Thursday, January 22, 2009

Kaledain: Silverpine revisited

I've been itching to write something all week. Came up with this while at work today. This is during their stay in Silverpine, hunting the worgen and Scourge.

Silverpine Forest was, Kaled thought, the most depressing place in Azeroth. The dying trees drooped all around him, and the sparse grass was an unhealthy-looking blackish-green. Khaotic led as they traveled down the road toward the Forsaken outpost called, ironically enough, the Sepulcher. Upon their arrival, they found the Forsaken in charge, who gave them all the information they needed to track down the worgen they were there to hunt. Then Khaotic ushered Kaled out onto the road again.

"I try not to camp too near this place. They give me the willies sometimes," she explained to Kaled. He was inclined to agree with her. The Forsaken were his first good look at undead, and they disturbed him in ways he couldn't explain.

The weather had turned chilly while they had been traveling from Silvermoon, and both of them now wore heavy, fur-lined cloaks. Kaled pulled his close and shivered as the wind cut through the trees. He followed Khaotic as she walked about a quarter-mile back the way they had come, then left the road and searched til she found a suitable campsite. The two elves dropped their packs, then Kaled went to gather wood while Khaotic built a fire ring. Soon they had a small fire blazing merrily in the growing darkness, and their bedrolls spread out on either side of it.

Khaotic set water heating for tea while Kaled got out some of their dried travel rations. They ate their supper in silence, broken only by the occasional night bird or, rarely, an eerie cry far in the distance. Their animals had been roving about, staying within hearing range but wandering. As full dark set in, they all came back to the fire, Kechara perching in a nearby tree while the cats lounged next to their masters. Vhid rooted out a bed for himself at the foot of Kechara's tree and settled down for the night.

Kaled and Khaotic sat side by side for awhile next to the fire, then Kaled broke the silence with a huge yawn. Khaotic looked at him with a grin, then said, "Might as well get some sleep. Morning we start our hunt." Kaled grunted assent as he got up and pulled his bedroll closer, then burrowed into the blankets with only his face showing. Ashkeyana moved over to lay against his back, then they both started breathing deeply and evenly in sleep. Khaotic chuckled to herself as she made herself comfortable in her own bedroll, then looked over to Gulhalrathn. "Guard the camp, Gul," she told him quietly, and the big leopard chuffed at her, then got up and moved off into the darkness.

Morning dawned misty and cold. Kaled awoke to the sounds of Khaotic stirring the fire into life. He sat up and stretched, then shivered as the cold hit him. Wrapping a blanket around himself, he stood and walked over to a tiny creek nearby, washed quickly in the icy water, then came back to the fire. Khaotic handed him some jerky, and he took it, then leaned down and gave her a peck on the cheek. She smiled at him, then turned to roll up her bedding. Kaled wolfed down his breakfast and did the same. After washing down the jerky with a drink from his waterskin, he placed it in his pack and slung it onto his back. Khaotic had put out the fire and shouldered her own pack, and they set off.

Khaotic showed him what to look for as far as tracks went, as they walked through the trees back to the road. They turned south on the road, going past the Sepulcher and continuing on.

Kaled was quiet while they walked. He was thinking about what they had come for, and was having second thoughts about his part in it. Khaotic noticed his introspection, but said nothing for awhile. When they were well past the Sepulcher, she stopped and turned to him. "You're not sure if you can do this, are you?" she asked him. He was startled for a second, then relaxed; she was good at reading him, and he hadn't been sure how to bring it up. "These worgen are living things," he replied. "It's one thing to hit a training dummy, or swing at each other with dull blades, but I've never killed anything except animals." Khaotic nodded at him. "Let me show you something. It won't take but a minute." She led him off the road into the trees.

They found a cabin not far in, but it looked abandoned, with holes in the walls and the fence starting to fall over. Khaotic stopped and looked back at Kaled. "This was a farm just two days ago. The Forsaken told me about this when I asked for directions. They were attacked by the worgen." She motioned for him to go inside the cabin, which he did. He found the interior in shambles, with smashed furniture everywhere. Then he saw the bodies.

