Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kaledain: Part 2

Well, here it is. I have to confess I'm pretty nervous about finally sharing Kaled's story, and I hope you like it. I tried to keep it as short as possible, but there's a lot of stuff that happens, as you'll find out.

To catch up a bit first, Kaled is about 19, and has just been "graduated" by the Farstriders, so he is on his own now. He's feeling a little lost now, since they were the only family he has known, but things are going to get a bit better.


Kaledain left the retreat late that spring with a heavy heart, for the Farstriders had treated him well enough, accepting him as a student though not quite as an equal. He briefly returned to Mulgore, since the tauren were the only race that had shown him complete acceptance, but homesickness for the forest soon called him back to Eversong. He became something of a hermit, living outside with his animals, and camping at night under the stars. The other elves continued to shun him, and he had to find his supplies either by hunting, trading with the Farstriders, or from traders on their way to Silvermoon.

After a month or so of this life, he was out exercising Ashke one day when he saw another elf, a young female a few years older than him, whom he had never seen before. She saw him at the same time, changed her direction to come toward him, and waved. Kaled looked around for a moment before he realized that she was actually waving at him. She walked up, her cat following at her heels, and stopped in front of him. “Hey, stranger, I don’t think I’ve seen you before. I am a hunter too, you can call me Khaotic,” she said, a friendly smile on her face. Kaled had to swallow before he could get any words out. “M-my name is Kaledain, most just call me Kaled,” he finally managed. She raised an eyebrow, whether at his stutter or something else he has no idea. “Well,” she said. “I have no plans for the rest of today, mind if I walk with you for a bit?” Kaled gawked. “W-with me? Umm, I guess not, sure.”

They wound up spending the rest of that day together, just roaming the forest. Her cat was a white leopard she called Gulhalrathn, who looked normal enough, except when the light hit him it seemed to pass through him. She told him also of her boar, named Vhid, whom she had found in a cave while helping to fight monsters called Quilboar. Kaled found her fascinating, and the fact that she treated him as an actual person, an equal, was astounding to him. She seemed to like him as well.

The two elves spent most of the following weeks in each others company. Khaotic found Kaled to be refreshing after all her time spent in one battle after another, while Kaled just enjoyed the fact that one person in his life actually behaved as if he were a person and not walking dead. But he found it hard to be comfortable around her after his self-imposed isolation, and avoided any contact with others while she was with him, fearing to let her see how the other elves treated him.

One day, though, she finally talked him into going into Silvermoon for some supplies. He followed self-consciously at her heels as they walked down the main street, trying to avoid looking at any of the passers-by. Khaotic walked along confidently as always, but noticed many of the elves giving her strange, unreadable looks. She wondered if Kaled had anything to do with it, since she had never seen him enter the city.

When they reached the shop she usually frequented, she approached the counter and gave the clerk her list, then turned to Kaled and asked him what he needed. The clerk gaped at her, while Kaled muttered the items he needed. Khaotic turned back and saw the clerk’s face. “What?” she asked. “Is it too much trouble to get things for two people instead of one? You haven’t had any problem with me before.” The clerk flushed, then murmured to her quietly, “Lady, why are you with this.... young man? He is useless, and shouldn’t even be here. It is an affront to my store and my customers.” “Why?! What on earth is wrong with him?” she demanded. He stammered then said, “My lady, he has no ability to do magic! He lost it years ago when his parents had that awful accident. He should have died with them; it would have been easier for us all.” Khaotic merely looked at him as, realizing what he had said, his face paled, then turned beet-red, while Kaled cringed behind her, also turning red. Finally she turned, grabbed Kaled by the elbow, and marched out of the shop.

Once outside the city she turned to him. “OK, what was that about? You lost your ability to do magic?” she asked, incredulous. Kaled just stood there, head hanging, afraid he was going to lose the only friend he had ever had. Khaotic put a finger under his chin, lifting his face to hers, and softened her voice. “Kaled, I am not mad at you, I’m mad at these senseless, ignorant people. If you can’t do magic, then you can’t do it. It doesn’t change who you are, and it shouldn’t matter to others either.” He gaped at her for a second, and then suddenly words were spilling out of his mouth. He found himself telling her of his entire boyhood, what he had been told of the accident and how it had left him, how he was ignored by almost all the adults and tormented by his peers, was abandoned at the Retreat and finally found acceptance among the other hunters. As he talked, she just stood there, listening. Finally he ran out of words. Khaotic studied him for a moment, then said, “Look Kaled, I mean no offense, but you need help. Would you like to have a mentor? And, um, would you want to come stay at my house? I have the time, and a spare room. And camping out isn’t going to be much fun when winter hits.” Kaled considered for a moment, then nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

