Author's Note: This was one of those stories where a dumb dream happened and it looked good in my head at the time. I'm sorry I'm terrible. :(
Life is Hard Enough
Boy was it ever. Not only was it difficult being a teenager, but High School? That was a war in it's self. Doug had wished his sister had attended a normal school so he could have had some better preparation advice other then from his parents. Yet here he was, keeping up with the everyday life of a High School student. He wouldn't have made it far if it wasn't for the support of his friends. It also helped to have such a creative mind that he could write or draw his troubles away.
It wasn't so bad he guessed, it was a little like Middle School, only the classes were harder and there was a lot more going on. Doug had a handle on this, all it took was a little concentration, which he was lacking this morning on his walk to school. He had failed to notice Skeeter moving in from behind and nearly jumped when he placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Hey Doug!" said Skeeter, smiling while he held his school bag over his shoulder.
"Skeeter!" Doug shouted, jumping as he snapped out of his thoughts.
"You alright? You seem a little excited." his friend replied.
"I'm alright." he sighed. "Just thinking about things, you know?"
"About the musical? You do have a big part in it."
"Right, I almost forgot." said Doug. He had told his parents about the musical and Judy had happened to overhear him. After hours of convincing him to try out for a part, he somehow managed to get the lead along with his long time crush Patti Mayonnaise.
"How did you even get the lead?" asked Skeeter, a little snicker in his voice.
"How should I know? I didn't think I was even that good of a singer." he said while giving a shrug.
"Well I'm sure you'll knock the audience dead! Hehe!"
"That's what I'm afraid of..." groaned Doug while he hung his head.
Skeeter laughed a little more, patting his friend on his shoulder. The rest of their walk to school was uneventful although the sky seemed to be darkening for a mid morning rain. Afraid of getting caught in the downpour, the boys broke into a run for the building of Bluffington High School. They made it inside just before the sky tore apart an rain fell to the earth. Each of them looked out the door while sheets of the water reduced the visibility outside.
"Well, that's a bummer." said Skeeter. The bell for class rang, cutting their conversation short before it even started. "See you after class Doug! HONK HONK!"
"See ya Skeeter." said Doug. He waved as his friend rushed off to class, wondering if he was ever going to grow out of making those sound effects at random.
The rain had never let up the rest of the day, lasting well into the time of the school musical. Dressed his best, Doug stared from behind the curtain as the audience was gathering into the auditorium. A few rows back he could see his family finding their seats, his mom and dad sitting down next to his sister Judy who was eager to see how her brother would perform in the arts. In the front row was Patti's father, settling his wheelchair in next to the chairs. The rest of the audience was made up of people he knew, parents and townsfolk that had come to see the annual musical.
Doug didn't realize how many people would be attending and gave a small gulp as he backed away from the curtain. What if he forgot his lines? What if he messed up? What if he embarrassed Patti? He backed away and covered his face, his confidence slipping quickly while his mind was conjuring up all the possibilities of his failures.
"Five minutes!" shouted his music teacher. His heart began to race, he frowning as he looked around.
"Hey ya Funnie." came from a familiar voice he really didn't want to hear right now.
"What do you want Roger?" Doug groaned, dragging his hand down his face.
"Oh nothing really, just wanted to wish you luck and to tell you not to blow it in front of that big audience." he said with a smirk. Doug stared at him, not really feeling the impact of of his statement until he remembered the amount of people in the auditorium and that it was still growing. His face went pale and Roger's laughter erupted until it was cut short when he was shoved aside.
"Look out Roger. Is all you do is stand around like an idiot?" said Beebe, sticking her nose in the air as she walked past them.
"You shut your mouth Bluff!" shouted Roger, rushing after her to give her a piece of his mind.
Doug watched him go before he turned to leave. He was stopped however when he saw Patti walking towards him. Wearing a beautiful gown, she looked like an angel, something that was out of his reach. She said something to him, he couldn't understand it however due to his daydream of her. She waved and walked to the backstage to get ready to go on. He wished he had heard what she said once he finally snapped back to attention.
"One minute!" called the teacher. His eyes went wide and again the color left his face.
