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Aftermath-Witchhunt (Part Four)
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"So... We going?" Gurka asked, looking around as people assembled. "We still have almost a hundred miles to go before we reach Ashenvale. We might want to pick up a wagon or some mounts or something once we reach the Crossroads."
"Is it wise to bring 'alliance' into the crossroads?" Nightbane grunted flatly.
"They could always wait outside." Illia said.
"I think it'll be fine," Gurka shrugged. "The Horde and the Alliance aren't at war anymore. She won't get kicked out, and no one will want to mess with a group the size of ours..." she chuckled quietly.
Vashadya blushed, feeling somewhat of a burden, she had no wish to cause unnecessary hassle.
"Besides," Gurka continued. "The way I hear it, there were some Night Elves involved with the liberation of this whole area from the Dark Horde. I don't think we'll have a problem."
"I guess it would be fine then if I came with you, though if you ever think it will be a problem I can always go ahead and wait for you someplace," Vashadya said.
Ga was getting slightly bored, given the fact that Zezi was strangely quiet. The potion doc took out a piece of paper and a pencil and began doodling, seemingly senseless and un-systematic curves, loops and strokes appearing on the paper with amazing speed.
"Whatcha drawing?" Illia asked, looking over the trolls shoulder.
"Dis be no drawin', dis be da weavin'." - replied Ga'Crane in the most mysterious voice he could pull off.
"What is the weavin?" She asked.
"Well..."Ga took out a much smaller piece of paper and hastily drew a small yet completely incomprehensible doodle on it, after which opened a small golden vial and dropped some of the liquid within on the contour, causing it to shine brightly for a second before dissipating into the air, leaving a smell of an after-thunderstorm ocean behind it and amber ashes in place of the paper. "Da weavin' is da weavin, Illia, one does not explain it as much as sees it." - Ga'Crane said before returning to the bigger drawing.
Gurka sighed quietly. She wished the group would get moving. They'd never get to Ashenvale if they just kept sitting here.
Vashadya waited patiently and quietly, her eyes were closed, she heard Gurka's faint sigh, "perhaps we should get going, if we hope to reach the Crossroads before nightfall," she suggested on the orc's behalf, she herself was in no hurry though she knew it was probably safer to spend the night in an inn than out on the plains.
"Good idea," Gurka nodded to the elf, a faint smile on her lips. "Besides... I could use a well cooked meal. I mean, I can survive on wild herbs and dried meat, but I wouldn't mind a nice stew tonight," she commented with a quiet chuckle."
"I am feeling pretty hungry too, for a hot meal that is, come to think of it," Vashadya agreed, "well, if everyone else is ready I guess we best get going."
"I'm ready to go." Illia said standing up. It would be nice to get out of the wild for awhile." She said after a bit.
"Well then I think we had better be off," Vashadya said, starting to walk in the direction she knew the crossroads lay.
Nightbane stretched, and then took off, running in zigzags to scare off any animals. She looked over her shoulder to see Gurka giving chase in her spirit wolf form, and then even Vashadya shortly thereafter. The three played and chased each other shortly thereafter, making merry in the mid-day sun as the continued on towards the crossroads. Eventually the other two slowed.
Vashadya slowed down when she reached Gurka, "That... was... fun..." she panted.
Gurka nodded to the elf, still panting. "So... You never really told me much about yourself," she commented to Nightbane. "I don't mean to pry, just curious."
Nightbane skidded to a stop and took a more serious tone, "I'm a priestess of elune, and Dag'Rema dishonored my mothers name, nothing more. We should get moving."
"Ah... I see," Gurka nodded. "Well, we'll go kill her soon. Rest assured," she smiled.
"I thought we were hunting a slave trader, or has Dag'rema become one?" Vashadya asked, she had heard of Dag'rema and knew the warlock from what she had been told, though she had never actually met her in person.
"No, as I recall it..." Gurka began to reply, shifting back to her humanoid form, "Dag'rema is a warlock that Nightbane and I are hunting, albeit for different reasons. She's on Outland, so we won't be going after her until after we've dealt with the slaver."
"If you wish I could join you, I have heard of Dag'rema and it would be an honour to help stop her, that is if you would not mind me joining you... I do not really know much about Outland, only ever visited it once or twice a couple of years back," Vashadya offered.
"Of course we wouldn't mind," Gurka smiled. "We were actually just looking for people to join us when we ran into this group."
"Then I shall aid you as best I can," Vashadya said, returning Gurka's smile. "So how did you come to be a shaman, Gurka?" she asked with interest.
