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Joined: April 28th, 2014, 2:41 pm

To Protect One's Family (partially recovered)

by leppender » May 10th, 2015, 3:19 pm

((Author's note: I am sad to say that this story is unlikely to be completed. I had written other chapters on the old sanctum which involved blowing up two cult hideouts, and expanding on the character's growing personalities. Those chapters were not backed up on fanfiction.net, and the originals were on a computer I lost along with everything I owned in 2014. I doubt that I could reconstruct the story to my own satisfaction, and so this project is being abandoned after chapter 3 (unless someone happens to have the following chapters hidden somewhere.))

Chander stood next to the General Store, near the front gates of Orgrimmar. Next to him, Bane growled softly, and snapped at the saddlebags hanging down either side of him. The young Orc Shaman smirked slightly and knelt down next to his companion, putting a hand on the grey wolf's head. "Come on buddy, ye'll get used ta it. Can't go out inta the wilds without supplies ya know?" Bane whined softly and moved his head upward, trying to encourage his partner to pet him. Sparing a glance to see if anyone was watching, he allowed himself a moment of tenderness to scratch Bane both behind the ears, and under the chin affectionately.

Just as he was standing up, a young Orc perhaps no older than twelve, wearing bronzed armor and who's eyes glowed fel green where they should be white, walked out of the store carrying four heavy packs. With a grunt, the boy set the packs down next to a rust colored wolf, and began fastening them to harnesses on either side of the beast. "I no see why uz no leev at saym tym az mo..." He paused for several moments, his eyes closed in thought. "Az... muthur," He finally said. "I want be there tu see sisturz born."

Chander frowned deeply, though not as if he were having an issue understanding what the younger Warrior said. He knew exactly what Luuhk was feeling, and shared the same heartache at not being able to be there when Leppender gave birth. There was also the possibility that he wouldn't even make it back to see his own treasured mate Hanabii give birth to his first child, though he tried to avoid thinking about that, since it was still many moons away. He moved over to Luuhk, and gently shoved him in the shoulder, voicing a reassuring grunt as he did. "Don' worry kiddo, yer ma'll be okay. Sis' is a pretty tough gal when she's gotta defend you pups."

Luuhk looked up at Chander, and smiled weakly. "Yub, hur am... she.. is." He corrected himself. He let out a heavy sigh, and shook his head, his redish brown ponytail swinging back and forth as he did. "We du this fer hur. Fer owr famili. Unless uz find da cult that impry...im..." Chander waited, letting Luuhk figure out how to pronounce the word himself. "imprizuned... yoo both, me muthur and sisturz will be in danjur."

Chander nodded firmly. "Exactly. The Order of the Crimson Fel is only interested in one thing; becomin so powerful with the dark arts, that they become Gods themselves. When the rest of Azeroth saw Gul'dan fer what he really was, a power hungry, relentless, bloodthirsty bastard, they thought he was a God come ta show them the way ta immortality." His hand moved to touch his right cheek, his fingers brushing an odd shaped scar, a brand with a horned tear drop. He growled softly, remembering the day his greatest tormentor Mathious Broverly gave it to him. He had been denied the blow that killed him, and it secretly enraged him that his own nephew Luuhk had been present when Jureth finished him off, but Chander had been unable to get there in time.

It had been bad enough when he had been a child, and suffered under the cult's whip, but when he discovered that Mathious had taken both his nephew, and Jureth's son who he considered a nephew, both Orcs had fought through much to find him, and get the boys back. Chander had been wounded in Darkshore when they finally discovered that he was holding the two young Orcs in the cult's former coven under Stormwind, so he was forced to stay behind and lick his wounds while Jureth went ahead to free them. Ever since then he had been kicking himself for not being able to get back at the Humans that had robbed him of his family, his youth, and at one point even his life. He looked at Luuhk, his eyes gleaming with grim determination. "Too many lives have been affected by them bastards, an' if they still wanna find sis an' recapture her, it's up ta us ta protect the family, an' anyone else they might decide ta hurt."

Luuhk growled softly and looked at the ground with a furious expression, mingled with just a bit of sorrow. He had not escaped from his last encounter with the Crimson Fel unscathed. He remembered how Mathious had chained both him and Naxian to the dank, moldy stone wall in an alcove across from one another, giving them only enough slack on their shackles to stand, but not to reach one another. He moved a gauntleted hand to his inner elbow, and touched a burn scar right on the joint. He remembered the white hot pain he'd felt as a heated stone was set there, and dark tendrils of shadow energy reached up and grabbed his wrist, forcing him to bend his arm as he lie on a table completely enveloped by the dark matter, helpless to do anything but scream. He could still smell the scent of his own burning flesh, and hear Mathious tell Naxian to break his arm, or he would kill Luuhk. Very clearly, he remembered the look on Naxian's face as he held the hammer, hovering over his step brother uncertainly. Most vividly though, Luuhk could still hear himself say. "Du it bruthur."

Mathious, a member of the Crimson Fel, had then ordered Naxian to break both of Luuhk's legs, and his other arm in the same manner, which broke both the boys spirits for a time. Before Jureth arrived to save the boys, Luuhk's eye had even been removed for Mathious to study in greater detail. Jureth had managed to heal Luuhk expertly, and the only physical traces that he had been tortured were the scars on his joints, but he carried other scars that couldn't be seen. Both men had seen firsthand what that cult could do, and neither were willing to allow the Order of the Crimson Fel to harm any more people, especially members of their family. "Uz waystin tym unkul. Da sun am abowt tu come up, and uz have a long jurni ahead."

Chander grinned proudly at Luuhk for his show of determination despite his personal emotions, and gripped his shoulder roughly. "Then what we standin round here fer? Ya got everythin I asked ya ta pick up from the store?" Luuhk nodded. "Then finish gettin them bags secured, an' we'll head out. We got a long ride ahead of us."

Luuhk nodded firmly, and set to work securing the last two packs to his wolf. The animal growled, and snapped as the straps were tightened, and Luuhk growled back at him. "Come on Dusti, settul down. Yoo git uzed tu it." Dusty snapped at Luuhk's fingers, but the boy simply pushed his face toward the worg's, and snapped his fangs at him. Chander watched with amusement as the wolf backed down, though he continued to growl. Finally, Luuhk gave Dusty's side an affectionate pat, then stood up and climbed onto his back. "Ukee, me... I am redi unkul."

Chander grunted with a nod, and swung a leg over Bane's back in a quick, practiced motion. Tugging at the worg's reins, he turned toward the front gates and took a deep breath. "Lets go kiddo. Time ta finish what they started sixteen years ago." Digging his heels into Bane's sides, Chander leaned forward in the saddle, and the two Orcs flew past the gates of the great Horde capital, turning sharply toward the Southfury River. Once the river came in sight, Chander reached out with his mind to call upon the spirits that lived in the water, making a request for himself and Luuhk. He smiled as a soothingly cool sensation seemed to pass through his chest, leaving him feeling slightly happy, a sign that the spirits had heard him, and approved of his request. As the wolves paws touched the water, the surface rippled lightly, but they didn't sink below the water, instead they ran across it, turning back north toward Ashenvale.

The young shaman, and younger warrior traveled swiftly upriver until they were out of sight of the guards near the bridge that led to the side entrance of Orgrimmar, then they turned toward the shore, and urged their mounts to climb up a steep, rocky slope. As they reached the top, they looked down upon Demonsfall Canyon. Chander hopped off Bane's back, and began picking his way down the slope carefully, but he looked back after a moment to see Luuhk still sitting atop Dusty, his glowing eyes fixed on the canyon below. "What's wrong kiddo?"

Luuhk was breathing fast, his expression a mixture of fury and shock. "Me... I can feel dem unkul. I can feel where dem am, what dem want du." He pointed to the southern part of the canyon. "Ovur der, felhownd want steel sukubis enurji," he pointed to the north, "and ovur der, rok demun want krush ded tree fer fun. It... ovurwelming."

Chander stared at Luuhk in awe. He had often been surprised at Luuhk's ability to look at someone, and seem to know their moods or intentions, but he'd never imagined the boy's power was that strong, and it sent a chill down his spine. He climbed back up the slope and stood in front of Luuhk. "Yer tellin me ya can sense where them demons are, an' if they're hostile toward us?" Luuhk looked away from Chander with a bitter expression. Chander growled. "Look at me when I'm talkin ta ya boy, an' answer my question."

Luuhk lifted his head, and stared at Chander with his piercing fel gaze, lifting his chin with a note of defiant pride. He was secretly impressed when Chander didn't flinch away from his look like many others had done. "Yes, and no. I feel direkshun dem in, I feel urges dem tinkin of, but no know exact tings."

Chander gripped the boy's shoulders, speaking excitedly. "Ya have any idea what this could mean fer findin them bastards?" He smiled brightly, and shook the warrior lightly. "Luuhk, with yer gift we got us an advantage. Heck we might even know where they are before they know we're even comin!"

Luuhk growled and touched the corner of his left eye. It dimmed slightly before it began flickering rapidly. "Ur it kud be disadvantij. I fel taintid frum burth, so dem might sense me neer befur uz git close."

Chander was stunned at his nephew's insight, and a part of him wondered if he might be right, but he shook his head and removed one hand, shifting to his side and draping his arm around both shoulders. He urged him to climb off his wolf, then began walking forward slowly, urging Luuhk to walk down the steep slope with him. "Well we'll use this opportunity ta find out jus' what others might sense when yer around. If a demon can't sense ya, maybe the magic users of the Crimson Fel won't notice ya either."

A flicker of fear passed over Luuhk's face, but he swallowed hard and nodded. Not wanting to put his uncle's life in danger because of his presence, but too proud to turn back and leave him to journey alone, he gripped Dusty's reins tightly in one hand, and slowly made his way down the rocky slope with Chander at his side. As they entered the canyon Luuhk's heart was pounding so hard, he wondered if Chander could hear it. He could feel the presence of the demons more strongly here, and kept his mind alert just in case any of them could sense him.

After a few minutes of walking toward the opposite cliff, Luuhk felt a shift in the emotions of the demons, felt them becoming aware of his presence. He forced himself to plant one foot in front of another, not wanting to draw the entire canyon into a fight. He was sure he could beat any one of them, but he didn't want to risk himself or his uncle getting hurt so early into their journey. His mind suddenly focused in on the felhound he had been sensing earlier, its mind shifting toward Luuhk. He felt the beast's intense hunger for magic, and gripped the axe at his side. Suddenly a loud shriek pierced the air, and both of them stopped to look toward the south. After a moment Luuhk grinned, and grunted at his uncle. "Da felhownd finuli attacked da sukubis. It sayf tu keep going." Chander nodded and the two moved on.

As they neared the other side of the canyon, Luuhk's mind suddenly became alert again, and his attention returned to the infernal to the north. A loud crash, followed by several more rent the air, and again the quarry paused. Luuhk could feel a savage pleasure running through the demon, and figured it was attacking the tree it had been eying. He was about to relay this to Chander when he felt a shift in the demon's emotions. It was still angry, and it wanted to crush something else, something alive. He felt it hone in on him, almost as an assault to the mind, and gave Chander a shove. "It comin dis way! Git da wulfs up der, I distrakt it!"

Chander looked ready to protest, but Luuhk had already drawn his axe and shield, and began running toward the north where he knew the demon was running right at him. With a moment of hesitation, Chander tugged on the wolves reins, having to almost pull Dusty up after him. "Come on ya eager beast you, we gotta get ta higher ground. He can handle himself!" He looked back the way Luuhk ran, and spoke quietly. "Please be able ta handle yerself kiddo."

As Chander moved up the cliff side, Luuhk ran at full speed toward the infernal. He could sense the demons he passed watching him, and knew they were contemplating whether or not to jump in, and attack the young Orc. Luuhk finally spotted the living boulder covered in fel fire, and with a ferocious roar that echoed through the canyon, he ran up the side of a rock, and leaped into the air, kicking the creature where it's head should be. The demon stumbled back several paces, and as Luuhk landed he charged at the infernal as fast as he could, bringing down his axe with precision in two quick swipes, striking the joints of both of its arms. The creature rumbled furiously as the flames between the shoulders and torso flickered, and it brought down its left arm quickly, trying to crush the Orc in front of it. The boy put up his shield, and lifted it slightly to absorb some of the blow, though his arm tingled and threatened to buckle from the impact.

He screamed in rage, and threw his weight upward, pushing the demon's arm up sharply, then he shifted to the left, and brought down his axe on the infernal's shoulder. The flame holding it to the demon's body blazed for a moment before flickering out of existence, and the arm fell to the ground. In retaliation, the infernal swiped at Luuhk with its remaining arm, and sent him flying toward the lefthand wall. The warrior hit the wall with a loud thud, and slid down it slightly, his vision blurred, and his mind hazy from the impact. The ground rumbled beneath him, and he gave his head a shake to clear it, then watched open mouthed as the collection of boulders charged right toward him. Luuhk gathered his muscles, and at the very last second he threw himself to the left, quickly catching his balance, and pivoting on the spot. As he turned, he threw his axe arm forward, and struck the demon hard on the midsection stone, which became dislodged and soared through the air toward the left, just as the demon hit the wall.

Its other parts exploded off it in a deluge, one of the pieces hitting Luuhk square in the chest, and knocking him back. Again he was flying through the air, this time bouncing off the ground once before skidding to a halt, lying barely conscious on the dusty earth. Slowly, he became aware of the other demons in the canyon, of how their focus had slid toward him questioningly, like a predator wondering if it should pounce on wounded prey, or if it might still be a threat. With a growl of pain he forced himself to his feet, and as he rose his growl became a roar of triumph. He could feel the demons cringing away at the sound, no longer wanting to fight something that sounded so fierce. With a satisfied grunt, Luuhk turned his axe blade down, and leaned against the hilt as he walked, making his way back to where Chander had been.

While Luuhk had been fighting the demon, Chander had made his way up the steep slope with both of the wolves in tow. He had stood at the top, watching the fight further down the canyon with a knot of anxiety in his stomach. When he saw Luuhk tossed against the wall of the canyon, Chander had tied the wolves leads onto a nearby bush, and rushed down the way he had come as fast as he could without falling. By the time he made it halfway down the slope however, he saw Luuhk below him, just starting to climb up it. His heart leaped with relief as he saw him, but sunk as he noticed the way he moved, and smelled the blood on him. "Luuhk!" he yelled as he picked up his pace, until he was almost sliding down the hill.

Luuhk looked up as he heard his uncle coming toward him, and tried to lean less on the axe. When Chander finally got to him, he tried to grip the boy under the arms, but Luuhk pushed him away with a grunt, nearly falling over as he did. He straightened himself up, his expression strained but determined. "I walk on me own! I no littul kubbi dat need pampurin!"

