bregan replied when it was clear Thratar still wasn’t up to talking, though his heart clenched painfully at the prospect of another delay.
They remained silent as the stew finished, and she doled it out in delicate bowls that were out of place for such rough surroundings. Keepsakes, Began thought, and thanked her when she handed him one. Once that was done she grabbed some hard biscuits from a container on a shelf against the cave wall, and gave two to each of them. She dunked hers in the liquid of the stew, and started in on the meal. Bregan and Thratar followed suit, and the silence turned less tense, though not quite companionable.
“Now,” she said as she set her empty bowl on the ground in front of her crossed legs, “tell me your story.”
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter One
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Two
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Three
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Four
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Six
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Seven
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Eight
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Nine
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Ten
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Eleven
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Twelve
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Thirteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fourteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fifteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Sixteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Final Chapter