The chill of the morning air swept into the tent. The druidess shivered in her blanket, gripping it tighter to her chest. Kennocha didn't want to get up, but the breeze continued about it's cold path, practically soaking into the blanket until the taureness could feel the cold sticking to her fur.
Sighing, she threw off her blanket and lifted herself up from her comfortable position. She picked one of her warmest robes out of a pile she had amassed in the last few weeks and put it on. The soft fur lining of the outfit comforted her, but by no means made it feel better as she opened the tent to find snow on the ground. She quickly grabbed her staff by the tent's flap before heading out in the mountains.
Stepping into the fluffy white mass on the ground, Kennocha bit down on her lip. There had to be at least five inches of snow from the storm last night, maybe more. This was going to make today's journey difficult.
It had been a difficult few weeks in general. Beginning nearly two months ago with Nisi's sudden freakouts, the druidess had been on edge about the tiny fawn. The panics would often include the fawn waking up in the middle of the night, screaming and crying until Kennocha began to follow her. Oh how the fawn would sprint between the trees and through the mountains! The druidess could hardly keep up in her taureness form, having to shapeshift into a doe to keep up. Finally, the fawn would stop near the shoreline. She would stand there as Nisi screamed towards the sea, waiting hours on end until at last the fawn would sprint back to the hut. As the freakouts continued, the fawn would refuse to sleep. She became more skittish and nervous around others.
Kennocha and Winoa had been trying to figure out for many weeks after the first panic. Winoa would search the oceans, trying to find anything that would cause such anxiety in the fawn. Kennocha had stayed behind to try and care for the fawn. She often enlisted the help of her young nephew in hopes that he could do what she had been trying to do for weeks. Much to her dismay, the four-year-old had his mother's fortune and found nothing that calmed the creature down.
Just as they thought things couldn't have gotten any worse, Maliko decided to leave the hut one night to follow Nisi. The taurenesses woke up the next morning to find an empty mat between them and missing companions. Kennocha ran off in haste, hoping to find the child where Nisi had previously led her. Winoa tried to stop her, but the druidess had already left by the time she understood her intent.
In the meantime, the water walker organized a search party of the Cohort's members in case the druidess didn't find her son soon. The party members came early in the evening, ranging from an orcish scout to an elven paladin. They hurried along the footprints in the dried mud, looking for a sign of either fawn or child. As they followed it, the water walker saw the path moving away from Nisi's usual westbound route as they headed east through Malaka'jin and the Barrens.
It was a long night for the mother, but eventually they came across the Crossroads. A few of the locals had spotted him, including the innkeeper kind enough to give them food. He was running towards Ratchet, tired eyes wide awake in terror. The party followed their advice and headed south.
They finally found Maliko in the Ratchet inn, crying as he tried asking a patron about a fawn. He screamed and cried when Winoa came to him, telling her that they had seen the fawn run into the ocean. All but two others presumed the fawn dead from these words.
The child cried himself asleep as Winoa held him close. Joyful to find her son alive and well, she thanked the search party and went back home to see a hysterical Kennocha. Winoa tried her best to explain that the fawn was gone, but the druidess wouldn't listen.
The two weeks since Maliko's return had been the hardest for the druidess. While her Sister had been accepting of the fawn's presumed demise, Kennocha wouldn't have it. She had spent most of her days in Kalimdor, searching for her beloved fawn. She began to get rather frustrated with herself, even angry that she hadn't done more for Nisi.
That is until she heard the news: Elder Epana had returned from her pilgrimage to the Peak.
The druidess let her hopes soar when she heard that the Elder had returned. Epana had always been great with deer herd, even following the Totem of Apa'ro himself. If there was anyone that could help Kennocha find Nisi, it was Epana.
Hence the taureness was hiking up the mountains in half a foot of snow. It was a short journey from Sun Rock Retreat to the Elder's home, but that didn't make it any less troublesome. The snow had built up into packs along the edges, compacting into ice where travelers before her had packed it in. The slip and narrow roads made her travels difficult. By the time she finally reached the hut nestled in the mountains, it had been afternoon whereas she had begun her trek at dawn.
The exhausted taureness walked to the entrance of the Elder's hut, hesitant to enter.
"Elder?" She asked as she leaned on her staff. "I need to talk to you."
With that the flap of the tent was opened by the familiar woman. Her gray hide was growing white with even older age. Her mane was loosely braided to her waist, making it look like rivers of ash and snow. Her face was still as stern as she remembered, though the wrinkles clouded her forehead and surrounded her lips. Those dark eyes observed Kennocha's own, full of stories and ideas the young druidess could all but imagine.
The older druidess grabbed ahold of Kennocha's free hand and pulled it inside. Kennocha let herself be pulled into the interior of hut, smiling as the Elder sat down by a large pile of blankets.