Even as he spoke, his legs shook in protest, and once again Chander moved to grab him, this time catching him just before his legs gave out, and forcing his shoulders under the boy's arm to support him. "Who the hell said I'd ever pamper ya pup? I ain't got the time ta drag ya up the hill if ya fall backwards, an' beat the crap outta ya fer not lettin me help ya."

Luuhk snorted a weak laugh, and forced his legs to keep moving, even though Chander was supporting most of his weight. "Yoo tuu layt unkul... sum deemun alredi beet me. Yoo haff tu wayt fer da next tym me du sumthin stupid."

Chander let out a hearty guffaw, and tugged Luuhk up to a ledge near the middle. "Ya forgot, I'm a shaman, an' I can jus' heal ya up till ya can handle getting yer ass kicked by me!" Luuhk lifted his head to smirk at Chander, who gripped him tighter in a slight hug. "Don' think I'll hafta do that though. Ya were damn impressive out there against that infernal. Foolish, but damn impressive. Yer old man woulda been proud ta see that I bet, cause I know I was."

Luuhk shut his eyes as a well of emotions rose up in him, concerning both his secret desire to make his true father proud wherever he might have gone, and that he had made his uncle proud. "Tank yoo unkul." he said in a slightly shaky voice, which he instantly felt ashamed of. "Hill am steep. Uz sit down fer kupul minutez? Kach breath?" Luuhk asked in what he hoped was a casual tone.

Chander grunted, and heaved Luuhk toward an opening in the side of the cliff toward their left. "Sure thing kiddo, I wanna take a look at yer wounds anyways." Luuhk's cheeks turned a deeper shade of green at his uncle's words, but he allowed himself to be led into the cave, and leaned against the wall just inside the entrance. Chander took Luuhk's head in both hands, tilting it forward and lifting up his hair to look at two dark lumps almost half the size of baseballs, one of which was still oozing black blood down the back of his neck. "Ya hurt anywhere else kiddo? Feelin any pain in yer legs, or chest?"

Luuhk blinked his eyes repeatedly, and fought back a sensation of nausea as he struggled to remain conscious. "No much... jus' tini sore on chest wur I hit." He swallowed heavily, and took several deep breaths of air. "Hed hurt most. Feel dizi and week... littul sik tuu."

Chander nodded, and adjusted his grip on Luuhk's head, bracing his chin with his thumbs, and pressing his fingers to the boy's temples. "I'd say ya got a concussion. Hold still while I do what I can." The shaman closed his eyes, and began to call out to the elements for healing. A soft green glow formed at his fingertips, and penetrated into Luuhk's head. Slowly the bruises on the back of his head began to shrink, until they were nearly the size of golf balls. Luuhk took several deep breaths, his mind clearing, and the nausea disappearing completely. Chander removed his hands, and sat back on his ankles. "Ye'll probably feel dizzy an' weak fer a bit, but that's nothin a bit of rest, an' a good meal won't fix. I'll go make sure the cave's safe, then I'll go get the wolves."

Luuhk nodded, and leaned back against the wall completely, closing his eyes with relief, wanting nothing more than to pass out. Before his mind could drift away however, he felt something tickling at the back of it that made him jerk right up, wide awake and alert. He looked toward the inside of the cave, and felt a chill run down his spine. Standing up slowly, he made his way toward where Chander had gone. As he rounded the corner he saw an orange light up ahead that danced across the walls. He made his way toward it, spotting Chander as the source of the fire, standing perfectly still in horror. As he turned to see what Chander was looking at, his mouth fell open.

Rows upon rows of cages filled the vast chamber in front of them, and right in the center of the room was a black, round table made of stone. The Orcs looked at each other and nodded, before moving forward. Luuhk bent down to examine one of the cages, but Chander headed straight for the table, looking transfixed by it. "So mani smellz in theez cajiz. No can tell wut wuz in dem wen, but I smell Orc, Tauren, Troll, Elf, and evun Quillboar, Centaur, and Murlock."

Chander approached the table, and began shifting through the papers on it. "Almost every kind of sentient creature ya might find within the next several miles of here." His hand brushed the surface of the table, and he was surprised to feel something almost gritty brush against his hand. He lifted it to find specks of dried blood clinging to his fingertips. He hastily shoved the papers off the table, and stared down at it in horror. "By the ancestors, this is a holdin place!"

"A wut?" Luuhk said as he stood up and turned around. His eyes fell onto the table, and began to glow brightly. There was a demonic circle of power carved into the outter surface of the table, and in the center was the symbol of the Order of the Crimson Fel. Both of them could feel the residual dark energy from countless rituals that had been performed on the table.

Chander backed away from the table, and looked at the cages around him. "I was in a place like this before, when me an' sis were first taken. The setup was different though, it was a larger cavern, an' ya had ta go down a ramp ta get ta the cages." He moved toward the nearest cage, and touched it with a scowl. "There was an old Troll, an Elf, an' three Tauren kids there. We were all sittin there, us kids cryin, the Elf an' the Troll both lookin grim. After a day or so, each of um began disappearin, then before I had a chance ta know what happened, I was in a different place, an' sis was in a cage next ta mine. We'd been transported directly ta the coven under Stormwind."

Luuhk watched his uncle sadly as he ran his hands along the cage. After a few moments he turned away, and began reaching for the papers on the floor. "Dis must be place like it. I want know wer dem went tho. Uz no can stai heer long." He looked at one of the papers he was holding, and his eyes widened with recognition. "It in Eredun!"

Chander stood up quickly, and moved behind Luuhk to look over his shoulder. "The purest form of the demonic language? Originally used by them space goats before they left their home world, an' the rest turned inta demons? How can ya be sure?"

Luuhk pointed at the paper he was holding. "I know it. High Warlok ov da Duskfury Clan tawt me wen I wuz littul. Her lyk tu think me bekum warlok lyk me parints, so her teech me sum thingz. I was fast lurnur, and knew it importint tu lern it fer sumthin."

Chander glanced at Luuhk's shining eyes as he said that, wondering again about his very odd nephew with the strange eyes, and uncanny revelations. He decided that right then wasn't the time to think about it, so he nodded at the papers. "Try ta see if any of them give us an idea of where they mighta gone."

Luuhk nodded, and collected the rest of the papers off the floor. His eyes flashed as they darted across the pages, making Chander's stomach churn with uncertainty once more. "Rekwest fer light beef mayd bai ryte fuut, send konfurmashun tu ryte fuut wen akwired... Rekwest fer frosty moonpies bai neck, send konfurmashun tu hed..." He turned to look at Chander curiously. "What dat awl mean?"

Chander scowled, and began pacing back and forth. "Light beef, an' frosty moonpies... some folks like ta joke bout Tauren resemblin cows, so maybe that one was about getting a Tauren, maybe a child cause of light?" He shook his head vigorously. "Nah, they woulda said veal instead of beef. Light... the Light! A Tauren that works with the Light, a Sunwalker!"

"Dat mayk sense!" Luuhk looked back through the pages he'd already read. "So frosty moonpies, erm... Elf like moon, say her Gothess Elune. Moonpie mean Nyte Elf! Dat mean frosty mean..." Luuhk hesitated as his mind drew a blank.

Chander began pacing a bit faster with excitement. "A mage! It makes sense if they wanna find out more bout how a Sunwalker works, that they'd wanna find a Night Elf mage too so they could study it." Despite the strain the Orcs felt with the Night Elves because of their continuous lumber disputes, Chander was revolted at the thought of what the two listed were possibly enduring at that very moment. "Right foot, neck, head... those three don' make much sense yet, but the terms sound familiar. Keep readin kiddo."

Luuhk nodded, and flipped through a few more pages. "Let see... ordur tu all fingurs and towz, stolen green trophy frum ryte fuut, said tu be carrying littul trophy in it bowl need tu be fownd! Lazt see in dusti trophy case wid mani uthur trophies. Dis trophy am valubul, so hed offurs big reward fer ani hoo find it." He looked up from the paper and locked eyes with Chander. "I no like wur dis am goin."

Chander gripped Luuhk's shoulder tightly, his face going pale, a deep scowl on his face. "Jus' keep readin it Luuhk, we gotta know more bout this if they mean what I think they do."

Luuhk nodded and looked back at the paper. "Awl fingurs and towz am tu wait fer suppliez tu run owt, den curl up intu handz and feet. No go owt tu refresh suppliez, ignur yoo fuud list until all suppliez run owt. Handz am ordur'd tu put shooz un feet." Luuhk finished reading off the paper, and flipped back a few more pages. "Fuud list myte meen rekwest. Ignur rekwests fer new prizunurz, and wayt fer dem tu disappeer, then gu tu... hand ur fuut..."

"Hand and foot, fingers and toes. It could be they represent different places these guys hide out. Places like this ta hide prisoners before transport, places where they perform rituals, places where they experiment on um. Put shoes on feet though, that one's got me stumped..."

They both fell silent, their minds turning to the first part of the letter, and to its meaning. Neither of them wanted to speculate out loud, afraid the other would agree, making it more real. Finally Luuhk looked at the symbol on the center of the table and sighed. "Da stowlin green trophy... dat muthur izunt it?"

Chander moved a hand to his neck, where a tarnished silver necklace hung from it. "Yeah Luuhk, they're lookin fer Leppender, an' I think they got a general idea of where she is. If what we've learned so far is right, the word describin the person's craft is the first word, an' considerin stolen green don' make any sense, I'd say green would mean a warlock, an' trophy..." he paused and took a breath here. "they'd call Orcs trophies, it's what Mathious used ta call me anyways."

Chander hung his head with a growl, and Luuhk gripped his arm, silently encouraging him to continue. "She escaped from them, but if yer refferin ta a person, both escaped and stolen means they're gone, so a stolen green trophy would mean an escaped warlock Orc. Dusty trophy case, place where ya'd find Orcs that's dusty, Orgrimmar."

"Myte evun reffur tu awl ov da Barrunz, and Durotar, but dem du have a guud idea ov wer her am." Luuhk continued to grip Chander's arm as he looked at the page again. "Said tu be carrying littul trophy in it bowl... unkul, dem know hur pregnint tuu!"

Chander's hand shook with fury as it gripped Luuhk's shoulder. "I suspected they mighta known when I first found out they were lookin fer her. Sis knows it, an' plans ta get outta that area as soon as she's recovered enough ta handle herself in case of trouble. We now know fer sure they're lookin fer her, an' we know the ones from this place have all gone ahead ta either the hands or the feet. Now we jus' gotta find out where those are."

Luuhk grunted and began setting the papers down on the table, moving them around so they looked nearly as scattered and messy as before. "I want go find feet and hands, but furst I want get owt ov heer. No like dis place muj."

Chander nodded firmly. "Yeah, we should get outta here, an' go north. I remember bein taken through Darkshore when they first took me, so maybe if we can find the place I was brought, we'll find somethin about where hands and feet are." Luuhk grimaced at the thought of going to a place similar to the one they were in, especially the place his own mother and uncle had been held in as children before arriving in Stormwind, but he finished arranging the papers, and nodded at Chander.

The two exited the cave, Luuhk still having to catch himself on his axe now and then as his knees threatened to give out, but they managed to get to the top of the ridge with no further incident. Chander watched Luuhk a worried expression as he struggled to climb into his saddle. "Ya sure ya don' wanna make camp up here kiddo?"

Luuhk shook his head firmly. "No. Want get awai frum heer. Furst deemunz, then da kayv. I need awai frum dis place." Chander couldn't understand exactly why Luuhk was so desperate to leave when he was obviously still weak, but he knew the urgency in his voice and accepted it with a grunt, hopping onto Bane's back, and keeping pace with Luuhk, they rode over top of the mesas separating Ashenvale from the Barrens.

They made it down the side of the mountain, and went across the path to climb atop the opposite mesa. As they rode across the top, another chain of mountains came into view as they neared the Stonetalon Mountains. Luuhk saw them nearing on the horizon, and let out a soft moan, before sliding off Dusty, landing with a soft thud and rolling a couple of times. Chander looked behind him, and quickly tugged at Bane's lead, turning the worg back toward the boy and jumping off him with a practiced step, landing at a crouch right next to Luuhk. He rolled him onto his back, and sat him up slightly, giving him a little shake. "Luuhk! Come on kiddo, snap outta it!"

Luuhk groaned and opened his eyes, blinking them repeatedly. "Spinnin, need tu sleep." Chander put a hand on Luuhk's head, and tried to reach into him enough to know if he was in any danger. Relieved as he sensed that it was just exhaustion after being healed, Chander scooped Luuhk up, and carried him toward an area on the Barrens side mountain with an overhang.

He carefully set the boy down underneath the large rock ledge protruding above him, then turned with a grateful smile to the two wolves that had followed on their own. He reached down and petted each one appreciatively on the sides of their faces. "Good boys. Now hold still while I get those packs off ya, an' get us settled in fer the night." Bane licked Chander's hand with a grateful whine, and Dusty yipped happily at his words. After he had removed the packs, he quickly assembled a tent under the overhang where Luuhk was lying, and moved the packs inside.

Both Bane and Dusty made their way into the tent as Chander moved outside with some cooking utensils, a skin of water, a small bag filled with ground roots, and a hunk of beef jerky. While Chander made a thick meat and potato stew in the fading light, the wolves curled up on either side of Luuhk, Bane lying in the crook of the boy's right arm, with his head on his shoulder, and Dusty on the left, his head resting over Luuhk's heart. When Chander finally reentered the tent, he was carrying a small pot of stew in one hand, and the rest of the jerky in the other, a small dagger sticking out near the top of the meat.

The canines looked up, and each thumped their tails at the sight of the food. "Hold on, the both of ya. Lemme set down the food, an' get ya's some water, then I'll cut us all some jerky." He put the food down near Luuhk's head, and moved to the packs. Pulling out two rough metal bowls, he filled them with water, then placed them on either side of the entrance, and sat down behind Luuhk. The wolves lumbered over to the water bowls drinking thirstily, while Chander tugged Luuhk up until he was holding him in a sitting position, resting in the crook of his arm.

The shaman picked up the pot, and held it to the young warrior's lips, a small smile coming to his lips as the boy gulped down the stew slowly, managing to chew the pieces even in his sleep. After a few mouthfuls, Luuhk turned his head toward Chander, his eyes still closed. "Owl wulf? Wur am Naxian? Am him sayf?"

Chander's throat suddenly felt constricted, and his eyes began to burn. There was only one person he knew of that had been referred to as 'old wolf', and that had been Jureth, who had been the Shaman's dearest friend, his mentor, and eventually his brother in law. He had been devastated at the double loss of both Naxian and Jureth when they never returned after the Shattering, but he mastered his emotions and replied softly. "They're restin now Luuhk, they're restin deep. Now eat up, nobody'll ever hurt um again."