Kaled moved his meager belongings into his new room that afternoon. Khaotic had a house to herself on the forest’s edge near the coast, south of Silvermoon. She showed him around the house and grounds, then helped him get Ashke and Kechara settled into her stable alongside Gul and Vhid. Once that was accomplished, she left him in his room, telling him she was going to another shop to get the supplies they needed.

Kaled busied himself putting his things away. He found he had mixed feelings about the new arrangement. Khaotic was perhaps the most fascinating person he had ever met, not to mention being stunningly (to him) beautiful, with her long red hair and green eyes, with the golden magic glow typical of their race. But he felt painfully shy around her, and a little afraid of her. He finally decided he could do nothing but wait and see what happened.

After she returned from the shop, Khaotic began putting him through his paces that very afternoon, having him show her his archery skills, then doing a few practice bouts with melee weapons. She told him when they were done that he had a lot to learn yet, but she seemed satisfied. She told him her few house rules, and informed him that breakfast was at daybreak and he had better be up if he expected any of it, then left him in his room.

Early the next morning found Kaled out shooting arrows at targets again, but this time the target was thickly padded and strapped to her boar, Vhid. Vhid was also wearing armor to protect his vulnerable spots, but Khaotic still told him, in no uncertain terms, what she would do to him if he missed and hit her pet. The boar was quite nimble and made the practice a challenge, but Kaled was confident with a bow and managed to do all she asked. They stopped for a quick lunch, then Khaotic had him sit down and tell her extensively what he had trained in, how well he had done, and how far he got in each segment of his training. That afternoon, she sent her cat Gul out into the woods, and an hour later told Kaled to track him down. Kaled followed the ghostly cat’s trail until dark, when Khaotic said that it was too dark to see, and they returned to the house to find Gul lounging on the front step waiting for them.

That was how summer passed for Kaled. Khaotic kept him out from dawn until usually full dark, doing archery, tracking, hunting, and weapons work. She was a skilled hunter and gave Kaled a challenge every time, even as his own skills improved. And as time went by, his shyness decreased as his respect and admiration for her grew.

They often sat together after supper and just talked for awhile, before retiring for the night. Kaled found out much about Khaotic’s life, from when she first left the Farstriders at 16 to when they first met. In those eight years she had done hundreds of missions for the Sin’dorei leaders and the other leaders of the Horde. She had also fought in many, many battles against the Alliance, leading her own commands in the last few. Hearing her tales and thinking of all the fighting she had seen frightened him; he decided he had no interest in war or desire to see it. Khaotic didn’t see his point of view, but after a few arguments she came to understand a little of his feelings toward it, and no longer talked about the battles. She was still very interested in hearing tales of his own life, and was suitably impressed with his story of traveling halfway across the world to study with the tauren, and his tale of finding and bonding to Kechara.

Khaotic in turn found herself strangely drawn to this young elf. The hurt that the other elves had caused him by their rejection hadn't done anything to his innocence, and he harbored no grudges toward them. She hoped she would be able to help him find some self-esteem, while they honed his skills.

One morning in the last days of summer, Kaled found himself trotting through Eversong with Ashke, scanning the forest around him. Khaotic had told him at breakfast to go out into the woods and expect anything, but had given no further instructions. So he tried to watch everywhere at once, and had Ashke keep alert as well.

Suddenly a white blur rushed him from the side. He had just enough time to recognize Gul before the cat hit him. He heard Ashke’s snarl as his pet came to his defense, but was too busy avoiding the sharp claws of the leopard to see. Just when Ashke reached Gul, there came a squeal from the surrounding underbrush and Vhid charged out to intercept the red lynx. Kaled found himself alone against the big cat, and quickly dove into a sideways roll, then pulled out his axe as he came to his feet. Gul spat out a snarl and charged him again, but Kaled headed him off with short sweeps of his axe that didn’t break his guard, as he set his feet and prepared an attack of his own. He heard Ashke and Vhid tussling to the side but didn’t dare look away to see how his companion was doing. Gul circled him, growling under his breath, then leaped in to swat at him. Kaled used the flat of his axe to knock the paw wide, then reversed his stroke, making the ghostly cat leap back or else receive a slash on his chest. Ashke appeared from his left suddenly, with Vhid on his heels, and sideswiped Gul, bowling him over and rolling across the ground in a tangle of claws and fur. Vhid swerved in his charge and came at Kaled, who was forced to jump up high in the air over the slashing tusks, coming down into a forward roll before springing back to his feet to face the boar.

