Rhok'delar, Longbow of the Ancient Keepers

Her fingers ached in the cold, making finding the trigger for the release of the crossbow stiff and slower than she should have been. The ache was a clean one though, without the taint of undeath and decay in the air. She was in Winterspring, and the moon glow over snow was less blinding than during the daylight, but still eye-watering. She was already tired, and jumping at shadows and sounds, even though she knew the land better than most hunters. She was exhausted. She'd covered Burning Steppes, Ungoro Crater and choked through swarms in Silithus, and all after assisting companions and bondmates in the hellish flames of the Core. And now she was walking through the mountain passes without so much as a mount to bide her company.

Tzia shook her head and stumbled in the snow, slipping to one knee and bowing her head for a moment. The wind whistled through the trees and unfamiliar familiar noises filtered out from the dark. If the task hadn't been set by Ancients, she would have quit long before now. Yet the cost, she'd not expected the cost to be as high. She was alone, truly and utterly alone, the way no hunter had been since before their tenth winter and the granting of a friend and companion in the guise of what others called a "pet".

Neither Ruka, nor Helki stood at her side. She had left all in the care of a stablemaster, and had walked alone into the unforgiving darkness. She was one that others had called a Beast Master, enjoying a deep bond with an animal companion that had chosen to work in tandem with her, forsaking its wild kin for a place beside her fires, food from her hands, and a willingness to protect in open combat all that the hunter held dear. Now, she stood without those bonds, safely confined in a trusted friend's stable as she alone faced down demons at the behest of Ancients from 10,000 years gone.

Pushing herself upright again, she took a breath and checked the action of the crossbow, resettling the bolt that had fallen to the snow when she stumbled. She bit her lip and looked up. The last of the demons was here, in Winterspring. One more and she could consider a rest.

She forced her mind back to thinking over the other three that had fallen to bolt and dagger by her hands, grimacing slightly as her left shoulder twinged. The black drake from behind had been a nasty suprise as she led the Burning Steppes Demon on a dance up and along a cliff edge. Though, she thought, with a muffled icy chuckle, dodging a Devilsaur in Ungoro, while avoiding the female demon's felhound had taken a bit of footwork too. Especially since a wrong step there would have brought a swarm of silithids boiling down on her head. The silithids made her think of the last she'd faced. She'd walked up to the gates of Ahn'Qiraj itself to track down that demon and had stumbled over scorpid aplenty. Now, thanks to a mage's skill with portals, she stood once more in the ice and snow, and the last demon she had to face waited ahead.

Movement caught her eye, she stilled, only a glance to the bolts hanging in a quiver at her side gave anything away as a tauren stalked through the snow. She almost lifted her hand to hail the fellow in greeting when the odd bit of bark strung round her neck flared and burned in a warning. That then, settled any doubt. The bark was a location beacon for the demons, gifted from the Ancients. It only reacted to the demons it was attuned to find, and this then, was the last.

Lifting the crossbow, her aim only faltered slightly as she released, the first bolt taking him in the shoulder instead of the heart. Her second struck true in the throat, and then she dropped the weapon, drawing daggers, slashing before leaping away to lead over snow crusted ground. The wicked slash of claws kept her agile and twisting away, hoping she remembered the bare stretch of ground, even in the dark.

Claws lashed out again and again, sometimes ringing off steel or tearing across her cloak as they tangled far too closely for her comfort, leaving thin black demon ichor in the snow along with bright claret splashes of her own blood. She danced and spun, dodged and struck, parried and ran; leading the demon on and on, dodging around bear, large cats and chimera. Then startling owls into flight as she thrashed and stumbled through the snow and brush, hoping that her last reserves would be enough. Finally, back to a cliff face, no where else to retreat she struck out, slashing and finally finding her mark. The last demon fell at her feet.

* * *

Later, standing weary before the Ancients again she felt a small sense of peace as a bow was pressed into her hands, formed from an ancient staff and the enchanted sinew of the black dragon's own daughter. The hunt for the demons was symbolized here, in an ever blooming branch that would serve as a reminder of just what strength she had, when everything else looked bleak, she'd found that she could depend on her own wits. That, was more valued than the token of respect, though she was grateful for the gift and bowed her head out of respect for the ancients that had sacrificed so much to keep the land whole. A small measure of peace had been won for them, and that was enough.

No comments:

Post a Comment