Halfhill, Valley of the Four Winds
Serath awoke to the sounds of the chickens carrying on. He pricked his ears slightly in order to discover the source of their distress. Was it a worg, a hawk, or some other animal hunting for breakfast? He heard the pounding of two little hooves on the hard ground and a little voice giggling. The old bull huffed and nudged his mate. “It’s your turn, Rosie.”
“Mmuph” Rosie snorted and pulled the windwool blanket over her face.
“C’mon, I did it yesterday.”
“You levitated the chickens” Rosie whined. “I can’t do that.”
Serath snorted at her. Scratching lazily, Rosie got out of bed and walked to the doorway of their small farmhouse. Sure enough, their young calf Hayden was chasing the chickens through the cleared pasture. Almost lazily, Rosie cast entangling roots at the feet of her young son. “Awww, Mom!!!!” Hayden protested, pulling in vain at the roots.
“I told you if you didn’t leave those chickens alone, they wouldn’t lay eggs! You have been warned!”
The young Tauren watched disappointedly as his prey scattered. When they were safely away, his mother released him. The boy bounded up the steps, chewing on a handful of berries. He met his mother in the doorway, gazed at her with emerald eyes that matched her own, and said, “I’m going to be a Druid like you when I grow up, and tie your feet up with roots!”
Rosie laughed and rubbed her son’s scruffy brown mane. “If that’s how Mu’shu wills it, then it will be.”
Hayden grinned and continued.”But I don’t want to be a boring old tree and stand back out of the action! I want to be a brave and fight! I want to turn into a lion or a bear! That’s the coolest thing you can do, mom.”
Serath chuckled from the bedroom. “I’m partial to the kitty cat form myself, Rose.”
Rosie took a few berries from Hayden and threw them playfully at her husband. “Hayden, go outside and water the sheep, please?”
As the young one left the doorway, Serath entered the front room,dressed and still laughing. “You gotta admit, I love the way the kitty purrs,” he said, sweeping her into his arms.
“Yes, but little pitchers have big ears, you know?”
“He really does. Sure you didn’t breed with a mule by mistake?” Serath teased.
“Nope, couldn’t tell, it was dark and I was pretty drunk.” Rosie teased back.
“You really were hammered on our wedding night. I should have told Rezina to take that Kunglagoosh back to Dalaran with her. . .”
Hayden burst through the door to interrupt. “Dad! Mom! There is an elven lady out here asking to speak to Bullshield!”
Serath and Rosie exchanged puzzled looks. Bullshield was Serath’s nickname. He’d earned it in battle fighting the Fire Lord Ragnaros. There was no healer more determined to protect his comrades during battle than Serath, even in extreme cases when his own life was in jeopardy.
“Hayden,” Rosie asked, “Is the lady wearing armor?” Hayden shook his head no, and Rosie snorted in disgust. “That warlock ” she muttered under her breath.
“I will speak to Naughtia. You just stay in here and sharpen your claws or whatever.” Serath sighed. He did not fully understand his mate ‘s hatred for Naughtia, but obviously the two had feuded long before he’d met either of them.
He found the warlock beside the front gate, regally outfitted and astride a black horse. Today her ebony locks were hanging lose. Serath could instantly see the resemblance to his old friend Nostrademus. Sometimes he forgot that jovial, wise Nos and cold, diabolical Naughtia were related. Serath would be civil to the sister of his dear comrade, but that was as far as his hospitality would go.
“Hail Lady Naughtia! What brings you to Pandaria on this glorious morning? How fares Master Khamel?”
“Dead and brittle,”Naughtia replied.
“Ah! Good. He’s been dead and brittle for as long as I’ve known him, ” Serath chuckled to himself. As a priest of the light, he had no love for warlocks. Undead warlock masters were even worse.
“I have no time for pleasentries, Tauren. My brother is in danger. He needs all of his compatriots to go to Orgrimmar at once.”
Serath blinked. Nos in trouble? Surely she was joking. ” I have never met a more capable man,Milady. I am sure he does not need. . .”
“He does! He’s being executed tomorrow!” Naughtia blurted out, color rising into her pallid cheeks. “He is being held by Garrosh and the Kor’kron Guard.”
“Where is his lady?”
Naughtia’s beautiful lips pursed in distaste. “Which one are you referring to, Tauren? My brother has as many concubines as the sky has stars.”
“The ranger, Kheylar?”
“She has abandoned him.”
Serath frowned. He did not think that was possible. In his mind’s eye he could see the lovely huntress, dressed in dark armor, cloaked hood, deadly accurate bow and deep love of the outdoors that rivaled only his own beloved’s. Kheylar was loyal even when that loyalty was not earned. She blindly idolized Sylvanas Windrunner even after the Ranger-General had been murdered by Arthas and turned into a Banshee. To this day Lady Sylvanas ruled the undead people of Loraedon. She had renamed them “Foresaken” and renamed the city, “The Undercity.” Serath had traveled the entire world, but had never met a more distasteful leader or seen a fouler city. He did not understand why an intelligent person like Kheylar would have stayed so true to her former Ranger-General. A woman with this type of devotion would certainly stay true to her commander and lover.
“Something’s truly wrong , Milady.” Serath said quietly.
A cry of, “She lies!” came from the open farmhouse window.
