The bag had become a death-trap. Strapped to the side of an untamed drake, it had always been terrifying. Between the roaring and the screaming, the sound of canon-fire and the unmistakable smell of blood and fire, they had thought it couldn't get any worse, but they were wrong. The bag broke from the drake's side, and all was weightless. They could hear the death-throes of the monster as it fell. With a great splash, they suddenly realized why the air smelled so strongly of salt.
And then the bag and the four cats it contained landed in the water, and the sea began to pour in. Bookshelf's fur and claws were all extended, but he couldn't orient himself. The bag was lined with animal fur and saronite, and no matter how he clawed at it, it wouldn't release him. Cat toys and uneaten treats pelted him as he scrabbled around in a panic. A black tabby named Hat got in his way, and Bookshelf clawed and hissed. Every flicker of light from the top of the bag was quickly replaced by water pouring in. Stinging water splashed in his eyes.
Wet fur and hissing fang, Bookshelf dug his claws into Hat and growled at the tabby. Find Frying Pan! Find Footstool! Calm down and organize! They needed to get the bag open, and by the Lords of Fuzz they were all going to get out of this together or die as one! Do you understand, Hat? Do you understand!? Then find them!
A final swing of a paw sent the other cat scurrying off into the bag.
As for Bookshelf, he would be the leader. They had been cast aside into the wilds, and no weakness or cuteness would save them. No, he would no longer be Bookshelf. That name passed away. Today he rose, finally, once more, as Ahuizhotl! The vicious Ahuizhotl, Predator of the Sun! And he would find that sun!
Spitting his most defiant mew into the very face of death, Ahuizhotl bunched up his small red body and threw himself at the roof of the bag where the water poured in. His adrenaline and panic had turned all to fury, and set to the song of the desperate cries from those who depended on him – those three cats who shared his fate – he threw his claws along fur and saronite until he found the clasp of the bag. He wrapped himself around the clasp, his paws reaching into the open ocean, even as onrushing water tried to tear him loose. The salt burned his eyes, so he opened them all the wider, daring it to sting him even more! Bring him pain and resistance! Turn the whole fate of the world at him that he might beat it all at once! He was Ahuizhotl! Bookshelf was dead; he was Ahuizotl!
The clasp broke so suddenly that he was thrown head over tail into the sea, held by a single claw to the small brown bag. Hissing into the water as though it were something he could kill, Bookshelf pulled himself back, his head breaking the water and clinging to the fast-sinking bag for dear life. Above, the faces of his three compatriots greeted him. Frying Pan, Hat and Footstool: they all yet lived!
But looking around, Bookshelf was almost given to despair. He could barely see the shore. They was a ship and the smoking, cindered remains of the drake that the bag had been strapped to – obviously killed by that crew – being cut loose from their harpoons and allowed to sink. The fear and hopelessness passed, though. Ahuizohtl cursed the weakness of his old name and swore silent vengeance upon the captain and crew that had killed that drake without thought to the well-being of those who rode helpless on its side.
Ahuizohtl pulled himself onto the bag, but it only had a few seconds left to hold them, and then they would be at the mercy of the waves and the sea. He turned and mewled at his panicked charges. Have strength! Ahuizohtl would get them all to shore safely. Somehow.
Qadr stepped from the flicker of blue light as though she were moving from one room into the next. The gem set into her skull flickered and went dark, and the path of power she had drawn through the ley lines between here and Orgrimmar dispersed with a great, silent crack that only she could feel. Mist billowed from her forehead, and she exhaled a cold breath before the temperature of this new place entered her lungs.
Westfall. Human lands. Qadr's green lips frowned about her small tusks, and she adjusted the skull cap that concealed her blind eyes. The Orc could sense her surroundings well enough. There was dirt, scrub brush, ocean, sand. She was alone, on a beach. The gem on her forehead flickered, and she could see the conflict that had happened here previously. The drake and the ship, the death knight, the shaman. She had names for some of these echoes: E'a Spar Ju'uzau, Krazratchet, Naunet of the Outriders. Other echoes she did not know. Her senses told her that those who struggled had moved from this place.
Mana flickered from the gem on her head down to her fingertips. Her wards were draining power from her senses, so she dispelled them. She was alone here, for now, so had nothing to fear. She took a bag of prepared reagents from her hip – spices, herbs, the organs of rodents, the eyes of prisoners – and crushed it in her hands to release their power. She imbibed the contents. The gem on her forehead glowed again, grew cold, billowed mist.
The Orc crouched and put her hand to the ground. Yes, others still lingered. She could see the many paths they had taken, sense their sounds and feelings, so thick and constant that she couldn't make out details without a great deal more concentration. A quick search for more recent signs gave her something to work off of, though, and reaching into the mana beneath the ground -- so turbulent here in Westfall that a lesser mage would be vexed -- she found what she sought and pulled it to her.
There was a blue flash and the sound of small, sodden forms falling into the sand. Behind the small of heated air and salt, Qadr could make out the stink of wet fur and panic. She could hear the panic mews and hisses of Krazratchet's cats. Three of them simply lay stretched over each other in a feline puddle, but the fourth ran in circles. Its route was not panicked, but protective, making a perimeter around the others, taking stock of their condition. After a moment, it diverted its course and approached the Orc, mewing in recognition.
Qadr reached out and took it by the scruff of its neck. It hissed challenge and clawed at her hand, but she ignored it, lifting it from the ground and holding it near her face. The gem in her forehead wet with condensation and exuding a mist of cold power, she sensed more than saw its red fur, its wide eyes and writhing limbs. Krazratchet had named this one bookshelf. But looking past its small, willful eyes into what lie beyond, Qadr saw a different name.
With a broad smile twisting her alien features, Qadr spoke with respect, "Hello, Ahuizhotl." The cat went limp in her hands, silent for a moment, and then exhaled a low mew. Qadr chuckled at its confusion. The name it had chosen for itself was more fitting to a wolf or a predator spirit than a cat. She wondered if its Death Knight master, Krazratchet, knew what a mighty soul he had found.
Letting her smile drift away with her thoughts, Qadr pulled the cat closer to the gem on her head. "Let me see what you have witnessed, mighty beast."
Neither the Orc nor the red cat made a sound, both of them breathing calmly, hanging still. The three cats that had been deposited alongside the red one began to stir. They stumbled about in confusion, rolled in the sand, itched and spat and coughed. They walked towards the sea but fled from an oncoming wave. For a time, they sat in a small group at the Orcs feet and mewed for attention, but did not receive it. Then they were silent, waiting, watching their transfixed compatriot.
When Qadr finally put the red cat back in the sand, the animal was very tired. It lay down, and a low groan rumbled from its narrow body. The other cats licked it, and it purred.
"Thank you. I will return for you in a moment. Perhaps your owner is still around. But for now..." Qadr stepped back and turned on her heels, walking down the beach. In the distance, she saw a ship sailing southward. Further inland was a cloud of smoke rising from some massive fire. There was no one else near her, and she put enough distance between herself and the cats that she would not have to worry about them.
"For now, I must debrief Naunet." She went to one knee in the sand again, and placed her hand there. Through the lines of power she reached for the Outrider Captain. Now that the barn's defenses were crumbling, its wards dispelled, she could see inside. She watched Naunet's fury, the death of the shaman, the movement of the shadows. She silently memorized the ephemeral shapes of all present in that place. And then she took hold of the Captain, and she pulled.