The Borean Tundra. Desirable to pretty much no one, save for the Tuskarr and a few murloc clusters, it served as an easily accessible staging point for both Alliance and Horde once Northrend came into their collective sights after the Lich King took power. Though that icy time has ended, the Tundra remains an accessible, yet rather tortuous, piece of land for adventurers, businesspeople, or even hunters setting out for the wildest and rarest of game the continent has to offer.
As many heroes arrived to take the war to the Scourge, many of the native creatures found themselves within their crosshairs, most of the time being felled for sport-simply because such things had been asked of them. This slaughter came quickly to the attention of one, Archdruid Lathorius, a rather radical member of the Cenarion Circle, and he quickly set out to stop the rampant killing of wildlife.
By his side, the devout followers of his D.H.E.T.A group fight valiantly to protect the local wildlife from any wayward adventurer who may harbor violent thoughts, the most noteworthy being, obviously, the Nesingwary's, although there was one other who was able to get underneath their skin like none other…
Lathorius sat beside his tent at a desk he had constructed himself from one of the very few trees you could have found in this place. He scribbled down various notes that he would relate to his attendants or back to the Circle, even if many of the latter thought he was nuts. These creatures were close enough to the Scourge; were they even worth saving?
His resolve remained steadfast, however, and he was always quick to intervene on behalf of the creatures here, in particular the rarest of them, as they were particularly sought after. As quick as his interventions were, he moved slowly on this day as an attendant of his rushed into his tent, the tauren's heavy voice pounding into the air.
"Gauvir has been spotted, sir," he relayed, deeply, "Not too far off, but far enough that we may not have the numbers to protect the beast."
Lathorius nodded solemnly as he rose, slowly, to his feet, "Send for Magnus and Phaestus. I'll attend to this matter myself, but I'll need their help."
Before he could leave, the curtains of the tent flew wide as a dwarf and human rushed in, saluting the elder night elf respectfully, yet boldly.
"At yer service!" "At your service!"
Lathorius watched them in surprise, "I believe you two have broken your record."
"Yessir!" Magnus boasted loudly, "Gonna give these hunt'rs what fer!"
"I'll handle that," the older man spoke forcefully as he walked between the two men to leave, "I just need you two to wrangle the beast and take it to safety."
"Ay, sir, but yer prize is not prized by you alone," Magnus reminded, "Are ya certain you can take on a gaggle o' hunt'rs?"
Lathorius shook his head, "For a creature so prized, there is only one so desperate so as to be as quick as us. Just one."
Magnus scoffed as he recalled the person as to whom Lathorius was referring, as Phaestus spoke shakily, "You mean Shadowmoon?"
"Precisely," the archdruid confirmed, "And I can handle her myself. Just make sure you two can get ahold of Gauvir before she does. I don't want another failure, much less to the same people."
"Ay sir!" "Yes sir!"
Once they're gotten atop their horses, the three quickly made it to a nearby collection of crags that had once been earth, torn asunder by the explosions of war. Though such conflicts had ended, the tiny caverns in the earth had served to diversify the local ecosystem, and certain creatures, like Gauvir, found themselves thriving within the steep fissures.
Lathorius stared into the abyss, concerned, as though hoping the beast wasn't within the void, but he knew the terrain would do little to deter their rival. He quickly descended from his horse and walked toward the edge of one of the crevices, looking down towards the many caves that had been borne into the rocks.
"It coulda gotten anywhere!" Magnus exclaimed as he threw his backpack on the ground, kneeling to rummage through it, "Lucky I picked up the repelling kit; should up git us right where we need ta go."
Phaestus watched him pulling out the contraption blankly, his eyes looking up toward Lathieius, "You're debasing yourself to…this…sir..?"
He slowed as his elder turned toward him with a similarly blank stare, causing Phaestus to go pale, "Oh…"
Magnus reached up, slamming his back with a wide hand, "C'mon, boy! It'll be fun! And ya got me holdin' on!"
Phaestus stared, pleadingily, at his master, though he was unmet as Lathorius made his way into the craggy canyon, "You two take that side and I'll keep over here. Just make sure when you've got it, don't hurt it, and for the love of Elune, don't knock it into the earth."
Magnus and Phaestus nodded, even if one of them did so unenthusiastically. They made their way around to the opposite cliff and Magnus rolled out a wheeled sort of cart with a crank that could repel down into the canyon while also being wheeled up and down its length. He hastily equipped Phaestus with the proper gear, though the human's face was lost in shock.
As they worked, Lathorius carefully walked down into the cavern, taking care to watch his footsteps. He came across caves and carefully examined them, though it was mostly for naught as he quietly walked along the steep pathways that wound around the cliffside. He remained steady, even through Phaestus's horrified shrieks as he was being let down.
