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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1. Visions of the past

It was a deluge. The rain was so heavy it obscured anything more than a foot beyond the tips of your boots from sight. Laden droplets pummeled the surrounding vegetation before being absorbed into the rich soil and sent back to the heavens in the form of a mist so thick it was nearly suffocating.   

Thaylla suppressed a groan and tugged at the collar of the heavy leather and chain jerkin she wore. Breathable material it was not and she fidgeted slightly as the perspiration trickled down her back and between her breasts. She'd have given anything to strip down and throw herself into one of the cool rivulets winding its way through the area, but there was no time for recreation. She was risking enough with the brief respite she was already indulging in.   

A faint whisper of movement brought her attention towards the rear of the cavern she'd ducked into when the storm had gone from annoying to dangerous, and she smiled to see her leopard spotted companion dragging towards the fire the limp carcass of the small raptor they'd been forced to down.   

"How thoughtful. I was just thinking I needed a new pair of gloves."   

Thaylla laughed as the large cat leveled her cool, green gaze upon her and growled. Mischa's stomach was not a thing to be trifled with.   

"As if I'd deny you dinner. Go eat, but try not to ruin the skin so much, this time."   

With a noise suspiciously resembling a derisive snort, Mischa settled herself in for a snack while Thaylla returned her attention to the surrounding jungle.   

The area was beautiful, there was no denying that. Situated at the southernmost tip of the Eastern Kingdoms, the serrated peninsula was surrounded by the clearest, blue sea she'd ever seen and was segmented by equally crystal creeks and rivers. Lush vegetation thrived in the nearly unbearable tropical heat, most dotted with flowers of every possible hue, whose petals spanned lengths larger than a mammoth's ear.   

There was death in the beauty, however. Woe to the traveler whose eyes are unable to see beyond the cosmetic, for every inch of undergrowth hid the hungry, snapping jaws of a reptile or feline and every nondescript rock formation opened into a den of fierce cannibals.   

It was the latter that had brought her away from the sprawling subterranean metropolis she'd been reluctantly calling home the last five years. Sent on a fool's errand, as she saw it, to procure a sample of whatever foul contagion the trolls had concocted since they'd retreated into the ruins of their decrepit civilization.   

"Damned Bloodscalp," she cursed, waving away Mischa's attention when she paused in her bone crunching to focus on the sound of her mistress's irritation. Thaylla smiled as she watched the powerful jaws make short work of the reptile. Mischa was one of the few good things to have come from being forced to dig through the ghosts of civilizations past.   

Who could have guessed that the accidental dropping of a small, stone figurine would end in the release of a loyal companion to fight at her side?   

Not that their relationship had started in a particularly faerie tale manner. The angry, jagged scars she bore upon her legs were proof enough of the rage many centuries in magical imprisonment will do to a body. Not that she was unfamiliar with the feeling. Hers were a people very familiar with the concept of arcane captivity, though it wasn't until very recently that the sins of the willing had turned to chains.   

Thaylla shook off the thoughts, refusing to allow her mind to wander any farther into the past. What had been done was done and there was no going back to how things had once been. Who she had once been. The gauntlet had been dropped and there were more important things to focus upon. Things larger than all of them.   

Lightning flashed in the distance and her mind lurched, pushing forth the image of a darkened, evergreen forest. It was raining there; not as heavily as in the southland, but steady. There was a tent, just barely visible through the trees. A small fire had burned down to embers and the earthy scent of herbs assailed her nostrils as the smoke wound its way about her senses.   

It was as real as if she were there, hovering above the scene like a spirit, watching as the sole occupant of the hide construction burst forth, falling to his knees in obvious anguish, his fists digging into the needle strewn earth as he seemed to grasp for stability. A tauren? What would one of the Shu'Halo be doing in the northern woodland?   

The large beast of a man thrashed about on the ground before her, the lethal horn protruding from one side of his head ripping into the soil as he shook violently. The other, she noted, was stunted. Barely half the size of the first. It took a great deal of trauma to sever a horn so badly it never recovered and she wondered if what he was experiencing wasn't a return to the cause of it.   

