[Story] Homecoming

Makota let out a small gasp as she crested the ridge that overlooked their old home. Ahali said nothing, though he was still making his way up behind her. He couldn’t move as fast as he used to. But he’d warned Makota what they might see, and he had been right. The ground was charred and black in places, with deep grooves like enormous claw marks scratched into the earth. Trees stood askew and splintered, their pale wood exposed by the orcs’ blades. They were long gone now, Makota wasn’t sure to where. How could they return to Orgrimmar? Perhaps they, like she and Ahali, had gone into hiding. In the time since the machines had stopped running, the earth had fought back. Fresh green grass grew up in the cracks, and creeping vines had begun to cling to the enormous metal machines. One day, Makota thought, you wouldn’t be able to see them anymore. But today, she still could, and seeing her home like this made her heart hurt. How could they destroy it so easily? The orcs would probably say that they needed the wood, and they preferred to take it from the elves. Frankly, Makota would rather have stayed with them — they had always been polite and willing to trade in the past. The war had changed that though, too. Now she and Ahali would be met with the tips of arrows should they go deeper into Ashenvale. It wasn’t fair, she’d lived there her whole life, just as the elves had. But now they thought of the tauren as enemies, and fiercely defended their land. Makota could understand that, but she wished they knew that they had nothing to do with all of this. Their home was being destroyed just as the elves’ was.

Turned out of Ashenvale, they had decided to go southeast into the swamp. Makota hated it there; even when it hadn’t rained, her hooves would sink into the mud and it smelled awful. There were snakes that lived in the water, and insects everywhere. There wasn’t much to eat, either. Most of the time they caught fish from the muddy water, but they had an odd unpleasant taste to their flesh. Sometimes they dug for roots, which were all right when roasted in the fire, but they didn’t have much flavor. At the outpost, Makota had tried to send a letter to her friend Lali in Dalaran, but she didn’t know if it had arrived. The magical city had seemed so strange to Makota then, but it sounded so much better than a swamp. Was her friend even there anymore? She had heard rumors about Dalaran, but she didn’t know what — if any — of it was true. Did Lali hate her now too? She hoped that wasn’t the case, but the possibility troubled her. Every letter that went unanswered worried Makota more. She and Ahali had to cross the vast flooded canyon to reach Feralas on the other side. There, at least, were other Tauren, and they felt a bit more at home. It comforted Makota to hear familiar words and eat food that she was used to. She even made a new friend there, a young female about her age. She had lived in the canyon, in one of the towns atop the stone pillars, before it had flooded. They often went walking in the forest together, to show Makota the way around, and just to talk. An’shula was amazed at how far Makota had traveled, and wanted to know everything about the elves. Some lived in Feralas, she said, but very far away, on the coast. She had never seen them, but she did tell Makota about the ogres and gnolls. Makota forgot her troubles, for a time. But as the years passed, she wondered what had become of their home, and she missed it. Feralas was lovely, but it wasn’t the same. She asked Ahali if he wanted to go or not. The swamp had not been easy on him, either. Makota thought he might just want to stay here, and she could make the trip back on her own. But he surprised her by agreeing, and they set out for Mulgore, better prepared this time and with no danger at their backs.

Some of the villages were gone, burned down or simply abandoned, but there were new ones too. It felt strange having to re-discover her old home, and to meet the people who lived there now. Some remembered her, which made Makota feel a bit better, though others did not. They had fled from other places and decided to stay. She built two tents in one of the settlements to the north, near to the Ashenvale border, but not across it. The others said it was still dangerous to enter while the elves were patrolling. Makota felt glad of the safety and companionship of a village, it also meant that they could share what food they found. It wouldn’t be so easy as it was before, but there were enough people here that proved it was possible. And they liked Ahali, too. He told stories around the fire every night, and the others tended to him to be sure he was comfortable. It was nice to see him be pampered a little, after all, he deserved it. Makota wrote another letter to her friend, Lali. They had a little mail box here that went out whenever someone went into Thunder Bluff. She hoped this one would reach her friend.

