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 Post subject: Echoes and Tremors
PostPosted: Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:42 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 11:58 am
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Prologue

The sun, or An’she as it is called among the tauren, is believed by them to be the right eye of the Earth Mother herself. When the world was young She, being stricken with grief as Her children yielded to the dark whisperings of the Shadow below, tore out her eyes and cast them across the firmament. Each day since that time An’she, the sun, and Mu’sha the moon would pass over the world, bringing with them the reminder to Her children that She still watches over them. With its course, An’she could soothe and warm the world, bringing life with its gentle touch. Or, if it chose, it could bring desolation with its unforgiving, seemingly unceasing stare.

One day, near the close of a bygone summer, An’she had chosen to be fierce. The aptly-named Barrens of Kalimdor was sweltering. No small clouds dared to brave the sky lest they be consumed. An’she’s burning gaze had driven the vast majority of the land’s beasts into hiding. Nothing was stirring in this shimmering savanna...except for a lone figure making its way southeast, away from the Stonetalon Mountains. The figure was a strange sight; in such a land on such a day, its presence alone was audacious, yet it carried itself in an unassuming manner.

Grennan was an older bull who only recently began showing signs of age’s touch. The tauren had dusty brown fur, and a dark brown mane with a few strands of gray. The gray, however, didn’t show very well amid all the sweat that made his mane appear to shine. His horns were black, with the left slightly shorter and capped.

His garb was lighter, a necessity on days like this when the land could be so unforgiving. He wore a robe of indigo color, secured by a bluish-gray sash around his waist, the beads and trinkets woven therein making a slight rattle to accompany the sound of his stride. The upper half of the robe was undone, off the arms and hanging down freely about him, partially covering the satchel and waterskin that hung from his side. He wore no shirt nor mantle, only a large necklace with a beautiful array of turquoise stones, white and matching indigo feathers. In one hand he carried a short wooden staff, etched with numerous carvings and paintings varying in color. Feathers, beads and other decorations hung from the top of the staff by leather cords. Like his sash, the staff too did rattle with his stride.

His hand strayed to his waterskin as he continued further into the Barrens, the thought coming briefly to wet his brow with it. After some slight hesitation, he instead wiped some offending perspiration from his eyes. “By the Earth Mother, it is hot out here,” he remarked to himself aloud as his hand then went for the waterskin again. This time, he chose the wiser course and drank from it, heaving a sigh as he stowed it.

He paused in his walk as he squinted and looked ahead, spying what looked like a dark splotch afar off. The image rippled in the heat like a reflection in a disturbed pond. Wondering if it was some kind of mirage, he focused his vision on it and continued walking in its direction, his gaze never deviating for fear he might lose sight of it otherwise.

He sighed in relief when in due time the sight became clear, and he knew he was not seeing an illusion. A lone tree of significant thickness and height stood before him, the trunk meandering in various directions heavenward before letting its branches and leaves fan out all around it. The relief for the shaman was the fact that it provided a significant amount of shade, enough that a number of tauren, large as their kind were, could rest there.

From a distance, Grennan could not see any wild beasts resting under the tree, the absence thereof made sure as he drew nearer. He looked heavenward, An’she glinting off his light blue eyes as he mentally uttered a short prayer of thanks before he stepped into the shade and settled himself at the base of the tree. He quietly reveled in this respite, letting a smile cross his features as he rested his head against the tree.

The bull was not tired enough for sleep to overtake him if he did not desire, and so he let his mind wander, eventually settling on more recent events. He had just come from a gathering of shamans in the Stonetalon Mountains, at which he had presided. They were relatively few in number and only tauren back in those days, but their number did not discourage them in the errand entrusted to them by the Earth Mother. They were Stormspeakers, and Grennan was their chieftain, the large necklace he wore being the symbol of his calling as well as position.

In truth, An’she had been fierce for many days, not just this day. Word was that much of Kalimdor had seen little rain for more than a season, and the people were suffering because of it. Whether this trial was a form of testing or punishment from the Earth Mother, they did not know; but Grennan and the other Stormspeakers came to know in the midst of their counseling and meditation that, by virtue of their calling and gifts, She was calling upon them to ease their people’s suffering by bringing some much-needed rain. And so, after some discussion on how to go about this task, they adjourned, each going their separate ways in hopes of finding gatherings of their then-nomadic people that they could aid.

