Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Full Circle

Thunder Bluff was all but deserted as the late night moon shined down on the sleeping lodges. A Bluffwatcher would make his way down the traveled paths of the mesas, dutifully keeping an eye out for hostile intruders, but otherwise no one stirred. No one except two Shu'halo silhouettes making their way silently to Elder Rise. The pair stalked across the long swinging bridge. With a squeeze of Milanna's hand and a grin, Mograg said, "I wonder how long before Slyvos finds us." He chuckled lightly. The druid peered around and grinned lopsidedly.

"Knowing him... he could be stalking us right now." She glanced behind her as they reached the other end of the bridge, as though the stalker in question would appear at any moment.

"Just waiting for the right moment to pounce," Mograg nodded. They walked across the rise to their destination, a small copse of trees near the edge. "It's been a while, but it has been time very well spent." He smiled and pulled Milanna close to him for a kiss. She returned it, then looked up at him coyly before turning her gaze to the edge of the rise by the trees. She smiled softly to herself as she nodded in agreement.

They had spent the last weeks together, apart from the rest of the world. They had become closer still than they had been. Their love for one another was venerated in nature, and they had stolen back into the civilized world as husband and wife. This trip, though, would leave their loved ones none the wiser. This time was still theirs. The only hint that they had returned, if only for a moment, was a well-penned scroll prepared over a month ago just for this occasion. It had been addressed to Kormok. As they had passed by, Mograg slipped it into the mail.

Milanna gave Mograg's hand a squeeze before kneeling down to search through her knapsack. For once it didn't appear laden with whatever items she normally kept with her; she had brought only what was necessary for these times. Soon enough she pulled out a small package and unwrapped it carefully. Milanna went over to the larger of the trees and set two small linen dolls, shaped as a male and female tauren, on the ground facing the mountains of Mulgore. She stood back up and returned to Mograg's side, smiling just a bit.

"I... used to make dolls to play with when I was little," she explained very softly. "I worked on these the last two nights, while you slept... they will symbolize, well... us, and our spot here... and..." She pointed in the same direction the dolls were facing, where Mograg had single-handedly built their new home. She smiled up at him again.

Mograg returned her smile. He put his arm around her, pulling her into him. "Very nice, Nayeli." He looked toward their home. Although his eyes could not see it directly, he was able to use the sight of a nearby owl to look in on their camp. His eyes now looked at Milanna just before he pressed his lips to hers. The druid looked up at him after the kiss, the blush on her muzzle quite visible in the moonlight. Regardless, she kissed him again and held him.

"I am glad you think so... there are, ah, actually some more in my knapsack... for other spots we visit..." She smiled a bit sheepishly.

Mograg chuckled. "Really, now? Where shall we head next?" He eyed her knapsack a moment. "Looks like we have a few places to visit." She turned her head toward her pack and saw some of the dolls' heads peeking out like curious critters. Her only reaction was another sheepish smile as she tugged on his hand.

"You'll see." Mograg chuckled again, grinning as she lead him away into the night.

Milanna led him first to Ratchet to set sail for Stranglethorn. Two sections of the jungle found doll companions that night: the pond near the entrance to the goblin city of Booty Bay, and a rock ledge overlooking one of Stranglethorn's majestic waterfalls. A trek north along the coastline brought them to the human region of Westfall. As the first light of morning, the farmer woman Daphne Stilwell stepped out of her humble home and looked down to see two small Shu'halo dolls by her doorstep. She looked around her farm for the culprit, but the pair was long gone by then.

Tiny tauren appeared all around Azeroth, as far north as Revantusk and as far west as the elf lands. Soon enough some appeared even in the Outlands. Yet somehow, no one knew where they had come from, or why. The only clues were large hoofprints and pawprints that disappeared not far from where any doll was placed.

Their last stop was not far at all from their start--the Mulgore fairgrounds. However, this place would not get a doll; a nearby rock found itself a guest of Red Hot Wings wrapped in parchment paper. Milanna smirked impishly up at Mograg.

"I probably don't have to say... how hard it was not to eat those before tonight."

"For you, maybe. Gunnar still won't go near them," he grinned. "Very appropriate, love." He smiled lovingly at Milanna, his mind brought back to the first time he had seen her. It had been here, of course. The Darkmoon Faire was in full swing. They were among the hopefuls under consideration by the Tears of Draenor at the time. Both had come to be among them and to try to find their place. There she had been, in a festival dress, turning shyly away from the crowd to suck the hot sauce off her fingertips. He remembered calling out to her across the fairgrounds, and how she had blushed in response.

Milanna's thoughts matched Mograg's as she looked around the grounds, that same blush and a soft smile on her face. She took Mograg's hand in both of hers and leaned against him, still gazing at the well-worn earth.

"Believe it or not... I have no more dolls." Mograg smiled.

"And just in time, love. We're home again."


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Across the Threshold

Mograg smiled widely as they crossed the ridge. With his free hand, he pointed into the distance. He squeezed Milanna's hand lovingly. "There it is, Nayeli." His tail started to move a little faster than usual. Pride and excitement welled up in him. He knew she would soon see the fruits of his weeks of hard labor. He looked over at her and grinned, anticipating her reaction.

Milanna squinted in the direction he indicated, her own tail twitching in anticipation of this surprise. After a few moments, she blinked and looked up at him with wide eyes. "Is that... is that a lodge, way up here? I wonder who lives there..." She peered at it again in curiosity.

He chuckled and squeezed Milanna's hand once more. "Us, my love. Us." He watched her face, the grin still on his. She turned her head slowly toward him, eyes wide again. She stared at him for a few moments before speaking.

"U-Us?" Another pause. "Did you... did you... did you build it?"

Mograg chuckled again. "Don't sound so surprised, Nayeli." He grinned at her playfully. She laughed, shortly but heartily, before smiling up at him.

"I didn't mean it that way... I meant... gracious, way up here! How did you keep such a secret from me?" She giggled, squeezing his hand in both hers.

"It wasn't easy, love, believe me. Any part of that, actually. Once I brought the materials up here, it wasn't so hard, though. I've spent the bulk of our time apart on this. While you were away visiting Emlyn, I was, well, up here. Or bringing things here, or gathering things to bring here." He chuckled again. "Little by little, for a long while now, I've been building this for you, love. For us." He smiled lovingly into her eyes. "And by the look in your eyes, it was worth every effort and more." The druid grinned widely, just a hint of moisture in her eyes, and she threw her arms around the hunter for a tight hug.

"It's... it's amazing," she whispered into his good ear. "I know it's not the best word for it, but, I'm not sure there is a word, for what I want to say..." She pulled back just enough to give him a soft peck on the muzzle and smile coyly at him. "Can we... can we see it up close?"

Mograg smiled, "Of course, my love." He squeezed her hand gently and walked with her across the ridge and down the easy descent to the plateau below them. They stood side by side, looking over the camp. Mograg and Milanna had only reached the plateau when an overly friendly wolf darted out from the inside of the lodge, yapping and barking as if he had not seen Mograg in ages. With a chuckle he patted the wolf on his head. "You'll have to wait until we eat, boy. And don't pretend you haven't been hunting anyway. I can smell it on your breath, Hollowgut." He returned his attention to Milanna and smiled, "Welcome home."

Milanna giggled and knelt to give Gunnar a good scratch behind the ears when he bounded up to them, standing when Mograg spoke to her again. She smiled lovingly at him before looking slowly over the camp that was Mograg's handiwork. "Home..." she said softly, a distant look in her eyes. Finally, she reached for Mograg's hand with both her own once again and stretched up on her hooves to give him a soft kiss.