He pressed the pot against Luuhk's lips again, but he didn't open his mouth, this time deciding to curl up against Chander, and very softly he uttered the word "Popo." Chander set down the pot with a shaking hand, and hugged the boy a bit tighter, half formed thoughts of the blessing he'd given Luuhk the day he was born, stating that he would always be the first son of his heart, and how his mate was back home, carrying his first true child. When he had been dead, Chander had wanted to be alive for one reason more than any other, and that was so he could get the chance to be a father. Luuhks subconscious muttering of the word as it was spoken in his first language was enough to break through the carefully laid defenses he'd built around himself.

He set Luuhk back down on the sleeping pallet he'd set up when getting the tent together, and moved to the jerky he'd set aside. He cut off several pieces, tossing some to each of the worgs who gobbled them up eagerly, and slowly chewing on a couple of pieces while he sat lost in thought. Everything he had ever experienced in his youth told him that a person with strange powers was evil, but no matter how uneasy Luuhk made him sometimes, he loved the boy as much as his own unborn child. He didn't have much experience expressing his more sensitive emotions to others, and often considered it too unmanly to attempt, but he knew that even though he didn't know who he said it to, Luuhk felt at that moment as comfortable as he would have in a father's arms.

Setting down the food, Chander stood up and closed his eyes. He reached out with his mind for the elusive spirit of the wilds, and called upon the spirit of the wolf to bless him. As he fell over onto all fours, his nose jutting out in front of his face, his green skin and clothes being replaced by fur, and a thick tail spurting out of his backside, the other two wolves came over, and touched noses with him. Ever since the first time he had shifted forms, Chander found a sense of peace in the way the wolves thought, and felt. On top of being able to enjoy the comfort of having other wolves around, which pleased the canine mentality, Chander had discovered one other benefit of being a wolf: He felt it wasn't as unmanly to display affection if he was an animal instead of a man.

He padded softly over to Luuhk's head, then lying down he began pushing up against him until the young man moved up to use him as a pillow. Whining affectionately as he looked at Luuhk, he licked his cheek gently, and thought "Goodnight son," before resting his head next to the boy's, and falling asleep.

Posts: 26
Joined: April 28th, 2014, 2:41 pm

Re: To Protect One's Family (partially recovered)

by leppender » May 10th, 2015, 3:20 pm

Luuhk didn't open his eyes right away when he awoke the next morning, but he lay on his side for several minutes, his nostrils flaring slowly as he inhaled the scents around him. It had been habit for him to discover his surroundings using only hearing and scent when he woke up in the mornings, ever since he had joined the Shadowclan. It gave his mind a chance to wake up, remember where he had fallen asleep the night before, and if he was in dangerous territory it allowed him to recognize any threats before they knew he was awake. This morning as he laid on the soft furs he felt fairly relaxed with his surroundings, until his mind zoomed in on the last thing he remembered, which was riding his worg Dusty next to his uncle. Obviously something had happened between then and now, so Luuhk began focusing more firmly on the sounds and smells of the area.

At first all he noticed was the familiar scents of Dusty, Bane, and his uncle, as well as the appealing scent of meat, but then he noticed that there was something warm under his head and neck. His body became tense, and suddenly he noticed the sound of someone breathing. At first it was quiet, but then it became louder, and louder, until finally Luuhk couldn't take it any longer, and he opened his eyes. Not an inch from his face, Chander was lying eye to eye with Luuhk in his wolf form, and as soon he opened his eyes Chander licked his nose. It startled Luuhk so much that he rolled back with a cry, sitting up fast, and instead of grabbing his axe to defend himself, he picked up the chuck of jerky.

Chander took one look at Luuhk's expression, and barked loudly, falling over on his back. A moment later he shifted back to his true state, and rolled around on the tent floor roaring with laughter. "Dammit kiddo! Ya look ridiculous holdin that thing!"

Luuhk blinked at looked at the haunch of jerky in his hand, then swatted Chander in the stomach with it. "Shud up! I thot yoo wuz a wild animul!"

Chander continued to laugh, so eventually Luuhk set down the meat and joined in. After a few minutes, he sat up and smiled at Luuhk. "Ya got yer energy back that's fer sure. Ya were out fer a good fourteen hours."

Luuhk winced slightly at his words. "Lazt ting I remembur, I rydin wid yoo, uz juzt git tu see Stowntalun Mowntinz, then me wayk up heer." He moved a hand to the back of his head, feeling the two small bumps on it with a wince.

Chander moved over to the boy, and knelt down next to him, examining the lumps. "They were a lot bigger yesterday, even after I healed um. Give it another day an' they'll probably be gone, but the area might still be tender fer a bit." Luuhk nodded and removed his hand, his eyes falling to the stew from the night before. His stomach rumbled loudly before he could open his mouth, and Chander barked a laugh. "Any injury takes more than magic ta heal. It takes rest an' food, so now that ya've had yer rest, get eatin kiddo."

Luuhk grunted softly and nodded. He pulled out his jackknife, and opening out a spoon he began eating. After a few mouthfuls he paused and glanced at Chander, who was putting the sleeping furs away in his pack. "Did I eet lazt nyte?" Chander looked back at him, and nodded once. "Wuz I awayk?"

Chander continued folding the furs, feeling a little uncomfortable. "Not really, ya said a few things, but ya didn't seem ta know where ya were." Luuhk felt a flow of gratitude welling up inside him, along with another feeling, one he hadn't felt since Jureth had stayed at his side to care for him after he and Naxian had been rescued from Mathious Broverly. One he had only experienced whenever he felt cared for by a father figure. He knew Chander always had cared about him like a son, but as one father after another left from his life, Luuhk had tried to become independent of needing a parent to take care of him. "Well, ya gonna eat that, or ya gonna let the wolves have it?"

Luuhk looked down at the pot, and snarled. Both Bane and Dusty had their noses in the pot, and were lapping up the stew hungrily. "Hey! Ztop id! Boff ov yoo kut id owt! Dat me brekfist!" He tried to shove them away from the stew, but Dusty just put his paws on Luuhk's chest, licking at his face excitedly, while Bane took the opportunity to finish off the remains of the stew. "Bane ztop eetin... skah, Dusti I ukee nao! Led me up yoo krazi ting yoo!"

"Bane!" Chander whistled at the worg then snapped his fingers, pointing down to his side. The animal whined softly and hunched his shoulders, but he stopped eating out of the pot, and laid down at Chander's side. He was about to continue packing, but found himself distracted by Dusty, who was still on top of Luuhk, assaulting him with licks. After a moment Chander chuckled, then he let out a bark and a snarl. Dusty looked up at him, then climbed off Luuhk, sitting down next to him.

Luuhk sat up and wiped his face, looking at Chander with a note of surprise. "How yoo du dat? I no abul tu get him off me when him egsy... ek... eksitid."

"Well I got a few tricks up my sleeve, knowin how ta talk to um helps, but I always had a way with canines. Ya jus' gotta know how they think, an' respect their way of doin things ta get um ta do what ya need um to." Chander looked at the wolf sitting beside him, and scratched under his chin, making Bane whine with joy, and thump his tail against the tent wall. "Bane here's been my pal since I first joined the Horde after leavin Arthas. Was the only one that'd approach me in the breedin pens. We been friends ever since, ain't we boy?" He looked down at Bane, and was rewarded with a lick on the face.

Luuhk smiled, and picked up the piece of jerky, biting off a chunk. He tore a piece off, and tossed it at Dusty, who jumped up in the air to catch it, then sat back down, wagging his tail. "I hoop sum day me and Dusti can be lyk dat."

Chander finished rolling the last fur, and shoved it into a pack. "Ya will be, once ya learn how ta read his signs, an' he learns how ta read yers." As if to demonstrate, Chander snapped a finger, and waved his hand flat over the ground in front of him. Bane instantly stood up, and moved to stand in front of Chander.

Luuhk blinked at the obedience Bane had shown Chander, his jaw hanging open. "Amayzin! Him weel du watebur yoo wan' him tu?"

Chander had been fastening the harnesses to Bane, but he looked up quickly at Luuhk's words. "Whatever I want him to? Are 'you' that well trained ta obey whatever I tell ya?" Luuhk bristled at Chander's words, but the shaman just started working again as he spoke. "Bane does what I ask him to, cause we're friends. Now sometimes he listens, sometimes he don't. Hell, sometimes I gotta fight him ta get him ta do what's necessary!" Chander barked a laugh, and Bane turned to look at him, making a soft woofing noise. "But it's cause we know each other well enough that we can relay what we want done."

Luuhk turned to look at Dusty with a thoughtful expression as he absorbed what Chander was telling him. Somehow, he knew that advise might apply to more than just relationships with dogs. "Uz figyur id owt sumday ryte Dusti?" Dusty banged his tail hard against the ground in response, and jumped up on Luuhk again, licking his face. Chander burst out laughing, and after a few seconds of laughing himself, Luuhk grabbed Dusty by the sides of his maw, and ruffled it affectionately. The wolf gave him a couple more licks, then got down. "I see wat yoo meen unkul. I will lurn him sighnz."

Chander nodded with a satisfied expression, and finished putting the harness on Bane. The two Orcs quickly dismantled their camp, and after destroying any evidence that they had been there overnight, they climbed onto their worgs, and rode back up to the top of the mesa. Chander peered at the peeks ahead of them, and frowned. "I'd hoped there woulda been more even ground up here so we could avoid bein seen. Looks like we'll be goin back down inta Ashenvale."

Luuhk frowned and looked down at the treetops that decorated the verdant area, then back up at the sun which was already quite high in the sky. "Weel then dat wur uz hab tu gu," he said, then began picking his way carefully down the side of the mountain.

The two rode in silence as they reached bottom of the mountain, their eyes darting around as they watched for any movements in the trees. Between the elusive cultists they were determined to hunt down, wandering animals, tribes of primitive creatures, and patrolling Alliance, the two Orcs knew that the area was not as peaceful as it seemed, and neither wanted to be caught off guard. Chander glanced up at the sky, then down at the shadows of a large tree near a lake. He pulled out a map and considered it carefully. "Hrm, judgin by the position of the sun, an' what I could tell from up there, I'd say we're jus' south of Silverwind Refuge."

Luuhk nodded and looked at the map over Chander's shoulder. "So us go norf wezt until we sneek pazt Astranaar, den tayk da path tu Darkshore?"

Chander continued to peer at the map, then shook his head. "Nah, we wanna stay off the roads as much as possible. We'll go northwest, but we'll be crossin over inta Darkshore over the water."

Luuhk frowned deeply and looked down at his worg. "Dusti no lyk watur. Uz shud reeli tayk da path."

"Dusty's gonna hafta get used ta it. I ain't about ta risk our safety fer a wolf's preference." Luuhk scowled at his uncle and pet Dusty's head, but as Chander rolled up the map and rode off he followed him without a word.

They crossed the first road with no problems, and weaving through the trees they managed to dodge any wildlife that might consider picking the Orcs off for a mid day meal. When they reached a small pond near the second crossing they stopped, and ducked behind a tree. They were within sight of Astranaar which was just to their right, and to their left a couple of sentinels were walking up the road. Chander climbed off Bane and pulled him behind a rock, waving at Luuhk to do the same. When the boy got to him, he addressed him in a tense whisper, "This whole area's a war zone since Garrosh was put in charge. We'll hafta wait fer them ta get ta their pals near the outpost before we make a break fer it."

Luuhk growled and peered out from behind the rock. "Them no led uz git thru widowt a klom... a fite?"

"Yeah, an' that's a fight I'd rather avoid." Chander looped an arm over Bane's back, and squatted down next to him as he watched the sentinels walk by.

Luuhk looked between his uncle and the Night Elves with a scowl. After a few seconds he drew his axe and shield. "Wut fun am dat? Hraaaaauuughhhh!" he roared as he ran at the two elves. Before Chander could stop him, he had charged at the first Elf, and imbedded his axe into her neck. Enraged by her comrade's death, the second sentinel turned sharply, and sliced at Luuhk with her glaive, leaving a deep cut along the left side of his cheek.

Chander cursed softly as the two guarding the path near Astranaar took notice of the fight, and began racing over to aid their sister in arms. He glanced at Luuhk who was too focused on his current foe to take note of the other ones rushing toward him, then with a quick prayer to the spirits, Chander ran onto the path, and pulled out his totems. Positioned between Luuhk and the other two elves, he faced the incoming soldiers with a defiant roar, and slammed both of his hammers into the ground. The earth rumbled under his hands, then a stream of dirt rushed toward one of the women, knocking her back several paces. As the second Elf neared she threw her glaive at him, burying it deep in his left bicep before jumping at him and kicking him in the chest, reaching for her weapon to pull it out in one swift motion.

Reeling with pain, Chander stumbled back into Luuhk, who pushed his own opponent away with his shield, then turned with a snarl to his uncle. His fel eyes widened as he saw the elf who had injured the shaman move closer, and the other one jogging up with her weapon brandished. He pressed his back firmly against Chander's, taking up a defensive stance. "Lyk I sai, fun."

"Yer gonna be the death of me pup," Chander growled in a mixture of anger and pain. "Don' let um surround us, get that one back with the other two." Chander swung his hammer at one of the Elves as she charged at him, making her back off for a moment, but she just moved next to her comrade, and adjusted her stance for another attack.

Luuhk faced his opponent once more, and as she struck he ducked down behind his shield, and swiped at her legs with his axe. The Elf cried out as she fell over, and the young warrior picked her up by the collar. With a roar he spun around, and flung her toward her comrades. The other two tried to catch her, but instead they wound up on the ground under their comrade who just groaned weakly. Luuhk ran toward them, and lifted his axe to finish them off, but Chander grabbed his wrist and looked down at the Elves. Speaking in Common, he addressed the one at his feet. "Let us go, bury yer dead, tend ta yer wounded. We've got bigger concerns than a couple of filthy Elves."

The Elf looked between Chander and Luuhk, then finally nodded. With a grunt Chander tugged at Luuhk's arm, and moved over to their wolves. Keeping a close eye on the Elves as they got to their feet, and picked up their dead comrade, he climbed onto his worg and took off across the path into the trees. After a few moments of hesitation, and a rude gesture to the Elves, Luuhk followed the shaman. They rode in silence for several minutes, keeping an eye on the outpost far to their right, but once they had crossed the final road just after Astranaar, Chander turned to Luuhk and punched him square in the nose. "What the purple fuck did ya think ya were doin?"

There was a loud crunching sound as Chander's fist made contact with Luuhk's face, and his head snapped back. Blood began oozing from his nose, and he snarled at Chander. "I a warrior! I no scared tu fyte nuttin, espeshuli a kuppul Elfz!"

"I don' care what yer scared or not scared of! If I tell ya not ta pick a fight, then ya keep yer weapon sheathed, an' shut yer friggin mouth!" Chander pressed his face closer to Luuhk's, his right hand gripping the wound on his arm subconsciously. "If it wouldn't have been a dishonorable kill, strikin three Elves on the ground, I woulda let ya finish um."

