Clearing the valley path

As we moved through the forest, I was kept towards the front of the group.  I have a decent amount of fighting experience, more than many of the members of the convoy, and since I was in relatively healthy condition I quickly stood out as one of the leaders of the group.  It was not a responsibility I really wanted, as I feel other people tend to drag me down.  I’ve mostly stayed a loner, with only a select few I would readily go into combat with, such as Aldar.

I was keeping a vigilant eye on the forest, on the lookout for an ambush.  On our way back the previous day, I made sure to remember any potential ambush and choke points in an attempt to steer the group away from them.  I also was looking for anything out of place, like a small collection of bushes that I didn’t remember, or some recently disturbed ground.  Fortunately I had found nothing, and I’d been able to maneuver the group through the safest path.  It was going to be fine, I thought, not expecting a full assault team waiting in the clearing between us and the path out of the valley.

I just saw a small group at first, five blood elves in a clearing about four hundred yards ahead.  I stopped the convoy just out of sight of them and gathered some of our quieter fighters to help scout ahead.  We pulled our heavier hitters, like Aldar, up to the front of the convoy in case the patrol moved this way and saw the convoy just sitting there.  We knew they wouldn’t dare attack our large group, but they could easily grab a larger group and pick off some of us.

The quiet group and I moved to the rear and followed our path back about three hundred yards and split up, four of us went north and back west, three others and I south and back to the west.  We wanted to make sure our flank was clear, and would meet up at the original enemy patrol.  We moved slowly and methodically, avoiding stepping on anything that would make noise, hiding behind trees, listening carefully for enemies to make a misstep and give away their position.

My team made it up to the patrol in the road first.  We quietly hid out of sight and looked around the area.  Down in the valley below were around 50 well-armed blood elves in a guarded encampment.  There wasn’t going to be an easy way through here and we all knew it.  We decided to take out the patrol and question them.

We moved swiftly and silently, surrounding them and disarming them before they knew what happened.  We knocked them out just as quickly and dragged them back to the convoy where the large group couldn’t hear them yell for help.  We tied them up to a couple of trees next to the road and began interrogating them one by one.  The first four wouldn’t give up any information, but the last one talked.

“What do you want from us?” I asked, anger filling my every word.

“You escaped from us on Draenor, we’ve come to finish you off,” she said, a slight chuckle around the last sentence.  It was all I could do to keep from running my sword through her skull, but she was the only one who would talk.

“We saw your group, there are only fifty of you.  How do you expect to kill us all?”

“We’re well equipped and better prepared than you. There may only be fifty of us, but we’re all highly trained combatants.  Yes, you’ve got around three hundred and fifty people, maybe forty fighters, but most of you are injured, weak, and poorly equipped.  You don’t stand a chance.”

“We’ll see about that.”

We tied her back up the tree.  I grabbed my team and the other quiet group and we went to scout ahead.  We were going to try to find a way around, my group again going southwest and the other northeast. My team and I skirted the edge of the blood elf camp, taking an account of the weapons and types of fighters we may be up against if this does become violent.  Most of the group were melee fighters, with a few spell casters thrown in the mix.  They were all armored from head to toe in finely crafted materials.  All I had for armor was a leather coat I found in the wreckage, many of the others were lucky to even have a full collection of clothes.

We stayed hidden for a while, watching their patrols to figure out their routes and patterns.  Once we were sure we had them memorized, we headed further west, just off the trail, but along it, to watch for any more enemies while also looking for a way around.  The other group and our group reached the end where the path was out of the valley.  We quickly realized that with the carts carrying people, there was no way we were going to be able to make it through the area without using the trail the blood elves were blocking.  First though, we needed to take out as many as possible before the main group found us.

We decided to start with the blood elves in the path out of the valley.  There were twelve of them within the path, four of them occasionally coming out to check the perimeter.  We grabbed them as soon as they were out of sight of the larger group.  Four of our guys snuck up behind them, grabbed them, and put knives to their throats.  They were dead before they could utter a syllable.  We then went into the path.