Rosie had transformed into a bear and rushed towards the front gate. She would have attacked Naughtia if Serath had not cast a magical shield around the blood elf and her charger. He watched, half amused, as she bounced off, roared, and then resumed her natural form.
Naughtia, nonplussed, tossed her hair and sneered at the couple. “I can assure you, Tauren, that the shield was not necessary. I can easily defend myself from that entree on two legs.”
Rosie snorted toward the blood elf. “My love was just trying to keep the peace. I know that peace is something a Demon-lover like you cares nothing about; but he is a man of the light and loves all, including wretched demon-lovers.”
Something that Rosie said struck a nerve in Naughtia. The blood elf stared cooly at Rosie, her fingers twitching as she squeezed her horse’s reigns. “I am here for my brother. He will be executed at sunrise tomorrow in Orgimmar. If you have any faithfulness, any love for him. . .” Naughtia’s eyes blazed hotly as she glared into Rosie’s face.” you will help him. The choice is yours. If you decide to help him, meet me at Razor Hill in four hours.” She turned, said something in a fel-language to the steed, and galloped away.
“Apothecary Hendrikson? You summoned me?”
Hendrikson waved a bony hand towards Khamel. “Enter, enter. Make sure to close the door behind you. We have urgent business from the Dark Lady to discuss.”
The ancient sorcerer did as he was bid. He was a loyal servant of the Foresaken Queen–and if she had business for him to complete, he would make it so. Even, he supposed, if it meant working with a hack like Hendrikson. The only thing Hendrikson was good for was licking Lady Sylvanas’s lovely boots. He could create run-of-the-mill potions and elixirs: For really destructive concoctions, there was no better alchemist in the Lady’s Service than Khamel.
“You understand our mission?” Hendrikson asked, barely looking up from the workbench.
“Aye. Is this really the most pressing threat? With the trolls and the Alliance massing to raid Orgrimmar. . . ”
“The Dark Lady and Regeant Lord Theron believe that it is.” Hendrikson ground herbs to add to the potion he was creating. “Ours is not to question why. . . ”
“I am well aware of the responsibility that we share to our Dark Lady and our treaties with Silvermoon.” Khamel snapped. “You need more Purple Lotus for that.”
Hendrikson looked at the vial in his rotten grasp and chuckled. ” And so you a right, Master Khamel. The Dark Lady has chosen her lead alchemist wisely.”
Khamel did not reply–there was no need. With a wave of his hand his ebonweave robes were transformed into more mundane work clothes. He then shuffled to a nearby cauldron and began concocting the poison his Queen desired.
The Cleft of Shadows, below the Horde Capital of Orgimmar
“Beylanna, stealth,” Kheylar whispered to her loyal white tiger. As soon as the feline was out of sight, the Ranger pulled her cloak over her head and melded with the shadows.
Somewhere in this vicinity,The Kor’kron Guards had built a new dungeon to hold the enemies of their warcheif, Garrosh Hellscream. Kheylar hated Garrosh. He had placed the entire Horde, especially her own people, the Blood Elves, at risk for his own selfish desires. He had demanded they search Pandaria for relics of power, no matter how many of them died. Her own beloved Mage,Nostrademus, had spoken out to anyone who would listen that following the Warchief blindly was foolish. Unfortunately, he had said this too loud within earshot of a goblin loyal to the Warchief; or still least his coins. The goblin had turned Nostrademus over to the Kor’krons as if he was some petty thief, simply for a small bag of gold.
The rumor was that the entrance to the new dungeon was in a hut that had once housed a mushroom vendor’s shop. Kheylar crept near it, staying low on a rock outcropping that overlooked the entrance. She had sat on this perch for the past two days, watching the comings and goings of the store’s “Patrons.” These patrons wore the black and gold armor of the Kor’kron Guard most of the time. Who knew they were such fans of mushrooms?
Two lowly Orc peasants, dressed as shop-keepers, guarded the entrance to the hut. “They want you to believe they are not Kor’krons, but I’ll bet if I shoot one between the eyes, the other one will suddenly produce a big sword and start fighting,” Kheylar whispered to her companion.
Beylanna growled ferociously. “I’ll take that to mean you agree, ” Kheylar replied, pulling an arrow from her quiver. Rangers were highly trained to attack with speed and silence. Kheylar always thanked the light for her skills. Someday, when she was ready to pass on from the world of the living, her skills would earn her a place of honor serving as one of Lady Sylvanas’s elite Dark Rangers. She just wasn’t ready to die today.
Beylanna growled again. “I know, ‘Lanna, don’t get anxious, ” Kheylar chided the cat. She pulled back her bow and started to rise to her feet. Someone grabbed her cloak! Startled she whipped around to see the dark, laughing face of a female Kor’kron. Behind her, Beylanna lie in a pool of blood, her neck sliced open.
“Don’t move, traitor bitch, or you’ll join your kitty!” The Orc growled. She held a glowing blade in one hand and Kheylar’s cloak-tail in the other. To her comrades, she called, “Jek, Rollish! Fire up the grill! We’re having tiger steaks tonight!”
Kheylar’s heart was filled with sorrow as she was lead away. Her faithful cat was a hero. She deserved so much better than to fill the bellies of these scum! She wondered what fate was about to befall her–and would she see her beloved Nos before she was killed?