Wildheart Chapter 1 – "Dust in the Wind"

Disclaimer: This story takes place during the timeline of "Burning Crusade" as far as setting and other story elements are concerned. It might be slightly AU as well, as I emphasize certain aspects of WoW while downplaying others in my writing. Please enjoy, reviews are greatly appreciated and flames will warm the winter hearth. World of Warcraft and all associated aspects belong to Blizzard. Chapter title inspiration stems from "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, 1977.

Desolace. A barren wasteland cut off by a vast wall of jagged earth from its fertile neighbors, like a rough patch of dead grass that refuses to turn green amidst its surroundings. Its dusty roads rarely disturbed and for good reason, few have purpose in this forsaken land. Though these same lands were consumed by bloodshed and battles in the past, there were few conflicts along the eerie and quiet roads now, to the point where the sound of clashing weapons from the occasional centaur skirmish would echo through the winds undisturbed.

Slow, steady thumps drumming the ground, followed by the creaking noise of wooden wheels turning upon a rusty metal axle break the silence as a goblin merchant's caravan, headed by a few enormous kodo beasts, trudges through the road.

A little green denizen sits upon the wooden throne of his rickety cart like a depressed king who lacks desire, clutching the reins in one hand and cradling his slouching head in the other, his elbows resting lazily on his knees. He yawns sleepily; boredom easily sets in when the only view for miles was the somber landscape of dust and dirt speckled with rocks and bones.

Suddenly the pack beasts halt abruptly, kicking their hooves up and clamoring distressed groans.

Rubbing his eyes and blinking in surprise, the goblin raises his head, gripping the reins tighter and reaching over to snatch his home-made coach gun; a firearm with two iron barrels sawed down to the shortest length for use as an effective self-defense hand cannon.

The goblin glances around furiously, scrutinizing the horizon for trouble, snapping his head around just in time to glimpse a flash of fur flying towards him. A nightsaber panther, possessing an unnaturally dark hued coat, and black voids in place of normally glowing yellow eyes, sinks its razor-sharp claws into the goblin's abdomen, slashing through the thin layers of traveling clothes and green flesh with ease, a misty spray of red splattering onto the wood as nightsaber claws meet goblin entrails in a brutal evisceration.

The sound of the coach gun accidentally discharging into the air echoes with a din as the mortally wounded goblin squeezes his fists for a moment before releasing them.

The coach gun falls from his grasp as do the reins while startled kodos trample amok in opposite directions, fragments of metal and wooden splinters saturating the air as they demolish their bonds from the rickety wooden cart and charge off into the distance.

Once the dust settles, the enigmatic marauding nightsaber is nowhere to be seen. The goblin merchant lies in the debris, throwing his hand over his bleeding torso in pain and cursing furiously between gasps of breath.

As the dying merchant's perception fades, he hears the distinct clunk of plated hooves walking towards him. He glances upward, seeing a tall, muscular humanoid, with a stoic face of bovine features crowned by two curved bull horns and black fur; a tauren wearing a battle-scarred steel breastplate and tanned leather breeches towering over him.

The tauren holds up a piece of parchment in his right hand for the goblin to see, depicting a wanted poster. A forced grin crawls across the goblin's face as he spies the distinct insignia of a howling gray wolf upon the warrior's battle-standard displayed on his back. Mingan, the famed engineer-warrior-mercenary; it was rare that a tauren would work for goblin cartels; it was rarer that any achieved such fame and reputation.

"Time is money friend...and I'm pissed…you're wasting money here…instead of pursuing your mark." The goblin laughs weakly, slowly nodding, and closing his eyes, knowing that his attacker will be hunted down.

"Damned goblin greed…at least it pays well." Mingan mutters to himself as he shakes his head in amazement and walks off, following the faint tracks of bloody claws leading off into the distance as he crumples the parchment in his hand.

The fabric of the warrior's battle standard billows in the wind as Mingan continues to pursue his target.

Two swords of mysterious crystalline material are secured across his back, gleaming brightly despite the dull light provided by the overcast sun above.

One possesses a hilt of black metal with a unique blade that looked as if magma were flowing yet frozen in place, glowing with orange warmth and occasional small flames emanating from the blade's straight edge.