"Yoo shud have led me! Nao dem no uz heer, dem on alurt." Luuhk pinched the bridge of his nose, growling softly at Chander.

"If ya hadn't disobeyed me, they wouldn'ta known we were here, an' needless blood wouldn'ta been shed!" he roared furiously.

Luuhk blinked his glowing eyes curiously. "Dem Allianz. It owr duti tu kill dem. Yoo want me no tu kill Allianz wen me see dem?"

Chander sighed heavily as they passed the shrine of Aessina, and trotted across the road. "Ya don' get it kid. These lands belonged ta the Elves fer centuries, we're the intruders here. Our people killed their demigod, an' our people been stealin their lumber fer years. Now they got the right ta hate us, an' ta defend their lands. Jus' cause Garrosh says we're ta drive um outta this land don't mean we should jus' go killin sentinels left, right, an' center. There's no honor in killin jus' cause ya can."

Luuhk dug his heel into Dusty's side, and rode in front of Chander, blocking his way. "Yoo sayin I haff no honor?"

Chander regarded him evenly for several moments. "I'm sayin ya still need ta prove ya got some, especially after what ya jus' did." With that he turned Bane, and rode around Luuhk without another word. Luuhk wiped some of the blood off his face, and spit on the ground before turning to follow him.

As they crossed a final path, the air around them began to taste salty. Glancing at the dark iron gates flanking Zoram'Gar Outpost, Chander kicked Bane in the sides and directed him to the sandy shoreline. "Pull out some jerky, an' eat up kid. I want a few minutes ta heal our wounds."

Luuhk grunted and slid off Dusty's back. The worg began backing away from the water with a whine, getting down on his haunches as he watched the tide coming in and out. Still wiping at his dripping nose, Luuhk pulled a piece of meat from the saddlebag, and tore into it angrily. "I haff honor."

Chander sat cross legged on the sand, pressing his hand against the wound on his arm, a soft green light emanating from it. "Oh? Well don' jus' bleat about it like a kodo calf, prove it. Prove that ya got some honor against a lesser foe, an' I'll treat ya with honor."

Luuhk jumped up with a growl, and drew his weapon. "Den come on! Ryte nao! I proov me honor tu yoo in kombat!"

Chander didn't move except to fix Luuhk with a solemn gaze. "An' what will fightin with me prove 'bout yer honor? That ya can kick somebody's ass if they say somethin ya don' like? That yer short tempered, an' hot headed? Nothin honorable bout that kiddo."

Luuhk roared and marched up to Chander, pressing his face close, spraying a bit of blood on his uncle as he yelled. "Den wut yoo want me tu du tu proov it?"

Chander simply moved his hand to Luuhk's nose, a soft green light flowing onto the boy's face. The young warrior blinked with surprise as his nose mended, and the gash on his cheek knitted shut. "Act honorably both in an' outta combat. Now go wash the blood off yer face, yer a mess kiddo."

Luuhk turned away swiftly, and knelt down at the edge of the water, cupping his hands in the water and splashing it on his face repeatedly. He wanted to remain angry at Chander, but he could feel his rage melting away swiftly as his words echoed in the boy's mind. Chander watched the now humbled warrior with a satisfied expression, then opened his saddle bag and took out some meat for his own meal. By the time Luuhk turned to face him, Chander had already put on a blank expression, dismissing the boy's earlier actions from mind. "Zo, we go acrozz da watur intu Darkshore?"

"Yep, on top of it like we did in Durotar, spirits willin." Luuhk raised an inquisitive eyebrow at Chander's statement, so he continued, "I don't command the elemental spirits in the water, they jus' decide if they wanna help me or not. If the ones here in the ocean will let us walk across the water, then that's what we're gonna do."

Luuhk turned to look at Dusty, who had begun edging toward the shoreline, but kept backing up and whining loudly whenever the waves touched the sandy beach. "And wut if dem no let uz?"

Chander followed the boy's gaze and grunted softly. "Then we're gonna hafta swim, no way around it. The trails inta Darkshore on land are too conspicuous, so the water's our only option unless we can figure out how ta grow a pair of wings an' fly." He laughed at his own wit, and after a moment Luuhk allowed himself to chuckle softly. Chander popped one last piece of meat into his mouth, then pushed himself to his feet. "Well, we ain't getting nowhere by sittin round here. Get that mutt of yers over to the water, an' lets get a move on."

Luuhk nodded, and moved over to Dusty. Seeming to sense his master's intent, the worg backed away from Luuhk, and started darting around him whenever he tried to grasp the reins. After a good minute, and a desperate dive for the animal which left Luuhk lying face first in the sand, the boy let out a snarl of impatience. "Dats it! Dusti yoo wurthless idiut, git ovur heer nao!" He got up and ran for the wolf, but when he came up empty handed once again he aimed a vicious kick at the dirt, launching a cloud of gritty particles at the canine.

Chander had been watching the spectacle from his saddle, and as Luuhk threw a tantrum he began to scowl. "That how ya want me ta treat ya? Call ya a worthless idiot, an' kick dirt on ya?" Luuhk turned to Chander and snarled, but the shaman held his ground. "He's afraid. Yer his friend. Instead of getting angry at him, try helpin him overcome his fears by bein his friend."

"Skah, uz no haff tym fer dis!" Luuhk growled, but Chander's stern gaze didn't let up, so he finally got down on one knee, and held his hand toward Dusty who was cowering about six feet away from him. "Dusti, I sorri I yell. Come heer, I no let nuttin happun tu yoo in watur."

The wolf stayed rooted to the spot, his shoulders hunched, his tail between his legs, and a quiet whimper coming from his throat. Luuhk looked at Chander, silently pleading for assistance, but he just shook his head. "Hold yer ground, an' be patient. He ain't gonna stand like that forever." Luuhk nodded and turned his attention back to Dusty. After a few minutes the canine took a slow step toward Luuhk, then another. Finally he stretched out his neck, and put his muzzle in the boy's palm, whining softly. Luuhk stroked the side of his face reassuringly, then took hold of the lead and walked the animal to the edge of the water. Chander smiled proudly at the pair, then closed his eyes, and focused his mind on the elemental spirits that hid in the waters, making his silent request. After a moment he dug his heels into Bane's side, and walked onto the water.

Taking one slow step after another, Luuhk managed to get Dusty to step off the land, and stand on top of the gently flowing water. When the worg seemed comfortable enough with his new surroundings, Luuhk climbed onto his back, and turned to follow Chander. As they trotted along over the ocean, Luuhk's mind returned to their conversation in the tent that morning. "Yoo wuz ryte unkul. I haff tu respekt Dusti iv I want him tu respekt me. I wuz no respektin him feer ov watur, and I jus' mayd him moor skayrd bai no reedin him sighnz."

Chander looked at Luuhk over his shoulder, and the warrior was thrilled to see a look of pride on the shaman's face. "Ya realized where ya done him wrong, an' now ya know better fer next time. He's gonna have his moments when he's too scared ta think rationally, heck we all have moments like that. When it happens again, I know yer gonna handle it calmly, an' be a friend ta him, like he is ta you."

Luuhk grinned widely, and looked down at Dusty, giving his side a grateful pat as they continued riding. Chander watched the boy for several moments, his heart going out to him. He had fought his own battle with anger, and indeed he still had a long way to go before he could be considered good tempered, but if he could teach his nephew the lessons he'd had to learn the hard way, he was sure Luuhk would become an even better man than he was. His ears twitched as the sound of Dusty's paws hitting the water suddenly ceased, and he turned around to look at Luuhk who was staring ahead in silent horror. "Dat goi... it am gone."

"Goi?" Chander turned to follow Luuhk's gaze, and his expression turned grim. Ahead of them, the floating wreckage of Auberdine's dock was visible, as well as the rest of the ruined city. "Deathwing, ain't no place safe from his wrath. Fer now it's up ta the rest of our clan an' the Horde ta find a way ta get rid of that monster. Come on, an' stay alert, there's no tellin what we'll find in them ruins."

Luuhk blinked at Chander with a hint of surprise. "Yoo meen uz haff tu go thru there? Unkul dat uze tu be Allianz goi!"

"It's town kiddo, not goi, an' I know it did, but the cave we're lookin fer was jus' east of the town, higher up in the mountains where folks never go." Chander gazed off into the distance, a faraway look on his face. "If we're gonna find any answers about feet, an' hands, an' shoes, an' shit, we're gonna hafta find that cave."

"Iv it still there." Luuhk muttered under his breath, but as Chander turned toward the shore he followed him without objection. The two Orcs were on alert as they reached the remains of the once proud Night Elf village, but it wasn't necessary. All was still in the ghost town Auberdine, the only presence aside from themselves were the spirits of those who had died when the village was destroyed. Having been in Outland at the time of Deathwing's attack, then transferred to Northrend soon after, Luuhk hadn't witnessed most of the devastation wrought by the aspect of death. As he followed Chander through the ruins, the sight was very sobering. "Dis no wai tu die. No evun enemy dezurv dis death. It no a guud death."

Chander looked back at Luuhk, quirking an eyebrow. As he read the boy's expression his own softened, and he moved alongside Luuhk, gripping his shoulder gently. "There ain't no such thing as a good death really. Death is death, life is life. Ya can commit an honorable act before ya die, or die fightin the good fight, but in the end dyin still means yer dead, an' how it happened is only fer the livin ta mourn."

"Wut yoo getting at unkul? Yoo sayin der no diffurinz frum dyin in battul and dyin in yoo sleep?" Luuhk spit vehemently on the ground. "I a warrior, I want death dat matturz."

"How come? So ya can be remembered?" Luuhk nodded, but Chander just sighed, and waved his hand to encompass the area. "Look around ya. The Alliance knew who was in this town, who been missin since the shattering. Their names are gonna be just as remembered as someone that fought a good battle, an' died fer what's right. I'm sure there were warriors here that would have rather died in glorious combat, but death will find everyone when it's time, an' no matter what kind of death they had, someone will always remember." They reached the edge of the town, and Chander stopped, still holding Luuhk's shoulder. "When my time comes I might see the axe as it comes down before the darkness takes me, I might be struck from behind, or I might have my throat slit while I'm asleep. No matter how my death comes though, I'd rather be remembered fer all the days I lived honorably, than the one brief moment when my life ends."

Luuhk looked back the way they had come, and frowned thoughtfully. "Wunder wut akshunz me gunna be remembur'd fur?"

Chander shook the young man's shoulder with a small chuckle. "Ya won't know that till yer with the ancestors, an' lookin down at those ya left behind kiddo. Don't worry bout the future, live in the present an' make it somethin worth rememberin. Can ya do that?" Luuhk looked at his uncle, and after a moment he smiled and nodded with a grunt. "Good. Now enough gabbin, lets find that cave."

They began riding more swiftly as they left the destroyed village behind. It wasn't long however before the pair was forced to stop again. Ahead they could see the mountain chain where the cave was supposedly hidden, but barring their way was a gaping chasm, with swift rapids flowing far below. Luuhk aproached the edge, and looked down. "No can climb back up iv uz fall."

Chander climbed off his worg, and sat on the ground. He began muttering softly under his breath, and his eyes became distant. Luuhk watched him curiously, but the Shaman didn't see him. Calling on the spirits of the area, he surveyed the land around them, trying to find a nearby ford to cross. After several minutes his spirit returned to his body completely, and he sighed. "Ain't no way across unless we go all the way back around Auberdine, an' pass an Alliance outpost. We're gonna hafta find a way ta cross."

Luuhk kicked a pebble down the cliff, and timed how long it took for it to hit the water. He let out a low whistle, obviously not reassured by his findings. "Iv yoo haff ani ideaz, I happy tu heer dem."

Chander stood up, and began pacing back and forth at the edge of the plateau, his eyes fixed on the other side. After a few minutes of doing this he stopped, and a wide grin crossed his features as his eyes fixed on something opposite them. "Go inta my right saddlebag, an' get me the rope that's in there." Luuhk rushed to Bane's side, and rummaged in the pack. He returned to Chander a few seconds later, and offered him the rope. Tying one end into a lasso, the shaman began swinging it in circles over his head before tossing it across the chasm. The looped end of the rope landed over the jagged stump of a tree that had probably been torn apart during the shattering. He gave the line a tug, then moved to a tree behind him, and tied the rope around it. "There, all we gotta do is climb across."

Luuhk's stomach did a weak flop in his gut as he looked down to the bottom again, but he was determined not to show his anxiety. "Wut bowt da wulfz? Dem no can get across lyk dat."

"We'll hafta leave um here. Don't bother tyin um up though, if somethin attacks they should be free ta move an' defend themselves." Chander moved next to Luuhk, and as one they looked down at the racing rapids below before looking back at one another. "I'll go first an' make sure the line's secure on the other side."

The knot of anxiety in Luuhk's stomach tightened at the thought of something happening to his uncle. "I can go furst, I no scared tu."

"Heh, never said ya were kiddo, but yer life's worth a lot more than mine. Yer ma would never forgive me if I let ya take any really stupid risks." He gripped the rope with both hands, then leaned back and swung his legs around it, hooking his ankles together. "See ya on the other side kiddo." Luuhk nodded and held his breath as Chander began shimmying across the canyon. Chander was more well accustomed to hiding his fear than his teenage nephew, but even he had to focus to keep his breathing steady, and his hands from shaking as he slowly made his way across the chasm. His heart was pounding against his ribcage, and he struggled to ignore the voice that whispered in his head 'it knows its beats are numbered.' After what seemed like an eternity, Chander felt his head bump against something and looked down, relieved to see good brown dirt below him. He dropped down, and checked the line attached to the stump, his hands still shaking slightly. With a satisfied grunt he turned to look at Luuhk across the chasm, and gave him a thumbs up.

"Guess it me turn." Taking a deep breath, Luuhk took hold of the rope, hooked his legs around it like he'd seen his uncle do, and began pulling himself across. When he was approximately halfway across, the line jerked suddenly, and he froze up, gripping the line as tightly as he could. His breath quickened as the line swung him from side to side, and the roaring of the water far below him seemed to get louder in his ears.

"Come on kiddo, you can do it! Jus' a bit further!" His uncle's voice penetrated the fog in his mind, and ignoring the sickening sway of the rope he started moving once more. At last he felt Chander's hands gripping his wrists, helping to pull him the last few inches across. "It's alright, ya can let go now." Luuhk dropped down from the rope, and pulled a flask of water from a pouch at his hip with shaking hands. He began gulping it down quickly, and was partially relieved to feel Chander's arm drape over his shoulder. "Ya did good kiddo, ya didn't lose yer head."

Luuhk lowered the flask and looked at Chander curiously. "Wut happun'd? Why da rope jurk awl ov a suddin?"