The sin'dorei were not a shamanistic people, but there was a time, not all that long ago, when their magic had not been so far from the ebb and flow of nature, and she knew a ritual when she saw one. His vision was an intense and unpleasant one and Thaylla desperately wanted to turn away, to be anywhere other than there, witnessing such a private, heartbreaking affliction of recollection. For it had to be a memory he suffered, as the torments of the past are truly the most insidious of evils. Try as she might, however, she could not avert her eyes. It was as though she was required to watch.   

The scene shifted and though the worst of it had passed, he still trembled, his breathing coming in laboured gasps as a whimper slipped through his clenched teeth. Without realizing she was even doing it, Thaylla found herself reaching out and laying her hand upon his feverish brow, willing the heat and pain to subside, wishing for sleep to come and with it the renewal of morning.   

A rustling from within the tent brought her attention to a sight she hadn't seen in some time. Exiting through the flaps, the massive bulk of a Barrens lion approached his master, stopping to rest his gloriously maned head upon the Tauren's shoulder before nuzzling him gently and curling beside him.   

The noble cat settled amber eyes upon her and she was taken with a feeling of possessiveness so strong it staggered her. For a moment, she assumed it was a warning from the beast that watched her in the shadows, but then the realization dawned… she was warning him.   

In an instant she knew that somehow, at some time, their paths had been set to cross and though she knew not the exact reason, she could sense it held great importance. The weight of that knowledge, coupled with everything else she'd been tasked with, bore down upon her shoulders and she felt as though she might collapse from the weight of it.   

Rubbing her eyes, she looked back at the scene in front of her and, for just a moment, she could have sworn the Tauren had turned, his eyes flickering, taking in the sight of her.   

Save him…   

The unfamiliar voice echoed in her mind before the scene shifted once more and she found herself ripped from the vision, braced against a boulder at the opening of the cavern, the mist and rain plastering her hair to her face as her breathing came in gasps.   

Thaylla stumbled, grasping out for balance before feeling the warm, furry stability of Mischa beside her, holding her up and licking at the bleeding scrapes upon her palms.   

Startled, she noted the cuts and the dirt and grime beneath her fingernails. How long had she been out of it? The late afternoon rain had lightened to a more tolerable downpour and the sun was beginning to disappear behind the distant mountains, so it had been far longer than a moment.   

Disturbed, she looked down at Mischa, who returned her gaze steadily, as if searching for any sign that she was about to be lost to the madness a second time. The thought of it gave her a shiver, despite the climbing temperature.   

What had happened to her? What would have brought her to witness such a scene? More importantly, who had spoken to her before it had faded?   

Thaylla rubbed at her temples. Now was not a good time to lose her mind. They had precious little time to cover a great deal of ground and her momentary loss of wits had cost them daylight. It would work out for the best, as the rituals wouldn't begin until well after dark anyway, but they would now need to be extra cautious, as they would not be the hungriest predators lurking in the dark.   

Squaring her shoulders, she nodded to indicate she was fine before moving away from the wall and slowly kneeling to begin collecting her belongings; a signal they would soon be moving on. Mischa watched her closely, the attentiveness both flattering and disturbing. Whatever had come over her had unnerved her pet and it wouldn't do to have either of them distracted.   

"Ready to hunt some troll?" she asked, hoping she was putting forth a more confident air.   

Mischa didn't seem fooled, but chuffed, indulging in a slow, languorous stretch before padding forward, dropping the stripped carcass of her snack at Thaylla's feet and soundlessly leaping down into the brush at the base of the cave.   

With a sigh, Thaylla picked up the shredded bits of skin that had been left behind, giving them a half hearted scraping with her dagger before shoving them into the rope bound, hide bag she wore at her hip. The scraps wouldn't make more than a finger on that pair of gloves she wanted, but it was more than Misch had left behind the last time she'd dragged home a kill, so Thaylla considered it an improvement.   

With a lingering glance at the small, burned out fire in the mouth of the cave, she pushed away any thoughts of what had just transpired and made her way down to where her companion was patiently waiting.   

Unsheathing her sword, they plotted a course north and started hacking towards the path. It was time, as the trolls would say, ta come get da voodoo.

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