The noise and bustle of Stormwind faded as Hulan stared at the stark, black words that leaped out from the pale paper. Your Ma...fading fast...come home Thrusting the paper into her bag, Hulan turned and raced through Stormwind towards the Gryphon roost. Ignoring angry exclamations as she barged by slow-moving pedestrians Hulan ran like she'd never run before. Pushing to the front of the queue, yelling "Ironforge, I need ta get ta Ironforge", she thrust a handful of gold coins at the startled gryphon master who pointed dumbly at a nearby beast. Vaulting on to it's back, she kicked it hard spurring it into flight and soared up into the sky. She fretted all the way to Ironforge, muttering to herself "Let me get there in time" and occasionally grumbling at the Gryphon, "Come on yer mangy lump o' fur an' feathers, can ye no go any faster than this? I could walk there faster than ye can fly!"
As the gryphon landed, Hulan jumped to the ground summoning her riding ram, Cloud. She swung up on to his back and kicked her heels into his ribs as hard as she could. Startled, Cloud bolted towards the mighty Ironforge gate scattering all before them. Cloud and Hulan hurtled down the hill and headed through Kharanos leaving surprised and angry bystanders in their wake. Hulan was oblivious to them all as she rode Cloud as hard as she could towards the little house she’d grown up in. Reigning in hard, Hulan almost lost her seat as Cloud came to an abrupt halt outside the the weatherbeaten cottage. Hulan half fell off the snowy white ram and then hesitated outside the door. She hardly dared to go in, afraid of what she would find waiting for her. She squared her shoulders, took a deep breath and stepped inside. The house was quiet and still, then she heard a small movement and her father appeared at the threshold of the small bedroom he shared with his wife.
Hulan took one look at Thorden’s craggy face and her heart sank; she had never seen such despair written on her father’s features.
“Am I…is she…what…?” she stammered. Thorden’s eyes filled with tears.
“She’s still wi’ us lassie, just. The priest is wi’ ‘er and they sent fer a druid all tha way from Darnassus,” he told her, his voice raw with pain. “They say there is nae anythin’ more they can do fer ‘er, there is nae any hope”, his voice cracked and he was unable to continue. Hulan looked over his shoulder into the small room and he stood aside to let her enter. Nulyn lay pale and white and small upon the bed which seemed vast; she seemed to have shrunk. In mid-life Nulyn has run to stout however now she looked nothing more than skin and bone. Her chest barely moved. It was hardly possible to tell if she lived or not. Hulan moved towards the bed and knelt down, gazing at her mother’s face. She wanted to pick her up and run away with her, hide her somewhere safe where she would be out of danger but the danger was in Nulyn’s soul, inflicted by Burning Legion warlocks, where Hulan couldn’t touch it.
Nulyn started to mutter and thrash weakly on the bed, sweat beaded her forehead. Bewildered and frightened, Hulan looked around as the priest and druid moved towards Nulyn. Both began incanting and the druid produced a vial of some noxious-looking potion and gently lifted Nulyn’s head and poured a few drops between her lips. Nothing that either of them did seemed to give Nulyn any respite.
“Is there nuthin’ ye can do?” cried Hulan
“I’m sorry lass”, said the priest “We’ve tried everythin’ we know; she’s in tha grip of powerful Shadow magic.” Swtiching to Dwarvish she continued “We sent fer yon lanky druid from Darnassus thinkin’ mebbe that she could lift tha curses from yer Ma, or at least lessen tha damage from ‘em, but it’s ‘opeless. Tha only release fer yer Ma is death. She’s hanging on by a thread, like she’s bin waitin’ fer ye.”
Her heart breaking, Hulan stroked her mother’s brow. The cool, gentle touch seemed to soothe Nulyn and she stilled under her daughter’s hand. Looking on, the priest raised an eyebrow and glanced at the druid who gave a barely perceptible shrug.