We were quickly spotted, but since we were blocking the path to the main group, there was nothing that they could do except fight.  My sword was already drawn, blade at the ready, and I moved swiftly.  The first attacker came at me, heavy mace swinging hard.  I blocked with my shield, dodged the second swing, and plunged my sword into his heart.  The others were already in battle with the rest of the melee fighters, so I went after the casters.

Casters are more of a pain because their attacks aren’t easily avoided, but luckily for me, there were only the two.  The closest one shot fire at me, while the other was shooting ice.  I stayed between them in an attempt to get their attacks to cancel each other out.  It sort of worked, but the fire was definitely hurting more.  When I saw her charging up a fireball, I went for the kill.  I rolled past her, running my sword through her ankle.  She dropped to the ground, screaming out in pain.  I then brought my sword down upon her throat, silencing her forever.

The ice dude was more annoying than painful.  I couldn’t hit him because he just keep throwing up ice in front of my sword, blocking me from hitting him.  Instead, I just kept letting him attack me, blocking as much ice as I could with my shield, shattering more with my sword, until one of the other members of my team snuck up behind him and hit him in the back the skull with a battle axe.

The other enemies went down quickly, as there was only one left by the time the frost mage was dead.  None of my people were dead, only one was a little toasty on one leg where the fire mage had hit him before I had a chance to step in.  Since the path out of the valley was now clear, our only thing left to do was to get rid of the main fighting force.

We moved back to the large assault time, the eight of us staying together this time.  In the middle of the area was the main group, about thirty-five strong, with fifteen moving around the perimeter on patrol.  We had our slightly injured man move a little closer to the patrol route, and we took up defensive positions around him.  When a lone patrol person would get near, we’d have our man lie on the ground and make a little pained noise.  If they ran, our hunter would shoot him or her in the head with an arrow and we’d pull the body back into the forest.  If they investigated, we let them get close and then would shoot them anyway, it was just less work for us if they came closer.

We took out about six of the patrol before we noticed the rest of the patrol becoming a little more wary.  We quickly headed back for our group.  On our way back we saw the stationary force have the patrol force send a group of five up the road towards our people and towards were we originally saw the small patrol that we took out earlier.  We knew we had to get rid of them before they discovered their patrol missing, so we headed back down and waited.  My group waited in the woods next to the road, and I stood on the road, a lone fighter.

When they reached me, I could see the look in their eyes.  They thought they could take me, they even started to taunt me, but then one of them noticed the blood dripping from my sword.

“Stop,” he said, “where are our men?”

“Dead,” I said, “just as you’re about to be.”  I could see the anger flush over his face, but there was also a sense of fear.

“You killed all four of our patrol, all by yourself?” he asked, thinking I was too weak to do such a thing.

“Oh, I could have, but the rest of my men wanted to get some fighting in as well,” I said as my men quickly stood up and encircled the patrol.  The patrol dropped their weapons in defeat.

“We give up, you won’t kill an unarmed group, will you?”

“No, at least, not right away.”

The leader gulped, scared.  We tied them up and brought them up the hill to our group.  Aldar came to greet us.

“Kaat, how did your search go?” he asked excitedly.

“I’ve got both good and bad news.  The good news is that the path out of the valley is now clear.  We had to kill twelve of their men to clear it out.  We also killed six of their patrolmen from the main group, and captured these five.  That leaves thirty-nine heavily armed fighters that we could find.  The bad news is that we couldn’t find a way around, so we will have to go through their main group in order to get out of here.”

“Well, at least you reduced their ranks significantly.”

Aldar and I went through the technical details of what we saw, where all their people are, how far spread out are they, what are the best routes for attack, every detail we could come up with.  We decided we’d send about half of our fighters, fifteen of them, up to the higher ground around the outer edges of the assault team.  The rest of us were going to walk right up to their encampment and see about negotiations.

We took the prisoners with us, the five we had just captured, plus the five from the first patrol.  We had them tied to a cart so they couldn’t run away.  We had a man with a sword on each of their throats while we walked down the hill.  If negotiations failed, they would die first.