The second sword is just as odd as the first, composed of some strange turquoise alloy that gives off a chilling feel and what seems like small frozen breaths exhaling from the blade's curved edge, the most notable feature of this one being an upturned "claw" near the base of the blade meant for countering attacks or keeping blood on the sword from dripping down and making the hilt slippery in the heat of battle.

The cross section that secures both blades also mounts the handle of an extraordinary shield, a marvel between engineering and shield crafting; it consisted of two circular layers with a row of metallic "teeth" sticking out between the two layers. The front of the shield has numerous metal studs shaped like gears drilled into its surface.

Two more engineering marvels in the warrior's possession further surpass the shield's making.

Resting on his forehead, just over his eyes is a metallic black frame with straps wrapped around the bases of his horns. Several knobs and buttons jut out from the sides of the metallic frame which surrounds a pair of finely crafted metal tubes protruding out into two greenish-yellow lenses shining like gems.

On his right thigh is a holster that holds a large firearm crafted of the rare arcanite alloy with a complex structure different from the makings of firearms regularly found in Azeroth.

A thigh pack, an all purpose survival kit containing multiple items, is strapped on his left leg.

Further up, his belt holds many small pouches for quick access.

The most notable feature in Mingan's equipment is the metal gauntlet he wears on his left hand, custom fitted for a tauren's three large fingers, with a katar mounted on the wrist sporting three ornate blades encrusted with large green gems that occasionally give off sparks of the same color.

Ominously, the overcast horizon further darkens and the winds pick up rapidly, causing dirt on the ground blowing over and obscuring the claw marks. This would make it much more difficult to follow the trail, but an accurate estimate was still possible. There could only be so many night elf druids to be found in the desert after all.

The warrior raises his right hand to his head, sliding down the goggles over his eyes. He presses a button and sees a display; these goggles were an example of the many new inventions made possible through the recent campaign into Outland, a cross between mortal engineering, Draenei technology, and insidious demon devices. These goggles give him a tactical advantage, allowing sight into further distances, sensing temperature fluctuations caused by entities to enhance the detection of those with abilities of stealth or invisibility and enabling vision when the environment obscures it.

Suddenly, heat signals register on Mingan's vision about 30 yards away. Zooming in on his target, it was a humanoid with distinctly long elven ears, crouching down and doing something with the dirt. Mingan ponders, "A lone night elf out in this weather? Very suspicious. If that's the druid I'm looking for, all in a days work. If not, just another Alliance notch on my gun, like the old days in the Horde."

The sandstorm was growing in intensity; no one in their right mind would stay outside. Mingan reaches his left hand across into one of the belt pouches to pick up a small canister while his right hand draws the pistol from its holster. He loads the canister into the pistol; it was a round that ignites like a flare to light up the area while disorienting those in the explosion radius, a trick inspired by a hunter friend of his from long ago.

Carefully, he raises the pistol with his right hand, drawing a bead at the silhouette before pulling the trigger and turning his head away so that the flash wouldn't affect the display on his goggles. He rushes forward to try and intercept his target as the explosion clears; the disorient effect only had a short duration.

The visual display shows the silhouette of the elf standing and facing him, strong fluctuations of energy indicated by glowing lights around the elf's hands. In response, Mingan swiftly holsters the pistol and grabs the shield from behind his back, preparing to guard against a magic attack. It was a warrior trick developed based on the blood elf spellbreakers' tactics in the Third War; if a shield was thrust forward with just enough energy precisely at the right moment, there was a chance of deflecting harmful magic before its impact.

However, no projectile ever emits from the night elf's hands and bright light engulfs the visual display as he feels the air burn around him. The sandstorm seems to shift so it was blowing into him from all directions instead of just the front, obeying the whim of a spellcaster with the ability to control natural forces.

"Nature magic? Definitely a druid…" he deems, gritting his teeth through the pinprick sensations of the magical attack; it wasn't excruciatingly painful but it definitely slowed his advance.

The sandstorm briefly calms for a moment as the spell's assault ends and Mingan seizes this opportunity to leap into the air towards the direction of the elf. Quickly closing the distance, he pulls his left hand back in preparation to strike with the katar and flips the goggles back up with his right thumb before gripping the shield tightly. As he thrusts the katar forward to strike, he suddenly feels the left side of his body being dragged down. Glancing over, he sees his left hand and left leg wrapped in many dirt-covered vines sprung from the ground, nature itself obeyed a druid's behest.

