In the dreary, dripping winter spring,
The wings of the flying birds,
As they soar away from the south land,
Seem always to say those words.
Wherever they may be spoken,
They fall with a sob and a sigh;
And heartaches follow the sentence,
'She has gone away, without Good-bye.'
-rewritten words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox
A plainstrider hacked at small dirt mound with its hard beak trying to snag a worm the burrowed deeper to avoid being eaten by the large flightless bird outside the log palisades. Traffic was at a minimum on the market square of Crossroads which was unusual as the sun had barely downed and as was custom trade and the occasional arms sparring often went on til sunup. But this night the tradesmen and women just looked at each other with a vacant expression on their faces across the street, even the wind rider master yawned and stretched as the only one breaking the silence of the evening was a quite tauren who earlier had walked up to the orc in front of the tavern and handed him a burlap bag with raptors head in exchange for a few silver coins. The low murmurs from inside the tavern was the only sign of life in the one house trade station but aside from that nothing really justified that the smith and apothecary still held their stands open for customers. Suddenly the plainstrider looked up from its dirt foraging and jumped a few steps away as a raptor strode towards it but slowing its pace and walking of less startled when it realised the predator weren’t preying on it. The orcish black smith nodded his head struggling to stay awake in eventless night but looked up and yawned when he saw the purple scaled raptor riding through the west gate. It had something tied to its saddle that appeared to be an armour wrapped in a cloak and with a tribal looking shield tied to the back of the cloak. “Hmm that’s odd” the smith thought as the raptor approached. When but a few meters from the anvil itself the raptor stopped and the bundle of armour fell from its saddle but only made it halfway to ground as it apparently contained a troll, but all of it was tangled in a cluttered mass of childishly tied rope and left the troll hanging head down from the saddle and moaning as if in pain. “You alright there troll?” the smith asked as he approached mount. “Why yesh…ash a matter of fact thish ish a rigging contraption of my own devishing to prevent me from falling off Fione …erh given my latesh trouble with that…only it hash temporarily malfunctioned” the troll spoke, voice blurred by what the orc only could guess, judging from smell, was an ongoing abuse of the Darkmoon Special Reserve. “Don’t jusht stand there …help me down murloc damn you!” the troll yelled from his hanging. Unsure of what to do the orc tried to loosen a large knot at the knob of the saddle. “Ten totemsh up my rear you truly are poor with your handsh” the troll complained “if I were you, which luckily Im not hehe I would take that dagger in the boot and cut me free” The smith stopped his untying, looked at the trolls left boot and saw the dagger in its sheath, but as he took it the troll yelled “hey ..HEY!...don’t you disharm me you vile fiend…help me up sho I can free myshelf”. Starting to get a bit upset about the verbal abuse from the drunken troll, the orc reluctantly lifted him by the shoulders so he could get to the knife but when he had cut himself free the deadweight forced them both to the ground. “You shee that washnt so hard now wash it” the troll chuckled as he lay on top of the orcish blacksmith on the ground. They both got up but the troll had to hold on tight to raptor to gain balance as he swayed from side to side as consequence of his drunkenness.
The orc placed the troll sitting on a wooden crate while he tied his raptor near the water trough and then went back and asked him “What is wrong with you? I know you, you used to be a sober and respectable troll, you had a woman with you last you were here didn’t you?” With one eye closed and the other barely open the troll struggled to stay awake and upright on the crate, but he replied with a single phrase “Róta…she is gone…”
---a couple of days earlier in Moonglade---
“She has left us Cajuun”, Ghazkull had spoken softly as saw what impact the words had on the troll. For more than a year he had spent his every waking hour advocating peace among the horde and the human alliance, and when this failed defending those who could not defend themselves when alliance war bands attacked Crossroads. On each and every journey he had taken greatest care in show humility and humbleness towards any elf, human, dwarf or gnome up until a point were he had managed to befriend many despite of not comprehending their tongue, the few exceptions there had been were those that despite of his respectful manner of presenting himself still had chosen to strike him, his companions or the vigilant braves of horde settlements throughout the lands, and even then Cajuun always felt remorse if he had taken lives. He had spent his entire youth preaching words of honour and peaceful co-existence with their human and elven neighbours to the wolves of the Ari Scara, always encouraging thought over action whenever they encountered such and educating those willing to listen in the history of the world and how only by joining forces they had been able to defeat the burning legion in the battle at Mount Hyjal. But it was as with one swift stroke, the simple string of words from Ghazkulls mouth, everything he had done, all he had worked for seem indifferent. It was as if the whole world crumbled and he fell to his knees, feeling powerless and without any purpose. “..b but…where is she now Ghaz?...” the troll stuttered with a coarse voice. The orc answered while he looked at the troll with sympathy “I believe she went to Orgrimmar old friend but I know not for certain, if you find her tell her that we all miss her want her back” the last words being yelled as the troll took off. Cajuun ran through the forest getting torn by branches and bushes but stopped not before he reached the wyvern rider near the southern mountain border of the small valley. “I need to get to Orgrimmar, fast!” he snapped at the orc who quickly saddled up a beast as ordered. All the way south through the air the Shaman kept hearing the words of his pack mates had told him as he arrived late to what was apparently a wedding that had turned into a Cenarion trial, the druid Nar being trialled for some strange crime that made no sense
“Nar has been detained” one said “The Cenarions are keeping him prisoner” he had heard from another “he is to be exiled into the Emerald dream”
The injustice and unfairness coupled with the mourning of having to lose one so loved by all in the packed had caused frenzy among them and Cajuun cursed himself for not being able to be there and stop them in time. Ghazkull had tried hard but still many of the otherwise peaceful Wolfguards had turned into savage beasts not able to distinct Cenarion Sentinel from the ones responsible for Nar’s imprisonment and frustration and the feeling of powerlessness had caused a riot at the trial. As a last desperate measure Ghazkull had threatened with expelling those wolves that could not stand their blades, one who was most fond of Nar needed not to be expelled, she left of her own free will and throughout the night bodies were found, throats cut, near the lake houses of the Cenarion Compound.
His tears felt cold on his chin as he flew through the icy winds above Winterspring and Azshara. When he landed in the flight tower he was barely able to speak as his throat cluttered but he managed to lop the words “The troll Róta, have you seen her?” over his lips at the orc wyvern keeper. “Yeah sure, she landed not many minutes before you, I think I saw exit through the south gate” the orc replied and Cajuun rushed down the winding stair and out into the streets of the Orgrimmar night. Outside the gate he found her standing with her back towards a couple of veterans practising swordfight and he carefully tapped her shoulder. When she turned he could see that she had been crying just as he had but probably for different reasons. “I don’t want you to leave my love, none of the wolves do” Cajuun spoke softy. “Is your love really that fragile” she replied looking at him with sharp eyes “No” Cajuun objected “I love you no matter what and that is why I am so afraid to lose you” There was a moment of silence then she spoke again “Can we please go somewhere else, I want to get away from it all” “Sure come with me” Cajuun whispered and took her hand. They walked hand in hand towards the coast and for a long while none of them spoke. Before reaching the waterline he lead her southwards up in the mountains above the Drygulch Ravine and on a small plateau they sat down and found comfort in each others embrace. “I am sorry for what I have done” she said looking at him in an apologetic way. “You don’t have to be” he said and stroked her hair “all of my time serving the horde I have tried so hard to mend and encourage the all but non-existent peace with the human alliance but I have been kicked, beaten and had my trust betrayed and my kindness abused by so many on so many occasions. Each and every day I have thought whether it was all worth it, if a peace ever can exist and I have been so close to giving up on hope so many times. It is as if people want their blood baths, they will use any and all fathomable excuses to pick fights…and for what? Honour? Glory? Recognition of courage in battle? Vengeance for lost loved ones? Nothing…nothing can bring them back no matter how many they kill…no amount of murder regardless of how high a number…will ever give back life” Cajuun paused to catch his breath. “I tell you what my love, I don’t care anymore, perhaps people need their hatred, frustration and anger to define themselves, and if they cannot meet with self perceived enemies and try to deal out their twisted and skewed perspective of justice then maybe they think they will seize to exits. I don’t want to try and stop them from killing each other any longer; if blood is their only resolve then I will no longer be the one that deny them this. That said I won’t go to war with the human alliance or raise blades and fire against them, but trying to hinder this conflict is no longer something I can do anymore…all I want is to be with you, you are all that matters to me” For the first time that evening Cajuun thought he detected a the curve or a smile on her lips and they lay down and fell asleep, him behind her with his arm around her waist holding her tight to him.
The next morning she was gone. Sometime during the night she had snuck off and he hadn’t noticed in his sleep. He quickly got up and looked searchingly down from the plateau trying to figure out what direction she had disappeared to. But not even a footprint in the red dirt had she left behind. Fearing the worst he started walking back to Orgrimmar with a heavy sadness in his heart. He went to her tower but found that she had gathered her belongings all but the pair of delicate insect wings that he had made her a mobile of. It still hung turning slowly in the window near her bed with the rays of the morning sun producing a reflection of the colours of the rainbow in it as it turned. No note, no letter no nothing. She had just disappeared.
He spent the entire day asking around Orgrimmar but none had seen her or knew where she was. In the evening he had given up and hit the saloon and started drinking heavily and was yelling and threatening anyone that neared him. In the end the bartender had refused serving him and asked him to leave to which he had responded with threats of violence to a point where the barman had enlisted to tauren to Carry him out of the city. Drunker than ever he had saddled up and through out the next days he roamed the Barrens and Durotar only stopping to restock on booze every now and then always cursing and bad mouthing anyone who didn’t oblige immediately.
The next morning as the smith arrived at his smithy he noticed the troll lay sleeping next to the crate, probably having fallen from where the orc had left him sitting last night. The smith lit the forge coals and pondered whether to wake the troll or just carry him out of sight so he didn’t scare away customers. He smelted an Iron bar and started hammering it in the shape of a sword while thinking of how best to deal with the problem lying snoring in front of the stand and then remembering something he had overheard two tauren talk about a couple of days back, about a troll woman asking the trolls in Grom Gols questions about the Witherbark Tribe, but his thoughts were interrupted by the moaning from the troll “urgh my head…what is making that noise?!” The smith stopped his hammering as the troll slowly got to his feet. “Look I don’t know if this has any relevance or connection but a couple of days ago I heard two tauren talking about a woman asking questions about the Witherbark in Grom Gol, could this be that Róta of yours? If so might I advice that you ride to Ratchet and take the ferry to Booty bay and then head north through the Stranglethorn jungle from there”
Cajuun looked a bit groggy but as the words made their way past his hangover barrier of comprehension he shock his head as to try and shake loose the veil of dulled perception and for the first time in a couple of days words of kindness escaped his mouth “thank you”.
They say that you never truly appreciates a thing until you lose it. With her that was never the case that is why I have to find her
When I do loss and sorrow drown In depth of whiskey bottle spinning Dull blurs time sands falling down And all to mind is fair Róta Senin
A fortnight more or less has passed Count of days has long been lost Though memory of her do me last Pricing dearly at sleeping cost
Atop of the tower up and high I hear the bell toll welcome night I wish I knew to where she’d fly So I could follow on that flight
Knowing not if she wants still To be alone without me there Despite, I search in night so quill Answers learn to she be where
Let hyena and vulture jury As I go forth on raptors back To bridge of River Southfury Hoping there to find her track
Keeper tells me none have seen Troll or rogue in days and more Pushing on with hope still keen That she slipped by on keeper’s snore
Little known by Orc or Tauren Guarding tower Gold Road north But suggesting I go with warren To Crossroads seek advice worth
To my good fortune and ever joy Priestess seen her on a jungle fare Warning ‘Do not with me to toy!’ She points at harbour leading there
Hope is making run a sport Passing strider, zevra lion Arriving at the Rachet port Asking for a hopeful sign
Onto peer I sense shadow stalking Looking back there is no one there On the wood walk I keep walking Wondering, feeling I’m getting near
My soul at last some solstice has In knowing that she is not dead On with sails ship to ocean pass In nearing in both in heart and head
EDIT: In the credits of the movie I mistakenly put a d in "And Ari Scara Production" should have been "An Ari Scara Production"
The rising sun made shadows long and sharp off the pointed wooden palisades making a shape on the ground that mistakenly looked the jaw of a foul beast trying to devour Crossroads from the east.
