World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Priest

 

The dead were numbered beyond count, and many had passed to the Light. Or the Shadowlands. Ashalien shuddered at that thought, and then she pulled a sheet over a face far too young to have met any end, let alone one that left fully half his body charred to the bone.

“Another dead before they even set foot in the tent. Why do they keep bringing them?” Ashalien’s fellow priest, Devonna, asked, more mournful than angry.

“Because they have hope,” Ashalien said, and then closed her eyes to say a prayer over the child soldier. With each word, the impact of the war weighed heavily upon her shoulders like Dwarven plate armor.

Just as she was finishing, there was a commotion at the entrance of the tent.

“No, we can’t take anymore,” Devonna said, her voice firm.

“Please, Priest! All the other tents are full, and you’re the only ones that can help!”

There was such desperation in the voice, Ashalien paused, the final words of the prayer not passing her lips. A flutter of something soft, like the feathers of an infant bird, brushed against her soul.

“Let them in, Devonna,” Ashalien said, before she’d even thought to say it.

She levitated the dead boy’s body off the cot and to the side, freeing the bed. There was no time to change the sheet, if the situation was as dire as it sounded.

The two who came to the cot were covered in mud, blood, and likely worse, with one carrying the other.

“Thank you, Priest; he’s my younger brother,” the one carrying the other said, his voice soft and choked.

He gently laid his burden on the cot. The younger boy—though neither were long beyond their first shave—groaned as he touched the bed.

“Meus—”

“Hush, Zane. We’re with the healer,” the older brother, Meus, consoled.

“Peace, Zane,” Ashalien soothed. Then she sang, her voice soft and airy, weaving the healing and soothing magics of the Light through the Hymn.

Zane’s face relaxed, and a peaceful smile graced his lips as he looked up at her, and made him appear even younger. Instead of grimacing, as she wanted to do because of his age, she smiled back. Even as she saw the fatal wound, cutting him deep across his belly, which was followed closely by the smell of rent bowels, still, she smiled.

Meus sucked in a breath at the sight, his eyes going wide with shock, and filling with tears of bitter hopelessness.

The fluttering was back, but this time more insistent, and the familiar comfort of the Light infused her very being, making her glow.

“Fear not, Meus,” she said, and his eyes snapped up to meet hers.

His jaw dropped open at the sight of her, and his heart thundered in his chest. He did not want to give in to the soaring sensation trying to break free from him like a bird from a cage. That road led only to pain. But with this priest glowing with so much Light, it was as though she’d swallowed the sun…It was difficult not to submit and open that cage.

Her hands hovered over Zane, and the Light moved from her to him.

“For you do not hope in vain.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Druid

 

Pain. Pure, unadulterated pain lanced along her nerves as though every fiber of her body were cut by an infinite number of daggers. She gasped and fell to one knee, digging nails into her chest in an effort to loosen the phantom grip squeezing her heart. Black spots danced in her vision like the devilish Grells, gleefully rejoicing in her torment.

She was not the only one. Other druids in Moonglade were falling as she had, and gritting their teeth against the onslaught of agony, while still more were writhing on the ground or passed out. The lowing of the Tauren was woven in with the growls and howls of the Worgen, as well as the guttural moans of the Trolls and wails of her fellow Night Elves. The screeching of the hippogryphs was so high-pitched it was a wonder her ears did not bleed, and they thrashed about in their nests. Even the dragon, Aronus, was not spared from whatever occurred, having fallen into the small moonwell it hovered over with a roar.

Lynithe Skyshadow’s tears fell to the fertile ground, and when she placed her palm to the dirt, the very earth trembled beneath her hand. Something was wrong. So very wrong. Her first thoughts flew to the giant sword impaling Azeroth in the wasteland of Silithus, but this was something else. Something far closer to home. She snatched her hand back, and for the first time she became a druid she did not want to connect with the earth. Fear thrilled through her as though her blood were turned to ice, and it crushed her throat, making it difficult to breath.

When she managed to stagger to her unsteady feet, she stumbled toward the Shrine of Remulos and the Keeper himself. She and the others could not concentrate enough to shift to their faster travel forms, and instead made their way on foot and en masse down the road, leaving Nighthaven. Lynithe was one of the first to reach the Shrine, but the Keeper held his silence until the last druid managed to lumber their way to the back of the group.

“Keeper!” someone called from the midst of them. “What has happened?”