He met her kiss softly and sweetly. After a lingering moment, he spoke once more, "Come, Nayeli. Let me show you around." He pointed out several of the large vessels that surrounded the lodge and told her the contents of each. He had stocked the camp well with various foods and large barrels of water. He lead her past the stack of wood, already prepared to be lit into a bonfire for their first evening, to the door of the lodge. He pulled back the covering of the door and secured it as he let her take her first peek inside.

The lodge was a bit over-sized for just the two of them. Mograg had wanted it that way, even though it had cost him considerably in time, effort, and materials to make it so. The parts of the lodge furthest from the door were dedicated to storing various provisions. Smaller barrels which presumably held dry goods accompanied all the basic domestic tools, as well as several luxury items. His eye had certainly been more for functionality and less for form. While well stocked, the lodge was sparsely decorated. The few items of any aesthetic value that he had brought were largely limited to blankets and rugs that he had bought from the artisans on Thunder Bluff.

The young druid poked her head in and looked around before taking a step inside. Slowly she made her way around the lodge, peering closely at anything and everything she spotted. None of the barrels were safe from her curious gaze as she peeked inside anything with a hollow middle. After every inch of the dwelling had been scrutinized, she finally turned to Mograg with a bright smile, her ears perked and tail swishing happily.

Mograg returned her smile in kind. He took both her hands in his and leaned down to kiss Milanna. "I'm glad you like it, my love." She giggled softly, then looked up at him with a glint in her eye.

"Did you ever think I wouldn't?"

"You never know," he grinned playfully. "But I had a feeling you might like it." Milanna giggled again.

"Well, you were right!" She stretched up once again on her hooves to give him a kiss.

Mograg smiled lovingly into her eyes and held her tight. "It's been tough not telling you about this." He grinned. "So many times I wanted to bring you up here. You remember the night on the Bluff when I was staring off into the distance?" He chuckled lightly. "This place is where I was looking. I thought I'd take a peek to make sure that everything was where I left it." She smiled warmly.

"I remember..." Suddenly the druid looked curious. "If... if you can see this spot from the Bluff... can you see the Bluff from here?"

Mograg nodded his head and smiled. "You can, love. I'll show you in a moment. I want to light this before it gets much darker." Mograg knelt in front of a copper fire pot in the center of the lodge. It already contained a small supply of kindling ready to be lit. He took up a nearby piece of flint and a steel striking plate and made short work of starting the fire. A warm, orange glow filled the lodge. He placed a domed grating over the fire pot. A trail of smoke drifted lazily upward and out of the lodge.

He stood up again and took Milanna's hand in his with a loving smile. "Come, Nayeli, let me show you the view." With a gentle squeeze of her hand he lead her out of the lodge and toward the edge of the plateau. A short walk down the plateau from their camp the land rose up in a small mound of stone. They walked up, the way lit by Mu'sha over their shoulders. At the top he pointed off into the distance. "The Bluff is easy enough to see, but the details are a bit obscured." Holding tightly onto Mograg's hand, Milanna leaned forward just a bit, squinting into the direction he indicated. After a few moments, she returned to his side with a wide smile.

"I see it! I think I can just make out the windrider totem... maybe..." She peered into the distance again, to make sure.

"That was one of the reasons I wanted to make our camp here, love. It's both close and far enough away." He grinned. Milanna wrapped her arms around him and gave him a soft kiss, before resting her head on that favorite spot on his chest, his arms wrapped around her.

"It's perfect..."


Monday, March 24, 2008

Finding the Way Home

"I still don't get it! Why are you doing that the hard way instead of using the mine? I could talk to them for ya, you know!" Twizwick Sprocketgrind, the chief engineer for the Venture Company encampment shook his head, grinning as he watched Mograg.

The bull bellowed, "Pride!" His muscles strained as he pulled at the rope, walking away from the side of the cliff. The heavy load at the end of the rope finally made its way over the edge. The skid teetered a bit before its runners bit slightly into the ground of the plateau. Mograg breathed heavily as he took the stopper out of a water skin. He drank nearly half of it. "And, I already get it up this far. More than half the way there. Next one is not as bad."

"You could at least go get that flying machine you're always talking about," retorted Twizwick. "That pride is going to get the better of you. Besides! I want to study it so I can build my own!" Twizwick grinned, "That's the deal, you know. You have to show me how."

"Yes, yes. I remember. But is no good. Flying machine does not fit through mage door of Shattrath. And the demon door, it would fit, but could not get it to Kalimdor. Would need to take it apart and re-build." Mograg stood up again. The whole of his body felt like it was burning. Sweat slicked fur clung to his body. Getting the supplies up to the lower plateau had not seemed so much like work.

"So, why not try that?" Twizwick chimed.

Mograg put the water skin away and started pulling at the rope again, hauling the skid over to the next cliff he would pull it up. With a grunt and a smirk the bull replied, "Too lazy."

"Too lazy?" Twizwick asked incredulously. The goblin laughed heartily, shaking his head. "You're alright, bull. I don't care what they say!"

"And what do they say?" Mograg asked, unloading the skid.

"There's a rumor floating about that you came into the mine a little more than two years ago and really did some damage," replied Twizwick. It was true enough, but Mograg regarded the information impassively. "No one really remembers, though. You have any idea how often the crew changes out around here? Besides, you all look the same to us," the goblin chuckled. He elicited no more than a disinterested grunt from Mograg.

Mograg had already spent much of the day, and would continue late into the night in the same manner. He would reload the skid with supplies. Some had been purchased, some he had gathered himself. Once the rigging that held the load to the skid was secured, he'd attach the rope. At the other end was the large hook. The hooked end was tossed to the next plateau and secured in place. He would then find his way up to the next plateau. Sometimes a hard climb seemed the easiest way. Other times, he would rely on his raptor. Once on the plateau above, he'd pull the skid up to him and make his way back down again to begin anew.

Most of the time, Mograg had not had to contend with the audience of the lone goblin. While his body labored, his mind often drifted to recollections of the last several months. Much had changed in his life, more than he had expected would. He had seen little of the young shaman Winatsha before Slyvos had disappeared. He had seen her only twice in the months since. On the last occasion, she told him that she did not know next when she would see him, and that she no longer held him to any of his promises. He in turn released her from promises she had made to him. He did not expect to see her return again as she departed that last time.

It became rare to see those to whom he had been the closest. His long-time friend Slyvos was presumably dead. His Little Sister had taken to seclusion. Others had not come around in so long that some had become merely a fond memory of happier times. Mograg threw himself into his work, and the Beast reveled in it. The Beast had been fighting to take over for so long and now its time had finally come. Each hunt, the Beast took control more often. No longer was it reserved for times when it was absolutely needed. It was given free reign. In doing so, Mograg found that it left him alone away from the hunt, its bloodlust sated. The Beast was still rebellious, but Mograg had found that he could master it by not trying to subjugate it. Mograg began to find an inner calm when he was away from the hunt. He would gather with the clan again in the evenings when he could, and began to share stories and songs from his tribe.

The clan gatherings brought him close to Milanna once more. He had hurt her all too recently. She was still kind to him, more so than he might have been should the situation have been reversed. Mograg was grateful for her kindness and care, even though he thought himself undeserving of either. Over the weeks, she would spend more and more time with him. Their friendship became as it had been before.

It was not long before old feelings had been re-kindled within him, even though his shame prevented him from speaking them. Others had seen them together and would speak of it, but neither would speak to the other of it. A pair of the pale-faced elves they had met on a hunt had taken to calling them "Mr. and Mrs. Bull," only partially in jest. Mograg found that many had assumed she was his wife, and others assumed their relationship was as it had been in the past. Mograg could not bring himself to approach Milanna, for fear he would hurt her more than he already had. It would take an old friend to speak for Mograg when he could not.