They looked like Forsaken; the bodies showed more decay than he would have expected. Two of the three bodies looked like they would have been only 10 or 12 when they had died the first time and risen as Forsaken. One of them had an arm missing, the torn limb lying on the other side of the room. He noted with disgust that the arm looked chewed.The third was a female in a patched, ragged dress, obviously the mother. She had been gutted. Khaotic came in behind him as he stared at the corpses. "The father was torn to pieces outside, in the back yard. They were a family that died to a Scourge plague and rose as undead all at the same time. They were living here quite happily until the worgen came calling." Kaled took one more look around the wrecked house, then nodded to her and went back outside. He had gotten the point.

By noon they had reached a walled village. Consulting their map, Khaotic announced that it was called Pyrewood. They approached it carefully, stopping at the forest edge and watching it for awhile. Finally Khaotic turned away. "I don't think we should go in," she said. "It's making me uneasy for some reason." Kaled agreed; he was having the same feeling.

Pressing on, they soon were back among the trees. Khaotic suddenly grabbed Kaled's arm, pulling him to a stop as she motioned him to silence. As soon as she did that, he heard gutteral noises from up ahead. They crept forward carefully and peered around a large tree.

Not far in front of them was a group of the strangest humanoids Kaled had ever seen. Man-sized, they looked something like wolves but with human proportions, walking on their hind legs and with arms instead of forelegs. Their hands had stubby fingers ending with large claws. Their wolf-like faces had oversized jaws filled with teeth, and their eyes had a cruel intelligence in them. Kaled pulled back behind the tree and looked to Khaotic, who nodded at him. They had found the worgen.

Kaled took a deep breath as he strung his bow, then nocked an arrow, ducked around the tree, aimed and fired. Khaotic did the same on the other side, and two worgen dropped in their tracks. The others were so startled that the hunters each got off 2 more shots before they retaliated, with blood-curdling howls. Kaled fired a fourth arrow, then tossed his bow aside and drew his swords.

The first worgen that came around the tree was dead before it knew it, its throat and chest sliced open. Then 2 more came, only to be skewered as Kaled and Khaotic each took one. That left only 3 more, which they quickly dispatched. The last tried to run only to be brought down by Kechara and Gul hitting it at the same time.

They made a cursory search of the camp for anything of interest, finding only a smoldering fire and some chunks of rotting meat. They left the camp and moved on.

They found another camp an hour later and wiped it out with the same efficiency. Then they began searching for a campsite of their own, finding a good spot shortly before sundown. After a hot supper of stew made from their dried meat and vegetables, they sat next to each other talking over what had happened that day. Then Kaled set Ashke to watch their camp, and they bundled into their bedrolls, snuggling close to each other in the growing cold.

The next day proceeded like the first until late in the afternoon. They had gone east to the edge of the mountains on the border, and were searching the foothills when suddenly Khaotic froze, drawing Kaled's attention with a sharp hsst. "Scourge up ahead," she whispered to him, and his eyes widened. He waited til she reached his side, then they went on. They discovered a mine hidden in the hills, with several undead wandering just outside. Unlike the Forsaken who retained a fair resemblance to the humans they once were, these were little more than animated, rotting corpses, their eyes glowing an evil red. Khaotic studied them, then turned to Kaled. "There's only six, this should be easy. Kaled, what's wrong?" she said, growing concerned when she saw his face. Kaled had gone pale, and a cold sweat was breaking out on his forehead. "I- I don't know, but I'm not feeling well all of a sudden," he said shakily. "Can you still fight?" she asked him, and he nodded, then pushed himself upright.

They snuck as close as they dared, then as one they drew their bows and fired. Two undead dropped, the rest immediately raising a howl and rushing for the elves. Ashke and Gul ran out from the trees and slammed into one ghoul, their claws and teeth doing massive damage to its rotting body. Another pair dropped with arrows through their skulls, leaving just one. Unlike the worgen, which had tried to flee when outnumbered, the ghoul attacked them savagely. Kaled fended it off while Khaotic slipped behind it, then struck hard, and its head went flying from its shoulders. Kaled jumped back as the body, still twitching, fell at his feet.