Lynithe watched as the very grief of the earth poured from his gently glowing green eyes, leaving tracks of tears over his amethyst skin.

“It is Teldrassil,” he said, his rumbling voice full of despair doing nothing to curb the growing horror within the hearts of all present. “It burns.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Paladin

 

Whispers in the ranks, or what was left of them at any rate. The reality was bitter ash on the tongue and a poison in the mind. The wretched undead had taken everything and infected the land. The devastation they wrought had been beyond imagining—yet still they came. Wave after wave. They didn’t stop and they didn’t rest. The dead had no need for such things.

*We must defeat the Scourge at all costs.*

No one could say who started it, but there was a hardness the in the eyes of some that wasn’t there before Arthas’ betrayal. Before Uther’s death…A sharpness of the soul that would cut down the enemy as surely as it would the person wielding such a lethal blade. No sacrifice was too great, and no one was too great to sacrifice.

*Some costs are too high.*

Could they live with themselves? To wage such a war bordered on insanity, and the line between madness and reason was thin at the best of times. These were not the best of times. Sorrow filled the eyes of some of the others, as though all the world was not large enough to contain their heartache. It was a time for much mourning.

*Decide…*

Righteous vengeance or compassion? Follow the Light. Supplicate. Bare your soul. Give your life to the cause. Both ask, but which path is madness and which is deliverance?

*Choices…*

Hone the blade of Judgment and hold it to your throat. Pray to the Light. There is no turning back.

“So, what say you, Paladin?”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Mage

 

The faded, crumbling pages of the cracked, leather-bound tome were so fragile, Karsten dared not breath too forcefully lest the pages fall to ruin. Of course, the knowledge in the book was not the only thing in danger of falling apart. The tower, built far too close to the edge of a weather-worn cliff, was in danger of toppling over the edge if he so much as put one foot in the wrong spot.

“It has to be here,” he growled softly. He closed the book, carefully, and put it down in the growing, neatly stacked pile on the sturdy, but rotting, table at the top of the tower.

Just as he moved to pick up another one, the hairs on the back of his neck prickled and he froze, but he dared not turn around. Giving the wayward energies attention only made them stronger.

It was a reckless mage that didn’t clean up leftover magical energies, and the former owner of the tower had been such a practitioner. Left to its own devices, such magics would be pesky at worst, but given the magical pursuits of the less-than-sane owner of the tower…It would be best if Karsten finished his business here. The faster the better.

As he reached for the book again, a menacing hiss sounded from behind him. He glanced over his shoulder, nonchalantly. He then decided that he deserved some commendation for the fact that he kept a bored, neutral tone, instead of having his sandy blond eyebrows fly from his face in shock.

It was a large, oozing blob formed from an amalgam of magics, ranging from fire to fel. Where its drippings fell to the floor from what Karsten assumed was its mouth, it ate through the already corroding stone.

“It was too much to ask that this would be a simple task, wasn’t it?” Karsten sighed. He then snagged the book, shielded himself, and blinked through the window toward the crashing waves eating away at the cliff.

The roar of the blob as it lunged to bite Karsten, followed by a howl of displeasure and crashing of the tower as it fell into the merciless ocean, did little to assuage his foul mood. The resulting wave from the tower’s demise didn’t hurt him, but shields kept out magical and physical damage, not seawater.

He thought about slogging his way to the shore before making a portal, but then had a better idea. To be fair, the person who’d sent him on this inane task deserved nothing less than what Karsten had experienced. He held the still dry tome above his head, and with a wicked grin started the portal spell.

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Death Knight

 

The rattle of bones churning in the dry ground offered a hollow, delicate melody, like a wind chime caught in a breeze created by the damning sighs of the many people she’d killed. “Such sweet music,” she crooned. Her glowing, ice blue eyes flashed in anticipation as she pondered the grave before her.

The tombstone was so old no one living would be able to decipher the weather-worn stone, and for the first time in years she smiled. It cracked her bloodless lips and revealed a set of sharpened teeth, which were almost as startling as her exposed bones and minimal skin.

“Rise,” her raspy voice called, and the one in the grave before her had no choice but to do as she commanded. “Rise,” she urged, “and obey.” The final word held power like thunder, and was like the cracking of a whip.

As the rotting, putrid ghoul heaved its way from the earth as though it were being spat out, it quivered at the feet of the creature in front of it. “Come,” she said, her voice full of compulsion like lightning striking at what was left of the ghoul’s brain. “We have much work to do.”

