Author's Note: This is a quite long-term story that will be updated as it goes. I do enjoy reviews and critique, provided they are respectful. I'm the type of writer who enjoys a good critique just as much as I enjoy praise, so please don't be a stranger. Before it is mentioned; yes, I understand that I'm not following the story the exact same way the quests will have it done. I've played Warcraft since vanilla, and I've always found it amusing how the quest givers *still* want the same item that was fetched three years previously. While some quests might be particularly prominent (because the detail taken this expansion was meticulous in some ways, and deserves praise), others might be absent completely. The characters in this story are original characters, at least the major players. They have all been carefully mapped out to not be incredibly powerful, or incredibly weak, despite the fact I have augmented some of them with stuff from the RPG more than the game. I have attempted to stay true to lore as much as I can, while providing unique characters and a story that can be enjoyed. Let's see if I succeed, yes?
The wood is alive with sound, the sinister dark laced with a fog that threatens to choke the very life from what little remains able to live. As one, the hunters spread around the intruders, the silent command given from the largest and most swift, though the ones who followed the order are no less quick in their movements. As if to aid in their endeavor, the clouds break, and silver light hits the fog to turn it into a sea of glittering diamonds.
"I remember the day you were born. I remember how happy your father and I were to have you, after Clyde had given me such trouble..."
A howl lances through the trees, and like ghosts that have risen from their graves to walk the earth again, so too do the hunters converge on their targets. Fog clings to them, drenching scraps of cloth that barely hang around muscled forms, and it will be the brief flashes of color between those odd pieces of fabric that their prey see before darkness falls, and there will be no waking from their slumber.
"... We taught you to walk, twice. Do you remember like I do? How we held your hand as you took those first trembling steps, how you laughed as you realized that you were free to move as you wanted..."
The ambush is over quickly, leaving only the hunters to consume their prey. Sobs of pain are cut short, mercifully so, while furred shapes take their kills, one by one, back to their dens. All but one. Snapping back at pack-mates who try to move her, she bends over her prey and consumes them with the fervor that only a starving animal could possibly rival.
"Your strength was taken from us, handed down word by word, and touch by touch..."
Her feast finishes, warm blood still trickling down her furred maw, her head tilts back and a guttural sound leaves her throat. It rises, until the fog itself flees before her howl. In the distance, more voices add to the haunting song; a song of triumph, of blood, of life. The sound filters into her ears, deafening her to the noises that are close, too close to be avoided now, until a shot rings out and her cry is halted.
"... and now you are in love. Oh, I remember the first time! How lucky you are..."
The woman glares at the tree that took a bullet she does not know was only meant to draw attention, but it has succeeded even so. With a growl, the russet fur ripples over muscles as she dashes at the closest mark, a cry of annoyance leaving her as it yields beneath her claws, and she is met only with splinters that dig deep into the pads of long, clawed fingers. Her cry becomes one of pain, thick darts lancing her flesh to drive her away from the dummy, and closer to something else.
"I wish I could be there, to see you fly with these new wings you have found..."
Anger pulses through her, a whimpering yelp of pain leaving as she charges and finds herself cornered again, and a bright flash of pain settles itself around her paw. Trapped, her howl becomes a scream, felt from the fire-like pain in her leg clear to the tip of her blood-drenched snout. A blow comes, cracking cruelly against her skull, and the killer drops. Without a word, the form is picked up and thrown among others in the back of a cart drawn by a nervous horse.
"... I won't be able to, and I know this now. I have accepted it, and I am sorry. Yet..."
Hours pass, and she wakes only to find herself trapped in a darkened cage. Someone peers in, speaking in a tongue she knows is familiar but still distant, an invader to what has become nature to her. The glint of glasses, the tone of disappointment and hatred. A voice so familiar, and yet not at all. The female growls deeply, and the familiar stranger pulls back, glaring down as if she is nothing more than vermin. The animalistic instinct gives way just slightly to human dislike, and the growl that ceases is replaced by a glare that could not be mistaken.
"My child, remember..."
Days go by, food given to the beasts within the many cages as they slowly, one by one, die off. They are dragged from their cages, brave strangers binding dangerous muzzles closed and forcing these beasts into stocks. She watches her companions, watches them become weaker and less resistant, until it becomes an effort not to chain them, but to carry them to where they can be kept. She is not spared this, and knows the pain each feels as if it were her own.
"... no matter what, always remember."
So many have died, and the scent from the men and women who drag her from the cage is not that of fear or anger, but of hopelessness. A voice speaks in her mind, a distant call. Yet she is weak, herself. The last of those brought from that night in the forest, she is barely able to stand as they chain her into the stocks. Her head hangs, dreading what they might make her drink now. Once so adamant about her denial, she was little more than a tame pup as they would feed her, and yet it never satisfied her hunger. Drink quenched her thirst no better than sand could.
More voices, a gentle voice and one with power. Talking to her, gesturing, and she doesn't care. She can't care, feeling her life ebbing from her. Her maw is opened by a finger, the clean digit forced between her jaw and moving to pry it open just moments before something splashes against her tongue. Yes, that taste. The bitter tonic they had been sneaking in small doses to all of them, but now it came in waves, spilling around her jaw to hit the floor. The woman drank greedily, aching for anything to slake the thirst that just wouldn't stop.
A new fire spreads in her body, bringing with it a pain that could not have been felt before. It burned through her, through every vein and muscle, tearing a howl from her as she thrashed wildly, showing more energy in those few painful moments than she had in a week. The wood splinters as muscles flex and twist, and with a shuddering breath taken the woman throws her head back and howls, a sound that loses it's tone and sharpens until it is nothing more than a scream that lances through the air. As if it were combed from her, her body sheds it's fur and her mane lengthens and changes, that rich dark cherry color showing as russet fell away, caramel skin bare beneath the moonlight, and as the last shred of pain races from her, wide golden eyes lose their shade to become the deep green that she was had been born with.
A shout goes up, the last she hears as she loses herself to the darkness of sleep, a darkness so different and more comforting than that she had been part of for what seemed to be lengthy years. Unconscious, she is unbound and carried from the stocks, a cloak wrapped around her mildly malnourished form as she is taken to the building for those like her.
In the sky, the moon pulls clouds around it's body, sending an already dark land into a seemingly darker one, and once more the howl goes out.
"You are Gilnean."