Hulan dismounted and tethered her ram, Cloud, to a tree near to the little stone house. She adjusted her armour and grinned down at the white bear by her side. "Come on Blanche" she said quietly. The bear followed her and stood patiently while she knocked hard on the door. Thorden Stonefist opened the door, his eyes widening with surprise at the sight of his daughter.
"What are ye knockin' at tha door like a stranger fer?" he asked.
Hulan stood to attention and saluted solemnly. "Hulan Stonefist, Defender o' tha Shield Canton o' Tha Keepers o' tha Light....fully fledged hunter, reportin' fer duty."
Thorden's face broke into a beaming smile and he opened his arms wide sweeping her up in a fierce hug, "Woohoo! Ye finished yer trainin'?!"
Hulan nodded, grinning broadly at him "Aye...I've finished me trainin'. O'course I still 'ave a lot ta learn but tha formal trainin's done, now it's jes' a matter o' buildin' up me experience."
Thorden stood aside to let Hulan through the door. "Nulyn," he hollered "It's our Hulan all trained up an everythin'!" Hulan motioned to Blanche to stay outside and entered the small house as her mother bustled out of the kitchen beaming with pride.
"Och...look at ye! Such fancy armour...an' tha' axe! It's a beauty!" Chuckling she added "Ye look so fine I can scarcely believe yer tha same lassie tha' bawled fer a week cos she cud nae be a Paladin."
Hulan laughed self-conciously, reddening slightly at the memory. "Aye, who'd 'ave thought it eh? S'funny but now I know so many Paladins I can see tha' I'd never ha' bin any good at it, even if I cud ha' carried tha armour. I love bein' a hunter, I cannae imagine doin' anythin' else."
"So this why yer late visitin'?" asked Thorden, "We expected ye yesterday but got yer message sayin' that ye wud nae get 'ere until today."
Hulan nodded "When I realised 'ow little there was left ta do before I got discharged by me trainer I felt like I jes' needed ta get it finished. I've jes' got back from Silithus and been up ta Ironforge on me way 'ere."
"Well," said Nulyn "Fer all that yer armour's very fine lookin', it does nae look very comfy fer sittin' around tha house in. Why don' ye get yerself changed while I get dinner started. Yer Pa's gotta nip down to tha Thunderbrew Distillery, we're gettin' low on ale. I daresay he'll be a while as he's a great one fer quality control where ale's concerned. You an' me can 'ave a natter while he's gone an' ye can start tellin' me about yer adventures."
Thorden grinned sheepishly at Hulan and shrugged then vanished out of the door and Nulyn bustled back into the kitchen. Hulan smiled to herself, glad to be back home for a while and started up the stairs to her old room.
Once changed, Hulan leaned against the kitchen doorway watching her mother.
"What are ye cookin' Ma?"
"I got some nice boar meat ta roast..." Nulyn stopped at the odd expression on her daughter's face "Wha's tha matter? Ye dinna like roast boar any more? It used ta be yer favourite!"
"Oh, I still like it fine Ma. It's jes' I went fer a drink tha other day with Borron an' he has a pet boar called Charger, he's a grand beast, an...well, it jes' seems funny is all to be pettin' a boar one day an' eatin' one tha next."
"Borron eh? Tha' sounds like a dwarvish name. Are you an' he.."
"No we're not!" interrupted Hulan indignantly
"Och, calm down lassie," laughed Nulyn "I was jes' wonderin' is all."
"Borron's in tha Keepers too an' he's a hunter like me. An' yes, he's also a dwarf an' occasionally we go fer a drink," exlpained Hulan. "I've also been fer a drink wi' Lardy an wi' Orgrimm an' there's nowt ta tell about them either. We're dwarves and we drink! An' why does everyone try ta marry me off every time I go fer a drink?!"
"I'm nae tryin' ta marry ye off lass. Goodness knows ye've only jes' gone out inta the world, ye need time ta explore life...I was jus' wonderin' if'n mebbe anyone in particular 'ad caught yer eye is all."
For the briefest moment a look of intense longing, followed by a flash of pain crossed Hulan's face then it was gone. She blushed and turned quickly.
"I think I'm goin' ta see if I can stable Cloud down at the Amberstill Ranch. Imma goin' ta be here fer a few days an' I will nae need ta be ridin' him. I'll call in at tha Distillery on me way back and drag Pa out if'n he's still in there."
Hulan pulled her cloak round her and was gone, leaving her mother to stare at the door after her in astonishment.
Calling to Blanche, Hulan untied the ram and started leading him towards the Ranch. She arranged to leave him there for a few days and headed back to Kharanos. She popped her head round the door of the disillery to find that her father had foregone his usual stringent testing of the ale and only stopped for a couple of flagons before heading home with a large cask on his shoulder. She lingered for a few minutes exchanging pleasantries, the smile on her face becoming more rigid and harder to maintain. Once out of the village she left the path and headed for a small cave she knew of from her childhood. Inside she sat down, drew up her knees and with her face buried in her lap burst into tears. Blanche, unsettled by Hulan's distress, stationed herself in the mouth of the cave huffing and grunting. Hulan, hugging her knees, wept heaving sobs until she could cry no more. Hearing Blanche growl softly she stood up and hurriedly wiped the tears from her face, her breath coming in ragged gasps. She moved to Blanche's side to see her mother peering into the cave with a concerned air.
