Friday, November 26, 2010

The Shattering: Lark

Lark grabbed at the bench she was sitting on as another quake started. Nearby, the hippogryphs shrieked and flapped their wings in agitation. Lark silently cursed the temperamental creatures; they were the reason she was stuck in Auberdine, waiting for the ship to come back from Stormwind, instead of on her way to visit Rill at his Winterspring home as she'd promised.

The bird-like creatures were so skittish that they were refusing to fly. All air traffic entering or leaving the village had stopped, and Lark had had to turn back toward home. She knew Rill wouldn't mind once she explained, but she still felt irritated. She couldn't see what he saw in them.

She looked around for her pets, catching a flash of blue light as Komah prowled around a building. Tuah was somewhere close by as well, although she had left Quiloe back at the University under Pitch's care. Rill didn't care for wolves.

Satisfied, Lark returned to watching the dock for the ship to arrive. She paid no attention to the three men until they stopped several feet away, and she realized they were staring at her. She looked up with one eyebrow raised inquiringly. "Can I help you fellows?"

The biggest of the three humans glanced at his companions, then faced her. "Would you happen to be Lark?" he asked. She stared at them, noticing that two of them looked vaguely familiar, although she was certain she hadn't met them before. "Depends on why you're asking," she said flippantly, watching them warily now. The man next to him cleared his throat. "That's her," he told the other two gruffly. "I seen her with Darik a few times, and I recognize her."

The name sent a chill through Lark. "I don't know who that is, and I think you're mistaken," she told them firmly. The big man, who seemed to be the leader, took a step forward. "You knew my brother all right," he said, his tone turning threatening. "You're the one that killed him. Now we're gonna see justice done."

Lark stood up slowly, then froze as the third man, the one that hadn't spoken yet, pulled out a hand crossbow and pointed it at her. "This wouldn't be justice," she said softly, stalling for time. "This is murder, and you'll just be sent off to the gallows in my place." The leader gave a wicked grin. "Who's to say it's murder, when the only one to call it so is dead?" He nodded to the crossbowman, then all four of them had to catch their balance as the earth lurched again. Good, Lark thought. Maybe the quake would give her a chance to get away. And where were her pets?

We're here. Lark managed to keep her sudden relief from showing as she heard Komah's "voice." The huge cat leaped up onto the deck railing behind her, then jumped down to her side, growling loudly. Tuah appeared at the ramp, cutting off the men's escape route, and stared at them balefully.

The ground lurched again, the sky darkening rapidly. Komah didn't move, but his voice had an edge of worry. We have to get out of here, and not because of these scum, he said urgently. "Trying to," she replied quietly. Something was up in the sky, still in the distance but coming fast, bringing roiling black clouds with it. Lark felt a touch of fear, then forced her attention back to the men.

The other two men were watching the cats worriedly, but the leader was staring at the clouds too, and when he looked back she could see he was frightened. "Just shoot her and get it over with!" he snapped. Komah flattened his ears and roared, Tuah echoing an instant later. The startled crossbowman raised his weapon and Tuah hit him from the side. The moonstalker bowled the human over, knocking him into the other two.

Komah rounded on Lark and pushed her toward the edge of the deck. Run, he sent. Now! Lark obeyed without thinking, diving off the deck to the ground. She rolled to break her fall, then sat up as her eyes were pulled upward. Time seemed to stop.

Racing toward Auberdine was a creature so huge that it took Lark a moment to realize it was a dragon. It was misshapen, as if covered in armor plating. Rents crossed its hide in several places, flames leaking out to form a fiery trail behind. The clouds, she now realized, were smoke from the flames.

The ground bucked beneath her, and Lark scrambled to get to her feet. She started off into the forest as the roar of the dragon's flight sounded overhead. The trees around her shook and tossed, a few of them breaking free from the earth to smash into their neighbors. The ground was shaking so badly Lark could hardly keep her footing. Dimly, she felt Komah press against her side, helping her keep her balance as he pushed her even faster.

Then the world exploded.

* * * * * *

Lark woke up to a warm feeling spreading through her body. Komah was sitting next to her, eyes closed, glowing. She stared at him for a moment, then tried to sit up. Careful, she heard, and she stopped to blink at him. "You're healing me," she said incredulously. Yes, he replied. She shook her head, then winced as a stab of pain went through it. "Didn't know you could do that," she muttered at him, and the big cat rumbled in amusement as his eyes opened and the glow around him died down. I wasn't sure if I could either, he admitted. Good to know that I can.

Lark tested her limbs carefully, to find everything stiff and sore, but no broken bones. Most of her exposed skin had been burned from the dragon's flames, but nothing looked serious. Komah's healing hadn't healed her fully, but it had helped. She sat up more slowly, then looked around. Her good humor vanished.

"Oh, dear sweet Elune."

The trees immediately around her were still standing, but she could see others nearby that were now leaning crazily, their roots barely holding onto the earth. Shattered remains of other trees were scattered through the forest. Nearby she could hear the rush of water coming from a rift in the ground. And beyond that lay Auberdine...or at least, what was left of it. The buildings she could see were in ruins, the flightmaster's deck toppled to its side. Flames flickered here and there. The only living things she could see were a few elementals scattered throughout the ruins.

Lark felt numb. She slowly got to her feet, then looked over at Komah. He interpreted the look. There's no one alive in the town. But there is a small settlement farther up. A rescue party, I suppose. Lark looked back out to the village. "How long was I out, here?" she asked him. Little over a day, he replied. But they have buildings up already. You should go there to rest. Lark swallowed hard, then asked the question she dreaded. "Tuah?"

Komah was silent for a long minute. He held back those men while I got you to safety, he finally said. When the dragon hit, however, everything happened too fast. No one got out. I'm sorry, Lark.

Lark nodded without speaking. Tuah... Suddenly she found herself back on the ground, though she didn't remember sitting. Komah was at her side in an instant, nudging under her arm, helping her to stand back up. Come, he said gently. Let's get to shelter.

The Kal'dorei at the outpost made a fuss over her as soon as she stumbled into view. She let them do what they wanted, not resisting as first the healer checked her over, then she was escorted to a hastily-constructed hut. It was quiet and had a cot in it- that was all she cared about at the moment. Once the other elves had left her to rest, she sat down on the cot, staring at her boots. In her mind, she was seeing a young moonstalker batting at them.

Komah stood by her, watching but not speaking. After a long while, she pulled her boots off, then curled up on her side on the cot. Komah lay down on the floor next to her, and she let one hand trail over the cot's edge to rest on his head as she let the tears come.

That was how Pitch found her, shortly before dark.

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