Scepter

This is a chapter in a larger piece of work I am writing about my character, Zarabethe the Night Elf hunter in World of Warcraft. It was borne from my desire to complete the Scepter of the Shifting Sands questline before it was deleted with Cataclysm, which sadly did not come to light. Zarabethe's life was shaped by this quest. It started simply enough, then as her obsession took hold, carried her farther and farther away from her values and took over her life. In the chapters before, her and her steadfast companion became lovers, and she found herself pregnant. Afraid that he would force her to give up the quest to take care of herself and their child, Zarabethe left and struck out on her own. This was a few months afterward, as she found it more and more difficult to complete objectives by herself.

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1. Kelanaer

Zarabethe crouched wearily behind a bush at the entrance to the grove, leaning her back against a rock there. She could hear the satyr madly giggling to himself near the Moonwell----but she knew that he would remain there and ignore her unless provoked. Spook lay beside her and whined as she licked a wound on her paw. The poor sabre had several scratches on her back and shoulders and a tuft of fur was missing on her ear. Zarabethe was not much better off: she unlaced the ties of her jerkin and pulled the shoulder of her tunic down to rub salve on a pair of oozing claw marks on her upper arm, hissing through her teeth as she tightly wound some bandages around it. there was no way to tell what kind of ichor coated the satyr's claws but the bandages would have to do for now until she could get into town to see a priest----her arm burned but did not feel like it needed tending immediately. She shrugged out of her jerkin and lifted the hem of her tunic to examine the cut at her ribs--although it bled profusely it was fortunately shallow and neat. She covered it with a clean cloth and awkwardly wound a bandage over her ribs, between her breasts and the gentle curve of her belly.

 

And what might you be doing here child, lurking at the edge of a Nightmare Portal?

 

Zarabethe started violently, leaping into attack position with her dagger in one hand, and still holding onto the strip of cloth with the other. All she could see was a shadow within the shadow of a nearby bush, darker than the surroundings. She waited, alert and breathing shallowly until the apparition sighed and stepped forward. A massive cat poked its head out of the darkness, his gleaming eyes staring into hers. Spook's hair rose on the back of her neck and she rumbled deep in her throat, almost a growl. The giant nightsabre sat down and looked at her patiently. Zarabethe noticed the swirl of markings around the cat's shoulderblades and lowered her dagger. Druid. Judging by the massive size of the feline and the light dusting of pale fur around the eyes revealing his age, she knew which one.

 

"Kelanaer." she said as way of greeting.

 

She sat back down and continued tending to her wounds. Kelanaer watched silently for a minute then shapeshifted effortlessly into night elf form. He sighed at her crude ministrations and the oozing rake at her shoulder.

 

"Here, let me," he said, reaching for the roll of bandages and the salve. Zarabethe hesitated for a minute, irritated at the unspoken disdain for her ability to bind wounds. Although amiable acquaintances, Kelanaer was the one person that always made her feel as a novice in whatever she was doing. Necessity caused her to hand it over---she knew the wound on her shoulder needed someone more skilled than her to heal. Kelanaer murmured words to Elune under his breath as he cleansed the wound of poison and wrapped it efficiently. Zarabethe turned her head and bit the inside of her cheek against the burning pain. Finished with her shoulder, he reached for the bandage at her side. His hand made contact with her skin at the same time she realized what he was doing and drew back sharply...but the damage was done. Kelanaer stared at the curve of her belly beneath her shirt, quickly turning his shocked expression into a question, raising one elegant eyebrow to her. Zarabethe was horrified to find herself blushing, but defiantly returned his gaze to him, raising one eyebrow and remaining silent. After several heavy seconds, he dropped his eyes and tended to the wound at her side, keeping his comments unspoken. Leaving the topic between them they tended to Spook as best as she let them, smearing salve on the worst scratches.

 

"So why the satyr?" asked Kelanaer presently. Zarabethe looked up from where she was repairing the tears in her jerkin. The demon's insane ramblings had not ceased since she had first wandered into the grove.

