As with Child of the Horde, here is another story involving one of my WoW characters and a few made up ones. And it is very likely that characters here will appear in CotH and characters from it will appear here.
Birds chirped, a cool breeze rustled the leaves, and all seemed well around Southshore. The Forsaken hadn't stirred out of Tarren Mill in a while so security around the town had been lessened a bit.
Kalya took the opportunity to make her way out into the woods without sneaking out. She'd been sneaking out since she was fifteen and had been dumped in the town by her wandering warrior of a father. He had died trying to take back portions of Hillsbrad, leaving her trapped in the town for the next three years.
She'd been lucky that the innkeeper was a kind man who let her take up room so long as she cleaned up after the customers. The food was horrible though, hence why she snuck out and killed small animals for her own meals after hours. Now she was taking the time to get dinner early.
And just have some time of freedom from the town and all its troubles.
She moved through the woods silently despite her skirt, eyes darting about the underbrush for a target. As she found one and started to draw the slim but sturdy kitchen knife from the slapped together sheath of rabbit skin and sinew, a bellow of pain sent her stumbling forward. She ended up eating grass and dirt and watched angrily as her prey – which had turned out to be a heavy-legged hare – bounded away in fear.
Getting back to her feet, she glanced back towards Southshore – she knew the woods well. They wouldn't have heard that sound; they also unfortunately couldn't hear her scream if she was attacked.
Rightly she should have been scared witless. But all she felt was a calm curiosity for what was in pain.
So, moving as quietly as she could, she headed in the general direction of the noise. When she started hearing Orcish, she knew that she should turn back. But her feet kept moving and then she was standing at the edge of a bloodstained clearing.
The bulk of a Tauren lay amongst crushed and bloodied grass, a wound in his side covered by a blood-soaked cloak. His huge chest heaved and Kalya dropped to her knees with tears in her eyes. He was dying, she could see…and there was no one there for him.
A rustle of leaves behind her warned her and then there was a dagger at her throat, faster than she could rise. Bony fingers dug into her shoulder viciously and she felt the first quiver of fear down in her belly as she realized what held her captive. She gasped involuntarily as the blade pressed close to her throat, causing the Tauren to open his only eye – a dark patch covered the other, she could see – and wheeze out something in the common tongue of the Horde. The bony fingers loosened but the dagger remained at her throat until its owner, a Forsaken as she feared, moved around to crouch in front of her. His glowing eyes seemed to bore into her like the blade in his hands and she wanted very suddenly to run. But her body would not respond at all.
She was shocked to the core when he spoke in a gravelly voice – in nothing less than Common. All she had been told and come to believe was that those who were cursed with the plague forgot their original tongue.
"Run home, girl," he said softly. Kalya's gaze was drawn to his mouth, which was nothing but the bones of his face – the skin had drawn back from them and been sewn there. Then she stared into his glowing eyes, seeing nothing of the monster she had been told his kind were. Only loneliness and pain stared out of those eyes, covered by a veneer of mistrust and secrecy.
The quiver of fear she had felt faded as she realized he wasn't going to kill her. And she also realized that there was no scent of decay about him; instead he smelt of the forest, leather, and metal, the scent she might expect off of any woodsman of Southshore.
He rose from his crouch in front of her, his bones creaking, and walked over to kneel next to the wounded Tauren. Gently he laid his hand on the noble head and murmured something in Orcish. The Tauren groaned and replied before closing his sole eye in clear pain.
Kalya found herself on her feet then and walking towards them before she quite knew what she was doing. As she sank down next to the Forsaken, he twitched and stared at her with some modicum of surprise. Slowly she reached out and touched the Tauren's head, brushing the sweaty fur gently. That glowing gaze stayed on her the entire time and she knew if she made one false move, one motion of harm against the injured being, he wouldn't hesitate to slice her throat with the blades at his side.
"What do you need?" she asked in a low voice.
Helping them could get her killed, banished, or worse by her own people. But she couldn't just leave them here and forget.
The Forsaken grunted and replied, "Water, bandages, and herbs." His gaze focused steadily on her and she found it mildly unsettling – but she guessed him getting help from the people that described him as a monster made him feel the same way. Then he nodded at the Tauren and added, "Food for him."