"I can't do this..." he said. He rushed to the back door, throwing it open to the parking lot and rushing out into the rain. If running out a minute before the show didn't embarrass him, returning would most definitely.
Trying to take some cover from the rain, he moved under the small awning by the door. Had his self confidence really not improved since Middle School? He felt terrible and the rain wasn't helping that mood. The sky seemed to laugh at him as lightning cracked across the sky and thunder rolled. Doug stared up at it's mocking, frowning hard. He just wanted to go home, or somewhere, anywhere from here.
He closed his eyes, sliding down the wall. Maybe after a small breather he could get enough confidence to go inside. Nodding to his self statement, he decided that was all he needed. Maybe it wasn't what someone else needed though. He didn't notice it before, something huddling under one of the cars under the lamp post. It was small and looked a terrible mess even from where he stood. Perhaps it was a dog? Did Porkchop get caught in the rain?
Doug moved into the rain, slowly walking to the car to not startle the creature under it. He didn't care if he was getting wet, right now there was something that needed his help. When he got to the car he began to crouch low, trying to look under the vehicle to see what was under it.
"Come on out little guy. I won't hurt you." he said in a soft voice. A growl was the only response he got, but it didn't stop him from still trying to help it out. "You don't have to be afraid, I'll take you inside out of the rain."
Reaching under the car, the teen wasn't expecting the animal to jump out at him. A cat spat at him and swiped at his hand with it's claws, causing him to yelp and jump back. The moment he jumped back lightning struck from the sky again. His back hit the metal of the lamp post as the electricity struck it, sending his body into a shock while the light above him burst. Everything went white as sparks fell down from the shattered glass, it was all that remained of the place where Doug once was.
Rain pelted the charred ground of the battlefield, though it didn't mask the sounds of a fight. Metal clashed against metal as two figures were locked in combat. A larger figure fought against one that was half it's size, but was still putting up a fight. The larger combatant looked more beast like, a bull that wore armor an walked on two legs, he was fighting a human who wore armor as well.
"I've had enough of this!" shouted the human, shoving the larger beast back with amazing strength.
"You started this fight Human! Now we shall finish it!" roared the bull.
"Oh, it is finished." the human said with a smirk. The bull looked at him, holding his large axe with both hands. What did he mean by that?
He grit his teeth and rose his axe to strike the man down, but his eyes went wide as a sudden sharp pain went through his back. He looked over his shoulder to see a smirking human looking up at him, pulling the daggers from his back. His head quickly turned towards the human in front of him as the other vanished, not prepared for the foot to slam into his waist and kick him back.
"This is the death you deserve, Horde scum!" shouted the man as the bull stumbled back towards the cliff that hovered over the large lake. He tumbled off the edge, falling down into the water with a large splash that sent waves against the shore far off. Lightning cracked through the sky as the soldier of the Alliance walked away from his battle once he was sure his target was killed. The flash of light was no concern to him, there were bigger things to fight in Hyjal right now then a Tauren who got in his way.
Bubbles rose to the surface of the water, few at first but then at an alarming rate. Something broke the surface, gasping out and flailing in the water before remembering how to swim. The teen coughed, swimming towards the shore of the lake and crawling onto the ground and gasping for breath. His eyes darted around, trying to figure out his surroundings through the rain. What exactly just happened?
"What's going on? This isn't Bluffington..." said the boy. He squinted his eyes to the water, getting just a glimpse of something sinking below the surface. It looked like a hand reaching up. "Oh no!"
Doug didn't even think, he dove into the water, swimming as fast as he could and diving under the water to grab hold of the outstretched hand. It was extremely hard to pull them back to the surface, for some reason the person he was helping weighed a ton almost, but the weightlessness of the water didn't make it impossible. He manged to get them both back to the shore, he coming out first and pulling hard on the hand to get them at least half way out of the water.
Standing back to assess the situation, Doug first looked at who he had just saved. Horns, hooves, fur all over and a tail. It looked like a Minotaur from myths and stories, so that would explain the weight and armor. Now that he kinda knew what it was, he was afraid to touch it. Was it still alive? Was it going to hurt him if he was to get any closer? He didn't know what to do even if it was alive. He decided to give it a shot, slowly coming to a full stand and walking to the creature's side.