 

"I need a final piece of the Nightmare from this grove. He appears to be holding it. Unfortunately, he was a little tougher than I planned, and Spook and I were...unsuccessful." Her jerkin repaired, she put it on and laced it up gingerly around her injuries. "He has some sort of magical barrier that my arrows can barely pierce from a distance. He throws it up and taunts me from the moonwell until I get near enough to slice him with my blade, then he turns on me with full force. But as soon as I back off from him, all he does is laugh that infuriating laugh and throw up his shield. The only time I was able to strike him at all Spook snuck up on him from behind, and as he turned I laid several arrows into him at close range. That hurt him some, at least, engaging him to fight back until he cast a shadow burst, flinging both Spook and I back. Then he simply turned around and ignored us. I felt it prudent to step back and re-organize." 

 

The druid tilted his head, studying the Twilight Corruptor for a long moment. Zarabethe waited patiently. The ancient druid was a good friend but he strictly followed his own agenda, which made him somewhat unpredictable, She expected him to offer advice them continue on his way, so was surprised to see him shift into feral form and slink down the bush-lined path towards the Moonwell. She shifted her bow into her free hand and crept after him, signalling Spook to follow.

 

The glow from the abandoned Nightmare Portal illuminated their faces as they quietly made their way to the back of the grove where the satyr kept up his mad string of gibberish. Kelanaer's feline face was completely unreadable as he made a full circle of the moonwell, settling to a spot well behind the satyr. Zarabethe crouched behind a fallen log 120 degrees from where he was, with the satyr as the point. She blew her bangs out of her eyes and readied her bow, Spook tense behind her.

 

With a roar a massive midnight bear leapt from the place the ancient druid had been, swiping at the Nightmare Corruptor with its huge paws. Zarabethe couldn't keep a smirk off her face as the bear's claws dug deep into the satyr's shoulders, causing it to scream. Her smirk was wiped off her face though as her arrows bounced harmlessly off his magical barrier. With one smooth motion she was over the rotted log and dashing to move in close and attack the satyr with her dagger while his back was turned to her. Spook rushed in beside her, sinking her claws deep into his back. The Nightmare Corruptor turned and bore his eyes into Zarabethe's. As she returned the gaze, she felt the arm holding her dagger falter. She did not notice, however, as her entire attention was captivated by the satyr's inescapeable black eyes. His eyes were so dark, and yet luminous at the same time....like a deep pit with a pulsing light at the bottom. I wonder what makes the light at the bottom, she pondered while she stared longingly at its depths. So peaceful and quiet, like a grove in Ashenvale right before daybreak. And yet, strangely not quiet. She could hear a faint yell echoing up from the dark. The most remarkable thing about it was that if she concentrated on it, it got louder, and more pervasive the more she paid attention to it. It sounded almost like...

 

.......ZARA! Kelanaer's voice exploded in her mind. She blinked her eyes and realized that her dagger had sunk into his leg and that he was pushing back at her with both forepaws and his head, holding her away from him. She forced herself to back off of her old friend, letting go of the dagger plunged into his front leg and shaking her head to clear the darkness from it. Bile rose in her throat as she realized the extent the creature had forced himself into her mind, and anger steeled her shaking hands with the thought of how close she had come to seriously injuring her friend.

 

She unsheathed her other dagger and turned to face the Nightmare Corruptor. Behind her she heard Kelanaer dislodge her dagger with a low growl and flick it behind him. Panting heavily, Spook took her spot at Zarabethe's leg. The deranged satyr was breathing hard and bleeding from numerous gashes, but he seemed not to even notice in his mad stupor. He leered at Zarabethe as they circled each other slowly. When the demon's back was to the druid, she rushed forward with her own feral growl in her throat. The Satyr started to send up a shadow burst to throw all three of them out of range, but his mind temporarily forgot about the druid behind him and the giant bear charged at him, expertly interrupting his spell. Kelanaer shifted to cat form and attacked, striking viciously during the satyr's weak moment. Giving up his tricks and bellowing in anger, the Nightmare Corruptor slashed and swung at them wildly, not caring for his injuries, not bothering to protect himself.

