14 September 2012

Graveyard at Twilight

It had been a long week. More than that, it had been demanding, time-consuming, and exhausting. More than that, it had caused Akabeko and her co-conspirator to miss their one-week opportunity to access the Darkmoon Faire, and neither was particularly happy about it.

At the urging of those close to her, Akabeko had agreed to go home for some refreshment. Fortunately, she could truthfully say that visiting her family was relaxing. She knew too many who avoided going home for fear of fighting, nagging, criticizing, and the silent treatment. Even so, she hadn't particularly wanted to leave her workshop or her...plans. The plans had likely been the reason Katza had so strongly insisted she go. 

It was strangely satisfying to slip back into the calm, deliberate lifestyle of Camp Narache. Akabeko, who frequently snatched her companions from the fingertips of death, who had felled the greatest of foes, who knew the greatest fighters of the age, could still be put to work fetching water and chopping potatoes. Now she just did it with a little more pizzazz. 

Her mother filled her in on the necessary goings-on: what her brothers, both of them Bluffwatchers, were up to, who was courting who, which hunts had been most successful, the recent drama of the shared vegetable patch. During the day Akabeko was sometimes called to heal injuries, other times to instruct the fledgling druids of the camp. At night she ate at the central bonfire, because her neighbors never tired of hearing news from abroad. 

At least it had been a nice trip, if not all that refreshing. Although she never mentioned it, Akabeko wasn't sure she could feel completely at ease anymore. She suspected many in her line of work felt the same. The sharp pain of many losses had faded over time, as it should. In fact, she was quite capable of ignoring it. Rather than pain, she simply felt empty. Life continued perfectly normally, except for the dissatisfied emptiness lurking at the back of her mind. It was like never getting quite enough sleep, not feeling perfectly full, missing the last drop in the glass. Understanding that the emptiness was part of her now didn't feel like giving up so much as acknowledging reality. 

Gloomy thoughts, she chastised herself, pumping her wings and leaving the thoughts behind her. I should have a clear mind for this.

The Red Rocks came into view shortly, shadows stretching long across the. While in Camp Narache, Akabeko had taken time to honor her father and sister's memories. She thought it would only be appropriate to visit Dahakha's resting place on her way back to Orgrimmar. She could just pick out the site now, close to the edge, near the boulder half-covered in moss--

Someone was standing in front of the grave. Akabeko faltered, squawking as she spiraled out of control. She righted herself, flapping frantically, and strained to see the figure more clearly. Tall, broad-shouldered, black mane, electric blue-feathered pauldrons...

Akabeko tucked her wings and dove. She could feel her tiny heart fluttering at the same time her tauren emotion threatened to pull her back into birth form. It wasn't any special holiday, but at dusk spirits were known to come visiting. Could she really be that lucky? She couldn't move fast enough.

Unaware of the stormcrow hurtling towards him, the spirit shifted into cat form. Akabeko recognized the gray mane, and was now close enough to pick out the metal tips on each horn. She screeched plaintively. Wait for me! I'm coming!

The cat faded into nothingness. She screeched again in despair, willing herself to fall faster. Finally she braked, landing sloppily and rolling awkwardly to her feet. "Spirit," she gasped, loping through the graveyard. "Dahakha. Dah!" Her head whipped left and right, looking for any sign of the bull or the cat she had seen. The graveyard was completely empty.

Defeated, Akabeko returned to Dahakha's memorial. "Spirits," she choked out, leaning over the memorial as she caught her breath. "Why? Why would you-" She squeezed her eyes shut in frustration. Soon, her breathing calmed and her heart quieted. The plains of Mulgore were completely in shadow. She knelt to pay her respects to her friend, looking at his memorial in the murky twilight. Something wasn't quite right.

She reached out, touching the space below his name engraving that her eyes had already confirmed as empty. The last time she visited, she had brought a lockbox as a gift and left it beneath the totem. Now it was gone. Her features drew into a considering frown. Although it was possible that a quillboar had wandered into the graveyard to loot, the frequent tauren patrols in the area almost entirely discouraged it. Any self-respecting tauren would never defile a resting place by stealing, and non-tauren had no reason to be in Red Rocks. Her hackles rose in anger.

A twinkling in a nearby copse of trees became brighter and brighter as twilight faded into night. Enraged, Akabeko shifted into travel form and raced towards the glimmer, hoping to catch the thief. Closer to the light, she shifted back in preparation for a fight. This close, she could make out a glowing engineer's wormhole. Mystified, she looked in vain to see where the wormhole led. The wormhole winked out, plunging her into darkness.