Staggering and with his balance challenged by the voluminous inducement of fermented vegetable drinks days prior, the troll made his way to the centre of the small trade station that acted as a hub of traffic on the Northern Barrens. Heeding the Blacksmiths words the troll looked around, searching for people who could confirm this claim, that his beloved Róta had been sighted in Stranglethorn across the ocean. An early but diligent priestess arrived from the gate to the Ratchet road, each of her hands in the opposite sleeve in front of her, and went about head bent as if in prayer. She approached the mailbox in front of the in and produced an envelope from one of her sleeves and was about dump it when Cajuun stood before here, eyes as to thin lines as the rising sun was directly behind her. The contrast was sharply painted, the meek priestess in her clean and perfect azure robe standing petrified by the manifestation of the scruffy looking, unshaved staggering troll who had to put his hand on the mailbox to retain his balance. “You there woman, have you seen a troll girl in or about this high, about or around in Ratchet or Booty Bay?” Cajuun said while holding his hand flat in the air in head height of the priestess. She looked startled at his drunken appearance and stepped back a few steps as to place her self out of impact should he tip and fall forward. “I seen a girl ya, in de Grom Gol not long ago but a dun no if she be her?” the priestess replied with thick accent. For sake of simplicity Cajuun continued in troll speak as he knew how only a few trolls, such as he, had perfected their orcish pronunciation due to the fact that most Darkspear Trolls were relatively new members of the horde. “She wears a set of storm shroud armour if that makes any sense to you? With golden lightning forming intrigue patterns in the dark leather” The priestesses looked as if she remembered something and for a moment stood pondering but then replied in troll speak “yes I believe that was her” She turned and pointed in the direction from where she came and continued “If you want to go I suggest you take a ship from the Ratchet peer to Booty Bay and head north from there”
Brief moments of muttered thanks to the priestess only disrupted by heavy sips form a metal bottle from Cajuuns tunic inner pocket, before he headed of. Running seemed more natural in his condition as the repetition of broken falls was easier to administer than to walk and try and remain standing. So he ran as fast as he could across the savannah towards Ratchet and the bravado of the liquor from the metal bottle made up for balance issues that would have made him fall, still though the occasional near stumble did cause several detours along his way.
When he arrived at the port, which was more like a handful of huts sprayed randomly on the hillsides of a small valley, he approached a young orcish girl standing, wrench in hand, trying to salvage mechanical parts from a broken goblin shredder. Head inside the bulk body she stopped her doings and sniffed, she recognised the stark stench of alcohol but was puzzled as to what its origin as and she nearly bumped her head on the framing as she drew it out of the main body of the shredder. She looked displeased at the troll standing in front of her and cross her arms to fortify this attitude towards him. He started asking questions of boats and when they left for Booty Bay to which she pointed at the peer and said “down there but you are out of luck troll, a ship just departed and I think it will be a while before another one arrives and even then it still has to unload its cargo and load a new one before it can go again” “Drat…I need a drink” Cajuun exclaimed and headed for the nearest tavern.
Inside the dim lit tavern the troll sat on a stool and ordered whiskey from the goblin innkeeper which promptly served his first customer of the day. Cajuun took the shot with his left hand and said “first one today with this hand” before he downed it. “Pour me another my good man I got time to kill and I feature it best done in the company of bottled spirits!” “Here comes another” the goblin replied and poured eagerly into the troll’s glass. “You know what, just leave the bottle I can manage the pouring still and if I fail I will call for help” the troll said and took the bottled from the goblins hand and filled his glass after quickly emptying it. “As you wish troll but keep your own tally and no drinking from the bottle less you wish purchasing its entire contents!” the barkeep said and walked over behind the counter again. “Will do….will do” the troll said after downing his third and started murmuring to himself about the price of alcohol.
Another troll entered the tavern, a sleazy looking fellow with a greased hair and a pair of rugged looking riding gloves. “Barman, remember our agreement! If anyone wearing a red tabard with a white wolf head on it I want this information brought to me promptly!” The new patron sounded almost as if threatening the goblin who strangely enough seemed to be affected. “Yes of course sir-“ - “adada! Shhh” the sleazy troll interrupted and put a finger to his lips. “Whatsh that now?” Cajuun spoke up from his drinking “..about a white wolf head?” “Whats it to you, you drunk?” the sleazy troll replied taking a defiant stand against Cajuun. “I have sheen them around and might be able to help and I know people who will pay good money for informationsh regarding…” the last words died in a gulp from the bottle and the goblin bartender gave Cajuun a sharp look pointing at the bottle. “You ask to many questions, drunk one and I have no need for your gold” the sleazy troll replied, then turned on his heel and exited the tavern. Puzzled Cajuun got up and went outside but to his surprise there was no trace of the troll. He stood wondering what that conversation was about and if it had any relation to the rumours of bounty hunters tracking Ari Scara veterans present in Moonglade at the trial of Nar. His thoughts were interrupted by a tiny hand pulling his pants from knee height “you owe me for one bottle troll!” Cajuun paid the goblin and went down to the peer and looked searchingly hoping that he with power of mind could summon a boat that would take him closer to Stranglethorn Vale and closer to Róta…
Hours without end it seemed slipping in and out of sleep due to the hot midday sun and the third bottle of booze now half empty in his hand, the troll sat, back against a cargo crate on the Ratchet pier. No boat. “…you could have had it all…” Was the whisper dream or real? He couldn’t tell “…I don’t care anymore…” he murmured in his sleep “…I only want her…” The goblin Crane Operator, Bigglefuzz looked, lifted his head lazily from its resting on the levers on the machine but when realising the troll wasn’t awake, he took no further notice and went back to his doing which was nothing at all.
The glass bottle splintered as it hit the pier boards and Cajuun awoke with a gib as his arm involuntarily went upwards no longer holding the weight of the bottle. The ship had already docked and apparently been so for a while as the last cargo was being loaded. “How long was I out?” he asked a fisherman he remembered seeing before he fell asleep. The fisher shrugged and threw the line out again. Cajuun got up and rubbed his eyes, judging from the afternoon sun several hours had passed and he felt strangely dizzy from having fallen asleep drunk when sun was zenith. He went onboard and approached the captain who was busy shouting at the crane operator who seemed to nod yes to every order given but doing the opposite despite of this. “erhm excuse me…sir?...captain?” the troll tried “In a minute, can’t you see I’m busy!?” the orc captain sneered back at him. Stepping back a few steps to avoid being hit by a crate swung by the crane and only barely dodging a huge Tauren carrying a wide bundle of skins and hides, Cajuun decided to go below until the heavy deck until traffic had subsided. The damp heat and darkness made seeing more than a hand before him difficult, coming from the bright sunlight outside and troll nearly stumbled over something. When he regained balance he gasped as he saw that it was a rotting corpse that lay on the floor of the lower deck, arms crossed and wearing a red bandana and what looked like a ragged sailors uniform. “A dead body!” Cajuun exclaimed but failed to produce other words than that. “Half right” the corpse said grinningly as it slowly rose from its position. Cajuun walked backwards in disbelief and fell over a cannon. “Don’t be startled, it would surprise me if you haven’t met a forsaken before” the corpse spoke while he frowned with what was a flap of rotten skin above his left eye. “No I erh…sorry” the troll apologised while getting to his feet. “I am just a bit beside myself these days…” “No need to apologize I should have found a better place to rest my bones, name‘s Gus, first mate Gus” the corpse extended a hand of bone fingers and Cajuun hesitantly shook it “Cajuun... erhm just Cajuun” he said not really knowing if adding a title to his name would mean anything. “So you are a stowaway or did the captain send you down here?” Gus questioned “The captain was… I didn’t want to get in the way of…” still a bit baffled at the incident the troll was unable to make coherent sentences. “No matter, I care less of what that bloated buffoon know or do not know about his passengers, I just man the steering wheel hehe, but welcome onboard none the less…my hand…I’m going to need it back” the first mate wriggled his bone fingers from the trolls grip that had frozen and stood staring at the chest of the forsaken. “That brooch, where did you get that?” Cajuuns voice had changed from bafflement to an inquisitive but stern tempered speaking through his teeth while he pointed at a silver ring in one of the first mate’s vest button holes, it was clearly a hoop earring but as the corpse had holes were the living had ears he had put it on his vest. “This?” the forsaken said while holding forth the side of the vest “I got it from a troll in Booty Bay, look pretty doesn’t it?” “I recognise it...it belonged to the woman I love” Cajuun said “I want to buy it from you…to bring to her should I ever find her again” his voice trailing from slight anger to melancholy. “Hmm its going to cost you, it is kind of my lucky charm” Gus replied with a sly smile. “I will give you 1 gold piece” the troll said promptly, well knowing that it wasn’t worth more than a handful of silver. “You and I are going to be fast friends” the forsaken grinned as they made the exchange. “Yeah well…did you happen to catch the name of the one that you got this from?” Cajuun asked as he pocketed the earring. “No but he was a foul smelling one I can tell you that”
The troll spent the entire duration ships fare below deck sleeping and tapping into a large barrel of rum plus the occasionally conversing with Gus when the forsaken wasn’t at the steering wheel. But his ongoing drinking made it hard to separate dream from reality and Cajuun wasn’t sure whether he dreamt of speaking to the talking corpse of a sailor or if it was real.
Lying in a hammock spun between the woodwork bars that framed the ships bulk, gently swaying from side to side as the boat carved its way through the calm ocean, Cajuun was dreaming a surreal dream.
The heat was unbearable and feverish beads of sweat glinted in the lantern light on the trolls face and body. He lay restless and whispered incoherent in his sleep.
Flashes of his early journey to the wailing caverns with Róta, how they bathed in the waterfalls, the caverns had a scaring yet intriguing beauty to them…and seeing her being showered by the wall of water, the dream was cut into a nightmare…something lurking in the fell wood…a predator, Cajuun could not see it but he could feel it, sense it, hear it snarl as it stalked its prey. Then a loud moaning shrill that soon turned into a choir…seagulls? “NO!” Cajuun awoke bathed in sweat and breathed heavily. Seagulls cried from outside. The boat was nearing land. He took a sip from a bottle standing on a barrel next to the hammock but quickly spat it out again, the bourbon was warm and stale, the bottle probably having stood uncorked for a long time. He slowly got to his feet and reached for his shirt hanging on a knob and went up the deck to get some fresh air. The sailors and other travellers standing on the deck a mask of fear and wonder on their faces as the boat, The Spring Maiden, slowly made its approach to its destination.
The port town it self was composed shipwrecks turned into houses, shops and a bar, all clumsily stacked upon each other or lumbered together and interconnected with various walk ways made with rope, wooden planks and other debris washed ashore. The city was governed by a self appointed goblin trade baron whose only authority consisted in essence of the bruisers on his payroll but the bay city reeked of corruption in the lazy sense, the kind of not too obvious but not too hidden -feel that shady business flourished and was probably part of the reason of its prosperity, none dared speak it but everyone knew that the Barons operation on the Stranglethorn Cape paid little if any heed to neither alliance nor horde law or rule. That is what made this pulp of lazy shadiness the perfect place to disappear if you were wanted by law or men with power as not even bounty hunters dared practise their vocation in the port out of fear of repercussion from the Barons bruisers, as rumour had it that more troublemakers or attempted men of righteousness slept with the fishes by the dock than the fishes slept them selves. At the same time it was a free market for contraband smugglers and pirates who had trouble turning their booty into silver in ports where horde or alliance authority would put them behind bars for attempting and as a renowned human customs officer from Theramore once said:
“I have confiscated and intercepted more contraband and booty in my ten years of service than most live to see, yet I will never forget the spectacular display of treasures and trade goods from all over the world that seemed to grow from the Booty Bay Bazaars like the dealers there had so much they had trouble ridding them selves of it”
The Spring Maiden Docked and the passengers were welcomed by the stern look of a goblin bruiser that despite his size, with is appearance made it clear that any trouble would be dealt with in a manor none of them wished for. The intense afternoon sun made most scuttle into the cooler shade of the various establishments in search for something to quench their thirst and Cajuun walked slowly with them noticing how only a few of the residents fared outside this hour. The troll passed a goblin the appeared to have fallen drunk under the rowboat cut in half near a giant shark hanging upside down. It appeared as if the contents for the shark’s stomach had been vomited up as a last compliment the scruffy shipwreck hive that was the Booty Bay port. The stench of rotting fish hang stale in the air around it as little wind made effort to fan the subduing heat from the pier and portside. He went into hull of the remains of a galleon and ordered whiskey. As he did the assemble shady characters sitting in pairs of two’s and three’s, conducting their scheming affairs in each of their corners respectively, seemed to pause all dialogue momentarily but as they perceived no threat that couldn’t be dealt with they proceeded their doing.
