A/N: Look, I updated. No for real! Even though its been months lol. I've been trying so very hard to get out updates on my other story that this one is only going to get random updates unless someone expresses interest in it, since its mainly for my own amusement. Hope everyone who reads it enjoys! Review if you want to let me know how you thought.
Chapter 2: Now Look What You Did!
"I hate you." Ver stated flatly with no emotion.
Erelas sighed forlornly.
"I warned you." Ver continued, still in a flat, calm voice. "Did I not warn you? Did I not say leave it alone? Did I not say just go get laid?"
Seeing as the two elves were tied back to back, Verfanas couldn't have the satisfaction of glaring triumphantly at her companion, so instead she glared across the way at the many prisons that dotted the encampment.
The cages were small, and looked on the fragile side, being made of only bamboo and vine, but had been magically enhanced by the town's witch doctor, or so the Troll who had captured them had said. Yes, Ver darkly thought to herself, captured.
Not two days into Stranglethorn and they had been caught easily by a party of four young adventurers that had spotted them crouched near Grom'gol, inspecting the layout. In hindsight, she knew it wasn't really fair to blame Erel specifically.
It was just blind luck that had landed them in cages, trussed up like turkeys for the Pilgrim's Bounty, while a large blue Troll happily stirred a large black cauldron nearby, cheerily whistling some tune in his own language and occasionally turning a tusked grin in the captives direction.
Ver sighed mournfully, thinking of how the disaster had started…
...Of course, after leaving Darnassus, the pair had taken Hippogryphs to the secured base of Astraanar in Ashenvale, the lush green forest that belonged to the Night Elves but was constantly being invaded by filthy Orcs from Orgrimmar. Their mounts had been shipped by sea and would arrive in Ashenvale at approximately the same time.
From the town of Astraanar, they had journeyed by cat down the path that led to the Barrens, a desolate and dusty region that the Horde had claimed for their own.
Ver had been moody throughout the trek through the Barrens. She despised Orcs, wanted nothing to do with them, and at every turn was faced with some structure or settlement of theirs.
Not to mention that right across the small river to the left was the sprawling city of Orgrimmar, the Horde's capitol. From the neutral port town of Ratchet, run mostly by money-hungry Goblins and crazy gnomes who styled themselves inventors, Verfanas and Erelas had taken a ship to the infamous harbor town of Booty Bay, which was actually a sight that cheered Ver up considerably.
Of all the places she'd been, Booty Bay was one of her favorites. Everyone was always friendly, easy going, and never asked nosey questions. No one raised eyebrows when Horde and Alliance lines mingled, trade of any kind was conducted, and you could find pretty much anything you were looking for there.
And if you couldn't find it, there was always half a dozen volunteers who were willing to either find it for you, or give you directions to someone who could. All for a price of course.
After resting in the salty, bustling atmosphere at Booty Bay, the pair had then set out on their intended mission, which was to rescue a bloody spider.
No matter how much Ver cajoled or wheedled, she couldn't change Erelas' mind. Apparently, he really wanted to have this spider.
'What is it with Hunters and their pets?' She often wondered to herself on the ride to Grom'gol.
They had set up camp some miles from the small fortified town, not wanting to have a patrol accidentally stumble upon them before they had made good their rescue and subsequent escape.
Hopefully if all went well, they'd be back in Booty Bay before any of the inhabitants of Grom'gol realized their spider was missing. Erelas was practically bounding up and down with excited energy when they'd made camp, that Ver had no other recourse but to agree to go take a look at the spider, and assess the situation.
She only agreed because it would give her a better idea of how the camp was set up, and what the best method of extracting the spider would be. They'd crept up as close as they could get to the base, before stopping at a slight raised hill that gave a good vantage point into the encampment.
What Ver saw had dismayed her. Of course the town was well protected, it was the only Horde encampment in Stranglethorn Vale and they were determined to keep it. The town itself was protected by a wall of upright logs, twice as tall as the tallest Night Elf with sharpened points. The wall looked solid and impenetrable.
Ver chewed her lip as she eyed the only two weaknesses that she could see. In front and on the back were two openings. Both had well worn paths that led away into the surrounding jungle so she assumed that this must be the way in and out of the base.
Two Troll guards stood on either side of both openings. Both sentries looked alert and ready for trouble, constantly scanning the undergrowth nearby, and not fidgeting or interacting with each other.