We reached the encampment, and all their men rushed to meet us, weapons drawn.  They stopped just ten yards away, ready for a fight.  Their leader then came out to talk.

“Prepared to die Draenei?”

“Not today,” I said, “let my people pass and we’ll let your men go.  Failure to do so will result in their immediate death, as well as your own.”

“Do you really think the sixteen of you stand a chance against the fifty of us?”

“You should count again, I only see thirty-nine, plus I have ten of your men captured, we killed six of your patrol group earlier, and we killed all twelve of your men in the path out of here.  Also, you are surrounded,” I said, as the rest of our fighter came down out of the forest, “so give up and let us move through here.”

“Never! You will die!” he yelled, his men running in to attack.  My people quickly killed the prisoners so they couldn’t be released and fight against us.  The leader came at me, charging with his mace.  I dodged the first swing, but the second swing came down hard onto my shield.  I could feel the hit ripple through the wood and into my arm.  I swung at his neck and he dodged, just missing by an inch.  He swung again and I parried, then swung my sword at his hand.  I hit him hard, but the thick armor prevented me from cutting his hand off.  I could tell I probably broke a bone though.

He went to swing again and dropped the mace.  His hand was definitely broken.  I slammed my shield into his chin, knocking him onto the grass.  I went for a killing blow, but he rolled out of the way before I could reach.  He grabbed his mace with his other hand and came at me again, spitting blood from his mouth from where I’d broken some of his teeth.  He was furious, and that made him reckless.  His mace swings became more wild and were easily blocked and dodged.  While I fought him, I continued to watch the rest of the battle erupting around me.  Aldar was dual-wielding battle axes and looking like a complete badass.  He had already killed two men, and was fighting two more currently.  Unfortunately several of our men were being killed due to the lack of armor and proper weaponry, but we had killed more of them than they had of us.

The leader came at me again, this time swinging really wide and nowhere near me.  I leaned down and brought my shield up quickly, breaking his plate gorget.  The pieces stabbed into his throat and he dropped to the ground on his back, struggling to breath.  I brought my sword down to finish him, but he still tried to fight me, blocking my sword with his mace.  I dropped down on top of him, kicking his good hand with my hoof and breaking his wrist.  He was done, and I quickly took his life.

I stood up, dripping blood, but none of it mine.  The battle raged on around me.  We had lost eleven men, but we had taken them down to ten.  A few of them dropped their weapons and ran off into the woods, deciding they didn’t want to die today.  The six remaining enemies were quickly finished off.

When the battle was finished, the area was red with blood.  We salvaged the armor and weapons from the enemies’ bodies, and then moved the bodies off the enemy into the woods so the people in our convoy didn’t have to see.  I sent two men off to get the convoy moving again, had another few gather our dead so they could be buried properly, and then took a short rest on a clean part of the grass.  Once the convoy had arrived, we moved out.

The path out of the valley was clear and we made it out.  It was a welcome sight, and I quickly jumped into the nearby water to get all the blood off of me.  I probably didn’t smell to great either, but the water helped.  We found a shallow spot in the stream and moved the carts through the area to the other side.  At last, we were all off the island, and we knew that everything was going to be all right… at least, for the moment.

Preparing to move

We arrived at the camp 3 hours before dawn.  Everyone in the camp was awake, either packing things onto makeshift carts, or helping the injured prepare to be moved.  Aldar and I decided to get some rest before the big move, so I went to my cot and was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

When I awoke, I was temporarily blinded by the sunlight, which was odd because I was originally in an alcove inside the hospital and it was always dark in there.  As my eyes began to adjust, I realized that it was the middle of the day and I was laying on the grass outdoors.  My cot, the hospital, everything and everyone was gone.  I quickly got to my feet to look around and find anything or anyone, but there was nothing.  The forest appeared as if our ship had never crashed into the area.  I went to yell out, call for help, but I couldn’t make any sound come out.  I could feel myself talking, but I couldn’t hear myself.  I couldn’t hear anything except dead silence, and the silence quickly became deafening.