Chander cocked his head toward the tree stump. The soil around the base looked very loose, and some of the roots could be seen poking out of the dirt. "It ain't as secure as I thought it was." He gave Luuhk's shoulders a small shake and flashed him a reassuring smile. "Don' worry, we'll get back across jus' fine when the time comes. Fer now, lets get movin. We got a lotta climbin ta do if my memory's correct." The boy nodded, and put his flask away, getting to his feet. Chander found himself unable to suppress a proud smile at Luuhk's continued determination and resilience, despite all the challenges he had faced so far on the journey.

The two Orcs turned to face the wall of rock in front of them, and began scaling the side of the mountain. It was a difficult climb, the footing was treacherous, and many of the handholds they grabbed were loose from the churning of the earth when Deathwing emerged. Luuhk reached his hand upward, grasping a rock about a foot above him. After giving it a small tug to ensure it wouldn't give way, he started pulling himself up. Suddenly he felt the rock shift, and scrambled to find a new handhold, but every rock he grasped slipped from its place in the wall until he was surrounded by falling rocks. "Unkul!" he screamed as he felt himself falling.

Chander looked down and felt the blood drain from his face. "Luuhk!" He watched in horror as the boy tried to scramble up the rock slide. For a moment his view of the warrior was obscured by the falling rocks, and once the boulders stopped falling his heart sunk. He couldn't see Luuhk anywhere. The area below the mountain where they had crossed was fairly narrow, and Chander knew it was entirely possible that the teenage boy had plummeted into the chasm they had crossed. "Luuhk answer me! Luuhk!"

"D...down heer," Luuhk coughed. Chander looked around desperately, and was relieved to see Luuhk's legs kicking in the air just below where he had begun to slip. Half intrigued, half relived, Chander began climbing down to him.

As he reached the warrior his face split into a grin. The rocks that he had been trying to climb up were part of a previous rock slide, which had hidden the entrance of a cave. Though he was pinned by a few rocks, Luuhk was half inside the opening of a vast cavern, his bottom half dangling just over the edge. "Looks like ya found the entrance ta the holding place. Well done pup."

Luuhk coughed and sneezed, his face pressed close to the dirt covered floor by a rock that was resting on his back. "Ta...tank yoo. Nao git me owt ov he...hee... heachoo!"

Chander laughed wildly and swung himself into the cave. Taking both of Luuhk's hands, he kicked the boulders off his back, and pulled him to his feet. "Ya alright there kiddo? Ya wounded."

Luuhk grunted, his cheeks dark with embarrassment. "Da onli ting woondid am me pride. Iv dis da kayv letz keep on alurt. No know wut myte still be heer."

Chander rubbed the top of Luuhk's head affectionately, which made the younger Orc snarl and jerk away furiously. "Whatever ya say kiddo. Jus' keep them eyes of yers open, an' yer senses sharp. I don't think we'll run inta anythin in here though, this place was abandoned when Jureth an' I searched it fer you an' Naxian."

Luuhk grunted and began walking into the cavern, Chander right behind him. The two examined their surroundings critically as they walked deeper into the cave. It wasn't long before they reached a large cavern, and found the ramp Chander had mentioned before, curving along the edge of the wall, and down to the floor several meters below. Luuhk looked at Chander, then put a finger to his lips and drew his weapon. Nodding slowly, the shaman removed his hammers and the duo slowly walked down the ramp, keeping their senses open for any sign of trouble. Luuhk's fel eyes shone brightly in the darkness, easily lighting up the area in front of them. He flared his nostrils, inhaling deeply to discern the scents inside the cavern. At last they reached the bottom, and Luuhk lowered his axe. "Yoo ryte, it empty heer."

Chander nodded slowly, then moved past Luuhk, walking straight toward one of the cages that was rusting on its side near the ramp. He knelt down and ran his hand across the bars, his expression unreadable. "One thing I don't understand is why they left this place, but didn't take this stuff with them." His eyes drifted to the center of the cavern, where a table much like the one they had seen in the last holding cave was positioned. He stood up and moved toward it, running his hand over the grime encrusted surface. His eyes fell on a set of shackles hung from the ceiling over the table, and his vision suddenly wavered, the room around him growing brighter.

He saw a Naga dangling over the table, her entrails being pulled out of her stomach very slowly by someone wearing dark robes. Her screams of horror and agony assaulted Chander's ears, as he watched the blood and other foul smelling liquids seep down onto the stone table below her.

A hand on his shoulder made him jerk, and he looked up into the shining green eyes of his nephew. "Yoo wuz shayking. Am yoo ukee?"

He looked back at the table and shackles dangling above it, which were once more covered in many years worth of grime and rust. "Y...yeah, I'm fine, jus' cold." He swallowed the bile that had risen in his throat, and gave himself a mental shake. "Lets start lookin around fer clues about the hands, an' feet, an' what not."

Luuhk nodded, and began moving around the walls of the cavern, looking for any traces of papers or other artifacts. "Da floor am muddi. Ani letturz weel be no guud, evun iv dem still egzist."

"We gotta try an' find somethin kiddo. This is our only lead, an' if we don't find a way ta locate the Crimson Fel's leaders, we can't stop um from goin after sis, or anyone else." Chander started walking toward the far end of the cavern, ignoring the mud that sucked at his feet. He felt an odd numbing sensation in his left foot and looked down. Without warning his leg lurched back, and he fell face first into the muck. Pushing himself up he spat the muck out of his mouth, and snorted, but then he noticed that the cavern had gotten brighter again, and mixed in with the taste of mud and mildew was the unmistakable metallic taste of blood.

Looking around with his mouth half open, he saw several Naga slithering down the ramp, firing spells at people wearing dark robes and hoods. Everyone seemed to be moving unnaturally fast, and he couldn't make out any details about them or their actions. As he examined his surroundings, a single Naga broke away from the rest, and slowly slithered toward him, a Naga who's intestines dragged across the muddy floor next to her. They locked eyes and just stared at one another for several moments. Finally, she turned and pointed toward a wall where a copious amount of blood could be seen sliding slowly down the surface. The blood began to congeal, and form itself into strange writing that glowed blood red. Chander looked from the writing to the Naga, who looked back at him and grinned widely, licking her fangs. "Avenge us all little Orc. Avenge me, my sisters, the countless who suffered for the cult's madness, and avenge yourself."

"Unkul ztop scaring me! Come un, git up!" Chander gasped as Luuhk's voice pierced through the vision, bringing him back to the present. He stared at the boy, still shocked by what he had just seen. "Wut am wrong unkul? Yoo luuk lyk yoo see ghost."

"I did... I did!" He yelled as he scrambled to his feet, and ran toward the wall. His hands touched the gritty surface, and he began clawing at it, frantically trying to remove the years of grime. "I never paid any attention to it when I was a kid, but I know it's here!"

"Wut heer? Wut yoo tawkin bowt?" Luuhk gave Chander a concerned look, beginning to wonder if the shaman had gone completely mad.

Chander ignored Luuhk's questions, and stopped clawing at the wall for a moment. Sending a silent request to the elements he formed a ball of fire on his hand, and launched it at a torch resting in a scone a few feet away. As the light filled the chamber Chander saw what his hands had already felt: he had removed most of the dirt, but the wall was completely covered in dry blood. "Get me some water, an' somethin ta wipe the walls with."

Luuhk nodded quickly, partially overcome with awe at his uncle's discovery. He pulled his helmet off his head, ran to the other side of the room, dipped it into a deep puddle, then pulling a bandage out of his side pouch he returned to Chander. "Wut yoo tink yoo fownd?"

Chander set the helmet down on the ground, dipped the bandage into the water, and began scrubbing the blood off the wall. "I dunno yet, but I know it's important." Luuhk grunted, and after a moment's hesitation he took another bandage, dipped it in the water, and helped Chander clean the wall. Very slowly, the blood began to wash away, and the words Chander had noticed in his vision began to show through the years of accumulated filth. After several hours the wall was clean once more, and the words stood out sharply, chiseled into the wall with just a bit of blood still staining the letters. "Is it Eredun again?"

Luuhk nodded and moved closer to the wall, running his fingertips over the engraved writing. "Yus, id am. Id no be tuff tu tranzlayt." Chander nodded and began lighting the other torches in the chamber to give Luuhk more lighting. "Handz, feet, fingurz and towz, know wherevur yoo shipment goes. Lurn deez wurds and burn da page, do not comply and feel hedz rage. Wur da centaur roam da land, yoo weel find da strong left hand. Seek id owt beneeth the stone dat seperaytz the beefz nu home."

"I think this mighta been instructions they were supposed ta memorize, an' get rid of, but instead they carved it inta the wall. Now lets see here, where the Centaur roam the land, you will find the strong left hand." Chander began pacing, his hands clasped behind him as he thought. "Back when I was brought here, the Tauren woulda just settled in Mulgore, so that'd be their new home. The rocks that separate it could be the mountains, but the question is do they mean the Barrens, Feralas or Desolace?"

"Weel dem kawl id left hand, zo me tink id wud be tu da left ov Mulgore. Desolace." Chander nodded once, and Luuhk continued reading. "Wur ainchent beingz crawl thru soot, yoo weel find da strong left foot. In da left side catacombz, wid deez onez we share owr homez." He turned to Chander with an expression of shock. "Yoo tink dem wurkin wid da Silthid?"

"Who knows what the Silthid consider good and evil? Fer all we know they'd approve of torturin innocents to progress in dark magic. These writings are at least seventeen years old, so lets hope the locations are still correct." Chander moved toward the table and looked at the shackles once more. He could almost see the Naga woman hanging there, and he knew that she understood the terror the Order of the Crimson Fel could instill in even the most steadfast of hearts. Her shade had no reason to mislead them. "What's the next part?"

"Wur trophy peeks jut frum da land, yoo weel find da strong right hand. Valley upon valley deep, norf and west am wur uz sleep."

"Trophy peaks, Alterac. Valley upon valley..." Chander stared intently at the shackles hanging above the table, hoping for a sudden epiphany, and receiving none.

"Hrm. Alterak Valli am surrowndid bai mani mowntinz ryte? Myte be smallur valliz between da mowntinz dat arownd da big valli," Luuhk suggested.

Chander sighed and folded his arms. "It's most likely the place they're refferin to, but even with the directions tellin us ta look northwest we could wind up climbin up an' down them mountains fer months without findin them." The two fell silent as the full impact of how far they would have to travel hit them. It had been easy to think of the journey ahead when they didn't know just how far they would have to travel to find all the members of the Crimson Fel, but as the truth sank in, each of them secretly wondered just how they would manage to succeed against such impossible odds. "The next bit, it's Stormwind ain't it?"

Luuhk nodded slowly, and began reading once more. "Wur wite wallz and litez abound, da strong right fuut iz undergrownd. Seek wur magic still iz tawt, den haff a drink in grime and rot. Da pub ovur dat coven wuz veri veri durti. Nobodi wuz der at awl."

"Probably cause it was too filthy ta stay in. That place was abandoned too though wasn't it? Mathious only took ya there cause he didn't know where else ta bring yas." Luuhk looked away with a bitter expression, and Chander instantly regretted reminding the boy of the time he was held by a member of the Crimson Fel.

Luuhk picked up his helmet, and dumped the water left inside it on the floor. "Dat wuz awl it say. Shud gu nao. Id muzt be getting layt, and uz still haff tu git bak akrozz tu owr wulfz." Chander nodded and began extinguishing the torches throughout the cavern. He paused as he reached the ramp, and looked back at the table. Muttering a silent prayer of gratitude, he bowed toward the table, then turned and walked up the ramp.

When they got outside it was to find that the constantly dark skies were beginning to grow darker than usual as night settled across the land. Picking their way carefully down the side of the mountain, they made it back to the rope they had used to cross, and the jagged stump it was fastened to. "You first this time kiddo. I'll stay back an' make sure it stays secure."

Luuhk gave Chander a challenging look, but the shaman just folded his arms over his chest, refusing to submit to the younger Orc. At last Luuhk sighed and took hold of the rope, beginning the precarious journey back to the other side. Chander put all of his weight against the stump, his heart sinking as he felt it strain under his nephew's weight, the roots threatening to rip out of the ground completely, and send the young Orc falling to his death.

At last Chander saw Luuhk stand up on the other side, and give him a thumbs up. He looked at the stump as he lowered himself to the ground and took hold of the rope. "Be kind," he said to the stump. Taking a deep breath, he pulled himself over the edge of the chasm, and began to shimmy across. He could feel the rope losing slack by the time he was halfway across, and forced himself to move faster, his arms straining to pull him along. At last he was only four feet away from the other side, and looked up to see Luuhk reaching out a hand to help pull him the rest of the way.

Just as he reached to take the boy's hand, a loud crack rang through the night from the other side, and the rope jerked down several feet, slowly starting to lose more tension. Chander locked eyes with his nephew, the look of horror on his young face breaking the shaman's heart. With a sudden jolt the line gave completely as the stump was dislodged, and Chander began to fall, still clinging to the rope. As he fell he felt like time was moving at a crawl. He could feel his heart pounding frantically in his chest, hear his pulse thrumming against his ear drums, and for a brief moment he was overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness. He was going to die.

'No!' a voice in his head screamed, and Luuhk's face suddenly sprang to the forefront of his mind, then his sister's, then Hanabii's... With a growl he tugged at the rope, and began twisting it around his right hand and wrist as he fell. He felt a sudden tug, heard two loud pops, and instantly a white hot pain shot right up his arm, causing him to cry out. After several moments of gasping for air, steeling himself against the agonizing pain, he realized that he was no longer falling. He looked down to see the tree stump dangling a few feet below him, with the river racing much further down.

"Howld on unkul! I pull yoo up! No let go, watebur yoo do!" The pain in his arm throbbed anew as he was pulled back up the side of the cliff, but he forced his fingers to continue gripping his very literal lifeline. After what felt like an eternity, Luuhk's hands gripped him around the waist, and pulled him onto the grass where they both lay gasping for several minutes. At last Luuhk sat up and looked at Chander. "Yoo no ebur skayr me lyk dat again! I kill yoo meselv iv yoo..." He stopped and stared at Chander. "Yoo arm, id no luuk ryte."

Chander pushed himself into a sitting position with his left hand, and looked at his right arm which was dangling useless at his side, the elbow bent backwards and the shoulder sunken down several inches from where it should be. "Aw shit... that ain't good," he gasped painfully.

Luuhk moved to Chander's right side, and gingerly touched his arm. "I weel set up camp zo yoo can rest and heel."

"No," he growled, gritting his teeth against the pain. "We're still in enemy territory. We gotta get outta Darkshore, an' find a safe place ta make camp fer the night." He snapped his fingers, and instantly Bane was at his side, whining with concern. Gripping the saddle with his one good hand, he pulled himself onto the worg, swaying slightly as he fought back the pain.