“Ma, Imma ‘ere,” whispered Hulan. Thorden joined his daughter, knelt down and took his wife’s hand in his own. He and Hulan looked at each other, as if coming to a decision. The priest and druid, picking up on the moment, started incanting again and a huge column of light began to grow at the foot of the bed. Hulan looked at the glowing aura that seemed to fill the room and turned back to her mother. Her voice, hoarse with sorrow, she said “Ma, ye can come outta tha shadow. Step inta tha light Ma.”
Nulyn opened her eyes and gazed at her daughter, her eyes filled with love. She raised her hand and cupped Hulan’s cheek then her hand fell back to the bed and her eyes closed. The glowing light began to fade and for a moment all in the room felt at peace.
The soft voice of the druid broke the silence “She’s gone to Elune.” Hulan nodded and, closing her eyes, she pressed her face into the still-warm shoulder of her mother. A howl of anguish broke from Thorden, and he began to sob. Hulan raised her head and turned to him and they clung together, each trying to coming to terms with the loss that didn’t yet seem real. Tactfully, the priest and the druid withdrew, allowing them some privacy to express their grief.
The weeks passed by and Thorden and Hulan struggled to come to terms with Nulyn’s death. Thorden was a shadow of his former jovial self and was lost without the wife whom he had known since childhood. Hulan kept house, listlessly, no desire to leave the comforting familiarity of her home, of her father. Occasionally she took Blanche hunting, hunting boar for the table but there was no pleasure in it for her. One evening, dinner finished, Thorden and Hulan shared a barrel of ale. Thorden’s mood grew maudlin and then dark.
“Hulan, I’m leavin’ soon.” Hulan spluttered on her ale and almost choked.
“Wha’ do ye mean, yer leavin?” Where are ye goin’ ta go?”
“They’re still out there ye know an’ I’ve ‘eard about where they’re hidin’ out. I’m gonna finish tha bastards!”
Hulan looked baffled. “Finish who?” she asked.
“Them Burnin’ Legion bastards, tha’s who. I thought they were all gone but I’ve ‘eard whispers in Ironforge. There’s still some hidin’ out in tha Horde lands. Thrall was nae able ta get rid o’ them all. I ‘eard tell that they’ve a hideout near Orgrimmar.” Thorden paused and took a deep swallow of his ale. “I’ve made me mind up. I’ve polished me armour an forged meself a new hammer and shield. I’m goin’ ta put an end ta them or die tryin’!”
Hulan was horrified. “Da, ye’ve not fought as a Paladin fer over 40 years! It’s madness fer ye ta think o’ goin’ there. I’ve already lost me Ma an’ know I’m goin’ ta lose yeself as well.”
“I cannae sit ‘ere knowin’ them Burnin’ Legion are out there workin’ their evil and destroyin’ good people like yer Ma.”
“Da, I’m beggin’ ye, please dinna do this,” sobbed Hulan.
“Imma sorry lass but I dinna know how I can live without yer Ma an’ not try an’ do somethin’ about them as killed ‘er.”
“ENOUGH!” roared Thorden. Hulan froze, Thorden rarely raised his voice. “I cannae do anythin’ else,” he continued more gently “I’ll nae have any peace while them buggers are still drawin’ breath. I’ll be leavin’ next week an’ that’s the end o’ it. I’m no askin’ ye, I’m tellin’ ye. I’s jes’ what I ‘ave ta do.” Thorden stood unsteadily and put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “Imma sorry lassie,” he whispered and wove his way to his bedroom door.
Hulan tossed and turned that night, unable to sleep. It was madness, Thorden was no longer young and hadn’t wielded a hammer in anger since before Hulan was born. She couldn’t let him go but she didn’t know how to stop him. Hulan worried and fretted and eventually began to drift into a restless sleep. Suddenly she sat up. Of course! She’d go herself. Why hadn’t she thought of it before? She was fit and strong and a good hunter. With Blanche at her side there wasn’t much they couldn’t take on. Her gear was still neatly stashed in her saddle bags, she wouldn’t even need to pack. Maybe Thorden would find some peace if Hulan could track down and destroy the remnants of the Burning Legion. What about the Keepers? Hulan knew they would help if asked but somehow it felt wrong to ask. This was a family matter, it was up to her to solve it. Slipping out of bed, she dressed hurriedly and fished under the bed for her axe and her bow. Her quiver was propped in the corner of the room, Hulan hoisted it onto her back and tiptoed out of the house. Calling softly to Blanche, they stole away from the house and once at a safe distance, Hulan summoned Cloud, mounted up and headed for Ironforge. She stopped at ironforge long enough to write a message to her father and buy a few supplies then she was on a Gryphon bound for Booty Bay and a ship to Kalimdor.