Gazing back up, he briefly catches a glimpse of the elven druid's visage standing in front of him before a summoned insect swarm flies towards his face, obscuring his vision and hearing.

Mingan growls angrily, shoving his right hand forward as far as he can and clicks a hidden switch on the handle of his shield with his thumb. Several small bolts of lightning fly forth from the gear-shaped studs on the front of the shield as the surrounding air crackles with electricity for a moment.

The elf cries out in surprise, stunned by the attack as Mingan quips, "Deployable lightning shield…gets them every time."

Slowly opening his eyes, his vision still a bit hazy from the smoldering insects covering his face, Mingan draws his shield back, slicing the vines holding his left hand loose with the teeth-like edges of the shield that were spinning rapidly now.

Turning and slashing upwards with the katar, he hears a pained groan from the elf, followed shortly by the sound of a body crumpling to the ground.

Mingan secures the shield onto his back before shaking his head in annoyance and brushing the dead insects from his face. The vines that were binding his left leg have completely wilted away, between the barren environment of Desolace and the druid's focus broken by his attacks, there was nothing keeping them alive.

Looking down at the ground, Mingan is finally able to examine the night elf for the first time.

The unconscious Kal'dorei lies before him, her flowing silver tresses roughed up from the fight and dirtied from her fall to the ground. Her flawless skin has an orchid hue to it and oddly enough, unlike most night elves in the past Mingan had encountered, she lacks any facial tattoos. A simple green robe of woven linen covers her body from neck to feet. Despite the baggy garment, he could still see the outline of her shapely, exquisite curves framed by her svelte elven physique that put any other elf he ever met to shame. Part of her linen robe was torn by his attack, exposing the diagonal cut across her abdomen from just above her waist to right below her ribcage. It wasn't a deep cut, but it was enough to make her bleed profusely.

Realization hits Mingan as a blacksmith strikes metal at the right time. He ambushed her indiscriminately just as the marauding feral druid had ambushed the caravan. She might not even be his target, just someone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Something didn't sit right with him about just leaving her there to die as another forgotten casualty in the desert, even if Horde killing the Alliance wasn't necessarily frowned upon. Though his troubled past had caused him to develop a cold-hearted and gruff exterior, Mingan felt something he hadn't felt in some time: remorse.

"As I hold the power of death in my hands, so shall I hold the power of life…" He whispers aloud, reaching up to his neck, and removing a talisman. It was a brightly glowing sphere, which looked like the finest of pearls, linked to a thin silver chain; this was a magic artifact looted from a dragon's lair years ago known only as the "Lifegiving Gem" which had made the difference between life and death for him when situations seemed hopeless. It had the power of temporarily preventing one's soul from leaving the mortal coil and allowing just enough time for healing to be done as long as the wearer wasn't grievously wounded.

Carefully, he places the amulet around her neck as the gem's glow shifts into one of swirling light. Kneeling down and shaking his head in shame, he tears away the fabric of the robe around her abdomen.

In contrast to her face, she has various tattoos adorning her body but he didn't stop to examine them as he deftly wraps a bandage retrieved from his pack around her body, fully covering the wound.

Rummaging through one of his belt pouches, he retrieves a small glass vial of crimson liquid with an injector needle at the top of the bottle in place of a cork.

Gently but firmly, he jabs the needle into her outer thigh; it easily penetrates the material of the robe and her flesh as the concentrated healing potion is injected into her bloodstream.

Reaching below her leg, Mingan feels a faint pulse behind her knee and murmurs, "Don't die on me…I swear I'll make this up to you somehow."

He slides his arm all the way underneath her knees and his other arm behind her shoulders as he picks her up with ease and begins to run in the direction of Nijel's Point, the nearest Alliance town where he might be able to leave her in the care of a healer to fully recover.

As he approaches the town, the guards yell out in alarm, raising their weapons at him, many of them flanking him with their glaives held ready while others drew back their bows and aimed at him. They wouldn't dare attack while he was carrying the unconscious elf, but he hadn't thought about what would happen once he found a healer for her.

With the guards following him closely with their weapons, he finds a building with the large insignia of a red cross over its entrance. Mingan surmises, "Good thing someone had the insight to make a universal symbol for healing during the temporary truce of the Third War."

A mighty blow from his plated hoof smashes the flimsy door into splinters as Mingan barges in, cradling the unconscious night elf in his arms. He ignores the alarmed reactions of the various denizens inside, shoving past them in search of an empty bed where he could leave her.