 

Finally, he fell to the forest floor, vanishing in a plume of acrid green smoke. On the grass lay the sickly glowing piece of the Nightmare that Zarabethe needed. She dropped to her knees, her battle-fervor fading and the pain of her exertion returning. Three more claw marks joined the one on her shoulder, and several ugly bruises were appearing on her arms and legs. She was gasping for breath and her stomach was turned from the violation the satyr had performed on her mind. But more pressing was the tight, dull ache in her lower belly that radiated through to her back. Even as she mentally composed herself to logically deal with her injuries, she couldn't stop the sharp intake of breath at the pain. Gritting her teeth, she forced herself to ignore it and reached for the acid green crystal left behind by the Nightmare Corruptor. Her fingers tingled with fel energy as she quickly wrapped it in a cloth and stored it next to the others in a lined pouch. Only then did she allow herself to rock back on her heels and close her eyes, drawing her focus inward.

 

Kelanaer, back to night elf form, crouched across from her and examined the ground where the satyr had vanished. The grass had curled up and died as if poisoned. He briefly passed his hand over the area, murmuring under his breath. No change. The corruption in that spot was too deep. 

 

Momentarily defeated, he tended to the deep gash on his forearm where Zarabethe's dagger had pierced him. She opened her eyes and saw him roll up the sleeve of his robe and press his hand on the wound, channelling Elune to bind the edges of it and speed the healing.

 

"Sorry about that," she said a little sheepishly. Kelanaer got up and walked to the other side of the moonwell where her dagger stuck in the earth. He retrieved it and presented it to her with a wry look.

 

"Fortunately your aim at close range is atrocious," he said. Gathering his things, he prepared to continue on his way.

 

"--Kel," Zarabethe called. She stood quickly but carefully and reached her uninjured arm to clasp hands with him. "Thank you, my friend."

 

Kelanaer paused for a moment, looking the hunter in the eye. His gaze traversed her wan face, her slashed shoulder, and lastly, the unobtrusive roundness under her ribs. He looked her straight in the face and took her hand in friendship.

 

"I know what path you follow and although I am not aware of the circumstances surrounding your present condition, I do not encourage you to continue this journey right now. Many lives have been lost or changed forever on this path. You must journey back to Kalimdor soon---"

 

She started to interrupt, her eyes flashing. Kelanaer's face grew stern.

 

"You MUST travel back to Kalimdor soon. Kal'dorei children need to be born on the lands blessed by Elune, or they risk being tainted, turning soft and wretched. A Sin'dorei, or worse."

 

The words hung between them. Zarabethe's mouth was closed tightly. Moments ticked past. She tried again.

 

"I have a quest to follow. I am aware of what needs to be done---"

 

"You are aware of nothing but your obsession to this quest if you risk the birth of a kal'dorei on these cursed lands!" he interrupted sharply. "Do you think I do not know the entirety of this journey? It only gets more difficult from here, demanding all of your resources in ways you cannot even understand yet. And yet you expect to continue forward with no thought to your child or your duty. You could not even defeat a lone satyr in your present state."

 

The druid's words stung. Kelanaer was many things: concise, sarcastic, noble, and occasionally self-righteous....but he was never angry. His disappointment was clear. He let go of her hand and stepped backwards, shaking his head at her.

 

"You have been blessed by Elune. Few Night Elves have chosen to take this sacred journey in thousands of years. If you choose to ignore this gift and continue on this quest I will not help you again. It is my fervent hope that you will respect and honor your gift, although I see in your eyes only a desire to hold the Scepter."

 

Zarabethe watched silently as he gathered a sample of the corrupted earth into a fold of cloth and stored it in his belt pouch for later study. He sighed without looking at her.  "When is your time?"

 

"Lunar Festival," she answered. Her voice was only a whisper.

 

The ancient druid's voice softened only slightly. "Seek out Raene Wolfrunner of Astranaar then by Lunar Festival." He glanced up at her. "Sooner rather than later."

 

Zarabethe bristled and found her voice. "The animal handler? I think I can possibly manage without the help of one who midwives to mounts and pets."

 

Ignoring her outburst, Kelanaer turned his head to the east. "I must continue on my way. There are tremors deep within the ley lines. I have more important things to dwell on." Without another word he shifted into a massive nightsabre and vanished into the shadows.

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