After having downed a bottle and a half the now drunk troll got up and staggered to the innkeeper. “Whaz a troll gotta do to get a room you greedy little bashtard!” he said voice blurred with liquor. “Time is money friend and your tongue just added five silver to the time you spent bed ways here and if you don’t like it I know that many sleep below, feel free to join them” the reply came sharp and the goblin opened a wooden hatch revealing a 7 feet drop to the dock water which mistakenly smelled like Undercity sewage to those who knew. “Otherwise room two is vacant for a price I device after having endured the full extend of your visit” the goblin said holding a small key in his other hand. “Ill take the bottle with me and let me know when this runsh empty” Cajuun said while he exchanged the key for a purse of coins he produced from his tunic. He mumbled incomprehensible words as he went upstairs and to his room and when he got inside he locked the door behind him and sat back against it looking directly at a mirror on a low table that despite him sitting down was in height for him to see his reflection.
“You look like trogg droppingsh you old fool” he spoke to the reflection “Have you even the slightest clue why you are here?” He sighed and his head dropped as if almost disappointed that the reflection didn’t answer, mainly because he had little if any clue as to where he should start his search let alone the fact that hope of seeing his love again seemed to diminish by each sip he took, yet it was all he seemed to be good at, at this point. The reflection suddenly looked up and straight into his eyes and said with a determined voice “You are here because there's a conflict in every heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes the Dark overcomes what the humans would call 'the better angels of our nature.' Therein, sentient creatures have got a breaking point. You and I have. Róta Se’nin had reached hers. And very obviously, she has gone… hiding…afraid to face her own truths” Shocked and angered by the response Cajuun smashed his fist into the mirror so that it broke “LIAR! She has no reason to hide from anyone or any thing”
A silent tear made its way down the troll’s cheek and he whimpered as he licked the blood from his hand and feel asleep sitting against the doors overcome by his drunken misery.
Through cracks in the hull of what was once a ship, the afternoon sun sent streaks spraying the long limbed troll lying in a sleazy, dingy, sepia-toned Booty Bay excuse for an inn room, isolated, alienated, sweat-bathed and recovering from an ongoing alcohol abuse. Despite of this abuse, he had during the past couple of weeks dragged himself through the Barrens and crossed the great sea in search of the missing Róta all the way up to this point where he lied, back flat, on the floor among shards of a broken mirror, bottle in one hand and staring the ceiling trying to make sense of why fate hadn’t removed him from the equation of life yet while self pity gambled dull drunkenness in a duel of who wins the troll. With his other hand he lifted a fragment of the mirror and looked into the eyes of the face of irony that spoke to him from it. “Stop feeling so murloc damn sorry for your self you lazy bum, two days you have lied here contemplating how to find her but you haven’t moved an inch, save yelling for more booze. Had you honestly thought that this liquor habit of yours would get you any closer to her or have you given up and are lying in a puddle of self pity, hoping to die?” “Shometimesh I really hate you, you know!” the troll answered the reflection. There was a firm wrapping on the door followed by a sleazy troll voice asking “How goes de drinking ole friend?” Cajuun slowly got up and turned to face the talking door “Are you shuggesting that I over enjoy my drinksh!?” he snapped back. “If ya was a farmer Id ask about ya crops” the reply came in a sly grinning voice. Most of Cajuun’s short term memory was veiled by the blur of bottled spirits but he distinctly remembered having locked the door to the room as to avoid anyone disturbing his drinking, yet with a swift series of clicks the door swung open revealing a blue skinned troll with a white Mohawk and a wide grin on his face. “I thought it was you, ya ole totem slinger, when I heard dat a troll wit a pink pony tail was a trying ta empty rumseys”
Charaz was an good friend of Cajuun’s from before he started his crusade, promoting peace among the horde and alliance. They had been on countless adventures together in the Stranglethorn Jungle when they were both young but where as they both had diplomacy as their chosen vocation, their perception of such differed in that what conflict-ending Cajuun tried to advocate with words, Charaz did with his poisoned blades. Although their ethics and ideals were different they had been friends for so long that that fact didn’t separate them, and although they normally worked different approaches to bringing peace, Cajuun had on several occasions thanked the spirits that Charaz had taken over diplomacy in the wink of an eye when Cajuun’s words had failed and he had thus been saved from death on more times than the shaman had reincarnated, by the ever grinning blue skinned rogue with the white Mohawk.
“By Zuljin Ya look like furbolg droppins, wat in de depths are wrong witcha” Charaz said still grinning but with a concerned look in his eyes that Cajuun hadn’t seen on him in a very long while. “Itsh Róta… she hash gone misshing” the shaman replied with a sad voice. Charaz lit up in a bright smile “I seen her not long a go in Grom Gol, teaching a bad mouth some lessan in knife fightin hehe, but come old friend dere a be sumtin I want to show you” he said and motioned for Cajuun to follow. “Not now Char…I don’t feel so good right now…no adventuring for me today” Cajuun replied still with traces of renewed hope removing two or three furrows of worry from his forehead. “She IS alive then” he thought. “Dun you go an be a drama troll hehe come it wont take long” Charaz persisted and slowly Cajuun got up and followed him up the stairs to a wooded plateau of what had once been the deck of a ship. “Out dere on the tip of de mast” Charaz pointed with one of his right hand fingers. Still a bit groggy Cajuun slowly climbed the mast looking down into the Booty Bay dock water below “what ish it that you want me to shee?” “You!” Charaz said and pushed him of the mast so he fell to the water. Drenched Cajuun climbed the lower level of the Dock to find the rogue standing laughing hysterically. “What you gone and do that for?” the shaman asked him in a hurt tone as he handled his pony tail like a wet towel so it dripped on the dock. “Wat did ya see heh?” the rogue snickered. “What the hell do you mean what did I see?” Cajuun was getting a bit annoyed with his friend’s game. “Ya face how did it look?” Charaz tried again. “Erhm … I didn’t get a close look because you showed me in” Cajuun answered. “Look again den” Cajuun sat down and looked into the water and saw what a terrible mess he looked like while Charaz talked to him.
“I met a medicine man at a lake one day who taught me about reflection. ‘e told me ta look in de water and tell ‘im wat I be seein, I did an told him a saw my self, den he stirred de surface and told me ta tell wat I den saw an I replied dat I saw maself distorted and dat I wasn sapose ta look like dat. Den he tole me sumting I kneva forget dat when we meet people we don’t like de reason we dun like dem is because we see in dem de sides we dun like about our selves. He also tole me dat we should na be sa quik ta pass judgement on otha as we would den be judging our selves.” He pause a bit and then added “It was you ya dum drunk! Hehe”
The reflection of Cajuun in the dock water was broken in rings by drops falling from the shamans eyes looking at him self, remembering when he had first met the rogue at the lake.
“Also de gobo’s tole me ya be lotsa a thirsty so I thought id help ya to something to drink” Charaz laughed and pushed Cajuun in the water once more.
When the shaman crawled up the second time he looked very angry. “Stop doing that! I got enough to worry about” “Watz dat? Ya still feelin sorry for ya self ya huh?” Charaz said tauntingly and dodged a wild swing from the shaman and with a hard hit to the chest sent him back into the water.
“Stap tryin to hit mey and hit mey ole troll, you punch like a gnome hehe” the rogue said triumphantly as hid did a provocative dance in front of the soaked shaman that for the third time climbed up the peer.
“Enough!” Cajuun exclaimed “The elements work through me and I have to drink to stay close to earth else the wind will take my mind away, do you understand that Charaz!?”
“Sure tang, wateva you say spititwalka” Charaz replied but feinted the shaman getting on his legs and pushed him once again towards the water, knocking him off balance but moments before he fell the rogue grabbed his arm in a strong grip and held his balance. “Now dya wanna talk to wata again … or fire in a hearth and a nice meal mista elementalist?”
Cajuun looked down into the cold dock water and yelled “fire…FIRE!” and the rogue pulled him towards him once more while laughing a contagious laugh. The two friends hugged each other tightly and laughed at situation. Charaz took him back to the inn where he had his clothes dried and they each ordered a big plate off roast raptor. They spend the remainder of the evening talking about their past endeavours and what great adventures they had shared. As the sun set Charaz said to Cajuun “Tamorrow ill go wit you ta Grom Gol an we will try an find ya woman ole friend”
The following morning Cajuun feeling refreshed as the veil of booze that had dulled his mind ever since her disappearance had lifted with the aid of the ever grinning rogue, Charaz the troll with the white mohawk. He had slept long passed the middle of the day, a much needed dreamless sleep with no nightmares or alcohol amplified pain or self pity. A bit groggy still when he got up as his body had slowed down during his rest he rubbed his eyes and try to make out his surroundings. The room in which he lay was transformed from the mess of broken glass and empty bottles to a clean and tidy room with his travelling gear neatly packed and ready on a stool. “Probably haven’t looked like this since opening” the shaman said to himself and smiled at cleanliness Charaz had left. “A trait of pinpoint perfection as was required in his vocation had spilled into the daily habits of the rogue” Cajuun reflected as he got dressed. On the drawer was a note with the single word 'ROOF' written in elegant letters. Many mistakenly mistook the somewhat direct and scoundrel behaviour of the trolls combined with the fact that few of them had bothered to perfect their pronunciation -and thought of them as illiterate primitives but fact was that troll civilization predated many of the those who thought that by several thousand years. Cajuun got outside and with some trouble climbed the roof of the inn looking for Charaz but found that he wasn’t there. The sun was baking his face making him smile for the first time sober in a long time and leaned his head back and whiffed the sea air to complete the splendour. He could see the giant statue of the goblin merchant baron welcoming the seafarers from west with its arms spread as if to say “Welcome to Booty Bay, trade harbour of your hearts desire; if you we don’t have it you don’t want it” Out of seemingly nothing Charaz emerged grabbing Cajuuns arm and pulling him hard. “Get down!” Cajuun ducked reflectively but startled by the sudden subterfuge. “Whats going on” he whispered “Dere in de vegetation on de mountain side” Charaz hissed back and pointed across the bay. Cajuun narrowed his eyes and peered but saw nothing but the lush green jungle that hung in belts like emerald sideburns on a granite face. “What it is it, what do you see?” the shaman said, voice still only at barely audible level. “Sumone is out ta get you, I be out hunting dis mornin wen a overheard a hunter asking about wherez you were. A was hiding near de coast on a pirate bounty dat I gotz wen I heard ‘im ask de buccaneers if dey ‘ad seen ya” Cajuun looked again and suddenly saw something reflected in the sun, blinding him for a second making tilt his head and just as he did he hear a sharp swizzle past his hear and the splintering of rock behind him. A split second latter a loud gunshot echoed from the other side of the bay. “Quik, Inside!” Charaz ordered and pushed the shaman off the roof and onto the deck below. Cajuun never saw the rogue disappear behind him but hearing a plum splashing sound from the water below gave him notion of what Charaz was up to. Down on all four and keeping low Cajuun crawled back indoor and to his room and packed his strapped on his gear preparing for a swift departure. Having paid the room in advance he would hear no trouble if he left before he had got his full housing. Still anxious he went downstairs and looked around the room which seemed more quite than ususal for this time of day and Cajuun couldn’t help feeling that every patron was staring at him which made him feel uneasy. He hurried out the door and stayed on the lower docs for cover and ran through the indoor market and up the ramp and into the cave leading to the Stranglethorn Jungle.
Sun was climbing down in west over the ocean horizon and its warm orange light was cut in sharp rays through the dense vegetation and a damp blur enveloped the jungle that had been heated throughout the day.
In a clearing on a plateau near the waterfall mouth of the river flowing from Lake Nazferiti into the sea, a Jungle Stalker Raptor stood weary, guarding its nest of eggs. The predator shifted weight from side to side but suddenly tilted its head upwards as if it caught scent of something. Its nostrils widened, pupils dilated and it crouched looking straight into a bush, muscles tensing so that the leather straps with feathers attached to its arms, made a tightening noise. Wind changed and a breeze fell in its back, depriving it of scent input so it tilted its head again so that its right yellow eye stared directly at the bush. But it saw nothing, no movement.
