Dealings with the Dervish

--by Apis

Dust rose from the earth, dancing through the air. It spun and twirled on the wind rising ever higher. The light winds carried it aloft where it thickened together before masking out the sun. As it thickened it began to cloud the vision and the lungs; it coated hair and hooves. The swirling cloud was churning up from hooves circling ever closer, a swarm of centaur marauders charging around a small band of tauren nomads. The centaurs slammed the ground as they stampeded in a gradually shrinking circle around the nomads. The largest of the centaur screamed out orders above the roar of sound, the hooves and horns of fallen victims adorned his spear.

With out thought for himself the largest of the nomads charged forward. Wielding a ceremonial totem as a club he brushed the closest of the centaurs aside with broad, sweeping strikes. Rage filled his eyes as he dashed straight for the marauders’ leader. The large centaur was caught off guard and made a vain attempt to dodge the bull’s attack, but the tauren was as quick as he was strong, he overpowered the horseman to the ground. The totem slammed into the centaur’s face crushing his nose and destroying his right eye.

The surrounding marauders saw that their leader was moments away from execution and a rallying cry went out, "Ride to Verog! The Dervish must not fall!" Quickly a pair of centaur cast their nets upon the Tauren warrior and the swarm fell over him before he could move. More of the nomads fought to reach their friend, but it was a lost cause.

As the centaurs rushed to their leader’s aid a hole opened in their ring. A younger tauren female some how slipped out of the cloud. She clutched a bundled up baby in her arms as she ducked behind a rock outcropping. Through a gap in the boulders she watched her companions fall. But the centaurs did not stay to finish the job; instead they gathered up their fallen lord and rushed him away.

The young female snuck back to where her friends and family lay. Most had passed to the Earthmother’s bosom, but some still had breath in them. She remembered a few of the healing words the Bloodhoof shaman taught her. The shaman’s words remind her of the village to the north, the only place that still seemed safe. As she looked down into the sleepy eyes of her baby, and around her at bodies of fallen Tauren she decided that the freedom of the nomad was not worth that price. . .

. . .Sometime Later. . .

The Crossroads was bustling with traders and trappers of all sorts as Apis wondered in. He was nearing exhaustion as he stumbled through the crowd. He hardly noticed the orange haired troll brush past him, but suddenly his strength returned. He felt a surge of power within as the air around his seemed to whisper fortitude.

"’Ey mon, ya nearly be slicin’ Lukantan in ‘alf walkin’ wit’ dat sword in yer ‘and like dat."

Apis spun on his heels to see the balding troll tapping his foot with arms crossed. Next to the troll’s tapping foot laid a sash obviously cut in two. "Well friend," grunted the tall bull, "my apologies. If there is some way I could make it up. . ." He rustled through a small linen bag searching for the few pieces of copper he had.

"Hmm, looks like ya be ‘elpin’ me wit’ dis job I got mon. Fella west o’ here don’ seem ta like dese centaur much. ‘Ere, ‘ave a look at dis scroll ‘e be givin’ me." The troll unrolled a piece of parchment which read:

The centaur Verog the Dervish wanders the Barrens, and will be difficult to find. But he is based at the centaur command tent at the Stagnant Oasis to the southeast. It may be possible to draw him to you.

Travel to the Stagnant Oasis to the southeast and attack centaur near the command tent. It will be dangerous, but if you can kill enough centaur then they should raise an alarm. And Verog will come.

Bring me his head and I will place it with Barak Kodobane's.

~R. Deathgate

The tauren warrior was taken back by the troll’s insistence for help, but he genuinely felt bad about ruining the odd fellow’s sash. "Agreed, I could not much pass up the chance to slay those disgusting beasts." He had heard the name of the Dervish before, but he could not place it.

"Good den mon! Ya be callin’ me Lukantan." The troll extended his hand while offering a slightly odd smile.

Apis thought for a moment before taking the troll’s hand, "My name is Al’Thaur."

The two headed east along one of the dusty trails that helped to mark the Crossroads. Apis was not surprised to find the land to be much the same as he had seen since leaving Mulgore. It had not been much longer than four years since he had crossed these lands before. It was difficult not to be impressed with the small camps the orcs had established throughout it. Apis looked back at the tower rising above the frail walls of the Crossroads; it served as a lookout for the roaming bands of centaurs, and more recently to spot Alliance fighters attempting guerilla attacks. The shadow of the tower had marked home for several days for Apis; he had been carrying out small tasks for several at the outpost in exchange for some coin to speed him on his way.

Apis had felt slightly guilty for not giving the troll his real name, but it was custom for a tauren to be cautious when first meeting any of another race. He fell a few paces behind Lukantan. The towering bull rubbed dust from his eyes as he surveyed the barren land around them. Small herds of sickly looking gazelle mingled with wild, striped chargers. Occasionally he would spot plainstriders similar to those he was familiar with hunting in Mulgore.

