Spirit Bound

Before the great cataclysm, during the height of the scourge invasion, two hunters, from vastly different backgrounds, find themselves being driven towards a common cause, by unseen forces determined to save Azeroth from an even greater lurking evil.

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4. Ominous Tidings

Several days later she found herself mounted on the back of a large, happily panting wolf; Mischa keeping pace at their side as they made haste toward the orc capital of Orgrimmar, in the blistering red desert of Durotar.

The imposing stone and lumber walls came into view shortly after Thaylla had lost all sense of time to the heat that both bore down upon her from the merciless and unshaded sun above and reflected back off of the packed clay terrain below. How her mount could maintain such a cheerful disposition in such a clime boggled her hard-boiled mind.

Sweat glistened across every inch of exposed skin as they made their way through the raised gates and into the city proper. The lack of food and water had her head swimming and she gazed longingly through the door of the inn as they passed, noting the long buffet tables stacked with roasted game and steins of what she assumed to be alcohol the equivalent of gnomish rocket fuel, but which she'd gladly swig if only to wash the dust from her tongue.

Later, she promised herself. Mission be damned, she wasn't moving an inch out of the city without a night off. A thought which brought forth the first genuine smile she'd had in weeks.

Pushing away the distracting thoughts of food and rest, Thaylla breathed a sigh of relief when her mount slowed to a ramble and turned them down the main thoroughfare, known locally as The Drag.

Cut deep into the surrounding rock, the winding roadway offered a brief respite from the blistering sun, shaded as it was by both the towering stone walls and numerous leather tarps that had been hung across the narrow open stretch above.

Both sides of the road sported numerous shops. Hawkers declared the various bargains to be had inside as traders and punters milled about, moving aside as she and Mischa rode past.

The cool shade ended all too soon as the road once again widened into Valley of Wisdom, coming to a halt outside of Grommash Hold, the administrative heart of the city, and Thrall's court.

As expected, she found Sian'tsu with a group of other shaman within an antechamber off of the main entrance.

"Well don' you look a fright, girl," the towering troll declared, her ponytailed shock of bright red hair bobbing as she shook her head while looking Thaylla over.

Glancing down, Thaylla barely suppressed a laugh. She was filthy. Her boots and pants were caked in mud up to her knees, her leather and chainmail hauberk equally splattered. Even her skin sported a thick layer of grime. One hell of an impression she was making.

"I haven't had a moment to breathe, let alone bathe, since starting this gods awful mission," she apologized. "I assure you that tomorrow I intend to be far improved."

Sian'tsu's top lip curled upwards in a smirk as a deep, rumbling laugh poured forth from her chest, "Best be smellin' far better, too, girl, or you be findin' yerself in the stables with Xon'cha's pups. Now what be bringin' a sin'dorei ta Thrall's doorstep in such a hurry she can't be hosin' herself off?"

Reaching into her bag, Thaylla produced the small pouch Lycanus had given her and handed it over. Sian'tsu looked at it curiously before opening it and giving it a cursory inspection.

The shaman's expression slowly changed from intrigued to uncomfortable as she closed the pouch and gingerly tucked it into the palm of her hand. Turning her deep amber gaze forward, she regarded Thaylla a moment before speaking.

"You be treadin' dangerous ground, hunter. Dis voodoo you bring be dark and unruly."

Thaylla felt the room around her drop in temperature and suppressed a shiver as she returned Sian'tsu's gaze, "Lycanus sent me here to discover the missing element of that concoction. I don't know what he means to do with it, but you can bet the darker it is, the happier he'll be."

Sian'tsu regarded her for a moment before nodding curtly and turning to offer a few words in Zandali to the three shaman who had been making a concerted effort to appear disinterested in their exchange.

The apparent elder of the group, a male towering well over seven feet in height, with skin the colour of an ashen sky and tusks protruding sharply from just below his cheekbones, stepped forward and accepted the pouch. Opening it slightly, he approached one of the nearby cooking tables and sprinkled a pinch of the fine dust onto the flames flickering in the bowl shaped hearth.

Thaylla watched as the small fire dimmed slightly, but seemed otherwise unaffected. She offered a raised eyebrow towards the elder, whose bright, ruby gaze held hers only a moment before looking back towards the table.

