Sequel Note! – Read “The Goblin’s Winter Veil Doll” FIRST or else this will not make sense to you. The following events take place during a cataclysmic period…
Even the harsh valley winds of Alterac couldn’t drown out the anguished cries rattling around the dark cave. Several chalk-white rams, their coats hanging with icicles, replied with angry snorts but would not enter. Inside, a poorly calibrated boomstick stood sheathed in ice. Its owner, a troll, lay gasping for air. Feverish and unconscious, he is no longer lost and dying in the Valley, but laughing with his sister by the warm waters of Booty Bay. His nightmare loops and begins once again.
Twelve years his elder, Shessuna seemed younger by comparison; beautiful, with eyes that smoldered red under masses of hair that appeared to shift from one kind of blue to another. When people took her hand they were relieved she was not some vision. Her laugh was infectious and here, one month before their first Winter Veil together in years, she held her brother in a grip of joy that vacated his life long ago. They lost both parents in their youth; making a living on The Barrens plains meant surviving long enough to give your offspring a chance before the toil cut you down. Shoo awaited the return of his sister from her alchemy studies in Stranglethorn and, bonded by blood, they left Kalimdor behind them.
Now deep into middle age, his eyes were coal-black and skin a gnarled cobalt; years of self-doubt and unhappiness as a second-rate hunter seeming to tattoo over him again and again. Nothing plagued him today though: Not the unexplained swarm of elementals, not the odd tremors that thrummed underfoot almost constantly now. Not his miserable two-bit slide into obscurity. Today he had stolen Shessuna from her elite party of priests gathered on the other side of the Salty Sailor. He squeezed her hand when he caught her staring out the filthy window over his shoulder.
"Whatchu lookin' at sis?" he said, following her gaze but seeing nothing.
"Da Maiden's Fancy, tippin' over like her bilge had just eaten a cannonball. Don’cha see? And folks mullin' around starin' at da water."
She was right. The anchored vessel was steadily listing which meant she was taking on water. That is until Shessuna pointed out the barnacle-covered pier pillars lying exposed hours before low tide. She bolted from their table to her friends. Her quick words were all business and even as she spoke they fled from the room as one. She rushed back to Shoo, spinning him from the window, her face dipping him into a cold bath of fear. Something bad was happening, but what?
"Dat water is gonna come back here all at once Shoo... you git me?" He looked out over the bay and where there was once water, mud shimmered with dying fish. The Maiden now lay on her side. He couldn't process it. His sister shook him violently and he shot his attention back to her, frightened beyond measure.
"We are cut off from everyone. There are children here who are gonna need food and water or else they'll die. You must save them Shoo!" She leapt from the tavern balcony. Stopping at it’s railing, he watched the entire population steadily pour into the cave leading out of town. Behind him, high upon a cliff ledge, stood a crowd of travelers with their children. Their expressions were pure terror. He turned with a dreadful slow-motion, following the pointing fingers. A sick green wall of sea water had silently painted itself along the horizon. Its lip foamed white and its body was spotted with boats, trees and other debris. Shoo felt the stroke of Death for a different reason...
Shessuna, levitating her way across the muck, was heading straight for it. Her colleagues awaited her on Janeiro's Point. The hunter was the only one left in Booty.
"What are ya doin'?!" he roared over the screams behind him, his mind reeling with confusion. She turned, backpedaling, and he saw sorrow on her face.
"I love ya bro! Remember da Little Teacup?!” she shouted, voice wavering, “Go on, Shoo!" His mind flicked over the day she first shared her parlor trick. They held a fragile cup between them and she firmly cascaded him with fortitude spells. It wasn't the first time she stamina-slapped him; so powerful in the art, it sometimes knocked him off his feet, much to her delight. This time it was the cup getting most of the juice, their grip on it immediately becoming a clear pulsing ball between them, binding them. Shessuna batted it to the ground where it landed solidly and undamaged before the sphere extinguished itself. Now on the island, she and the others stood tightly braced around the statue of Baron Revilgaz.
