In the four years since his training as a hunter had been complete, Andrano had gotten used to wild animals showing up and... "attaching" themselves to him. The number of companions he had acquired was a testament to that. But he had never seen one as strange as the big brown cat that casually strolled out of the nearby trees, as he hunted naga on the Zoram Strand.
The cat sat down a good distance away and began nonchalantly washing one paw as Andrano stared at it. Sangha looked it over too, then peered up at his master with a chuff. Andrano gave his head a quick shake and looked down at the moonstalker. "Right," he said. "Where were we?" Sangha snorted, then trotted off toward the nearest naga.
Andrano followed, nocking an arrow as he went. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the strange cat lower its paw and watch them critically. Then Sangha charged, and the hunter put the cat out of his mind and focused on his task. His first arrow went wide, grazing the naga's shoulder instead of hitting the throat. Andrano cursed and drew again as the naga turned to snarl at him. Sangha raked and bit it, and the monster turned back to the cat. Andrano fired again, this time planting the arrow right where he wanted, through the center of its throat. The naga fell.
Sangha shook himself and came trotting back, and the Night elf paused to give the cat a pat and word of praise, then he went to the body and bent down, cutting one of the naga's armbands free to take back as proof of the kill. As he did so, he heard a snort behind him, and turned to look at the brown cat again. It had moved closer, and was staring at him with an expression of critical superiority. This close, Andrano noticed that the cat appeared half-starved, its ribs showing through the fur like railings. A patch of missing fur high on its shoulder revealed an old, nasty-looking scar. He also realized that the cat was female- it was far too lightly-built for a male, no matter what condition it was in.
She snorted again, with a disdainful glance at the dead naga. Andrano followed her gaze, then looked back up. "Oh, like you could do better," he snipped at her. He immediately felt sorry for snapping at the cat, but she simply gave him a haughty glance, then stood and trotted off.
Andrano looked down at Sangha in bemusement. The moonstalker looked back at him, his expression suggesting he agreed with his master. Then he looked back at the other cat, and his eyes widened. Andrano heard a naga's enraged bellow and whirled, to see the cat latched onto the naga's back. One front paw had claws set firmly into the fish-man's shoulder, while the other hooked under its chin, pulling the head back. The cat bit down hard on the naga's throat, and its struggles quickly weakened before it finally collapsed on the sand. The cat jumped free, then turned to sit by the body, staring at the Night elf expectantly.
Andrano gaped, then suddenly realized what she wanted. He came over and cut the naga's armband free, then stood there, holding it uncertainly. The cat huffed impatiently, then lifted her chin, and Andrano noticed the wide leather collar she wore, likely some kind of armor. He stepped closer and slipped the armband under the leather, and the cat purred approvingly.
Andrano felt even more bemused as he stepped back. Now he was taking orders from a cat? Sangha chuffed at his side, as if reminding him that that was hardly anything new. The hunter shook his head as he picked his bow back up and turned to leave. He glanced back after walking a ways away, to find the brown cat following him. With a mental shrug, he let her be. She tagged along as he turned in the armbands, and he took care of hers for her as well. Then he finally started through the woods toward his own campsite. She still followed.
His camp was a fair distance, so Andrano had plenty of time to think on his way back. The cat was not an animal, despite her appearance. Her level of intelligence indicated sentience, but what exactly was she? He was quite familiar with his own people's druids and their forms, and while this cat had some similarities, she was definitely not a Kal'dorei druid. He hadn't been home- or really anywhere civilized- for several months, so he had no idea whether they had allied with any new folk that might have druids among them, but he had thought he would have heard something if they had. All in all, this strange cat confused him.
He finally caught sight of his camp with mingled relief and happiness. Sangha trotted on ahead, to be greeted by his newest pets, the spotted saber Specter and his as-yet-unnamed wolf. Andrano stepped into the clearing to find Dumaris and Blackavar both curled up next to his tent. Dumaris quickly got up to come greet his master, and Andrano patted the big saber's head. Blackavar remained where he was, but the fox did wag his tail in greeting. Then all of them stopped and remained still when the big brown cat came into the clearing.