Of course, Ver consoled herself, they could be fresh to their post, having just relieved a previous pair of guards, but she didn't want to chance a slip up by discounting their alertness. And then she caught sight of the cages, which she noticed with some humor were located next to a large black pot that was conveniently nestled over a roaring fire.
Sparing a glare at her compatriot, who's eyes had never left the base since they had settled into their hiding spot, Ver then went back to assessing the risks.
A stooped blue colored troll with white and red paint decorating his face and arms was stirring the cauldron with one hand and occasionally adding random bits of things from a pile nearby with the other hand.
From such a long distance she couldn't hear what he was saying her sharp elven eyes picked out lip movement. Probably casting some enchantment or reciting a ritual prayer. She grimaced. He had to be a witch doctor.
She had no desire to tangle with one of those. There was only one actual building inside the encampment, and at the very top she saw a trapdoor that led onto a flat rooftop. Built onto the sides of the rooftop were wooden slats that made up an extra flat ledge.
She wondered at this, before finally realizing that this must be where the Horde zeppelins disembarked their cargo upon arriving at the base. She frowned uneasily. If the zeppelin happened to land while they were making their break out, there could be more trouble than they had counted on.
They'd have to watch a few days to catch the pattern of the zeppelins arrivals. Nothing like getting caught red handed by a boatload of newly arrived heroes of the Horde. She could see it now…actually she could see the result too well, and grimaced.
Finally, after analyzing the rest of the layout of the encampment, she turned to inspecting the object of their search, and her presence in Stranglethorn to begin with.
Staring at the eight legged arachnid, perched in the top corner of its cramped cage, Ver saw only what she knew she'd see…a spider. Granted, it was a very beautiful and magnificent spider at that, but it was still a spider.
She blinked, squinted, placed a Mark of the Wild on herself to heighten her senses, and yet she still saw just a spider. The spider was large, extremely so, but not in a bloated, obscene fashion, everything about it was of the proper proportion.
From this distance she'd estimate the spider as being half the size of her mount. Quite impressive for a spider, even an exotic species. Unlike most of its kind, which could be found in various shades of greens and browns and reds, this spider was a glittering and vivid violet.
Its legs were in varying shades of light purple, with a deep royal purple body. Even from this distance, Ver could tell that it did indeed live up to its name of "Sparkles".
Each time it moved a leg, or adjusted its position, the sun caught a different facet on its body, and for the tiniest moment the entire creature would seem to sparkle or glow, almost seeming lit from within by a bright purple flame.
Okay, the druid admitted to herself, she was a bit impressed by the arachnid. But sparkling carapace aside, it was still just a spider. She slid back down the hill, making sure to keep her long pointed ears out of sight of the alert sentries.
After making sure she was far enough away and down the hill to not be spotted, she stood up, dusted off her robes, and smoothed out a few wrinkles. Then she folded her arms and waited for Erelas. Sure enough, not soon after the Hunter quietly made his way back down the rise as well.
Hunters were, by nature, trained to be agile, and quick, so Ver was confident he wouldn't raise the attention of the sentries. The male grinned broadly the second he'd come abreast of her, shouldering the bow and quiver of arrows he'd left at the base of the hill so they wouldn't become damaged in his spying.
"So what do you think? You saw her right? Isn't she wonderful! I can't wait till she's mine."
Verfanas could almost physically feel the eagerness coming off him to possess and tame the spider. She scowled.
"I saw a spider. Granted it was pretty, but it was still just a spider. Why are we risking our necks for one simple little spider? One that has already been claimed by the Horde, in fact. By doing this we're just begging for trouble."
As they trudged back through the thick undergrowth of the jungle to their camp, Erelas regaled her with stories of his other spider pets, his reasons for wanting this one, and finally, the real reason he wanted the spider. Ver stopped suddenly, foot raised in the act of stepping over a mossy log.
"Wait a second. You mean you want this spider just so you can show off to your friends that you have a rare and exotic creature that you risked life and limb to tame while they have just ordinary critters that any aspiring Hunter could tame with a blindfold?"
She set her foot down, backed up a step, and took a breath. Erel nodded, albeit sheepishly.
"Yeah. I do want to rescue her, she is being held there against her will and she did ask me to free her. But she's so beautiful and I've never seen another creature like her. I just can't wait to see what my colleague's think when I tell them the story of how I tamed her!"
He puffed out his chest with pride, which was ruined when his bow became tangled with an overhanging vine and almost strangled him.
"You're crazy, you know that right? And what's worse, I'm crazier than you are for agreeing to help. I should have stayed in Silithus."