I began running around looking for anything to make noise.  I broke twigs, kicked gravel, went to the lake and started splashing water, but nothing, no noise at all.  I was yelling, screaming, crying even, but nothing.  I fell to my knees in defeat, feeling lost, alone, and scared.  It was then that I began to hear a whisper.

“Kaaaaaaaaaaat… Kaaaaaaaaaat…” the voice called out, almost in an angelic tone, “Over here Kaat…”

I began looking around for the source of the voice, but not seeing anything or anyone.  I got up and started searching behind trees, running through the forest to find the source of the voice.  I came to an open clearing, but still nothing.  As I ran, I occasionally caught glimpses of a little Draenei girl, darting in and out of trees, disappearing before I was even sure I saw something.  As I went round another tree, suddenly there she was, in my face.

“Kaat,” she said, and then she was gone.  I was awake.

“Kaat.”

“Huh, wha…”

“I said ‘Are you ready Kaat?’  You seem distracted.”

“I’m awake Aldar.  What do you need?”

“It’s morning, everything’s packed, and we’re moving out.  Are you ready to go?”

“… yeah.”

“What’s wrong?”

“It was just a dream.  Can we just not talk about it?”

“Sure, I’ll just leave you for a moment.  Just come outside when you’re ready.”

I got up and put what little armor I had on.  As I dressed, I thought about my dream.  I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew the little girl.  Obviously I knew her because she’s Draenei and, well, there aren’t very many of us around anymore, but I felt like I really knew her.  What worried me the most was that I also felt like she had died a long time ago.

I walked out into the morning light.  Fog still clung heavily to the air, the sun just peaking over the hill.  Everyone was frantically running around, desperate to move out, doing some last minute packing.  Aldar was at the head of the group, along with several other prominent Draenei.  I moved up to join them.

“Kaat, glad you’re here.  We’re moving out shortly, but first I want to give you something,” Aldar said.  He walked over to a nearby cart and pulled out something wrapped in a cloth.

“I know you like to piss people off and get hit, so I figured you could use this shield.”  He handed me an old, warped wooden shield.  It was in bad condition, but it was better than nothing.

“I also found you this,” he said, handing me a shiny, almost new looking sword, “I know how much you prefer swords, and when I saw this getting packed, I knew I had to grab it for you.”  It was beautiful, super sharp, and ready for anything, as was I.  I sheathed the sword and put the shield on my back and then we moved out.

Finding a way out

I couldn’t sleep that night. Knowing that the blood elves were on the same island as us, and that they knew we were here, I just couldn’t rest knowing that they could attack at any time. I needed to help find us a way out of here and soon. I found Zhanaa, an engineer who liked to tinker, and we began talking about trying to find others. She figured we had enough parts to build a communicator, but she was missing a few crystals necessary to complete it. We had already searched most of the island for them except around the owlkin.

We went and reluctantly visited the owlkin. The owlkin found the crystals we needed and were happy to get rid of them after the water poisoning fiasco. While Zhanna finished working on the communicator, I continued searching for a way off of the island. I searched high and low, even going back towards where I killed all the blood elves, but I couldn’t find anything. I decided to visit the owlkin again, see if there was a way out on the other side of their village, but there wasn’t. I went back to Zhanaa just in time as she finished up the communicator. As we turned it on, Dyvuun appeared on the screen.

“Hel… Can you he… me? Is anyo… live out there?” Dyvuun said, broken up by static.

“Zhanna, can you clear it up?” I asked.

“I can try, give me a second.”

“Dyvuun, can you hear me? Dyvuun, this is Kaat, come in, over.”

“Kaat, I ca… ear you, but bear… We are tr… to pinpoint your loca…”

“Dyvuun, do you know where we are? We need to get out of this valley, there are blood elves here and we have many injured.”

“Blood el… you say? We ne… to get yo… off that island quickly.”

“Island?”