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[Story] Fishing

It was the first really warm day, though it wasn’t quite yet spring, the snow had melted and the sun shone cheerily overhead. They didn’t even need to wear their cloaks as they hiked the trail to the pond, where Ahali was certain that all of the fish would emerge from their long, hungry winter. So far none had bitten, that was perhaps because Makota had not put any bait on her hook. She was lost in thought, watching the ripples and reflections on the pond’s surface. Ahali dozed nearby, against a fallen log. It seemed silly to come all this way just to have a nap, he could have done that back at the camp. But then perhaps the walk had tired him; he was very old and there were times that Makota was more starkly reminded of that fact. That was only one of the thoughts that chased through her head on this sunny afternoon — what might happen to her once Ahali was gone.

She could always go back to the Bluff, she supposed, though she didn’t really know anyone there, and it was a bit too busy for her taste. Makota remembered all too well how awkward it felt when she had gone to visit her friend there, and she’d not heard from him since the incident with the orc. The little camp in the hills wasn’t really hers, and she thought it might be too difficult to stay there, with all the lingering memories. The same was true of Stonetalon, where she’d grown up. Ahali thought it too dangerous to go near the kaldorei still, uncertain of how they might react to them. Though Makota could speak a little of their language, it would no good if an arrow had already reached her from afar. They had every right to be cautious, after all that had happened. Makota supposed that she could just start walking, and see where she ended up. She had never been much further than the plains and the mountains that surrounded them for her entire life. There had to be other places to see. She supposed that Dalaran didn’t count, because she hadn’t walked there, and the whole thing had seemed like a very strange dream.

That was the other thing. Makota tugged her line up out of the water and looked at the still-bare hook before she dropped it back again with a plunk. More than anyone else, Makota missed her elf friend Latahlali. She’d written a few times, and Makota had received the letters at the nearest orc outpost. Lali had her elf now, and her own baby, and she lived at a magic school where she taught children history and reading and things like that. She couldn’t help but feel a little jealous, it all sounded a lot more interesting than fishing with boring old Ahali. But a magic school was no place for someone like Makota, she knew that well enough. For one thing, all of the doors and chairs would be too small. And she’d always be afraid that she’d break something by accident, or step on something she shouldn’t. She did want to visit of course, to see her friend again, but maybe too much time had passed. Maybe their lives were too different now. She’d said so before, to Ahali, and he said that it didn’t matter if friends were different. Sometimes it was those differences that made the friendship all that much more special. He always said things like that.

But it was possible, it would just take some doing. Makota knew that the magic school was near the elf city in the Eastern Kingdoms. They would have to find someone who could make a portal there, but cities always had mages. Hadn’t Makota seen some in Thunder Bluff? Talking to them was scary though, and she didn’t know their language. She’d have to speak Orcish and she didn’t like it, and neither did they judging from the faces they made. She rather doubted that Ahali would want to go along, and she didn’t think she could leave him all alone. She glanced over and he snorted a little, but didn’t wake up. Makota decided that she would ask him about it when he awoke. But she guessed the conversation would go a bit smoother if he wasn’t hungry. She nudged over one of the fallen logs with a hoof, picking up a fat white grub. This time, the hook would be sure to attract a hungry fish.

[Story] Letter from Makota

Dear Lali,

How is Naraleth? Is he really big now? I don’t think baby elves grow as fast as Tauren, but I don’t really know anything about blood elves. Can he eat real food yet? You should cook him some kaldorei food so he’ll like it when he’s older. Dumplings are probably the best thing, but spider kabobs are good too. Maybe one day I can teach him how to eat Tauren food. I don’t know how I’ll ever get there though, Ahali said Outland is a whole other world and I wouldn’t have the first idea how to get there. Can mages make portals there? I guess they must be able to, or you couldn’t have got there. Do you ever get homesick and miss the forest? I miss Mulgore a little bit, but we aren’t really very far away, and we haven’t been gone for very long. Right now it’s still almost like an adventure, except that it’s scary sometimes. I’m used to watching out for centaurs, and for kaldorei when we go close to the forest, but now we also have to watch out for orcs. I get kind of scared when people say that, because it makes me think about what happened to my mother.