Slyvos had returned! He told a story about how he had gone off to a remote island off the coast of Tanaris to study the art of the scribe. It was an altogether strange but good reunion. Mograg had been chastised for burning a hat, almost immediately. The whole of it was taken in stride and, after a few conversations as to his whereabouts, their friendship picked up once more just as it had left off.

It was Slyvos who, ultimately, would speak on Mograg's behalf. After a long conversation with Mograg, Slyvos took it upon himself to begin to push Mograg and Milanna together again. Subtlety, however, was not his primary concern. He had even gone so far one evening as to send them through an elaborate ritual disguised as one of his many games and announced at the end that Milanna and Mograg were now wed. The conversations that ensued as a result of the false wedding were the catalyst.

One evening, Mograg and and Snowee were relaxing on the Bluff near the pond. Snowee was a prospective member of the clan, another Shu'halo who Mograg was helping become acquainted to the clan. He had been asked to do this by Kormok, but Mograg had discovered in her another friend. Moreover, he was happy to find out that she took well to Slyvos. Slyvos' eccentricities sometimes made others uncomfortable, but she seemed to genuinely like him and had quickly become like family to Mograg. They were joined by Milanna, who had stalked up to them nervously as to not disturb them. Shortly after, Slyvos joined them as well.

Once during the course of the evening, Slyvos pulled Milanna aside and spoke to her. When they returned Slyvos said, "Milanna needs to talk to you, Mograggy." Mograg could only guess at what had been said, but he could see that she was easily as uncomfortable now as she had been the evening that Slyvos had decided they were married. Mograg quietly took her on a walk across to the Spirit Rise and there, for the first time in a very long time, they really spoke with one another.

The weeks that followed continued to bring them closer. Milanna and Mograg spent more and more time together. They would remember old times, they would speak of their new friends. The initial tension faded. Small acts of affection began to replace it. All the while, Slyvos and Snowee had taken to one another and their relationship was moving faster than a goblin rocket car on rails. It was not long before it was announced that Snowee was carrying Slyvos' twin children.

It was late in the night when Mograg and Milanna had settled down to sleep. She snuggled into him, her head resting on his chest. As they held one another, Mograg's mind drifted in the dream world between awake and asleep. He was at peace and knew what he would do next. The plans would wait for the morning. It was too late to get started. As he drifted off to sleep a whispered, "Goodnight, Nayeli," caught Milanna by happy surprise. He had not spoken that name since the last time he had called her by it. She lay her head back down again, whispering a goodnight and calling him by the name Takoda.

The next day Mograg set about his new project. First and foremost would be finding a location. He eventually settled on a high plateau after much scouting. There was more than enough land, as many trees as one might hope for in the area, and even a cave nearby that was deep enough to be significantly cooler than the outside. Water would not be easy to come by, but he knew ways around this problem. It was remote, but defensible should the occasion arise.

In time alone, he spent his day gathering the supplies he would need. He haggled with leather workers for cured hides. He purchased the wood that was to serve as the frame. Firewood, a water barrel, baskets, woven rugs, cooking supplies, a butcher's block and cleaver, even implements for a small garden. Each was carefully chosen for its utility and craftsmanship. He saw to it that everything needed was ready.

The long task of moving it would soon be behind him. On the nights where Milanna had gone to see her sister, he would spend those hours and any days he could spare putting it all in place. One day he would have it ready, and then he would bring her here to show her what he had built.

It would be home.


Friday, November 16, 2007

An Unlikely Meeting

The breeze came down the shore of Lake Elune'ara. Mograg caught the scent of the dark elf before he saw his approach. The green-haired elf was dour. His expression conveyed grief, his posture was of one broken. His appearance was well kept, but decidedly of earthen tones. If it were not for the dim glow of yellow eyes or the long ears, he might be mistaken for a short tree. The elf barely gave the bull a glance as he slowly shuffled toward him.

Mograg, big bull that he was, was hardly a threatening sight to behold. He'd gotten up early and dressed for the occasion. Loosely threaded clothing, the sturdiest rod he owned in hand, and his lucky fishing hat completed the look and gave warning to the world that the bull was here to relax and he intended to see it through. His ever-docile wolf companion sunning himself on the shoreline only reiterated this notion.

Only when they were well within striking distance did they give acknowledgment of the other's presence. The elf, Velton, raised his hand, hailing the bull. Keeping an eye on his already cast line, the bull nodded to the elf. Mograg started to smile, stopping short when he saw the expression on Velton's face. He gave a small bow, then squared his shoulders up again to watch his line. "Ishnu'alah," said the elf, breaking the silence.

"Hello, elf," returned the bull in his native Taurahe. The bull didn't expect the dark elf to understand, of course, but it seemed polite to him to speak a greeting. He had met enough of the dark elves to know that he was being greeted, and kindly at that.

Deep below the surface of the water, the salmon had been tending to its own business, unaware of the encounter happening on the shore. Its mind was preoccupied with eating and the urge to spawn. One desire, it seemed, would be soon satisfied as the morsel danced tantalizingly in the water before its large eyes. He circled around twice before sucking in the meal.

The strike of the line snapped Mograg's attention back to the task at hand. He jerked the pole upwards, setting the cold, barbed steel of the hook through the lip of the salmon. He began to reel the fish in, cranking slowly as it fought against him. He could tell by the struggle that this one would be sizable. The salmon did not stop resisting the tug at its mouth until the very end.

As the bull hefted it out of the water and onto the shore, the elf's eyes grew a bit brighter and a slight smile crossed his lips. He watched as the bull removed the hook, holding the fish by its lower jaw. As Mograg ran the stringer through the salmon, Velton dug his rod and reel from his pack. By the time the salmon, now tethered and anchored to the shore, was back in the water the elf had his line cast. Grinning, Mograg followed suit.

The pair fished for hours in near silence, keeping only the most suitable of their catches, releasing the others to the water. When the bull had accidentally injured one beyond what would heal readily, the elf waved his hand over it. Green energy seemed to concentrate around first the elven hand, and then the body of the fish. The wound was repaired. "Handy. A druid, mmm?" asked the bull.

Velton had understood the word for druid in Taurahe and responded affirmatively, "Anu'dora." He watched as the bull released the catch and it swam off into the depths of the lake.

Their fills caught, Mograg took out his flint and steel and placed it on the ground. The druid nodded to him. Smiling, the bull stalked off into the surrounding woodland to gather fallen limbs. While he was gone, Velton began cleaning the fish. By the time the fire was built and ready for cooking, their catch was prepared.

After the meal was eaten, the druid took out a flask from an inner pocket. He took a swig from it and handed it to Mograg. "You have no idea, hunter, what I say to you. I know this, and still I speak," the Kaldorei said in the Darnassian dialect. The bull accepted the offered flask and drank from it, his face twisting a bit in distaste. "I have not left the Moonglade since I found out she was dead, bull. I cannot bring myself to do so. It was hard enough when our children were killed, and then she..." he trailed off. "If only I had been there for her." The druid sighed heavily.

Mograg watched after the druid with a head slightly tilted. He offered the flask back to him, and found it accepted quickly. "A ovak kee," the bull's voice rumbled. He rested a hand on the druid's shoulder after patting it twice. "A mani a eche ni hale awa." The message did not get through to the elf, but the tone of sympathy in the bull's voice brought him comfort.

Velton produced a small book and opened it. He took little time in finding the right page and holding it to the bull for his inspection. Upon it was a sketch in charcoal of a young human girl. Pretty, Mograg supposed, by human standards. The druid pointed to the picture of the girl, then toward the barrow den in the distance. Mograg nodded his understanding and again clasped the dark elf's shoulder.