Non reptiles that had its perspective would perhaps, if looking carefully, have seen fierce eyes of the orcish huntress sitting in the bush but that would have been all for everything of her figure was camouflaged to look like her surroundings, her face was painted in black and dark green stripes diagonally, her armour was covered in leaves and vegetation, even her bow had been made to look like a branch with leaves - she was one with the jungle. Her bow string tightened but just as she was about to fire her arrow a pointy raptor horn and a jaw of ice pick teeth appeared without warning out of the vegetation just beside her and snapped with a sharp click and forced her to dodge sideward and miss her shot. Khaat her trusty feline companion was already on the run towards the raptor guarding the nest but had quite a struggle as it normally attacked prey that its mistress had wounded first. The living bush that was Jahadiel, one of the fiercest orcish huntresses of horde, lay defenceless on elbows and back as the second raptor was about to pounce at her and for a brief moment the roles of hunter and hunted had reversed but as the ambusher moved to sink its teeth in the orcish huntress a shockwave blasted its chest and forced it back two paces with surprised confusion painted in its eyes. Seconds after a bolt of lightning burned the last breath out of the raptor and it fell to the ground just as shocked as its prey had been moments before with static electrics dancing out of its cavities and eye sockets before dissipating.
Jahadiel was stunned by the shock of the attack and at the moment unable to comprehend what had just happened but a whimper from Khaat snapped her back to the moment and she grabbed her bow, got up and fired two arrows with deadly precision – one piercing the reptiles throat and another its belly. With a gurgling sound it fell before its nest. Khaat limbered back to its mistress with scratch marks on its shoulder and back and she tended its wounds while she looked curiously around, trying to spot the source of the shock and lightning that had ambushed her ambusher. “When hunting Raptors Jahadiel…your primary focus shouldn’t be the ones you can see but on the ones cant…” Cajuun spoke with a coarse voice as he entered the clearing from the opposite of where she was. “Cajuun!” Jahadiel exclaimed cheerfully as she saw him approaching “you look erhm…awful, what happened?” her voice toning into concern. The shaman did indeed look pale and sick as he sat down leaning against the slain raptor near the nest. “I…I heard some troll badmouth in Grom Gol had seen Róta and I was hoping to find him and ask where to she has gone” he spoke slowly “I have been hiding in the jungle for a couple of days, apparently some troll hunters near Booty Bay sought my hide.” Jahadiel removed her camouflage covering and brushed her armour clean of its remnants and kneeled beside the troll. She looked into his eyes and put a hand on her shoulder. “Yes…I heard she left and I am so sorry Silvermane” she paused and her tone changed from sympathy to angry curiosity “…but who is hunting you, are you alright you look ill?” “I have seen better days yes, I think it’s the mosquito bites, I feel weak…almost feverish” Cajuun admitted, “and I don’t know who is hunting me but I met with an old friend in Booty Bay, Charaz, and he is taking care of it I hope…at least I haven’t heard from him or been shot at in a couple of days now heh” the shaman tried to force a grin. “But how are things with you? I am glad you chose another vocation, the demons of your prior seemed to get closer to you than what was good…” Cajuuns voice lowered and the look in his eyes became distant as if remembering something that made him worried. “I like being a hunter now, like my brother, although I still have a lot to learn…and yes the warlock business did cost me and I hurt in more ways than could be perceived by merely looking at me” Jahadiels expression darkened “the price of the power the demons offered was more than I could afford in here” she said and pounded her chest. “We all have our demons Jahadiel, trust me on this, but only few of us has the courage to face them like you did and you should be proud of the choice you made” The huntress sat on her knees and dug out a haunch of meat from her pack to feed Khaat who seemed to be on the mend. “Few seemed to care though or understand what terror it was, and none have spoken of my putting the shadow path behind me” she said, slight sadness trailing her voice. “I am very proud of what you did and I know others are too, even though they don’t say it” Cajuun said - assuring her “everybody is afraid but courage is not about being without fear – it is acting in spite of it and what you did only a few are brave enough to do, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise”
They made a camp fire and Cajuun skinned the raptors and made roast out of their flanks and they sat long into the night talking about the legend of Grom Hellscream and the bravery of his sacrifice.
The next morning they parted and the Orcish huntress told him that Grom Gol was across the nearby river and the troll Cajuun was looking for might be there. Still not feeling well Cajuun marched north towards its bank thinking that a swim might improve his condition and relief the fever a bit…
A crocolisk lay lazy in the surprisingly hot morning sun at the riverbank, its eyes barely open and had it not been for the occasional grunt it exclaimed as it breathed heavily any bystander would easily have mistaken it for an old tree log washed up on the shore from flotsam.
On of its eyes opened when a troll came staggering over a small dune heading for the water. Normally this would have caused the crocolisk to slip silently into the lukewarm water and make its way towards its breakfast but there was something about this that didn’t look right – this troll was diseased and the crocolisk somehow sensed it. Devouring such would cause stomach ache and besides, the crocolisk thought, it was too early for eating so it let the troll slip into the water without offering it further attention. Cajuun had hoped the river water would be a cool relief for his fever but the water was warm and smelled foul, like oil, and his condition didn’t alter for the better. He swam across the near stale still water oblivious to the fact that the tree stump on washed up on the shore could have eaten him in one bite if it wanted. Not bothering getting dry he staggered on through the undergrowth of the jungle in a manner that made his steps looked like falls and as if he had to muster strength for each time a foot lifted. Most people mistakenly thought the most dangerous predators of the Stranglethorn Jungle was the fierce raptors or the shadow panthers that lurked at night but truth was that it in essence were creatures diminutive in comparison and so because they carried in their bites malaria. It was not the flesh eating dinosaurs or the tigers that had the shaman near broken but the mosquitoes that had bitten him, sucking his blood and infected him with the disease that made his eyesight blurry and his body temperature reach levels that deprived him of most strength and clear thought. Being a medicine man Cajuun was somehow able to quell and suppress the disease more than most were capable of but still he was a victim to flying vileness of the jungle. Still the hope of being reunited with the woman he loves pressed him onwards and he forced himself to keep pressing where others would have succumbed. As he reached a clearing he saw a strange contraption that made him pause and look frightened and peering the undergrowth for its makers as the sight made him realised that he had entered the domain of the Bloodscalp Trolls, the cannibalistic and savage cousin of the Darkspears that held no peace or truce with anyone but themselves and even on occasion this was broken and the tribes slaughtered each other for a good word. From a bent palm tree hung a rope made of intertwined vines and at the end of it a crude pyramid shaped bamboo cage without any natural door or hatch to it. Cajuun knew of the Bloodscalp ways and how their cruelty was legend and this thing was a testament of just such. It was a prison with no doors that had been made around the thing it kept, the thick bamboo branches were bent and tightened in a way that attempts of breaking out from within would be futile to all but the strongest and in particular if now sharp tools were employed in such. In it lay a filthy blue skinned troll with a jaw of rotten teeth that would make even a forsaken dentist close down his business for good. It was near dead from thirst and sunburn, and it was apparent that he had been there for more than a day in the subduing jungle sun. After having made sure there was no Bloodscalp near, Cajuun stepped out into the clearing and as he did the troll in the cage huddled to life. “Dank de makerz…I am saived” a squeky voice spoke “giev warterz please” The shaman approached the cage and handed a water skin to the prisoner inside. The blue hair of the captive was a tangy mess and he smelled worse than the Cajuun felt and the shaman instinctively stepped back a pace to avoid gagging. “You must have done something that truly pissed off the Bloodscalps and that takes a lot, else they wouldn’t have made such an effort in architecting your last days but just have killed you on spot” Cajuun spoke thoughtfully knowing that only a few deserved such fate as the troll in the cage. Killing hadn’t been the immediate objective of this devising, suffering had. To hang helplessly in the scorching sun without water and await death that could appear in the shape of predators scenting non mobile prey, heated dehydration, starvation, sunburn or the flesh eating ants, the terrors were countless but death would come. Waiting for it was part of the torture Cajuun figured and the Bloodscalps had put serious thought into making this a nightmare for the Darkspear troll that lay in the cage. “Why are you in there?” the shaman asked. Apparently reluctant to tell of the exact reason the captive answered “Dey saiit dat de white cat was hungry, daz all a knows” “Your troll is a poor as your orcish” Cajuun Frowned in disappointment “The pale tiger is Bangalash, meaning "Death" in the Gurubashi dialect, "Hunger" and "Thirst" are the two shadowy panthers that always appear out of thin air whenever she attacks. If you are meet this trio your days are few in remaining”. Cajuun pondered whether it was pure dumb luck that had kept the filthy Darkspear troll from being found by the jungle horror that he apparently had been made sacrifice to and what he had done to make them deal him this fate as they normally would not waste more time than necessary in killing their enemies. Still these matters were of little interest to the shaman who tried hard not to reveal his fevered lack of strength to the one creature he suspected was the badmouth that Charaz had spoken off in Booty Bay. “I am the shaman Cajuun I am looking for the woman Róta have you seen her?” he asked the poor tragedy that was busy trying regain vitality by eagerly gulping the water from the skin Cajuun had handed him. “She is about this high” Cajuun held his flat hand horizontally in shoulder height “has green skin, fiery red eyes and long dark dreadlocks” “Oh…de Witherbark, a seen her <gulp> traied ta show ‘er a good time in Grom Gol… ya knoh … a littul jungal love <gulp> but de filthy littul biach tried ta slit ma throat <gulp> she disapeared dough <gulp> ran off tawards Zul Gurub… she prolly dead ba now…suits her well dat vixen” the darkspear said in between his drinking. Cajuuns eyes narrowed, he sensed untruth. He picked up a thick log from the ground and sat down. “Dankz for de wata now hows about ya settin me free?!” Cajuun said nothing but took a knife and started carving symbols in the log in his lap. The troll in the cage looked puzzled and he asked in a more careful tone sensing he might have upset the shaman “A have a saggestion dat I pray you as a man of de spirits wil entatain an its own frecking marits: Ya set me free naw and we part witout saying anotha word ta one anotha an go separate ways…?” Still Cajuun sat silent carving what appeared to be a crude face with an open mouth in the log. “Watcha making dere shaman mon?” the tone of the captive now with a taint of fright. Cajuun finished his work and brushed the splinters of the log and planted it solidly in the ground in front of the hanging cage. He moved his hand in an intrigue pattern over it and murmured a small chant in trollish which caused the mouth in the face in the log to glow. “It is a Stone Claw Totem; it attracts…animals” Cajuun said deliberately understated. ”…And your suggestion” the shaman paused and looked sternly at the troll ion the cage “…it don’t appeal to me”. With those words the shaman turned and walked east out of the clearing, hearing the Darkspear troll’s wails and begs in the distance when he had realised what was going to happen. Cajuun coughed and saw blood stains on the hand he had held to his mouth and as he did he felt a light stinging in the back of his lungs and for a brief second wondered whether this was conscience or a new level of pain the malaria had evolved into…
Dew rose from the jungle floor in the early hours before the first rays of the sun came and in the moonlight it looked like a foggy holed blanket covering the ground, covering snakes and spiders that preyed on insects and what small rodents that was foraging in the late night.
In the night Cajuun awoke having hung his hammock close to the Mosh Ogre compound as he figured the foul smell and hostility of the dim-witted giants would, by their presence, have sacred off dangerous predators. But it was neither ogre nor predator that woke the sleeping medicine man. It was a strange yet pleasant sound like that slow echo of a bell that had been rung hanging in the air long and constant. The troll wiped his forehead, sweat from the illness cooled into an icy headband.
There was an eerie feel to the jungle at this hour, the vapours from the ground made the scenery look like something from a dream. He got up and looked around trying to locate the source of the wonderful sound that seemed like a luring call. Looking behind a tree he caught sight of something white, but flowing light that passed in the distance behind a small hill. Carefully he approached and when he rounded the corner he saw a figure that looked as if she hovered over the ground, she moved with such lightness. Her white gown seemed to absorb and radiate the moonlight that shone on her and it was as if a beam was fixed on her. Around the figure flew tiny wisp as if drawn to the moonlight reflected in her white dress. She stopped and stood, or hovered Cajuun couldn’t tell, not more that 5 yards from the troll which with his crude features, tense muscles and tusks contrasted the graceful and delicate glowing relief of the Kaldorei. “Priestess Lyanthe” he gasped as she looked up and pierced his thoughts and mind with her glowing eyes. He had on two occasions seen her and knew who she was, a saint of the Hope of Azeroth a gathering of good hearted people of the alliance not unlike the Ari Scara of the horde from which Cajuun housed, with the intend on conveying peace between the sentient races of Azeroth. Her lips never moved and she didn’t talk, at least not the in the conventional way, instead words echoed in Cajuuns mind, words that were projections of her thoughts. <Ishnu'alah dorini, Elune adore - Greetings shaman man, moon watches over you> She lowered her head in the slightest of nods opened her arms and a curtsied here wide sleeves looking like angels wings. Cajuun immediately kneeled in awe before the saint and looked to the ground almost as if in shame. <Elune knows why you have come and what you seek > Her words sounded like the echo preceded the words themselves. <But thread your walk with thought and care or the search it self become obsession shaman man> “But I love here priestess…” Cajuun looked up “…and I will stop for nothing before I find her, no man or beast, no ghost or dream not even if the titans returned would I let them halt me…I must find her…she is everything to me” Cajuun spoke with an upright sincerity and the priestess smiled and narrowed her eyes. <In the Gurubashi capitol you heart will face the true trial of that and I will know if you truly do what you say> Her words seemed hallowed in enigma yet clearer than the singing of a brook in spring in his mind. <Rest now troll you will need all your strength when you enter the Zul Gurub> And with that Cajuun passed out under her spell. Next morning he awoke lying in his hammock feel more clearheaded than the mornings before but unsure of whether it had all been a dream.
