The sun breaking over the ridge of the mountains was bright and cheery. Bregan hadn’t been woken for a night watch, and though he made a token protest at the special treatment, he likely wouldn’t have been much use if anything had attacked them.
Ja’Ghan’s movements were slow and worried that morning as he stoked the fire and re-heated some of the leftover stag meat. He had taken the time, after Rae had woken him for the final watch, to meditate and attempt to coax a vision from the fire. What he’d been able to glean had been less than reassuring. They needed to get Bregan home, though he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why, and he didn’t want to worry the poor Tauren.
They ate in relative silence, with only the birds overhead chattering their morning salutations.
“Well, time for us to part ways,” Rae said, and stood to brush and dirt and debris from her backside.
Bregan and Thratar stood, and held out hands to the Blood Elf and crouched Troll. To Bregan, it was almost as though they were leaving before the final chapter was complete, and that, perhaps, something was missing. Ja’Ghan and Rae set off back toward their cave near the spiders, and Thratar and Bregan headed toward the pass that would take them back to the rolling hills and plains of Mulgore.
When they crossed through the Stonetalon Pass, they met up with Cheota, who was overseeing the re-building of their post. She watched their approach, sans Talida, with a grim frown.
“I am sorry your quest was unsuccessful,” she offered, and held out a hand to shake Bregan’s in a sympathetic gesture. Bregan took her hand in his and gave it a small squeeze.
“Aye, so am I. Do you at least have better news?” he inquired, and glanced at the additional troops milling about the camp.
Cheota snorted. “Greenhorns, they sent me. It’s all I can do to keep them from stabbing themselves or falling off the side of the pass.” Then a gleam lit her eyes. “How’s about you return a favor for a favor, and take a few off my hands for escort duty back to your village?”
Thratar groaned, having dealt with wet-behind-the-ears troops before, but it was the first time Bregan had wanted to smile since Talida’s betrayal.
“You’ve got yourself a deal.” He laughed, both at Cheota’s grin and Thratar’s groan.
The older Tauren called out to a couple of new recruits, and though Bregan wasn’t a seasoned warrior, he had grown up doing hard labor out in the fields, and was beyond such a seemingly young age. The recruits practically screamed; “It’s the first time I’ve been away from my parents.”
Cheota gave them instructions, and sent them off to grab a couple of Kodos they could double-up on. When they scampered off, delight gave them almost a skip in their steps.
“They are not precisely my trouble-makers, but they are the most bored by the building process. It seems the recruiter filled their heads with endless fighting and heroic tales of battle.” Cheota shook her head. “They do not realize much of the time it is ‘hurry up and wait’.” Thratar grunted in acknowledgment.
“Still, having some is better than having too few, right?” Bregan asked.
Cheota grimaced, as if in pain. “Only barely.” The two new recruits approached, riding on the great lumbering beasts. Bregan and Thratar jumped up behind the recruits, with nary a complaint out of Thratar.
“Take them home, see if the Elders or the Village Leader need any assistance, then come back,” Cheota instructed, trying her best to legitimately extend their time away from her as much as possible. They snapped a quick salute, then turned the beasts towards Bregan’s village.
The recruits–Neka and Tohopka–jabbered almost the entire way, and paused only to drink from their water skins. Thratar ground his teeth, but did his best not to get too down on the young Tauren. Bregan listened to the rambling, and though he wasn’t much older than them, he was still nostalgic for a less complicated time.
Talida…Bregan cleared his throat and refocused on Neka’s words, though both boys had left him behind without a second thought.
When they passed the well they refilled their water skins, then continued on to Bregan’s village. It was nearing evening and the torches were lit, giving the growing night a soft glow, and the skins and wood of the huts a shining warmth. The usual soft chatter of his fellow villagers was absent, and in its place a loud and boisterous gathering was going on in the main hall.
Thratar and Bregan shared a curious look. When they were close to the village center, Bregan and Thratar dismounted, while Bregan instructed Neka and Tohopka where they could tie up the Kodos for the night. The two of them lumbered off toward the Kodo area, and the two beasts lowed in greeting to their fellow, sleepy beasts.
Thratar and Bregan approached the great hall, which was full to bursting with Tauren. Some of them, Bregan noted, were from outlying villages, and even a couple were from Thunder Bluff. At their approach, one of the Tauren standing outside the hall turned and saw the two of them.
He let out a joyous shout. “Bregan and Thratar are back!”
A collective cheer went up from the assembled mass, then fell silent–aside from congratulatory mumbles–and parted to let them through.
“My son, you are home!” Shikoba greeted him, warmly, over the heads of the Tauren. When the crowd was able to shuffle away and let Bregan and Thratar through, Shikoba was there waiting. He moved forward and embraced his son. “Welcome home!”
“Thank you, father,” Bregan said, surprised at the change in his father’s attitude. Last he knew they were fighting over him leaving to find Talida.
“Yes, Bregan–welcome home.” The voice slithered through the crowd and struck at his heart like the most venomous of snakes, paralyzing his body and voice.
His father beamed down at him. “Talida has been telling us all about your journey, and heroism–”
“Father–” the word was strangled, and barely more than a whisper, but his Father continued.
“–wounded in rescuing her. She came home sooner to prepare the way, and surprise you with the recognition you deserve,” he finished, the apology from his earlier actions in the subtext of his words.
“Father,” he managed, louder this time. “Talida is traitor, and I am no hero.”
His words fell like a stone in a still pond, and rippled through the room. In shock, Shikoba half-turned to face Talida.
“Oh, Bregan, you just had to go and ruin the fun.” The malicious gleam in her eyes and twist to her lips made Bregan’s heart ache. “I had hoped Baine, hearing of your heroics, would make an appearance, but that slimy coward didn’t show,” she fumed, then spat in the fire in the center of the hall. The flames hissed in response, and she suddenly laughed. “No matter, because plenty of you will die tonight, and he’ll have to show himself to exact ‘justice’ on us!”
The familiar ringing of swords clanged over the hush in the hall, and a panicked stampede ensued as a disturbance started near the entrance just behind Bregan and Thratar. Through all the commotion Talida’s eyes were locked with Bregan’s, and she bared her teeth in a feral grin.
“Die, hero,” she mocked, and charged forward.
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 Five
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 Fifteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Sixteen
Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Final Chapter