"I've been a shaman for as long as I can remember, I guess," Gurka shrugged. "Most shaman have some sort of epiphany in their lives, where they first hear the spirits and start on the path. I, on the other hand, have been talking to animals and natural spirits since I could talk. Guess I'm just different or something," she replied.
"That is interesting... I became a priestess because I had natural talent in certain magic. I grew up in Feralas as a girl and I could talk to animals then, I guess it came from my dad since he was a druid, though I do not think I can speak to them anymore, I guess that ability probably just faded as I grew up and turned to becoming a priestess... If it were not for becoming one I probably would have ended up following the shadow in the end though." Vashadya said, "Not really anything amazing I guess."
"Yeah, I can't imagine what it would be like to not be able to talk to animals or the spirits anymore," Gurka frowned. "And what do you mean 'the Shadow?' Like Shadow priest shadow or Warlock shadow? There is a difference, isn't there?"
"There are different kinds of shadow, they are similar, but yes, I mean the type of shadow that is used by certain other priests, fortunately I discovered the light before it was too late... although I still have a slight affinity for the shadow," Vashadya replied, "but I try to keep my inner demons locked up inside so to speak."
"Huh..." Gurka shrugged, listening intently to the elf. "I thought that Shadow worship was something that only the Forsaken did. I never realized it had a following in the Night Elf culture."
"It was not really that I found worship for it in a group, cult, religious sect or the like, it was just that the shadow kind of found me... Ever since I was a girl I could feel it, though I never really could control it, it was fueled by my emotions..." Vashadya explained, trailing off momentarily. "Though after a certain incident which occurred when I was a bit older I was sent to Darnassus for training in the ways of a priestess, fortunately I was quick to learn the ways of the light and of the moon, otherwise I do not really know what would have happened to me had it not been for that, although the incident could just as well have ended in me being exiled or something if the worst had happened..."
"This 'incident' sounds like something you might not want to talk about," Gurka admitted. "If so, that's perfectly fine. It's not really any of my business anyway."
Nightbane slowed her pace, and checked on the others.
"Oh no it's not that, I am fine with talking about it if you are interested, but otherwise I will just leave it out of the conversation, not much to say really... It could have been worse," Vashadya replied, her eyes glazing over temporarily as she remembered the event clearly.
"We needn't pressure her." Nightbane said, in an ever so slightly defensive manner.
Vashadya was touched by Nightbane's defensiveness, though she did not mind having to say what had happened if Gurka wanted to know. "If you really want to know I do not mind telling you what happened," she said, "after all it is better to accept the past for what is rather than to try and forget about it."
"If you want to talk about it, I'll happily listen, but I won't pry," Gurka answered with a soft smile. "Whatever makes you feel better."
Nightbane looked about sternly, until a horrifying realization dawned upon her, "Where is the child."
Zezi began to wake up again. "Ugh....how long have I been asleep?" She said again rubbing her eyes and looking around, her sight blurry as things began to come into focus.
"Just long enough for me to finish dis." - smiled Ga, dealing one last stroke and emptying a vial of golden liquid on the paper. The doodles glowed and dissipated in a flash of light, and where the paper used to be now stood a black raptor in golden armor - "Wow, Ah didn't actually think dat'd work, he-he. Hop on, Zez, we've got sev'ral hours 'fore it dissipates!"
Her eye's opened wide and she quickly hid her head, trying not to look at it. "Make it go away! Make it go away!" She said on the verge of completely having a break down.
"Eh?" - Ga'Crane shook his head in confusion, then patted the raptor against its head - "Whassa wrond with it, Zez?" – he asked, as the raptor silently sat on the ground so that it would be more comfortable to mount it.
"Raptors are scary!" She said simply as she continued to hide her head away from the raptor. "I saw one back at home and it bit off mommies toe! I don't want to get my toe bitten off!"
"No he won't. Come on, look'ere, his jaws are sealed." - said Ga'Crane re-assuringly, pointing at the golden mask that rendered the beast unable to open its maw. - "Trust me."
She looked out briefly from her face hiding place and saw he was right. "O....O....Okay...." She said slowly climbing down and walking toward the raptor. She looked at it frightfully for a moment and thinking about if she should really get on it.
"Joo sit like dat, and hold dis one, and... Dere!" - smiled Ga'Crane, helping Zezi to mount. The raptor let out a sound that would be a purr, had it be a cat.
She let out a panicked squeak when she heard it make the sound, but she didn't dismount. "What's it doing?" She asked still partly panicked.