Vhid had paused and was standing still, breathing heavily, but Kaled knew how smart the boar was and watched for any clues of the next move. He saw Vhid shift his weight back slightly and prepared to meet the charge, grip tight on his axe. The big boar snorted and charged at him, but veered at the last second to dart to Kaled’s right, slashing as he went. Kaled side-stepped away and brought his axe out, smacking the boar’s muzzle with the flat. Vhid squealed as he rushed past, then halted and turned to glare at the elf. Then Kaled suddenly heard a thunk and felt a blow to his lower back. He spun around, wincing, to find Khaotic standing next to a tree with bow in hand, another blunted arrow already nocked. She laughed as the animals all ceased their attacks and became quiet. “Always be aware of your surroundings, even in battle. You don’t know when another enemy might come up and decide to take advantage,” she told him firmly, but with a smile on her face. Kaled grinned back. “If I’d had Kechara, you would never have gotten a shot off,” he replied. “Maybe so, but you will often find yourself outnumbered and need to prepare for it. Besides, you should never have both your companions with you all the time; if one gets injured you will need the other to be fit until it heals.” She regarded him for a moment, then added, “I’m rather surprised the Farstriders left so much of your training incomplete. If something like this had happened for real after you left them, you might very well have been killed.” Kaled’s grin faltered, then became forced. “They might have planned it that way. It would have been more convenient for everyone,” he said. Khaotic instantly sobered, looking at him sharply. “Don’t ever believe that, Kaled. No one deserves to die; everyone is worth something in some way,” she said forcefully. Kaled matched her stare. “Even the people you killed during the war?” he asked. She didn't back down. “Even them,” she answered quietly, then turned and left, her animals following. Kaled waited a moment, then followed her back to the house.

Over the next several weeks Khaotic began to have her few friends that lived in Silvermoon come over for short visits, during which she introduced them to Kaled. She took them aside at the end of each visit and asked their opinion. Their answers were all pretty much the same as the first, who told her, surprise in his voice, "There's nothing wrong with him at all. I wonder why the elders are all so set against him." She was quite satisfied with their response, and even happier when they began coming over regularly, often joining their sparring practice.

Kaled's confidence was growing by leaps and bounds, but he still avoided going into Silvermoon after that failed supply trip, and Khaotic didn't think it was a good time to press it. She continued going by herself when they needed things. After her friends had been visiting regularly for awhile, though, she noticed a marked difference in the city elves' attitude toward her. The shopkeepers, thank goodness, didn't change, but most of the elders she saw would see her and either turn away, or sneer openly. She knew why they did it; it was because of Kaled, and her support of him. She got pretty tired of their superior attitude though, and finally one day she had enough.

She was leaving the city after arranging delivery of her purchases, when an elf she recognized as a council member passed by her and stopped. She glanced at him, coming to a halt herself when she saw his expression. "If it isn't the mongrel-lover," he sneered. "When are you going to give up on that waste of breath and let him die as he deserves?" That was it. Khaotic turned away from him and took a deep breath, then spun around, fist leading. Before the elder knew what happened, he was laid out on the pavement, with Khaotic glaring down at him. "Listen, you blind bigot," she snarled as she leaned over him. "Kaled is a better elf than you will ever be! If losing his magic kept him from turning into a self-centered, arrogant urfe like you, then it's the best thing that could have happened to him!" Then she straightened up, glared at the bystanders around her, and stalked off out of the city.

She never mentioned the incident to Kaled, but news traveled, and she was pretty sure he heard of it. He never mentioned it either, but there were a few times she caught him looking at her, his expression unreadable.


For the sake of avoiding an Overly Massive Wall of Text, I'll stop for now. Look for the next part soon, there's still alot to cover.

(Those are the only 2 pics I have left of Khaotic and her pets, so unfortunately the only other pictures will be of Kaled. :( )

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