I can only remember bits of that happening, because I was so young. I don’t remember what she said or how it started, the main thing I remember is feeling scared and angry. How could those orcs not have known? I remember being alone there in our cave for a while, and being really hungry. Ahali came and found me there, I wonder how he knew? He came by from time to time but not especially often. I could easily have starved to death before he did. I guess he had a way of knowing, or maybe someone told him. He says sometimes spirits tell him things, I guess they could tell him if someone needed help. Anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking so much about it lately is because the part of the forest we’re at now isn’t very far from where we used to come and fish. There are a lot of berry bushes that grow along the banks too, and we used to fill up our baskets with them — we always ate about as many as we put in the basket so when we got home we couldn’t even eat them right away! At first I didn’t recognize it, because there are fewer trees now. It looks more bleak and the river isn’t as high. Or maybe it’s just my imagination, you know sometimes you look back on things and it seems better than it was, because we forget all the bad things and only remember the good things. I hope that’s true in the future. I don’t want to remember the bad parts of this trip.

Ahali knew that I remembered this place.  One night he came over and he said he was sorry that we had to come here, but it was safer. I said it was okay, it didn’t really bother me. Because it doesn’t, it just got me to thinking a lot. I’m a bit scared that some kaldorei will find us, because there’s so many of us and we look like we might be up to trouble. If I was a kaldorei, I’d probably think that. I know so much has happened here that they’re going to be very suspicious of us. At least there aren’t any orcs, maybe I can tell them that we’re fighting them too. Or maybe they already know that? Ahali says there are other groups like us, gathering in hidden places until they tell us where to go. I don’t know who “they” are, I guess whoever is in charge. Maybe the chieftain, I guess. I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make these decisions, no matter what happens someone will be upset. It can’t be easy.

I hope you will get this, and I hope you and your family are safe. One day soon we will see each other again, maybe.

Your friend,
Makota

 

[Story] Letter from Makota

Dear Lali,

The people in Thunder Bluff sent your letter ahead to me. There’s not really a proper town here, but there’s an outpost where people stop to get supplies. I was pretty surprised to see that I had a letter already when I arrived! So that’s why I took so long to write back, also I had to find someone who had a piece of paper that I could use. Ahali says I’m not allowed to say exactly where we are, which I think is silly because I know you aren’t going to do anything, but he says that other people could read it or something. That’s kind of scary, do you think someone really would? He says the warchief might, but I really think he probably has better things to do that read letters from me. Anyway, I can tell you that it’s near the edge of Ashenvale and there are a lot of feathers around.

Naraleth is such a good name! I like it because it has your elf’s name in it, but it also reminds of Narache, which is a good place. I really hope I can see him, I bet he’s so cute. Does he look more like you or like his father? Do you remember that time we were supposed to watch Jalani’s baby and he ended up getting blackberries all over his face and clothes? That happened in like two seconds! I bet Naraleth gets into trouble like that too. I hope that you can visit soon, but I think it’s dangerous right now. I’m kind of scared. I think Ahali is scared too, but he doesn’t want me to know. I figured out that the reason he wanted to come to Ashenvale is because I could go hide in the forest if I need to. Of course there’s a chance that the night elves might shoot me, but hopefully I can remember enough Darnassian words that they wouldn’t right away. The odd thing is that right now the Barrens are more dangerous.

It’s true that people are fighting in the Barrens, tauren are helping the leader of the trolls to fight against the orcs who support the new warchief. I don’t really know what it’s about but honestly I like the idea if it means that they’ll leave the night elves and other people alone. We shouldn’t fight. There’s enough trouble out there. I wish I could see your new home, Ahali said Outland is on a totally different planet. That’s so weird. What does it look like there? He’s never been there so he couldn’t tell me what it was like. Are there weird animals and plants? Are there any tauren?

I don’t know how long we’ll be here or how long all this will be going on. What if we never go back to our camp? I guess I don’t mind living in the forest again, but it’s different now. My mother is gone, and so are you. I hope I can see you again soon. It’s probably all right to write to me at the outpost here, but you should definitely write in Taurahe and remember they might read it.