She heard him start to murmur, his eyes going glossy as his lips moved and his body began to sway slightly. Transfixed, Thaylla watched him work, barely noticing the other shaman as they started moving slowly towards the doorway of the adjacent room.

She knew a few scattered phrases in Zandali, enough to get by in marketplaces or inns, but fluency wasn't required to understand the depth of the magic he was weaving with his words. The weight of it was settling around everyone in the room, making it difficult to move, to breathe. It made her antsy and she was hard pressed to stay put, the urge to run and hide screaming through her.

The aged troll was now in a full trance, his body swaying and shimmying in a deep spirit dance; his face twisted in concentration, his eyes glazed and hollow. He was gone from this world, his body holding his reservation in the here and now as his inner being went forth to meet whatever it was the material in the pouch was calling forth.

Thaylla knew better than to interrupt. Even if a sarcastic crack would make her feel better, it would anger those around her and angering one troll was as good as angering the entire tribe. More, angering a shaman brought the fury of the elements upon your head and even faithful, yet conspicuously absent, Mischa would tell her where she could stick it if that were to happen.

Momentarily distracted by the disappearance of her companion, Thaylla found herself caught completely off guard by the bolt of shadow energy that shot skyward from the flames and tossed her back against the far wall with startling force.

Sprawled upon her backside, she watched as a howling cyclone of dark grey dust rose and expanded until it had engulfed the entirety of the table and stretched nearly to the ceiling.

The room went silent, all eyes watching the whirlwind as it writhed and undulated, sucking the light from the room until the torches and hearths were dimmed embers and the air in the room turned leaden, sending the occupants to their knees from the power of it.

Thaylla tried to move, to rise to her feet and make for the doorway, but fell to her hands and knees, the effort leaving her gasping. Her muscles failed, dropping her to the floor where she curled upon her side and surrendered to the darkness closing around her.

Lights flashed and there was the unmistakable popping of shaman magic. She could envision the spiraling colours emanating from a myriad of cleansing totems and feel the power of them filling her, forcing away the darkness and clearing her aching lungs.

A scene played out behind her closed eyes. A towering tauren, his eyes flashing with unbridled rage as he stretched his arms outward, muscles flexing from bearing the weight of the two giant axes he held. The blades were charged with electric energy, crackling and sizzling the blood caking upon them.

The totems surrounding him cast him in an eerie glow, emphasizing his impressive size and illuminating the numerous gashes that had been carved into his flesh. When he roared it carried the sound of unabashed anguish and sent a shiver down her spine.

Her vision expanding, Thaylla saw the small campsite beyond him. A female, her body broken and sprawled in the dust, a dark pool spreading slowly about her from the multitude of crude spears jutting out from her torso. Most seemingly targeted at her back.

A whimper brought her attention back to the male, dropping to the shadowed spot between his feet where a small calf trembled, his eyes wide with terror, mouth agape in a silent scream.

Rage the likes of which she hadn't felt in a century shot through her. They'd been ambushed. Not an army, but a family. Set upon by cowards who attacked in the dead of night.

Who would do such a thing? Why?

A tiny scream brought her back to the boy, his eyes wide with horror, his face twisted with pain. Inches from his nose lay one of his father's axes, slipped free of blood soaked hands, the force of it severing one of his tiny horns at the root as it struck into the ground.

It was then she heard them; the grunts and squeals of impending conquest.

She was suddenly standing, her small form between the child whose father had fallen to his knees in defeat and the small raiding army of quillboar, whose howls of triumph were becoming deafening.

The light of the totems was fading with the life-force of he who had created them and as each one started to sputter the cheers of the victorious grew until the sound reverberated off of the stones in the surrounding valleys.

The air was alive with arcane energy and Thaylla couldn't stop herself from feeding off of it, suckling upon it like a fevered vampire until her entire body throbbed with the power.

Her eyes glowed white hot from the power coursing through her veins and her head throbbed close to splitting as she called upon lessons she'd long since driven from her mind, focusing that power until it crackled across her skin and shot outward in a luminescent blast that engulfed the encroaching magi and sent them scattering across the rocky terrain like tumbleweeds.

