((It has been a long time, hasn't it. I really don't have an excuse per say on why I haven't updated in so long. After a while, things got away from me, time most of all, and I felt like I couldn't update this story. Mostly out of embarrassment for waiting so long.
But all your comments have brought me back, truthfully. It has literally been years, and people still seem to check this story, and beg for it to continue. I'm sorry it hasn't in so long. I still want to tell it. So let me try again, and see if I can give you all what you deserve to read. This story should have an ending.
Thanks, guys! Your continued support has truly made a difference. I want to update this as often as possible (though I am in my second semester senior year of college. Brace yourselves!). ))
Jandali felt her misery as clearly as he would feel a tooth ache. He himself could only muster up a certain disbelief, beyond his numbness. There had been no reason for the hunter to become infected this night. Even if he didn't like the other man, Jandali would never have wished it upon anyone.
They were seated around one of the campfires, Majir, Meviahd, Gabriel, the soldier from before, and himself. The soldier had given Majir a dark blue bottle of fiery tequila, all his own to drink, and the hunter had been chugging away at it ever since. At first Majir had pressed his lips to it and taken a swig. Then he offered it to Meviahd. It was pathetic to hear her murmuring, "If any of your saliva, I mean..." His face had gone dark with rage. They were barely half an hour in and the bottle was nearly half gone.
The hunter was short with everyone, even his soldier friend who'd given him the booze. Jandali almost felt some anger with him. Majir had no right to take this out on anyone, especially Meviahd. But Jandali couldn't bring himself to say anything to the grieving troll. He remembered the first night he'd found the little bubbles on the wound around his own waist. And later, when they'd discovered what the disease was, Jandali could recall that sinking, twisting feeling too. How he'd screamed himself hoarse in his room and collapsed later on his bed, drunk as he could manage.
Seated next to him, Gabriel broke out a bottle of rum he'd packed just for such somber occasions. Jandali and the human passed it back and forth wordlessly. Just in case he was wrong, and humans could contact the disease, Jandali never let the bottle touch his lips. He was even more glad he'd done it a few moments later, when Meviahd reached for it herself.
He'd never seen her drink before. Sips of wine, maybe, but nothing hard. She only grimaced slightly when she tossed the sickly sweet rum back, sucking her tongue and wiping the her mouth. Her eyes were hooded and wary.
Majir took a long gulp of tequila and ran a hand hard through his wild hair. He said, "Alright, I admit it. I was sellin' Sweetrot on da side."
"What?" Jandali nearly choked on the rum he'd been sloshing into his mouth.
"Sweetrot. The stuff the infected smoke ta make 'em feel better for a little." Majir wavered a little and peered across the fire. At first Jandali thought Majir was looking at him, but he realized it was actually Gabriel he was glaring at.
"Was workin' for him." Majir said. Gabriel froze, and across the fire, Meviahd stilled with the rum bottle suspended in the air.
Gabriel cleared his throat and said, "I've never met you before in my life, sir."
Majir laughed and said, "Nah, ya never met any of da lower pushers. But I got mah shipment from the goblins in Ratchet, and they got it from Booty Bay. Everyone knows Gabriel be da Rot Prince ah Booty Bay."
Gabriel had gone very quiet all the sudden. When the hunter spoke he glanced around at the neighboring campfires, then at the soldier sitting next to Majir.
"Is that what they say..." Gabriel mumbled.
Majir began to laugh again. Jandali saw Meviahd close her eyes and throw back another long pull of the rum before she passed it back to to shaman. Majir wasn't watching her. He was staring at Jandali, and the shaman got the sudden uneasy feeling that Majir wasn't at all himself.
"Wanna know somethin' funny, old man?" The hunter said. He took another pull of the tequila and said, "I used ta meet up with a few Allies dat picked up shipments from me, for a little extra coin. They'd take the stuff up into Ashenvale, I guess, sell it dere, and make the da whole trip again every week. The Fletchett brothers was good customers of mine, until Antwon got hisself killed, and Marcus quit..."
"Marcus Fletchett." Jandali repeated. He felt like someone had flushed his head.
"Yep," Majir smacked his lips, "Guess dey came and got the stuff from me, then ran into you two on their way back. Imagine my surprise, old man, when Meviahd tells me the human what cut off your tusk was Marcus Fletchett."
Jandali swung around to fix Meviahd with a glare, but she was staring doggedly into the fire. He wondered how much else she'd told the hunter. What did Majir know about him that Jandali wasn't even aware of? How he'd cried when they'd sawed off his tusk, or how he couldn't cast a spell to save his miserable life? Had she told Majir how Jandali had pushed her away on the Wild Shores?
