Sunday, December 25, 2011

Father Winter's Gift: Flinthammer's Forest Song

Furtive Father Winter Veil 2011

Ringo Flinthammer of Flinthammer Hall has blessed us all with the gift of song this Winter's Veil season.  A talented Dwarf and bard in his own right.  Thankfully he was selected among so many other talented story tellers, artistically gifted folk, and scribes of various skills to add the spirit of merriment to the Saga's adventurers.  Ringo deserves much praise and cheer for his thoughtful gift that is now presented here on Winter's Veil Day.

A Cleansing Song

As the Druids that had escorted Draccus from Moonglade flew back from the Dream Bough Portal, down below them in the area known as Forest Song, hidden from the air by the leaves of Ashenvale Forest, voices rose up to greet them.  Through the canopy those voices were united in song.

A corrupted version of the enchanting tune could be heard in the streets of Stormwind, the caverns of Ironforge, and across the vast lands of the Horde.  Wherever Goblin merchants had commercialized the sacred and hold song, a traveler could hear it.  But here, in these ancient woods, the song was sung as it was originally intended, by voices that had first intoned it a thousand years ago, before Kalimdor was ruptured by the Sundering.

O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging.
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging.
Not only green when summer's here,
But also when 'tis cold and drear.

O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Thy leaves are so unchanging.
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.
How often has the Ancient tree
Afforded me the greatest glee!

O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Much pleasure thou can'st give me.
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Thy dewdrops shine so brightly!
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Thy dewdrops shine so brightly!
From base to summit, gay and bright,
There's plenty a splendor for the sight.

O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
Thy dewdrops shine so brightly!
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
How rich Elune hath decked thee!
O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
How rich Elune hath decked thee!
Thou bidst us true and faithful be,
And trust Elune unchangingly!

O Ancient Tree! O Ancient Tree!
How rich hath Elune decked thee!

Many challenges still await the people of Azeroth as a whole.  The Dragon Deathwing, the self-proclaimed Aspect of Death, is the least of the world's woes in the near future.  Even once he is defeated, war will still haunt the valleys and glades from the shores of Kalimdor to the mountains of Eastern Kingdoms.  Other threats lurk in the shadows-- the Burning Legion, the Naga Queen Azshara, and more unknown Nightmares.

However, in that moment, the ancient Kaldorei song lifted the Druid's hearts and gave them hope for the future once again.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Part 2: Giving Generous Grace

The woods in Ashenvale sped by rapidly as Draccus carried Wades on his back.  The grievously wounded Hunter was strapped down with all the care the Sentinels back at Maestra’s Post could muster.  A weighty body that seemed lifeless as his body was rushed to Astanaar on the back of his Druid friend.

The Commander of the regional Sentinels, Lady Warwood, was personally escorting them through the forest.  She was indebted to their sacrifice and their efforts in helping them fend off the recent attack at the hands of the Horde against her outpost.  A shutter rippled across her mind to think what would have happened had they not arrived when they did.  Eleven to five odds were not the best conditions to defeat an enemy that had surprised them by attacking out of nowhere.

“I will make those cowardly, green beasts pay for this assault.” Lady Warwood whispered to herself as she matched pace with the Druid running alongside her on a worn game trail.  “But, firstly may Elune grant us haste in gaining our destination before we are attacked or the Hunter dies.”

Thankfully their endurance and speed allowed them to cover the distance in just two short hours.  The sun had already started to dip closer to the horizon, the light was fading fast.  A cool chill of the coming evening heralded in a sense of urgency for them both.

The last thing Wades could afford was going into shock from losing his core body temperature.  He had already lost a significant amount of blood, and the lower part of his torso and thighs had already turned a blackish brown color.

The final stretch of terrain gave way to the Village of Astranaar surrounded by a lake on both sides, with a bridge crossing.  Here was a safe place of refuge and recovery awaiting them.  Several structures displayed the Kaldorei craftsmanship, markings in the design and natural flow of the wood.  These buildings had existed for ages, hopefully for more ages to come.

One of the main shelters was a large Inn, with an open lower floor and a middle section that lead up to several private quarters near the rafters.  It was this building that Draccus and Lady Warwood came to stop near.

“Find me the Inn Keeper!  Fetch any extra bandages and water you may have to spare!” The Sentinel Commander ordered the nearest towns' person to respond.  “We have two strangers in need of our help, and I have four Sentinels out at Maestra that need reinforcements quickly.”

This part of the wood was accustomed to responding to emergencies with military like efficiency.  Within a few short moments the requested supplies were gathered and a squadron of ten Sentinels from Silverwing Grove mounted their Night Sabers and headed westward.

A small crowd formed as Lady Warwood and two other Night Elves helped lower Wades off of Draccus’s back and onto the ground.  Among the crowd was a Druid of the Cenarion Circle who had studied, taught, and experienced more than most other Druids had even thought about.  Her silver eyes locked onto the charm that hung around the large Cat’s neck.  She reached up with her elegant hands to touch the same charm that hung around her neck.

So why do you not shift out of your Cat-form my Brother Druid?” She mentally reached out to him.

Draccus heard the voice speak clearly to his mind as if spoken aloud.  He looked around at those gathered near him.  He saw a hooded figure staring at him.  Her silver eyes pierced him and her faced was tattooed with markings over her fair face.  Her aquamarine blue hair spilled out around her shoulders.

Yes I am talking to you.  Apparently you’re either new to the unique communique all us Druids share or you are alone and haven’t heard someone speak directly to you in awhile.  I am going to venture a little of both.

How is……?  Who are you?” Draccus fumbled to respond with his mind as he formed the words silently.

I am Lissanna a Sister of the woods, a fellow Druid of the Cenarion Circle, and an answer to your prayers to Elune I believe.” She motioned him to follow her away from the crowd of the Village and talk more privately.