Blessed silence followed, broken only by the soft sniffling of the child whose family had fallen before his eyes.

Thaylla turned to comfort him, but he was no longer alone. Covering him was the form of a giant bear, it's fur tinged with blood and marked with the distinctions of one of Nature's children.

The druid's eyes met hers in gratitude and understanding just as the image started to slowly fade away.

Protect him...

Thaylla shot upright with a shout, lashing out at the hands holding her steady until her mind cleared and she realized she was looking into Sian'tsu's deep, golden eyes.

Grommash Hold. Orgrimmar. Reality flooded back to her in a nauseating wave and she forced back the bile rising in her throat as her head swam with the fading images of the unexpected vision and the arcane overload of the magic permeating the room.

Looking over Sian'tsu's shoulder, she saw the crumpled form of the elder being tended to by two of the other shaman.

"Is he...?"

Sian'tsu shook her head, a wry smile touching her lips, "He be alive, hunter. Though jus' barely. You be bringin' de bad mojo, girl. Anyting that be takin' old Vol'jin down..."

Her voice trailed off with a shake of her head and she turned back to help the others, leaving Thaylla propped against the wall, stunned.

Vol'jin. The leader of the Darkspear and the most powerful Shadow Hunter his tribe had ever seen, brought low by something concocted by jungle rebels? It wasn't right. It couldn't be right.

No, something darker was definitely afoot. Something greater than simple luck through experimentation and Thaylla visibly shuddered at the thought of Lycanus getting his bony hands on such power.

Allies or no, the Forsaken could not gain control of whatever it was she'd discovered in Stranglethorn. In their zealous fanaticism they'd wipe out the continents and that was something she could not allow.

"You look as though you could use a drink," a familiar voice distracted her from her fretting. Looking up from the floor she sighed heavily, accepting the outstretched hand of the robed figure standing before her.

"You missed all the fun," she grinned half-heartedly, accepting a hand up from her sister, Séraphine, as Mischa padded to her side and licked her hand.

"The hell I did," she sniffed, tucking a stray strand of ashen hair behind her ear, "Your furry friend had the manners to come say hello before setting about destroying the city. Good that she did, we arrived just in time to silence the magi shades Vol'jin'd released and banish the demon they were working on summoning."

Thaylla took in the destruction in the room beyond, noting the two mages who were focusing a channel of energy at a slowly closing portal. To the side, a priest was aiding the shaman in restoring Vol'jin's strength and the glowing green eyes of an auburn haired figure loomed just beyond, mostly hidden in the shadows.

"Why is he here?" Thaylla spat, throwing a glare at Séraphine. By the time she looked back, the figure had disappeared.

"We needed someone powerful, Thay. I apologize for not taking your bias into consideration before porting someone in," her sister chided, then softened her tone, "Vae doesn't harbour any resentment towards you, why must you continue to hold yours so tightly?"

"I guess some of us have longer memories than others."

Séraphine sighed, holding up her hand to stop Thaylla from continuing, "A truce. It's been a long evening and I'd rather we speak of better things in the short time you're here. I assume you're only passing through?"

Thaylla nodded, forcing herself to stop searching the shadows for the warlock she knew was still about. Even after all these years, she still felt his presence in her bones when he was near and the ache of it angered her.

"I should be leaving tonight, but I haven't had a decent meal in weeks, nor a soft bed and hot bath. If you can provide all of the above, I'll talk about anything you wish."

Séraphine offered her a smile and extended her hand towards the doorway, "Consider it done."

Thaylla smiled back, forcing her attention away from the diminishing chaos behind them and heading out into the night air. A great deal of time had passed between Vol'jin starting his ritual and her regaining consciousness, she noted, staring up at the starlit sky.

A twinkling in the distance captured her attention. Protect him...

That voice... The visions... It flooded back to her, making her gasp aloud.

Séraphine stopped, "Are you okay? Should I call..."

Thaylla waved her off with a small smile, "It's nothing, just an ache from being tossed around like a rag doll. I'm fine."

Her sister didn't appear to believe her, but nodded and continued on towards the narrow path leading to the small structure she called home. Thaylla followed, eager to drown the entirety of the night in some of that gnomish rocket fuel.

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