Everything was ready to go the next morning, but Bregan had, (mostly), learned his lesson about patience, and held back his desire to urge them on faster. The group made their way through the sparse woods, somewhat in the same direction as the Horde camp, though they gave both the Horde and Grimtotem camps a wide berth. Three of them, Ja’Ghan, Thratar, and Bregan, would circle as close to the prisoners as they could manage, while still keeping to cover, whereas Rae would head more toward the front of the camp to wreak havoc.
By the time they parted ways they were too close to the Grimtotems to verbally communicate with one another, so Rae gave a brash salute at Ja’Ghan, who nodded. After she slipped into the lingering shadows of the pre-dawn, gray morning, the three of them made their way to where they would sit until Rae gave the signal.
The seconds ticked by, and Bregan did his best to ignore the passage of time as it crawled on, periodically punctuated by the throbbing of his injured hand. It was a strange sensation, to be sure, to expect to pick something up with three fingers, but only doing so with two. Not to mention the healing was still fresh, so the roughest treatment might split the skin back open, and it ached.
They were sitting a ways from the camp, hiding amongst the trees, and Thratar nearly snorted at the lax behavior of the guards–who barely left more than ten feet from the perimeter of the huts.
At the first hint of the sun breaching the top of the mountains an explosion rocked the camp, shouts of alarm went up, and a fire illuminated the bark of the trees toward the front of the camp that they could just barely see.
“Give it a minute more,” Thratar’s voice rumbled, catching Bregan before he could spring forward and almost causing him to fall flat on his face.
Just as he was about to shoot daggers at his friend’s back with his eyes, some of the lackadaisical guards rushed from the huts nearest them. Bregan swallowed back his pride, and sent a silent apology and thank you to his friend.
“Let’s go,” he finally said, after what felt like an eternity since they saw the guards run away. The fire was blazing brighter, and the Grimtotems were having the same issues the Horde had with controlling the flames. Whatever Rae used to cause the distraction was working incredibly well.
As they ducked behind buildings and waited breathlessly for guards to pass before continuing, Bregan could only hope that Talida was among the prisoners, and that this wasn’t a colossal waste of time. Adrenaline pumped through them all, though only the shaking of Bregan’s hands gave any indicator of the nervousness of the group. Thratar and Ja’Ghan knew the hard part would be getting back out of the camp once they freed the prisoners.
A few huts, guards, and minutes later, the prisoner’s pen came into view. It was a large, wooden prison structure, with no shield from the elements, and the spaces between the wooden poles would barely fit both of Bregan’s fists before the one’s size reduction. A great many Tauren, a few other members of the Horde, and even some Alliance milled about nervously in the cage. No wonder, Bregan noted, as the flames were getting perilously close to the huts nearest the pen.
Ja’Ghan ran up to the prison, and quiet fell over the occupants as he began to work at getting the cage open. Thratar watched their back, and Bregan was straining to look over the crowd in an effort to spot Talida. Thus far, he hadn’t seen hide or hair of her dark grey fur, ivory horns, honey brown eyes, or beautiful smile, and he began to nervously chew the inside of his cheek.
Were they too late? Had something happened? Had she even been here? Questions, like dagger thrusts to his heart, whirled through his mind as he tried to keep calm. He couldn’t see all the people, and getting worked up over nothing wouldn’t help.
When Ja’Ghan finally broke through the ropes and smashed the lock, the door swung open. The group fairly stampeded out of the cage, and barely waited long enough for Ja’Ghan to tell them where they should run to.
As each person passed him, his hope deflated more and more, until as the last person left the cage, he was left with nothing but a hollow feeling in his gut and soul.
“She’s not here,” his harsh whisper rang in his own ears, and Thratar gave him a sympathetic glance.
“This not be da only camp, mon. We’ll find her,” Ja’Ghan promised, and placed an understanding hand on Bregan’s shoulder.