Your friend,
Makota

[Story] The Barrens

The sun rose red over the horizon, streaking the sky in blood. Makota knew that Ahali saw it too, though he pretended not to. But she could tell from the way his muzzle crinkled that he was frowning.

“I don’t understand why we have to go,” Makota whispered, glancing forward to the driver. He did not seem to be listening, in fact from the way his head lolled, he looked to have fallen asleep on his bench. It was early yet, the sun having only ignited the pre-dawn sky, and they had already been traveling for a few days. One quickly grew used to the sounds of the caravan; the lowing of the kodos, the creak of leather and the gentle rocking of the wagon. She looked out through the canvas, and she thought they were crossing the border into the Barrens, but she couldn’t be exactly sure. Ahali said that it had been changed by the Cataclysm, that a great wound had been torn in the ground, but she couldn’t see that now. She wondered if they would.

Ahali took a long time to answer. “It will be safer,” he said at last, his eyes half-closed.

“Safer? How can it be safer if we’re fighting?” The driver did hear Makota that time, she saw one ear flick backward to listen. The most dangerous thing she’d ever faced was a gnoll. Makota was certain that she was not ready to face Garrosh’s elite forces.

“Because,” Ahali explained. “It is my hope that we won’t be. We’ll help gather supplies.”

Makota frowned. That didn’t sound very interesting at all. And there was something else that had been on her mind of late. “I thought we swore to obey the orcs,” she whispered. “Why are we helping fight against them?”

“Our oath was given to Thrall,” Ahali explained. “Not Garrosh.”

“But you can’t just take it back,” Makota protested. “That’s not right. If we didn’t mean it, we shouldn’t have said it.” She personally had never taken an oath to either of them, having never even met an orc in person. She’d seen them once or twice in the Bluff, but they were only passing through for supplies. They didn’t seem very nice, but she didn’t think that was a good reason to break a promise.

Ahali grunted and closed his eyes again. She guessed that was the end of the conversation for now. The wagon pulled out onto the wide road that crossed the length of the Barrens, north and south. Makota had seen on maps that it was called the Gold Road. Ahali had said it was called that because caravans used to to get across — just as they were now. “Go back to sleep, Makota. There’s still a long way to go.”

[Story] Letter from Makota

Lali,

I can only hope this letter finds you. They must have ways to get letters to people with magic in Dalaran, right? Except I hope you aren’t in Dalaran anymore, at least not with your elf. I was so surprised to learn about it when we visited the Bluff the last time. I guess news doesn’t travel as quickly here, certainly not out in the hills where we live. I mean, I heard about the Alliance town but I guess I didn’t really think it was as bad as people said. I thought they were exaggerating to make it sound like we won. And I know your elf would never do anything like that. They said the elves were arrested if they weren’t killed. Was your elf arrested? I hope not, because your baby needs him. Ahali says we won’t be allowed to go to Dalaran anymore either, which really makes me sad. It was exciting to visit, and I really liked the cart where they sold sweets. At least I got to visit there though, I am glad for that.

Did your baby come yet? Did it hurt a lot? When the women here have babies they make a lot of noise. Is it a boy or a girl? Does it look cute or funny? Ahali thinks it’ll look funny but I said it would probably look more like you since you’re the one who grew it. But I know it doesn’t always work that way, at least with Tauren.

I don’t know if you heard, because you’re probably still somewhere far away, but things aren’t so good here right now. The chieftain and a lot of warriors have gone to the Barrens, we heard about it last time we went to visit. We even saw some of them getting on the zeppelin to go. I don’t like to say that I’m scared, but seeing all those warriors gathering together was a little scary. At first I thought they were going to fight the elves, which would have been really bad, but we found out that’s not the case. (That’s good at least!) No, they’re fighting against the orcs. I don’t really know what goes on in Orgrimmar, but it must have been something really bad if we’re sending people to fight them now. And if we do, what will happen to us if we lose? I like the Bluff, I don’t want to have to move again. Or even worse, will we be killed as traitors? I think even Ahali is a little scared. He twitched his ears and his face was a flat line, like he didn’t want me to see what expression he was making. I don’t know what this will mean for us, and I don’t know what it means for the elves either.