I cannot leave my friend here unattended.  He is gravely injured and I will not abandon him.  He was there for me when I needed a friend, so will I be there for him as a friend.” Draccus responded firmly, not giving any ground for discussion.

Lissanna looked at Draccus and then looked on the motionless form of the Hunter on the ground.  She stepped forward towards the Hunter and reached into a pouch within her cloak to retrieve a small potion.

Out of instinct Draccus growled and raised his teeth at her.  A sound of warning to not harm his friend rolled out his throat.  The small hairs on his back started to bristle.

Lissanna looked at Draccus and said, “Calm yourself!”  Immediately Draccus felt a sensation of soothing release wash over him and every ounce of aggression drained out of him.  She proceeded to kneel next to Wades and examine his injuries and the state of his vitals.

“What do you make of him Lady Lissanna?” Lady Warwood asked.  The Commander gave full respect to this Druid that held important position and opinion among the Kaldorei gathered there in Astranaar.

“He is incredibly weak and there is a strong infection that has set in the tissue of both his legs.  My healing is powerful as a Restoration Druid, but I fear my skills are better used to heal over time.  What he needs is someone that can directly heal and remove the disease and damage that is destroying his flesh.”  Lissanna answered honestly the difficult question that had been put before her.  “What I would recommend is that we stabilize him here.  He can take my quarters in the Inn.  And we send for assist from Theramore, seek out Amerence a Holy Priest that is staying there.  As far as Human healers go, she is respected throughout the Alliance and her abilities to deal with these injuries are his best option.”

“I will dispatch a Hippogryph and one of my fastest riders to go and bring her here.”  Lady Warwood declared and then she strode off to the nesting area where the flying steeds where housed.

Now with your friend being taken care of and receiving all the care available to him at the moment, it is time we talked.” Lissanna again made the subtle motion for Draccus to join her away from the rest of the people assembling at the Inn or others going about their tasks for the evening.

Draccus was starting to not like being told what to do or from someone he had just met.  A rebellious streak, contrary to his normal personality, had started to invade his thoughts and attitudes towards others ever so slightly.  There was something unexplainable about this Kaldorei Druid that was challenging that characteristic within him. “No!

What do you mean no? Do you dare disrespect a fellow Druid and sister of the woods like some common person?  I have feathers and bark older then you.  Sounds like your wild feral form might have caused you to lose some perspective and manners.” With that last word-thought she grasped her mace and off-hand item and approached Draccus with the intent on restoring some perspective and manners.

Normally not one to back down from confrontation, but this time Draccus quickly surmised that he had bitten off more than he could handle.  He saw a path of escape towards the water’s edge on the other side of the Inn.  Thinking his feline form was quick enough to bolt away, he made for the corner of the building.  He was not quicker then Lissanna’s spell.

Roots sprung up from the ground and grasped Draccus.  The controlling element forcefully brought him to a halt.  The vegetation continued to entangle and squeeze him with pressure.

Nice try Brother of the woods.  I would not recommend testing me further.”  Lissanna mentally warned.  “I only want to lend a hand to your situation and remind you of your place.  Least your fall prey to the powers of the Aspects left unchecked within you and completely lose your way.” She concluded a little more gently.

Draccus realized that he had nothing to hide from her, and since she obviously had powers and abilities far greater than his own, he might as well become fully transparent with her.

I shamed myself, my Master trainer, and the Cenarion Circle as a Druid who lost control, Lady Lissanna.  I……I……I killed another Druid.  I took his life from him and it can never be given back.  I am lost.  As the words were verbalized and confessed openly between their bonds, Draccus broke down and began to sob.  The pain and regret came welling back up between his weeping tears.  I am sorry, I am sorry……  The last images of Scarrock’s lifeless eyes staring at him from his memories were overwhelming.

Slowly Lissanna came over to Draccus and released the entangled roots and stood by his side.  “I am sorry too.  The weight and guilt of your crime must be a terrible burden to carry.  You shed tears for both you and your fallen brother.”

She placed her hand lightly upon his shoulder and began to pray to Elune.  Lissanna was no priestess of the Temple, but as a sister of the woods and a fellow Druid of the Circle she asked for a small miracle on behalf of this hurting and lost Druid.  The moon was climbing over the canopy of trees and a ray of moonbeam stretched across the water.  Its light enveloped them there by the bank.  There in that moment, an answered prayer was seen.

There was no longer a tall Kaldorei woman standing next to a broken Cat-form, trapped man.  On the bank of the lake that night there stood two Druids, one standing while the other was on his knees.  The woman said nothing for the longest time; she simply witnessed the other’s grief.  He cried into his dark purple hands until there were no more tears left in him.

“While Elune has granted you this grace, there is still the Council of the Cenarion Circle that must decide what you do with you.”

“I do not expect any mercy for my crime or the dishonor that I have brought to our people’s name.  I will submit to their judgments and accept any punishment they see fitting.  All I ask for is forgiveness.”

Those were Draccus’s first words spoken.  He would face the consequences of his actions and atone for his failure to do the right thing.

Lady Lissanna led Draccus back into the Inn from another entrance, a quieter passage, to a small isolated table away from anyone else.  She purchased a loaf of banana bread and a wine skin of berry juice and brought them back to their table.

“I will take you to Nighthaven in Moonglade tonight.  This issue needs to be resolved quickly and with swift justice.  I cannot stand by or for you when we arrive.  There will be a Ceremony of Mending or Breaking depending on what the Druids overseeing the Council decide.  Our ways are separate from the laws of others.  We are not above their justice or beyond contributing to the betterment of all people on Azeroth.  However, the judgment once passed is final and you are to take it with humility and dignity.”  Lissanna told Draccus.