World of Warcraft Class Micro-Stories: Shaman

 

Melancholy hung in the air, giving the grief of those gathered a weight that could be breathed in, sitting heavy in the chest like a crushing stone. Their Chieftain had died in glorious battle, and the gathered mourners were howling their despair to the moon hanging full and low in the sky.

Torchlight bathed the deceased’s many wounds and countless scars in an orange glow. Even in death, his grim visage spoke of a life of hard-won victories and hardship. He’d carved a better life for his people from this land like a skilled butcher, and they had flourished under his command.

The first indication that something was amiss was the hissing. Then, slowly, murmurs rose from the back of the crowd like the rising tide, and the crowd parted in a reverent wave. Snakes, nearing too many to count, slithered between all those gathered to coil at the base of the dais where the Chieftain lay. Their eyes glittering in the low light, they stilled, and waited.

Following on their tails, a woman walked with an almost lyrical step, as though there was music only she could hear. Hips swaying, her dusky purple skin glistened with sweat, and the ornamentation of carved bones around her neck clattered softly as she moved. She studied the Chieftain’s body with keen eyes.

Then, a husky voice came from the depths of her hood; “Da whispas of da loa hold true: his spirit lingers here, waiting for a guide back ta his body.”

Shock reverberated through the crowd, followed closely by a sudden burst of hope. The shaman pulled her hood back, revealing a thick braid from the top of her head trailing down to her mid-back with the coloring of the azure waters of the sea. Her hands began to glow with the soft green of growing things in the spring, as though she wove the very magics of life to her will. It bathed the Chieftain in a pale light.

“I be havin’ a vision of da future, love,” she whispered softly, so only he could hear. “It not be ya time ta die yet!”

Fan Fiction (World of Warcraft): The Greatest Gift

Chapter One

The air was bitingly cold, and Lyriah Moonstrider’s breath misted out in front of her. She shivered, and snuggled her face further down into the soft, brown wool scarf wrapped around her neck. It had been a gift from her mother and father in preparation for her father’s most recent business trip to Northrend.

A low yowl sounded at her feet, and Lyriah looked down at her shivering companion.

“Oh, Titian,” Lyriah said, and huffed out a laugh.

The little lynx’s black tufts at the end of her ears, and mane of reddish-brown hair moved with the gusts of wind. There were flakes of snow caught in it, which she shook off in annoyance. She had her oversized paws tucked underneath her, and her short tail circled as far around her as she could manage. Her glowing, green luminescent eyes, the same color as Lyriah’s were closed, and the lines of black fur that ran from them around her muzzle looked like dark tears.

Lyriah sat down cross-legged on the cold, wooden planks of the Wind Rider Master’s landing deck, setting her simple, but lovingly crafted bow down at her side. She opened her heavy coat and pulled the little lynx onto her lap, and wrapped her jacket around the chilly creature. The lynx snuggled down, and began to purr, the rumbling going through Lyriah’s chest.

A low, disapproving chuff came from nearby, and Lyriah glanced up from the top of Titian’s head to her mother’s lynx, Vermilia.

“Hush now; she’s only a kitten,” Talonia Moonstrider chided the larger pet.

Vermilia twitched her tail, and then began cleaning her paws, ignoring Talonia’s admonishment.

Talonia chuckled. “Stubborn creature.” Her mother was tall and thin, as most Blood Elves were. She had long, onyx-black hair pulled into a high bun at the back of her head; ‘You don’t want hair in your face, spoiling your shot.’  Since she wore no makeup, the light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks were visible against her lightly tanned skin. She also wore no jewelry; ‘Running through the brush with jewelry on is a good way to get an earring caught on a branch.’

Mother and daughter wore similar outfits of dark brown leather, from their boots to their helms, while their hooded cloaks were a drab, olive green. Her mother’s were finely made, having won them through perseverance and countless battles with enemies ranging from ogres to elementals, while Lyriah’s were crafted to look like hers. They had also been a gift after Lyriah’s beginning hunter training was complete.

It was Talonia’s bow, though, that Lyriah admired. The grip was covered by an ornate shield with the Blood Elf crest on it. The limbs of the bow were painstakingly carved wood of phoenix heads facing the shield, while further down they were embedded with gems, and glowing with an eerie Fel light. The tip and recurve were made of two talon-like protrusions on each end, swirling with the same vivid energy, with the bowstring connecting two of the four talons that pointed back toward the wielder.