“Yes, isla… just to… southea… of our loca… Head west and yo… should fin… a way out. We ha… some surviv… come from there. They sa… there was a vall… and a path out.”

“Thank you Dyvuun, we will prepare to leave immediately. Zhanna, tell the others, we’re leaving.”

We began collecting all the gear, getting everyone who can walk to help those who can’t, arming those in greatest health, and having everyone else carry everything they could. As they prepared, I scouted ahead to find the path. I went back to the place where I found Tolaan and headed west. It was quiet, just the wind. I immediately knew something was wrong because there was no wildlife anywhere around. I was being followed by three blood elves. Luckily I was also being followed by Aldar, but they didn’t have to know that.

They knew they had been found out the moment I ducked behind a large tree. They rushed towards the tree, swing wildly around the corner as they ran to hit me. I wasn’t there anymore, I was up in the tree. They turned around, looking in all directions for me when I struck. I leaped out of the tree, quickly and quietly, kicking the closest two in the back, knocking them sprawling across the ground. As I continued towards the ground I brought my hammer down on the third one’s head, cracking her skull. As I ran over and killed the second, Aldar came out of hiding and killed the third.

“I had them Aldar.”

“I know you did, but I didn’t want to let you have all the fun.”

“Thanks for following me.”

“How long did it take you to notice I was behind you?”

“I figured you would, but it took about five minutes before I sensed it.”

“Good, have you seen or heard anything else?”

“No, I think we’re good to go.”

“Good, I agree. Now, let’s find this path.”

We continued heading west, reaching the steep hills and then headed north along the wall. As we walked I saw a crack of light shining through the wall. We had found a short, narrow path through the hills and walked through to the other side. As we cleared the wall, we looked north and south, seeing large bodies of water on each side, and a river connecting them right in front of us. We then looked up across the river and saw a wonderful sight. A huge island, much larger than the one we were standing on. A sense of relief came over us, as we knew everything was going to be fine.

“This is great,” I said, “I think we’ll be alright.”

“Yes, yes we will. Are you ready to go back? It’s getting late, we need to move out now in order to get back in time to move everyone at dawn.”

“… yeah, let’s go,” I said, hoping I would get to see this beautiful sight again.

This little valley is getting a little too full

I was walking towards the lake and I was alone.  I prefer it that way.  The thing about being alone is it requires you to rely less on others, which is a good thing for me.  The less people I get to know, the fewer deaths I will have to mourn later, and Draenei know a lot about death.  Even without having to flee Argus, the Draenei are a long lived species, some of us over twenty-five thousand azerothian years old and counting.  It would be easy to see lots of friends and family die naturally, but then Sargeras came.  So much needless death, people becoming twisted and warped before your very eyes.  It was a nightmare.

I was six years old at the time of our escape and into the wilds of uncharted space, which means I’m somewhere around 25,045 azerothian years old.  Now, I did spend a lot of time in stasis pods, as I’m somewhere around 1750 years old from a physical aging standpoint, which pretty much means I’m a very young woman compared to some of the other Draenei.  Many others weren’t even born until after we reached Draenor, now being less than 300 years old, barely in their teens by comparison.

I was still walking, finally at the water, when I found the body of the owlkin that tried to kill me.  I walked over to the body and knelt down, looking at its face.  I was thinking how about how close I came to death that night, how, after all these years and all the running I’ve done, I was almost killed by a pissed off bird.  It made me angry, very angry, so I took the hammer and began to swing at it.  I stopped myself right before I made contact.  It wasn’t entirely the creature’s fault it attacked me, it was out of it’s mind with rage.  I quickly pulled myself together and continued moving on down the lake.

The night was cold, quiet, and serene, a little too quiet for my taste.  I’m used to hearing wind, water, birds moving, but this night there was nothing but dead silence.  I finally made it to the location Aldar had sent me to when I heard a moaning noise coming from behind a tree.  I pulled out my hammer and slowly crept around to the other side.  It was Tolaan, and he was injured badly.