They touched down on the edge of Nighthaven before the darkest part of the night had passed.  Lady Lissanna’s Hippogryph had carried them far and fast.  The entire flight Draccus had said nothing.  He was preparing to embrace whatever fate awaited him at the hands of the Cenarion Circle Council.

Draccus allowed himself to be bound, without resisting his hands were secured with tanned leather straps.  He had changed into a fresh cotton robe that had been dyed the color of earth brown with the center of the chest bearing the insignia of the Cenarion Circle’s green tree.

He waited patiently as the three different Council Members were selected carefully from those that had been summoned and informed of the circumstances.  This rare judging of a Druid before a Council had drawn in everyone that was staying there for training as well as respected Druids from both the Woods and the Plains.  Because the Druid that had been slain was a Tauren Bull the three representatives would be Tauren as well.

Normally another Druid would stand with the guilt party and speak for them.  Traditionally this role was filled by the Druid’s Master or mentor.  No one stepped out of the crowd that night.  Draccus bravely faced this challenge alone head on.

There were fires lit to illuminate the area better.  Several faces from different races all looked on the scene.  Everyone present was a Druid, this was an internal affair to be dealt with, and an outsider would not appreciate the significance of this ceremony.

Stealing glances around him, Draccus noticed that this was the same spot he had first been transformed into a Cat, a Druid of the Claw.  He also saw in the back of the crowd his former mentor, his Master in training, the person he had let down and disappointed.  A fresh wave of injury hit him.  It was time to hear the Council’s decision regarding his life.

The sound of a heavy wooden staff beat the ground three times and a clear voice rang out in the night, “Draccus Moonsayer step forward and hear what the Druids of the Plains as members of the Cenarion Circle have to say regarding the death of Scarrock Wildmane at your hand.”  A hush immediately silenced everyone gathered.

Draccus stepped forward into the light to stand before three magnificent Tauren Druid women.  Each of the three Druids represented a different tribe within the Tauren nation and of the Cenarion Circle members.

The Druid that had called him forward was Akabeko Runetotem.  She was leading the Ceremony from the way the others gave her deference in speaking first and the way she carried herself.  There was an air of official office about her, yet she seemed to hide a look of pity for the Night Elf standing before her.

Standing next to her was a Druid named Lessah Wildmane, she was anything but friendly towards Draccus, or so it appeared.  Her connection to these events was that she came from the same tribe as Scarrock, which meant if the Ceremony was one of Breaking it would be her role to deal the punishment onto Draccus.  The punishment could range from getting expelled from the Cenarion Circle to possibly even death.  It would be at her hand that Draccus would suffer should that be the Council’s decision.

The third Tauren was a Druid called Navimie Mistrunner.  As a Restoration Druid she was skilled and respected for her ability to heal not only fleshly wounds and fatal injuries but to bridge gaps in relationships and bring healing to the hearts of many people.  The task and responsibility would fall to her if the Ceremony was one of Mending.  This duty entailed the assigning of a guide to bring someone back into the ranks of the Cenarion Circle and inviting the offender a chance at forgiveness.  She would symbolize life and hope should Draccus find favor.

Akabeko Runetotem raised the staff in her hands high above her horns.  She looked at Draccus for a long period of time.  Weighing his life in their hands was a huge responsibility and burden.  The judges had been unanimous in their decision.  She just hoped that this Night Elf would see their wisdom in the difficult judgment and sentence she was about to pass.

“We believe that life is to be cherished above all things.  We are entrusted and sworn to preserve life at all times.  There exists a balance between life and death.  You have broken this cycle.”  Akabeko Runetotem let those last words hang in the air.

“By your own actions and confession you killed Scarrock, a fellow Druid in training with you, a Tauren Druid from the tribe of Wildmane.  As a whole, the Cenarion Circle regrets that his life was torn away from him at such a young age.  Tonight on behalf of the Wildmane tribe Lessah Wildmane, a revered Restoration Druid of the Grove stands here now.  Her Tauren brother’s blood is on your conscience.”

I do not want your blood as payment Night Elf.” Lessah reached out privately to Draccus standing before her defenseless.  “That you came forward and genuinely mourn my brother still says much of your inner character.
Draccus quietly asked her the most honest question his spirit could think of. 

Why are you giving me such generous grace?

Lessah Wildmane did not respond to his heartfelt plea.  She stood next to the two other Druids looking straight ahead.

“The exact details of what happened between you and him are not under question here tonight.”  Akabeko Runetotem continued with the Ceremony.  “What we three have to determine is whether your place among us is worth Mending or if the time of Breaking has come.”

Not even the wind stirred around the assembly as everyone waited for the fate of Draccus to be announced.  The moonlight bathed down on them serenely.

“You are to be spared banishment and death as punishment for your transgressions.  However, till you have had time to reconcile what these events mean to you and rest of the Cenarion Circle, you are to be immediately taken to the nearest Dream Bough Portal and sent to Emerald Dream.  There you are to seek out harmony and discover how you are to rejoin us as a Brother Druid.  Until there is that peace, the peace that resides within every member’s heart, you are not to return.”

“The loudest voice of influence on us reaching this decision was in the wise and far-seeing guidance of Navimie Mistrunner.  Her special gift as a Restoration Druid is mending the broken places in people’s lives.  She sees a future for you that is promising but also one that twists around many difficulties and trials.”  Akabeko Runetotem lowered her staff to the ground and placed it at Draccus’s feet.  “May this Ceremony be validated in the action you will take, marking a significant change in your life.  This staff and the clothes you wearing now are all that you are permitted to bring with you into the Emerald Dream."

Now that the Ceremony was concluded and Draccus had received his grace, he was taken to the Dream Bough Portal in eastern Ashenvale.