Hulan took her time travelling through the Barrens towards Durotar. This was horde territory and as a Dwarf she stuck out like a sore thumb. Sheltering through the day she travelled at night across country to avoid notice. Finally she arrived at Orgrimmar. There was no question of a welcome in that horde stronghold. Skirting around the Orc city she camped out and pondered her next move. Thorden had mentioned that the Burning Legion were hiding out near Orgrimmar, she was going to have to carefully cover all the surrounding area if she was to find them. Under cover of darkness she tracked all over the region, avoiding the hostile scorpids, looking for signs of the Legion. Finally, after a week, she got lucky; or rather the Legion was careless. She was returning to her camp near Orgrimmar just as the dawn was appearing over the horizon. In the faint glimmer of light, her sharp eyes caught a movement on the rocks of the escarpment to the East of the city. Motioning Blanche to stay still, she crept forwards for a closer look and was just in time to see figure disappear, seemingly into the solid rock face. Hulan hunkered down behind a rock and waited for the sun to come up, her eyes sweeping the cliff in front of her. There! If you didn’t know where to look you’d miss it. It looked like a crack or a fold in the rock but Hulan suspected there was an entrance hidden in the shadow. Noting the spot carefully, Hulan crept back to her camp and curled up under a blanket to sleep. She’d go back at night and investigate more closely.
Fatigue having overcome anticipation, Hulan slept soundly and awoke just as the sun began to drop in the western sky. She checked her armour and her weapons and waited for the sun to go down. She was in luck and the night was cloudy and overcast, there was little moonlight. Slowly and carefully Hulan and Blanche moved towards the cliffs. With no moonlight it was impossible to see where she thought the entrance should be, but she knew roughly where it was. All her senses alert she moved along the cliff face. The smell of brimstone reached her nostrils and she froze; fire imps! Fire imps meant warlocks, she had found them. Using Blanches as her eyes she could tell that the entrance was manned by only one warlock and his imp. Hulan reached over her shoulder into her quiver and drew out two arrows and fitted them to her bow. As quick as a flash, she stepped around the entrance to the hidden cave and fired. One arrow hit the imp in the face, killing it instantly, the second embedded itself in the shoulder of the warlock. He began to incant a spell and Blanche charged silently; she took out his throat before the words left his lips. Cautiously Hulan moved forward. Behind her the young Orc huntress watched, wide-eyed at the sight of a Dwarf firing into the rock and then disappearing into the cliff accompanied by a large white bear. Beckoning her own beast, a sleek black panther that was all but invisible in the moonless night, she set off to follow.
Trabyna was astounded at what she had seen. A Dwarf and a snow bear so close to Orgrimmar. What were they doing here and how had they vanished into the cliff? Were they here to cause trouble or was there something else going on. Trabyna considered going to the city to get help but her curiosity got the better of her. Besides, if she took her eyes off the spot where the strange duo had vanished, she might never find them again. Demali, the panther however, had no such problem. The scent of the bear was thick in her nostrils and lit up the way like a trail of lights would have done for Trabyna. If it hadn’t been for Demali, Trabyna would have missed the entrance. She almost fell over the corpse of the warlock and the all that was left of the imp was a pile of pungent ash. As her toe knocked against the body she heard something metallic hit the floor. Crouching down, her fingers sought whatever it was that had fallen and after a moment lighted on a metal badge. Squinting in the dark, she turned it this way and that, trying to see what it was. She gasped as she made out the symbol of the Burning Legion. All her senses alert she followed the Dwarf and the bear into the cliff. There were torches every few hundred yards and in the dim light she could see a trail of corpses littering the rough-hewn stone passage. She thought to herself that maybe not all Alliance were all bad after all.