"He likes joo." - said Ga'Crane, hopping on behind Zezi and taking the reins. Slowly, the raptor got to his feet, and, after Ga slightly pushed him with his knees, began moving. "Take it slow - good boy joo are!" - smiled the potion doc, clearly enjoying the ride - the fact that now the raptor was walking contributed to his passengers bobbing up and down.
As the ride began she was freaked out but slowly she began to loosen up and enjoy the ride. She smiled. "Dis isn't dat bad....." She said though she held off judgment till the raptor was gone and far, far away.
"'Course it's not. Ah ain't gonna offer joo anythin' bad, Zez, joo have mah word on dat." - grinned the potion doc, slightly nudging the raptor, who in turn began slo-o-o-o-o-owly accelerating.
She continued to smile and enjoyed the feeling of the wind through her hair. "WEE." she said excitedly as the raptor went faster and faster.
"Ah knew joo would like dat." - grinned Ga. The raptor would have galloped by now, where he a horse.
"Dis really be fun." She said, having to shout over the wind which was whipping up faster as they ran faster and faster and faster.
"Mah, mah, ain't we far away from da company... Joo wanna us to re-join wid dem, Zez?" Ga’Crane suggested.
She looked around, having not noticed they had passed everyone. "Maybe we should...but we can always let them catch up to us later." She said.
"Den Ah think it would be best to go to Crossroads, dem being not far from us already. We'll wait for da others dere."
"Okay. That sounds good." She said smiling as she waited impatiently for them to keep riding.
The raptor squeaked loudly through the golden mask and charged north, leaving pillars of dust behind him, accompanied by Ga's happy yells "Gya-a-agh!
"Wee!" She shouted as they continued to ride faster and faster.
In a cloud of smoke the raptor with two trolls atop him charged into the town, causing a slight disturbance amongst the ranks of the local guard. It resolved quickly, though, and soon Ga'Crane and Zezi were standing in the middle of the town, the raptor having dissipated into the air after Ga let him go. "So... whatcha wanna do while we wait fer dem?"
"Erm..." Gurka murmured, looking around. "I don't see her... But I don't see the other trolls, either. She must be with them," she answered. "Can you smell them? I mean, you're a worg and all..."
Nightbane vanished into the brush, sniffing furiously for zezi's scent. She took off near instantly.
Gurka shifted into her ghost wolf form and dashed after Nightbane.
Nightbane broke into a sprint once she caught the scent of a beast. If she didn't move fast enough it would be too late.
Vashadya sprinted after the other two; she put even more effort in this time in order to keep up with them. She was slightly relieved at not having to go over what had happened, but she did not really mind, and the orc had seemed interested, there would be time to talk later anyhow. Right now it is was more important to find the others either way.
Nightbane caught sight of something over the horizon. She focused on it, and the scent trail grew stronger as she ran.
Vashadya continued to run after Nightbane as quickly as she could, she too could see something on the horizon. Her eyes squinted, but it was still too far ahead to be able to make it out clearly.
Nightbane caught the shape, a raptor with a troll on its back. She sprinted after it, trying to form a plan.
Vashadya ran to one side slightly, that way she would have more room to move without colliding with the others if she needed it.
As Nightbane neared the crossroads she veered left, looking for a hill which she could get a good look of the town from.
Vashadya changed direction accordingly; she looked on at the Crossroads in awe.
Nightbane skidded to a stop on a small ridge bipedally. She drew her bow and knocked an arrow. Her ears twitched to Vashadya's approach and she waved her over.
Vashadya ran over, pulling out her own intricately-carved bow, "what is it sister?" she whispered.
"The old troll, he has the child." she growled, still panting from her run. She eyed the crowd carefully.
"Can he be trusted with her?" Vashadya asked, her eyes too were scanning the crowd.
"He left without telling us, and spent an oddly long amount of time with her. I would think not." she snarled.
"In that case we had better confront them or get her back," Vashadya snarled, baring her teeth, when it was required she too could be vicious, like with most of her people.
"We can't just charge in. Observe. S
Gurka continued to run alongside her companions. Soon, she spotted the figure of a troll on a raptor and skidded to a stop near the worgen and elf, quickly shifting back to her orc form. "She doesn't look like she's in danger," she replied. "Let's not be too hasty in jumping to conclusions. We can still keep an eye on him without having to be hostile about it."
"That's why we watch, and then if he makes it obvious he is up to no good we can interfere," Vashadya said to the orc, before turning her attention back on the troll.
Nightbane sighed, tapping her claws anxiously, "He will have his chance, and should he even consider a wicked action...justice shall be swift."
"Of course," Gurka replied with a nod. "But Zezi looks happy, as far as I can tell, and if we got into big fight over her, we might scare her. Besides, as long as she's safe, there's no need for a confrontation."