Before Bregan could respond with his thanks, or perhaps the bitterness that welled from within, Thratar let out a shout as the first of the Grimtotems showed up to check on the prisoners. Wrath, such as Bregan had never felt before, rushed through him like a raging, spring-melt river. Though Thratar stood his ground, ready to confront the enemy, Bregan rushed past him and picked up the nearest weapon-type item he could find: a blacksmith’s hammer abandoned near an anvil.
With a bellow of fury and an upward swing that caught the charging Grimtotem underneath the chin, Bregan dropped the attacker like a sack of potatoes from the top of Thunderbluff. Then, the fight was truly on as more and more Grimtotem showed up as reinforcements.
They fought as they retreated, though given half a chance it was likely Bregan would have went on a warpath through the camp, taking on everyone who crossed his path. It was all Thratar could do to corral his friend into fighting in the direction they needed to go, though he wasn’t at all sure his friend truly recognized who he was in that instant. In all likelihood, Thratar’s only saving grace at that time was that he didn’t look like a Grimtotem.
Then, when they were a scant few huts away from the position they’d hid in until Rae’s signal, the attacking Grimtotems backed off. Thratar tried to pull his friend to keep heading to the trees, but Bregan stood firm. The Tauren was panting in great bellows, standing with his feet spread awaiting another attack, and he held the blacksmith’s hammer in a tight, two-handed grip. Thratar grimaced when he glanced the blood-soaked bandaged on Bregan’s injured hand, but Bregan gave no indication that he noticed.
The Grimtotems shot murderous looks in their direction, but grumbled and remained in place, as though waiting for something. Or someone.
“Come on! Fight, you dirty gutter-swine!” Bregan taunted them, and Thratar swallowed back a hiss of admonishment; it wouldn’t do them any good to appear divided in front of the enemy.
The Grimtotems’ ire grew, but they remained in place.
“Oh, Bregan, my love–what atrocious language,” a voice called from behind the group.
As though parting like the long grass of the plains, the group split and made way for a female Tauren, garbed in some of the nicer clothing and armor to be found amongst those in the camp. Bregan’s jaw dropped in horror and the hammer slipped from his grip, while Thratar ground his teeth and scowled, and Ja’Ghan remained deliberately silent.
“Don’t tell me you came all this way, just for little ‘ol me?” Talida laughed, the malice and satisfaction that rode her voice like lion running down its prey, ran through Bregan’s heart like the cruelest of daggers.
“But…you…” Bregan started, but couldn’t find the proper words to cover the ever-rising sense of betrayal.
“Come now, Bregan, don’t be that way. The Grimtotems placed me in your village at a very young age with one mission in mind: find any decent Tauren amongst your group and bring them over to the Grimtotems. Why do you think the raids increased in recent times, as well as those missing and presumed captured or dead? It wasn’t just because of the Old bull’s death, it was because those I’d grown up with were finally showing their worth,” Talida concluded, the venom of her words slowly seeping into Bregan’s veins like the ice of the deepest winter.
Thratar was furious beyond words, and took a step forward as he gripped his blood-soaked sword, ready to separate the traitorous cow’s head from her shoulders.
“Ah-ah-ah, hold your horses there, you green-skinned toad,” Talida warned, raised a hand, and twitched a couple of her fingers to signal someone behind her.
Another Grimtotem dragged a bleeding, supremely pissed-off looking Rae up to Talida’s side. They’d removed her rogue’s mask, exposing all her scars for everyone to gawk at. It was now Ja’Ghan’s turn for anger, but he remained crouched in his spot, waiting for his chance.
“Now, let’s have a little chat,” Talida said affably, though it was contradicted by the baleful look in her usually warm eyes and the menacing hand she placed on Rae’s head. She grabbed a handful of the Blood Elf’s hair, though Rae stoutly refused to wince at the sharp pain on her scalp. “Or we can see how pretty she’ll still look with her head on a pike. Your choice.”
Bregan swallowed the agony building within him from the betrayal, and nodded. Thratar narrowed his eyes and growled, but dropped the sword he was holding. Ja’Ghan, who was by far the hardest to read of the group, merely nodded as well, and tossed his knife to join Thratar’s sword and Bregan’s hammer.
“Good boys,” Talida said. “Now, let’s get down to business.”
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 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