- --by Ptesan-Wi
Chapter One: The Misborn Grimtotem
It was a dark day when Ptesan-Wi was first brought into the world.
At least, that is what Magatha Runetotem told her father as the little white tauren hid behind her mother's skirts. She had little idea of what was going on...only that she had done something terribly wrong.
She could have lived a good life if her mother had not felt the need to proclaim who her father was. However, driven mad with jealousy of her lover's mate, the cow had stepped forward and pushed the alabaster-toned calf into the spotlight of the elders. With a finger pointed at the bewildered young Ptesan-Wi, she admitted to her affair with the elder and demanded that he accept his offspring and leave his mate for his mistress.
Hard to tell what the cow wanted out of all this. Position in the tribe? The victory of being the favored cow in the little triangle that had started four years prior? Either way, in her want for what was not hers, the cow now jeopardized everything she did have. Such accusations of the honored warrior brought dishonor to the tribe, and the claim that he, a Grimtotem of pure lines, had calved a “misborn”…well, it was unheard of.
A finger was pointed back at the cow, and Ptesan could hear the words "liar" and "whore" sounding out in the longhouse. She buried her golden eyes in her mother's skirts, wanting to go back to their quiet home and hide from the accusing eyes that bore down upon her with such hate. What had she done? Her mind raced to remember what minor sin had cause this...taking that little bit of kodo pemmican, perhaps? Chasing the elder's chicken the week before? Whatever misdeed came into her mind, she could not have thought that her very existence had brought forth this ruckus.
When the yelling didn't stop, her hands went over her splayed ears in an attempt to drown the angry voices out. Fearful tears wetted her cheeks as she tried to make herself as small as possible, so maybe they would forget about her. However, on the screams pursued, loud even over her attempt at muffling them.
Her mother's shrieks were soon silenced after a wet thwak resounded in the longhouse, and the calf could feel the trickle of something warm patter against her right shoulder. Eyes opened and looked up as her mother took a staggering step backwards, and fell onto her, clutching her throat as she gasped wide eyed at the elder, who still held the axe he had used to silence his accuser. Ptesan-Wi saw the crimson drip from the blade, and couldn't make a sound as fear and confusion overcame her. Writhing slightly under her mother's weight as it pinned her to the floor, Ptesan-Wi cowered as Magatha moved over her with a hateful sneer.
The words flew again...what to do with the misborn? No one wanted the daughter of a whore...The very presence of her dishonored the tribe. The hag reached a gnarled hand and pulled her out from under her mother's dead weight by her mane, before throwing her back to the floor at the elder's feet. A white Grimtotem? Unheard of! The words "bad omen" hissed from Magatha's lips, and all agreed that she needed to be disposed of. The tribe would not hear of this...the scandal would remain hushed from all but the elders. Ptesan-Wi looked up with wide eyes as they decided her fate, allowing only the slightest whimper to escape from her throat. That seemed to get someone's attention, and the sound of a long bow whipping down at her filled her ears before the sting of the lash hit home.
As if to ease their hatred, others joined in. Afraid to make the slightest sound, the misborn closed her eyes, curled up on the floor, and let them beat her until the fur of her back was stained red and the horrid pain eased into a numb detachment from her battered form. Golden eyes now dull and lifeless, they stared at a knot in the wooden floor until it all went black.
The rocking motion of the kodo woke her gently, but as her eyes fluttered open the pain from her wounds made them shut tightly once more. Still, she didn't make a sound...she was too scared, was hurting too bad to try. The calf had been tied and being carried across the back of the mount as if she were a courser being brought back to camp to skin and butcher. As was her mother; bound beside her, her gaping throat facing the calf. Not a whimper, but nose reached desperately until she was able to give a soft nuzzle to her mother's chin, the calf too young to understand that there was no way to awaken her mother now. Like black ink as it spills across a white sheet of paper, however, the dark realization that she would receive no aid from the cow settled in as Ptesan-Wi looked into her half-lidded eyes and saw no sign of recognition. A few moments were allowed for this to sink in before the feel of a hand shoving her cast her from the back of the mount and onto the hard ground.