After helping Erelas disentangle himself from the vines, they were then silent the rest of the way back to camp. As the day wore on and the shadows deepened and lengthened, the jungle became more vocal.
Shrill cries of birds called warnings from far above, and off in the distance came the scream of a panther, followed by the terrified voice of its intended victim. The jungle was never quiet, but became more wild at night, when the predators came out in search of sustenance.
To avoid becoming a snake or a panther's next meal, Erelas set up select traps around their camp, and used a flare to light up the vegetation that the flames of their tiny campfire didn't reach.
Ver had insisted on a small fire to avoid catching the eyes of any enterprising Horde that may be out and about at night. They had slept near to each other for the convenience of being able to quickly warn a companion if there was a threat, with their weapons close at hand and always the thought of danger lurking in the back of their minds. Stranglethorn Vale held many dangers and deadly foes that had nothing to do with the Horde.
On their second day in Stranglethorn Vale, They sat around their small fire and discussed the information they'd gathered the day before when they had staked out Grom'gol.
Their main goal was to avoid detection and to rescue the spider. Ver asked one more time for him to leave the creature be, but Erel was adamant on having it. So she tied up her shoulder length blue hair to keep it out of the way in case there was trouble and they had to fight their way out of the Troll village.
She covered herself with her battle armor, discarding the long robes as they would just tangle her feet and slow her down when she needed to be quick on her feet.
Or rather, paws.
After securing her supplies and setting magical thorns around them to prevent wild animals from savaging her things, Ver straightened, and focused inward, ignoring the movements of her companion as he gathered up all the things a Hunter would need to tame a new pet.
Once her concentration was complete, and she was able to completely block out all incoming noise and distractions, Ver found her center, the very core of her being, the magical light that made her a Druid.
From this powerful light inside of her, she pulled a single strand. She used her mind's fingers to grasp the thread and yank it toward her. The thread became larger and thicker the closer it got. Individual strands separated from the entire weave, questing out from either side. Her inner self stood quietly and calmly as the threads engulfed her. Soon she was wrapped tightly in thousands of tiny strands of glowing green magic.
The green overcame her vision. When next she could see, her vision was colored in shades of muted infra red intermixed with grays and other facets of colors that as a cat she had no interest in naming.
Her perception of the world had also shifted, and she had to tilt her head back to look up at the face of her Hunter companion.
All of this, her transition from the form of a tall, willowy Night Elf with light blue hair into a large, blue-black feline weighing 130 pounds with claws that could cleanly slice through flesh and jaws that can break bones, occured in seconds to the outside eye.
She was not something the average being would readily mess with solo. Even with a comrade, an experienced shape shifted Druid would be a force to be reckoned with.
Tail swishing languidly, Ver let her conscious mind meld with that of the feline's instinctual mind, letting the two become one to better hone her reflexes and agility. Some Druids preferred keeping a keen eye on themselves as an Elven form and paid more attention to their innate magical core than to the deadly force they were able to wield as a feline.
Such Druids were never as effective in close combat and regretfully met disastrous ends. Over the years Ver had learned to listen to the 'inner cat' that seemed to be part and parcel of shape shifting, and had survived many a battle because of the feline's quick reflexes or a second sense that warned of threat.
Since Erelas seemed to still be busy organizing his many packs full of random things that Hunters always seemed to hoard, Ver indulged in the cat's desire for a bath, and set about meticulously cleaning her fur with her thick abrasive tongue, starting with her paws.
She always enjoyed licking her fur clean, and could understand how real felines could often spend hours in one place, tail contentedly curled, as they gave themselves self-baths.
A cough from Erelas flicked both ears forward before her Elven mind registered he wanted her attention. She stopped licking her chest fur and turned amber eyes to the Hunter. He grinned at her.
"Enjoying yourself there Ver?"
Verfanas set her paw down, and ignoring him, bowed forward into a bone-cracking stretch, opening her mouth to display her impressive array of sharpened teeth. Gazing into the fanged cavern of her mouth, Erelas nervously gulped before he could stop himself.
The two set out toward Grom'gol base, taking a slightly curved route that would bring them to the back entrance that faced the ocean. Ver had argued for that, saying that since it faced the ocean and the sandy beach, it might not be as watched as the other exit, which led into the wilds of the jungle. Erelas had agreed on this, mainly because he hadn't paid much attention to the defenses of the base, having eyes only for his coveted spider.
Ver sincerely wished a painful demise on said spider as she padded through the jungle on silent paws.