“I hope that Anachan our Sister Night Elf Druid is able to help him on the other side as much as she was a reliable source of help here.”  Navimie Mistrunner spoke to the others as they prepared to leave Moonglade for Thunder Bluff in Mulgore.

“You know Navimie, you still have not chosen a personal mentor and guide for Draccus when he returns to Azeroth.  He will need assistance and someone to show him how to regain his place within the Cenarion Circle.  Who did you have in mind?”  Lessah Wildmane asked as she mounted her Proto-Drake and tightened the saddles belt.

“Have you heard of a Druid named Terrielle?  He is a Night Elf Lord of the forest and has specialized in the training of being a Balance Druid.  I believe he might be the best one suited to influence and mould our young Draccus Moonsayer when he returns.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Part 1: Gratitude Out Of Grieving

A thunderous noise of fierce combat rung out in the air around Maestra’s Post as Orcs and Kaldorei Sentinels both fought for the death of their opponents.  The tipping point of the encounter was steadily going in the favor of the Horde invaders.  Fewer and fewer arrows were being fired from the tower railing above, while the six Orcs continued to pound the reinforced door at the base of the structure.

Wades, as a solitary Hunter, joined a Sentinel fighting against two heavily armored and shielded Warriors.  Their shields took blows from the Sentinel’s three-bladed glaive weapon that normally would have sliced a person in half, and their short swords continued to prod for an opening to slice her fair lavender skin, but she did not give up.

She spotted him approaching to her aid.  The Night Elf flashed her silver eyes to signal which of the Orcs she would put off guard so that he could end this miserable Orgrimmar foot solider’s life.  Her movements turned the one Orc so that his back was directly exposed to Wades’ unsheathed sword.

He raised his sword to descend, once again that day, into another green skinned enemy.  Just as he was about to bring his weight down with the weapon poised high in the air, a blur of wood and hide rushed backwards and slammed into Wades’ thighs.  There was a loud snap and a crushing sound as the Orc’s shield buried into him.  Both of his legs collapsed from the broken bones.

What neither of them predicted was that the other Orc had noticed their exchange and had waited until the last moment to strike.  He took his only form of defense and used it to cripple the attacker joining them.

The Hunter lay on the ground screaming and bleeding from where his legs had been bashed in.  The pain was all that was keeping him from passing out.  The knowledge that if he did not get back in the fight somehow the rest of the party might fall prey as well forced him to focus.

The clever Orc turned his head with a wide smile of tusks back onto the Sentinel.  He saw her face just in time to see her swing her multi-bladed weapon around in a reverse attack and rip cleanly through his torso.  He fell to the ground, but he did not scream, because his innards had already spilled out and bathed the scene with all the gore that comes with battle.

The remaining Orc stood still in shock for a few moments.  Those few moments were a few too many.  While he was still on guard against the Sentinel in front of him, he completely had written off the screaming pains as someone that was no longer a threat.

The sword in Wades’ right hand was all his foggy vision could focus on.  A blinding white pain continuously flared up his body into his head.  During one of the waves of pain the words of Fannon, the dwarf priest that had given him the sword as a gift, spoke to him.

“Remember my wandering Night Elf friend that this sword will be there for you in a time of need.  I am a healer and an alchemist by trade, but I have had an enchantment placed on this blade.  The runes on the hilt hold a spell called Divine Spirit.  It will active when you are at your weakest… use it and then seek…”

The hidden enchantment activated and Wades felt a momentary reprieve from the pain and disorientation.  As his mind cleared he saw within arm’s reach the other Orc.  He pushed himself up with his left arm and swung the sword in a low arching curve.  The metal sliced the back of the Orcs calves open and he fell to the ground.   The incapacitated Orc was met by the sword falling back on top of him, burying itself into his chest.

As the world begun to spin for Wades, he laid back down on the grass.  He looked around to the other group of combatants fighting their own struggle.  He saw the white feline form of his Druid companion striking with his claws and speed at the last Orc standing next to the other slain Orc Warrior.

He gripped the sword in his hand tighter and then the world went black.

With the five armed Orcs now laying lifeless on the ground, the six remaining Orc grunts dropped their battering ram and fled into the woods.  The two lady Sentinels bodies and minds were pumping massive amounts of adrenaline and they took off after the easy kills that had just ran away.  The din of battle in this part of the woods was quiet again.

Draccus came up to the limp body of Wades lying in the grass.  He saw the chest was still slightly moving in irregular breathing patterns.  The blood had thankfully slowed pooling around the Hunter’s body, and the wounds had started to clot.  The most disgusting scene was the bone and cloth poking out at odd angles.

Do not throw up, Draccus!” He said to himself.  “This Hunter was there for you when you needed him.  In the wet rain and despair, He offered you friendship and a ray of hope.  Now he is in mortal danger and you have to do something to help him.”  Draccus not able to speak or communicate with anyone let out a roar and cry mingled together in order to get one of the Kaldorei Sentinels attention.

Not sure of how the Sentinels would perceive a large white feline beast standing over the body of a gravely wounded Night Elf, Draccus positioned himself between the woods and the body of his friend.  Draccus stood to the side of Wades and watched the three Sentinels come out of the tower and approach cautiously.

As best as he could he nudged and pointed with his muzzle towards Wades to indicate that his friend needed immediate help.  While none of the Sentinels were Hunters or could read to small detail signs of an animal, they all noticed the Cenarion Circle trinket that hung around Draccus’s neck.  This sign of the Druid’s community gave them some assurance but still they were careful.

“We need to get this Hunter to Astranaar as quickly as possible!”  The lead Sentinel said as she saw the extent of the damage and injury this stranger had received in attempting to assist them.  “If we do not move carefully and quickly the broken parts of his legs could sever a major artery and cause him to bleed out or send a blood clot into his heart.”