Velton smiled weakly and closed the book. He stowed it away. "I hope for your sake, bull, that your life is happier than mine." The hunter regarded him with a brief, puzzled shrug. "Either way, I shall let you return to it." He took another swig from the flask before offering it one last time to Mograg.

The dark elf stood before the bull, having been returned the flask. He bowed to Mograg, deeply and graciously. "Elune'adore," he said. The bull knew enough to understand this as words of departure.

"Zhi anohe nechi awa," Mograg said as he bowed in return. Velton turned and walked up the shore from whence he came. The bull lingered a little longer, ensuring that no trace of their presence marred the shore. He activated his hearthstone and he and his wolf companion were carried away by its magic to the other world.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Vigil, Part V

Before midday Mograg convinced himself that continuing to search the island of tallstriders would yield no better result. With a heavy heart he took wing once more, leaving behind him the last hope he held for finding Slyvos.

He passed over the wastelands and ruins. He passed through Terokkar Forest. He flew into Shattrath City. He tarried there long enough to make two purchases, one from the tavern and one from a baker. He stepped through the portal and was carried back to his home world in a single beat of his heart. His eyes took a moment to adjust to the cavern. He walked out, crossed the bridge to the main rise of Thunder Bluff, and made his way toward the teepee in which the bankers were entrusted with valuables. Chesmu, with a pretty smile and no question, retrieved for him his ceremonial clothing as he requested of her.

Mograg and his wolf companion Gunnar walked out from the bankers' teepee and across the Low Rise to the lifts. They rode down to the plains of Mulgore. There Mograg continued the preparations.

He had first seen the ritual as a very young calf and had practiced it more times than he cared to think. He gathered from the earth the plants, their berries, and the clay. He gathered the modest amount of fallen wood he would need. He gathered the dried moss. He found the bark. He gathered the water. He gathered the brush.

When all was gathered Mograg and Gunnar walked together across the plains to Red Rocks. The quillboar were nearby again. The bull was still in his full battle gear. They saw him, dressed in bright red, from a good distance. His Surestrike Goggles let him see them from even further. By the time he and Gunnar were in plain view the quillboar had scattered. He knew he would not need fear their interruption.

Gunnar found a spot for himself nearby in the grass. The bull stripped down from his battle gear and carefully placed it just far enough away so he might continue unhindered. He began the chanting of a mourning song. First, he would light the fire in the old way. He shunned the bundled wood in his pack, as well as the steel and striking-stone. He constructed his fire instead from the small twigs and fallen branches he found on the plains, though few and far between they had been that day. He gathered the wood together, forming the teepee shape. Most of the moss went in as the floor to this teepee of firewood.

His hands were out of practice in lighting the fire in the old way. They moved quickly back and forth as they traveled down the stick between them. The stick drilled through the remaining moss and into the wood below. In a moment of frustration, he recalled with slight bitterness how he had just told the story of how Shu'halo were taught by Wolf to get fire from Wood. He considered briefly asking Gunnar to do this work in his stead. He persevered and eventually coaxed Wood to give to him the spark of fire. The smoke of the moss grew to flame as he pursed his lips and blew his wind onto it. He added the now lit moss to the moss at the bottom of his stacked wood. Soon, the fire was burning under An'she's watch.

He began to chant a prayer-song of purification. He gathered together in a bundle the brush he had collected. One end he lit in the fire. The smell of the burning brush was a bittersweet comfort to him. Still chanting, he performed the purification dance. As he danced, he waved the brush through the air to drive away the evil spirits. They, like the quillboar, would now let him complete the ritual unfettered. When the dance was complete, what remained of the brush was tossed into the fire to purify the path to the ancestors.

Mograg then took up a small motar made of kodo bone. Still chanting, he purified it with some small amount of the water he carried up from Stonebull Lake. With a pestle of the same bone, he began to grind together some of the plants, their berries, and the clay into a bright red paint. He emptied the motar onto the dried bark and began to mix a dark blue paint. When enough of it was made, he put motar and pestle aside. Using the bark as an artist would a palette and his fingers as brushes, he began to paint his body as the spirits moved his hand. An'she dried it quickly to his fur.

A prayer-song for ancestral guidance came next from his lips. He donned his ceremonial loincloth. He fastened the leather belt that held to him his ceremonial axe of kodo bone, sinew, and wood. He pulled on his ankle wraps, his harness, cloak, bracers, and leather gloves. Each piece reminded him of the gravity of the ritual, and why he must perform it to the best of his ability.

He took from his pack the bagels and bourbon he had purchased in Shattrath. He placed them near the burning fire, but not so close the flames would come to harm them. He placed in front of them the purple hat that he recovered at the end of Slyvos' trail. These things he would send to Slyvos, in the land of their ancestors.

Mograg chanted a new prayer-song. This was not to the ancestors, nor a song of mourning, nor for purification or even to the Earthmother. This prayer-song was the song in his spirit, a song he made now for Slyvos. He danced around the fire as he sang. His song was joyous at times, recounting when they walked together. His song was sorrowful at times, lamenting when they did not walk together. His song was both at times, speaking of his friend walking among the spirits of the ancestors and not knowing either the pains or pleasures of mortal life. His song at other times was not of words at all, but of the sounds and uluations that the spirits of the ancestors called forth from him.

As this prayer-song ended, his dance brought him to the fire where what he would send to Slyvos waited for him. The bagels and bourbon that his friend had loved in life were added to the fire. Slyvos' hat was the last to be added. In a moment of morbid humor, Mograg thought to himself as he watched the hat burn how mortified Slyvos would be should he have walked up just as Mograg tossed the hat onto the flame.

Mograg watched by the fire, chanting now more softly. He spoke a prayer-song to the Earthmother, asking she bring peace to all spirits. Mograg watched until the very last ember turned to cold ash. He gathered up that which he had brought with him. An'she would leave the sky soon. It was time he returned to Thunder Bluff.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vigil, Part IV

The first search, made while still heavily influenced by drink, yielded nothing. The largest of plainstriders, the tallstriders, were apparent to him even through his blurred vision. His windrider had set down among them, a fair enough distance that he only aroused their suspicion without tempting their attack. It was the sense of self-preservation of the windrider that brought him to such a place.

The bull looked around, his legs wobbling after dismounting the windrider. The subtle changes in the pitch and yaw of the island, disconnected from the rest of Outland and floating in the void, coupled with the strong drink kept Mograg off balance. The ground seemed to fall away from him and rise up to meet him at different times. He grasped his polearm in both hands as if to wield it, but found more often he used it to prop himself up.

In this manner, Mograg stumbled about the island, searching through the fog of drink for any sign of Slyvos. Twice a tallstrider took offense at his presence. The first of these attacks he managed to deal with, though not without difficulty. He was very fortunate not to draw attention of other tallstriders as he hurled curses at it, yelling his hatred and demanding to be brought to his druid friend immediately.

On the occasion of the second attack, he faired quite a bit more poorly. He was taken by surprise. A tallstrider charged out at him from behind a tree. The beast had little trouble getting past the polearm, used less by Mograg for offense or defense and more for support. The strong drink in his body finally overcame him and in the middle of battle caused him to collapse. Though his judgment and faculties were severely impaired, the second nature of his long years of training took over. To all outward observation, he had fallen over dead. The tallstrider, unwilling to eat meat and lacking proper utensils even if it had such a desire, quickly became bored with the alleged corpse and returned to its previous occupation.

He was told later that when he appeared in Garadar he was fast asleep. According to the note they had found on his person, a hunting party had found him and activated his hearthstone. He had slept in the inn well into the late morning.

He had always enjoyed watching the orcish children play their chasing games, their shouts of "No, you're the ogre!" heard easily throughout the village. He had never previously felt his head throb as it did.

