The Elder's EldersEdit
The bull kodo grazed peaceably among the long grasses, muscles twitching to ward off the flies that pestered it, tail swishing in the hot sun. From time to time it took a step or two, shifting its vast bulk with a delicacy belied by the earthen thunder of its footfall.
Thirty paces away, noticed but quite ignored by the vast beast, a young Kaldorei crouched in the long grass. By his side lay the traditional double-bladed spear of his people, but in his hand was a light hand-carved javelin, tipped with a small but wicked blade of flint. He wore only a simple cloth about his waist, and ignored the vicious insects settling on his sweat-sheened purple skin. Slowly he rose up, javelin poised - and then he threw.
The weapon sailed through the air, narrowly missing the eye he had aimed for, and cut a shallow but painful gash across the bull kodo's face. Bellowing in sudden rage, it turned, fixed its gaze on the waiting Kaldorei, and charged. Its muscles rippled with the explosion of released energy, and it thundered across the grass like a summer storm.
The Kaldorei crouched lower, head bowed, the double-headed spear held loosely in his hand, and watched the kodo's charge as if waiting for his own death. When the beast was less than ten paces away, he flung the spear high into the air, its two blades glittering as they spun in the blazing sun. But still he crouched, and waited.
Then suddenly he was airborne, and the beast passed under him. His feet sprang lightly off the bony plates of its shoulder, and he twisted like a cat, plucking his spear out of the air and driving it into the beast's flank with all his weight and strength.
With a deafening bellow, the beast slowed its thundering charge, and twisted to gore its attacker. But it was already too late; the spear had been placed with surgical precision, and sunk to more than half its length between the kodo's ribs. The bellow faded suddenly to a plaintive groan, and the beast dropped to its side with a crash that shook the very trees.
Fifty paces away, a small group of Kaldorei rose from the grassy ridge where they had lain hidden, the archers among them easing arrows from their bowstrings. The bearded male among them sighed. "Well, Thalianna?"
A sneer twisted the tattoos that snaked across the warrior's face, as she rose calmly to her feet. "He dances prettily. Keep him well hidden, or the Quel'dorei will take him away." The others, all female, chuckled quietly. "He will need watching. Simple-minded, is this one." The bearded elder nodded, and watched as the young Kaldorei, now blood-red from head to toe, began to hack at the beast's wound with a small knife.
The warrior grimaced again, and flicked a much longer blade from her belt as she strode off through the grass towards the huge carcass. "And he butchers like a troll. Take him and tattoo him before he cuts his own arm off."
Dances with FuryEdit
The Kaldorei was large, and armed with a wicked-looking double-headed spear, but the bear beside him was enormous. It stood and watched him with intelligent, unfriendly eyes as he stepped into the firelit clearing, looking about nervously.
Around the bonfire were gathered perhaps twenty Kaldorei, male and female, their faces hard and pinched, and every one of them liberally smeared with blood. The carcass of a stag lay in their midst, its skin already stretched and drying nearby, its skull in the heart of the fire, flames licking at the charred antlers. Most of the Kaldorei were chewing strips of stag-flesh; one of them made a sound, and the bear turned and walked back into the forest. Another, dressed not in hunting leathers like the others, but in long robes, studied the newcomer with hard eyes and stroked his blood-soaked beard.
"What do you want?"
"Forgive intrusion, Shan'do. I am come seeking you. I wish for learn path of Druid. They are send me here."
One or two of the hunters raised eyebrows at his odd dialect, but the robed Druid only growled, "I'm not your Shan'do, boy. Sit and eat."
The hunter nearest the carcass tore off another strip of meat, and held it out for him wordlessly. He took it, and sat near the Druid, setting his spear aside. The complex knot of tattoos across his dark skin writhed in the firelight like tiny snakes, and his lovingly crafted leather wargear was etched with the same pattern. He was a head taller than the Kaldorei beside him, but the steely glint of age and treachery was absent from his eyes. The others noticed his youth, and lost interest. The Druid chewed venison and studied him for a while.
"Who sent you?"
"Guardians, Elder. I am Guardian."
The Druid grunted in recognition. "Guardian, are you? What do they say of you?"
The youth frowned, remembering. "They say I am blunt instrument. I lack cunning. I fight like dancing. But I have slay many demons. They say, I dance with fury, and they are make me Guardian."
The Druid nodded, thoughtfully. "You are a warrior. Why do you wish to become a Druid?"
"In battle, I have see..." The young Kaldorei hesitated, remembering, searching for words. "I have see daughters of Ysera dance and shimmer in moonlight as they writhe about dark flames from brood of Neltharion." His voice trembled with emotion as he spoke. "I am wish," again he hesitated, "I am wish for give myself to them."
A lascivious chuckle rose from the company, but the Druid watched him in utter seriousness, and remained quite still for several moments. Then the bearded one spoke again. "Have you ever danced with a tree?"
The young one blinked in surprise, thought for a moment, then shook his head.
"It is the same, but slower. When we leave, you will remain here, to dance with the trees." The Druid returned his attention to his venison, clearly thinking the conversation finished.
The young Kaldorei nodded, pondering, then spoke again. "Until when, Elder?"
The Elder made a deep rumbling sound in his throat as he finished chewing, but did not look up. "Until the dance is done, and I come for you. They dance slowly, you know."
Hours later, the Druid strode away, the enormous bear walking placidly beside him. Behind them, the young Kaldorei stood alone beside the dying fire, looking about him uncertainly. As they wound their way through the trees, the bear twitched and rippled for a moment, and then there was a second robed Kaldorei walking beside the first.
"The primitives to the primitives. I can understand why they sent him to us." A nod, and they walked and pondered in companionable silence. After a few more minutes, the bear-Druid muttered, "That one is simple. He acts with his whole heart. Leave him long enough among the trees, and he will become one."
They walked on a while longer. Then the first Druid spoke.
"Perhaps that is no bad thing."