Jungle vines grew in a tangy web, partially covering the ruin pillars and stone blocks that made the entrance of the ancient Gurubashi Capitol.
The heat was intense and sun was baking down warmer than any of the prior days as if to, by mere force, prevent the shaman from proceeding, a natures way of warning Cajuun that he was walking into a place no mortals should ever go. He stopped short outside when he by chance saw a relatively newly made anthill in a strange looking dirt pile. He sat and wiped the sweat from his forehead, whether it was the heat or the malaria fever causing his dizzynes was hard for him to tell, but he sat and observed the insect colony. Judging from the appearance of the dirt mound the troll figured the ants had invaded a termite fortress and driven out its former inhabitants. It was quite a busy little menagerie; countless ants ran in and out of the hundreds of holes and tunnels in the mound, some carrying small pebbles from an internal excavation, Cajuun figured, others were brining in large leaf cuts, carrying them on their back so they looked like small ships with green sails. If Cajuun could see inside the mound he would discover that the leaves would be brought to the bottom of the colony and placed in a big pile and have moist applied. They would then rot and fungi would grow on the pile, fungi that were the ant’s main diet source. Few knew that ants did in fact invent farming among other things. A little away from the mound a large battalion of soldier ants had circled a big snout beetle whose only sin was that it had trespassed the imperial ant territory and despite its hard shell the sheer number of soldiers made short work of it. They worked tirelessly and in unspoken coordination in exploring and expanding their territory and harvest the surrounding resources and turning them into edible goods. For some reason Cajuun paralleled the Orgrimmar Auction House on a busy day with countless hordes running in and out, dropping off some things and picking up others. The soldiers, the gatherers, the farmers – “We are nothing more than ants” he reflected and spoke aloud without realising it. Yet he missed home, even though it was enduring and bordering madness at times, he missed the busy rush hour at high noon in the valley of strength when market was at its busiest, new medals were being handed out and the general feel of being home and among friends. “I have been away along time now haven’t I?” Cajuun asked an ant that stop briefly at his foot, it looked up and then went around it heading for the carcass of the snout beetle.
In late afternoon approaching evening the shaman man moved with dragging steps through the undergrowth, malaria and the burning sun had him almost to his knees yet something deep within him drove him to push one where others would have given up and lay down and die.
Through fever and mad obsession glooming from his eyes shone also an upright dedication and a hope inextinguishable and it gave him strength. He knew he was going to find his beloved Róta. Approaching the ramp that led up to the pyramid city Cajuun observed two trolls guarding the entrance. Sun hanging low making the palms tropic vegetation cast long shadows on the ancient structures making silhouettes of bats, tigers and snakes – an uncanny foreboding of what horrors it housed. The guards seemed not unlike the shaman sneaking up on them, pale eyes and a vague expression on their faces, whether they too had been victim of mosquito bites or if some other sinister thing was in play was hard for Cajuun to tell, but if he knew not better he would say they looked like zombies, victim of powerful and ill willed voodoo beyond anything the shaman knew from his own experiences in such. He sat for a moment behind a large wide leafed plant contemplating the manner of his attack when he realised that they probably weren’t awake in the same sense normal people were, this because a tiger strafed right by one the guards and rubbed its chin hard towards a tribal shield she was holding – an event that would have caused sane or awake people to run for their lives. But the troll guard seem oblivious to it happening and just stood staring into nothingness with a ‘there is light on the balcony but nobody is home’ appearance. In a moment of either perfect clear sight or completely ludicrous Cajuun stepped up and walk straight between them, luckily completely unnoticed by the Zombie guards that probably was just there for show. He staggered up the ramp and made it to the crude bamboo grating that seem out of place in the once proud stone structure that now was overgrown with vines and a lively home for spiders and bugs that nested in the socket relief of the stone faces carved into them. They swung up with eas and Cajuun found him self standing on a small plateau overlooking a lake that signalled stagnant death with Crocolisk and deadly piranha waiting just below surface to make bones out of anything that dipped a toe. Even though the sight of the temple city was horrific in many ways it was also astounding to see these ancient structures that had stood for more than 15000 years and although time had chewed chunks of rock here and there, few other buildings in the whole of Azeroth stood as long as ancient troll ruins. Those that inhabited the place now did little to credit their proud ancestors, primitives and savages all bound together in a mad worship of a deity whose name only few dared speak. Their finest architecting was crude huts and hanging bridges that seemed to have been placed at random in and between the ancient pyramids. ‘What on Azeroth would Róta ever want in a spirit forsaken place like this’ he thought as he carefully approached. The villagers were not right in the head, they walked without purpose among each other and them selves, sometimes huddled up in groups of two or three – just standing, staring emptily into the air like the guards at the front. Cajuun saw a troll woman carrying a child on her back strapped in a leather harness, which was a common thing, but what made Cajuun gag and nearly vomit was the fact that the child was dead and, judging from the maggots crawling through the empty eye sockets, had been so for quite some time. Yet the woman walked unaffected towards a small shrine where she placed a live tiger kitten and gutted it slowly so that its blood flooded into a deepening in the altar, all while the cat screamed in agony in a strange surreal choir with the woman’s chant. Cajuun could not believe his own eyes and the sound of the screams and chant, the feverish malaria and the intense heat of the sun all made the world spin in slow motion and he fell. Last thing he remember was a pair of milky white eyes with no pupils staring into his from a strange pale troll standing bend over him as he lay on the ground, it mumbled in a strange ancient trollish tongue and then all turned black.
Strange dreams and visions of being spun round and round while being covered in bandages of a sticky consistence – the smell of rotting meat and plants that had stood too long in shade growing mold reached his nostrils and he awoke screaming but couldn’t move, he was trapped in a sticky cocoon of spiders web only having his head free of it. He hung in head down and feet up on the wall in a shady part of the city covered in shadow and a strange white landscape of webs making hills over cocoons – looking directly into the eyes of a victim just like him having been placed on the opposite wall of the corridor. Her face was grey brown and though still alive, then just barely. Dark spots of rot on her head which hang bend forwards, she not having strength left to keep it upright. By the sound of Cajuuns exclamation her pupils moved slow, centring on him and she opened her mouth revealing a yellow white foam that dripped down in gooey splashes , most likely secreted from her stomach. She made hard effort to talk but the only words that escaped her mouth was “….khiiiiilll…..mheee…..pleh..eehs ...” As she did she stared spasm and with a deep sploshing sound her stomach exploded in a hole in her cocoon and out crawled hundreds of tiny back spiders with red eyes that started eating their still live host while she stuttered moans in agonising pain. Cajuun gagged again feeling his own stomach turn and slowly paranoia overtook his mind, was he like the poor soul slowly being devoured by her unwanted spider spawn? Had a batch of there red eyed horrors been injected in him while he was unconscious? His brain short circuited and he passed out again from the stress and fear of him being a potential host body.
When his eyes again opened he had been turned head up and a troll woman sat before him with a dark back stroked Mohawk and dark azure skin. She spoke with a strange set of clicks and twerps in between here words, occasionally revealing a pair hairy of intra mouth mandibles that probably caused her speech defect. “I am Mar’Lii …<click> Highpriest of Hakkar, <click>prisoner…<click, click> who do...<click> you think you are” On the edge of madness and paranoia and semi conscious Cajuun clinched desperately to the last bit of order in mind that was left in him, his brain responded to the words 'military' and 'prisoner'. His army training had prepared him as how to react to torture and although he was not in any direct physical pain he started repeating the one phrase that was the only thing a soldier had to inform captors of. “Cajuungumbo, 14-02-05, sergeant of the Horde” while saliva dripped from his mouth and his head dangled with random madness at his expressing. “I know <click,click> who you are but…<click>…that is not what I asked you <click>…I asked you who you think you are <click>…” the woman replied. “Cajuungumbo, 14-02-05, sergeant of the Horde” the shaman burst through his lips. “ahh I know of the rising conflict <click> between the Human Alliance <click> and Orcish Horde <click,click> but you are far away <click> from that now. “Cajuungumbo, 14-02-05, sergeant of the Horde” he said defiantly “some day someone like me is going to kill you, you vile fiend!”. None of those petty things <click,click> matter out here in the jungle <click> none of your friends know you are here <click...click> do they now?” The slow taunt in her voice had truth to it, none save the Darkspear badmouth he had left for dead in his cage, were aware of his whereabouts, none could or would come and rescue him, he was left to the fate of his captors. “Cajuungumbo, 14-02-05, sergeant of the Horde” his voice now reduced to sobs as he realised the horrible truth. “I've seen horrors <click...click> horrors that you've seen <click> But you have no right to call me a vile. You have a right to kill me <click...click> you have a right to do that <click> sadly for you it is not within your power now <click...click> but you have no right to judge me <click> It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary <click> to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face <click…click> and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends <click> If they are not then <click…click> they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies <click> I remember when I was before Hakkar <click> Seems a thousand centuries ago <click> We went into a Zul Gurub to fight the Bloodlord <click> and free the Gurubashi, as sent by Zandalar to do <click> and we fought and triumphed <click…click…click> or so we thought <click> we had left the corpse of the slain god behind <click> and this old man came running after us and he was crying <click…click> He couldn't see <click> We went back there and Hakkar had risen and taken the eyes of every man woman and child <click> none should have seen what had happened <click> There they were in a pile <click>. A huge pile of eyes <click> And I remember... I... I... I cried. I wept like some grandmother <click…click> I wanted to tear my teeth out <click> I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it <click> I never want to forget. And then I realized... like I was shot... like I was shot with a diamond <click> a diamond tipped arrow right through my forehead <click> And I thought: My ancestral spirits... the genius of that <click> The genius. The power to do that. <click> Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized he was stronger than we. Because his power could not be denied <click> we had lost so many strong and brave in that fight <click…click> and he had within minutes undone it all. <click> He had the strength... the strength... and power to do that. You have to have moral... and at the same time be able to utilize your primordial instincts to kill without feeling <click> without passion <click> without judgment <click> without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us. <click> You seeing us as we are now was what defeated you <click> no mighty warrior in heavy armour with strong weapons <click…click> no magical spell or curse <click> only you judging in your own simple and conform mind <click> judging things that you do not understand” Madness peaked and Cajuun was reduced to a weeping child, nothing made sense anymore and he tried to hold grip of the last thing he remembered to be true. “Cajuungumbo…14-02-05….Sergeant of the Horde” he barely had brainpower to talk as his mind was melting at the words of the spider priestess of Hakkar. “So I ask you again Cajuungumbo shaman man <click…click> who is it that you think you are?” her voice was calm and despite the constant clicking and snapping of the mandibles in mouth she spoke with a voice that was as soothing as it was mind numbing in statements. “Do you think <click> that you are here to save Róta <click…click…click> do you? Do you think she wants to be saved? <click> Who is it she is running from? <click…click> Have you even for one brief moment considered that it is not <click> The Ari Scara, the Horde or the things she did in Moonglade that has made her leave? <click…click> But that it might in fact be you? Do you even think she is here?<click>” “Nooo….impossible!” Cajuun cried in despair. “Search your heart shaman man <click> your love for her <click…click> pure as it may be <click> it is her curse <click> who can withstand such power <click…click> It is overwhelming…you know it to be true” “Stop…PLEASE STOP…I BEG OF YOU” he spat saliva as he shouted and salty tears and ran down his cheeks and mixed with the foam of madness from his mouth. “It is not so…” he whimpered. “Do you want me to show you <click> where she is?” the spider troll asked and drew in the air with her finger a circle tracing a magical light and in the circle Cajuun saw like through a portal, images of Róta in Jintha Alor with a strong and powerful troll warrior, they talked and she laughed and smiled. “Nooo...noo...nooooo...” the shaman wept “it is not true…it cannot be true” But then he remembered Saint Lyanthe’s words:
<In the Gurubashi capitol you heart will face the true trial of that and I will know if you truly do what you say>
He sniffled and ate his tears and looked directly in the eyes of the spider troll woman and spoke with a stern voice “It is a cheap trick witch, I will not sway my love for her, and you have no power over me!” “But it is no trick medicine man <click> I will send you to Priestess Hexx in Jintha’Alor who share my faith <click…click> and by her side you will see the truth <click> and you will become a true believer <click> and you will join with us and serve the Bloodlord in his might.” For the first time the spider troll priestess showed emotion and cackled manically “And when your friends and allies set foot here <click> searching for treasure that don’t exist <click> you will betray them <click…click> you will use your medicine to bring them down <click> and they will feed the Soulflayer” Cajuun passed out from mental exhaustion and the fact that he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in a day or two, he had just been hanging in the damp stark shade of the spider priestess domain…
The End of the River
The moon stood high in the Stranglethorn night and a single white dove circled high above the Gurubashi capitol staring down in pity at a troll that was being tied up.