"Now stop squirmin' now!" Magnus' voice reverberated throughout the stoned walls while Lathorius peeked into more caves, making sure to occasionally check across the way, in case he needed to alert his attendants.
About halfway down, Lathorius noticed the beast a good few feet down, across from his location. He sighed in relief as he looked around, not noticing anybody else, and called out to his two assistants, who had, by now, gotten the hang of their gnomish contraption.
"Right down here!" Lathorius shouted out, Magnus giving a thumbs up, while Phaestus simply continued clinging heavily onto the rope around his body.
As Magnus slowly wheeled his cart above, Phaestus was sideways, carefully walking along the wall, which was a magnificent feat in itself, given the amount if prayer coming from his mouth at the same time. Lathorius kept an eye out, knowing a certain somebody must be nearing them.
Sure enough, a shadow emerged down from the goat-like beast, and Lathorius shouted out, angrily, "Shadowmoon!"
Magnus perked down into the canyon to search for their rival, though his concentration wavered just barely enough as Phaestus continued walking, aware of his partner's pause. The cart suddenly tipped to its side, sliding quickly toward the edge.
The cries of Phaestus shrilled in the air as he began to fall, but Magnus quickly threw out a large battle axe from some mystical inventory within his person, grasping onto the cart with one of its curved ridges, stopping it from falling.
The dwarf quickly returned to looking down the canyon, seeing a dark figure rushing up one of the slopes, toward where Lathorius had indicated. He gave an angry huff of air and pulled the cart back up in one motion before running down the top of the crevice.
"We got it, master!" he shouted out loud, catching Phaestus' pale ears.
Lathorius watched the figure skillfully run up embankments, hop over pitfalls in the rocky walls; her eyes met his for only a brief moment, his face crowing just a shade paler at the sight. He turned to see Phaestus running like a madman along the wall, trying to keep up with his spotter, his eyes nearly popping out their sockets as he tried to concentrate on the beast that just came into view.
He could tell that he would reach Gauvir first, and as though his mind had transcended into some spiritual plane of existence, he gave a raucous shout, at the top of his lungs, as he eyed his target, bound and determined to claim it.
Gauvir noticed the sudden movement and whined aloud and began hopping around in a panic. Phaestus watched carefully, and as he came close enough, he jumped off the cragged walls, reaching out for the frantic beast. His movements became a slow-motion blur to him, and for a split second, he could feel the cool ivory of the beast's horn against three fingers. He desperately tried to grasp on, but couldn't, though it was enough to through Gauvir off balance.
Phaestus flew wildly into the distance as Magnus suddenly stopped his momentum to reset, but Gauvir desperately tried to find its footing, and unable to do so, the creature fell sidelong toward the edge of the cliff. Lathorius watched with wide eyes, taking two steps back, pushing one leg off the wall and ran recklessly at his own cliff, jumping mightily at the opposite side of the gorge. He flew through the air with his limbs outstretched, and at the same time, grabbed Gauvir around its midsection as his fingernails forcefully drove into the rock of the canyon, one if his feet managing to rest on a small bit of stone that jutted out from the wall.
He stared into the tan wall in front of him, gasping a mile a minute as his life flashed before his eyes. The beast itself was incredibly shocked as well, and simply hung there, staring down into the abyss.
Lathorius looked up to find out how high hed have to climb, but his eyes only met that dark figure, clad in thick pelt surrounding a lite figure; the only noticeable features in that darkness beneath the fur being two dark eyes, staring back at him, rather sinister in their shape.
The druid sighed as he lowered his head, rolling his eyes, "Shadowmoon."
"I already know what you're going to say," the elder muttered under his breath, more knowingly than annoyingly.
Shadowmoon nodded just slightly, a smoky, feminine voice releasing into the air, "I'll help the beast up, then help you up."
"We both know it's not that simple."
Shrugging, the woman continue, "I wouldn't let you die. This wouldn't be nearly as fun without heroes."
Lathorius sighed, knowing there to be little alternatives. Even if Magnus and Phaestrus emerged from nowhere, Shadowmoon shouldn't be considered being above cutting ropes. The archdruid remained for a moment before giving in, pressing his forehead into the chalky stone and raising the goatish beast up to where Shadowmoon could grab a hold of it, albeit with a struggle on her part. With his arm raised still, he extended his arm, closing his eyes in a hoping prayer that her word would be kept.
He looked up slowly, finding nobody.
Soon enough, Phaestus came back along, and grabbing ahold of his master, Magnus hoisted the two of them up. With his fingers injured on one hand, Lathorius wrapped it up in bandages before walking back down into the canyon, much to Phaestus' chagrin.
"Sir!" he shouted, "We need to get you looked at!"