"You were selling Marcus Fletchett Sweetrot? So he could resell it to the elves?" Meviahd hissed suddenly, her head raising as if waking from a dream. Majir nodded, his smile grim. He looked oddly proud of himself, now that he'd admitted it all.
"I never met anyone before," Majir said, "Who lived more than a couple months, after being infected. So that be how long we have, Jandali. You an' me."
Meviahd was looking between the two of them slowly. She finally rested on Jandali, her glowing eyes wide. She hadn't been right since she'd come back to camp, later than everyone else and only a little before Majir had returned. She hadn't spoken directly to the hunter since he'd sat by the fire, save for refusing his bottle. He had barely looked at her.
All the trolls at camp knew that Majir had been infected, because he'd told one or two, and the news had spread like wildfire. Jandali had told them nothing of himself. But Majir knew, and. Jandali was sure of it. Somehow, the hunter had guessed he was infected long before that, and now he was baiting him.
It had been a while since Majir had spoken and been greeted with only silence. Meviahd was staring into the fire again, and Gabriel hadn't said a word since he'd been accused. The soldier next to Majir shifted nervously, clearly not having counted on an argument, and said, "Ya know, mon, I think Rondo wanted ta see ya before-"
"I heard it makes ya go berserk, right up at the end," Majir acted as if he hadn't heard the other troll. He was speaking directly to Jandali again.
The shaman went quiet for a few seconds. In an even voice, he said, "Yes. That's true."
"Or you're too sick ta move, an ya just rip off all of ya skin. After a couple months." Majir continued.
"Majir," Meviahd said very quietly. Jandali, the closest to her, seemed to be the only one to hear.
"The brave ones kill themselves," Majir said, "Maybe I should just put'a gun in my mouth and blow out my brai-"
He didn't get to finish because Jandali was pummeling him in the mouth. The shaman was seeing red, because he knew. Majir was talking about Caddi, Jandali just knew, and he'd be damned if he was going to let the hunter get away with it.
Jandali had sprang up and across the fire in an instant, tackling the hunter to the ground and smashing a fist into his mouth. The tequila bottle went flying. Majir laughed through the blood, as if he was glad Jandali had finally thrown the first punch. The shaman managed to get another fist into Majir's nose, straddling the hunter, before Majir sat up and simply began to wail on him.
The hunter was younger, and fitter, and even drunker. The surrounding soldiers all jumped to attention at the sounds of a scuffle, but they did not expect it in their own camp. Jandali was dimly aware that Meviahd was yelling, standing over them, but Jandali was on his back now. Majir was ramming the left half of his face with a fist like a chunk of granite, heedless of the soldier trying to drag him off. Jandali's vision swam. He began to black out, panting.
There was an animal shriek, then the pressure on his chest was released. When Jandali could see again the dark shape of Devi Devi was looming over him, wings spread. The hippogryph's beak was open wide in a noiseless hiss. He had left the camp earlier, flying out over the Desolace hills after he was sure there were no more satyr left, but he couldn't have returned at a better time.
"Fools. You've better things to do than blacken each other's faces." Snorting, Devi Devi stood back so that Jandali could rise. Meviahd had come to his side, and she held out her hand to help him, but Jandali ignored it. He couldn't stand the awful look on her face.
There was a thick silence that hung over camp. Majir had stood, breathing hard and staunching his bleeding nose. He fixed Meviahd with a red look, then swung around and strode off between the surrounding fires. The flashing light caught the severe, straight line of his spine, and his fists clenched at his side.
Devi Devi shook his mane of turquoise feathers and regarded Jandali a moment before he said, "There are graver happenings of more importance. I bear a message for you from the Cenarion Circle. They received news today from a tauren using a scrying stone, in a town called Jin'Jeda."
Jandali froze, hand pressed gently to the side of his mauled face.
"I am sorry," Devi Devi said. He sounded like he meant it, "They thought you would want to know. The woman leading your vilage, your Atal'Dali, passed away last night."
A ripple of commotion followed this. Those trolls that understood common started up the cry, followed by groans from those that heard the translation. Jandali could barely hear them over the roaring in his ears. A wail rose up across the small camp.
The Atal'Dali was dead. But Jandali knew her as Zuri, who had loved him perhaps before her sister even had, and who had ran with him hunting tigers in the islands behind Sen'Jin when they were children. Her brilliant orange hair and fiery words, the strong set of her shoulders as she surveyed the production of Jin'Jeda, those things could not be gone. He may have fought with her since finding her again at the shaman village, but Jandali had never wanted this.