“Tolaan, what happened?” I whispered, looking around for any enemies or traps.

“Kaat… the ridge… blood elves… they came… out of nowhere…”

“Did you get a good look at them, see how many there were?” I asked, as I saw two of their bodies just down the hill.

“No… but there were several.  They… left me to die…” he gasped out, struggling to breath.  I cast a quick healing spell on him to try and lessen the pain, but it was just a quick fix.

“Tolaan… Tolaan, listen to me, I’m going to get you some help.  I’ll be back as fast as I can.”

“No,” he said, “go… kill the elves… figure out… what they’re up to… I’ll… be fine…”

“Here,” I said, handing him some of my spare bandages I packed, “this should help.  Try and wrap your stomach, it should stop a lot of the bleeding, and here’s some painkillers.  Do you think you can make it back to camp?”

“I can try.”

“Good, because I’m going to kill me some elves.”

I left Tolaan at the tree and quickly moved towards the ridge.  It was still dark outside, and the moon was starting to go behind a hill, making it even darker.  I loved it, as it meant I could be stealthy rather than rushing in.  I climbed a nearby hill and watched their patrols, figuring out their movement patterns before striking.  The first two closest to me went down without a problem, just a quick Judgement and they were down.  The third was going to be more difficult as she stood right in the middle of the path up the hill.

I decided the best way to kill her was a bit of rock climbing.  I snuck up the side of the cliff nearby, hanging on with just my finger tips.  As I got closer, a rock fell down, hitting other rocks on its way down.  The elf looked right up at me, but didn’t see me, it was too dark.  As soon as she looked away I pounced on top of her, hitting her in the head with my hammer as I came down.  She was dead before I finished landing.

I killed one more before I reached the ridge.  They had a small encampment set up on the right side, and some supply carts on the left.  I thought this would be a good time to get a bit more revenge, and I snuck off towards the supply cart.  There was only one lowly elf guarding all those supplies, but another one that would walk up there occasionally.  I hid in the bushes until the second one left, and killed the first.  When the second one came back, I killed her too before throwing the bodies in the carts and lighting the carts on fire.

I ran back and hid in the bushes again before the fire got too big and was noticed.  When the elves figured out their camp was on fire, I continued waiting in the bushes.  When a single elf would run by, I would pull them into the bushes and snap their neck, quietly killing them as to not attract attention.  Once they were preoccupied enough with the fire, I made my way out into their camp and began searching for a reason as to why they were there.

I searched through various tents, finding nothing, but I eventually found a small path leading farther up the hill.  As I approached the top, I could see their leader, a surveyor by the name of Candress.  She was channeling energy into a small red crystal, but I couldn’t figure out for what purpose.  I tried sneaking up the hill a bit more, but she saw me.

“Guards, seize her!” she yelled, but luckily for me, her guards were preoccupied with my little fire.  She didn’t stand a chance.  She tried throwing a fireball at me, but she missed and took my hammer square in the face.  She fell to her knees, bloodied and in pain, but I ended that pretty quickly.  I searched her tent, figuring someone probably saw her throwing fireballs, and found a set of plans on a table.  I grabbed them up and took off out of there, catching up to Tolaan and helping him back to the hospital.

I told Aldar what happened to Tolaan, and about the surveyor.  He sent off a couple of guards to finish off the elves.  I then handed him the plans I found.  As I watched him read them, I could see the anger in his eyes increasing with every word.  He let out a very unhappy growl, and then was immediately composed again.  He then thanked me for bringing him the information and then went to talk with some of the other leaders at our encampment.  I decided to take the opportunity to get some well deserved rest, because with the way things went that night, I didn’t know when I’d get a good night’s sleep again.

I’ve got a hammer and I’m not afraid to use it

The inoculation process was long and arduous.   I was bored almost instantly, but the work had to be done.  A cleanup crew had been assembled to put down the crazed owlkin quickly and painlessly.  Some of the healthy owlkin reluctantly helped us with the process, even though we caused the problem in the first place.  My job was to give the owlkin injections to make it safe for them to drink the water until we could get the water cleaned up again.  I wanted someone to give me one of the tranquilizer rifles the Elekk handlers use, filling the darts with the owlkin’s medicine, but everyone else thought this was a bad idea.