"I thought ye might come 'ere lassie...it's where ye allus used ta hide out when ye were a wee girl and 'ad sumthin' on yer mind."
Hulan was surprised, she had always thought the cave was her secret. Her mother smiled at her.
"Och...o' course we knew where ye were. Me or ye Pa used ta hide behind tha' tree over there jes' ta make sure ye did nae come to any harm." Nulyn walked up to her daughter and enfolded her in a warm hug. "So there is someone special?" Hulan nodded and buried her face deeper into her mother's shoulder as she felt the tears well up again. Nulyn stood back and reached into the deep pocket of her skirt pulling out a large handkerchief and a small silver flask and handed them to her daughter.
"Here...wipe yer eyes and blow yer nose an' have a wee drop o' this." She put her arm around Hulan and walked with her to the back of the cave where they both sat down.
"So, yer pinin' fer someone?" asked Nulyn.
"Hulan nodded, wiping her eyes with the handkerchief, "He barely knows I'm alive Ma. Well, 'e knows I'm alive but he jes' thinks o' me as a friend. Good ol' Hulan, always up fer a pint." She sniffed.
"Take a wee nip o' tha' there rum," said Nulyn nodding at the flask in Hulan's hand. Hulan unscrewed the top and took a swig, the hot rum burning her throat and making her splutter slightly.
"An' are ye sure he does nae feel tha same way as ye?" Hulan nodded miserably.
"He's always very nice ta me when I see 'im but I'm sure he does nae feel tha same way. He's never given any sign o' anythin' more. He allus seems pleased ta see me but then he's allus pleased ta see any o' his friends. He does nae treat me any differently."
"Have ye tried tellin' 'im 'ow ye feel?"
Hulan looked mortified and blushed deeply. "Oh Ma! I cud nae! If he did nae feel tha same way I'd die o' shame! An' it wud be 'ard fer us ta be friends after that an' then I wud nae see 'im at all." Tears welled up again in Hulan's eyes and she took another swig of the rum and then put the top back on the flask.
"So tell me a little bit about 'im lass," said Nulyn, adding quickly as the thought occured to her "He is a dwarf isn' he?"
Hulan nodded "Aye...he's a dwarf and a right fine one too. He's brave an' strong, kind an' funny. Everybody likes 'im. He's good company ta drink wi'. He's not all fun though, 'e 'as is serious side...an' he's thoughful too. Allus lookin' out fer other people." Hulan stopped lost in thought. She could see him so clearly in her mind almost as if he was standing in front of her. He wore his beard trimmed neatly and had a fine moustache; she wondered if it would tickle if she kissed him. His shoulders were broad and strong and she imagined resting her head there, enclosed in strong but gentle arms, breathing in the smell of him. He looked so handsome in his armour, invincible and mighty but she had also seen him dressed smartly in a suit and it had taken all her self-control not throw herself into his arms. She shook herself and sighed.
"So what are ye goin' ta do lass?" asked Nulyn peering at her.
"Do Ma? What else can I do but carry on bein' his friend? It's better than nothin' at all."
"Oh Hulan...I'm right sorry he does nae feel tha same way to ye. Yer a good lass an' 'e sounds fine indeed. Are ye sure he's not jest' too shy ta tell ye 'ow he feels fer ye?"
Hulan smiled wryly, "He's a lot o' things Ma but I dinna think shy is one o' them. He flirts a bit wi' me sumtimes but then he's a terrible flirt wi' any woman. It does nae mean anythin'."
"Dinna be too sure lass. From what ye say o' him he might be findin' 'imself a bit flummoxed if he's fallen fer ye. Men are funny creatures sometimes."
Hulan shrugged and stood up, handing the flask back to her mother who, rising herself, stashed it back in her deep pocket.
"I've allus believed that love is a good thing, it's what kept me alive all those years ago when I was so badly, but ta see ye so hurt grieves me an' I hope tha' if this fella does nae come ta his senses soon then ye love fer 'im will die. 'Tis a hard thing ta love and nae be loved in return. Yer a good lass and ye deserve someone who will love ye back tha same way ye love 'im. Dinna waste yer life waitin' fer crumbs.try an' put 'im out o' yer mind. I know ye fin'd it 'ard ta believe, an' mebbe ye dinna want ta hear it now, but ye will get over 'im."
Nulyn hugged her daughter quickly and then headed out of the cave. "Come on. I need ta see ta that roast an' if we're very much longer yer Pa will ha' drunk all the ale hisself!"
Side by side, with the large white bear following, they headed back to the small stone house.
Jes' a quick note ta let ye know not ta worry about me an' wha' we talked about on my last visit. When I saw ye I tol' ye that I did nae think he felt fer me tha same way but today I had a talk wi' 'im an' it turns out tha' he does 'ave some special feelin' fer me! Imm so 'appy I cud bust!
Funnily enough 'e was moved ta say sumthin' cos people in my guild ha' bin teasin' me about a Dwarven warrior called Orgrimm an' sayin' we shud get tagether...he'd 'eard this gossip an' wanted ta know if it was true. Now this Orgrimm is a very fine fella but we're jes' friends. Anyway, Imma too tired ta write more - I'll pop by fer a visit at tha weekend an' tell ye more.
Your Lovin' Daughter