Lyriah glanced at her own bow, and though she loved it—as her mother had made it for her—she couldn’t help but wish for her mother’s. Though as a newly minted hunter, as well as only just turning eleven, there was a snowball’s chance in the lava flows of the Searing Gorge that would happen.

The wind picked up momentarily, and when it dropped her father’s voice drifted over to the pair. He was negotiating their passage with the Wind Rider Master to Sholazar Basin. Though he’d been given coin upfront for travel expenses, An’dras Moonstrider was not above negotiating to bring the price as low as he could manage. It was a habit he’d picked up from one of his colleagues, a Goblin by the name of Baxraz Copperblast; ‘Never pay full price.’

The patient Tauren’s low voice wasn’t audible, even to Lyriah’s long ears and their sharp hearing. Though from her father’s gestures, he wasn’t getting the calm, yet stubborn, woman to budge. Talonia was tolerant of her husband’s acquired quirks, but it was always easiest for Lyriah to gauge her mother’s moods by the body language of Vermilia, whose tail was now thrashing the air. Vermilia let out another low growl, this one far more annoyed. Her father turned and caught sight of the lynx. His long, platinum blonde eyebrows shot up to his hairline. Though they couldn’t see his eyes behind his engineered goggles with their scope on one side and glowing magenta glass on the other, she had no doubt they widened in alarm.

He chuckled nervously and turned back to the Wind Rider Master. Then he ran his left hand through his short, spiky hair, and handed the coin over to the Wind Rider Master with the other. She counted the coin, and nodded to An’dras. At the Tauren’s smile, it didn’t take a rocket engineer to know the steadfast woman had won, and likely still would have, even without Talonia’s annoyance.  Lyriah hid her own smile in Titian’s mane.

Talonia turned an amused look down at Titian at her daughter’s movement. “Worry not, kitten. Where we’re going, you’ll be plenty warm, if not in excess.”

An’dras strode over to them, rubbing his gloved hands together, either from nerves at his wife’s mood or from the cold. It was difficult to know which. His clothing was a hodge-podge of leather, patched here and there by her mother. He’d often come home from a lab accident, with holes burned through by fire, acid, or whatever concoction he and Baxraz were attempting to perfect. Such a substance was the reason they were on this trip in the first place.

He’d come home one day, grinning from ear to ear, his hair still smoldering at the ends.

“We’ve done it!” he said, and lifted Lyriah up, spinning her through the air.
She’d been dizzy when he sat her back down. Titian growled at her father’s exuberance when Lyriah stumbled and had to catch herself on the edge of the table.

“Done what, dear?” her mother asked calmly, handing him a damp towel to extinguish his hair. She was well rehearsed in this routine.

“We’ve finally come up with a substance to combat the humidity damage experienced by machines! Weslex will be pleased,” he said, and laughed.

Her father and Baxraz were top-notch mechanics and engineers, who also dabbled in concoctions to help their machines and weapons run better, faster, and smoother. It was a side-business to their primary one, to be sure, but it seemed to bring them joy, not to mention numerous injuries and the need to reconstruct their lab every couple of months.

“And Weslex was…?” her mother prompted him. He had so many clients, ranging from both factions, it could be difficult to remember them all.

“The flying machine mechanic and flight master for Hemet in Sholazar Basin.”
An’dras didn’t take note of the cutthroat flash in his wife’s eyes at the mention of Hemet’s name.

Lyriah sucked in a breath and her eyes widened at her mother’s predatory smile. Even Lyriah, as new to being a hunter as she was, had heard of Hemet.

“Hemet, you say?”

At the inquisitive tone in his wife’s voice, An’dras froze, just now realizing his mistake.

“Uh,” he started, and thought—only briefly—about trying to take back the name, but there was nothing for it. “Yes?” he said, hesitantly.

“Hah!” she exclaimed, and hit a fist in the palm of her other hand. “I can finally shut that loud-mouthed braggart up for good.” Then she looked down at Lyriah, her grin still feral and triumphant.

“Time to pack, dearest. We’re heading for Sholazar Basin.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Final Chapter

Final Chapter

 

Everything slowed for Bregan, but only in his personal space, as though he was moving through honey instead of air. Everyone else, however, sped up to an intense rate of speed. His father’s eyes widened in shock.