She paid the animals no mind, settling herself down near the tent, then gazing imperiously at Andrano. She then glanced meaningfully at the campfire, still banked from when he had left that morning. Andrano stifled the urge to laugh as he started to build the fire back up, then began preparing supper. His companions all found their favorite spots to lie down and wait.
Not so the new cat. She watched him intently, with an eagerness that made him nervous until he remembered her protruding ribs. He made sure to fix extra, and finally ladled the finished stew into six wooden bowls, which he began setting out on the ground. One by one, his pets all came to get their share. When he turned toward the brown cat, however, he stopped in surprise.
She had sat bolt upright at his approach, and as he watched, her skin twitched, as if irritated. Then her whole form shimmered, and he found himself staring at a young, very human-looking girl.
She eyed him warily before speaking up. "Don't suppose one of those is for me?" Her voice was surprisingly deep, and she spoke Darnassian fairly well, though with a strange accent. Andrano blinked at her for several seconds, now completely bemused. "Oh sure," he said lightly. "I always fix extra, just in case some cat-girl comes for supper. Had three show up just last week." She gave him a scathing look. "Do you always try to be funny, or is this a special occasion?" Her tone matched her expression, with an underlying suggestion that he might find further attempts at humor to be rather painful. "Umm," he said intelligently, then decide it would be safest to just hand one of the two remaining bowls over. It was the wolf's bowl, but he decided not telling her wouldn't hurt anything. Then again, from the way she grabbed it and dug into the food, she probably wouldn't care if she did know.
The wolf watched her mournfully until Andrano sat next to him, holding his own bowl down within easy reach. The wolf started lapping while the hunter ate around him. The girl looked up once, but seemed unfazed by the fact he was sharing his dinner. Well before he or any of the animals were done, she set the empty bowl down with a sigh.
"Thanks," she told him. "Can't really remember the last time I had anything decent to eat." She didn't really need to tell him that; in her human form she looked even skinnier than the cat. Andrano let the wolf lick his dish clean as he looked her over. "... so what were you doing out there?" he asked. "There's not much civilization around here, and none of it is human."
She snorted. "Don't have much need for civilization," she said dismissively. "I can live by my wits." "Yea, I can tell that," he replied, with a meaningful glance at her ribs, which showed through the tears in her shirt. The rest of her clothing wasn't much better off, and Andrano wondered exactly how long she had been out here alone. The girl had the grace to look sheepish, and he cut in before she tried to either brush him off or apologize. "I'm Andrano," he said, and she blinked, eying him warily. "My name's Carienne," she answered. "Most folk would call me Carie. And... before you get started wondering, I'm not much more human than you are." Andrano blinked at her uncomprehendingly, and she suppressed a sigh with obvious effort. "I'm from Gilneas," she told him. "Ever hear of the place?" The hunter thought for a bit, then shook his head. "I'm afraid I've never paid much attention to anything outside of my own people's land," he said apologetically. She stared at him, then shrugged. "Right then, well... Feel like a history lesson, then?" she asked, and without waiting for an answer she started.
Andrano was blinking again by the time she finished. He wordlessly passed over a waterskin while he digested everything she had said. An entire nation shut off from the world, invaded by wolfmen, then the Forsaken? He wasn't sure if he believed it, but then, he'd never heard of humans being taught druidic shapeshifting before, either, and he had the evidence of that sitting right in front of him. Finally he looked at her. "So what was your part in all that?" he asked.
Her expression changed quickly, to one of bitter hopelessness. "I didn't have a 'part' in it," she said. "My family was one of the wealthiest in the City. My father... well, he had a few bats loose, if you know what I mean. When the fighting started, he feared that we'd lose it all, so he had us all barricaded in the house. Missed the evacuation and all, so when the worgen came a-calling, there was no one about to help us."