The shaman awoke. His was free of the cocoon but arms and leg were bound together respectively by his hands and feet, wrapped around a long pole being carried by two large troll grotesques. They bore him down the Zul Gurub ramp, flanked by a small congregation of the Hakkar worshipping mad-trolls and through the jungle. Each of their footsteps trampled hard down scaring any creature that might have fared the night, even a group of two-headed ogres that normally was too big and too stupid to be afraid of anything retreated into a small cave when the grotesques and their follow passed by.
The dove landed on a branch hanging over the river bopped its head up and down as it witnessed.
Cajuun was barely conscious and he had a hard time making out his surroundings but he did recognise a small troll hut where he knew a tribal leather worker lived. The leatherworker stood there and greeted the arrivals and looked down upon the shaman hanging on the pole between the two monstrous trolls. “Be it ready mon?” one of the trolls, which mistakenly looked like Cajuun in his better days only with a green haired pony tail, asked the leatherworker. Cajuuns own pony tail, his great pride, was no longer in state worth describing as such, it hung in red beads over his pale face like a flesh claw of some vile creature holding his head from above. “Ya mon, it be done!” the leatherworker replied and removed a bunch palm leaves that had covered a coffin in a canoe. “Guud, put ‘im down dere” the troll ordered the grotesques which obediently lowered the troll into the coffin and cut loose the ropes. Cajuun tried to object but no intelligible sounds came from his mouth. The troll then started hammering boards the open coffin from feet and upwards until only Cajuuns head was visible. “Now den mista shaman mon, dis be where I send you on ya destination journey. But it would be rude if ah not intraduce maself hehe” he spoke slowly with a deep bass voice. “Ah am Venoxis and ah assure yo dat yo will not be travalling alone, dis ere is a crimson mambo” he said and flicked his hand and out of seemingly thin air a blood red serpent manifested on his arm. He lowered it and let the serpent snake down it into the coffin opening “’is bite no be lethal but de toxin makes most painful dreams and ‘e will make sure yo have a pleasant trip up de rivah” and with that he hammered the last board of de coffin lid over Cajuuns face that could do nothing but hope the serpents wouldn’t bite. The trolls tied rope around the coffin so that it could not be moved from the canoe. “Now push it into da rivah!” The two grotesques pushed the canoe into the stream and one of them grabbed a thick vine rope over his shoulder that was tied to the front end of the boat. “Goh now Bangreole an dun stoppa ontil ya reach Jintha Alor!” Just as the grotesque pulled hard in the rope and set the canoe in motion Cajuun felt the sting of sharp fangs in his side and poison being injected. As the humongous troll waded north through the river what little awareness Cajuun had left was washed drowned with pain and hallucinations.
The white bird took off from a branch above the scene and flew over the shaman in his wooden prison as the boat was dragged – it remained always close to canoe throughout its journey north.
Through cracks between the wooden boards lights sometimes shone but that was the limit of what could be seen from within so sound and smell presented the shaman his only means of orientation. At one time he had the impression that the troll was climbing upwards having him dangling in his canoe coffin like a pendulum, later sounds of music that could have been that of the Darkmoon Faire. He was positive he for a longer period was being dragged through the waters of an underground river judging fomr echo of dripping water and later hearing the falls as from what might be the spillways of a massive dam. The damp humidity of a swamp was also felt in coffin. Even though he was bitten by the serpent several times and falling in and out of strange dreams and painful visions of the Priestess Hexx in Jintha Alor, he tried to memorise all the impression he had when awake should he live to tell the tale. He hung on to the fragile strain of his sanity by praying the spirits that no matter what happened to him they should keep Róta safe and unharmed. At one time the sound of seagulls made his ears through the wooden planks of his canoe capsule.
‘Jintha Alor is close, real close. I can’t see it, but I can feel it, I feel closer to Róta and the Priestess Hexx now, as if the boat was being sucked upriver and the water was flowing back into the jungle. Whatever was going to happen, it wasn't going to be the way they call it back home but I will kill Hexx if it is the last thing I do’ – a strange string of thoughts that manifested in his mind as product of dream and toxin.
The scratching sound of heavy wood being dragged over beach sand woke him one morning and he could feel the canoe being lifted and carried upon the shoulder of the troll grotesque.
When the boards where pried open he was blinded by the sharp sunlight and screamed like a mad man as Vile Branch trolls lifted him out. They had to support him for his muscles were so weak that he could not stand. They put him down a crude chair with wheels and strapped chains on his arms and leg, not that he could have escaped even if he wanted. When he regained sight Cajuun noticed through the fog of his poisoned mind that he was atop the Jintha Alor overlooking the Hinterlands as his Vilebranch guard wheeled him into a cave that mouthed in a plateau overlooking another troll pyramid – the Alter of Zul. A troll woman, one Cajuun assumed was the Priestess Hexx, stood with her back at him. “Guard, leave us” she voiced in a tone that would freeze a Dun Morogh dwarf to the bone.
“I have been told why you are here, that you lack faith and will not submit to the will of the Soulflayer, because of a fragile hope that has carried your sorry corpse through the jungle – the hope that you will again be united with Róta. Admirable is your dedication shaman man I will give you that but highly amusing, futile as it is.” She spoke perfectly troll speech. “And believe you me when I tell you I will take no pleasure in what I am about to do, you see I admire you, we are kin you and I, the Vilebranch are like you a sad and relic remnants of the Amani, the Amani that served the orcs in the second war but were left behind when Thrall set sails for Kalimdor” the troll woman had her back at him in his chair during the whole of his speech.
“In times like these, shaman man, there is neither good nor evil left with significance, only power and those who wield it. My tribe and I lined up behind the wrong leaders before but we will never do so again – we serve Hakkar and will bathe in his might and through his dominance trolls will rise to one nation again and lay waste and take our revenge on all the races and beings that has persecuted us throughout the millennia…it is inevitable. You know of what I speak do you not? The Kaldorei that broke the empires after we had fought the Azi Aqir, the Highelves that invaded our sanctity in Zul Aman, the Arathi Humans and their Dwarven allies that burned our forests and homes and drew us to near genocide. And to this day our once proud homes, our holy graves and tombs are where the greedy power hungry come looking for treasures and artefacts or times old. I sense you fear, as I, that our kind will be forgotten, that our proud race that fostered the civilization will be nothing but a myth. Even now everyone associate trolls with savages and beasts that lurk the dark corners of the world, and for most truth we are nothing but”
She sighed deeply and stepped back a pace still not offering the vegetable chained to the chair a look. Without seeing she placed her hand on his head so his tangy hair were between her fingers and fisted.
“You will join with us Cajuungumbo…join with us when you realise that there is no good or innocence left in this world…not one grain of the ideal that you so desperately cling to. And to prove that fact to you I will give you sight of what you have come to find – I will show you Róta. And you will see what I speak of – kindness, good will and faith in what is right will forever be extinct in you…and you will join with Hakkar and I…and we will bring back might of the Amani.”
She pulled his head back hard forcing him to open his eyes and mouth and he saw the pyramid where the Witherbark trolls lived and he saw Róta sitting there with them chatting with a fierce Witherbark warrior that made his best to display his strength and flexed his muscles to impress her while she giggled. Cajuun tried to speak but could not produce any sound but a gurgling; the only response was tears rollind from his bloodshed eyes, tears of sad realisation.
“Yes shaman man it is the truth, no fairies or magic is pulled over your eyes only the naked…brutal…truth. This is the end of the river” The priestess Hexx sounded almost sad when uttered the words.
The white dove that had followed him all the way from Stranglethorn had been sitting over the cave entrance but as the tears of defeat flowed it took off and left the shaman man and flew away never to return.
“Two nights from now when the moon is right shaman man you will die on the Altar and be reborn in his blood and you will join with Hakkar and be his most devout servant. You will learn the words…they will give meaning to you…you will assimilate the one truth!”
She let go and his head fell dangling forward. She clapped twice and a Vilebranch troll came and wheeled him away.
When he came a bit to himself he lay naked on the alter atop the pyramid. All hope and will to live had deserted him, he just lied there staring emptily into the air starting to realise what the truth was – the overwhelming truth that made zombies out of men in Zul Gurub. Nothingness.
On the river, he thought that the minute he looked at fair Róta, he would know what to do, but it didn't happen. He was in there within her reach for days, not even under guard the Jintha Alor seemed abandoned, he was free, but the Priestess Hexx knew he could not go anywhere. Hexx knew more about what he was going to do than he himself did. If his friends back home could see what he saw, would they have done otherwise? More than ever he wanted to die. And what would his friends back home want if they ever learned just how far from them he'd really gone? He broke from them, and then he broke from himself. He had never felt so broken up and ripped apart. Despair.
On the second night moon was full and the Priestess came to the alter dressed in a ceremonial dark purple robe but being naked underneath. She said nothing to him but just looked with pity as she lid candles and braziers around him. No one was present but her and as she lit the last of the braziers lightning cracked the night sky followed by a rolling thunder. Priestess Hexx started to chanted as she delved around the shaman man lying naked on the alter, and Cajuun could do nothing but stare at her and await his ending. Every now and then she would cut his with a curved dagger and smear his blood on her lips and breast and as she did Cajuun thought ‘this is the end…the last friend of the shaman man’
She mounted him and raised both hands over her head wielding the curved dagger. For what seemed an eternity in slow motion she swayed dagger and cut down through the air above his naked chest. But then it started to rain, first a single drop then two and soon a full shower washing over them on the alter and in a moment of blessed rage Cajuuns arms reached forward guided by mad clarity and found her neck in a tight grip. The movement came so sudden that the priestess fell, landing on her back on the stone alter, her legs wrapped around him as he tightened his hands on her throat squeezing rhythmically with all of his strength while lightning thundered competing volume with the choking screams of the priestess and the roars of rage and retribution of the shaman on top of her. The dagger fell from her hand in utter slow motion and landed knifepoint in a skull as her last whisper sounded “you…set…me…free…”
Cajuun got up and swayed a bit in the night air and then collapsed lying with his back to the dead Hexx blood from his wounds being washed away in the rain.
Moments before he passed out he saw the silhouette of several trolls in the shadow approaching the alter one figure he recognised…it was Róta standing before him…a smile on his lips then darkness…
A week earlier in Orgrimmar
She slipped unnoticed into her tower. All around her Orgrimmar uncharacteristically slept, so it seemed to her that she was quite alone. She moved silently about the little room, touching first one precious item, then the next. Delicate insect wings, shiny stones and her Nar pillow. None of these would fit in her bags and so would have to stay behind. The heavy weight pressing onto her heart increased at the thought of going away. But she had no choice. The still drying elf blood on her hands and face proved that point. She was alone again.
She placed her silent hearthstone on top of the feathery pillow and stood up. Her pack was gone from her now. She would wander as she had before she joined them, only this time with the knowledge that she had failed. Deep inside she knew if she said sorry, acknowledged that she had made a mistake and had been wrong, that they would accept her back without question. But deep in that very same place she knew she was not sorry. She had enjoyed the killing and destruction. Her thoughts went to her mother, and for the first time she understood what she had meant when she had told Róta that sometimes she needed to kill. To satisfy an urge that itched and scratched inside her. At least her mother would be proud of her actions. She growled defiantly. Her wolf tabard lay across her bed. She picked it up and held it lovingly to her face. This she would not leave behind, this would travel with her and if they wanted it back they would have to come and take it from her.