“Lady Warwood, the Orcs slaughtered our Night Sabers before we could release them into the wilderness before the siege began.  We do not have a quick way to transport this unknown Lord of the forest to Astranaar.  What can we do?” The second in command Sentinel asked from a logistical standpoint.

The Commander of Maestra’s Post looked at Draccus standing next to the body of the Hunter for a moment.  While not the same size as a Night Saber, he was certainly big enough for the task.  Then an idea came to her.

“You there, Druid of the Claw,” she shouted “are you willing to carry this Lord of the forest on your back if we secure him?  We need to get him to Astranaar as soon as possible.  He condition is pretty dire, because the Orcs from Orgrimmar have been poisoning their weapons and shields with some compound the Horde has come up with.  It stops the body from bleeding out any infections and then begins to slowly rot from the inside out.”

“I know of a powerful healer that is just a day’s hard journey from Astranaar by Night Saber.  Her name is Amerence, she is a highly respected Holy Priest from the Alliance, a human that some say can bring people back from the dead.  Her words of prayer not only encourage life to grow stronger, but she can mend our brother of the woods broken body as well.  But we must hurry.”

Draccus looked back at her with full comprehension of what Commander Lady Warwood had just said to him, but he was curious as to how she recognized and spoke to him expecting him to fully understand her.  He tilted his head expressing a look of bewilderment over her insight.  “How did she know that I would understand her and then go along with her commands like anyone under her command?

“I bet you are a little confused as to how I recognized you as not only a Druid of the Cenarion Circle but specifically a Cat-form trapped Druid at that?”

Draccus visibly looked shocked that she knew so much about him.

“A few days ago we had a Druid pass through this region named Kelebek Swiftclaw .  She was on a journey of her own, to discover her hidden past as well as track down her mentor somewhere in the forests of Feralas.  She had heard rumors that a young Druid had broken away from a small group of Druids being trained in the region of Darkshore awhile back and no one had heard from him since.”

“So in answer of your unasked questions: Yes I was keeping an eye out, before we were attacked, for an unusually large feline Cat stalking the forest.  But No, I will not turn you over to the Cenarion Circle for punishment or judgment.  That is something you will have to decide.”

The two Sentinels that had disappeared into the woods after the fleeing Orcs came back into the clearing around Maestra’s Post covered in sweat, blood, and dirt.

“Okay, Druid of the Claw, I am ready to travel to Astranaar with you on foot.  I see my faithful Sentinels have returned from catching those last six unarmed Orcs that dared to attack us.  Do not worry about me keeping up with your pace, I have run many battles in Warsong Gulch and that requires constant conditioning and stamina.”

Draccus stretched his body out for what sounded like a hard cross country voyage.  He remained still and steady as the two other Kaldorei Sentinels secured Wades to his back with vine bindings and leather straps.

His friend literally was resting his entire hopes of survival on the back of Draccus now.  Silently in his mind the partial phrase of “at your weakest… use it…and then seek…” repeatedly coursed through his mind as he slipped back into unconsciousness.

The Saga continues with...... Part 2: Giving Generous Grace

Friday, November 4, 2011

Two Worlds Merging

The friendship between Draccus Moonsayer and Wades Quickshot grew quickly.  Following the days after their first encounter in the rainy forests of Darkshore, on the border of Ashenvale, they began to understand each other, on a deeper level.

On that stormy night a lone feral Druid had unknowingly stalked a stranger who would later become a friend.  Under the boughs of the trees a wandering Hunter, having just come back to his native continent of Kalimdor from across the sea, reconnected with a kinsman of his heritage.  These two Night Elves were both traveling in search of a moment of redemption.

Draccus sought to walk upright with dignity once again.  To break free of the beast form that trapped him from within.

Wades secretly searched in his heart for a way to rejoin his race. The very people he had turned his back on, in order to travel the world.  Wanderlust had made a sojourner out of him, and now there was a compulsion to come home.

Besides the skillful profession of being an Engineer, Wades was also a specialized Hunter in the field of Beast Mastery.  This learned discipline enabled him to better communicate and understand creatures of all kinds.  Although, sadly, he now had no pet to walk besides him, as his last combat partner had been slain in the distant jungles of Stranglethorn.  The large wolf, from the dark forests of Duskwood, had been tamed by him many, many years ago.  The only title that ever fit this large canine was Grinner.  This was because he often had the look of an impish boy, on his face.  The absence of Grinner was bittersweet, since Wades was cut off from the intimate connection they had shared; however this stillness enabled him to read the Druid, caught in feline form, more clearly.

“I see you are eager to be rid of this form Druid.” Wades commented, as he watched the steady driven pace of his companion on the road.  “But have you ever stopped and appreciated the powerful frame and abilities you possess as a Cat?”

Draccus turned his head and snarled back at the Hunter.  The annoyance to the comment subsided as quickly as it had flared up.  Realizing that he only asked out of curiosity and from his limited perspective, Draccus looked ahead again. “If only he truly knew how powerful and deadly my abilities were, then perhaps he would not envy me.  But at least he tries to reach out in friendship.  I can see he has his own struggles within himself.  Perhaps we have more in common then either of us knows.

Recognizing that the road ahead would disappear behind them eventually, Draccus slowed his pace to match the Hunter’s.  He had been watching a small level of anxiety increase in this seasoned traveler as they came closer to meeting other Kaldorei.  This was a mystery.  Something he shared a part of.  He was willfully moving forward towards an uncertain future, while greatly burdened by the past.

After seeing Draccus slow his pace Wades sighed and said, “Thank you for slowing down.  My boots have walked many miles over the years and my feet seem to get easily fatigued lately.  But the truth is I am on a journey of my own, friend.  I am trying to reconnect with my Kaldorei brothers and sisters.  Could they ever accept me back within their ranks after having been gone for so long?”