Vashadya nodded in agreement to both what Nightbane had said and what Gurka had said.
Illia kept walking till she saw three people sitting on a hill after finally catching up. "What the fel are you three looking at?" She asked.
"The troll ran off with the girl, we are just making sure she is safe," Vashadya replied calmly, not even turning around.
"She looks fine." Illia said walking over and standing next to them. "What are you worried about?" She said.
"He ran off with a child without telling anyone, taking her towards the very place that she escaped from." she growled, "If I could have struck him down while he was on the raptor I would have, but it could have endangered Zezi.
"I'm just saying, no need to cause Zezi any more emotional trauma," Gurka answered. "If we have any reason at all to believe she's in danger, we can go help her, but at the moment, she looks fine," she added before pausing for a moment. "You think we should go down and join them?"
"I will stay here," she said, not quite trusting herself to get close to him.
"I too will stay if you need company," Vashadya offered.
Nightbane nodded. She rubbed the moonstone that had appeared in her claws passively.
’You are always here when I need you.’
Illia thought about it. "Stay here with them who might kill me or go down there with people that might kill me?" She muttered.
"You have shown nothing that would tempt the hand of justice. While you stand by me you may be at peace." she responded flatly.
"Alright, I can stick around too if you guys think that's best," Gurka shrugged. "But we can't stay here forever. Sooner or later we're going to have to meet up with them again, or they'll start getting suspicious about us."
"I stay so I do not tempt myself with the thought of killing the older one there. What you choose is your decision." Nightbane said, still keeping her temper in check.
"I still think you're jumping to conclusions about that," Gurka sighed. "Don't hurt anyone unless you're sure they're a threat."
Illia sat down next to the group continuing to watch the trolls. "She's right. Sooner or later we have to approach them. And that troll doesn't look like a threat."
"And I would never kill you if unprovoked; for I have known what it is to tread the paths of the shadow," Vashadya said, "nor will I harm the old one unless he proves to have malicious intentions."
"That is why I am here, rather than retrieving my arrow from his back or wiping his gore off my claws." she said, and then sighed, "I will not have my anger dominating me."
"That's good," Gurka smiled. "My people knew well what it means to have rage control your life. For years we were ruled by the Blood Curse. Even after Hellscream the Elder ended it, it took years for it to wear off completely. From what the elders have told me, it was a terrible way to live."
Vashadya nodded, "My people too know what it is to live mistrusting all outsiders and killing without mercy," she said. Her focus wandered, “
Nightbane nodded, and then continued to rub the moonstone. ‘Your mother would be proud.’ a thought echoed within her mind, familiar and sad...
"You know, my people always said, and some still say, we are nothing like the orcs, but I guess if you look at our cultures we are rather similar, and the regrettable way in which long-past events have been handled have been handled in similar ways, though if those things hadn't happened we mightn't be talking here today," Vashadya said, not really caring if no one was listening, she was more or less lost in thought.
Nightbane meditated, trying to clear her thoughts of the old troll. Where did the moonstone come from? Why was it like no other?
"Who said what?" Vashadya asked in bewilderment, snapping back into reality.
Nightbane jumped and barked defensively, coming out of her thoughts.
"Sorry to have asked," Vashadya said, puzzled at Nightbane's reaction.
"Did I say something aloud? I'm sorry, I was thinking." she apologized. She dropped to her worg form and curled up, chewing the moonstone in her mouth.
"Oh okay," Vashadya mumbled, her eyes already glazing over as she went back into thought.
Nightbane mulled back into her previous strain of thought.
Gurka shrugged and sat down, keeping watch on Ga'crane and Zezi.
Vashadya gritted her teeth and sunk her nails into the palms of her hands, drawing blood. She grimaced with pain, however she stopped once she felt the Shadow had passed. She glanced around at the others quickly, before discreetly wiping it away with a small strip of cloth.
Nightbane jumped again as she smelled blood. It trailed from Vashadya's direction. She remained silent, but watched.
Vashadya cleaned the wounds; the scars from having done it on other days had stayed behind, though she had only started with it recently. The elf poured an ointment on the wounds and soon they had gone, the scars faded after a while too. Need to get more of this sometime, good thing I waited before using it again the elf thought as she put the empty vial back where it belonged. She leaned back again silently, grateful that none of the others had seen her.
Gurka sniffed and smelled blood as well. "Hey, you smell that?" she asked Nightbane, oblivious.
Nightbane gave Gurka a sharp look and nodded over to Vashadya.