The bitterness faded, to be replaced with sad acceptance. "My brother was only twelve at the time. He didn't survive the.. the transformation. My father... well, he went off on his own. Never found out if he's still alive or not. My mum and I wound up with a pack, and we made our living as best we could. Until the trappers came, anyway.
"Once your folk took us in, I decided I was tired of others making my life for me. I wanted to be on my own. I'm doing all right, despite what you might think." Now she glared at him, and he waved her off placatingly.
"That's quite a bit more exciting than my own story," he said, and she relaxed a bit. With no objections, he decided to go on. "I spent most of my training wanting to be a druid. It just never clicked, I don't have the talent for it. Then one day I was out in Auberdine, and I ran into Sangha here." The moonstalker raised his head upon hearing his name, and he blinked sleepily at his master before returning to his nap. "I had no training, though, so I had to head back to Darnassus and start with the hunters there. As soon as I was ready, I came back for Sangha. We've been roughing it for the most part ever since, picking up these other ruffians along the way." He gestured to include the rest of his companions. Carie nodded, and he went on. "Hunting, forestry, and survival is what we do. If you wouldn't mind sticking around for a while, I could show you some pointers." She stared at him warily without answering.
Sangha suddenly got up from his spot to pad over to the girl and flop down at her side, and she tentatively began patting him. Andrano tried not to stare. Sangha was his most stand-offish pet, and usually didn't pay attention to anyone but his master. If he accepted this strange girl, then Andrano was inclined to do the same.
Carie looked back up suddenly. "I don't need anyone," she said firmly. "Like I said, I was doing fine on my own." Andrano shrugged. "I can understand that, I prefer my own company too. But if you're willing, perhaps we can enjoy our mutual independence together. Just for a while," he quickly added. "It doesn't have to be for any longer than necessary." She snorted, then suddenly broke into a completely disarming grin. "I think I could be okay with that," she said. Andrano grinned back, then suddenly something else occurred to him. "I, uh, suppose you'd want to sleep in the tent?" he asked, rather anxiously, and was rewarded by another snort. "Keep your tent, elf-boy," she said, and without another word she changed back to a cat, curling up at the base of a nearby tree. Her faintly scornful eyes followed him as he retreated to his own bedroll.
So, the backstory behind this! I tried doing Pitch and Lark's Tol Barad dailies at the same time, and it was actually way easier than I thought it'd be. So, I'm attempting to duo a hunter and druid together (minus instances because I have no idea what the people I'd be tossed in with would think). Since Feathermoon is almost full (sadness), then I figured I'd do it on Silver Hand. Since, ya know, I'd like to level Andrano anyway. >.>
This is their introductory story (well, Carie's at least, since Andrano got introduced here), and I have a feeling there will be many more to come. I won't be playing them a lot, because my focus is still on Feathermoon, but whenever I just want to hop on a lowbie or two and chill out, this is probably what I'm going to be doing.
I got Carie up to 19 already, in just 9 hours /played. O_o She's catching up to Andrano's level 21 fast. Playing her has been fun, I've missed OP baby druids. She'll be feral kitty, since I don't really do anything on that server. I may not even bother with dual-speccing her.
Final notes: Pitch got heroic-geared fairly quickly, and both he and Lark have run through heroic Deadmines. In the same night. Whoo.
Lark hasn't found Sambas yet, but she did pick up a tiger from Lost City of Tol'vir. No screenies yet, cause I'm a slacker. I.... may have named him Tuah, but it was mostly just to see if I could. >.>
I don't know what other pets to have her get, so I really do think she's done. I have gone and poked a bit for Gondria, but nothing yet. Not sure yet if I'll go look again.
I have tentatively decided on leveling Shaurria next. She hit 79 with some archaeology and a dungeon run, so 80 shouldn't take long. Then she'll be headed straight out to Hyjal.
That's about it so far. I have some Rheugan-stories poking around in my head, and hopefully will have something written out soon. Until then, Happy Hunting!