A chill wind blew over the mountain, kicking up little flurries of snow in its wake, and Drekxan was never more aware of how very far from home he was. Or how much he hated the cold. Growing up in the Echo Isles, where the heat was like a living, breathing elemental, meant his appreciation for areas where winter was eternal left him shivering and grumbling.
Bodrer needled him endlessly about it, saying his blue skin was a sign Drekxan was doomed to forever be sent to the coldest regions of Azeroth. Drekxan said he was rather mouthy for someone who couldn’t reach the top shelf without help.
However, the weather wasn’t responsible for the ache deep in his bones or the icy fingers of sorrow clenched around his heart. He was crouched in front of one of the shrines around the back of the Trueshot Lodge. Its were candles perched on an old stump and magicked to remain alight no matter the weather. In front of the stump, within easy reach of his calloused fingers, was his weapon. He ran a hand lovingly over the wood, remembering how it had fashioned itself into a bow at the first moment he touched it. Titanstrike, vessel of the Thunderspark, and a weapon to harness the souls of storms.
His hand stilled over the lifeless wood, and a sharp pain lanced through his chest. He grimaced, and curled his fingers into a fist and away from the weapon. A soft whine sounded from next to him, and he looked over to his wolf, Shanzin. His hand went to the animal’s head, running it over the course, white fur that matched Drekxan’s hair perfectly, and offering what comfort he could.
“I know, mon. I know,” Drekxan said, and sighed.
They’d done their part in the war to stop the Legion and the mad Titan, Sargeras, and what did they have to show for it? A big sword stuck right into the heart of their world, and wounds that would never heal that had nothing to do with Silithus.
Shanzin sighed back at him, and nudged the bow with his nose, whining again.
Drekxan was a hunter, and as such he acknowledged the cycle of life and death with the reverence it deserved. This wasn’t his first loss, and it wouldn’t be his last, but some bonds went so far into the soul, recovering seemed impossible beyond their loss.
When Hati had heeled to his hand, the lightning wolf’s sparks running over his arm with warm tingles, he’d been breathless with awe. Being the keeper of Thorim’s wolf was an honor Drekxan never dreamed in a thousand years he’d be bestowed with, and Shanzin had taken to the older, blue wolf like a surf crawler to water.
From one side of the Broken Isles to the other, and even to another world, the three of them had been through thick and thin, and survived. Then, Magni Bronzebeard had called for him once more, and with his words asked Drekxan for something more valuable than his own life: Hati’s.
It wasn’t so much Hati himself, but the power of the Thunderspark, which was needed to drain the death magic from the Titan’s sword before it killed their world. One life for thousands.
And still, he’d hesitated.
He was not ashamed to admit it. What were people he’d never met in comparison with a companion who’d kept him alive through the very worst the Burning Legion had to offer, and more?
In that moment of indecision, Hati had butted Drekxan’s hand with his head. Drekxan looked into the eyes of a creature who understood far beyond what any mortal one could, and realized Hati was telling him it was okay, and to let him do this one, final task.
So, he did. When Drekxan raised Titanstrike toward the sword, Hati faced the cursed blade and lifted his muzzle, howling his defiance toward the heavens. Shanzin followed suit on Drekxan’s right, and their cries intertwined and echoed out across the dunes.
And as the last spark of Hati drained away, leaving the Titankstrike empty in his hands, Shanzin’s howl carried on, alone, lamenting the loss of his friend.
They’d returned to the Trueshot Lodge after that, awaiting further orders from Magni on how to save Azeroth. Drekxan, who was by no means a young troll, was weary. Not only of the cold and endless wars, but of the never-ending death. The cycle was sacred, yes, but looking into Shanzin’s dull eyes that mirrored Drekxan’s feelings, perhaps it was time to leave the Hunt to those younger than him. Those not worn down by constant loss.
“Ach, there you are. Thought I might find you here.” Bodrer’s thick brogue broke through the haze of Drekxan’s thoughts.
Drekxan grunted. “Whatcha want, Bodrer?”
Instead of answering, the old Dwarf looked over Shanzin. “Still?” His question was not condescending, but quiet and pensive.
Drekxan merely nodded, at which Bodrer sighed. “I came to tell you that a message came from Orgrimmar for you, marked urgent.”
Drekxan snorted. “They always be thinkin’ dat their business is urgent.”
“It came directly from your Warchief,” Bodrer said, his voice going low.
At the Trueshot Lodge, there were no allegiances except to honoring the tenants of the Hunt, which the Huntmaster—currently Drekxan—was chosen to uphold. That Sylvanas was calling for him, specifically, did not bode well in Drekxan’s mind, and sat uneasily in his stomach.
There’d been some business Drekxan had stayed well away from, concerning a certain tree, but he knew it was only a matter of time before she’d demand to see him.
“I not be wantin’ ta get tangled in her web. I follow da Hunt. Nothin’ more,” Drekxan said.
Bodrer let out a barely perceptible sigh. “Still, it had news that might interest you,” he said, a small flash of mischief in his eyes.
“Oh? Ya been readin’ my mail again?” Drekxan asked.
Bodrer didn’t even have the grace to look abashed as he shrugged, and a smirk tugged the corner of his mouth. “You don’t read it, so someone should.”
Drekxan harrumphed. “I let ya be readin’ it for me, because gossipin’ makes ya happier than a boar in mud, dwarf,” Drekxan said, amicably.
Bodrer laughed his agreement, but he’d never admit to such out loud. “Any way, it spoke of a new land: Zandalar.”
Drekxan, whose attention had strayed from the dwarf as he pet Shanzin again, jerked his head over to lock on with Bodrer’s warm, brown eyes.
“Aye, and I hear there’s plenty of land to be explored—warm land. A jungle, swamp, and desert, respectively,” Bodrer said, putting the emphasis on warm, as though he were trying to lure a wounded animal with the promise of something delicious. “Maybe even a few dinos,” he continued, doing his best to cheer his friend up.
It worked. Drekxan perked right up, his eyes shining with life for the first time since he’d come back from helping Magni.
“Dinos, ya say?”
Drekxan’s first pet was a raptor, like all other troll hunters, and though each beast was unique and worthy in their own right, Drekxan would always have a soft spot for dinosaurs. However, when he looked back at Shanzin, who hadn’t perked up one bit since Bodrer had shown up, his excited shriveled like seaweed left too long in the sun.
He sighed and his shoulders slumped, but before he could open his mouth to respond, a small, faint pulse raced along his awareness. His eyes snapped to Titanstrike.
“It cannot be,” he whispered. However, when he looked at Shanzin, he was even more surprised to find the wolf’s head up, ears forward, and eyes trained on the bow.
When Drekxan laid a hand on the weapon, there was still nothing. At first. Then he closed his eyes and focused all his senses until…There! It was distant, like trying to hear someone speak in the middle of a storm on the other side of an island, but it was there.
“What is it?” Bodrer asked, anxious and concerned.
When Drekxan turned back to look at the dwarf, he had a wide, fierce grin on his face.
“A promise from a friend.”