Ahead of her, Hulan and Blanche quietly but efficiently carried out their grim work. The passageway branched, which way to go? To her right Hulan could hear the sound of an underground stream; she decided to head that way, hoping that the noise of the stream would cover any sound she might make. Hulan could see two warlocks, each with an imp; this required more thought. Her nimble fingers sought out one of the enchanted arrows she carried in her quiver. For a few seconds it would prevent it’s target performing any magic and hopefully she would be able to trap them, assuming the arrow didn’t kill them outright. While one warlock was trapped she and Blanche should be able to finish off the other warlock and the imps before dealing the death blow to the trapped warlock. Holding her breath, Hulan sidled up the passageway, getting as close as she dared to the warlocks. Slowly and carefully she drew a trap out of the small pack she carried, laid it at her feet and set it. With a flick of her hand she set Blanche in motion at one warlock and fired her enchanted arrow at the other. The two warlocks looked up, horror-struck, as the huge white bear charged in and, raising a massive paw, gouged the chest of her prey. Hulan’s aim was true and at the same time the other warlock found himself unable to speak. Raising his staff he charged at Hulan and ran right into her trap. Jumping nimbly back out of reach, Hulan started firing arrows at the imps, in seconds they were despatched. The effect of the enchanted arrow wearing off the second warlock found himself encased completely in ice and unable to move. He watched helplessly as his companion succumbed to the bear and the relentless stream of arrows that that thumped into his body.
Hulan took a moment to move back from the trap to get a good firing range and then signalled Blanche to attack the trapped warlock. To her horror she backed into a patrol of three warlocks, each with a summoned imp, and a warrior. The sound of the stream she had relied upon to cover her own approach had also covered theirs. Almost faster than the eye could follow, Hulan fired arrow after arrow at the attacking warlocks, hoping to interrupt their incantions. The warrior charged into her stunning her and her bow fell from her hand. Desperately trying to clear her head, Hulan grabbed her axe and swung at the warrior trying to force him back. The smell of brimstone filled the air and fireballs exploded around her, the incantions of the warlocks grew louder and held a triumphant note and Hulan was plunged into a fearful world of shadow. All around her, mingled with the forms of the foe were the faces of all the people she loved, Ma and Pa; Borron; her friends at the Keepers, Angaharad, Bria, Orgrimm and Ancaria. Their faces were aflame and contorted with pain. From a long way off Hulan could hear her own voice screaming as she ran around trying to escape the terrible fiery vision that lit up the shadowy place she found herself in. A tiny part of her mind was able to hear Blanche roaring with rage and a note of panic was audible amongst the incantions that held the awful visions up to Hulan’s eyes. Hulan heard a gurgling cry and knew that the snow bear had ripped out the throat of one of the warlocks. The vision began to dim and Hulan cast around for her axe. Finally she spotted it and reached out for it; her hand exploded in pain as one of the imps struck true with a fireball. Hulan reached back awkwardly into her quiver with her left hand, drew out an arrow and thrust it into the imp. Reaching for another arrow she looked about for the other imp but before she could do anything with the arrow she wielded the warrior slammed his shield into her head and turned back towards the maddened bear. Dazed, Hulan slumped to the floor and watched helplessly as the warrior swung his hammer repeatedly at Blanche’s head. Incredibly Blanche ignored the warrior and continued to savage the second warlock unto death as the third began incanting again.