Most of his day was spent in quiet, very quiet, contemplation. He kept to himself when he could. When others threatened to find him, he took the form of a fish and found a still, quiet place in one of the many streams. The water soothed his head.

By the time An'she's last light was leaving the sky and Mu'sha would soon appear, he was more himself. His head did not throb, and his mind had calmed. He sought out the clan, who would gather that night for songs and tales. Where he had been this past day was not a tale he would share.

Tomorrow. He would search the island again tomorrow. This time would be without the counsel of the pink elekks.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Vigil, Part III

Bourbon. Dakormaar had offered Mograg some earlier that evening. He had accepted it, and the taste had not left his mouth since. When the last of the gathering finally parted and Mograg was left on his own, the taste still tugged at his mind. Resolutely, he made his way to Stonebreaker after procuring all the alcohol he would need.

He emptied the small keg. The pink elekk seemed to smile to Mograg as the bull tried to pat its head, his hand passing through it. One of the orcs nearby shook his head sadly at the drunken bull. To the orc, Mograg was talking to and patting affectionately nothing more than the empty air.

Mograg had not come to this place since he had brought Thalleia here. They, among others, had been drinking in Booty Bay that evening in celebration of the wedding ceremony of Issaela and Eisali. He wished to know if the orc huntress would see the pink elekks as he had. He returned this time alone, seeking out the pink elekks one more time.

When Slyvos had first told Mograg of the pink elekks Mograg had assumed it was Slyvos' failing sanity speaking. He had long known that the mind of the older bull was not well. It had been apparent upon their first meeting, long ago.

Seeing the pink elekks for himself and now knowing that Thalleia saw them as well made Mograg reconsider everything Slyvos had said to him. Perhaps his sanity had not been failing after all. It explained some things, and those explanations made Mograg more uncomfortable than before.

He had found Slyvos' purple hat, one of the many hats Slyvos sought to protect from the plainstriders. He had found the hat and plainstrider feathers at the end of the trail, where Slyvos had disappeared. He saw with his own eyes the signs of the struggle that had ensued. He knew the plainstriders had left of their own volition, in apparent victory.

Mograg found all of this many weeks ago. Too many. Mograg had watched the places where he expected to see Slyvos. He had hunted for any sign of him. He had hired people to keep watch for him. At the close of the festival of the undead, Mograg knew that the time was upon him where he would need to consider that he would not see his friend again.

In recent times, Slyvos had been unable to recall the story that he had told Mograg when first they met. Mograg recounted it faithfully to Thalleia when they had come here. This time, Mograg spoke it only to the pink elekk.

"The plainshtridersh, you shee, wanted hish hat because it ish magic. It revealed to Shlyvos the path to the cave in Thunder Bluff filled with gold! Now, that shounds crazy to you, sure, but I can shee you," he said to the pink elekk with a grin. "Sheeing you shounded crazy to me when he told me about you. And I have a helmet which letsh me see ghoshtsh!" Mograg hiccupped. "Sho, why not a hat that letsh you shee a path to a cave filled with gold in Thunder Bluff?" He wobbled where he stood. "And what would the plainshtridersh want with gold, you ashk? Well, I've sheen more than one raptor hoarding coin for itshelf. They like shiny objectsh. And they're shmart! They have a whole shociety and everything! Why not plainshtridersh, too?" The pink elekk swatted through Mograg with its trunk. "Why not, I ashk you..."

Taking a swig from a large jug of bourbon, Mograg considered that his own sanity was failing.

The burn of the bourbon in his throat was all too well known to him. Slyvos had seen to it some time ago that Mograg became familiar with the more potent spirits. The alcohol emboldened Mograg. After another swig, he called for his windrider. Taking wing, Mograg nearly lying forward on the beast, they headed southwest. He would fly across to the floating islands where the largest of plainstriders could be found. He had not searched for him at this place yet, knowing that to do so would be to believe all that Slyvos had told him. Now, it was the only hope he had left for finding his friend.


Vigil, Part II

From his perch in the ruins of Lordaeron, Mograg watched. A footbridge crossed the river of green. It was this place he hoped to find the one he sought. Many would come here, during the celebration of the undead. He had a good view of the ruins. Should his quarry pass through, he would see it.

This place made him uneasy. It was a dead place, and haunted. He had never seen it previous to its ruination. Stories were told to him of it. From the other human cities he had seen, he thought he had a decent idea of how it must have appeared.

Spirits lingered here. Few of them if any were happy about it. When he had passed through this place with shamans, he could see the toll they took on them. Though his eyes could not, at least without the aid of magic, see into the spirit realm, the fur on his forearms stood up. They were there and he knew it.

Steeling his resolve, the bull waited.

More than a day had passed. Though people of interest crossed the footbridge several times the one he sought did not. The bull was tired. The spirits of the ruins continued to keep him uneasy. It was time to clear his head and abandon his hunt, if for just a few minutes.

Crossing the ruins and ascending staircase opposite the one he had just come down, he strode toward the orb that by touching it would carry him to Silvermoon City. As he walked, two began to speak over the stones. Vandrian sought to speak with Issaela. She informed him she was in the city. When he inquired as to which city that was, she replied that she was in "-The- City."

Mograg stopped mid-stride. The assumption was easy enough to make that, as a pale elf speaking to another pale elf, she meant Silvermoon. Mograg hesitated as more plans were made. He was tired and had little use for being social. Issalea suggested they meet by the fountain.

In his weariness, the beast was given voice. "-The- fountain?" asked Mograg across the stones, eliciting a round of chuckles from others listening.

He thought perhaps he would get past the fountain before they would meet there.

Mograg placed his hand on the red orb. No more than a heartbeat later his eyes took in his new surroundings. He had been carried far to the north, to Silvermoon City. The pale elf home was one of luxury and fineries. They were wealthy and they spared no expense showing it.

He walked out of one building, between the columns of guards along the walkway, and down toward the aforementioned fountain. Issaela was already present. She smiled as he passed and he waved to her without breaking stride.

He took a tour of the city and the grounds immediately nearby. Outside, he refilled water skins in a stream and hunted small game for a meal. He would not eat or drink anything from the area near the ruined city of Lordaeron. The parts of the city the pale elves kept, for all that was wrong with it, was at the very least healthy.

Inside, distrusting and judgmental eyes followed him wherever he walked. When he took occasion to speak to some of the pale elves he was rarely greeted kindly. Most times he was told, "Your gold is welcome here." The implication was obvious to the bull. He would not tarry long.

He sat on a bench and watched a broom. It swept up and down the cobblestones autonomously. He drank of the fresh water. Heavy eyelids closed of their own volition.

He woke with a start. In a dream, he had found the one he sought. It was neither here in the pale elf city, nor in the ruined city of the undead. In fact, he seemed to have been nowhere in particular. Whether it was a vision granted him or nothing more than an ordinary dream, the bull decided to change his tactics. He would remain watchful, but let the wind carry him where it would.

He went past the fountain once more, nodding to Issaela and Vandrian as he passed. Through the columns of guards, transported by the orbs, and down the steps into the ruins once more. He checked the ground one last time for the tracks of his quarry. Finding none, he let his hearthstone carry him home.

Mograg slept.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


The great, armored raptor beneath him sounded his complaint. The bull had been still too long, and the raptor was understandably tired of holding him aloft. "Easy, Tohopka," he spoked to it in hushed Taurahe, "You go hunt pigs, but don't stray too far from my sight, mmm?"

He patted the raptor on its side before hopping down to the ground. It strode off into the distance as the bull took one knee. He had been here for hours today, and countless hours since it had begun. From a rocky outcropping that sprung up through the red dust of Durotar, he watched the goblins, the brewers, and their hired crew dismantle the festival.