Luuhk was about to object, but he remembered how vehemently he had insisted they keep moving the day before, when he was still weak from his battle with a demon. He climbed onto Dusty's back, moved to Chander's left side, and putting his uncle's left hand over his shoulder to help support him, while gripping his side with his right hand, he slowly urged his worg forward.

They made their way back toward the ocean, cutting through the ruins of Auberdine. When they reached the shore Chander muttered something under his breath, and as the wolves paws touched the water they didn't sink. The shaman's body began to slouch as he struggled to remain conscious, and Luuhk redoubled his grip, urging the wolves to move faster. After a time, the walls of Zoram'gar Outpost came into view, and Luuhk started to direct their mounts toward it, but Chander gripped his shoulder and leaned to the right. "No outposts... no villages... we can't be seen by friend or foe."

Luuhk blinked at him in shock. "But unkul yoo injur'd! Yoo need a doktur and a guud bed tu rekovur in!"

"What I need... is fer you not ta make any stupid decisions on my account. We can't afford ta be recognized by anyone... jus' in case they wind up talkin ta a member of the Crimson Fel." He gave Luuhk a pleading look. "I can heal myself... jus' help me get somewhere safe ta do it."

Luuhk met his uncle's gaze and nodded slowly. They rode past the outpost, staying far enough away not to be seen by the sentries, and followed the rocky cliffs that separated Stonetalon Mountains from the ocean. After a few minutes Luuhk turned toward a patch of land that looked promising, and rode up onto the beach, turning into an alcove hidden behind some jutting rocks. "Heer shud be guud. Uz can set up da tent and no be seen."

He lifted Chander off of Bane, and carried him to the farthest corner of the small alcove, propping him up against the rocks. "Before ya set up... go wipe our tracks from the sand." Luuhk nodded and walked away. Taking a deep breath Chander unfastened the shoulder pad on his right arm, then placed part of it in his mouth, biting down hard. Breathing fast through his nose, he gripped his arm just above the elbow, and in a quick motion he lifted it up, and forced his shoulder back into its socket. His sharp cry of pain was muffled by the piece of armor in his mouth, but tears still streamed down his cheeks. Afraid of waiting too long and losing his nerve, he quickly moved his hand down to his forearm. With another fast jerk he set his elbow back in its socket, then fell over on the ground writhing in pain.

Luuhk came back around the rocks, and as he spotted Chander rolling around on the ground he ran toward him. "Hai! Relaks! It be ukee! Yoo can heel yooself ryte?" He looked down at Chander's arm and scowled, realizing what he had done in his absence. "Yoo idiut. Yoo shud haff ask'd fer me help."

Chander gasped for air, but he didn't object as Luuhk gently helped him sit up against the rocks again. After several moments he was able to catch his breath, the pain easing as his bones were finally positioned properly in his arm. "I'm a shaman, an' I got my pride. Now ya gonna make me sit here all night, or ya gonna set up the tent so I can rest a bit after I heal?"

Luuhk smiled gently, and moved over to the wolves to unpack the tent. Within fifteen minutes the tent was up, the sleeping furs had been arranged inside, and Luuhk had pulled out some bread and salted beef for a meal. He offered the dinner to Chander with a smirk. "Yoo sai rest and fuud ryte unkul?"

Chander chuckled, and nodded, moving his right arm painfully to adjust the meat on the bread before taking a bite. "Ain't the first time I dislocated my shoulder," he said after he'd swallowed a couple of mouthfuls. "First time it happened I was a couple years younger than you, an' it wasn't the last time. I had ta learn how ta set the bones myself, or risk bein lame."

Luuhk frowned and ran his fingers across the scar on his elbow. "Hao come it no hurt no more? I meen, wut happun'd when yoo wuz wit dem?"

Chander took several bites of food with a bitter expression before answering, choosing his words carefully. "I never said it don't. The wounds ya take that become scars will always leave their mark. It's up ta you whether ya let the pain of those scars hold ya back, or use it ta push ya forward. I don't show my pain in any way, except in my determination ta see the ones I love safe from harm."

"Yooze yoo payn tu protekt dem." He rubbed the mark on his inner elbow and smiled. "Yus, I try tu du saym."

Chander set down his food, and put a hand on Luuhk's shoulder, smiling at him proudly. "Yer already on the right path kiddo. I know how much ya hurt 'bout the past sometimes, but ya've always borne it like a man. I couldn't be prouder of how yer turnin out, even if ya were my own son."

Luuhk felt his throat constrict with emotion, and he grunted softly as he struggled to hide how much that statement had moved him. "Tank yoo unkul."

Chander squeezed his shoulder briefly, and nodded understandingly before removing his hand. He picked up the last bit of food, and popped it into his mouth before staggering to his feet. "Time ta see how much the spirits are willin ta heal fer me." Luuhk gave him a concerned look, but Chander just flashed him a reassuring smile, and walked into the tent. After a few seconds, Luuhk moved toward the entrance, and went inside, sitting down inside next to him. Chander was already sitting cross legged on the floor, his eyes shut tightly, his left hand pressed against his shoulder. As the boy sat down, he grunted softly to acknowledge his presence.

Luuhk watched in silence as a soft green light began flowing from Chander's hand into his arm. He could see the beads of sweat popping out on his uncle's forehead, but the shaman continued focusing his energy into the healing. Finally the glow subsided, and Chander let out a small groan, starting falling over. Luuhk caught him quickly, and laid him down on his sleeping furs, pulling a blanket over him as he passed out entirely.

Luuhk sat there for several more minutes in silence, his eyes flickering as he pursed his lips in thought. At last he sighed and addressed the sleeping Orc hesitantly. "Tank yoo... fer teechin me awl yoo haff. I hope I can mayk yoo prowd." He grunted firmly looking a bit embarrassed about his choice of words, and got up quickly, making his way toward the tent flap. "Yoo jus' pretend yoo no heer me sai dat, ukee? I... I kick yoo ass iv yoo menchun id!" With that face saving comment, Luuhk stepped outside and sat down in front of the tent's entrance, guarding the uncle who had been more of a father to him than any man who had ever mated his mother.

Posts: 26
Joined: April 28th, 2014, 2:41 pm

Re: To Protect One's Family (partially recovered)

by leppender » May 10th, 2015, 3:21 pm

Luuhk snored softly as he sat propped up against a rock, his arms resting on his knees, his chin pressed against his chest. Next to him, both Bane and Dusty lay curled up together, though unlike their Orcish companion their eyes were wide open staring at the entrance to their hidden alcove. Their ears were perked, and they were tense. Dusty began whimpering softly, and Bane put his paw over the other wolf's back, nudging his face with a small whine. Luuhk's ears twitched, and his eyes shot open, peering around the darkness. His eyes fell on the wolves, and he moved a hand to Dusty's head. "Wut wrong boy?" The worg just continued to whine, staring at the edge of their hiding place.

Luuhk flared his nostrils, inhaling the scents around him. All he could smell aside from his companions was the scent of water, and something that was very familiar, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "I know dat zmell... skah wut am it?" He looked up at the sky to judge what time it was, but the stars were blotted out by a thick layer of clouds. The hairs on the back of Luuhk's neck began to rise with foreboding, and he drew his axe, walking toward the edge of the alcove. As he stuck his head around the corner, for a moment he thought someone had struck him in the face with something cold. His breath whooshed out of his lungs, and he gasped for air.

It took him only a few seconds to realize that it was just a very powerful wind blowing off the ocean, but as he reached this conclusion it was as though the pieces of a puzzle fell together in his mind. The dogs whining, the odd scent in the air, the clouds covering the sky, and the high winds all combined to form a single conclusion in his mind. "Hurricane..." he whispered softly. He raced back to the tent, and shook Chander's shoulder roughly. "Unkul! Uknul wayk up!"

Chander's eyes opened slowly, and he looked around. He was lying on a soft straw pallet that smelled as though it had been freshly changed, and the walls around him were of a deep red stone. He sat up and his eyes widened in shock. On the opposite side of where he was lying was a crib with bones from small animals hanging over it, and behind him was a stand for tanning hides. He was home. "Hey you."

He looked toward the entrance of the cave, and his heart stopped. Standing there with a zhevra slung over her shoulders like it weighed nothing at all was Hanabii. "My Godess... my mate..." He stood up and walked over to her, taking her in his arms and kissing her deeply. She dropped the zhevra and returned the kiss, but as she pulled away his heart sunk. "I'm dreamin, aren't I?"

"Yeah, you are, and it's time to wake up." He shook his head slowly, and entwined his fingers in her hair. His other hand moved to her stomach, resting it tenderly on her abdomen. She smiled lovingly at him, but there was a firmness in her eyes. "You know you can't stay asleep forever."

"Hanabii, I don' wanna wake up, cause I know ya ain't gonna be there when I do." He pressed his face into her hair, inhaling the scent that was uniquely hers, uniquely Hanabii. "I miss you."

"I miss you too, but you have to wake up." He shook his head more firmly, gripping her as tightly as he dared. "Wake up you idiot, wake up!"

"Wayk up unkul!" Chander sat up quickly, his hand shooting out in the darkness, reaching for a woman who wasn't there. He felt a hand grip his shoulder roughly, and looked into Luuhk's glowing eyes. "Unkul, uz haff tu hurri. It a hurricane!"

"Hurricane?" It took his mind a few seconds to register what Luuhk had said, his head still full of the image of his mate, but between Luuhk's frantic tone and the several inches of water he was lying in, he came to his senses quickly. "Get the worgs harnessed, we hafta get outta here now!"

As Luuhk nodded and ran out of the tent, Chander started tossing everything he could reach into the packs along the side of the tent wall. It only took him about a minute to pack the inside of the tent, but in that time the water level had risen to over a foot. When he got outside he had to suppress the urge to yell. Luuhk was trying furiously to get Dusty into his harness, but the wolf was too scared to cooperate. "Come on Dusti! Come on pleez! Yoo no can stai heer, yoo die!"

"Luuhk! Start puttin the packs on Bane! Don' worry bout Dusty right now, he'll be too scared ta harness." Chander tossed the packs in Luuhk's direction.

Luuhk stared at Chander in shock. "I no can leev him! He me frend!"

"We ain't gonna leave him, I promise! You gotta calm down if ya wanna help him though, so go get Bane ready then we'll both help Dusty." Luuhk looked back at his companion, then nodded and moved toward Bane. Chander sloshed through the water, and looked around the side of the alcove, his eyes widening. The ocean had become a monster of writhing, raging torrents. Waves crashed and rolled over one another, and several kept crashing into the rocks, pushing more water into their campsite. It would only be a matter of minutes before they were underwater. Pulling out his totems, Chander called out to the elements. "Mighty spirits of water an' air, I know your rage at one another must be sated, but my nephew, our wolves, an' I are helpless against yer power. I beg ya ta take yer battle away from our camp."

Chander felt the touch of the elements as they considered his request, but a moment later he heard the wind begin to howl angrily, and a large wave rushed toward the alcove, pushing Chander back against the wall, and threatening to drag him out to sea as it receded. He clawed at the ground, and managed to resist the pull of the waves, then he pushed himself to his feet and ran toward Luuhk. The boy had managed to pack most of their belongings onto Bane, but Dusty was still yelping and barking in panic. The water was now at the Orcs hips, and the worgs had to struggle to keep their heads above water. "Unkul, am it gunna stop?"

Chander shook his head, then moved toward Dusty who backed away frantically. "We're gonna hafta climb, it's our only chance. Come here Dusty, come on boy." Dusty continued to back away, barking wildly, his eyes wide with fear. Chander closed his eyes, and reached out to the spirit of the wilds, and his form began to shift. A moment later he swam over to Dusty, his ghostly wolf form barely visible in the dark waters. Whining softly he touched his nose to Dusty's cheek, then took his ear into his mouth and started tugging at him. The sandy wolf whined loudly, but began swimming toward Luuhk under Chander's guidance.

"Dat id, guud boy. Me guud boy." Luuhk hugged the wolf gratefully as he reached him, then turned to Chander who had begun shifting back into his natural form. "Unkul, hao uz gunna climb up da mowntin? It gunna be windi, and da rocks weel be wet frum da storm."

"I'm still a Shaman, even if the elements won't stop this storm, I might be able ta convince um ta let us get up the mountain safely. Now go get the rope outta my pack." As Luuhk hurried to follow Chander's instructions, he followed Luuhk to where Bane was treading water, wearily draping an arm around him. "We been through worse than this ain't we boy?" Bane whined softly and licked Chander's chin. He could almost smell the animal's fear, but he had confidence in Bane. He knew the canine wouldn't let him down. "It's gonna be rough pal, ya got twice the usual weight on yer back. Can ya hold up?" Bane licked Chander again, and he scratched the wolf's head affectionately.

Luuhk uncoiled the rope, and held it out to Chander. "Wut we do wit id? Tye da wulfz tugethur?"

Chander grunted and swam around Luuhk, taking the rope and tying it around his midsection, just under his armpits. He repeated the process on himself, then took the end of the rope and tied it around Bane's chest. "Use the slack on yer end ta tie Dusty. Make sure the knot is good an' tight, we don't want him fallin." Luuhk nodded and fastened his own worg carefully to the line. Chander pulled out his skinning knife, and pushed it toward Luuhk. "This is very important. I'll be focusing on tryin ta calm the elements while we climb. You gotta go first, find the best handholds, an' guide us up the mountain."

Luuhk took the knife, looking at his uncle in shock. "Wut iv I mayk a mistayk. Uz awl die iv me fall."

"We'll all die if we stay here. If ya wanna see tomorrow with me, Bane, an' Dusty here, ya gotta climb. I can't guide us up while I'm tryin ta commune with the spirits." He didn't mention how weak he still felt, because he didn't want to scare Luuhk, but he could tell from the look on his face that he knew it as well as Chander did.

"Ukee. Fallo me." He climbed up onto a rock, and digging the dagger into the side of the mountain, he began reaching for handholds. Chander followed him slowly, his mind turned toward the elemental spirits of the area. He could feel the anger of both air and water as they battled one another, as well as the patience and calm of the earth under his hands and feet. He delved as deeply as he could into that calm, and pleaded with the spirits of the earth within the mountain to allow them to reach the safety of its peaks.

As the Orcs climbed, the wind assaulted them furiously. The lines holding the dangling canines swayed violently as the storm raged around them. Lightning crackled in the skies above them, and a sudden downpour began, making their climb even more treacherous. Luuhk struggled to find stable handholds that weren't so slick with mud that he couldn't take hold, all the while being pulled down by Dusty's dead weight as the animal yelped and squirmed in fear six feet below him. After what felt like an eternity, the drenched warrior reached up, and his hands found purchase on the top of the rocky plateau. He pulled himself up quickly, and tugged at Dusty's line, hauling the animal up next to him. "Unkul! Da top! Yoo almozt there!"