A wince from the sharp stab in her chest as the wind was knocked from her, and Ptesan-Wi curled up with a soft cry as her mother landed heavily beside her. The acrid scent of charred wood was clue to their position in Stonetalon...the flapping of wings in the distance only confirmed it. The thumping of the kodo's movements grew ever quieter as the elders left her for dead, not a one looking back to the white calf. She was young, weak and bleeding. She would die soon, or the harpies and wolves would smell the carrion that was her mother and finish her shortly anyway.
The pain hitting her fully now, Ptesan-Wi sniffled softly to herself as she pulled her hands from the bindings; they had loosened with the fall to the ground. A few weak toddles to her mother's side before collapsing, and the little calf buried herself against her cold form. It was all over...maybe her mother would wake up now, and take her home. Nurse her wounds as she had her skinned knees...maybe. But as the light of dusk began to fade, hope did as well. And like the light, it soon vanished into a dark, starless night.
A questioning howl from the entrance of the vale...followed by another, and another. The eerie voices of the hunters of this region calling to each other as they searched for game. The bell like tones rising and falling against the mountains around them....coming closer...ever closer...
She didn't bother looking up towards those howls as they resounded all around her. The way this was going, she knew it couldn't be good. Closer the calf huddled against her mother's lifeless body, her ears folded back as she raised her head to look out into the darkness as it grew eerily quiet. The snap of a twig here and there was clue that she was not alone in the Vale, and every so often, her eyes could catch the dark shadow of a lurking figure as it approached only for a moment before fading back into the safety of the night. The wolves could smell blood and the distinct tinge of fear...but fear of what? The glowing eyes seemed to float in the void of night, glancing every so often to a pair of golden orbs that seemed to burn in the darkness. The heavy fall of paws sounded out in the silence, and those eyes were the ones to inch ever closer to the calf.
Chapter Two: Splyttfang of Blackrock
Splyttfang of Blackrock was ancient…by both worg and humanoid standards. Borne into the 12th litter sired by Halycon and Gizrul, she was one of the “lucky” few to be made into a breeder. She had acted as a guard for the first part of her life, attacking all who came near the Spire with a viciousness seen in very few others. They rarely fed them…save to scavenge the bodies of those they slew. The blood of Mannroth was thick in her veins, making her huge, long-lived…intelligent. Such traits were what the Blackrock Orcs looked for as they bred their demon-worg army.
Yet, the position of breeder was by no means honorable…or dignified. Once a year when the bitches went into heat, they were forced to mate with the strongest of the sires. Those who fought back were killed, and tossed into the fires. Those that allowed the breeding lay quiet in their pens, waiting for the inevitable.
There was no happy whelping for these bitches. Day by day, they watched as their stomachs grew, knowing full well the fate of their offspring. Those who were deemed worthy were left to suckle and mature; those deemed weak, were tossed into the fires only a few feet from the pens of their mothers. Their screams as they smoldered haunted the newer breeders…the femmes throwing themselves at the gates, trying in vain to reach the pups. Splyttfang hadn’t bothered in a while…60 times she had heard the dying cry of her weaker young; and each time, her heart died a bit more.
Even if they passed the initial inspection, their lives were not secure. They were soon taken away and sent to training…those who showed too much spirit were killed immediately. There was no time to break spirits, and usually watching the death of a rambunctious comrade was enough to stifle the others into submission. Eventually, those not picked as breeders usually died in battle. Breeders who stopped producing litters, either willingly or because their bodies failed them, soon met their fate in the fires.
For a long time, Splytt had been planning an escape. Upon the birth of her latest littler, however, she decided to put it into action. All because of one small, female runt.
She had not bothered to groom the pups…she had forced herself to not bond with her offspring, for fear that their eventual fates would be all the more painful. However, when the smallest of her litter placed a paw upon her muzzle and mewed, the famed maternal instincts held by all lupine rushed back to her in full.
Splytt was quiet when the Orc came to check over the litter. 9 strong pups…none made it to the fire that day. As he tossed the last whelp to her stomach, she felt the runt squirm quietly under the broad shelter of her paw. He had overlooked it. This happened three more times, each time, the femme managing to hide the tiny pup from view. One by one, the pups were taken away for training, till there were none left save the runt. The door to the pen was left open at this point, for the femme to wander the spire. When the coast was clear, she lifted her last pup by the scruff and began to head up to the surface.