Blood was starting to soak the ground where the creature laid, this alarming Doug to where he went into a mode of not thinking again and began to try and find ways to remove the armor. He was no expert on first aid, but he knew enough basic skill to where he could maybe save this thing's life. The armor was complicated but by searching over it enough he found that it was held together by clips and snaps. He cautiously moved over the body, unsnapping the restraints an struggling with the weight of the armor to pull it off.
There were two stab wounds to his back, Doug couldn't tell the severity of it but if they were still bleeding then they were probably pretty deep. The young teen stood there, staring down at the beast while he tried to figure out what to do. From the movies he watched he could remember that when someone was injured, they would always cover the wound with a tied cloth. The only thing was he didn't have any cloth … or did he? Doug looked down at his tuxedo jacket, that was cloth, right?
"Okay, I got this..." he said, quickly pulling off the jacket. "This is what Quailman would do."
He confirmed himself with a nod and took hold of the sleeve of his jacket. He pulled, trying to rip parts of it off but it was doing nothing. Doug stopped pulling, looking down at the coat and pulling the arm again. Still nothing. Well … he was pretty big, maybe it was better if he just used the entire coat. He climbed over his body, trying to wrap his jacket over the wounds. He tied the arms together around his waist to hold it in place and now just stood there, staring down at the haphazard job he did.
"Well, it's better then nothing..." said Doug with a sigh. He was relieved that the rain had stopped, but now the both of them were soaked to the bone. Doug leaned down checking to make sure that his patient was still breathing. It was faint, but he felt a pulse when he placed his fingers on what he thought was his wrist and had shaky breathing. He was no doctor, but he liked to think he did something good.
"I'm … gonna look around, you stay here, alright?" he asked the Tauren on the ground. He wasn't really expecting him to answer so he slumped his shoulders, moving away from him in order to look around.
Doug moved to venture a little farther from the place he had woken up from, leaving the Minotaur creature by himself. A pair of eyes followed the boy as he walked off, making sure he was far enough away before revealing themselves from the bush. Slowly and silently a large tan colored feline moved from the foliage, creeping towards the Tauren resting on the shore. Guilt riddled the cat's face as it stopped beside him, placing a paw on his chest.
"Oh what have I done? Look at you, I shouldn't have left you alone." the cat spoke, voice deep but feminine. She laid herself over the body, letting her ear rest on his chest to hear if he was still breathing.
"You're late, Swiftclaw." spoke the Tauren, looking at the cat with one eye open. Caught off guard, the feline shot up, eyes wide.
"Muno?" Swiftclaw stared at him, feeling around on his chest with her paws.
"Less talking, more healing alright?" Muno coughed out. "This bandage isn't doing much … despite good intentions."
Swiftclaw looked down at the tuxedo jacket tied around his waist. What an odd wrapping job and dressing. The cat sat back, body shifting, forming into her original form of the female Tauren. She held her hands out over the wound once she removed the jacket, letting the magic of nature wash over the wounds and slowly starting to reverse the damage.
"I'm so sorry I let this happen." Swiftclaw frowned as she worked. "If I just stayed with you..."
"Aminaska, it is not your fault. The Alliance are becoming too competitive. I shouldn't have said anything when I did." said Muno, trying to sooth his ally.
"Still..." Her head lowered as she finished the healing process. He would still be sore but his wounds were cleaned and closed. She sat back, shifting back into her feline form where she sat back on her haunches next to him. Her ears were folded back while that look of guilt once again spread over her face.
"Okay mister Minotaur, I don't know where we are exactly, but I think we're okay if we stay here." Doug called out as he was returning from his small wandering. He stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the large tan cat sitting next to his self appointed friend. She stared back at him before growling low and sitting up, lowering her body to the ground.
"Alliance pig! Come back to finish him?" Swiftclaw roared out, jumping and soaring over Muno's body towards the small teenage boy.
"What?" Doug cried out. His reaction time wasn't as fast as he wanted it, and in mid turn he was tackled to the ground under the weight of the beast, her claws sinking into his shoulders. The pain was something he had never felt, he had been scratched by cats before but this felt like many small knives stabbing into his skin.