Chander gasped for air, his vision swimming as he looked up. All he could see through the rain and his own exhaustion was the green glow of Luuhk's eyes. Gritting his teeth, he forced himself to continue reaching upward, one handhold at a time. When he was about a foot from the top of the mountain, he felt his right arm go numb, and very suddenly he lost his grip. He cried out sharply, but Luuhk quickly braced himself against a rock, and held the line tightly. As the line went taut, he heard a painful yelp below him, and looked down. The sudden jerk had made the rope dig into Bane's chest, and even in the dark he could distinguish the sight of blood on the rope where it had cut into the worg's flesh. "It's alright pal, we're almost up, jus' hold on!"

But Bane had reached his limit of tolerance. Dangling in the air with eight heavy packs tied to him, and a rope slicing his flesh like a knife every time the wind blew was more than he could bare. With a snarl he turned his head, and began biting at the rope. "No! Bane, stop it!" Chander began pulling on the rope, trying to lift the animal up higher to where he was, but it just caused the panicked wolf more pain, and he attacked the rope violently with his fangs.

"Unkul, I no can hold like dis much longur! Start climbin!" Chander's heart raced in fear. He looked between the top of the cliff, and Bane, then continued trying to pull the animal up to him before he could chew through the rope. Luuhk grunted with effort as the weight he was holding didn't let up, and unable to peer over the edge to see if Chander was alright, he gritted his teeth, and started dragging himself and the rope back.

Chander started sobbing. Bane was still several feet below him, and he could see the fibers of the rope starting to snap where he'd chewed through them. "Bane... yer my best friend... don' do this, don' let go." The wolf stopped attacking the rope and looked up at him, his liquid brown eyes filled with fear. "Bane..." He reached for the wolf desperately with one hand, though he was much too far away to touch him. The wolf lifted his nose with a soft whine, straining to reach Chander. Suddenly the rope snapped, and Chander heard someone screaming in terror. His eyes were fixed on the gray form as it plummeted downward, before it was swallowed up by the dark waters that raged below.

Luuhk had felt the sudden loss of weight on the line, and frantically tugged at the rope. He was relieved when Chander's form came up over the side of the cliff, and he grabbed him to pull him the rest of the way. At first he thought Chander had been injured further on the way up, because as soon as he made it to the top he curled up on the ground, but then Luuhk moved to pull Bane up, and his heart sunk into his stomach. He held up the shredded end of the rope, and stared at it in disbelief. He looked back at Chander as the heartbroken Orc threw back his head, and roared his grief. Luuhk watched his uncle, not sure what to do. He had never seen the stalwart shaman so crushed.

Chander threw back his head a second time, but he began shifting into his wolf form so his roar became a long mournful howl, to which Dusty joined in. The two howled their sorrow, and even though the storm assaulted their ears as much as their bodies, Luuhk thought he could hear the sound of wolves howling along with Chander from somewhere in the distance. Finally Luuhk walked up to Chander, and put his hand on his head. "Uz need get owt ov da storm."

Chander whined loudly, and hung his head, but with a slow nod he stood up and started walking toward a stand of pine trees ahead. Dusty started whining as well, and Luuhk took a moment to hug him tightly, grateful that he still had his trusted companion. The somber trio walked slowly toward the pines, their hearts heavy with the loss of Bane, and though Chander was too grief stricken to think about it, all of their supplies. As they walked deeper into the pine forest, the wind died down, and only a light drizzle of rain made it through the thick needle canopy. At last Chander slumped onto the ground, and curled up at the base of a tree, whining with every breath.

Luuhk watched his uncle sadly, then sat down next to him and removed his packs from his back and hips. "Uz gunna hafta get new suppliez. No evun haff tent no moor." Chander dragged himself over to Luuhk, putting his head on the boy's leg, and looking up at him with a soft whine. Luuhk was surprised by the action, but he put his hand on Chander's head, and began petting him as he would Dusty. Chander closed his eyes and curled up against the young warrior. A moment later Dusty curled up on Luuhk's other side, and pressed his head under the boy's hand, seeking comfort. "We awl mizz him. Him wuz a guud wulf."

Chander lifted his head and howled again, so Luuhk put an arm around him to hug him. Chander pulled away this time, and just continued howling, so Luuhk got up and started gathering all the pine needles he could reach in front of them. He pulled his fire making kit out of one of the packs, and carefully lit the needles. He scoured the area for a few larger pieces of wood, and after several minutes they had a comfortable fire burning.

Chander stopped howling as Luuhk fed some larger pieces of wood to the flames, and started staring at the boy. Luuhk watched his uncle carefully, unable to tell just what was running through the shaman's mind. "Yoo cold?" Chander didn't move, he just kept staring at Luuhk. "Weel, I cold, and wet. Yoo shud try tu git sum rest unkul, yoo still haff tu git yoo strengf back." Chander snorted and began pacing back and forth, growling and snarling under his breath. Luuhk had no idea what Chander was doing, but Dusty watched him, thumping his tail against the ground every once in a while, and making small yipping noises. Luuhk looked between the two, and finally came to the conclusion that Chander was talking, as much as he could in that form, to Dusty. "Yoo know, yoo can tawk tu me instead ov Dusti."

Chander stopped pacing and looked at his nephew. After several long seconds he shifted back to his Orcish form, and Luuhk was stunned to see the look of fury on Chander's face. "Stop actin like ya don' give a crap. Buildin a fire, talkin bout supplies. Well dammit, ain't ya got a heart boy?"

Luuhk was about to retort angrily, but something held him back, some sense of caution. Instead he picked up a stick and snapped it in half before feeding it to the fire. "Corse I du, but luuk wur uz am. Middul ov nowhere, no tent, no fuud, jus' uz wepunz, uz armur, and wutebur toolz uz alwaiz keep in owr packz. Hao uz gunna travul nao?"

Chander started pacing again, his expression filled with wild anger. "Ta hell with travelin, ta hell with the mission. I don' give a crap bout none of it no more."

"Kodo skah!" Luuhk jumped up and grabbed Chander's arm, forcing him to stop and look at him. "Yoo do give crap, or yoo no tawk lyk dis! I know yoo hurtin, but it yoo dat tawt me tu keep yoo mind on wut importint, tu put assyd yoo imeediate feelingz fur da sayk ov survyval. Yoo gunna turn yoo back un dat? Un momo? Un me?"

Chander inhaled a swift breath, and lifted his hand to strike Luuhk, but he just held it there. After a few seconds he lowered his hand, and moved to the base of the tree, slumping down to the ground and burying his face in his arms. "He was more than a friend, he was a part of me. When we rode, when we fought, I'd barely hafta think bout what I wanted him ta do, an' he'd do it." Luuhk sat down next to Chander, and put his arm over his shoulder. "We were partners, an' no matter what I was feelin, what I was thinkin, it was like he knew. But I... I asked too much of him tonight. I asked too much... an' now he's gone."

"It no yoo fawlt. Yoo wuz tryin tu sayv him lyf, and owrz tuu." He reached his free hand to pet Dusty, who whined softly and licked his hand. "Iv yoo no told me wut tu du, awl ov uz wud haff drowned."

"I shoulda tied the lead shorter, that way he wouldn'ta swung so much, an' gotten scared. I shoulda helped ya force the packs on Dusty instead of puttin um all on Bane." His back began to heave as he fought to contain his sorrow and guilt.

Luuhk pulled his cloak off his back, and tucked it over the two of them as he sat next to the grieving Orc. "Shuda cuda wuda nebur changed nuttin. Nuttin ad awl can change dis. Awl uz can du am accept id, and moov un. Uz hab tu fokus un stayin alyv nao."

Chander's mind was still racing, his emotions going everywhere at once. As the full force of their situation struck him he let out a small sob, and was both surprised and grateful to feel Luuhk hugging him. He wrapped his arms around the boy, and for the first time since he was a young child, he allowed himself to show his grief around another person, and cried on his shoulder. Seeing his uncle's pain which reflected his own, Luuhk felt a few tears fall from his glowing eyes, and did nothing to check them. All they had to judge or comfort them was one another.

It was a gray dawn that filtered through the foliage the next morning. The storm had died out during the night, but the sky was still overcast. Luuhk twitched his ears and started his morning ritual of surveying his surroundings. As his mind traveled back to the night before, his stomach sank at the thought of how they would manage without Bane, or the supplies he'd been carrying. He opened his eyes slowly, and looked around. The ashes from the fireplace had already been cleaned out, and as he peered around the pines he couldn't see Chander anywhere. "Unkul?"

He stood up slowly, stretching the kinks out of his back, and picking up his cloak. He fastened it to his back as he looked around for Chander. His eyes settled on Dusty, who was lying near the remains of the fireplace. The canine looked up as Luuhk stood, and thudded his tail against the ground. Kneeling down, he hugged the worg, and allowed him to lick his face before standing back up. "About time ya woke up, we got lots ta do today." Luuhk turned around, relieved to see Chander standing behind him, holding a basket woven from tall grass.

"I no evun know wur uz gunna start. Uz need fuud, but uz can no stai owt in da cold eethur, zo uz need new tent." He frowned deeply, then his eyes fell to the basket. "Wut in der?"

"Water and ashes kid, it's what's gonna help us survive." Luuhk examined Chander carefully. His eyes were swollen, and his expression tense, but he seemed to have his emotions under control once more. "I gotta make another basket, so why don't ya go see if ya can't hunt down a buck or somethin?"

Luuhk tilted his head to the side curiously. "Yoo want me tu go huntin wyle yoo mayk basketz?Hao come I get awl da durti wurk?"

Chander's face slowly split into a grin, which secretly relieved Luuhk. "Cause once ya bring me a buck I'll have my hands full skinnin it, an' makin its hide inta part of our new tent. Jus' make sure when ya kill it ya don't spill its brains. Every animal has jus' enough brains ta preserve its own hide, whether or not its dead or alive." Luuhk blinked at the poem but Chander just shook his head and started walking back out of the forest.

"Skah I tink him headdress am tuu tyte, it kuttin ovv him bluud frum him brayn. Come un Dusti, letz gu huntin." The worg stood up and followed Luuhk as he left the campsite, wandering deep into the pine forest. He kept his senses alert, his shining eyes darting around the trees as he tried to spot something suitable enough to hunt. He often stumbled upon fresh deer tracks, but he never caught sight of the elusive creatures. After an hour of walking circles, Luuhk roared in frustration, and drew his axe, striking the nearest tree. "Skahurz, wai yoo no come meet me lusk? Coward deer!" He wasn't entirely surprised that nothing came out to face him, but it still didn't make him feel any better.

He growled and tried to tug his axe from the wood, but it was imbedded deep in the bark. He gripped the axe with both hands, and placed a foot on the trunk as he tugged. As his plate boot made an almost inaudible sound against the wood, Luuhk paused in his attempts to free the weapon, and looked at his foot curiously. Lowering it, he tapped his foot lightly against the forest floor, where it thudded and crunched against the pine needles and hard packed dirt. Very slowly, he began to understand why he could never see any deer, no matter how fresh the tracks were. With a bit of hesitation, he began unfastening his armor, and removing his packs from his hip, piling it all into a bush.

At last he stood wearing nothing except a loin cloth. He curled his toes against the pine needles on the ground, trying to get used to the feel of them under his feet, then very slowly he began to follow the tracks again, trying his best not to make a sound as he moved through the forest. His heart was pounding with excitement as he began picking up the pace, moving faster through the foliage, and still making hardly a sound. Never in his young life had he felt more wild, more like an Orc, then at that moment. This was how his ancestors had hunted for generations, success or failure measuring to something much more simple than life or death, meaning food or hunger, clothing or nudity, shelter or exposure.

His nostrils flared as he picked up the musky scent of a buck nearby, and he slowed his pace, moving carefully between the trees. Suddenly he heard a loud below echo through the pines, followed by what sounded like a gunshot, and much scuffling. Cautiously the Orc moved closer, and at last he peered through the bushes to behold a wondrous sight. Two bucks were locked in combat, their magnificent antlers pressed against one another as they kicked at each other with sharp hooves. Luuhk watched in fascination, trying to decide which of them to take down and how.

Dusty crouched down at Luuhk's side, the tip of his tail twitching with anticipation. Before Luuhk could take any action against the stags however, the wolf raced out of the bushes, and leaped for the two animals. Luuhk swore under his breath as the worg landed on the back of one of the bucks, digging his fangs into the tender flesh of its neck, but then his heart stopped. At the sight of the attacking canine, the other buck had turned to run, and it was running right toward Luuhk. Gripping his axe tightly, the young warrior waited for the animal to come closer, then he jumped out of the bushes, and charged at it. The stag was in a frenzy, first seeing a wolf attack its foe, then running straight into an angry Orc.

Before the beast could stop its momentum and flee in another direction, Luuhk had reached it, and buried his axe into the animal's neck. As its life blood spilled onto the dark soil below, the light left its eyes and it fell over dead. It took Luuhk a moment to realize what had just happened. He had gone out looking for one deer, and somehow wound up with two! He threw back his head, and roared in victory, releasing the last bit of pent up excitement from the hunt. A moment later Dusty joined his voice with the boy's, and the two exalted in the success of their kills. As Luuhk lowered his head, his shining eyes fell on the wolf, who was sitting on top of the first buck. "Dusti! Yoo wunderful animul!"

Dusty yipped at the tone of approval in Luuhk's voice, and ran over to him, putting his paws up on his shoulders and licking his face. Luuhk grabbed the sides of the worg's face, and ruffled it affectionately before pushing him down. He looked at the stag lying at his feet, then grinned. "Ukee Dusti, stai put. Yoo can carri dis one." He lifted the buck onto Dusty's back, but it started sliding off. Frowning slightly, he looked around for something to tie the buck to his worg, but all he could see was trees, and pine needles. His hand moved to where he usually wore his hip bag, but all it found was the pliable material of his loin cloth. His cheeks burning with embarrassment, but unable to think of another solution, he removed his loincloth, and tied it around the buck, and Dusty's back. As quickly as he could, he raced toward the other stag, slung it over his back, and began walking to where he had hidden his armor, more than ever resembling his oldest ancestors in all their glory.

Chander sat cross legged in a field of tall grass just outside the forest. There were several bundles of grass lying next to him, and at his feet was a basket made of the same grass, woven expertly together. His fingers moved swiftly over the basket, tugging and twisting the pieces of grass, tying pieces together, weaving them in, out, and around to build up the sides of the container. It was repetitive work, which left his mind free to wander, and it wander it did.

With his minds eye he could still see the first time he met Bane, how the animal had approached him timidly in the breeding pens, and licked his hand. He remembered all the days and nights he spent with the Skulldance clan, his and Jureth's clan, training themselves and their worgs in mounted combat. He had been a cavalry fighter, a strong second in command, and though he was respected and loved by his troops, it was Bane who made him a mounted fighter, and helped him guide others down that path.