They checked the mine, but found no more undead, though the smell discouraged a thorough search. With darkness now approaching, they hurried away to find a safer campsite. The next morning they woke to a thick coating of frost covering the ground.

In the following two days they found 3 more camps of worgen and five groups of undead, which were eliminated ruthlessly. Kaled became pale and shaky each time they found any Scourge, but still fought well. Then they came upon another farm, this one larger than the one attacked by the worgen. It was crawling with undead, they saw when they crept close enough to scout. Khaotic motioned Kaled back, and they backed away until it was safe to speak. "There's about 30 of them, Kaled. Do you want to try this? We can lure them through the woods and thin them out that way before we'd have to close with any." Kaled considered carefully before answering. "I think we can do this," he replied. "If we run into trouble, they don't move very fast. I think we'll be able to get away." Khaotic nodded, then reached out and stroked his cheek. "Be careful, love. No risks."

They separated, approaching the farm on opposite sides. The cats snuck in as far as the fence surrounding the barn, then Kaled sent Kechara in. He drew his bow and began firing as his pets attacked, drawing the attention of most of the undead. He saw Vhid out of the corner of his eye just as the boar charged a ghoul and almost severed its leg. As it fell Vhid pounced on it, tearing it into pieces with his hooves and tusks. Kaled felt his gorge rise as he focused back on his targets, then he suddenly noticed Kechara dive on another ghoul. As she struck, talons tearing into its shoulder, it swiped at her and caught one wing with its claws. Kechara shrieked and fell away. She caught herself before she hit the ground, and flapped unsteadily away into the trees. The ghoul she had attacked sprouted an arrow in its face and fell to the ground, but the others nearby tracked the arrow and charged the place where Khaotic hid, howling viciously. Kaled panicked, and jumped out into the open with a yell. Several undead stopped and looked back, then charged at him, and he melted back into the trees and took off at a run. He glanced back once, quickly counting seven ghouls chasing him, then spotted Ashke charging in behind and taking one down. Kaled sprinted ahead, then paused just long enough to nock an arrow and fire. Five now. He heard Kechara shriek again and saw her pass over his head, and relief gave him more energy. He dashed around a large boulder and came to a halt, drawing another arrow back. He fired as the ghouls, only 3 now thanks to Ashke, came rushing around the boulder. The lead one fell and he leapt onto the next with his blades flashing. Both ghouls were quickly finished.

Ashke padded up to him, his jaws and chest covered in gore. Kaled checked him quickly for injuries, finding none, then looked for Kechara to find her flapping up to him. He had her land on the ground and examined her wing to find a couple bloody scratches but nothing more serious. He felt relief again for an instant, then abruptly remembered. Khaotic was still out there with several more undead. He ran back the way he had come.

Back at the farm, he quickly found her trail and raced along it. He passed by several messy bodies, some obviously Vhid's work, then slowed as he heard fighting ahead. Coming out into a clearing, he saw Khaotic fending off two ghouls while Vhid and Gul both tussled with a third. Kaled drew his bow and shot one ghoul in the back of the head, then Khaotic neatly beheaded the other. Her pets had theirs down seconds later.

The fight over, Kaled and Khaotic just looked at each other for a moment, then Kaled rushed across the clearing and wrapped her in his arms, relief making him dizzy. She pulled away suddenly and began looking him over for injuries, then allowed him to do the same for her. He had a long scratch down one arm from his dash through the trees; she was unscathed. They hugged each other tightly, then collected their weapons and left, heading for their camp.

That night as they sat by the fire, Khaotic told him, "Let's not do that again unless we have to, okay?" He gave a shaky laugh, then put one arm around her. She leaned against him wearily. "How much longer do you think this will take?" he asked her. She thought for a minute. "I'm not really sure. I wasn't expecting to find undead here, and I'd rather not leave until they've been eliminated. But I don't want to spend the winter here, and I'm sure you don't either." He shook his head, then a mischievous grin spread across his face. "No, I'd rather not. For one thing it's too cold for, ah, certain things, and for another, the ground is hard as a rock." Khaotic elbowed him, but grinned too. Then she sobered with a sigh. "Let's give it another two weeks, then we'll head for home. I suppose we should get some sleep now. Let's have Kechara and Gul both keep a watch tonight." He agreed.