As he maneuvers through the hallway, the town guards form a barricade at the doorway and post up at the windows; they don't want to bring the fight into the hospital, but they aren't going to let him leave either.

Mingan finally finds an empty bed behind a curtained corner at the very end of the hallway, carefully setting her down as he briefly watches the slow rise and fall of her bosom, the glowing talisman resting there.

For a moment, he contemplates taking it back to aid his escape back out of the town, but then his determination to allow her a chance at living gets the better of him.

"Don't let all this be for naught..." He mutters under his breath.

Swiftly turning around, he smirks at the guards surrounding the doorway with their weapons ready as he quickly grabs his shield in an agile motion. He didn't want to hurt the dumb bastards too badly, but he definitely wasn't going to surrender to them either.

His left hand still bare from removing the gauntlet-katar earlier, he switches hands on the shield, keeping it raised as he stands off against the guards.

Behind the shield, Mingan uses his right hand to open the chamber of his sidearm before reaching into his belt pouch to retrieve another one of the "concussive flare" rounds that he had used earlier and loading it into his weapon. In one rapid motion, he draws the pistol, fires it straight down the hallway towards the surrounded doorway, and holsters it again, before raising his shield to cover his eyes.

The few guards who react fast enough to the discharged firearm dive for cover while the rest are engulfed in the blinding bright light of the explosion. Though most of his foes temporarily lost their hearing from that attack, Mingan roars with a determined battle cry before charging towards the door, shield raised, ramming into the first line of confused guards and discharging the electrical field from his shield to keep the group stunned.

Raising up his right leg, he slams his hoof down into the ground causing small tremors around him that further disorient the rabble of guards; all of the tauren race learned how to utilize this blessing from the Earthmother during their growth.

Shoving them aside, he continues to run towards the exit of the town, as long as he could get far away enough, the guards wouldn't bother abandoning the town's safety just to pursue him.

A volley of arrows fall behind him or glance off the two crossed blades on his back, but a few still manage to strike him, the keen arrowheads puncturing the thinner joints of his armor around his arms.

As he distances himself far enough from the town that the guards cease fire, he feels woozy from blood loss caused by intense running with the open wounds and a nauseating sensation in his gut. "Poison…" Mingan grunts in pain as he stumbles off into the distance, his vision blurring.

Author's Note: Yes this story is resurrected from what it was several years ago and hopefully I'll write much more, much better, and finish it this time! Here's a shout out to some of the awesome people whose talented writing helped inspire my return:

EisKrahe-SturmKrahe: My real life buddy (the hunter friend) and writer of Code Geass: Exorcising Demons, an excellent story if you enjoy that anime series, as well as Curious Encounters if you enjoy BlazBlue.

topearsXXVII: Another writer with an epic Code Geass fanfic Thank You Kallen, helps with previewing my work sometimes and holds me to a high standard!

Elly3981: A superb writer, whose Final Fantasy Tactics and Legend of Zelda fanfics were original inspirations for me to start writing years ago, also has heartwarming fanfics for Chrono Crusade and Code Geass; definitely check out Love of a Britannian Empress.

kazamaCEO: Another excellent writer who initially inspired me years ago and the original Maiev/Illidan shipper with some great WoW fanfics, unfortunately the best of them, Imprisonment, is no longer on here anymore.

EmbraceDiversity: I'm proud to say that Love Has Its Reasons is one of the fanfics that originally inspired me to start writing WoW fanfics years ago and helped influence my love of cross-faction pairings.

Nashra: Chosen by Shadow is a great WoW fanfic, I hope you come back and continue it soon!

AshadelMG: Amazing WoW fanfic writer with vivid, powerful descriptions. By Fang and Spell has some of the most unique OC's I've seen in a fanfic.

Iceworth: Writer of The Obsidian Dawn, definitely an epic as far as WoW fanfics go, should be a novel by itself!

Remir'wrath: Three great Ragnarok fanfics, Passion's Bitter End, Behind Guitar Strings, and Prince of Ravens.

PheonRen: When Orcs Cry Freedom will give you the feels, the WoW fanfics with her OC's and her Dragon Age fanfics are enjoyable reads as well!

Neural Misfit: Gravitation is another popular WoW fanfic and for good reason, I hope you continue it!