Gunnar settled in beside him, panting in the heat. The bull watched the proceedings. Drunkards and revelers protested the end of the festival, asking the goblins to stay for just one more day. Many already had their fill and had stopped attending the event several days ago. Others only protested the noise, undoubtedly nursing hangovers.

All of this, the bull saw as he watched.

Others had disappeared on him before, and even now there were those who he had not seen in too many days. He had always found them, though, whether they knew it or not. One who tracks well can find the ones they seek from several days behind. The tracked will only know they are being stalked should the hunter wish it so.

The circumstances of this disappearance were different. He had found the trail and followed it to the end in hopes of catching up to the one who made it. When he found the end of the trail, he saw the signs of the struggle that had ensued. He knew that his quarry was taken by surprise, and he knew the identities, as difficult as it was to believe, of the attackers. A group of them. Their trails diverged almost immediately, as soon as they had left Thunder Bluff.

All that had been left behind was a purple hat and a few feathers. The trail was dead.

Mograg opened a well-lined pouch marked [Surestrike Goggles v2.0] that he wore on his hip. He placed the goggles over his eyes. Pressing a button at the side, he zoomed in as he scanned the horizon. All that seemed out of place was a black raptor with orange stripes and faded red armor greedily devouring a boar. He replaced the goggles and continued to watch.

None of those whom he questioned, and none who had accepted coin to watch for his quarry while Mograg could not, had produced results. This had certainly been the type of event that he would attend, at least once, but no evidence of his presence could be found.

The afternoon wore on. The last of the festival was packed away. He was approached about being hired as an escort to see the caravan safely back to Steemwheedle Port. Mograg declined each offer before mention of the coin was made, citing in broken Orcish that he had "other thing to do."

He gave a sharp whistle. Moments later, the raptor Tohopka was at his side once more. He walked Tohopka and the wolf Gunnar to the zeppelin tower and strode up the ramp. The female goblin, Snurk, was the first to take notice of him. "Hey there, cutie! When are we going to take that vacation in the jungle you promised me?"

"No jungle. Not this day. I need to go to city under city," he replied evenly.

"You never go there! What's the occasion? Got a hot date with a cold body?"


"The strong silent type. My favorite!" she swooned. "The hunting is better in the jungle, you know. And after we get all hot and steamy, we can take a dip..."

"Hunting someone."

"Is she prettier than me?"

The bull merely grunted.

"Ooo. You know how I love a mysterious man."


"Even better," she cooed. He saw her eyes glance behind him. "Looks like your ship's just come in." She added, more quietly, "Here's to hoping mine will one of these days."

Mograg boarded the zeppelin. He walked below the deck, near the propellers. He watched them with curious eyes. While it carried him across the ocean, he began making sketches in a small book he carried with him. The sketches carefully detailed the turn of the blades, their angles, and his estimates of their size compared to the thrust they produced.


Friday, July 06, 2007

Vox Infernal, Part II

Mograg still had not told Winatsha of the voice before they broke camp that morning and went their separate ways. A night's sleep had put the matter largely out of his mind. Other needs took precedent over somewhat clouded memories of the previous day. She was to spend the day on several tasks. Mograg prepared himself for the day's fight. Ogres that day, for the orcs of Garadar, and their war beads for himself. He felt an affinity to these orcs. He felt at home among them.

A long day of battle ensued. Night approached and he returned to the orc village. Tired and feeling the heat and burden of his armor, he stripped most of it away and stowed it. It was no lighter on his back, but he could set the pack down whenever he was not in motion. He replenished his ammunition pouch and set out again to Shattrath. He had business to attend there that could not be accomplished here. As he dismounted his wyvern, he caught the slightest hint of a familiar scent on the air. His business was forgotten. He smiled and walked into the bank directly to Winatsha, who returned his smile. "Fancy meeting you here," he grinned. She looked up to him, returning the grin. "How are you, love?"

All hints of happiness vanished. "Mmm..." She glanced around the bank, surveying the other patrons nervously. "I am..." she started. She fidgeted with her tail. "I am... well enough."

This is going to be like pulling teeth. "Well, that was terribly convincing," his voice dripped with sarcasm.

"Walk with me?" she pleaded.

He nodded his assent. "Let me check my mail quickly?" She nodded to him.

"Of course," she said. He returned her nod.

"Then, walk with me." He grinned. She's hunted. They walked together to the mailbox at the rear of the bank. The Aldor and other neutral parties there paid little heed to them. He checked the mailbox. "Nothing. Good." He smiled, more genuinely. "I prefer it that way. Shall we?" She smiled a bit, nodding absently to him. They walked toward the inner city of Shattrath, nearer the portals. She's hunted, and she reveals it to everyone around her, around us. "So, where shall we walk?" he asked casually. She gave him only a blank look. Scared beyond the capacity for rational thought. "We could go see a bit more of the fire festival, if you like," he offered.

"I..." she started again and fidgeted with her tail. "If you wish."

"It doesn't sound that you do. Tell me where you would like to go?" Or tell me where you do not wish to be, that would do.

She peered about, her eyes landing on faces for a moment before the next. Does she even know who stalks her? "I would prefer not to be around so many... One of our camps, perhaps? Or Mulgore? Or the Lower Wilds...?" she trailed off. She has no idea.

"Mulgore is close, in a way. Let's go there." The plains. Her stalker will be forced into the open, or to wait. Winatsha glanced around again, a slight frown furrowed her forehead. She nodded. They walked in silence to the portal that would carry them back to their homeland, their very home planet. She gently kissed his cheek before they stepped through.

The time between stepping through the portal and stepping out the other side always caused Mograg anxiety. It was not long, perhaps not even perceptible, but it tugged at his mind each time. That he always landed in the cavern that held the Pools of Vision, that those whom he saw first on each homecoming were undead aligned with the Apothecarium, did not make him any more easy. They strode out of the cavern, across the bridge from the Spirit Rise to the Low Rise, and headed directly down the lift to Mulgore. As they crossed the footbridge that connected the path over what amounted to not more than a small dip in the plains he saw her relax. Break the silence. "So..." What a foolish question. You're still going to ask it, aren't you? "How are you?"

Winatsha squeezed Mograg's hand. She glanced at him with troubled eyes before setting her gaze back on the well worn path. His own eyes had rarely left the path, determining what numbers had come before them, and how recently. He breathed deeply. No other people. Only the usual animals. No demons. He listened, favoring his good ear. No footfalls, snaps of twig, or brushing of grass. Good. Keep alert, bull. "I... have not had an easy day, my love. I do not know where to start," she said. She smiled small and apologetically, squeezing his hand once more. He returned the gesture.

"Anywhere would be better than nowhere, love," he encouraged.

"I found myself wandering this morning, unable to focus on any task for very long. When I finally admitted to myself I was getting nothing done, I decided it was time and past I visited home," she began. He nodded. "My family was gone, left at daybreak on a hunt." She fidgeted with her tail again. He glanced at her. Her eyes were unfocused, unaware. She said, "I mounted, setting out in the direction the hunters went, thinking I might catch up... Before long I found myself at the base of the Twin Colossals." They settled in near the shore of Stonebull Lake.

"Were they climbing again?" he asked. He watched for reflections in the water. He waited for the wind to reveal to him by noise or smell her stalker, but none came.