The blistering voice of Magnus appeared from nowhere, "Aye, master! We need to get ya looked at!"
Lathorius ignored the calls, only focusing on finding whatever remained of Gauvir. This had become a rather annoying trend for the man, as Shadowmoon had become increasingly bold in her tactics. She had begun, early on, with very poor attempts at felling these creatures, and Lathirius' boys could easily outmaneuver her, but recently, her skills had surpassed theirs.
She was affiliated with a small band of hunters, who mostly hunted for sport, but also were known leatherworkers. Oftentimes, they would hunt down the beasts that D.H.E.T.A. held dear, kill and skin them, and then leave the meat to be scavenged, feeding the next generation of beasts. While cyclical, it counteracted Lathorius' ideals, greatly so, and with every kill, it only increased his resolve.
He continued on, eventually losing Phaestus to the human's desire to relinquish his contraption, and came to a deeper cave within the wall. His ears perked; the sound of knife slicing against sinew burnt his eardrums as he entered deeper.
"So you bagged another one," Lathorius excoriated, "You know if you continue on this path, you'll never be satisfied. There will always be bigger and bigger game."
The sliding stopped echoing through the cave, a deep voice replacing it, "You protect these animals, but if the roles were reversed, they'd have no qualms eating us up for supper."
"We're better than that."
Her sarcastic tone brought a quiet to the conversation, though Lathorius flinched as the skinned body of Gauvir was thrown down to his feet. He studied it sadly, before peering back further into the cave.
"If you keep hunting, perhaps the roles will reverse one day," he muttered, more to himself, knowing she had most likely already gone.
He bent down to pick up the carcass and quietly left the cave, not even bothering with handing it off the Phaestus once they'd met up again. He simply walked along, as though a part of him had gone with Gauvir, though it wasn't anything for Phaestus to be shocked by. It was becoming more and more common, after all.
In the dark wilderness of Borean Tundra, underneath the starlight of night time, there stood a single fire among a small collection of rocks, surrounded by a small band of four hunters. While missing their fifth, they already knew she would be returning soon, hopefully with good news.
Three of them sat by the fire, chatting and examining the various tools they all lived by. One in particular, a draenei, carefully pulled rag along a small knife, polishing its sharp edges, ensuring it to be perfect.
"And here's Remnaar, showing off his stroking skills," cackled the blood elf sitting beside him.
"You wish you had these hands at your service," Remnaar shot back, "For a man who fancies antiques more than women, it doesn't surprise me at all that, one, you'd call to me, and two, you'd be so petty."
The elf, Parvaen, frowned, "No wonder Ulric says your tongue is sharper than your steel…"
Remnaar gave him a grin before continuing his activity as Parvaen turned to the other man around the fire, a distant-looking tauren named Tandkota, and tried to get a look and the tablet in his hand. He'd been writing for a while, and while Parvaen had kept his curiosity in check, this new boredom pushed him over the edge.
"You're not my family," Tandkota spoke in a voice that rumbled the ground around them, "So this note is not for you."
Parvaen grinned, "Come oooon; I just want to take a peek."
Tandkota looked up toward Remnaar, who gave a grin, forcing Parvaen to return to his spot with a frown, not wanting another verbal lash from his partner.
This "enterprising" group of skinners had been started by Ulric Walthorn, a human who'd taken to the sport quite readily since his childhood. Raised near the forests of Silverpine, he grew up with the ferocity of nature, and only knew it as such: a collection of creatures, ready to maim and consume you if given the chance. He found it a great deal of strength to defeat nature at, what he thought to be, its own game. In that sense, guns and, to most extents, bows were not allowed in his group.
The three of them hadn't always been in the group, and while Ulric was the leader, there was no clear-cut hierarchy among the newcomers. They all claimed respect through merit, and they all were required to earn their keep. Many had come and gone from this group, in fact, and Remnaar, the oldest of this group, had seen many friends sent away for not bringing in enough leather to impress the master.
Parvaen scurried up to Tandkota, shaking his arm hastily, trying to get a taste of the tauren's writing, "Okay, I'm getting impatient, you ox. Let me see!"
While most would have never thought of such a thing, Parvaen and Tandkota had been friends for some time, so the elf was keen on Tandkota's gentle-giant attitude when it came to such things. The large man simply did his best to shrug his compatriot from his arm, slowly turning his snout toward him.
"And tell mother that I have elven blood on my hands."
Parvaen watched him, shocked, before looking back at the tauren's tablet, "It doesn't say that!"
He returned to his grasping as Remnaar stood onto his hooves, lightly making his way up the small embankment near the fire. On this night, Ulric had taken to loneliness, simply sitting farther away, watching the distance. Remnaar assumed he was keeping watch for D.H.E.T.A., but even outside of that, the man had become incredibly silent.
