Missing Friends - A Tale of Jakka

--by Sooka

Young Bradley faced the high, cackling voice of the birdman with as much courage has he could muster. The ugly vulture's head thrust close to the bars of the cage that held him and one other, the rancid breath as the birdman taunted them both with sick visions of their impending fate within his belly.

The boy despaired within, even as he stuck his lower lip out at the creature in what he hoped was a fierce expression. Close against him, the girl trembled and he wrapped his arms closer about her in response. He didn't know her.. the Draenei girl one of many children with the caravan. But that didn't matter now.

"You're a man, my boy. And a man does what he must, no matter the situation."

Words spoken by his father, resonating in his mind as he fought with his fears to face this ranting, cackling thing that rattled their cage and taunted them. Fighting to be brave and calm the younger girl, to reassure her that things would be fine.. fine..

The birdman.. Xeetee it called itself constantly, continued to rant and poke at them with long, taloned fingers. Bradley didn't listen to the words, not wanting to hear them. Perhaps that is what allowed him to hear the sounds outside of the hut that they were in. A struggle.. loud, unintelligible squawking coming from nearby.

Xeetee barely paused his tormenting to screech over his shoulder, demanding quiet from those outside. And the squawking did end.. suddenly. Satisfied, the birdman turned his focus back to the children.

Bradley, however, kept his attention on the arched doorway that led outside of the hut. A child who had seen and heard the sounds of battle too often in his short existence new those sounds. Knew the sudden ending and what it meant.

He was not surprised when something filled the archway of the hut, as if materializing from the dim twilight of Terrokar. Bradley's eyes widened and he shivered as he watched it approach the gloating birdman from behind. It was tall and covered with muted black and grey plate armor. It had the shape of a female, yet was no person, it's face like a wolf. Two heavy axes filled it's hands, one lifted slowly, the blackened metal glinting dully.

Xeetee never saw the blow coming. The axe fell, cleaving into Xeetee's back deeply. The birdman jerked, it's taunting words ending in a startled squirk. It's foul blood spattered against the black armored female, joining the blood of other birdmen there and on the keen blades of both axes. The second axe came up, cleaving into Xeetee's side viciously. The birdman's body shuddering in violent death throes as the armored wolfess thrust it aside, jerking both axes free with a hard jerk.

Bradley watched every moment with wide eyes, glad that the girl still had her face buried against his chest. He wished for the same, yet could not draw his eyes away, watching the wolfess kneel beside the fallen corpse. One heavy axe allowed to rest on the ground as her plate shod hand snatched a small cloth purse from the birdman's belt, then took the key that sat near it as well.

Fascinated, he watched as she tucked the cloth pouch into her own, then set both her heavy axes into loops at her sides. He started when her head turned toward him, swallowing as she stared. Yet he returned the stare and realized.. she was not a wolf. Murky green-brown skin shown below the edges of the wolf mask that covered most of her face. The tusks just showing from her lower jaw identified her clearly. Orc.

"I'm not afraid of you." Bradley stated this in the bravest voice he could manage. Unsure why, regretting them almost as soon as he spoke. The wolfess, for he could not think of her otherwise now, stared at him silently for several moments, then smiled at him fiercely.

She leaned close to the cage, placing the key into the lock and giving it a twist. The lock clicked open and was tossed aside. "Go, child. East you will find no one to stop your escape," she told him. Her gruff, husky voice lending to the feral mien of her masked presence. "Ethan awaits."

Bradley could have cried then. Freedom.. and his friend waiting. Yet he did not. He nodded and looked to the girl with him. Only reluctantly did she look up as he moved. "We can go.. come on." Despite the blankness of her glowing eyes, her plump little face lit up with hope. Eyes only for him as she stood with him, only seeing the masked female when he brought her to the open cage door.

She started and cried out, but Bradley held her and would not let her retreat. "No.. she is good, she killed the birdman," he told the girl. She trembled, but calmed slowly when the masked warrior did not leap at her. No, the woman stayed where she knelt, watching both children with an idle curiosity.

Bradley led the girl out, but paused and looked toward the warrior woman. Uncertain for a moment how to express himself to this fierce person, he spoke quickly the first words that came to him. "Thank you, wolfess." She seemed amused, dipping her masked head in acknowledgement. That enough as he quickly led the Draenei girl out of the hut. Keeping her head turned toward him, to not expose her to the numerous bodies that lay along their path east, a clear path cut for them to away to the caravan from which they were taken.

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