Several long and boring hours later, we had finally finished.  I still don’t know why I had to help, especially after being attacked and injured, but I think I should’ve been up in a hospital bed getting some rest and recovering instead.  “Oh, but you’re a plate-wearing Paladin,” I hear you saying, “you should be able to take lots of damage without a problem.”  How about you have a pissed off bird attack you in your sleep wearing only a torn shirt and some ripped up cloth pants that aren’t even good enough to protect you from a stiff breeze while also not having a weapon?  It sucks, and I never want to do it again, even though it has already happened again, but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, to get back on topic, after we had finished, I went back to the hospital, had something that resembled food for dinner, and went to go sleep on a crappy cot.  The next day I was going to have to help find a way out of the valley, so I tried to get some good rest.  It was going well, until Aldar awoke me in the night.

“Kaat, I need your help,” said Aldar, obviously troubled by something.

“What is it Aldar?”

“One of the scouts we sent out hasn’t returned back.  I was wondering if you could go look for him?”

“Aldar, I’m tired and injured, so why me?”

“I’m considering this me paying you back for not letting you kill owlkin earlier, because I’m giving you a giant hammer!”

Aldar really knows how to motivate me.  He quickly unsheathed  the hammer from behind his back and handed it to me.  The hammer was old, with plenty of chips and small cracks in the head, and the wooden handle was so well worn it was now shiny from use.  It was a piece of crap, but still a weapon, and better than nothing.  I loved it.

“Thanks Aldar,” I said with a big smile, “I’ll find him, don’t worry.”

“Good.  While you’re out there, keep an eye out for any other survivors, and also look for a way out of this valley.”

“Understood.  Which way was he headed?”

“He was on the other side of the lake, near a large ridge.  We thought there may have been some activity around that area, so he was going to check it out.”

“Ok, I’ll head that way in the morning.  Just a few more hours,” I yawned.

“No Kaat, go now.  Do you think I would’ve woken you up in the middle of the night if it could wait until morning?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, true, but not this time.  He should’ve been back before the moon rose over the valley, and it’s high in the sky.”

“Alright,” I said grudgingly.   I grabbed a few bit of food, some medicine and bandages, along with my new giant hammer, and headed out the door into the night, wondering what horrors Azeroth had in store for me this time.

Azeroth doesn’t like me…

I heard movement just before the attack.  As a tank, you have to learn how to anticipate everything the attacker will do in order to avoid or block it.  I, however, was out of practice.  Being in stasis on a ship for long periods of time, crash landing on a planet, and smoke inhalation will do that to a person.  He rushed me, clawing at my back.  I moved to sidestep the attack, but I was too late and tumbled down the hill towards the water.  Trying to catch myself before I fell in, I slid to a stop right at the edge, rocks and dirt falling past me to splash in the water.

I turned to defend myself, but quickly realized that I was unarmed and had no armor.  It was all in storage when the ship crashed.  Who knew where it ended up?  As my attacker ran towards me again, I ran to my left and up the hill a little.  As he ran, he let out a deafening screech, making me stumble and hurry to cover my ears.  He was quickly closing the gap between us, but I was faster.  I saw a tree branch lying nearby, which I grabbed as soon as he stopped screeching.  I swung around and brought the temporary weapon down hard, right between his antlers, splintering the wood.

His skull was apparently thicker than I thought, because all I did was manage to make him angrier, and give him a small cut.  He tackled me, pinning me to the ground.  He started clawing at me, which I had to block with my arms, getting cuts all over them.  When he pulled back, I quickly grabbed a nearby rock and smacked him in the face.  He leaned towards my face, trying to bite me, but I stuck my left arm in front of his beak.  He bit hard, but I was in a fight to the death, so I didn’t care.  There was so much adrenalin coursing through me that the pain was almost non-existent.