In retrospect, it wasn’t hard to escape the spire when she was not penned. The worgs were left to patrol their home, for the most part. Fear kept the worgs quiet, obedient. Those who wandered too far away however, were usually gunned down before they could make their escape. Many had tried running, and many had failed. Yet despite this, Splyttfang took hold of her pup and prepared to run.
Calmly, she walked to the end of the long, stone ramp. She could hear the lookouts turning, feel their eyes on her as her pace didn’t falter. Two steps away from the point of no return…and the stretching sound of their bowstrings sounded out crisply in the hot, dry air.
It was at that point that Splyttfang sprinted.
Dodging back and forth, her precious cargo firm in her jaws, she ran for their very lives. Dust flew up where the arrows missed and struck the red earth beside her, yet still, the worg ran. They would send runners, she could not pause to look back. A wet thwack sounded out...then another, and she felt a sting in her side; yet still, she did not stop. The warmth of her blood seeping from where the arrows pierced her only drew her on harder.
The cool scent of the Redridge Mountains greeted her muzzle, yet still, she did not stop.
The next night, found her tired, yet far from the place of her birth. The pup was curled between her paws protectively as she glared out into the night, the thicket surrounding them sheltering them from view. Splytt had torn the arrows from her side…yet the pain made it hard to breathe, and near impossible to move. In and out of a deep sleep, she wandered, only awakening randomly. She was not sure of how much time passed before the little pup woke her with its hungry whimpering. The runt was pawing at her face and moving to her stomach to suckle, but the stress of the escape had all but dried up the femme’s milk. Weakly, she licked the little one’s face, trying to calm it, and soon, it fell asleep under her chin. If she didn’t hunt soon…it would starve.
The night passed…then another…then another…
Splyttfang could survive the hunger while she was unable to hunt, yet the pup could not. Her heart in pain, she watched the little runt slowly weaken, and finally die upon her wide paws.
When she finally was able to move, she buried the tiny body in the thicket that had sheltered them. Placing a rock on the grave, she trotted towards the south.
Her intelligence and ingenuity brought her to Kalimdor; how long she had been wandering, no one knew. What was known, however, was that she had found her way into the Stonetalons, and immediately challenged the leader of the pack that called it home. Splyttfang slew him and made it her own, taking a handsome tan wolf as her mate about two years prior and leading the smaller lupine with an iron paw and a wisdom none would question. Even now, as she stared down at the battered oddity before her, several pairs of eyes turned to her as she approached the quaking young Tauren. Every paw fall thought out in full, she edged closer, her ears perking smartly as she made sure that Ptesan-Wi was indeed alone.
Odd, she thought to herself, that a Tauren would deem it appropriate to abandon their pup and mate in this state. The white calf looked on with wide eyes as she was inspected, then cowered against her mother's corpse once again, exposing the lashes on her back, now caked with mud and dried blood.
A snort of disgust was expelled from the femme. This was completely unacceptable! Pity overcame the Alphess...the runt she left buried fresh in her memory now as a soft churning noise rumbled from her throat. One would not have to understand Worgish to know what it meant; that there was nothing to fear from this huge worg and her followers. At the curious sound, Ptesan-Wi looked back up to the femme, who now splayed her ears appealingly for the calf, her warm muzzle nudging and working its way under her arm to help her to her feet.
Following their Alphess's example, the others in the pack gathered, offering the calf kind licks to her hands and showing that they meant her no harm. Splytt's mate, a gaunt male named Alder, made his way to Ptesan-Wi's other side as his mate had the calf lean against her, slowly guiding her further into the mountains and away from the dangers of the Charred Vale. Splytt's Beta, (her second in command), picked up a stone and placed it at the head of the dead Tauren, growling a soft prayer before leaving Ptesan-Wi's mother's corpse to the scavengers.
Chapter Three: The Stonetalon Pack
Being so young proved to be an advantage when being tossed into such a different life than the one she had known before. The wuffs and growls expressed by the pack were quickly deciphered by the young tauren, who parroted them back to her new caretakers until she was quite fluent. Splyttfang showed great pride in her adoptive daughter's quick mind, and eagerly taught her the ways of the packs, from their beliefs to their rituals.