Neither of them tried to say or motion a response to the others thoughts.  They both yearned silently that their answers would hopefully be found from the hermit called Grayo Duskwalker.  A stretch of faith for them both, but at least there was something there to hold on to.

Rumors had been told, that this Druid had once been given up for lost in the wilds of Feralas.  Grayo Duskwalker had been abandoned, isolated, and left as a shadow of his former self to suffer one of the greatest trials ever, the loss of his identity.  Many years later after most had forgotten him; he walked out of the woods into the village of Astranaar in the heart of Ashenvale.  Here was a Night Elf that personally knew the depths of great sorrow but had also experienced the joys of full restoration.

In the pursuit of this elderly figure they kept moving.  Even if they had to cross many zones to find him, the quest would be worth the reward.

The trail into Ashenvale passed by smoothly as the two party members traveled in search of their answers.  The landscape was an ancient and wild place.  Not wild in an untamed way but wild in the sense that there was always conflict, for those that lived within her borders.

This part of the world was constantly harassed by the forces of the Horde’s ambitions and lack of respect for nature.  One of the key points of contention was a place called Warsong Gulch.  This battleground had been fought over for countless generations.  The victories, like a storm on the sea, were constantly being tossed back and forth, between the two sides.  It was a training ground for the Silverwing Sentinels, an elite martial group of Night Elves tasked with defending the land.  It was a place for enemies to clash steel against one another and wave their fleeting flag of conquest over the defeated.

“Do you hear that Druid?” Wades asked, as he slipped his trusted longbow off his shoulder and shifted his quiver of arrows to the ready.  He crouched down to avoid being seen while listening for the direction of the nearest fighting.  The sounds of metal clashing against metal, muffled shouts of anger, and the hum of battle reached his ears.

Looking for support, Wades turned to find the Druid nowhere to be seen.  “Where did you disappear to Cat?” The Hunter asked aloud, thinking that the Druid had left him to face the approaching conflict alone.

Draccus, seeing the situation and the need for remaining unseen, shifted his body’s muscles and focused his mind on the feral abilities at his disposal.  Fading into the surrounding foliage his outline was just a mirage.  He was now completely in stealth mode, an invisible striking force, ready to engage an enemy should the need arise.

To let Wades know he was indeed still there he raked his front paw across the ground quietly in front of him.  The extended claws dug a shallow channel in the dirt to indicate his presence.  It was enough of a sign that the Hunter understood the message.

“How about we go investigate the disturbance and perhaps offer… some assistance?” Wades whispered, as he touched his short blade on his belt with his free hand.

The sounds of fighting echoed through the woods towards them from a location just ahead.  Maestra’s Post served as an outpost, an isolated watchtower, between the coastal area and the deeper forests.  Skirmishes were common along the borderlands between the Night Elves and the ever expanding Orcs, Goblin machines, and their Horde brethren.  The intensity and volume of the noise suggested that this battle was more than a typical scuffle.

As the pair slowly worked their way to the outskirts of the clearing, they immediately saw a group of eleven trained Orcs laying siege and fighting against a small contingent of five Kaldorei Sentinels.  Three of the Sentinels were holding the attackers back from atop of the tower.  The arrows that rained down failed to penetrate the shields and thick armor of these aggressors with much affect.  Six of the Orcs had cut down a young tree nearby and fashioned it into a crude battering ram.  With this instrument of warfare, they attempted to bash down the solid oak door into the tower.  Around the base of the structure were two separate groups engaged on uneven terms.  For the two Sentinels on the open ground there were four Orcs divided amongst them.  The eleventh Orc, withdrawn from the rest of direct warfare, appeared to be the leader of this party.  He was bigger and adorned in more armor then the rest, and he seemed to be assessing a plan of attack.  A veteran of Horde’s other wars more then likely.

Close quarter combat was the best option available to them.  Draccus had his lethal Cat form abilities while Wades had his experience.  Their biggest advantage would be surprise. Devastatingly lightning fast attacks would hopefully stun the brutes and take some of the green skinned marauders lives.

Wades Quickshot, sensing the pulse of this conflict, decided to secure his ranged weapon and pull out his short sword.  He was a gifted swordsman as well as an excellent archer.  A blade would be more efficient for the task at hand.  Besides, the Silverwing Sentinels were already covering the air with their arrows. 

Wades’ short sword had been presented to him as a gift from a Dwarf he met in his travels, while staying in Ironforge.  The Dwarves were renowned for their blacksmith work and the forging of superior weapons.  The steel of the blade had proven its worth in weigh of gold many times since it was first hammered out on an anvil.  Although never confirmed, there was a slight hint of enchantment about this weapon. This was because whatever it struck against, no matter how hard, the edge never dulled or chipped.

Draccus knew that the time to draw fresh blood and engage in the life-death struggle was upon him again.  The disdain and disgust of being another’s executioner was put aside in his mind.  Here he was needed.  The powers of savage fury lurking within his chest could be used to save someone.  Acting in the defense of others would not be a waste. Not aiding the situation, while a curse in his eyes, would be an act of a coward.  And a coward he was not.

A roar ripped through Draccus’s throat as he charged the leader of the Orc war party.  The grass and small brush were trampled under his swift paws.  He reached his target before the commander knew what hit him.  As a Cat, the stealth enabled him to strike and leap away before the Orc could pinpoint the cause of the attack.

The leader of the Orc party held a large two-handed axe made out of bone and metal.  He looked all around him for the source of the attack.  The noise had suggested a wide animal had sprung out of the woods, but what animal would attack someone in the middle of a siege?