As he came down to bite me again, I again blocked, but this time I grabbed an antler with my free hand.  I twisted his head around, spinning him off of me, and then broke the antler off with a swift kick to his head.  While he laid there, trying to get up, I thrust the antler into his chest as hard as I could.  He quickly stopped moving.  I stood up, breathing heavily, blood dripping down my arms and torso, looking down at the lifeless bird, when the adrenalin stopped working.  The pain was quickly unbearable and I collapsed next to the bird.

I awoke several hours later in the medical building up the hill, with my back, chest, and arms all bandaged up.  I was still in a lot of pain and passed out again.  I woke up again that evening.  The pain had lessened quite a bit, but I knew I’d be bandaged up for a while still.  I slowly stood up and made my way out back where I found Vindicator Aldar staring off into the distance.

“Hello Aldar,” I said, walking up behind him.

“Hello Kaat, how are you feeling after that attack?”

“I’ve survived worse.”

“Haven’t we all… I bet you’d like to know what happened out there, why that thing attacked you?”

“Things need a reason to attack me now?  I thought I just naturally pissed everything off?”

“Oh, come now, you’re not that bad.  One of the power core crystals landed in that lake, poisoning the water supply.  The birds who drank from the water quickly became enraged and will attack anyone who approaches.  We can’t help them though, so we’ll have to kill them before they cause any more harm.”

“Kill them all?  I’m ready, just give me a good weapon and some armor,” I said, thrusting my right hand into the air, then quickly realizing my mistake as pain shot through my side.  I tried not to show my pain, but Aldar saw right through me.

“Yeah, not happening in your condition.”

“But… damn it, you’re right.”

“You do get to help though.  You get to inoculate the birds who haven’t drank the water, so it will be safe for them.”

“Really?  One of them just attacked me, almost killing me, and you want me to help you keep them alive?  Are you joking?!”

“No.”

“Aghh,” I said, turning to walk away in disgust.

“No,” he said, grabbing my shoulder and pulling me back towards him, “but, they’re not normally like that.  We’ve been observing them and interacting with the healthy ones.  They seem to understand what we are trying to do, and have been helping bring back our survivors that landed near their area.  They figured out that the water is bad and haven’t let any more of their kind drink from it.  They seem to be a fairly smart species, and we’re not going to let you eradicate them on a personal vendetta.”

“All right, but if you get me killed, I will kill you.”

“You’ll be fine, you’re too much of a pain in the ass to die.”

The first night

The first night
We had recovered enough people who were in good shape that they began taking over the recovery operations, so, as night fell, I finally had a chance to sit down and recuperate.  Out back, behind the makeshift medical facility, which was actually a large broken part of our ship, was a small, shining lake and stream.  All the fires had been put out, and all the people had been found and rescued in that area, so I began heading that way to sit by the water.

I got farther and farther from the sights and smells of the building, meandering along, enjoying the crisp, cool breeze.  The moon began rising over the hill side, and I was greeted with a beautiful sight.  The tiny little crystal fragments from our ship, scattered throughout the valley, all began reflecting the moonlight.  They looked like little stars all over the ground and in the trees.  It was difficult to discern where the ground ended and the sky began.

I made it to the lake’s edge, water lapping at the bank.  The water was crystal clear and quite cool.  I put my hooves into the water and began to rest for a bit.  After a few minutes I moved up from the water and leaned against a large tree.  It didn’t take long for me to fall asleep.  I began to dream, first about home, then our ship, and then I began to dream about birds.  These weren’t just any little bird though, these were big birds, too big to fly, walking around.

Suddenly I realized I wasn’t dreaming, there really were giant birds walking around.  They also had antlers on their heads.  I had never seen a bird with antlers, but who was I to judge, I’ve got horns and hooves.  It was all fine, I just sat on the bank of the lake watching the birds, which I later found out are Owlkin, walking around, eating, and tending to fires.  It was fine, that is, right up until one that was behind my tree came around and attacked.