She learned of the Earthmother, for the ferals were quite familiar with the God of the Shu‘halo, but also learned of the Wolf Spirit, to whom the wolves directly bowed. The calf learned that death, though at times unjust, was a large part of life. In a society where hunters were exhaulted as the life of the pack, the lessons of when and where it was appropriate to take life were instilled upon the young right from the start. One lesson stuck firmly in her head: that one should never strike down a mother with pups, unless their own life was at stake. A picture of her own people began to build in her mind, and it was not a favorable one.
Ptes excelled at tracking game, and in later years, hunting the beasts that the pack stalked. With a crude dagger that Alder had stolen from a traveler as he slept, the young Tauren was soon participating in almost every hunt. It seemed that she had taken to the feral life quite well, and her eerily accurate sounding howls could be heard singing out amidst the voices of her canine family. Ptesan-Wi’s calls held such emotion, even the gruffest of the elders would stop and perk an ear. She soon became revered for her beautiful, unique songs, and quickly they spread between the packs.
Except for her looks, all traces of her past were seemingly gone; even the welts on her back had healed and the long scars were mostly hidden by her smooth white pelt. With great pride, she was granted the title of huntress around her sixth birthday. Though for a Tauren she was still young, by wolf time she was quite old enough to take such a place of honor, and she held it with a solemn dignity far beyond her years.
As the elders she had known at the start of her feral life began to pass on, her status amongst the ferals grew. In eighth winter she walked with the pack, Ptesan-Wi was given the title of “Ancient”…an honor given to only the eldest of her people. Her mother, with her demon blood, had acquired this title long before, and now Ptes stood beside the worg, leading their pack together. She pondered the reasons why she still felt youthful, as she watched her littermates age and pass on, her great-nieces and nephews playing upon her paws and tugging on her tail.
However, like so many things, this happy life could not last. Around the time of Ptes's ninth year, the Venture company started in on the forests of Stonetalon. At first, the wolves held their own and avoided them the best they could. As the trees were cleared and the ground mined, however, the game that used to be rich in the area began to dwindle as the herds moved on towards Ashenvale. It had been hard enough to sustain a large pack with the pridewings and harpies to contend with, but now it was nearing impossible. That winter was a harsh one and many went hungry, and spring awoke to a significantly smaller pack. They had lost the season’s yearlings, and many of the elder packmates had succumbed to the lack of food.
With heavy hearts, Splyttfang and Ptes decided to move the pack. They would head south through Desolace and into Feralas, following the herds that had fled the deforestation. It was indeed a sad day; Long had the pack maintained the land of the sacred Black Wolf River. The clear, cold waters held holy by the ferals had long since become black and undrinkable thanks to the Venture Company's logging machines. The land of their Spirit defiled, there was no place for them there anymore.
The Alphess was faced with another hard realization; Ptesan-Wi was growing up, and there were many things that she would have to learn to survive in this world. Things that she could never hope to teach her. Even through she was held as an elder here, Splytt knew that in her own years, she was still a pup. So, it was decided...as they passed though Desolace, they would stop at the small fishing village of Shadowprey long enough for Splyttfang to contact an old hunter who resided on the outskirts. She had saved him a long time before, when he had underestimated a wounded kodo and was nearly mowed down. Now she would come and claim a favor owed.
The elders of the pack were quiet about this as they migrated to the coastline, forcing wolfen smiles to Ptes with heavy hearts when she looked their way. Splytt had expressed that she would be the one to tell her of their plans, and no other. They had made it almost to the village itself before the Alphess was able to muster the strength to tell her adoptive daughter that she was to be left behind once again. Ptes listened on until what was being told to her sunk in, and threw herself at Splytt, begging her not to leave her behind. As hard as it was, the Alphess was firm, and Ptes, now instilled with the firm discipline that came with pack life, could only whimper softly to herself. With ears splayed and tail tucked, she followed her Alphess to a small dwelling on the edge of town. The rest of the pack stayed behind; wary of the Trolls and preferring to wait in the wilds for their leader to return.
From behind her, the femme could hear her comrades howl their goodbyes, and her heart sank. The comfortable world she had grown to love was crumbling around her with each step closer to the town.
(more to come)
--Lilithia 16:44, 27 December 2006 (GMT)