Devi Devi bowed his massive head for a moment and admitted, apologetically, "It was Un'thea'shal."
The Growing Death. La Grippa, The Choke. Gabriel had told them that each race was coming up with their own names for it, the infection that had gripped Azeroth in it's clawed fist. The infection that Jandali had given Zuri, when she had tried to kiss him all those times in Jin'Jeda. The shaman felt the world rush away from him. He stumbled, and felt a slight hand catch him.
Jandali pushed Meviahd away from him, but she stood at his elbow, watching him. He knew she knew. Gabriel was standing nearby as well, trying to catch Jandali's eye, but he wouldn't have understood the whole truth of it.
Zuri was dead and it was Jandali's fault.
"They hold services for her in her hometown, I understand," Devi Devi continued. For some reason, even if the rest of the trolls around them hadn't sensed it, Jandali got the feeling that the massive horse hawk knew he was in pain.
"Sen'Jin," Jandali rasped.
"In a day's time," Devi Devi acknowledged, sounding apologetic again. Even with a quick mount, and a wind rider directly to Orgrimmar, Jandali would never make it in time. He responded with a rasping noise, and could almost imagine them hurrying the services. Zuri's parents hated him.
For Caddi, of course. Not that he blamed them. Not that he deserved to even be at her funeral. But to miss it...
Meviahd's hand tightened around his arm, and she said, "We will fly you there."
Devi Devi just nodded. Jandali stared at them. Whispers arose from the surrounding trolls, but not much. Some knew the history of the Jandali, and his relationship with Zuri's family. Yet Devi Devi's approval seemed a strange deterrent, and most of the trolls began to drift away from them, already going back to their bottles and fires. It had been a dark night for them. Even Majir made no reappearance, his absence strangely foreboding. With Jandali gone, the camp would be under his control, but the shaman didn't feel compelled to find him and tell him. The side of Jandali's face was still pounding with pain, beginning to swell.
"You should stay-" Jandali began uncertainly, and Meviahd just shook her head and tugged his arm. Devi Devi gave the shaman a look as if he had suggested something foul. Jandali supposed the invitation for the flight only extended if the night elf was with them. Still, the creature gave no protests as Meviahd clambered up his back. She leaned down and offered her arms to help pull Jandali up. The troll was so embarrassed to find he needed her help.
He settled in behind Meviahd, taking a long moment before putting his hands on her shoulders. The shaman didn't know where they stood anymore. Meviahd, for her part, barely reacted. She had gathered her hands in the ruff of feathers at Devi Devi's neck, and was staring down at her clenched fists.
"Good luck, Jandali," Gabriel called up to him before they took off. The look in the human's face reminded Jandali he would need it. There was a reason he didn't spend much time in his house in Sen'Jin.
When Devi Devi bunched his legs, kicking off and rising into the air like a cork from a bottle, Jandali panicked. He had been braced for it, but the sudden momentum horrified him all the same. The troll's stomach dropped into his toes. Jandali fastened his arms around Meviahd's waist, gripping on for dear life, his chest pressed against her back. After a second or two in the air their speed evened out, still too high off the ground for the shaman to actually calm, but enough for him to realize what he was doing. Jandali was just about to pull away when Meviahd rested one arm over his own, her hand gripping one of his.
Jandali was frozen. He was barely even breathing. Meviahd seemed to mistake his panic for grief, because she said, "I'm so sorry, Jandali. I know she was important to you."
And just like that, it all came crashing down on him. Zuri was dead. It was Jandali's fault. He was dimly aware of making a strangled noise, and letting his head tip forwards against Meviahd's shoulder.
"You didn't know," Jandali heard her murmur over the wind rushing around Devi Devi's wings, and the troll only felt like that made it worse. He sucked in a breath and realized he was sobbing. Jandali tried to stop, but he couldn't. He cried hunched around Meviahd's tiny form, chest shaking, hands gathered into fists in against her hard leather armor. The night elf kept her hand where it was, rubbing a slow, coaxing circle across the back of one of his tightly crunched fists.
When he could breathe again without it breaking in the middle, Jandali straightened up. He placed his hands solidly on her shoulders, trying not to look down. Trying to appear braver than he was, Jandali supposed. He opened his mouth a few times, before working up the courage to yell over the wind, "I killed her. I don't deserve to be there."
"You didn't kill her." Meviahd said.
"I did," Jandali insisted wretchedly, "And I spent the past few months pushing her off of me. I don't deserve it."
Jandali felt, rather than heard, her snort in response, the annoyed noise translating as a jerk of her shoulders. Meviahd shook her head and insisted, "Being hard on yourself won't make her come back."