The zeppelin stopped with a jolt and woke Róta from her sleep. She peered into the gloom of the ship’s hold and for one moment considered staying exactly where she was until someone noticed and told her to leave. But a forsaken in an advanced state of decay was transporting what seemed to be his years supply of fish and Róta wasn’t convinced they were all dead yet. With a heavy heart she heaved herself to her feet and braved the glare of the Stranglethorn Vale morning sun.
The goblin, Nez’raz barely glanced at her as she passed him. He was doing something technical with his lantern and merely grunted, but Róta was wise to the ways of goblins and covered her face until she was out of the zepplelin tower. It seemed unlikely that anyone would follow her path and ask questions but force of habit inclined her to secrecy.
The camp was a bustle of early morning activity. Guards who had been on nightwatch stamped their feet to get the circulation back and gave their reports to the daywatch orcs. Stallholders set out their wares and shouted greetings across the compound to each other. Róta saw it all through a veil of weariness that caused her to sway slightly on her feet. Tiredness swamped her and she began to make her way to the tower she used for sleeping when she visited this place.
Halfway there a delicious smell of meat and spices caught her attention and she realised she was hungry. She raised her head and sniffed the air. It came from a corner of the camp where an old orc stood under a tent stirring a cooking pot and muttering to himself. Without thinking Róta stumbled over to him and stood silently. The beautiful smells made her mouth water but reminded her painfully of Cajuun and his magical cooking skills. Tears came to her eyes but a fierce pride stopped them falling. She had failed him and he was gone from her life now. She no longer deserved his love.
‘'Food?’’ she mumbled. The orc took no notice and continued his stirring. ‘’Sir?’’ She stepped forward and touched him lightly on his shoulder. The orc turned with a cry and brandished a ladle in her face.
‘’What? What? Can’t ya see I’m busy? Is it not as plain as the wart on my nose that I am busy. I am creating a masterpiece here. Go away and leave me alone.’’
‘’But,’’ Rota’s hunger made her more bold than usual. ‘’I want food.’’
The orc paused and set down the ladle before turning to her to rant. ‘’Do I look like a food vendor? Do I? I don’t sell food missy. I create. I am Mudduk. I have cooked for everyone who is anyone in Azeroth. I create. I teach. If it’s something to fill your stomach you want go see Nargatt over there.’’ He waved his hand in the direction of a grubby looking stall. ‘’He has what he likes to call food. It will be what you are looking for, something hot and filling. My creations are not in the same league as his and he hasn’t forgiven me for calling his wares boarswill. But it will suit you fine.’’
He looked up at Róta intending to wave her away from him, but stopped when he noticed the gray pallor of her skin and the purple shadows under each eye. He recognised the spectre of fatigue that surrounded her. Saw the dried blood on her face and hands and the hopelessness in her eyes. He sighed and spooned some spiced meat into a warm, freshly baked piece of bread. ‘’Here. I can spare some I suppose. But don’t be telling anyone. I have my reputation to think of.’’
Róta took the food and looked in her bag for money.
‘’No, Missy. I don’t want paying. You just eat up and then rest. You look ready to drop where you stand.’’ He smiled and patted her on the arm. The tears she had held back since the day before trickled down her face at this act of kindness. She smiled and stumbled away.
Too weary to climb the ramp to her tower, Róta decided to sit at its base, eat her food and then try to walk. Oblivious to anyone near her she crouched and ate. The food was wonderful but again her heart ached with the memory of the wonderful food Cajuun had cooked for her. In a moment of weakness she watched the zeppelin land and thought how good it would feel to ride back to Orgrimmar and slip quietly into bed with him, to feel his warmth and strength and to be loved. But all that was gone from her now. She had chosen to kill. Not in defence as he had taught her. Not in response to a violent act against their lands. But for pleasure. She had gone against the one thing he believed in and had failed him.
She sighed deeply and stood up. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a movement, a sneaky, slow, sly figure. Her hand went to the hilt of her blade and she sniffed the air. A stench of filth and sweat came from the direction of the figure. It was a troll. He was young but unlike any troll she had ever seen before. His blue hair grew wild and unkempt and his clothes hung in rags about him. Rota stepped back slightly as he approached, nodding his head to a rhythm only he could hear.
‘’ Hiya dere, Witherbark. What ya doin’ here, so far from ‘ome?’’ He stopped in front of her and smiled. His teeth were furred with grim and his breath on her face was foul. ‘’Ya lost?’’
Róta said nothing. She starred as he fingered a grubby tusk and chuckled. ‘’Ya a quiet one. Not dat ah be complainin’. Ah likes dem quiet. An’ prettah. Ya wantin’ company, girlie? Ah lives just over dere. Ah knows ‘ow ta make a girlie smile. If ya knows what ah means.’’ He leered at her and traced a dirty finger across her cheek.
The rage within her, built up with the recent events, broke the surface of her exhaustion. She snarled and leapt. Her knees connected with his chest and knocked him to the ground. She stayed on top of him, both daggers pressed into the flesh of his neck. ‘’Dun ya touch me! Ya hear? Dun ya touch me! Not evah.’’
The troll lay still but looked unconcerned. ‘’Dat a nastah temper ya got dere, Witherbark. Ya want ta be careful out here in da world. Might be fine where ya comes from but ya get inta trouble doin’ dat sort o’ thing here. What ya needs is a strong troll…like ma gud self…ta take care of ya.’’
Róta slowly pressed a blade into his neck and watched as the blood began to flow onto the dusty ground. The troll paled and looked less confident. ‘’Right-o. Right-o. Ya made ya point, Witherbark. Ya not in da mood at da moment.’’
Róta stood up quickly and spat at him. ‘’Leave me alone. Ah not know who ya are but ah knows if ya annoy me ah’ll slit ya throat.’’ She watched as he crawled to his feet and made a huge show of brushing dirt from his already filthy clothes. She moved slightly in his direction and he jumped. She smiled to herself and turned away from him. All she wanted was sleep.
The ramp to the tower seemed twice as long as ever before, but at last she was alone in the room at the top. Without undressing she lay down and pulled her cloak about her. Bunny wriggled free from her bag and she pressed her face into the soft, warm fur. Sleep flooded in to claim her but as she surrendered to it her thoughts went again to Cajuun. She wondered if he had noticed yet that she had gone. And whether he was glad he would not have the worry of feeling ashamed of her and her actions.
How contented she felt, lying half asleep with his strong arms wrapped around her. She cuddled in closer and sighed happily. This place between waking and sleeping was her favourite. Nothing bad could ever happen here; warm and comfortable from sleep yet safe and loved in Cajuun’s embrace. If it wasn’t for the strange smell it would be perfect. Róta stirred slightly and sniffed. There was definitely a nasty smell, and nearby too. She turned her head slightly and sniffed harder. It was stronger now, a thick animal-like stench that made her wrinkle her nose in disgust. She knelt up and lost all her happiness. On the cold hard floor of a hut in Grom Gol camp she was alone. No Cajuun, no wolves, no warmth or love. Just herself. The bad smell was her. A tear trickled down her face and she sniffed. She wanted to lie down and not get up again. She leaned forward and pressed her forehead to the floor. Being alone was awful. For so long she had relied on the love and companionship of her fellow wolves. The thought of managing without them terrified her. How large the world was, how hostile. She was not strong enough to be alone. A plaintive wail escaped her and more tears came.
‘Well now. Dis be a sight fo’ da record books. Ah not ever seen a Witherbark cryin’ afore. Ya be spoilin’ dem good looks dat nearly got ya a slice o’ good lovin’ last night.’ Róta leapt up and glared at the nasty troll. He stood in the doorway grinning at her. He looked dirtier in daylight and she was grateful that his smell was even worse than hers. His lank blue hair fell across his face and he pushed it away with one filthy finger. ‘Ya got a name, Witherbark?’ He winked at her and she felt sick. ‘No name I’d ever tell you. And stop calling me Witherbark‘ ‘Ya runnin’ away, Witherbark? Ah understands. But ya not last long so far from da Hinterlands. Why not let dis troll take care of ya fo’ a little while.’ He licked his lips and shuffled further into the hut. ‘Where ya gone?’
Róta vanished in disgust and moved slowly round the startled troll. She watched as his eyes darted from side to side trying to catch a glimpse of her and she placed the cold tip of her dagger against his throat. He froze and she smiled. ‘Stop calling me Witherbark.’ He nodded, ‘Anything ya says. Ah be sensible. Ah knows ya ways. Jus’ try not ta be killin’ me.’ ‘My ways? What do you mean?’ Rota pushed the tip of her blade further into his flesh and was pleased to see a trickle of blood. ‘Ohhhh. Careful there,’ he squirmed away a little and swallowed. ‘Ya ways. Witherbark ways. Ah know somethin’ about dem. Ah knew soon as ah sees ya dat ya be one, though not many comes dis far south. But ah not say nothin’ ta no one. Promise.’ He smiled and revealed his rotten teeth. Róta felt sick and wanted to get as far away from him as she could. ‘I am leaving this hut and I want you to count to one hundred. You can do that can’t you?’ She added hopefully, not quite sure how many one hundred was but knowing it took a long time to count to. ‘I want you to stay here and count. If you stop I will know and I will come back and slit your throat.’ He nodded and began at number one.
Róta collected her bag and bunny then slipped from the hut. She wanted to get as far away from him as possible. She stood for a moment and looked down at Grom Gol. There was nothing to keep her here. But her memory was jogged by his mention of the Hinterlands. Something in her mind, just out of reach. She wiped the tears away from her face and smiled.
It took Róta ten minutes to remember how much she disliked Revantusk Village. Too much drum-banging and dancing. Too much smiling and far too many parties. She kept her head down until she got to the inn. She paid the disconcertingly large innkeeper for a bed for the night then left the camp. There was no point in staying as she had no intention of joining any of the inevitable parties that would start up in the next few minutes. Once outside Revantusk she turned left and climbed the cliffs to their furthest point. The Hinterlands spread out before her, green and lush. The air was warm and heavy with the smell of spices and voodoo. She felt a shudder of excitement pass through her body. Ahead of her, between the trees, she saw the sparkle of flowing, fresh water. Careless of whatever dangers may be lurking she leapt forward and ran. It felt good to be outside again, away from Grom Gol and its dirt. Sharp air filled her lungs as she made her way to the lake that appeared before her. She stopped and gasped in amazement. It was the most wonderful lake she had ever seen. It was filled from a waterfall that flowed from mountains to the west and she could smell its vitality and life. Just being this near caused her skin to tingle so without thinking she cast off her armour and plunged head first into it’s welcoming depths. At once she felt more alive. As she swam she began to laugh, quietly at first then louder and louder until the whole lake echoed with her joy. She never wanted to leave this water and even when she tired of swimming she sat beneath the waterfall and felt its power seep into her. At last she stood on dry land and shook herself like a wild animal. Her whole body pulsated with energy and she knelt to stroke the soft grass, examining each emerald blade in wonder. She felt power in her fingers and saw more clearly than she ever had before. Wonderful smells wafted from all directions and she raised her face to sniff each one. Spying her bags where she had flung them she took her daggers and cleaned each one in the wondrous water until the blades shone like never before. There was no need for armour in a place such as this. She was stronger than anything that lived in the place. She was invincible. So she dressed in a plain robe and, taking only her daggers and a few other essential items, hid everything else in a cleft in the rock. She gazed once more at the lake and promised herself she would return as soon as she had explored. And as soon as she had eaten. Fierce hunger gripped her stomach as she turned and walked away. She spied wolves through the trees but had no desire for wolf meat. Nor did she think the strange owl beasts would satisfy her. She paused and sniffed the air. Something tempted her, something to the west. A tempting smell, fragrant and desirable. Róta lifted her face into the wind and growled softly. She flexed her muscles and moved off at a steady pace towards the source of the smell. Towards her prey.
Still beating. Sweet, metallic taste. She likes this part best, this pulsating living flesh. To watch as the light dies in their eyes as she bites into the muscle of their heart.
Days and nights slipped by without her noticing their passing. She ate when she was hungry. Prowling for the elves that patrolled outside the Quel’Danil Lodge. Taking as much pleasure in the chase as in the moment when she cut their hearts from their chests and ate it as it still beat. Watching the light die in their strange eyes. Knowing the last thing they saw was her. She slept when she was tired, sometimes in the warm sunshine and sometimes curled up at night in a cave, wrapped in her cloak and holding bunny. She bathed frequently in the sparkling lake swimming for hours in its magical waters. It made her skin tingle and her eyes shine. She became invincible, there was nothing stronger or faster or more deadly in her world and she revelled in her power.