She glanced over at Mograg, smiling a bit. Her eyes quickly returned to seeing without seeing. "No, I lost the trail before the bridge near the coast. By the time I realized I had passed them, I decided it no longer mattered as much... I just wanted to ride, to feel the breeze and my kodo beneath me. When I saw the Colossal, I suddenly decided to go up, not really allowing myself to think of my limited options for coming back down." He nodded, aware that she did not find the same thrill he found in leaping from that height. She grinned and shook her head a bit. "I am unsure how long I stayed... An'she seemed to have jumped across the sky in the blink of an eye..." She began to fidget with her tail again as she, too, stared at the water.

"He has a way of doing that, at times," Mograg offered. She nodded absently.

"I found myself atop the Colossal, entreating the spirits for guidance." She tucked her hooves close to her body, curling up, into herself. Nervous, now, but a different kind. "The Winds answered my call... they were... not pleased with me."

"Mmm? Alright." He was spiritual, certainly. If she had said she asked the guidance of her ancestors, he would know better how to react. The elements were her guides, in their most raw form. While not a foreign idea to him, he did not relate as well. She hesitated again, still slow to speak what was on her mind. The beast spoke up for him, catching him by surprise, "I would ask why, but I assume you will get to it when the time is right."

She peered at him a long moment before continuing, "I have been blind to certain truths about myself, though the spirits have tried to help me see."

Mograg tilted his head a bit to one side. He did not understand, nor did he understand why it was taking so long to get to the cause of her earlier paranoia. "Go on?" Easy, bull. You love her, remember?

She lowered her muzzle slightly, her eyes transfixed on her hooves as she spoke, "Though I would never have thought of it in such a way, I put myself in a position of leadership when I hung the first scroll from a tree, announcing I was seeking other Shu'halo to rekindle the old ways. I have been pacing in circles, frustrated and discouraged that so few showed interest that I could not see the obvious." She looked to him. "There was little to show interest in." She shook her head a bit and smiled sheepishly. "Why would anyone wish to follow the path I have been on? Chasing my tail as I've been."

Sympathy found its way back into his demeanor. "It's not such a bad tail to chase," he deadpanned. She blinked in surprise, then laughed at him. "Please, continue," he encouraged, politely this time.

She cuddled against him now and sighed softly. "I am at a crossroads... I cannot continue as I have been, that is clear," she said.

"So, you have decided on which path to take, then?" The crossroads, even in their metaphorical sense, must be a very busy place these days. How many of our spirits are standing there? She nodded slowly to him. "That's something, then."

"The easy path is well worn," she continued, "and it stretches out with a welcome familiarity." She lifted her muzzle a bit and returned her gaze to the water, looking out across it. "The path I walk, I will have to beat as I go." Mograg nodded. She found his hand again with hers and gave it a gentle squeeze, a gesture returned by him in kind. "I hope you will keep me company..." She smiled softly up at Mograg.

Memories of the the white bull, her Greatfather, who approached him in Feralas as she lay sleeping at their riverside camp suddenly resurfaced in his mind. A path often difficult, yes. You and I both knew that, ancient one. I am not so young myself. Noise on the stone interrupted his thoughts. The Elder of the clan had just made his presence known, and those quiet before called out in greeting to him. "Yes, love, surely." He paused a moment. Directly, this time. No more open-ended questions. "But, this cannot be what drives you to seek near-solitude nor what put the paranoia of stalked prey in your eyes earlier."

She closed her eyes and began breathing slowly through her nostrils. The old nervousness has returned. Good. "I was..." she frowned, "...contacted... early this evening, just before I came to Shattrath." Her speaking was labored and slow, as it had been most of the evening.

"By anyone in particular?" the bull's pragmatic side knew no sympathy. She fidgeted with her tail once more.

The voice from the previous night returned, as if to answer his question. "How are you, Mograg?" Zurrikan. He will wait.

"A presence... in my mind... I think..." she frowned darkly. She hesitated.

The voice came to him again, "Mograg?" Good job, bull. You should not have left her alone. Why didn't you tell her of the voice? Foolish pride.

She found the words, finally, "I think it was what Elder Dusthoof was trying to warn me of." Her hunch is not proof of it. Find out more. And what does he want?

He asked internally of the voice, "A bit busy at the moment. You?"

The voice replied almost too quickly, "Busy? What with?" He's far too interested. He wants something. If I'm right, he wants to know where we are. Ignore him.

To Winatsha he said, "Okay. Care to explain a bit?"

She looked to him with troubled eyes once more. She seemed to him searching for the words she needed. "It warned me..." she settled on, for a moment. She shook her head. "No, it threatened me. It said... it said it was coming for me."

Mograg's pragmatism took over again. "Hmm. Well..." He examined her. "How concerned are you of it?"

"Is there something the matter, Mograg?" the voice asked. Why jump to that conclusion, unless you expect it is so? You do not know me, nor should you care.

She twisted the tuft at the end of her tail. "I am not sure..." Clearly. You fidget and your eyes dart about, but look at you. She peered at him a long moment.

In more of a grunt, "Not concerned enough to keep your arms and armor on you," he pointed out.

She nodded slowly. "I am not certain what the danger is, but I felt malice in its touch on my mind." Zurrikan. "But, I have felt the same type of malice from corrupt spirits," she shrugged lightly. "I was in the Felwood... perhaps... perhaps that is what it was? An unusually strong, corrupt spirit..."

Mograg's next thought was interrupted by another noise over the stone. A soft giggle, amused but timid in being so. It was Milanna. She sounded happy, and he was glad for it. Someone ought to find happiness in the day.

He shrugged at Winatsha, "It could be anything." You still don't tell her? How much more evidence do you need? Are you that afraid to be wrong, to not be infallible?

More sound came over the stone, but right now it was comforting, and he did not dismiss it as noise. This time, the high-pitched voice of a pale elf, her name Ceitidh. She was a huntress, and a relative newcomer to the clan. "Hmm?" she asked after the giggle.

"Oh, ah... just some, ah... interesting goings-on in Thunder Bluff..." Milanna, in his head and in the heads of any clan member paying attention at the time, giggled again.

He looked at Winatsha, "Any hunter that announces its intention to stalk you as prey can only have one goal, in my experience."

Ceitidh asked, "What is it?" She'd asked Milanna, but the same question was unspoken by Winatsha, peering up at Mograg now with a tilted head.

Mograg chose his words carefully. In the interim, Milanna gave an explanation. "A shaman... he is giving the waterwalking ability to people... they are dancing on the pond. N-nothing too exciting... b-but it made me giggle." A sudden wave of guilt crashed over Mograg as Milanna spoke. I need to fix this, but the time is not now.

The huntress Ceitidh laughed, though it seemed not genuine. "Does sound silly," she said, all of it inaudible to Winatsha.

Before Mograg could recompose his thought, the voice interrupted again, "At least tell me where you are... I'd love to help." So be it. But not tonight. I will let you think you are close some other night. I need to know more about you first. His eyes narrowed. He surveyed the horizon, taking it in all there was to see, to smell, to hear. He concentrated on the world around him.

He spoke to Winatsha, "That is to flush the prey out into the open so it might be hunted more easily. One can have another scare rabbits toward them out of the undergrowth. You are, in this case, the rabbit." She frowned slightly. He had not meant to say so condescendingly, but by her actions to this point it was truth enough. Winatsha seemed lost for words.

Ceitidh spoke again, "Umm... is...is anyone else near there..?" Two stalkers, or does he use her to gain knowledge? Time to tell her what you know, before it gets too difficult to explain succinctly.

"That potion-seller seems to have taken an overly-active interest in me," he said plainly. Conversation on the stone continued, while Winatsha looked at him, puzzled.

Milanna asked, unsure, "H-here?"

"Any other of the clan near the bluffs?" Ceitidh called out again. "In Mulgore, perhaps?" I wonder if she has an inkling I might be. She sounded a bit desperate this time, "Mograg?" Shit.

Pretend you heard nothing. "Mmm? Yes?"