Kaled ran through the trees. The Scourge were chasing him, but ahead of him Khaotic was also running from pursuers. He had to reach her before it was too late. Breaking out of the trees into a large clearing, he spotted her facing down at least ten undead. He shouted, trying to draw their attention, but they ignored him and closed on his mate. He tried to run faster, but his legs felt like they were stuck in the ground. Looking down he saw skeletal arms reaching up and grabbing at him. He yelled again, this time in fear, then looked up as he heard Khaotic cry out. He watched in disbelief as the undead overwhelmed her, dragging her down and burying her underneath them. He was in such shock that he didn't even respond at first when his own pursuers reached him and attacked. Then he tried to fight back, but they were all over him, suffocating him. He couldn't move, couldn't breathe. As he struggled to get a breath, he thought he heard a cold voice in his mind, saying, "You are mine now."

Khaotic woke abruptly when she heard Kaled cry out. She searched the surrounding darkness for danger, but all was quiet. Then Kaled started thrashing in his blankets next to her, and she realized he was having a nightmare. She got free of her own blankets, then sat next to him, shaking his shoulder and calling to him softly. He would not wake, however, and grew more frantic. When she almost got decked by his flailing arm, she sat on his chest and grabbed his chin, forcing him to look at her, saying sharply, "Kaled! Wake up, it's only a dream!" At that his eyes snapped open, fear filling them, and he looked around wildly for an instant. Then he realized where he was and suddenly went limp. Khaotic slipped off his chest and sat next to him again. He looked all around their camp, then reached out for her. She allowed him to pull her close, and murmured to him soothingly, smoothing his tousled hair as he held her tightly. Finally he released her, his breathing almost back to normal and his eyes no longer fearful. She got him to sit up a bit, until she had his head and shoulders in her lap, then pulled him back down and covered him up again. Finished with that, she gently stroked his hair while she asked him softly, "Nightmare?" He nodded with a shudder. "Need to talk about it?" she pressed, but he shook his head. Then he looked up at her face. "Why is this happening? Is there something wrong with me?" he asked her. "No, love," she responded immediately. "The Scourge are unnatural, and all elves are affected like this when they first encounter them. You're reaction is pretty severe, but it's not the worst I've seen." He digested that, then looked back at her, not quite convinced. She sighed. "Look, Kaled, you told me how you were trained partly by the druids and shamans while you were in Mulgore." He nodded. "What did they teach you? How did you learn to do those skills that would normally take a bit of magic to perform?" He thought a bit then replied, "They talk to the spirits, the elements. I was able to learn a bit of that, and adapt it. That kind of magic doesn't take inborn ability, since the spirits are providing the magic." "Yes," she said. "And the spirits live in the land, water and air. Look at this place. It seems dead, doesn't it? There's elemental energy here, but it's low. That's because of the Scourge. They are like an assault on the senses, a disease if you will." Kaled was quiet again as he absorbed this information. Finally satisfied, he looked back at her face and smiled. "So I'll be fine, right?" "Yes, love. Just give yourself some time, you'll get used to it and won't have these reactions anymore. Now you still need sleep, and I'm right here. Nothing will happen, not til morning anyway." And she leaned down and kissed him, then shifted til they were both comfortable. She held him until he fell back asleep, then slid out from under him. She wrapped herself in her blankets, then laid down next to him and held him close until sleep took her as well.

I tried to make this a short one but it didn't quite turn out that way. Oh well hehe.

P.S. Kaled is up to 10 AV marks. Gonna take a break tomorrow and try to get another level, then head back in. Horde side is still fail, we had one match that was 20-something-low us-40 them, but at least the matches are short. Alliance side is flooded with DKs tho, I think half their team was made up of them. :P

1 comment:

  1. The alliance angers me in AV, especially in my server. They jsut seem to have more people in it.