Doug wailed out in pain, trying not to squirm lest he make the claws dig deeper. And just like that it was over. He felt the cat release him, growling and stepping back at the command of a deep voice. He didn't dare look over his shoulder, but curiosity got the better of him. The cat was backing away while the large Minotaur was standing. She walked to his side, sitting obediently next to him but glaring as if she was confused at his command.
"I do not think this one is a threat, Swiftclaw." Muno grunted, patting her on the head.
"He is a human Muno, they are all a threat." she hissed in return. Doug just stared between them, still laying on the ground. Did that cat just talk?
"If he were a threat, he wouldn't have saved my life. What is your name, young one?"
He wasn't sure if he was going to answer, since when were humans a threat? It was a dumb question to ask since he was talking to a talking cow and cat. "I-It's Doug Funnie sir..."
"An interesting surname." said the Tauren, smiling. "I believe it was you who pulled me from the lake and tried to treat my wounds."
"Poorly." added Swiftclaw with a snort. Doug frowned and pushed himself up to a stand, whimpering from the wounds on his shoulders. Stained with blood, the white dress shirt of his suit wouldn't be much use to him after this mess.
"I didn't have much to work with! I don't even know how I got here!" he said, dusting himself off and wincing softly. "Where am I?"
"Mount Hyjal. On the shore of Ashen Lake to be precise." Muno spoke in a soft grumble.
"Mount Hyjal? I don't remember learning about this place in Geography." said Doug, taking another look around. The area was odd to explain, a majority of the forest area was re-grown, but a lot of the land still was charred like it had suffered in a forest fire. Not far from where they were was a small shrine looking construction. White in color, a large statue of a stag towered over a shallow pool of water. Why didn't he notice that when he went walking off?
"Do you two know where Bluffington is? I need to get back to school for my musical." he asked, turning his attention back to the two Tauren.
"Bluffington? Is that some code for Thunder Bluff? What would a human want there?" asked Muno.
"Inside job Muno, I told you he's not to be trusted!" Swiftclaw hissed again, growling and baring her teeth at Doug enough to cause him to trip backwards.
"Aminaska relax. Jumping to conclusion will not get any of us anywhere." said the male. "Come with us to the Sanctuary of Malorne, it will be safe to get things sorted out from there."
"Sanctuary of what?" said Doug, not wanting to make anymore mistakes or risk being killed by the talking cat. Swiftclaw moved with Muno as he walked, when the boy made no motion to follow she turned, walking around behind him and hooking her horns on his shirt to push him along with force. When he still wouldn't budge her form shifted into a large bear, hurling the young boy onto her back and walking behind her comrade.
It was a short walk but long enough to strike a small conversation. Doug watched them as they walked, hanging onto the great bear's horns while she reluctantly let him ride on her back.
"So, what exactly are you two? I've never seen Minotaur, let alone a cat that can turn into a bear."
"What kind of human doesn't know what a Tauren is?" growled Swiftclaw.
"We are Tauren young one, Shu'halo, children of the Earth Mother." said Muno, a smile on his snout as he spoke with pride of his people.
"Shu'halo..." Doug repeated, looking down at the top of Swiftclaw's head while she walked. He wondered if he was just stuck in one of his many daydreams, though he was certain he couldn't make up the stuff that was going on right now. If this was one of his daydreams, he would have known everything about it. "Wait, you said 'we'?"
"Swiftclaw is a Druid, a shapeshifter and a being of nature." Muno continued. "She is one of the Tauren when she is not taking on her animal forms. I myself am but a simple warrior, strength and brawn are my strong suits."
"Why are you talking to him so freely?" growled the bear. Doug went to open his mouth but she thrust her head up, knocking his jaw shut so quick he bit his tongue.
"Don't you see? He is not from here if he as no idea who we are."
"Maybe we should ask him more questions, see if he's lying..." Swiftclaw glared up.
"I'm right here still, you know." Doug muttered, sticking his tongue out and going cross-eyed to try and see if it was bleeding or not. As they arrived at the sanctuary Swiftclaw was quick to toss Doug off her back, letting him hit the ground while her form shifted to her smaller cat form. Slowly the teen pushed himself up, cringing from the lingering pain of his claw wounds. He had only been here ten minutes and already he had been dumped into a lake, attacked by a mountain lion with horns, tongue bitten, and now simply thrown on the ground.