When they had come within sight of the base, Ver used her innate, Druid-given abilities to meld with the shadows around her. Her dark, symbolically marked fur became transparent and all but impossible to see unless you knew she was there.
She crouched low to the ground and crept closer to the gate. Sure enough, two sentries guarded this exit, just as she had suspected from observing the frontal gate. Not having the clever vanishing tricks that were available to a shape shifted Druid, Erelas hung back where the tall grasses and ferns could hide his form.
Verfanas got as close as she dared to the sentries, lest they sense her unseen eyes on them. It never paid to underestimate the opposition, she'd learned, and many sentries had honed their senses to able to pick up the telltale signature of an invisible enemy.
She had learned from a few scouting missions the night before that the sentries traded off every eight hours, and since these looked fairly fresh and alert, she knew that the shift had just changed.
With that in mind, she backed up silently and padded over to where the Hunter was hidden in the undergrowth. Erelas was fairly shimmering with excitement, mostly for being so near his goal, but also for the prospect of a fight.
Hunters loved a good fight, especially if that meant they were able to show off their prowess with a bow to impress a lady friend. Despite wanting only friendship between them, Ver still felt that Erelas secretly wanted her as a lover as well.
As the form of her dark panther body materialized in front of him, Erelas reached behind him over his shoulder and fingered his bow, a finely crafted and elegant weapon that he'd no doubt claimed over the death of some notorious villain or other.
Thankfully, despite being a feline with the bone structure and form of one, she still retained the ability and intelligence capable of human speech, although it didn't quite come out clearly and always gave off the impression that she was angry as each word was punctuated with a snarl or a growl.
She relayed her plan to the impatient Hunter, who grew crestfallen as she finished.
"So I think wait longer when sentries not alert, bored, but before shift change. Will best chance of success."
Since speaking hurt her vocal cords, which were not designed for that type of vocalization, she always chose to say only the main points of her thoughts and not in full sentences.
It was easier to talk that way and most people understood what she said anyway. Erelas nodded reluctantly, eyeing the small Troll village. He knew somewhere in there waited Sparkles, his future pet companion.
He could just picture it.
She'd be so grateful and happy to finally be free of those horrible Horde brutes that she'd run straight into his arms and agree right off to pair with him as his combat pet. Of course he'd have to train her to be an efficient combat pet, and teach her certain abilities that would help aid him in battle.
But he had no doubt they'd work out those problems afterward. For now, he had a rescue to think of. So they settled down, screened by the foliage between them and the base.
As the hours slowly ticked by, the pair watched various aspiring Horde adventurers and heroes make their way to and fro, oftentimes riding extravagant and outlandish mounts. One of the leave takers was even riding what looked like a giant, multi colored chicken.
Ver had been quick to make sure he knew the proper term, 'Hawkstrider', and had chided him on his ignorance of the Horde's various mounts. When four hours and painfully crawled by, Verfanas signaled with a pre-arranged paw motion that within the next 30-45 minutes they would strike.
Their plan was to incapacitate the two sentries, who were the primary risk of being able to get in without risk and be able to cleanly escape. Once they'd dispatched the sentries, as silently and quickly as possible, they had agreed on darting in and freeing all the captives to cause chaos while they escaped with the spider.
It was a risky plan, but Ver was hoping on this being a lazy morning with no big or interesting situations arising in Stranglethorn. Hopefully the Horde youths that she'd seen coming and going had also meandered off to wherever aspiring Horde went.
That was when Erelas had said he needed to take a leak before they started. Ver gaped at him, then rolled amber eyes.
'Ugh, men. Hopeless'.
She made a vague gesture with one paw, then turned around and sat facing toward Grom'gol. There was rustling of foliage, which prompted her to turn her head in curiosity, having expected him to just 'take a leak' right there.
After all, he was male and should have no problem with doing his business anywhere. Despite being covered in fur, she managed to convey a look of exasperated annoyance in the Hunter's direction.
Erelas was apparently shy in her presence, which she would have found amusing at any other time, and was attempting to find a suitable location further into the jungle.
The feline aspect of the Druid's mind was completely bewildered by this act, having no qualms about what she perceived as a natural function of the body, while the Elven half of her mind both agreed with his attempt to hide and tried hard to stifle the urge to tease him.
She shook her head, huffed, and faced forward again. As she stared, her mind wandered as she thought of what her plans would be if/when she got out of this ridiculous situation.