"Sit down, child, we have much to discuss." The Elder stated, wrapping one of her many blankets around the other taureness. "Especially if you made it this far just to talk."
The younger taureness obliged, sitting down across from the Elder. She set her staff down, careful to make sure it wasn't near the small fire in the center with its tea kettle brewing on top.
"Elder, there's been something going on with Nisi." The younger druidess explained after a moment's hesitation. She told the story of the last few weeks to her, careful to ensure that all important details were in the narrative. The Elder listened patiently, only stopping once to pour the freezing druidess a cup of tea.
Once the anxious druidess finished telling the story, the Elder took a deep, slow breath and said, "I see, Gentle Fawn."
"Elder, I am not sure what to do. We have been searching for weeks and there has been no sign of her." Kennocha whimpered. "Is there anything you can do to help us?"
Epana took a sip from her own cup of tea, closing her eyes to think over her options. "There's many things I can to help, but I don't know if any of them will actually work."
The younger druidess bit down on her already sore lips, unhappy with that answer. "Please, there has to be something. Nisi is probably alone and cold right now, freezing in the storm. She needs your help."
"I didn't say I wasn't helping." The Elder smirked. "I just said I didn't know if it would work."
Kennocha gave a faint smile as she listened to the Elder. "What do you have in mind?"
"There's actually quite a bit I could do, but I think that the best solution would be to listen to the child's wisdom and look across the seas."
Shocked by the proposed idea, Kennocha leaned back with wide eyes and a hand reaching towards her staff. She tried to form words to describe her thoughts on the plan, but her tongue simply wouldn't let her. All she could do was stare with her gaping mouth at what Epana was suggested.
The Elder sighed, taking Kennocha's hand and holding it in her own wrinkled hands. "My Gentle Fawn….you have to trust my judgement."
The younger taureness continued staring at the Elder as though she had grown antlers on her head.
"Dear child, do you know why we call you Gentle Fawn?" The Elder asked.
Kennocha looked down towards the Elder's mass of blankets and mats.
"When you were little girl, with a large heart and big ideas. You cared about the world more than any other child I had seen come through the tribe. You took such joy in helping others. Be it family, stranger, or creature, you saw them all as family. You were able to emphasize with all manners of life. I was fortunate to watch you grow into the young druid you are today.
When I was called upon to give you a dream name, I could see your aspirations to become a healer and help others. That same spark was what I saw in myself when I was your age and you know what I was called?"
Epana paused, looking at Kennocha expectantly. The younger druidess, however, simply shook her head. Sighing, the Elder answered her own question.
"The Gentle Doe." She whispered in memories of long ago. "I was Gentle Doe."
Kennocha looked back up at the Elder, listening to her continue her story.
"You were so much like me, so young and heartfelt. Therefore, I called you the Gentle Fawn." She returned the look that Kennocha was giving her before resuming her story. "You know why I told you that?"
The younger druidess looked about the hut, thinking over the story before shaking her head.
"Seriously?" Epana huffed. " I thought I did a good job being clear on the story's true meaning!"
Kennocha chuckled. "No, your stories are becoming more distorted as the years go on. It's almost like Chief Stonestrider's."
If the Elder had looked upset before, now she looked seriously offended. "My stories are nowhere near as convoluted as my mate's, nor will they ever be."
The younger druidess continued laughing lightheartedly. "Of course not, Elder Epana."
Epana sighed once more. "Well, the story was about how you understand others to a level that many others don't."
"Alright then…" The younger taureness muttered.
"Which means you know how to go about healing other's pain without interfering too much."
"That's our problem." The Elder declared. "You have to stop being so concerned with being thoughtful and careful. It makes you timid where you should be up front"
Kennocha was taken back by the Elder's words. Her eyes widened as far as Epana had ever seen them, which Epana took as a sign of continuing.
"Maliko may be a quiet, but he's still a child. He doesn't think too much before he acts, which is the logic Nisi is following right now." Epana said, letting her words flow off her tongue as gentle as her harsh voice would let her. "To find the fawn, you need to follow the boy."
The Gentle Fawn looked at her mentor in awe at her words. "Thank you for the kind words, Elder." She began to stand up, grabbing her staff as she rose to her hooves. "I am afraid I have to go though."
Now the gray taureness looked as amazed as her student had for most of the visit. "Please child, sit down. It's still too-"
"No, it is alright." Kennocha interrupted. "I have to be heading back to them before it gets too dark."
The Elder bowed her head towards the young druidess. "Earthmother watch over you, Gentle Fawn."
"You as well, Gentle Doe." The taureness bowed as she walked from the warm tent to the storming winds of Stonetalon.
Author's Note: Alright, so this is a piece of my ongoing storyline with my Shu'halo characters. I decided it was worth its own story instead of being placed with Forever Stonestriders. As always, constructive criticism is always appreciated! Thanks for reading and have a great holiday!