She explored the great ruined temples that rose from the ground in ancient splendour. The one she heard called Jintha’alor she visited only once. The trolls there disturbed her, with their dead eyes and slow movement. As she stealthed silently about their huts she felt the magic from the lake seep from her body. But another temple attracted her attention. The one called Shadra’Alor.
Three times she had slipped unnoticed passed the guards at the entrance then climbed the steep steps to sit at the highest point and watch the trolls below. The dancing here was not like that of the Revantusk. Here the drums beat loudly to a primeval rhythm that reached to the deepest parts of Rota’s mind and body. She watched as the trolls swayed and leapt in a mass of entangled bodies, a low chant of words she did not recognise filling the air with unfamiliar magic. On her last visit they had sacrificed an elf. It’s body bound and still on the huge stone altar. She had watched as the dancing reached a passioned frenzy. As the priest raised her knife and amputated sections of its body to the chanting of the crowd; fingers, feet, arms and tender flesh.
And she had seen him.
Taller and stronger than the rest he had stayed apart from the crowd. Circling the dancers, speaking to some, touching others. All eyes were on him as he approached, acknowledging his presence among them. But Róta saw their fear. And their relief as he passed on without stopping. At one point he had stood near to her, sniffing the air and searching. But she remained in stealth and was invisible to him. At this close range she could see the scars that marked his face and body. Not the random scars of battle but intricate swirling patterns. His tusks were sharpened to lethal points and gleamed white against his green skin. And on his shoulder was the intricate tattoo of a spider which seemed to move and crawl as his muscles beneath rippled.
On her third visit the crowds of trolls seemed different. More frantic in their dancing and leaping. The drums atop the steep steps were pounding a rhythm that caused her blood to pulsate louder and louder. Her hips swayed and her hands beat softly against her thighs in time to the low chanting below. An elf lay bound but conscious on the altar below; its eyes searching the area again and again, the smell of fear its fear reaching as far up as she sat. The male troll appeared at the side of the altar and for a moment Róta thought he was what the elf feared as it struggled at the sight of him. But he merely paused and nodded slightly at the priestess standing nearby.
She realised the drums had stopped and that the air was still. The trolls all stood expectantly, staring past the altar to a place at the side of one of the great set of steps. The priestess stepped forward and raised her hands high above her head and began to chant, quiet and soft at first so Róta failed to hear them, but then more loudly.
‘Shadra…. Shadra…… Shadra’
She watched the priestess and heard a sound that at first she thought was bird’s wings all beating together. A rustling, whispery sound that grew louder and louder. Then the elf began to scream but none of the trolls moved or spoke. She was staring at the struggling elf when she saw a movement out of the corner of her eye so that afterwards she could not say where the creature had appeared from. But the movement and a collective sigh form the trolls caused her to look up.
It was a spider.
It was a spider like none she had ever seen before. Her hand went instinctively to her dagger and she moved slightly backwards but remained in stealth. It towered above the temple, swaying slightly on its delicate legs, the red and gold markings on its body shining in the dusk light. Below it all the trolls were silent and still. Only the elf moved, struggling against its ropes in a futile effort to escape. Even the priestess paused in her chanting and watched carefully as it picked its way carefully nearer the altar.
‘Ya not scared dere, beautiful?’
Róta turned to the direction of the voice. It was him. She softened her breathing and said nothing. He sniffed the air and smiled. ‘Ya not smell scared but dat one big spider ain’t she? Shadra.’ He crouched down near to where she stood but looked at the sight below. ‘She goin’ ta get nice elfie for a snack today. Not ‘er favourite mind, but dem Vilebranch been keepin’ a low profile lately. So we just had ta snaffle what we can.’
Róta watched the spider as it chittered and swayed above the altar. The beautiful priestess was standing directly below its mighty head, holding a large bowl to its jaws. It dipped its head slowly and placed a fang into the bowl. The priestess reached up and stroked the great creature for only a few moments then withdrew the bowl and bowed.
‘Dat be her gift to us. We bring a snack an’ she give us ‘er poison. Watch now, beautiful. She be taking dat elfie away.’
In one swift movement the great spider bent forward and grasped the struggling elf in its jaws. The fangs sank deep into elf flesh and in moments the struggling ceased. Without pausing the spider turned and carried the limp body away out of sight.
‘So beautiful, ya just visitin’ dese parts?’ ‘Ya can’t see me ya fool troll so how ya know ah be beautiful. Ah might look light a slapped goblin.’ Róta moved behind him, but remained in stealth. ’An’ how ya know ah be here anahhow?’
He turned his head in her direction and inhaled deeply. ‘Ah smell ya of course. Dat how ah know ya here. An’ ah know ya beautiful as ya smell like a Witherbark, an’ we all beautiful. Dat be a fact.’ He chuckled softly and smiled. ‘We a beautiful race…..not like dem ugly Vilebranch or Revantusk.’
Róta laughed. And it felt good. Something deep inside her felt released so she laughed again and again, louder and louder. Tears squeezing from her eyes in glee. All her life she had thought this way. That she was beautiful and other trolls were ugly. And until coming to this temple she had never changed her mind. Looking at the trolls below she saw their beauty and knew he was right. But it felt bad to admit it. Bad, but very funny.
‘Dere. Ah knew ya were beautiful.’
Róta was visible. Laughing and staying in stealth was not something she had ever been able to manage. He could see her. But she only smiled and stared at him. His skin gleamed in the dying light of the day and she smiled. He was beautiful too.
‘Ya stayin’ long den? All da way from da big cities, come ta see us country folk?’ ‘Ah just lookin’ about, troll. Just seeing what here.’ ‘An’ ya welcome, beautiful. Stay as long as ya like. We been waitin’ long time for ya ta come home.’ Rota frowned. ‘Home? Dis not mah home.’ ‘Ah den…ya not know. In dat case ya come wid me. Dere someone ya needs ta talk to.’ And without looking to see if she was following he walked away. Róta considered staying where she was but her eyes were drawn to his muscled back and proud stature.
So she followed him.
The narrow path wound its way from the temple to the quieter surrounding hills. Daylight was fading and the sky turned purple-black. To each side of them huge spiders hissed and skittered into the shadows. Róta felt uneasy but followed the troll with one hand on her dagger. He glanced back at her now and then, smiling to reveal sharpened fangs which glowed eerily white in the gathering gloom.
Ahead of them a clearing emerged and Róta saw a tent made of animal skins and decorated with symbols and skulls. A few trolls looked up as they passed but each time hurriedly cast down their gaze and continued their work. Some ground herbs in stone containers while others were busy cutting up meat that was the shape of no animal Róta had ever seen. No one spoke.
He stopped at the entrance to the tent and turned to her. ‘’She been waitin’ fo’ ya,’’ he smiled, pulling the leather away to reveal a murky interior. ‘’Get ya self in…less ya afraid.’’
Róta scowled at him and stepped into the tent. Inside it smelled acrid with smoke and the bubbling contents of a large pot. It took some time for her eyes to accustom themselves to the dark. In the centre of the tent, seated on a patterned rug sat the oldest troll she had ever seen. It took her a moment to decide it was female but she accepted that she would be willing to change her opinion with any evidence to the contrary. The ancient troll peered up at her from the gloom and gestured for her to sit. Róta settled herself on the edge of the rug, near to the tent entrance. Even though the troll looked too weak to move she wanted to take no chances. It said nothing for a while, merely stirring the pot, adding powder from a pouch that hung from the ceiling, and stirring again. Every so often it glanced at Róta and smiled a tuskless smile. Just as she decided it must be deranged and was about to stand up and leave it spoke.
‘’So. Ya come home den?’’
Róta frowned. It was obviously mad in some way and had mistaken her for someone else. ‘’Dis not my home. Ah lives far away.’’ She gestured with her hand in what she hoped was the direction of Orgrimmar. The creature hugged itself with glee and began rocking backwards and forwards, giggling and whooping. ‘’Not her home she say! Comes from far, far aways she say!’’
Tears of mirth ran down the wrinkles in the creatures face. It took some time before it was able to speak again, and even then its voice shook with suppressed laughter. ‘’Ah been expectin’ ya, girlie. Been getting’ signs fo’ weeks now. Three birds fall from da sky and we catch an elf dat have two hearts…ah tell ya, if dat not plain enough ah not know what is.’
Róta decided she had had enough and turned to leave the tent. Mad old trolls were more than she could stand at the best of times and at the moment her patience was wearing thin. Without warning the troll leaned over the bubbling pot and grasped Róta’s wrist. She stopped and looked down. It would take no strength at all to pull the hand away from her arm but something stopped her. She stared into the eyes of the ancient creature. ‘’Alright,’’ Róta said. ’’If ya been waitin’ fo’ me all dis time, who ya think ah am?’’
‘’Ya be da flesh o’ ma flesh girlie. Ya be Witherbark…..daughter of Senin. Same Senin what ah gives birth too all those years ago. Mah only girlchild.’’
All strength left Róta and she sank to her knees. Vague stories from her childhood flashed through her mind, her father joking that her mother was stuck with him as she had no other home to go to anymore. She realised she knew nothing of her mothers past before she had children, a contrast to her fathers happy stories about life with the Revantusk. But this creature, this thing in front of her, could not be her grandmother. It seemed impossible.
‘’Ya in shock dere girlie. Ya sit down an’ take dis drink. Make ya feel calm.’’ The troll put a cup of greenish liquid in Róta’s trembling hands and smiled. ‘’Drink. Drink. Ah made it mahself so ah know it da best’’
Róta sipped the bitter liquid and felt a calming warmth spread through her body. ‘’But…’’, she muttered. ‘’Why? How? Ah not understand….dis place…she from ‘ere?’’
The troll nodded and stirred the pot. ‘’She live ‘ere till she was fifteen summers old. She be the wildest girlie ah ever knows. An’ da most fierce. Ya wants to know what ‘appened? Den ah tells ya…ah tells ya da story o’ Senin.’’
The old troll settled back with a far-away look in her eyes. As she started to talk Róta realised that this was a tale that had been told many times. The events that were being recalled were as fresh in this creatures mind as at the time they occurred, kept alive in the words. Róta felt a pang in her heart as she remembered Cajuun’s stories and how she loved to listen to him. The words of this tale crept into her mind and she felt herself drifting backwards in time.
‘’Senin was trouble from the start of her life. While I carried her inside me I was ill and bringing her forth into the world ended my baby-making days for good. She was born screaming and fighting. And different to all the other children here in the tribe. I noticed it first, the times she seemed less whole. More like a shadow. As she grew it became obvious to everyone that she could disappear. One minute standing in front of you, laughing and refusing to do as she was told and the next…gone.
We consulted priests and shaman, convinced she has been possessed by bad spirits. But eventually it was decided she just had that ability as part of her nature and that it could not be cured. No one else in the tribe could do this though someone did mention a cousin from far back who had a touch of shadows about him, so we blamed it on that. Punishing her was impossible as she would fade away and giggle.
She grew wilder and wilder, and more beautiful as the years went by. Many troll boys came to have her but all were turned away. She scorned their gifts of elf ears and animal skins. There was nothing they could bring to her she could not get for herself. I worried what would become of her, especially as I often saw her sitting alone, staring into nothingness. And even if she was with others she always seemed apart and alone. She took to going away for day on end, coming home exhausted and filthy. It was on one of these journeys she met him.
She was gone three days that time and when she eventually returned I expected her to go to her tent and sleep for hours, just as she usually would. But this time she was different. She was smiling for one thing, I hadn’t seen her smile unless she was hurting something for a long time. And she was singing. A soft, low song that made me look closely at her, fearful she had been possessed by something. And perhaps she had been. She came back that last time a different girl. And if I had been more careful I would have done something, but it was so nice to se her happy that I let it pass. By the time she told me what had happened it was too late. I didn’t have enough time to stop her.
All day she wandered about the tents, getting in everyone’s way but smiling and laughing so much no one scolded her. She bathed for a long, long time and used some of the scented oils I made for special occasions. Then dressed in her best robe she sat on a high rock, her arms hugging her knees, looking out over the lands towards Revantusk village. She sat there all day. Not moving to eat or drink. Her newly braided hair gleaming green in the sunlight and her skin glowed radiantly. On that last day she looked more beautiful that I had ever seen her. And more happy too. Her eyes searching for something I began to worry would be trouble when it eventually arrived. I had learned from her past actions that whatever made Senin happy usually meant trouble for everyone else. Several members of the tribe came by and asked what she was doing but I knew no more than them and they went away looking uneasy. As the sun was beginning to set I decided I should speak to her. ‘’
WORK IN PROGRES