Hulan sobbed as another wave of horror engulfed her. From a long way off she thought she heard her mother’s voice saying “Step inta tha light lassie.” Turning her head, she could just make out a pinprick of light but it was so far away; too far away. She turned back and all of a sudden the fiery, tormented spectres that haunted her vanished. The fiery imps exploded into ash and the 3rd warlock clutched at the arrow head that protruded from the front of this neck, falling to the floor. Blanche, having killed the second warlock, turned her bloody battered head towards the warrior and, snarling, charged at him. As she reached him he staggered under the force of a shadowy shape and a hail of arrows slammed into him. He slumped, inert, to the floor at the same time Blanche did. Oblivious to all else, Hulan crawled to the bear and sank her face into the thick, bloody fur. “Dinna die Blanche, dinna die,” she whispered and all the world went black.
Trabyna ran to the pile of bodies and saw the light go out of the eyes of the mighty snow bear. The dwarf clung to the bear and her eyes rolled back in her head. Swiftly Trabyna bent over the dwarf and checked her, still alive but only just. The sturdy Orc took a moment to commend the brave spirit of the bear to the ancestors then stooped to pick up the Dwarf and swung her over her shoulder. She grunted with effort, this small woman was heavier than she looked. Trabyna could hear shouts of alarm, the roaring of the bear having echoed all over the caves. She had to get out, and fast! Leaving the Dwarf’s discarded weapons, she ran back up the passage, Demali a black whisper at her side. Emerging into the night she didn’t pause but ran towards the safety of Orgrimmar not stopping until the gate was in sight. She looked around for a safe place to put the Dwarf down then gently laid her on the floor. She was still breathing although her colour wasn’t good. Blood ran from a large wound to her head and her right hand was badly burned, the fingers fused together. Trabyna swore softly under her breath. What was she to do with her? She could hardly carry her through Orgrimmar, they’d both be lynched. Leave her? That would be a shame. She was a brave hunter. Mad but brave. Trabyna made a decision, she’d leave Demali to guard the Dwarf and she’d run and get her trainer and mentor, Ormak Grimshot; he’d know what to do.
Ormak was startled but pleasantly surprised to find a breathless Trabyna on his doorstep.
“Ormak, I’ve got a half-dead Dwarf and I don’t know what to do with her!” she blurted out.
Ormak smiled. “I haven’t seen a Dwarf, dead or alive, for a long time,” he said “Where did you find her?”
“I spotted her in on the cliffs east of the city. I followed her to see what she was doing. Ormak, there are Burning Legion hiding in those caves and she was killing them! She got jumped by a patrol.” Ormak scowled at the mention of the Legion. “She’s a hunter, like us. Her bear died fighting, it was a noble beast. Demali and I finished them off and I just grabbed her and got out of there. She’s badly hurt and needs a healer, quite apart from what they might have done to her soul. I didn’t know who to go to for help. I know she’s Alliance but I don’t want her to die.”
Ormak nodded. “It sounds like she’s worth saving, if it’s possible. Meet me by the gates in ten minutes, there’s an old shaman I know who’’ll help. We can get her into the city by the back gate and no-one need know she’s here.”
Hulan wakened as a wet nose nudged her hand. Her heart soared and then she opened her eyes. They filled with tears as instead of the heavy white head she was used to, she saw a dark silky head and topaz eyes. She struggled to keep the sob in her throat and tears fell unnoticed, running slowly down her cheeks. A guttural voice said something in a strange language and, wincing, Hulan turned her head. The young Orc woman continued to speak, her eyes full of sympathy. Hulan didn’t understand the words, but she knew the meaning. Blanche was dead. Unspoken understanding passed between them. Judging from the large black cat at Hulan’s bedside the Orc was a hunter too. Hulan tried to raise herself and cried out in pain, her right hand felt like it was on fire. The Orc hurried forwards and slipping her muscular arm around Hulan helped her to sit up. Gesturing at Hulan, the Orc disappeared, returning moments later with a bowl of broth. Patiently she fed Hulan her first meal in a week.
Later a grizzled Orc man appeared in her room. Hulan was surprised when he addressed her in the common tongue. “How you feel now?” he asked. Hulan thought of Blanche and her eyes swam with tears. The Orc sat on the bed and patted her good hand, shifting uncomfortably. “I hunter too. I know sorrow when good friend die. Trabyna say snow bear very brave”, he told her.
