August 27, 2007 Leave a comment
The vultures wasted no time, descending upon the fallen sin’dorei like an angry black cloud. The druid watched impassively, his ears flicking toward the harsh squawking as the birds quarreled over the choicest scraps. The cold, efficient brutality of nature was something that often surprised city-dwellers when they wandered outside of their stone cages. Soon the blood elf would be reduced to little more than the pale sand itself, and — at last — might provide some use.
He crouched at the very edge of the forest, where the trees abruptly ended and the pale, strange sand crept up among the roots. It was an ideal place to stage an ambush, and he had spent most of the afternoon with this diversion. For now though, he rested, squinting his eyes against the steady ache in his joints as he settled to the ground. There were days when he could forget his age, but this was not one of them.
Terokkar was the first place on Draenor where he had really felt comfortable — the marsh had its appeals, but the pale green forest had embraced his heart. He could not Dream, but here he could imagine, if the light was right.
Had it really been a lifetime ago that he first heard those words? He could scarcely remember, the memory hazed by age, but he knew he had sat in the Moonglade, enraptured by the sight, and by the words Cenarius spoke.
Kill or be killed.
Adapt, or die.
Balance must be maintained.
The laws of the wild were simple. The laws of people were another matter. And the sin’dorei, he could not even begin to contemplate. He’d reached the village under the veil of night, and at first his keen senses had detected nothing amiss. The druids were asleep of course, lulled by the feathery hum of the moths’ wings, and the breeze that shook the branches above. But as he drew closer, the unmistakeable smell of death reached his nostrils, sending the hair along his spine bristling. The druids of the outpost were dead. All of them, save a handful, and the elf’s mind had been seemingly addled by what he had seen, for he spoke nothing but nonsense in spite of Ornasse’s pleading. All of them dead, in moments. There had not even been time for them to flee. He had sworn to unravel the mystery, and in a few days’ time, he had — the trail had led him to a sin’dorei village deep within the woods. He had wrested the means from their twisted hands, but not the motive. What reason, what possible gain could they derive from the druids’ slaughter? Even the most vicious of predators did not kill without purpose.
And what was his own purpose? Surely not vengeance; a druid’s place was guardian and protector. Balance, the voice reminded him across the centuries, must be maintained. Yet the urge would not leave him, pecking at his mind insistently as the vultures pecked the carcass. He felt for the first time in his very long life that his will was not entirely his own; he was never the sort to surrender to the vague concepts of will or fate. Action beget consequence: kill or be killed. And yet, as his paws carried him to his next unwary victim, he felt that they moved of their own accord, guided by something yet unseen.
Adapt, or die. He would not tell his comrade. Already the other druid questioned Ornasse’s motivations, to speak of this would only pour fuel onto the fire. Though he had tried to explain the importance of curbing this new, ruthless predator, Varul persisted that he acted purely for his own interest. Or more accurately, for Zharya’s interest. Ornasse was not certain how she would feel about the prospect; the huntress’s devotion to wiping out their enemy burned white-hot, but she may also feel that his help was an unwanted intrusion into her territory.
Besides, there were a hundred things he wanted to say to her before they discussed ‘work’, and he knew it was unlikely he’d get the chance. In her own way, she was as unfettered and elusive as he was, though she retreated to her sniper’s perch and the metallic gleam of her rifle, rather than the depths of the woods. But she went where her will — and the promise of coin — carried her, and all too often it was away from him.
No, for the time being the hunt would be his own, padding the green-shadowed trails that already smelled familiar to him. And it had begun.