A persistent ringing, like the extended tone of a high-pitched bell, drowned out all sound save for the hammering of his heart. Talida released his father, and Shikoba dropped to his knees as he instinctively reached to stem the flow of blood from his slit throat.

Acrid smoke from the cookfires, and the odoriferousness of too many bodies close together pervaded Bregan’s nostrils. However, the metallic scent of blood was beginning to overpower all else, and stuck to his tongue and back of his throat as though he’d licked a bar of copper. Shikoba gave Bregan a lopsided, apologetic smile, as his eyes brimmed with tears of regret.

Bregan ran, as fast as he could, but it was still like he was stuck in slow motion. Talida threw back her head with laughter, and before she slipped away through the crowd, her malevolent, glittering eyes locked with his. Catch me if you can, they taunted. Then she disappeared.

As he made his way over to his father, he frantically searched for a healer, but there was only chaos and no help could be found. When Bregan finally made it to his father’s side, nearly all the light had faded from him.

“I’m so sorry, father.” Bregan sobbed. Shikoba reached for Bregan, removing the hand from his throat. The blood, barely flowing anymore, trickled down his neck to the already soaked ground. Bregan took his father’s hand, slick with blood, and cradled it between his hands.

“So. Proud,” his father rasped, barely choking out the words. Shikoba’s eyes closed, let out a sigh, and then he was still. Not in unconsciousness or sleep, but instead the stillness of death.

Bregan froze. He could not draw a breath, his eyes were wide, and he let out an uncontrollable keen with what little air he had. When he did finally breathe again, it was in short, shallow gasps, and the skin beneath his fur was clammy and cold.

Then, a sudden heat rushed through him, and as an immense pressure began to build within his chest, these words came unbidden to his mind; “An’She, eye of the Earthmother, grant me the power of your Light to illuminate this Tauren’s darkened path. Right this treacherous wrong to balance out the tragedy of this day.”

His body, and his father’s, began to glow the second the first word passed his lips, and at their conclusion a pillar of light burst forth from his father and raced toward the heavens above.

Shikoba gasped and sat bolt upright, the hand still in Bregan’s squeezing with sudden life, while his eyes were wide and darting. When they caught sight of Bregan, he stopped, and for a moment neither of them said anything. The battle around them had played itself out, with the traitors being captured or slipping away to escape with Talida, but in that moment nothing else mattered for the father and son.

Tears began to freely flow, and for the first time since he was a boy, Shikoba pulled Bregan toward him and embraced his son.

“Father.” The word was filled with love, and many things that didn’t need to, or couldn’t, be said.

“My son,” his father said in turn, and gave Bregan’s hand a gentler squeeze than before.

“Let us head home,” Bregan said, and stood, then helped his father to his feet.

“Yes, but we have to find your Orc first. I imagine he might be put off if we left him,” Shikoba admitted, stumbling only a little as he rose. A great feat given that he was dead only moments before, Bregan mused. “Do you see him?” he asked.

Bregan laughed wildly from a mixture of emotions. “No, but I imagine all we need to do is look for one of the larger piles of bodies. It should not take us too long.”

 

<*****>

 

Months passed since Rae and Ja’Ghan parted ways with the overconfident, green brute, and the headstrong Tauren with a death wish. Rae sighed, and from her perch on the boulder just outside of their cave she threw a small rock. It struck the tree some fifty-odd feet away, hitting outside the target she generally used for knife throwing practice. She didn’t even curse herself for the awful aim, and simply sighed again.

“Ya haven’t stopped sighin’ since we left da two hapless heroes,” Ja’Ghan teased, deadpan. “One might even say ya miss ’em.”

Rae harrumphed, but didn’t turn to face the Troll, who leaned against the opposite wall of the cave mouth. “What’s to miss? They were nothing but a bundle of trouble,” she griped, but there was no fire to her words.

“No wonder ya liked ’em den; musta been like lookin’ in da mirror.”

“Well if I’m so awful leave me and be done with it,” she groused, and tucked her knees up to her chest.

“Just might,” he responded, and her head jerked around in shock to face him, while her mouth gaped in surprise. “Change is on da wind, fa both of us,” he added to soothe her shock.

“Did you have a vision about something?”she asked suspiciously, and when his eyes twinkled she scowled in return. “Don’t go all mysterious on me. What did you–” An animal snorting in the distance cut off her words. She narrowed her eyes at the Troll as she slid behind a rock, giving herself some cover. Ja’Ghan was unconcerned, and merely kept his position at the mouth of the cave. Completely exposed.