Doug looked up as the cat now sat across from him, staring at him hard while her eyes squinted. He looked back at her in return, unsure of how to even go about talking to a cat that could talk back. Sure he talked to Porkchop all the time, but he never got a verbal, understood answer out of the dog. He either wrote things down or acted them out.
"Who's side are you on, Alliance or Horde?" said Swiftclaw.
"Who?" asked Doug, looking taken back by the question.
"Answer the question!"
"What's the difference?"
"The Alliance is made up of a joining of many races, Humans, Night Elves, Dwarves and Gnomes, Draenei and Worgen." explained Muno. "The Horde are made up of the Tauren, Orcs, Forsaken, Trolls and Blood Elves along with Goblins."
"So what side are you on?" growled the cat.
"Um, neither. I don't know anything about them..." the boy answered honestly. Swiftclaw folded her ears back, narrowing her eyes in a kind of look that told him she was having a hard time believing him, but reluctantly accepted his answer.
"Where do you live?" she asked the next question.
"Bluffington." this question he answered with confidence.
"There's no place like that here!" Swiftclaw roared. Muno sighed, clapping a plate covered hand on top of the cat's head. She continued to growl but remained silent on speaking terms as he glared down at her.
"Don't you see the obvious signs? It sounds as if he is not even from Azeroth."
"Azeroth? Wheres that?" asked Doug, looking dumbfounded.
Swiftclaw smacked her paw over her face. "You're standing on it."
"I thought we were in a place called Hyjal."
"Azeroth is the PLANET."
"Well, now we know for sure he's not from here." sighed Muno. "Some kind of case of displacement across worlds..."
"So he's just a Draenei like human." growled Swiftclaw. "More reason to just kill him now."
Doug grimaced at the cat's words, backing away from her and moving closer to Muno. At least he sounded like he was on his side more then Swiftclaw was. "I'm not even on Earth anymore?"
"It does seem like a lot to take in all at once. I'm surprised you're holding up so- … well." Muno began to speak, but stopped towards the end of his sentence when he looked at his side at the teen boy. Doug sunk to his knees, looking as if he was staring off into space to the point where he looked statue like.
This could be a grand adventure like he would write and draw for his comics, or he could be stuck in this world for the rest of his life because he had no idea how to get back home. If he was lucky this might be just a coma induced dream and everything would be alright if he woke up. That was the problem though, if he woke up. This all felt too real to be a dream, the pain, the dampness of his clothes, everything around him he could feel.
"Pfft, already he's falling apart and he hasn't even seen the true face of this place yet." scoffed Swiftclaw.
"What do you mean?" At the mention of something more sinister then the situation he was already in, Doug turned his attention to the cat.
"Oh?" she snickered. Standing up she shifted to her normal form. Already towering over him, she smacked a large hand on his back, sending him forward and pushing him along to walk over towards the edge of the area. "Look out there, what do you see?"
He stared hard through the charred tree stumps and regrowth, flames flickering off the burning wood. "Nothing."
Doug looked ahead farther by squinting his eyes. Sudden shock and realization came to him as he saw what she had been trying to show him. The flicking flames in the distance were not flames at all. They moved on their own, encased in skeletal bodies that drifted along, setting fire to already burning timber. Among them moved large snake like beings, slithering along the ground and holding large burning staves. They gathered in groups, forming large molten spheres through concentrating burning beams of pure fire.
Startled by what he had seen, Doug stumbled backwards, landing on his rear in the horror of what was out there. "W-What are those?"
"Invaders from the Firelands." said Muno, coming up beside him. "They come to Hyjal, to the plane of Azeroth to burn this world. Their time has come and gone, but they still linger in this world, trying to accomplish what their master wished."
"See? This isn't all flowers and sunshine 'Funnie.'" said Swiftclaw, no longer needing to be in her normal form, she shifted back to cat once more.
He turned to look between both of them, hands shaking, starting to sweat. Now this was something to be overwhelmed about. His eyes wide, all he could do was scream at the top of his lungs before passing out at the Tauren's feet.