"Erm..." Gurka murmured, looking perplexed. "Do you mean... Wait... Uhh..."
Nightbane grunted to enforce the importance of her message.
"Hmm..." Gurka grunted, looking down and minding her own business.
Vashadya wiped a little blood away from her lip, not have realized she had drawn it there either. The elf glanced from the orc to the worgen, it was not that hard to guess they had been watching. She turned and looked at her reflection in a small puddle nearby with a sigh, the area beneath her eyes was dark from lack of sleep.
Nightbane got up and sat between Gurka and Vashadya. She didn't even notice the moonstone was gone. She offered her paw to Vashadya, and wagged her tail lightly.
Vashadya took the paw, but continued to stare at the puddle glumly.
Nightbane laid down to rest. Yet she couldn't, between the Zezi and Vashadya there was no sleep for her.
Vashadya sighed again, slowly the color returned to her face and the she could once again feel Elune's presence, the shadow blotting it out had faded well and truly, for the moment at least.
"She watches over all of us." Nightbane said quietly in wolfspeak.
Vashadya nodded silently, she managed to understand Nightbane, which was unusual, she had not understood animal speak since her younger years, though recently the shadows had been preventing her from reaching Elune with ease on multiple occasions. She continued to stare at the puddle as if willing for it to show something different, though it was just her face staring back at her as it had been the whole time.
Nightbane looked back to the somber Vashadya. She didn't know what to do besides showing her support.
’Did mother go through this?’
Vashadya's gaze remained fixated on the puddle, she was feeling tired, but she did not want to sleep. Sleep was when you were vulnerable, and for her it was being vulnerably to something she could not quite understand. Neither could she keep it away, at least not on her own.
Nightbane felt the presence of the moonstone again, and she had an idea. She rolled it over to Vashadya. "Focus on the moonstone."
Vashadya did as she was told, "what now?" she asked, still focusing on it.
"You'll feel it, just keep focusing on It." she said, praying it would help.
Vashadya focused on the moonstone, she could feel a presence inside of it, at first she was a little nervous, however she trusted Nightbane and so she continued unfalteringly.
An entity reached out to Vashadya,
"You are a friend of Nightbane's, no?"
it called out,
"I understand your plight, allow me to aid you..."
Vashadya looked on at the moonstone in shock, ‘Yes I am I guess... Who are you?’ She thought to it.
"They once called me Star-Pelt, I found, and for a time raised Nightbane. I am here, essentially, as punishment, but I know what you are experiencing. I have felt the wicked bite of the void myself...my reaching out to you has awoken him, Void-Maw. We must act quickly before he arrives. Reach inside yourself, and find the shadows. It will be painful, but you must endure it."
Star-Pelt thought out to Vashadya.
Nightbane stood, "Gurka, something is coming. I can feel it."
Somewhere a glass bottle shook. It quivered and rattled violently, before ceasing to exist. The hut it was in was swallowed up by darkness, from within it only two yellow eyes glared from within. A piercing scream shook the air, before vanishing into the night. The void beast drew in a deep breath, tasting the air and the nether at the same time. ‘Where are you brother...’
Vashadya could feel the shadows, but they were too much a part of her, she was worried she might perish if they were torn out;
'they are too much a part of me... Maybe if you could just trap them or contain them, the ones that harm me are the shadows on the outside, reaching to those within me,'
Vashadya thought frantically to Star-Pelt, if that was indeed his name.
‘The shadows on the inside ARE the shadows on the outside. You must purge them from your being, lest they consume you entirely. Then the fight is all but lost. Bring them forth, and I will destroy them, or release them,’
He thought out to her.
Vashadya was nervous, however she did as she was told and pulled the shadows forth from her being. Do it! she thought unsurely, she decided it would be better to see if she could be cleansed, or die trying, then having the shadows with her constantly. Though part of her was unwilling, not wanting them to go, the elf was no longer sure about anything.
The shadows called out to the others, only to have their cry crushed. Star-Pelt ripped a small void-walker from the consiousness of Vashadya. As it clawed the dirt trying to escape, searing claw marks ripped it into nothingness.
‘It is done. Do not tell Nightbane who I am, she is not ready, not yet at least.’ He faded back into the moonstone.'
"What do you mean?" Gurka asked, surprised. "Who's coming? Is it a friend or an enemy?"
Before the worg could answer, a hole was torn open in the fabric of reality between the group. Void-Maw ripped his way through and screamed out to the sky. Nightbane dropped to a knee with a yelp, covering her ears. "Where iissss heeee,” it hissed.
Ca'Crane's very, very short stint as an antagonist screamed lack of communication more than anything.
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