One of such striders to the south had been occupying his attention when he spotted a pack hound stalking through some brush. Intricate knots lined the beast’s mane marking it as a Kolkar hunting dog. The warrior tapped the troll and gestured to the hound, and sure enough a centaur came prancing after it. The two crouched low and watched as the horseman skillfully brought the bird down with its bow. As the Kolkar carried off his prey Lukantan and Apis started to head south.

The tauren did not mind the lack of conversation on their journey, it was difficult to follow the troll’s dialect and there was something about Lukantan that felt masked. Better still the silence aided their entry to the Kolkar’s camp which consisted of just a few kodo skin tents. It was nestled between some dense foliage and a large rock outcropping. Along the rocks a wooden tower had been constructed, the shadow of a large Kolkar warlord drifted in and out of view.

As they entered the camp they found the hunter cleaning his prey. Lukantan drew his dagger and quickly slit the centaur’s throat, the pack hound lifted his head to spot his master’s fall only for it to be bashed back into the earth by Apis’s shield. They slipped around a tent and found one of the Kolkar’s elemental stormers. Apis had faced them before and knew exactly how to deal with them. He charged viscously at the centaur nearly knocking it to the ground. As she tried to regain her footing he slashed at the creature rending her flesh. The stormer’s hands began to glow blue as she attempted to conjure forth a spell, but Apis smacked her across the head with his shield. The Kolkar fell to the ground in a bleeding mass before she could fully understand what had hit her.

Just then a patrol of the Kolkar’s elite bloodchargers rounded the tent. One galloped wildly towards the wooden tower among the rocks at the sight of his fallen tribe member. The second rushed Lukantan. Apis was concerned his companion’s flimsy robes would provide little protection against the chargers steel, but as the centaur brought his stroke down on the troll it glanced uselessly aside. Somehow the air had deflected the blow. Lukantan bellowed a terrible scream. The Kolkar dropped his weapon; he balled his fists over his ears and ran bellowing in fear.

As the two watched the charger flee a shadow fell across Apis. He turned to find one of the tallest centaur he could every remember encountering. A smirk twisted around the creature’s deformed nose and nearly kissed the leather patch covering his right eye. "Who dares to challenge Verog?" he shouted. Verog had lead countless raids against Bloodhoof Village while the tauren had been growing up. There was a sudden moment of recognition at the name before a kick sent Apis sprawling.

The Dervish rushed the fallen tauren and brought his spear down at the bull’s face. Apis closed his eyes and prepared to accept death, but the attack never landed. When he opened his eyes a faint aura encased him, Verog was slashing madly at the air. Then the air grew dark and seemed to hiss pain. The centaur warlord clutched his chest and turned to face Lukantan. As he made a move toward the troll Apis lashed out slicing into the Kolkar’s hamstring. Verog buckled under the strike and continued a crawling pursuit of the troll.

Blood ran down the centaur’s face as Apis slice through his cheek; Verog turned again to face the warrior, mocked by the subtle blow. The hanging shadow of pain stuck again as the warlord attempted to strike. The weak attack bounced off of Apis’s shield. Seeing the opportunity to attack the warrior brought his blade up from behind the shield to slice the massive centaur from navel to chin. As the Kolkar stuttered backwards his blood spilled onto the ground. With wide eyes the weakened warlord watched the tauren warrior flicked the tip of his blade across his own arms. As the blood run down his body he let out a deep howl, and rage filled his eyes. Apis brought his sword down with all the hate and anger he had left inside nearly cleaving Verog in two.

Verog collapsed to the ground and even while he choked on his own blood the troll began to sever his head from his body. Lukantan wrapped the trophy in some linen before stuffing it into one of his bags. "’Ey mon, ya be fightin’ well."

Apis paused to catch his breath, stared for a moment in wonder at the troll. "Are you some sort of shaman? You have powers I have never seen."

"Sure mon, you can t’ink o’ me as one o’ dose spirit talk’rs, but I nae be messin’ wit’ da elements mon." The fiery haired troll took a bow, "T’ink o’ me as a ‘oly priest."

Apis nodded, "You saved my life friend. I owe you my life."

"W’at ya talkin’ ‘bout mon? Ya be fightin’ well. ‘Sides I ‘ave lived enough lives."

"Then at least I owe you my trust," Apis bowed his head. "My name is not Al’Thaur, it is Apis."

Lukantan burst with laughter, "Names be meanin’ little mon. Few really are w’at de is called."

The comment only gave Apis more reason to be suspicious of the troll, but he let it pass. Instead he produced a scroll and motioned to the jungle-like foliage nearby. "One of my kind asked me to investigate this pond near here. He is an honorable druid of the Runetotem clan. Perhaps you would like to join me?"

The priest merely shrugged and began to push his way through the dense ferns. A brief smile creased the warrior lips before he followed after. It seemed a great burden had just been lifted off of his shoulders. He thought it must have been to finally find some fellowship on his journey, for he had no understanding of the sweet revenge which had just taken place.


ER Emblem Award

This story has been highlighted as a Weekly Featured Story.

--Lilithia 22:19, 8 February 2007 (GMT)

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