"Sunlight should come earlier tomorrow," the draenei muttered, quietly, "I'd say we should start sleeping if we're to leave early for Valiance Keep."
Ulric turned a stare down toward him, his eyes glinting, suddenly, in the moonlight behind his darkly thick beard, "I suppose we can't wait much longer. What Shadowmoon has perfected in finess, she certainly lacks in time management. We'll draw straws to see who keeps watch until she returns, then she'll keep watch the rest of the night."
Remnaar nodded, an inquisitive twist of his beard signaling his next question, "Sir, I don't mean to imply dissension, but…you aren't thinking of sending her off are you?"
The human stared off, a soft hum escaping from him as he thought about the question, "Are you three wanting her gone?"
"Oh, god no! Even excusing her talents when it comes to the hunt, she's great around the fire, and given her quiet loyalty, it's quite nice when surveying shadier alleyways knowing she's somewhere with an eye out."
Ulric nodded, replying further, "Her rebellious tendencies as of late are concerning, but no, it hasn't crossed my mind to rid ourselves of her. I've been meaning to discuss this with her, but given D.E.H.T.A.'s increased boldness in their tactics, I haven't the time. Perhaps once we get back to Valiance to trade. There may be something to her rebellion than just-"
His eyes snuck a glance away from the camp before he hopped down from his perch, pointing into the distance, "Speaking of."
Shadowmoon, covered head to toe with her large pelt, seemed like just a shadow in the dark as she trudged toward the camp, staring forward confidently, knowing she wasn't being followed. Tandkota was the next to notice her, while Parvaen was last, his attention already scurried enough.
Where he was usually last to notice, he was always first to acknowledge, and Parvaen quickly rose his hands in triumph as Shadowmoon gained on the campfire, "Check that out!"
The pelt of Gauvir was so massive that she had it wrapped around her shoulders, as well as holding it in her arms, still having some left over, nearly dragging at the ground. As she way still a ways away, Remnaar took the time to finish his talk, leaning toward Ulric without turning.
"Rebellious or not, she does deliver," the draenei quipped neutrally.
Remnaar walked to join his companions as Shadowmoon arrived, her neutral expression turning into a grin as she watch the three begin to cheer her on, excitedly. Parvaen, specifically rushed up to her, rubbing his hand along the velvety soft fur, marveling at its texture.
"By the gods," he spoke up, admiringly, "For such a creature, to do such a delicate job; it must have taken you an hour to skin."
Shadowmoon shrugged, clocking a grin, "Try ten minutes, with Lathorius himself tracking me down."
Parvaen watched her, shocked, stepping away from her and pointing, dramatically, "You're superman."
She grinned once more, continuing on toward came, catching a fist-bump from the largest among them, Tandkota nodding approvingly, "To think, you used to not be able to cut the shin-skin off a silithid. You've grown much quicker than I though, young one."
Shadowmoon smiled happily, reaching around to hug the large man; a place of warm comfort she had found to be a home away from home in her early days of this ground. Tandkota gently patted her back before she pulled away, going on toward Remnaar, who grasped at the pelt, pulling it over toward himself to fold it properly.
"Presentation, still, my dear," he chuckled, carefully tucking in the four limbs of fur so as to make it a uniform shape of wooly cloth, "Still, excellent job."
Nodding again, Shadowmoon gave a quick pat to his forearm before turning and continuing on, the jovial attitude of the others suddenly fading as she approached Ulric, who was leaning against a large stone, his eyes critically watching her approach. She returned the stare, neutrally, stopping just a few paces away from him.
Despite Remnaar's expertise, Shadowmoon held out the large block of woolen fabric before dropping it at the man's feet. Ulric watched it fall, staring at the pile for a moment, his eyes lifting up toward his female companion.
The others stood back, watching with bated breath, their breaths not even making a sound as Ulric finally spoke up, in his dark, subdued manner, "Nice job."
Parvaen and Remnaar happily shouted and clasped hands in triumph as Shadowmoon whipped around, bringing her arm in front of herself for a bow. She returned to the group amidst a burst of high-fives, the four of them celebrating in her triumph.
Ulric, however, bent down to pick up the soft pelt, folding it once more, turning away from the others to carefully stack it among their collection. His eyes caught another pelt, stacked below the others; a black, wiry sort of fur. His neck itched for a moment. Had it not been there earlier?
He shrugged it off, walking off toward his sleeping bag, his voice roaring out among the ruckus, "Shadowmoon! You're on watch duty until we leave in the morning."
There was no retort, but Ulric knew they would take turns anyway. He didn't particularly care; they would need their rest for their trek to Valiance Keep.