“Trabyna? The woman?” asked Hulan.
Ormak nodded “She follow you in, find many bodies. Burning Legion bodies” he added, his face wrinkled in disgust. “What for you kill Burning Legion peoples?”
Haltingly, Hulan told told him of Nulyn and Thorden; of their encounter with the Legion before she was born and how the curses they had cast on her mother had blighted her whole life, eventually killing her. She told him about Thorden and his mad plan to avenge his wife’s death and how, afraid of losing him, she had come in his stead.
“So instead of you lose father, father almost lose daughter. You mad dwarf!” he told her.
Hulan scowled, “I was stupid to go in there alone an’ I got over-confident. I will nae make tha same mistake next time.”
Ormak sighed. “No next time for you mad Dwarf. Thrall knows they there now and will kill all. Mad dwarf cannot hold bow now, hand burned bad.”
Hulan gasped. Her hand was still swathed in bandages and she had no idea the damage was that bad. Frantically she ripped the bandages off and her hand sank as she saw what the fireball had done to her hand. It was little more than a scarred, twisted claw. Tentatively she tried to flex the fingers. They were stiff and sore but maybe in time they would hold a hammer or an axe. They would never again be deft enough to fire a bow like they had.
The Orc rolled up his trouser leg revealing his ravaged leg. “Me no hunt any more. Can’t move fast on half leg. I teach now. Maybe Dwarf teach too or maybe mad enough to find different way to fight.”
“Or mebbe I’ll jes’ go home an’ look after me da.”
The Orc grinned at her, “I think Dwarf too mad to play house for long. Like Trabyna” he added chuckling.
A week later Ormak and Trabyna escorted Hulan, under cover of night, out of Orgrimmar and to Ratchet. Disembarking at Booty Bay, Hulan sent a message to her father and then started the long journey back to Ironforge. As the gryphon set her gently down Hulan turned to see the shocked face of her father. He swept her up into a fierce hug then held her at arms length and stared at her open-mouthed.
“Lassie”, he croaked “wha’ happened to yer hair?”
Hulan blushed under his gaze and shrugged “I dinna quite know. I got bashed on tha head an’ woke up a week later an’ me hair was white as snow.”
“I’ll get used ta it I suppose”, he grinned at her. Thorden looked round “Where’s Blanche?”
“Blanche is dead Da. She died tryin’ ta save me life”, Hulan told him, fighting the tears that threatened to spill at the thought of her beloved Blanche.
Thorden hugged her hard again, “Aw I’m so sorry lassie. She was a fine beast an’ I know how much ye thought ‘o her. Come on, home fer ye, a good meal and some decent ale.
That night they sat, staring into the fire, drinking ale and Hulan told him what had happened.
“I’s a funny ol’ world, eh lass? Ye went ta kill Orcs an’ ye did an’ yet at tha same time Orcs saved yer life. What do ye plan ta do now?” he asked, glancing at Hulan’s ruined hand.
“I dinna know Da. I dinna know what I can do. Teach mebbe but I dinna ‘ave the experience fer that I think.”
“Ye remember tha priest from Ironforge that tended yer Ma?”
“She came ta see me after ye left an’ told me she thought ye might have tha makin’s of a priest.”
Hulan snorted in disbelief, “Me? A priest? I could bandage Blanche and mesself if I needed ta but a healer? I dinna think so, I’ve never ‘ad any desire ta heal or shown any aptitude fer it.”
“She thought different, the one from Ironforge. She said tha druid agreed wi’ ‘er. Tha way yer Ma quieted at yer touch she said was more than a Ma’s love fer her lass. She said ye might ‘ave something. Anyway, dinna take my word fer it, I cannae explain it right. When ye feel up ta it, go on up ta Ironforge and see ‘er. I realised when I found ye gone that revenge is nae answer ta anything. Mebbe we both need ta find a different way ta live wi’out ye Ma?”
Too choked to speak, Hulan merely nodded then held her flagon out for a refill.