The Rising Shadow (Pt. 1)

She was stationed at the northern-most boundaries of Borean Tundra when the wind changed.  It was a subtle thing, but it was enough to break her attention on the east where, over the great mountains of Northrend, the bloody battle for Wintergrasp still raged.  Despite the distant explosions coupled with the flowering light over the tops of the mountains, the wind spoke with even greater clarity and urgency than the battlements could provide.  It bespoke of a great dread that filled her with fear and threatened to bring her to her knees.

With her mind reeling, she sat on the bench and massaged her temples with her paws.  She was dizzy, and although the bitter cold bit through her mane, it felt as if a hot hand had been scratched across her back.  Although the breeze was merely a whisp of air, it had scattered her thoughts and made her legs quake with the fear and dread of the message it held.

She strained her ears while she waited, hoped for more — something that would rectify the message or at least explain it.  But nothing came.  The world she remembered her teacher’s lesson, speaks in definite terms, and what it says, it says with complete certainty and without hesitation.  At the end of time, the world will cease to be and its parting words with its being will be “it is over” and nothing more.

A particularly loud explosion coupled with, what she believed to be, the collapse of fortifications woke her from her trance.  Even over the mountains, she could hear the screams of soldiers – of Taurens.  She couldn’t be sure if that was from the battle… or a response to the message on the wind.

 

Usually staying awake for an entire shift was something to be proud of, but Laoka couldn’t have slept even if she had been in her big bed back in Kalimdor.  Her shift ended once the sun could be viewed over the horizon and so she stared eastwardly over the same mountains she had been watching when she received the news the night before.  Gromlocke was the general of the outpost and would undoubtedly be upset if she left before her replacement came – but the situation called for immediate action.  She was heading back home to be with her mother and to get some answers.   

Despite the fatigue setting into her limbs, she remained alert and stood waiting just above the ladder that was situated in the middle of the raised platform.  She waited in a readied stance, watching the purple sky climb higher until finally she saw a glint over top of the precipice and immediately swung her muscular legs out from under her and clamped her hooves on the side of the ladder and glided down it with relative ease.  Near the bottom, she clenched her fists around the ladder and flexed her legs, slowing her speed and came to a graceful stop at the bottom.  Without stopping, she began running to camp where her wyvern would be waiting.

“That be pretty impressive, Laoka.  If I’d be keepin’ score, I’d give it a ten… out of eleven of course.  Don’t want’cha getting cocky now.”  The voice came from the greener-than-usual troll named Mishal’Thery who seemed to specialize at always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

“Not the time Thery boy, I’m not in the mood.” She strode past the smirking annoyance without even a glance.

Mishal cupped one hand to the side of his mouth and yelled out to her quickly diminishing figure “Ah, it never is with you.  You should get summa dat sleep everyone’s been ravin’ about.  Apparently everyone’s doin’ it now.  Mehbe you be less grumpy with a few more z’s!”

After making it back to the outpost, Laoka ran to the main yurt and stepped in.  The initial blast of hot air made her eyes water.  One of the best things about the sealskin structure was how warm it made the interior… but the benefit also made it one of the worst.  Maybe she should have known that Gromlocke wouldn’t have staid monogamous forever – but only two days since their fight?  Grom was now flanked by two female orcs and another figure that was concealed by a blanket but had bright pink-purple hair that laid across Gromlocke’s nostrils that caused his face to spasm every few seconds. 

Swallowing the feelings welling inside of her, she tried to get the over-sized orc’s attention.  “Grom,” she whispered.  “Hey Grom.”

“Hrmm?”  Garbled the orc as he batted the troll’s braid out of his face.  He blinked a few times and looked up at Laoka.  His eyes widened when he saw her and his face immediately looked like a small orc who had been caught stealing candy.  “Laoka! I can explain-“

She didn’t want to hear his reasoning.  “Grom, I don’t care, I just wanted to let you know that I am going away for a few days, can you find someone to fill in for me?”

He blinked a few more times and let his jaw slacken.  He looked at her for a few seconds and asked, “Where are you going?”

“Home – back to Kalimdor.  I think something happened.”

Grom looked confused.  With his jaw slightly agape he slowly nodded in affirmation.  “Okay.”  His shoulders staid tense, he seemed to be waiting for her to spring a trap. But no trap ever came, before he could say anything about the obvious infedility, she was gone.  Breathing in a deep sigh of relief, he nudged the she-troll next to him and whispered, “I guess she didn’t see you.”

The wind brought her back to her senses quickly.  She would have time to commiserate on the zeppelin.  Wasting as little time as possible, she boarded her wyvern and took off for Warsong Hold. 

When the wyvern kicked off from the ground, she felt free.  There was nothing around her except the clean air that seemed to ease once she was away from Bor’Gorok.  When she opened her eyes, she saw in her mind the scene in the yurt again. Was he really going to try and pawn off an excuse for that?  Surely he knew she was smarter than that. She wanted to throw up when she first saw it, but the emotion had begun to pass.  The two were done anyway.  She was done with him.  The painful lump in her stomach would go away in time.  She brushed her cheek of the tears that had welled in her eyes and kicked the wyvern’s sides to go faster. 

The reason she was returning home came back to her once she had wrestled out the image of Gromlocke.  The message must have been a mistake.  The cold had surely had some sort of effect on her senses for without some sort of reasoning for misinterpretation, the message was too dire to comprehend.  The three words whipped and circled in her mind like the wind that she flew through now, and built upon each other, causing a maelstrom of emotion in her soul. 

She whispered it to herself, almost non-audible.  The phrase was odd in that she felt she had to cradle it, as if the reality of it must be treated delicately or it would break, yet carried the most extreme kind of fear.  It dwarfed even the fear of Northrend and the Lich King.  It bespoke of other destructions — one that had already taken place, and one that was sure to follow.  She said it louder, testing to see if it could even be reality.  It could, she realized, because the message filled her head again at that second.

Cairne is dead

The bristling statement became reality when she stepped down onto the earth of Warsong Hold.  The platform was full of Tauren who looked as though the joy had been sucked from their faces, it was as if the rest of them had hoped beyond hope that the message they had heard was not true, but the sheer number spoke to the reality.  Cairne had died, and now a new chapter of the Taur-ahe was about to begin.

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