She looked at him and asked, "Nothing for you?"
He blinked then seemed to smile despite the fact that there was no flesh around his lips. She wasn't sure how he did it but he did manage it.
"I need nothing." Then he looked at the Tauren and amended, "Nothing but for you to hurry."
Kalya nodded and rose, looking down at the pair of them, studying them. They were the enemy she had been told about for years, the old enemy that had demolished Lordaeron and the ally of the Orcs. But she couldn't leave the Tauren to die or the Forsaken to watch it – she just didn't have the heart.
Keeping the image of the pair of them in her head, she turned and ran back towards Southshore. She figured out what she would need and how to get it as she went, worrying the whole while. It would take some time and she prayed that the noble injured being would last that long.
She managed to get the supplies quicker than she had anticipated and ran back, the pack she'd piled them into bouncing against her shoulder. As she neared the clearing, she feared bursting into it to find the soldiers of Southshore there. Feared finding the wounded Tauren pierced through the heart with a blade, dead at last. And feared finding the Forsaken who was no monster torn asunder, his bones and dead flesh scattered.
She didn't know why she cared so much about her people's enemies.
She just couldn't bring herself to hate them.
When she saw the bulk of the Tauren still lying there, his chest rising and falling still, she breathed a sigh of relief. Then she gasped as she saw the Forsaken pulling the bloodied cloak away from the wound carefully, peering worriedly at it. Despite his expression, stories of cannibalism flashed through her head and she quickly brushed them aside – he'd taken her offer of help so there was no reason for him to eat his…what were they? Old friends? Companions of circumstance?
That didn't matter now, she realized a moment later. Helping them came first.
She stumbled forward noisily then to make sure the Forsaken heard her. He did and looked up, seeming to sigh with relief despite his distinct lack of breathing. As she sank down next to him and began to study the deep wound in the Tauren's side, he said, "I'm surprised you came back."
Kalya blinked at him then dug into her pack, pulling out a mortar and pestle along with a handful of herbs. As she sorted through them and began to crush several into a paste, she asked, "Why?"
"My kind may have our souls back but we are still the ones that helped murder Lordaeron. There aren't many that can forget that."
"It wasn't your fault," she said softly, looking sideways at him. Despite the decay of his body, she could tell he'd been young when he died – probably not that much older than her. How horrible it must have been for him… She couldn't imagine it herself and didn't dare ask him about such a thing.
"They need something to blame," he said in his gravelly voice. "Since they can't reach the ones that tore their world apart, they blame us – the victims."
"That's life, girl."
She sniffed and leaned forward, smoothing the paste she had made over the Tauren's wound carefully with a small brush she dug out of her back. "My name is Kalya. Not girl."
He grunted then said, "He is Kwaaku."
"And you?" she asked, glancing sideways at him.
"Necronim." He then leaned forward so his face was next to hers, the strong scent of leather and metal wafting around her. "What is that?"
She blinked, a bit thrown off by his lack of a true name but decided not to push it, and replied, "You don't know healing remedies?"
"Kwaaku is the healer. I just bind things up and in a month or so it's repaired."
The young woman just nodded at that then she explained, "It's a simple healing paste. I help make it when the guards or travelers come in from a skirmish." Shrugging, she swiped the last bit onto the wound then set the mortar and pestle aside to pull out bandages to bind the wound. "Can you lift him?"
Necronim gave her that lipless smile again and moved to the big Tauren's other side. He wrapped his bony arms around the wide torso and lifted Kwaaku up a fair distance off the ground with a grunt of effort. Kalya quickly pressed a padding made from the rest of the herbs against the wound then bound it up securely and helped lower him back to the forest floor.
"When can he move?"
"Two days," she replied. Then she frowned and asked, "What attacked you?"
Necronim stared at her for a moment then replied, "A paladin who was determined to send my cursed soul to whatever will take me after death. Kwaaku took the strike instead of me."
Kalya frowned at the, wondering what had happened to the paladin. He seemed to sense this and continued, "He's dead. I don't take kindly to anyone harming this one."
There was a protective tinge to his voice and he turned his glowing eyes back on the Tauren. She just watched him for a moment then whispered, "You care about him."
