The End

-by Garaf

((I don't spend too much time in our official forums (something that will probably change soon) but I was lucky enough to catch Fist's post when he posted it on the TBS forums and then follow the trail back from here. These things are awesome. ))

Garaf had never considered himself as anything other than an ordinary orc. Even now, as he was approaching three centuries of age and riding the winds over the Alterac mountains on the back of a great red dragon, he would not have said there was anything remarkable about him. His circumstances, perhaps, but certainly not himself. His life had been unbeleivably long for an orc thanks to the draconic magic that was now finally fading from him. He had retained the strength and speed of his youth even as the years had rolled by. The only sign of his age were the streaks of pure white-silver that ran through his iron-gray beard. His eyes spotted what he was looking forward and a subtle gesture told Crimzel to land.

The drake, still not quite old enough to be an adult, banked across the fiercly cold winds and decended to a precipe halfway up a nameless mountain. By now there were no signs that any living being had ever lived there, especially with the region locked in the midst of the winter snows. The ancient orc slid off his crimson mount and let out a grunt as his feet hit the snow-covered ground. So many years gone by... so little time left. Crimzel turned his head around to look at him as he steadied himself against the dragon. Neither of them were uncomforted by the cold winds bellowing around them but the drake was concerned for the overall well being of his rider. "Are you alright?"

Garaf nodded. "Zug zug. It won't be long now. Do you remember what I asked?"

"You want me to find the Primarch and let her know that you have... passed."

"Yes. I thank you Crimzel. You have been a good companion."

The red dragon, easily many times the size of the orc regarded the hunter thoughtfully. Garaf had never taken a mate. Not in many long years. He had cared for the drake ever since he had been a whelp and Crimzel was the closest thing he had to a child. "There is no need for that. Do you want for me to wait with you?"

"No, go deliver the message. I would like to be alone..." The dragon nodded and Garaf stepped back. Crimzel was airborne in a few flaps of his wings and was out of sight a few moments later. Garaf watched the young dragon until he was just a spec in the overcast sky. Then, he turned and looked at the area around him. This was where it had all begun. It was just a ledge, jutting some 20 meters from the side of the mountain and just level enough for a few buildings to be built on. This had been where the Village had been so long ago.

The snows picked up again, turning the world into a solid blanket of white that not even the Hunter's keen eyesight could peirce very far, and Garaf took a seat on the ground. Almost three hundred years ago he had left this place in search of a brother only to return to great betrayal and grim reality. Garaf had failed in his duty more than once in nearly three centuries but this was the failure that had struck him the most. This was where it had begun.

He sat in the snow, the white turning into the events of his long life before his eyes. His leaving the village then returning, the battle with Gangleri, joining The Bone Splinter, learning of his ancestral birthright as a Sentinel from Drek'Thar, splitting off to found the Crowlcon to follow that birthright, forming a pact with the red flight to care for one of their whelps. Those were the events so long ago that had set him on this long path. The last had ensured his long life, not as a reward but to facilitate the task. It took centuries for dragons to mature fully and an orc's lifespan simply did not last that long. He had known two others with similar pacts with the dragons and had been honored to call them companions and welcome them into the Crowlcon. And now he had not seem Limlug and Veyl for untold years and Kelaeon's betrayl of Amlug, regardless of the circumstances, still pained him.

He relived the meetings of new friends, and the deaths of old. He had been there to see Wyst's funeral, had discovered Marinda months after she had passed on. As the years wore on it had seemed as he had become more and more seperate from the rest of the world. As the Horde and the Alliance were forced to come to terms with the Burning Legion and Arthas he had thrown himself into the Crowlcon and his duty. He was a Sentinel, it coursed in his blood, drove his mind and sustained his spirit. His place was not among friends and family and the comforts of life, it was watching over them. He had long ago accepted it and it did not sadden him. It was the way of things. Watching those friends succumb to age had perhaps been the worst part. Here was an enemy he could not fight, a threat he could not defend against. Five generations he had guarded, each one more seperately than the last.

The hardest to watch had been Ithil. The Frostwolf had been with him since he had come of age. While the draconic magic may have kept him in good health to watch over his ward, it did not extend to his lupine companion. Ithil aged inevitably but never stopped padding by Garaf's side. The end for the wolf came in battle, as he latched on to the demon's throat. Even after his spirit had passed his jaws had remained locked.

There were the guilds as well. The Bone Splinter was still around, after a fashion, having gone through many changes in the wars that came. Ever since the showdown with the sorceress they had simply referred to as "The Lady," the core of the Splinter had never been the same. The name had changed a few times since then as well as the leadership, but there was always a Primarch and at its heart, it was always a family.

Most of the other guilds had slowly faded. Garaf had to admit that he truly couldn't remember some of them no matter how hard he tried. He had fought with them, side by side, and now as the life drained from him could could only remember faces and smells.

In his later years he had dwelt almost entirely on the road. He wondered for a moment if there was still a tent in Thunder Bluff reserved for the Crowlcon. The Crowlcon had gone through many generations now, and he was confident it would be able to sustain the watch in the coming years. It would have to. He was not sure if they would elect another Chieftain now, he honestly wasn't sure they would need one. The ancestral crest of the emerald double-headed hawk on a dark blue background was never common, but it was known by now. The members of the Crowlcon had travelled not just this world, but the Outlands and perhaps even worlds beyond. Frost was clinging to Garaf's body and the wolf-mask that had become the face he was known by. He briefly tried to recall his own image beneath that mask and realized he could not. He had indeed become the Gray Wolf, an eternal Sentinel guarding a people he would ever be apart from.

He didn't feel the change really. It was like falling asleep. It weighed on him and then, without his realizing it had happened, it was over. He looked down at his breathless body slowly accumulating the frosts and snows.

He looked up and saw Ithil before him, a spash of silver once again now in a world devoid of color. Behind the wolf stood a crowd of familar figures. Garaf recognized them all. Members of the Crowlcon, Calling, Tears, Splinter, Drunken Monkey Brewery, Errant Blight, members of the Horde and the Alliance, all the lives he had once watched over. They all stood before him, the Alterac Mountains long lost in the sea of spirits.

One of them stepped forward, an orc with dark green skin and bright blue eyes, and gestured in welcome the young again orc, who even as a spirit bore the face of a wolf. "Throm'ka... Brother."

And so ends Garaf the Gray Wolf, Chieftain of the Crowlcon, Dragon Warder, the last ancestral Sentinel.

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