“Get down you fool!” she growled, but he ignored her.

As the thundering of, well, not hooves, grew closer to the cave, Ja’Ghan raised a hand in greeting.

“How ya doin’ mon?” he hailed, and lifted a hand in greeting.

There was an mistakable lowing from a kodo, and a familiar, deep, grumpy voice responded; “She’s not hiding in a tree, waiting to drop down on me, is she?”

Rae froze.

“No, mon. She be hidin’ behind dat rock, in fear for our lives.” Ja’Ghan jerked a thumb in her direction.

Rae rose, spluttering at the accusation. “I don’t cower in fear from anything!”

A Tauren in full Sunwalker regalia let out a rumbling chuckle at her words. “Feisty as ever, Rae.”

“Bregan?” she asked, and her jaw dropped as he nodded. He was different, there was no doubt about that, and he wore the aura of power around him comfortably. Someone’s been training.

“Long time no see,” Bregan said, and gave her a single wave.

“What am I, chopped liver?” Thratar grumbled, though more for show than out of any true offense. He was also rather dashing in new and improved plate mail, dyed a matte black. Complements the green of his skin nicely, the random observation meandered through her mind. She shook her head to rid herself of such silly thoughts.

“Liver be delicious, mon,” Ja’Ghan countered, and smiled around his tusks.

Bregan grimaced. “So you say.”

“What are you doing back here?” Rae demanded, and though she hadn’t meant to be rude, the suddenness of her question came off as such. She almost felt bad when the cheerful atmosphere of the reunion turned somber, but she couldn’t help being herself.

“Well, we have a proposition for you and Ja’Ghan,” Bregan said. “We thought you might like to join us in an old pastime of yours.”

Rae perked up at this, and Ja’Ghan tilted his head. “Which one is dat?”

“Hunting Grimtotems,” Thratar replied. Little shocks of excitement raced through Rae like lightning, and she couldn’t keep a feral smile from spreading across her face.

“Oh?” she asked.

“Well, one Grimtotem in particular. Any of them caught between her and us are simply an added bonus,” Bregan said. The grim duty of what needed to be done weighed heavily on his shoulders, though with any luck his friends would help him bear the responsibility.

Rae and Ja’Ghan exchanged a quick look, and the Troll dipped his head in agreement. Rae let out a short, bark of a laugh; delighted she had something better to do than throw rocks inaccurately at trees.

She titled her chin up to meet Bregan’s fiery eyes with her own. “Deal us in.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Sixteen

 

The journey from the village to Thunder Bluff was like a funeral procession. It was vastly different from the frantic flight to find Talida. Bregan swallowed against the lump in his throat, and straightened his shoulders instead of turning to find her, chained and glowering amidst the guards.

“You can’t blame yourself,” Thratar said casually, as the lumbering strides of the kodo swayed him back and forth. The reins were loose in his grip, and he didn’t turn to look at Bregan when he spoke.

“I do not blame myself. Talida is responsible for her own actions,” Bregan muttered, but he couldn’t even convince himself, let alone his best friend.

“But…?”

“How could I not have known? Look at her,” Bregan said, but not bothering to gesture toward her. “That much rage and hate is seething inside her like thunderstorm, and I completely missed it.”

“She was trained to make sure you saw only what she wanted you to. Add that to the fact you were totally in love with her, and you were left completely blind,” Thratar reasoned.

“My father did not like her,” Bregan pointed out.

Thratar scoffed. “That likely had more to do with your father thinking no one was good enough for you, than any sense of her being a spy and potential assassin.”

“Give him a couple days to get over this whole ordeal, and he will say he knew deep down.” Bregan let out a short, huff of a self-deprecating laugh.

“A couple days? You give him far more credit than me.”

“I cannot blame you, since he didn’t like you either.” Bregan laughed, a genuine one this time.

They fell silent as they reached the elevators that moved people from the bottom of the mesa to the top. As a group they dismounted from the kodos, while one of the guards helped Talida off hers. She jerked her arm out of the guard’s grip, and leveled a murderous gaze at Bregan. Bregan shook his head, and turned back to the kodo. He loosened the leather thong tying his new–new to him at any rate–weapon to the saddle. It was a two-handed mace someone managed to dig up in the village armory. Well-worn, but well cared for, it fit in his grip far more comfortably than the sword had.