He stiffened and turned his head to look at her.
"Unfortunately?" repeated Kalya, confused. "Its no sin to care for someone."
"It is to me."
"Well, he obviously cares for you a lot. Enough to take a blow meant to kill you."
Necronim snorted and said, "Kwaaku is young and idealistic. Days out in the real world with me will eventually teach him truth."
"What truth?" she asked.
"That caring for someone in this world of ours is a foolish gesture."
She bit her lip at that, staring at him with an aching heart. Just what had happened to him to turn him into this bitter creature that crouched next to her? Had it been the Plague alone? Or was it something more?
Had something happened to him before the Plague?
They sat there in silence for a few moments then she dared to ask him a question she'd thrown away as too personal. She would probably never see these two again and, if she did, it would likely be with them dead.
"Is that your real name?"
He shifted, bones creaking, and replied, "It is now."
"Did you forget?" she asked, confused. And she had heard tell that a few of the Forsaken had forgotten whom they were after their souls returned to their bodies.
"Does it matter?"
"I want to know."
"We will be only a memory in days," said Necronim in a slightly cold voice. "Why do you care?"
She frowned then replied, "Because you aren't anything at all like what I've been told about. You're…you're not too different from me."
He laughed at that, a harsh and unamused sound. Then he turned his head towards her and hissed, "I am a far different creature from you, Kalya."
"You don't seem so."
One of his daggers, a slim and curved little thing made from purple and white metal, was at her throat then and she froze. Fear swept through her and she stared at him, locking her eyes with his.
"It would not matter to me a bit to kill you," he spat in an icy tone. "All I need is a twitch of my wrist and your lifeblood would stain this cursed ground. I am not a kind creature, girl."
"You let me live before."
"I needed help."
"And now you're trying to prove a point," she said sternly, the fear fading somewhat.
He stared at her then snapped the dagger away, returning it to its sheath in a fluid motion she wouldn't have expected him capable of. Snorting, he snarled, "Go home, girl."
"This place isn't my home anymore than wherever it is you stay."
"What can you know of my home?"
"I know the names of the towns taken by the Plague," Kalya hissed, bringing his gaze back to her. "Before my father dragged me out here so he could find a battle to die in, I was allowed to help those that keep the libraries in Stormwind. I read every book I could get my hands on, including the histories of the Plague."
Necronim stared at her then asked, "Why would you read such a thing?"
"It was a horrible event. Some want to ignore it – I don't." She sighed and finished, "You don't stop something from possibly happening again by just ignoring it."
"You're wiser than your elders then."
"Wiser than anyone my age too."
He grunted then looked at Kwaaku as the Tauren made a noise, the sound that of discomfort. With a bony hand he patted one huge shoulder and said something in what might have been a beautiful tongue if not spoken in his gravelly voice. Despite the harshness spoken with, whatever he had said caused Kwaaku to be still and drift back to sleep.
"What was that?" breathed Kalya, staring between the two of them.
"Taur-ahe," replied Necronim softly. "I know only a few phrases in it…enough that I can speak it in Mulgore if I need to."
"What did you say?"
"Be at peace."
She nodded then stiffened as there was a crash from somewhere behind them, clapping her hand over her mouth to cover a shriek. He was on his feet next to her, fingers grasping his daggers, ready to draw and attack anything that came into the glade. When they both heard the sounds of shouting in Common, they turned horrified gazes on Kwaaku.
"We can't move him," hissed Kalya desperately.
"We have to," replied Necronim sternly. He then looked sharply at her and added, "If you come with us now, its not likely for you to be able to return."
She stared at him, blue-green eyes into glowing yellow, and spat, "Somehow I can't bring myself to care."
He smiled that lipless smile again then gestured for her to take up a spot on one side of the Tauren. With a grunt and a heavy creak of his bones, he got the huge being upright and they each took an arm over their shoulders. As they started forward, Necronim grunted, "It's a good thing he's young and not full-grown."
The thought of the already large Tauren, who was a head taller than the Forsaken and three times her width, getting any bigger made her head spin. Then she thrust the thought aside as there was another crash from behind them and more shouting.
They hobbled into the woods together though where they were going…who knew?