"Are you and your lady in Mulgore?" she asked. The guilt crashed down on him again. There's no reason to believe she is in danger. Those who knew before, know now.

Not a yes, bull, and not a no. "Mmm. Why?" Mograg always found it educational to see how ambiguous responses were interpreted. Often, he found, those on the other end of the conversation would reveal clues to their state of mind by assuming them to mean one thing or another. "What you need?" he asked.

"I need you to be cautious... Have you met a warlock named Zurrikan?" She didn't go for it. Zurrikan again. One stalker, or more?

"Mmm. What about him?" he asked internally, still neither confirming nor denying.

To Winatsha he grunted, "Hmm." She tilted her head as she waited. "Hold on a moment, love." He found it difficult to converse like this, in the flesh and in his mind.

"You have?" Ceitidh asked, shakily. Such fear. I thought she was a Huntress? And a pessimist, too, should her fear be genuine.

"Strange things are afoot," he said to Winatsha. She nodded to him, fidgeting with her tail again.

Internally, he asked in a calm voice, "Tell me of him, Ceitidh."

"Don't trust him!" Ceitidh exclaimed. "Not a word!"

"Why is this so?" Mograg asked.

"He... he.. he's evil.. possessed by a demon- possibly several.." she trailed off.

Mograg began to unfasten his pack. "Do you still have those potions that we were sold?"

"How you come to know this?" Stay guarded, bull.

Ceitidh's answered, "Stole...murdered.. tormented.." She had trailed off again. An embarrassment. Still, she is no Shu'halo.

Winatsha nodded and took the three vials, Elixirs of Wisdom by their trade name, from her pack. Mograg nodded to her and removed the two potions for increased agility from a padded pocket. He removed their stoppers and poured them into the ground. He shielded Winatsha with his body. Should they react, she would at least have him as cover. He watched the liquid, waiting. Nothing. "Do the same," he commanded. There's a gold coin well spent.

He asked of Ceitidh, "Tell me more, mmm?" The beast had influence on his words again, though his tone remained neutral. "Less one word at a time, more many word at a time."

Ceitidh babbled, frantic, "He.. he used me... took a shard that belonged to my Love.. killed for it- tortured others because they know me..."

Winatsha, looking at him with confusion, obeyed. She removed the stoppers and poured them into the ground. He was unsurprised to find there was no harm caused by this. "I am hearing a story about Zurrikan," he said. "From one in the orc clan." He rarely spoke of the Tears of Draenor by name. Not anymore. Winatsha blinked in surprise.

Ceitidh continued, babbling, "Is whispering in my ear of a tauren couple he's watching- how he plans to hurt them.." A soft gasp was heard in his mind. Milanna.

Mograg now spoke to Winatsha, "To sum up..."

She interrupted, "He is contacting me..."

He cut her off and barked his command, "Ignore it." More civil, he continued, "He's looking for us, which I knew. He's possessed by an array of demons." Winatsha shuddered at the word. "She says he took a shard that belonged to or came from her love, killed for it, tortured others because they know her."

Ceitidh, now sobbing, "and how it's my fault.." Then why have you not done something? I thought you are called a Hunter? Do I have the names confused?

"And," his explanation continued, "he is currently whispering in her ear of a taruen couple he's watching, and how he plans to hurt us, presumably." Winatsha's eyes fly wide. "And something about it being her fault."

No pity, no remorse, and certainly no fear. "And... Why you do not end him?"

Audibly, Mograg sighed. Alright, a little bit of remorse.

"How?" Ceitidh asked of him.

The beast within him demanded control. Mograg allowed it only to be heard, "Same way I end any other demon any other day? Or is he super-demon? Made of bullet-proof demon-stuff?"

Ceitidh sighed, inaudibly. "He has several in him. And the shard keeping him alive contains part of my beloved's soul as well." Pfft. "Though, I guess I have mostly been afraid..." That's more like it.

The beast in Mograg called out, taunting, "Is okay. I have several shells." It's fear that stays her hand. She is weak.

"Put on your gear," he told Winatsha. "Until I get more information, I think it's best we go to Nagrand." She nodded. He began to pull his armor on. He knew she would go to camp. He needn't speak it. As he pulled his goggles down over his eyes he asked, "Shall we?"

"I am ready," she said.

"I shall see you there, love," he assured her. He blew a kiss to her. She approached and kissed him lightly on the cheek. They stood, facing each other. She started to teleport, and he after her. They would not arrive together, but he would not leave her behind. In a moment, he was untold distances away, back in the orc village of Garadar. He summoned his wyvern to him and took wing. While flying over Nagrand he asked one last question of the huntress, "How is it he knows I know you?"

"He doesn't. He chose you at random. I'm just grateful I do know you and can warn you," came the reply.

Mograg grunted. He would be at camp soon.

"The rest of the story, as I've gathered it so far," Mograg said as he dismounted the wyvern, "is that he is kept alive by a soul-shard of her now deceased love, and we were chosen at random." Winatsha frowned darkly. "I'd say we were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but we were headed to the Bluff. It seems like the right place for us to have been. Several demons inhabiting one undead body seem more out of place." She nodded.

More talk on the stones. Athalia had arrived. Mulkanus greeted her, and she returned in kind. Ceitidh spoke up again, "I know it's my fault this monster is loose- even though he admits to using me... And I know I have to fix it. Somehow." She accepts blame then makes excuses. She accepts responsibility and has no plan. It shames her, and now she must speak of it. Good. Maybe it will drive her to end it sooner. I will use that later, if I must.

To Winatsha he spoke again, "Personally, I don't know that I trust her any more than I do him at this point. I don't really know her at all. She is one of the new ones. A pale elf."

Winatsha tilted her head and looked at him. "But... didn't you say she is from your clan?"

Ceitidh sighed in his head, "Just please- all of you- beware of Zurrikan."

He looked at Winatsha. He was incredulous, and cold. Had she forgotten already? Surely, she must feel the scar on his belly, though the length of his fur conceals it. She knew its story. She knew of that betrayal, and of the one that followed. Young. Very young. "I've been given more than enough cause to not trust clan members simply because the elders thought it wise to induct them."

She blanched and nodded. "I'm sorry... of course..." She fidgeted with her tail.

He nodded, then shrugged.

They settled into camp. It was not the easy rest to which they were accustomed. After long moments of silence, Mograg finally spoke again. "I'm not going to worry overly much about this, love. Enough to put on my armor, but not enough to hunt him. I'll leave that to her." She nodded. He thought about demons, and the last hunt he went on for any of appreciable power. He hunted with the clan, then. "Frankly, I've met an Eredar. In the realm of big, scary demons the little guy we saw in Mulgore is about as worrisome as a cloudy day."

Winatsha looked at him with slightly tilted head. "Eredar?" she asked.

"Mmm.... Hrm. If I understand everything properly, which, well, I've been known not to follow Orcish conversations before... Eredar are big demon-corrupted draenei. Or, are demon-corrupted and look more like the draenei did. Something along those lines. Demons from yet another world."

She frowned, nodding slowly. "I see."

"If you do, you're one up on me," he gave a slight smirk. She grinned. "The more I learn of history, the more convoluted and implausible it seems."

"Mmm, perhaps that is why the old stories are told in such simple terms," she offered.

Mograg smiled. Young. Very young, but not without her own wisdom. "Mmm. Probably so. Though, our oldest stories have no need to explain demons from alien planets."

She nodded, "That is true."

They did not sleep at camp that night. They stayed there the remaining evening, but before sleep they sought refuge in Garadar. He had come to know several of the orcs there personally. They've slept there before, when there was no cause for worry. They would sleep there tonight, to ensure no cause would make itself known.