They’d gagged Talida, after her constant mouthing off and spouting hateful rhetoric at the group. Even Bregan, who had the most sympathy toward her plight and guilt about the situation, quickly grew tired of it and gave only a token protest when they put the leather strap in her mouth. They removed the gag, and wonder of wonders, she remained silent.

Her hands were shackled in front of her, and her ankles hobbled with chains. It was slow going, and three guards traveled up the elevator with her, ready for any attempt to push them off. Thankfully, nothing of the sort occurred, and the trip up was incident free.

Thunder Bluff was not overly crowded most days, but today it certainly was. Nothing brought out the crowds like the potential for capital punishment, even the peaceful Tauren.

Bregan stepped off on the lift right after Talida’s, and found a disturbingly quiet crowd facing their group. Then the grumbling started, low at first, but then it grew in intensity and anger. There was nothing distinct; no words he could make out clearly or point to a specific person.

Talida tilted her chin upward, and glowered at everyone before her. “I am not the traitor here. You all deserve to be purged,” she growled. “When the time comes, I will be rewarded for my service.”

“Not if we kill you first, you filthy Grimtotem!” someone in the crowd shouted. The crowd surged forward, and overwhelmed the guards while Talida laughed, the pitch high, cruel, and with supreme satisfaction.

Something was wrong. There was an undercurrent of bloodthirsty energy weaving through the crowd, making the situation far more volatile than it would be under normal circumstances. Bregan scanned the crowd, and off the the right, barely visible behind a hut, was a Shaman. Surprise barely registered as he made his way over to the Tauren, whose black fur was liberally streaked with grey, and who couldn’t take his eyes off the crowd as he mumbled under his breath. There were stories of Shamans casting bloodlust on a group, but he’d never seen it in action before. Why, though? Shamans were less likely than others to defect to the Grimtotems, but after Bregan’s situation with Talida, anything was now possible in his mind.

It took a few moments for the Shaman to register Bregan’s approach, but when he finally did, a crazed grin contorted his visage, and he drew in a deep breath. “To arms, Grimtotems!”

Everything spiraled out of control as people hiding in the crowds drew their weapons, and began battling in the crowd. Yells of rage were now interspersed with cries of agony and fear. Bregan had to stop the Shaman from fueling the insanity infecting the crowd, but before he could get to him, the other Tauren slipped around the back of the hut. When Bregan turned the corner the Tauren was nowhere to be found.

“Bregan!” It was Thratar, and when Bregan spun to see what was going on, his heart dropped to the ground.

His father kneeled on the ground in front of Talida, facing away from her, as she gripped his hair in one hand, pulling his head backward toward her. In her other hand was a dagger at her father’s throat. The noise of the battle faded, and his breathing, shallow and pained, was barely audible over the ringing that filled his mind.

The Shaman who had slipped away was next to her, with lightning crackling over his hands, and gripping the smoldering remains of Talida’s wrist and ankle shackles. The same depraved smile still contorted his face.

She glanced behind her for a split second, and the Shaman gave a quick, curt nod, and then a wicked grin spread over her face as she turned to face Bregan again. She mouthed something to him, and his eyes widened.

“No!” he shouted, and reached a helpless hand toward the two of them as Talida slid the blade across his father’s throat.

 

Becoming: Bregan’s Story, Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

 

Talida paid no heed to anyone else in the hall as she rushed headlong toward Bregan. Thankfully, Thratar had not taken his sword back. Bregan unsheathed it, and blocked her overhead attack just in time, all in a single motion.

Bregan grunted at the blow, with her ferocious strength causing the impact to reverberate up his arm.

“Why, Talida?” he asked, breathless in the face of her unbridled fury. She twisted her hips, and with a two-handed grip slid her blade along his, pushing toward him and down to his left. It crossed his sword arm over his body, and the tip of his blade hit the wooden floor with a thunk. He braced to take a sword in the gut, but instead she followed through with the motion to her hoof, pivoting as she brought her opposite knee toward her, then kicked out at at his right knee. Even though he barely managed to escape the brunt of the impact, the glancing blow was enough to cause an audible pop and his knee gave out beneath his weight.

Bregan’s sword clattered to the ground, and Talida casually kicked it away. Thratar was currently engaged in his own fight, since he’d turned around to deal with the fighters trying to get into the hut. No help would come from him. Everyone else in the hut was scrambling for another way to get out, but to be fair none of them were fighters, and would likely fall to Talida’s blade faster than Bregan had.

