It had been a rough few weeks, compounding the general agony of the past year. Akabeko was seated at the bar, looking morosely into a half-finished mug of ale. Since losing her access to her healing tree form, she had also lost her serenity. Being a tree for long periods of time had made her patient and relaxed, if not a bit near-sighted. Without that mediator in her life, the horrific events leading up to the Lich King's death and subsequent replacement, followed by the siege of the world and death of her Chieftain, had left her listless, bereft, and prone to fits of anger. She had been in Thunderbluff for the most part, first defending it, then wallowing in her grief. Some weeks ago her guild had finally coaxed her out to new Ogrimmar.
She rode to the Great Gate, almost afraid to take in her surroundings. On the other side, shortly after passing through the gate, she noticed the smell of smoke. Not a cookfire, but the thick stench of destruction. Within minutes the smoke had cleared enough to reveal the smoldering remains of Camp Taurajo. Akabeko slid off her worg, clutching fistfuls of its silvery pelt for support.
It had been ransacked. The familiar buildings were either partially or totally destroyed by fire. The stench of once-living matter was chilling enough, but when she spied what must have been the remains of the flight master, Akabeko retched helplessly. She carefully inspected the charred form, coming across some semi-intact prayer beads. Searching out other remains, she similarly took important items for the burial ritual. After an hour or so of collecting, she took her bundle to the graveyard beyond the hill that had sheltered the camp. A grave was dug, the objects placed inside and covered reverently. Akabeko built a small campfire and sang - sang her people's songs for safe passage and for grief, sang the songs of glory and of respect. And as she lamented the people she had known and worked with, she sang for others, not from Camp Taurajo but from the Plaguelands, and from Icecrown - many from Icecrown - and for her Chieftain, and for the cracked and broken earth beneath her.
As she was dousing her fire and preparing to depart, the looters came.They rode in noisily from the south on enormous Mechano-choppers, gunning their engines and talking loudly in Common. Akabeko watched in shock and disgust as they strode into camp and began irreverently pawing through the leftovers of her people. She crept closer to them, watching curiously as they overturned barrels of skins, wheat, precious stones.
"There's no treasure here," one complained. "It's all just beads and feathers!"
Without consciously choosing to, Akabeko charged forward. "It is our treasure, you demon!" she cried hoarsely in Taurahe. Her hands flowed into claws, and then the giant lion was effortlessly swatting the sandy-haired human into the wall. She hunted down each of the five scavengers and slaughtered them all. Then, her ire spent, she rode to the nearby Horde outpost and commissioned a wyvern to Orgrimmar. The rest of the journey she spent with her nose pressed into the beast's coarse mane.
She finished her ale and stood to leave. The tauren innkeeper called out, "Where are you off to this time?" as she passed by.
"Feralas, maybe," Akabeko replied absently.
An orc, puffed with misplaced self-importance in his pristine plate armor scoffed, "Feralas? Shouldn't a true Hero of the Horde be answering the Warchief's summons to the new frontier?"
Akabeko's shoulders, already thickened from months of work in bear form, became even more massive. She whirled around, revealing a long-toothed snarl in a half-formed muzzle. Her hands were the short, hairy claws of the Dire Bear.
"Don't you tell me what a Hero of the Horde should do, green-skin!" she roared. "While you were still learning to lift your axe I was killing Scourge at Arthas' doorstep!" The orc recoiled in terror, eyes wide, hands spread in front of him in defense, and Akabeko laughed bitterly at this display.She growled, shook her mane to clear the remaining bear characteristics, and stalked out of the Inn into the misty valley.