Just as he was in mid-thought, he was struck on his side again.  The pain was greater this time, a deeper radiating pain.  He looked down his right side underneath his arm and saw a large bite mark that poured blood.  Unless mistaken, he saw a part of his ribcage along the edge of the wound.  Strength and stamina were a natural attribute of the Orc race, but he felt himself growing weaker.  The massive bone axe fell from his hands, but he refused to fall to the ground.

A sword pierced his chest with a downward stroke from behind, as he called out a warning to his warriors.  Only a wet gurgling of blood escaped his mouth.  It was an act of mercy at the hands of the Hunter, something that would not have been returned in kind.

With the Orc leader lifeless on the grass, only ten invaders were left to be dealt with.

Draccus decided to split up and even the odds for the two Sentinels fighting on the ground.  The two Sentinels, Sisters of the woods, were being pushed to their limits fighting the green skinned beasts alone.

He trusted that Wades could handle the other group fighting with their swords and shields.  He had to rely on his shadow striking skills for a sudden surprise, and then unleash all his energy to overtake an enemy that was better armored and armed then himself.

He slowly crept towards the three combatants nearest to him.  The two towering Warriors faced towards their prey with a look of evil delight.  A source of amusement to them, as they continuously swung their two-handed swords, looking for a fatal error on the part of the Sentinel.

The Warriors in their stances, protected in their various pieces of armor, revealed a small detail which Draccus could capitalize on.  There was a small gap between their mail boots and the chain-mail leggings.  This unprotected area showed the back of their legs just barely, but it was enough that a pair of razor sharp claws could hamstring them.

The irony that these two Warriors would fall to some carelessness of armor discipline and the swift slicing of my paws is something I shall have to remember.  Always watch your back and take care of the armor you wear.” Draccus noted to himself.  “It’s time to take these giants down and teach them their fatal error.”  With that thought, he sprang from the shadows into the fray.

The Saga continues with... Part 1: Gratitude Out of Grieving

Friday, October 14, 2011

Emerald Elysium- Into the Wilds

“Bless the Ancients.” Draccus thought to himself as he looked out across the magnificent vista of the Ysera Plateau.  “It is such a privilege to visit the Emerald Dream.”

The early morning mists lifted their veil on the scene before him.  An untouched realm, set apart from the world of Azeroth, a place of sanctuary that had helped to calm the turmoil inside this young Druid.

The peaceful and tranquil valley sloped away from the towering forest, and was divided only by the flowing Tearkar River.  The name sake for this terrain came from the powerful Green Dragonflight leader Ysera, one of the original Dragon Aspects.  The landscape was timeless in her beauty and the serenity she offered.  Equally as immortal as the Lady Dragon Ysera the land knew only the gentle changes of the weather while remaining eternally in bloom and full of wild growth.  The Tearkar River brought fresh water and life into this region from the rain storms and snow melts.  The name Tearkar came from a language long forgotten, the meaning roughly translated was No More Sadness.

Draccus Moonsayer walked slowly with his quarter staff in hand, the simple grey robe on his back, and his bare feet feeling the soft grass beneath him as he approached the Dreambough Portal.  His time to return to Azeroth and part company from the Emerald Dream had come.

Dreambough Portals were bridges between the two worlds, the Emerald Dream and Azeroth.  There were five such Portals scattered across the lands of Azeroth that would allow the passage of a person permitted entry into the Emerald Dream.  The only ones that had been known to cross this threshold were Druids entering for prolonged periods of rest, mediation and rejuvenation.

A resounding calm filled the air as a soft wind danced around the tall Druid standing there.  He was reflecting back on the events that had led up to his arrival here.

“Amazing to think, who once was lost is now found again.  I return to the world I came from but not the same as I left it.”

Then the memories came flooding back to him.

He had been running for hours on end, well into the day.  The rhythmic pounding of his paws drummed the ground as Draccus fled away from the scene of his crime and shame.  Just that morning, he had lost control.  He had been innocent from the stain of ever having violently taken life from another.  He could never be that innocent again.

The taste of Scarrock’s blood would not wash out of his mouth no matter how much water he drank from the cold stream.  His Master’s look of disapproval and the knowledge that he had failed to preserve life had the double effect of guilt on this Cat-form bound Druid.

His feral instincts compelled him to escape further into the southern region of Darkshore.  Into the overcast forest he ran. The land had once been a mighty stronghold of the Nights Elves presence and foothold on the continent of Kalimdor.  Numerous ruins now dotted the landscape alongside the decaying and forgotten woods.  An atmosphere of gloom and chill clung heavily on branches and rocks.

Just as he was crawling through the underbrush past Auberdine, a large village situated on the coast, the weather closed in.  At first a single raindrop fell on a leaf near his nose, and then the entire sky opened up and washed the foliage and ground.  Pretty soon everything was soaked in the downpour including his furry hide.  The storm at least served to wash away the sweat, blood, and dirt from earlier.  Although Draccus had the added protection of fur and thick skin to block out some of the weather, the cruel chill still saturated him to the bone.

“The warmth of a lodge’s roaring fire and a hot cider drink would be the prefect remedy to this miserable day,” Draccus mused to himself.  But he would not allow himself a moment of comfort while he was trapped thus.  So he continued southward wondering if he would lose himself forever to become another mindless creature stalking the woods, empty of the emotion he now carried.

A melancholy mood settled about him so thick that his attitude resembled the storm now venting itself around him.  A feeling of hopelessness and defeat started to eat at him.  This moment of self-pity was short lived however, because suddenly a thought occurred to him.  He faced a critical decision.  He could lay down and just let a slow death, a hollow despair take over and ruin him as a lesser creature.  Or, he could embrace this struggle and fight for a glimmer of hope.  A hope in regaining again his Night Elf form, his honor, and most importantly his forgiveness and redemption.