So it was, that Grennan found himself under a tree, in the middle of the Barrens on another scorching day. He had been heading generally south, but otherwise not in any particular direction, for that was as capricious as the comings and goings of the hot wind.

Feeling just a slight pang of hunger, without looking the chieftain reached in his satchel for some morsel of food. Food was not the first thing he laid his hand on. It was something hard, and by the feel of it he knew what it was. He furrowed his brow, frowning slightly as he pulled it out. In his hand was a small, clay trinket. The shaping thereof was a depiction of three tauren: a father, mother and their calf. It had a small hole in the top for threading, so that one could wear it around their wrist, neck or one of their horns. He stared at it for some time. The more he looked at it, the more it made his heart ache and sink.

He put the trinket back in his satchel, shaking his head a breathing a sigh. There I go again, he thought to himself. It had been many moons since the memories brought about by that trinket had occurred, and yet they still distracted him, still troubled him, still reminded him of a great void in his life. Many a time he had been tempted to throw the trinket away or “misplace” it, as if by so doing he would forget and be free of this burden he would vividly remind himself of every time he had seen this trinket since. Still, he retained it, the reason for which he wasn’t even that sure of himself.

His hunger forgotten and his mind still lingering on the trinket and the thoughts entailed with it, Grennan folded his arms and closed his eyes, shifting himself against the tree to get comfortable for sleep. Perhaps, he thought, taking a nap could help clear his mind and refresh him before he continued his trek.

He had not dozed for very long when his body picked up a tingling sensation in the earth. Thinking it was just the wind or the dry, itchy grass against his body, he only stirred a little. The sensation, however, remained. In fact, it felt like it was getting a bit stronger. He came awake on noticing this and looked around. The only immediate change he could see was An’she’s shift in the sky, evidenced by the fact that he was closer to the shade’s edge than he was originally. Getting up and squinting his eyes again, he continued surveying the area, looking for anything that might explain what he still felt in his hooves.

He then spied a distant speck to the south, and his brow creased in worry. He could not tell from that distance what was approaching. Fearing it could be a pack of wild beasts--or worse, centaur--he closed his eyes and with a mental utterance, his vision moved swiftly southward to meet this presence. Anything that might be hostile, and in numbers, was reason enough for him to make himself scarce if need be. His vision flew over the savanna, and ceased the moment he was close enough to see that all the figures in the group had horns and ran on only one pair of hooves.

More tauren. The chieftain’s vision returned to his natural eyes, and he breathed another sigh of relief. Not only would they probably be friendly, but they likely came from a larger tribe. A tribe that he could aid.

They were indeed coming his way, and in time he could see them clearly with his natural eyes. “Hail, brethren!” he called to them as he waved and stepped out into the sunlight.

The leader of the group, a bull appearing only slightly younger than Grennan, eyed him briefly, and then held up a fist as a signal. He slowed to a stop, and the group behind him did the same. Glancing behind, he shouted, “Take a rest!” and approached Grennan, giving a slight bow in greeting. To the shaman’s mild surprise, the bull did not appear to be breathing heavily at all.

“Hail, shaman,” said the bull. “What brings an elder like yourself to these Barrens on such a hot day?” he asked, lowering his voice that the two of them could speak more privately.

Grennan stepped back slightly and leaned on his staff a little, making it a point to speak from within the shade of the tree. “An errand from the Earth Mother. I was recuperating under this tree when I sensed your party’s approach.”

“A wise decision,” said the bull as he glanced up at the tree’s branches. “Might we be permitted to do the same?”

Grennan let his staff lean in the direction of the tree, his way of gesturing toward it as he nodded. “My thanks,” said the bull before turning to the group of tauren, who looked his way as he faced them. “We can rest beneath the tree,” he told them with more volume so they could hear him clearly. Relief showed on their faces, and they wasted no time in finding promising spots to settle in the shade.

Grennan cast his eyes about on the party, looking over its various members with mild curiosity. Besides their leader, there were six in all that he looked over in order: two brethren, two sisters and two younger bulls.

It was when his eyes passed over the young pair, that the sight of one of them moved him visibly. His heart twinged in pain, and he grunted as his free hand went to his chest and his face wrinkled in discomfort while he averted his gaze.

The leader, noticing this, raised an eyebrow and asked, “Are you well, shaman?”