As time went on, one by one his comrades disappeared, their bodies never recovered and perhaps taken by the swarms that plagued Northrend during that terrible war. Even Jureth and his son Naxian had vanished, leaving behind a mate, two unborn children, and Luuhk. Yet despite all those who had worn the standard of the Skulldance, just to become casualties of war, he and Bane had endured. The winning team who fought, ate, slept, and risked their lives together were at last torn apart, and the weight of that loss hung heavy on his heart. As he had grown used to doing whenever things became difficult, Chander did the only thing that made sense. He talked to Jureth.

"How'd it happen pal? How'd I go from havin a trusted friend at my side, an' enough supplies ta last six months, ta suddenly bein stuck in the wild with nothin at all?" Chander didn't expect an answer, his old friend's spirit had been silent since the day he vanished, but it still made him feel better just to think he might be listening. "If it weren't fer Luuhk, I'd probably still be curled up an' howlin, instead of doin somethin ta make sure we survive. Luuhk..." He smiled softly, and set aside the basket, which was finally complete. "Ya'd be proud of him. He's growin up, an' learnin more every day bout what it means ta be a man."

Luuhk walked out from the trees just then, a stag on his back, and wearing his full armor, but walking a little awkwardly. Chander's nostrils flared as he caught the boy's scent behind him, and he turned around to face him. He grinned as he caught sight of the two bucks, and Luuhk returned the smile, putting a hand on Dusty's head. "Brainz awl in dem headz, juzt lyk yoo wantid."

"Good, bring um on over so I can get ta work." As Luuhk hobbled over to him and dropped the buck on his shoulders in front of the Shaman, Chander's eyes fell on Dusty and the loincloth. "Innovative. Ya might wanna wash that before ya put it back on."

Luuhk growled and smacked Chander upside the head, causing the shaman to burst out laughing. "Shud up, I no expekted tu fynd two deer. Had tu du sumtin tu get id back tu camp, then me git der, and see yoo no back yet."

"You crazy? Ya can't tan a hide or preserve meat in a forest. The predators are gonna be drawn ta the scent of blood, an' the less cover we give um the better." Chander bent over the first buck, and started removing its hide, careful to take it off in one piece.

Luuhk untied the buck from Dusty's back, and set it down next to the other one, folding up his loincloth. "Zo wut? Uz git dem tanned, cook sum meat, mayk a tent, then moov on tumorow?"

Chander blinked at the boy stupidly, and paused in his work. "Tomorrow? You kiddin me? Do you even know what it takes ta turn a hide inta leather?" Luuhk shrugged indifferently, and Chander sighed. "First I'm gonna hafta soak the skins ta get um clean, that'll take about six hours, then I gotta wring it out, an' make sure no blood's left on it." Luuhk rolled his eyes as though he didn't think that sounded too hard, but Chander continued. "Then we soak the skins overnight in a container of water an' ash ta loosen the fur an' fat particles, an' in the mornin I gotta stretch it out over a log, an' use my knife ta scrape off the rest of the hair, an' fat. After that comes the tough part."

"Wayt, I seen yoo walk intu da tannerz in Orgrimmar, and come owt wid new armur, saddlez, packs. It no can tayk dat long!" Luuhk glared at his uncle, obviously not willing to believe him, but Chander barked a laugh.

"How do ya think I get hides so fast? Thousands of Orcs come in, bringin fresh hides ta be processed, an' the tanners trade um fer finished leather. We ain't gonna be ready ta pack up an' leave in one day kid. I jus' hope them brains are gonna keep till I'm ready ta use um in the final steps of makin leather." Chander had finished skinning the two bucks, so he started dragging one of the animals toward a river, then looked at Luuhk. "Don' think yer work's all done now that ya've killed a couple beasts. Help me get the other one to the water."

Luuhk looked at the bloody pile of muscles, tendons, bones, blood, and hooves that rested on the bloody mass his uncle said would become a piece of leather, then did as he was instructed. By the time he reached the water, Chander had already taken the buck off of the skin, and placed the hide in the water, securing it with a few rocks. Luuhk looked down at the bloody mess on the sand. "It awl durti nao. Hao uz gunna eet dat?"

Chander rolled his eyes, and moved toward the second hide to begin soaking it. "Ya wash the meat, that's how. Take my knife an' start guttin that one. Be careful with the organs, some of them got fluids in um that'll taint the meat if they spill."

At first Luuhk was very indignant about removing the animal's innards, and he grew irritated when Chander berated him for pausing in his work to wash his loincloth, but after a while he became fascinated by the task of cleaning an animal, as well as the instructions Chander gave him. "That's it, jus' hold it so the water passes through, an' it'll be clean in no time. We can use that stomach as a water skin if we tie off the bottom with a piece of tendon, an' let it harden. We can even give it a bit of a spout if we clean one of the vertebra from the spinal cord, an' stick it in the hole up top, an' use a piece of leather as a stopper."

Luuhk set the cleaned stomach to the side, and began pulling out the several feet of intestine. "Hao bowt dis? Wut we do wit it?"

"Heh, yer gonna love this. Those intestines should be jus' long enough ta hold all the fat from the animal we take it from. See, ya tie off the bottom, scoop a bit of the fat inta it, then give it a little pinch an' twist. They'll look like white sausages, but they'll hold all the fat fer if we wanna give our food some extra kick, or add some fat to a torch ta get it burnin longer." Chander looked up at Luuhk, his hands deep in the chest cavity of the other deer. "The spirits that made the first animals made sure that every part of it could be used fer somethin else. It's natures way of waste management."

Luuhk nodded as he coiled the intestine around his arm, a difficult feat given that the stag had at least thirty feet of intestines. As he took it to the river, he fixed Chander with an inquisitive gaze. "Hao yoo know zo much bowt wut parts yoo uze fer wut on a animul?"

Chander's smile turned a bit sad as he removed the lungs of the buck. "Yer grandma. Back when yer ma an' me were pups, she'd often go hunting fer food an' hides in the afternoons. She'd bring back whole carcases, an' teach us everythin I'm teachin you right now. There weren't no outposts back then 'cept fer Ratchet, an' it was only a small port an' tradin post. Ya couldn't jus' ride ta Orgrimmar an' pick up supplies, ya had ta take what you could find off the land, an' survive as best ya could. Her an' yer grandpa taught us how."

Luuhk had been bent over the coil of intestines as Chander spoke, positioning it so the water could flow freely into the thin tubes, and flush out the muck inside. A small smile played over his tusks. "And heer I thot I know enuff tu survyv on me own. Yoo teech me awl yoo know bowt survyval in da wild?"

Chander grinned at Luuhk and nodded. "All I know an' more kiddo. I guarantee you, by the time this is all over, both of us will have learned a few new tricks ta wilderness survival. You jus' about done removin that one's organs?" Luuhk nodded and Chander rinsed his hands in the river before standing up. "Good. I'ma borrow yer axe an' cut down some saplings ta make a meat rack. I need ya to start a fire, then start slicin off the meat from their bones, an' put the fat inta the intestines." Luuhk nodded, and Chander picked up the axe starting to walk away, but he called over his shoulder, "an' keep an eye on them hides! Don' let any fish nibble on um."

"Weel du!" he yelled back, then with a glance at the hides he began slicing the fat off the meat, pushing it into the cleaned intestine as he had been instructed, and cutting slices of meat in fairly even chunks, laying them on the sand next to him. Over the next hour Chander came and went, carrying several bundles of wood, and depositing them near Luuhk. At one point he gave him instructions on how to start building a rack, then left again. This time he didn't return for another hour, and Luuhk began to wonder if he was alright. At last he heard his uncle grunting, and turned around, his jaw falling open in shock. Chander was dragging a part of a tree, perhaps four feet high and ten feet long. "Dat much tuu big fer da rack unkul!"

"I told ya, I need a log ta drape the hides over when I remove the hairs an' fibers. I saw it on my last trip fer wood an' decided I may as well get it over here." Chander dropped the log a few feet away from Luuhk, and leaned against it, wiping several beads of sweat from his brow, and massaging his right shoulder. "Ya got that rack ready boy?"

Luuhk watched Chander with a hint of concern as he rubbed his shoulder, but he nodded. "Yup, jus' lyk yoo told me. Two piecez tied diagunali wit sum tendon, and moor piecez tied akross."

Chander moved over to the rack and nodded with satisfaction as he examined it. "Good. Now you jus' keep cuttin the meat, an' I'll rinse um, an' put um on the rack." By mid afternoon the sun had broken through the cloud cover, and as the sky began to change color. The two Orcs had removed most of the meat from the two bucks, leaving only the right hind leg off the larger one untouched, had filled the intestines with animal fat, and piled the bones and tendons into stacks nearby. Chander looked around at all they had accomplished, and patted Luuhk on the shoulder. "Not bad fer our first day up here."

Luuhk looked around as well and grinned. "Yup. Iv it no fer da lethur, I tink uz wud still be redi tu leev tumorow tho."

Chander laughed, and picked up the empty basket. He started scooping the ashes from the fire pit into it, then filled it with water and stirred it with a stick. "Well the meat should dry if we keep the rack near a smokin fire through the night. I gotta start wringin out them hides, an' get um ready ta put inta the baskets. Think you can set up a spit over the fire, an' start cookin that leg?"

Luuhk grinned widely and rubbed his stomach. "Aftur tuday I luukin forwurd tu eetin dat ting. I no tink I evur been around zo much meat, an' still be dis hungry in me life!" The two laughed, and as Luuhk started making a spit and preparing the roast for dinner, Chander began pulling the hides out of the water, wringing them out carefully.

By the time Chander had put the hides into the baskets to lime them, his entire body was shaking with exhaustion, and his mind was hazy. Stress, weariness from the turbulent night before, and a day of hard labor had taken its toll on the shaman, but he knew he still had a lot of work left to do. His eyes drifted over to Luuhk, who seemed to be holding up well, still wide awake and full of energy as he set the leg on a spit. He chewed his lip thoughtfully, then moved toward the log and pulled out his skinning knife, starting to slice the bark off the top of it. "Lemme know when its ready ta eat kiddo."

"Shur ting unkul." Luuhk leaned back as he turned the spit, relaxing as best as he could as he prepared a meal for them. By the time Luuhk called him over to eat, the log was completely smooth with no bark left on it, and the sun had set. With a definite note of relief, Chander sauntered over to the fire, cutting a slice off the roast and devouring it hungrily. Luuhk watched him, unable to contain the worry in his eyes. "Yoo pushin yooself hard. I tayk furst watch tunyte."

Chander nodded slowly, and took another bite of meat, the juices dribbling down his face as he ate with gusto. "Was gonna suggest that anyways." As Luuhk nodded and dug into his own meal, Chander watched the boy, debating whether or not to bring up something that had been running through his mind for most of the evening. Finally he sighed and set down his food. "You really did a good job today Luuhk, those bucks had some good skins on um, an' if we dry the meat right it should last us about a month."

Luuhk swallowed a mouthful, and grunted. "Two iv uz reeli kayrful wid them. Da fat shud lazt sum tym tuu, an' uz can pick ruutz az uz travul tu mayk soops wit."

Chander cut another piece of meat off the haunch, but he just held it in his hands. "Yeah, well I ain't worried bout food, there's always food enough everywhere ya go if ya know how ta look fer it. I'm more concerned about how we're gonna carry it all, as well as the tent once it's made."

"Yoo haff da hides tu mayk lethur. Stai a kuppul dayz, mayk sum packz, and we be guud." Luuhk took a large bite out of the haunch, a few strands of meat hanging out the side of his mouth as he chewed.

The shaman smiled with a hint of amusement at the boy, who still looked so young with his cheeks full of too much food, and his face sticky with juices, but it just made his next words even harder to say. "There won't be any more packs, or a tent, or even blankets ta sleep under. At least not with what we got now." Luuhk's mouth fell open, a bit of food falling from it in shock. "The hides we got today are maybe enough ta make the top of a tent, but we'll still need one more fer a ground cover, at least two more fer each of us ta have a blanket, an' one, maybe two more of that size ta make enough packs ta hold everythin." He looked at Luuhk over the fire, his expression grim. "I've asked a lot of you in the past three days, but if we wanna get movin sooner I'm gonna hafta ask more from ya."

Luuhk regarded his uncle carefully. He could see the weariness in his stance, the sorrow that still lined his features after Bane's sudden death the night before, and he grunted. "I kud haff turned back da furst day. I kud haff stayed back in Orgrimmar, and helped momo gu intu hydin. I kaym wid yoo, and wutebur I haff tu du fer uz tu succeed, I du it. Yoo jus' haff tu ask."

Relief and gratitude washed over Chander at his nephew's words. At that moment he knew there was no way he could have completed the journey alone, and he was proud that the one who had agreed to come with him was Luuhk. "Alright, here's what I need ya to do over the next few days. Every mornin I need ya to go huntin, an' jus' like today after I've skinned it, ya gut it, clean it, an' prepare the meat. It's gonna be a lot of work, an' after a couple days it might get tiresome, but if we wanna have a tent, packs, an' sleepin furs, I'm gonna hafta focus most of my time on the hides. Can ya do that fer me?"

Luuhk thought back on the entire day, the thrill of the hunt, and the way they had talked and laughed together as they worked to prepare the animals. He looked at Chander, and smiled. "Am dat awl? I thot yoo wuz gunna say yoo needed moor hides, zo yoo wuz gunna tayk myne!"

"Well the thought did cross my mind..." Luuhk tossed a piece of meat at Chander across the fire, and Chander retaliated, tearing off a chunk of venison and throwing it at Luuhk. They launched into a food fight for about a minute, laughing boisterously all the while, but at last they settled down, and Chander took a few more bites of meat before curling up on the ground next to the fire. "Ya wanna do me one more favor kiddo?"

Luuhk gulped down the last bit of his food, and moved the remainder of the deer leg away from the fire. "Jus' one moor?"

"While yer on watch, see if ya can't figure out how ta make baskets outta the tall grass. I'm gonna need two wide ones fer tomorrow." Chander yawned widely and closed his eyes as he gave in to the weariness that had plagued him through the day.

Luuhk blinked at him curiously. "Wut da skah yoo need moor basketz fer?"

"For the brains kiddo. For the brains, an' the hides," he yawned before passing out entirely.

"Brainz an' da hidez." Luuhk looked to where the two deer skulls were lying on the ground nearby, their brains still in tact since Chander had insisted on saving them, but they had nowhere to put them. He picked some of the dried grass from nearby, and tossed it on the fire until it began to smoke, then pulled the rack of meat closer to it so the slabs of venison could dry into jerky. "Yoo reeli am krazi unkul. Smart, but skahin krazi." Chuckling softly, Luuhk started gathering more strands of dried grass, and attempted to figure out how to weave baskets as he kept watch.


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