If it will make too many problems, you don’t have to write back. I just wanted to write to tell you it’s probably better to stay away from this part of Kalimdor right now. And that I’m thinking about you, my friend. I hope you and your family are safe.

Your friend,

Makota

 

[Story] Makota’s Journal

Ahali bought me this book in one of the shops, he said it would be good to remember things. I don’t have trouble remembering things (usually), that’s him! But I do think it’s a nice idea, it has a neat little cover with blue cloth, it kind of looks like clouds. And there’s lots of pages inside to write on. He also let me buy a dress! I only have one other dress, and I didn’t bring it with, I didn’t really expect to need it here. We were both surprised that they had one big enough for me but I suppose the tailor has to be ready for all kinds of people in Dalaran. He did cut a little place in the seam for my tail to go through, and he mended up the edges so they won’t fray. He was one of the small elves I think, at least he spoke Orcish. That made it a lot easier.

I wasn’t sure if Tahfal’s mother would go through the portal but we all went through and I guess once she saw Ahali go, she believed it was safe. She said the air was too thin there. Probably because it’s so high up. After shopping, Ahali and her went to get some food to eat at the inn. They have all kinds of different meat and fish there, it did smell really good but I wanted to see Lali, too. I don’t think they wanted to eat mage food. I admit it makes me a little nervous but I don’t want to be rude, if he offers it to me, I’ll eat it. Lali was outside of her house, I guess she’d gone for an errand or something. You can definitely see it if you look closely! She said her dress felt a little tight too. I can’t wait to see the little baby. Lali asked where Ahali was, and I said he’d gone to the meat place. She seemed to want to visit, though I said it kind of smelled weird because of the wolves. Then she asked if they were worgen, or just wolves, and I said I wasn’t sure because I don’t know how to tell. I guessed that they are regular wolves, because there was an orc with them.

I asked if she had any names yet. She said she liked “Bodawai” for a boy, which is a Tauren name, but Raleth didn’t really. I mean, I can see why people from Dalaran might think it’s strange. I asked her what kind of names do blood elves have, and she said they’re usually about sun and light and stuff. Her name is “Ashclaw” though, which is weird because elves don’t have claws. She thought it was because her family raised sabers, that might be it. About then is when Tahfal came, I guess he got a little lost coming from the inn. I felt bad for not walking with him. He didn’t notice my dress.

We went inside their house and we sat on the rug. The chairs are too small. Their house is really fancy, I was afraid to touch anything and I made sure my tail didn’t move and knock something over. Though I guess when the baby comes, it’s going to get messed up! Raleth said they might have to move into a bigger house once that happens. I think it’s an okay size for a small  baby, but I don’t really know. They talked about more names, I said they could use Lali’s father’s name and they both seemed to like that idea. It’s not a Tauren name though. I don’t know what I’d name a baby. I guess if it was a girl, I’d want it to be something with my mother’s name. I don’t know what my father’s name is. I think that Ahali does, but for whatever reason, he hasn’t told me. Oh, Raleth calls the baby “Potato” until they figure out a real name. Elves are weird.

Well, we didn’t want to stay too late, and Ahali and Tahfal’s mother were still gone, so we decided to leave. We’re going to be here for a few days, so we’ll be able to talk again. I promised to bring Ahali next time, Lali says she misses him. We walked to the inn and went inside, there was all of this food just out on the table so we ate some. The fish was really good! But we didn’t see the old people anywhere, I guess they’d already gone up to their rooms. After we ate, we went to the sweet cart and bought a cupcake. Well, I bought a cupcake and also one of the chocolate things. They were really good! I’m glad I don’t live here all the time because I’d spend all my money at that cart. There was a park with nice green grass in it, so we went to sit there. Tahfal wanted to sit on the bench but I was afraid he was going to break it and we’d have to pay, so I said we should sit on the grass instead. It was the only grass in that whole place. We didn’t know how people could live there. It’s nice, but there’s nowhere to run or go by yourself. And there’s no grass for your kodo or horse or whatever. Oh we saw a gnome! It was so tiny! I tried not to stare but I’d never seen one before.

I think it would be lonely to live here. I hope Lali doesn’t feel too lonely.