Shaurria was bored and lonely. Lark could sympathize, since everyone the youngster normally spent time with was gone- Pitch and Rheugan had left for Nagrand that morning, and Alanon was back in Hyjal. But after nearly tripping over the little druid for the third time, Lark had had enough. "Alright," she addressed the druid, and Shaur sat down to look at her alertly. "Do you want to go do something, anywhere? I'm not getting much done like this, and I've got some time off due anyway."
Shauria's forehead crinkled in thought, then she unshifted and looked up. "Uldum?" she asked tentatively. "Pitch took me there once and I liked it. But I haven't gotten t' go back since."
Lark nodded. "Uldum it is. Just let me tell Kal and get Wynd."
Kal didn't even look up when Lark popped her head in to say she was leaving, she just waved one hand distractedly. With that taken care of, Lark headed out to fetch her gryphon. In no time they were through the Earthen Ring's portal and flapping their way out into the desert.
Lark let Shaurria lead the way, and the little druid headed down the river toward the Delta. She finally flapped down to a landing just outside the Tol'vir city there, shifting to a cat as she did, and started playing in the water at the river's edge. Lark settled Wynd, then came over to sit a little ways away, outside of splashing range. Shaurria was apparently in a kittenish mood, and amused herself for a good while pouncing through the rushes after frogs and snakes. Lark had just started to doze off when the druid-cat suddenly went still, head up and ears pricked, looking over to the far bank.
Lark noticed and roused herself. "What is it, kitten?" she called, but Shaur only twitched one ear in her direction. Then abruptly she was bounding into the water, in the direction she had been facing.
Lark cursed to herself and hurried after her, whistling for Wynd. The gryphon came running, pausing just long enough for Lark to throw herself in the saddle before hopping into the air, to cross the river in an easy glide. Lark slid off her mount and waited, arms crossed, while Shaur reached the bank and pulled herself out, panting. "All right, little one," she said shortly. "What was that about?"
Shaurria unshifted to look at her incredulously. "Y'mean ya couldn't hear it?" she asked. Lark blinked at her. "Hear what?" She was answered, not by Shaur, but by a low chuffing moan from nearby. Shaur's eyes widened, and in a blink she had shifted again to go after the noise. Lark stopped her with a hand held in front of her nose. "Not so fast," she told the druid firmly. "We'll check it out together."
The two Night elves headed up the bank cautiously, into the brush surrounding the city walls. Lark kept one worried eye on the city itself- if anything came out after them, they were in a world of trouble. Everything seemed quiet, however, except for whatever animal was making those noises.
Lark smelled the blood just as Shaurria came to a stop, ears pricked and nose twitching. She unshifted again to point at a bush. "S'in there," she whispered, and Lark peered in. "I don't.." she started to say, then stopped as she realized that the splash of orange she could make out wasn't a plant- it was the biggest tiger she had ever seen. Lark grabbed for Shaur's arm, ready to beat it out of there, when she saw the cat's near hind leg. She stopped and stared, realizing that the tiger wasn't a danger after all.
It looked rather like the tiger's leg just above the hock had been pushed through a meat grinder. The grass it was lying on was stained with blood, and Lark could see flecks of shattered bone poking out of the meat. The tiger lay quietly, eyes almost shut, every now and again giving another of those rasping moans.
Shaurria pulled Lark out of her shock by tugging on her arm. "We have t' help him," she said softly. Lark swallowed and nodded, then carefully approached the tiger. Its eyes opened, glowing a strange purple color, but it simply watched her, eyes dull with pain. Lark crept up to within touching range, took a deep breath, and placed one hand on the cat's haunch.
The skin under her hand twitched, but otherwise it didn't move. Lark wasn't sure if that was a good sign- that the animal was used to being handled- or a bad one- that the injury was so severe it just didn't care anymore. She peered at the wound as closely as she dared, taking note of the tooth marks in the cat's leg. Shaur hovered anxiously just over her shoulder as she gently probed the leg. Finally she straightened up again.
"It's broken, and he's missing a good-sized chunk of that leg. Looks like a croc got him. He'll heal if he gets care, but he'll be crippled in that leg." Shaur looked at her, round-eyed, then peered at the cat. "S'what'll we do with 'im?" she asked. Lark sighed, mostly at the inevitability of it all. "We'll take him home and find him a healer," she told the younger elf. "And hope he survives the trip. It's a long way back, and he's lost a lot of blood."
She stood and went to get Wynd. The gryphon was used to carrying animal passengers, and the tiger was too far gone anyway to put up much of a struggle. She had only taken a step when Shaur's hand on her arm stopped her. She looked back irritably. "What now, kitten?"
Shaur just gave her a knowing grin. "We don' have t' move 'im hurt," she said. "I c'n heal 'im." Lark blinked, thinking with some chagrin that she had been with Pitch for too long. The thought hadn't even occurred to her.
The tiger gave another painful rasp. Lark nodded to the druid. "Go ahead, babe. See what you can do."
Before too much longer Lark had unrolled the pad behind Wynd's saddle and coaxed the cat up onto it. Wynd was used to ferrying her pets around and stood steady. The tiger was using his injured leg, albeit stiffly, and the remaining damage didn't look too bad. Shaur had done a good job.
The tiger was surprisingly placid. Lark didn't know if he was still sick or injured, if he really was used to being handled, or if he simply trusted the elves that much. She was worried it was the first, and kicked Wynd up into the air as soon as he was settled on the pad. Shaurria flapped along behind her, keeping watch in case the big cat slipped, but he clung to the pad as if he had been doing it all his life, and by the time they crossed the Uldum border Lark had stopped worrying. Mostly.
She was relieved when they finally arrived back in Stormwind. The tiger and Wynd both were worn out, so she wasted little time in directing the gryphon toward the University and getting him to the ground. She left the tiger in Shaur's care while she stabled Wynd, then they both coaxed the tiger into her room. Lark was a bit worried about her own pets, but Komah knew to stay well out of the way, and Quiloe seemed to take her cue from him, although the wolf watched them with wide eyes. The tiger ignored them both, limping over to the sleeping pad and dropping onto it with a sigh.
Shaurria knelt by the cat and began gently petting his head. "Are you gonna keep 'im?" she asked.
Lark sighed. "Probably," she answered. "Nether knows I don't need another pet, but they seem to keep forcing themselves on me anyway."
Shaur grinned at the attempted joke. "Whatcha gonna call 'im?"
Lark considered the big tiger for a moment. "I think he'll be Tuah," she said, and the cat's eyes opened to stare into hers. Behind that strange glow, Lark thought that he looked content.