“I’m all right,” answered Grennan, composing himself, but he couldn’t help but steal glances at said pair. At first, he thought he was seeing some sort of vision, but as he righted himself, he could sense that the one who caught his eye was very real.

The leading scout followed Grennan’s glance, giving the shaman an odd look before introducing himself. “I am Thateas, son of Paharo Swifthoof, Holy Strider and mentor to these brethren and sisters here. We are searching for suitable areas for our tribes to move, preferably a place with water. Have you seen any such places?”

The chieftain had a distant look in his eyes, despite not focusing them on the young bull of interest at that moment. “What tribes, and how great?” he asked.

“Mostly Winterhoof and Dawnstrider," responded Thateas. "..numbering a little over fifty in all.”

“Hmm.” Grennan still looked mildly distracted as his gaze continued to drift. “No,” he then answered after some thought, then adding, “at least, not one that could sustain a family that great.”

“Any place with even a little water would do, shaman,” said Thateas, as though he were almost pleading.

Grennan shook his head, frowning slightly. “I am sorry, I have not seen anything since leaving Stonetalon. But perhaps..” He looked over the group again, his eyes lingering on the young one a little longer than the others. At one point they made eye contact, but the young one by then had noticed the chieftain taking interest in him and was becoming uncomfortable, trying to lose such feelings in conversation with the other young tauren with him.

“..perhaps if I were to know where they were, I might be able to persuade the heavens to bring the water to them,” finished Grennan.

“You can call upon the heavens for rain?” asked Thateas, his face brightening with hope. “Our own shamans have tried in vain, but it is not their specialty, I’m afraid.”

“I can,” affirmed Grennan, taking this moment to introduce himself and his errand in return. “I am Grennan Stormspeaker, chieftain of the Stormspeaker tauren. The Earth Mother has tasked us with searching for gatherings of our brethren and sisters and lend our gifts to their aid.”

“Thank the Spirits we crossed paths, then,” said Thateas with relief, readily sharing information at this news. “They are in Mulgore, near the borders of this land. We would be deeply grateful if you could honor them with your presence and quench their thirst.”

The chieftain’s staff switched hands as he bowed. “I am duty-bound to do so. I shall begin making my way there now. But, before I do, I have one question, Brother.”

Thateas arched an eyebrow again, curious. “Yes?”

Grennan let his staff tilt forward in the direction of the younger pair of tauren under the tree. “The young one with the titian mane...who is he?”

Thateas glanced in that direction, making brief eye contact with the young one in question before looking back to Grennan. “Mm..I noticed your interest in him. That is Kaeevanrash, son of Lohtas Winterhoof and Saeuna Dawnstrider.” The holy strider then began to look and speak a bit warily to the chieftain. “He is the youngest of my students, the youngest I’ve had for some time, in fact.”

Grennan’s eyebrows raised briefly, noticing the strider’s look. “An interesting choice for a name,” he remarked, as though he knew its meaning.

“Have you both met before?”

The chieftain shook his head. “No.” He gave another glance at Kaeevanrash, and then a parting nod to Thateas before he stepped back into the sunlight, making his way south as the holy strider had directed. “He just looks a lot like someone I once knew,” he spoke as he departed.

At this moment, most of the group was busy chatting away, eating or simply relaxing. They did not notice the chieftain take his leave. Only Thateas, Kaeevanrash and the other young tauren seemed to notice, and watched the figure for some time before the young pair got up and went to Thateas as the holy strider rejoined the group.

With Kaeevanrash close behind, the other young tauren piped up, “Strider, who was that?”

Thateas’ gaze had not left Grennan yet. A look of mild suspicion was actually beginning to show on his face, for he had a hunch as to why the shaman was eyeing his youngest pupil so much. It was a hunch he did not like. He looked between the pair and shook his head slightly. “Just a shaman, Mot'aru. He’s just passing through, nothing you nor Kaeev need to concern yourselves about.”

Notwithstanding the strider’s attempts to downplay the meeting, ‘Kaeev’ and Mot'aru both watched Grennan depart with a look of fascination common to children. It was rare for them to see shamans outside of their tribes. Thateas gave them both a slight nudge with his hands. “Come on now, gather your things. We will be leaving soon.”

Looking a little disappointed, the two nevertheless obeyed. Kaeev looked back at Thateas and asked, “Think we’ll run into him again?”

With the hunch still on his mind, Thateas sighed before he answered belatedly.

“I’ve little doubt we will.”


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