“Why? Because there has been enough pandering to the lesser races of the world. We are strong, and the rightful owners of our ancestral lands–”

“I am not speaking of the Grimtotem party line!” Bregan shouted at her, and she jerked back as her eyes widened. “I gave you everything: my home, heart, and soul.” His voice broke, and something moved through her eyes, too quick to identify.

“You were nothing more than a means to an end. I needed a village close to Thunder Bluff to observe enemy movements, and yours was my best bet,” she replied scathingly.

Something had been tightening in Bregan’s chest since discovering Talida’s duplicity. In that moment, with those words, it finally snapped. He couldn’t breathe, and he certainly couldn’t move. Talida’s cruel grin reappeared once more, like a shark’s fin breaking the surface of the water.

Then, a two-handed mace took her in the left side of her ribs, and rang out with a crash of plate armor against the metal of the mace. Despite her armor, her eyes squinted and teared up, as she let out a gasp. She stumbled away as it came crashing downward where she had stood a split moment before, and would have killed her if she still stood there.

“I hate to say I told you so, son,” Shikoba said, almost amiably, “but I told you so.”

Bregan scoffed, and tried to shift to a different position, but even that small movement sent shockwaves of pain through his injured knee. He didn’t mean to let out a whimper, but to his great shame he did.

“Says the man who was celebrating her not five minutes ago,” Bregan accused, though the pain made his voice high and petulant.

If Taurens were able to show physical signs of blushing, he may have caught his father doing so, but perhaps not. The man was firm and unshakable in his belief that he was always right, which drove Bregan insane, particularly in times such as these.

“If the two of you are quite finished,” Talida fumed, rage making her voice growl. Bregan turned his head to face her. She was seemingly recovered from the blow his father had dealt her, and surprise jolted through Bregan like lightning. His father may be a farmer, but he was incredibly strong, and a former soldier; as evidenced by the battered and worn mace he gripped loosely in his hands.

Talida snorted and gnashed her teeth, as her eyes shone with a dull red at first, but gradually brightened to a red like rubies held up to the sun.

“She’s gone into Berseker Rage,” his dad observed, deadpan. “Didn’t know she was a warrior; now she’ll feel no pain, be faster–” She rushed him then, and though the sword was held in her grip, she lowered her shoulder and slammed into his father’s midsection. The mace came down a split second too late, and splintered the wood. It fell from his grip, and the handle thudded to the floor. Though it wasn’t a loud noise, it reverberated through Bregan like a concussive force, as in growing horror his mind processed what was about to happen.

Shikoba grunted and staggered back. He doubled over and dropped to a knee, winded. As Talida rose the blade over her father’s bent form, time slowed to a crawl. Something rose within Bregan, hot, blinding, and rapid, like a sun bursting in the sky. Pain no longer radiated through his leg, and he didn’t stagger as he lurched to his feet. The sword was still moving oh, so slowly, as he ran at full speed toward the two of them. When he reached the mace behind Talida, the sword was six inches from his father’s skull.

Bregan grabbed the handle of the mace. Five.

He planted his left hoof. Four.

He heaved the mace upward. Three.

Pivoting, similar to the way Talida had, he began to swing the mace around. Two.

He held his breath, and prayed. Sun, guide my hand so that I may save my father’s life. One.

His mace connected with her right shoulder and upper ribs with a blinding flash of light. Talida was thrown clear across the Hall, and landed with a crash in a heap at the far end. His eyes were still blinded from the strange radiance, and afterimages danced in his vision as he sought out his father.

Shikoba was unharmed, and Bregan collapsed to the floor in front of him, this time from relief instead of pain. The mace fell from his hands as he dropped it to the floor, and he fell forward to embrace his father, who gripped him in a tight hug in turn.

“Looks like you didn’t need my help after all,” Thratar commented, amused. Bregan, still dazed, moved back from his father’s embrace to face the Orc. He’d managed to take out the three who had tried to infiltrate the hall, and they groaned from the beating and multiple sword slashes over their bodies. Blood matted their black fur, as well as the ropes binding them like trussed pigs.

“Show-off,” Bregan rasped. Thratar grinned in response, but his eyes darkened as he looked toward Talida at the other end of the Hall.

“What shall we do with her?” Thratar asked.

Shikoba followed Thratar’s gaze and shook his head. “She wanted so badly to meet Baine. I say we grant her wish.”