Obviously she was going to lay low for a while so as to avoid any attention to this embarrassing debacle of a 'rescue' mission. Honestly, rescuing a spider from its Horde captors? Who'd have thought.
She heard some loud rustling behind her, but paid it no heed.
After a couple of months resting up, she decided she'd like to investigate that Temple of Atal'Hakkar that she'd heard such intriguing rumors about.
She heard the sound of snapping vines and a loud curse, and flattened her ears against her skull in reflex.
'Could he be any louder?' Hunters didn't know a thing about stealth and subterfuge apparently.'
More rustling, the sound of undergrowth being trampled beneath feet, brought her mind completely back to the situation at hand. Her form stiffened as she realized that the noise being made couldn't possibly be made by a single being, even a clumsy oafish moron, which she knew Erelas was not.
With dread pooling in the pit of her belly, Ver slowly raised her tail and arched her back. All the fur along her spine began to arch up, an instinctual reaction by the feline aspect of her mind.
She spun around abruptly and her heart sank as she saw what she had feared. Four young, widely grinning members of the Horde had Erelas surrounded. The central figure, who's armor was more decorated and elaborate, had the hunter's arms pinned behind his back in large brutish hands.
The one in the center, she assumed the leader, a solid male Orc, displayed short white tusks in his wickedly triumphant grin.
One on the left, a slouched green-skinned Troll male, poked Erelas in the chest with a spear, causing a small dot of red to bloom on the Hunter's armor. Ver swallowed, amber eyes taking in the threat, and weighing actions in her mind. The Orc's grin widened.
"Little kitty better be good kitty or little Hunter friend going to have an accident." The lead Orc said in a thick voice, shaking Erelas for emphasis.
The Hunter may have been taller than the Orc, but the Orc was wider, and was more heavily muscled, obviously a veteran of up close combat. Most likely a warrior.
Ver glanced around her wildly, assessing her escape routes, but she knew she wouldn't take them. She was not a coward and would never abandon a friend. She gazed into Erel's eyes. He looked back, and shook his head slightly, guessing her intentions.
But her mind was made up. With resignation, she released her ever-present hold on her feline form, and the green Druidic magic engulfed her feline form, leaving her standing in her fragile Night Elven body.
After having been a cat for that length of time, and being confronted by four male Horde members, her natural Night Elf body seemed even more inept than usual, and she felt acutely helpless as the lead Orc signaled one of the others to grab her.
She tried to offer as little resistance as possible, but couldn't help jerking her arm out of the Troll's grasp when he grabbed her, a reflexive action to being touched against her will. He scowled at her, and grabbed her again, this time more roughly. She knew his grip would leave bruises on her arm later.
And the rest, as they say, was history...
...Wriggling did no good in trying to loosen the ropes, and neither did trying to twist her hands in different directions. This only got her rope burn for her efforts.
Slowly she could feel the effect that the tight bonds were having her wrists, leaving her fingers feeling faintly tingly. And Erelas was no help, just slumped there dejectedly like a huge slab of useless Night Elf.
Verfanas growled in frustration. Gazing again at the cages, she noticed that besides the spider, which had been their main focus, there were various other cages that housed more sentient beings as well as various animals. One overly large cage held an Ogre, who seemed to be sleeping with its back to them.
Ver quickly went through several scenarios in her mind in which the Ogre could be of benefit, but discarded them due to experience with the beings. Ogres were dim witted at best, barely sentient, and tended to cause more trouble then good.
Another cage held an orange and black tiger that was busy washing its tail. She discarded this as any use as well, although lodged the tiger in the back of her mind as one of the first to free when she could.
Having a tiger loose in the village should cause some chaos, hopefully enough to earn an escape. The next cage, curiously enough, held a human. The man was slouched over, playing with a small device in his fingers, apparently to stave off boredom.
Feeling slightly sulky but proud at the same time that her and Erelas warranted being bound and this human did not, Ver gazed at the man steadily. As if sensing her eyes on him, he looked up.
She was momentarily disconcerted by the fact that he had appeared to have only one eye, the other being covered by a patch. The human quirked an eyebrow at her when he noticed her staring.
She glared at him then looked away, not wanting to give the idea that she'd been staring because of his looks. Humans were vain creatures, best not to encourage them. A scan of the other cages proved just as fruitless.
The caged human seemed to be the most promising, and as soon as it became dark enough, she planned to see if she could engage the human in conversation without alerting any lurking Horde members.
Maybe they'd get out of this yet.