Draccus was just crossing the Wildbend River, which marked the southern portion of Darkshore, when he spotted a lone figure in the distance through the forest.  This mysterious person had struck camp under a cluster of trees back away from the road.  A leather tarp had been strung between several trees, providing extra shelter from the constant rain.  There was a small glowing fire that sent smoke up into the branches of the trees.  The rising smoke held the sweet scent of salmon fillets being cooked over an open fire.

Many forces compelled Draccus forward.  Perhaps it was the warmth of the fire pulled him in.  The promise of a stolen morsel to appease his empty stomach was too much to resist.  Or maybe the strongest force was something entirely else that he could not grasp.  Slowly he prowled closer in the shadows of the trees until he was fifteen paces from the back of the person busily preparing his evening meal.

Snap!  The ground shifted and quickly his paws were frozen to the earth.  In that one step Draccus found himself in the center of a Hunter’s trap.  A frost trap meant to immobilize its victim.

“Hello there.  I was wondering when you were going to come closer.”  A gentle and measured masculine voice sounded.  The figure stood calmly with his back still facing Draccus, who was still trapped by this talented tactic.  His right hand held a well-worn elven longbow, and in his other hand a notched arrow was resting against the string.

Turning his head towards his catch, the silver in the Hunter’s eyes reflected the campfire’s light.  From underneath his wide brimmed hat he heard an angry feral noise.  He brought the bow fully up now, and drew the arrow back aiming the shaft directly at the source of the noise.

Words would still not form out of his mouth, but with the guttural growl growing stronger Draccus was warning this person.  He would not die quietly, and if given the chance he would not die easily.  The fur on his back stood up on end, despite the rain matting it down and in defiance of his slayer.

A chuckle escaped the lips of the Hunter staring down at the furious animal within reach of his weapon.  He noticed a small wooden charm around the beast’s neck.  He had seen it a few other times; it was a symbol of Cenarion Circle members.

“Elune must be watching over you tonight.  Most other Hunters, especially them belonging to the Horde would have shot first then asked later.”

Not sure of his captor’s intentions, Draccus stilled his spirit to stop the menacing growl, but his sharp teeth were still bared and his razor claws extended out from his paws.  A moment passed where neither moved.

Draccus was locked in place by both the trap binding his feet, and in the confusion caused by this Hunter sparing his life and also speaking to him directly.

The Hunter was motionless because he was not sure how to respond.

“You are Kaldorei, brother, same as I.” The Hunter said tenderly trying to reach the intelligent part of the Druid who was clearly struggling within himself.

Turning his head slightly he exposed a pair of long purple ears in the light of the campfire.  He lowered his longbow and returned the arrow to its quiver.  “I mean you no harm.  My trap was only set to stop any thieves or attackers from sneaking up on me during the night.  I will disarm the trap that binds you if you promise to not spring upon me.  Do you understand what I am saying?”

Speechless and no longer filled with a desire to strike the person that had entrapped him, Draccus slowly retracted his claws and tucked away his bared teeth.  Removing all outward signs of aggression he looked at the woodsman and nodded in agreement.

“I guess the hospitable thing to do is invite you in out of the rain.  But first let us get you free from this trap of mine.”  The Hunter said with a lighthearted tone as he worked the small magical device that had set everything into motion.

“There!  No more ice holding you down my feline friend.”  He paused long enough to watch the Cat shake loose the ice crystals that had formed on his paws.  “Let’s move in closer to the fire and share a warm meal.  From the looks of the clouds and how the darkness keeps the Moon’s light from us tonight, might be best to camp here and decide what we need to do in the morning.”

Draccus walked under the cover of the leather tarp and branches above them, and immediately the small fire’s radiance began to warm him.  Thankfully the ground was dry where this experienced Night Elf had prepared his camp.  The space was large enough to accommodate his form across the fire from his host.  Gratefully Draccus bowed his head in appreciation and started to eat his portion of food.

The Hunter patiently waited to introduce himself after putting away his dishes.  “My name is Wades Quickshot.  A lord of the woods like any of our people.  I have travelled all over this land and even crossed the Seas a few times to distance continents.  Most of my life has been spent living and hunting off the land.  I only go into the major cities to trade and buy any goods I cannot find or make.”

Quickly wanting to show off his skills to his visitor, Wades reached into the breast pocket of his leather tunic and pulled out a small shiny object.  The brass metal pieces were fashioned together in the likeness of an owl. Wades took a unique tool from his hidden key ring hanging on his belt and turned it on the back part of this mechanical bird.

"He may be small but like any good engineering item he works most of the time.  I call him Arti.  Faithful messenger if ever there was one and a gift from a Gnome I met a long time ago."  Holding this marvel of metal, springs, and know-how lightly in his open hand, Wades wrapped a small note around one of the owl's little legs.

"Sending a message ahead of us to Astranaar in Ashenvale.  I know of an old Kaldorei who was once like you my friend, a Druid of the Claw.  Some said he had at one time lost himself completely to the transformation.  But now he lives apart from the community and tends to woods in solace."

Draccus had finished eating his salmon by now and was listening intently.  When this Hunter had mentioned a Druid having once been lost to the wilderness of transformation and able to come back, Draccus raised his head and stared at Wades.  Those words reached him as if they had given him the hope he had faintly prayed to find.

Shifting his feline weight as if he was getting ready to take to the woods again, Draccus was stopped by a raised hand.

"Be still and get some rest.  Tomorrow we will begin our journey into Ashenvale and with guidance from Elune maybe we will find this hermit that shared  in your current challenge.  I will go with you as far as I can."

With the rain steadily falling on the tarp and branches Draccus laid back down.  He waited for tomorrow's dawn as the campfire's light grew softer.  He just might be able to find someone who could help him without judging him for his guilt.

The Saga continues with... Two Worlds Merging