Booty Bay was lost in ominous shadows as the tidal wave blotted out the sun. Buried in concentration, the priests knew nothing of this, their bubble around the statue ballooning at an incredible rate. Shoo watched as their power words swiftly pushed them into a widening circle over the mud. Like a predator, the towering wave seemed to charge faster, mist and foliage pushed before it to spatter off the now-huge screen that nearly spanned the inlet to Booty Bay. And still the holy order anchored a steady unbroken circuit of fortitude around the statue. Shessuna was facing town when the ocean struck her with all its might and for one eternal moment, Shoo saw her dazzling red eyes flash white from within the wall.
The collision pulverized everything around the shield. Water exploded over its pinnacle like some engorged poisoned rainbow and then Shessuna, her friends and the dome were no more. The tamed sea rolled in, flooding the top buildings and firing Shoo into a doorway where he held on desperately. He collapsed to the deck as the deluge backed its way out and people began shouting from everywhere, but the only voice he heard was his own, weeping for his lost sister.
"Suna..." the dying troll wept miserably. She stood before him now, a faint blur, but her compassion filled the cave.
"Shh, I’m here now," she murmured and he fell back into a fitful sleep.
"Alterac Valley? You’ve lost your mind,” Bethlamae sniffed sharply, turning with arms crossed towards the havoc in the distance that was once Southshore. Even from Corrahn's Dagger it was an ugly sight to behold. She appeared as a season in change - light brown skin set off by bright green hair. She gave the impression of dormant grass taking its first breath of spring. Her eyes were twin suns and they were hot this day.
"It's not a request, brat and keep your voice down… every time I close my eyes I hear rogues these days,” Sergeant Durgen Stormpike whispered, “Only a handful knows the mission yer sneaking in there: ourselves, my personal watch, and he who authorized it… yer father." Defeated, the priestess angrily hoisted one large satchel over her shoulder.
"Our entrance is destroyed and, to my knowledge, the Horde or Frostwolf Clan aren’t taking invites. Please, enlighten me.”
"Head east to the river till you see the signal. The Clan will be focused on our men out here," the punished-looking dwarf chuckled, "and it seems the Forsaken have let the worgen out of their cages. One of the aftershocks made a bloody small hole straight toward Dun Baldar that you should be able to pinch through with the goods. Now get on with it and keep out of this. You'll have yer hands full up there until after Winter Veil."
"AFTER Winter Veil?" the young night elf hissed. The sergeant spun her toward the menacing walls of Alterac and gave her a convincing shove. Fuming, Beth made her way to the rendezvous point. Awaiting the last minute details, her self-pity quickly defused as it usually did. She cherished her duty as a healer and rarely disappointed her demanding father. Only forty seasons old, she just had to fight authority some as all young people are wont to do.
Poking through her satchel, she half-smiled a sigh. Her only friend beyond Lor'danel looked up at her. It was a doll, no longer than her willowy forearm, with warm hazel eyes and tawny hair combed so often it would float with a flick of her hand. Decades ago, using enchanted scarlet thread, Beth's mother had tenderly restitched every seam. From that day forward the doll pulsed with a deep emotional warmth, like that of a newborn child.
"Watch over me big sister," she whispered. Beth nudged her way to the fissure where the guards were preparing the freight bound for Dun Baldar. She stared at the insanity before her. Southshores destruction, the fall of Darkshore into elemental dementia, even the Alliance teetering on collapse all just seemed a part of some twisted game, but this… this was a task of sheer folly.
The short trek, as it were, was strangely uneventful: As if Elune herself was strolling peacefully ahead. As she crossed the ice-encrusted Stormpike Bridge, a storm closed in from behind like a door slamming shut and she breathed a sigh of relief. The days passed, each worse than the last. Rations consisted of dwindling salted meat and filthy, boiled snow water. She and three paranoid dwarves took turns hiking out to Icewing Bunker for status reports. The only news of note was that the fissure had sealed itself, trapping them here until their rescue from outside. Leaving Icewing one snowy morning, she came across a curious sight; several rams had gathered about the entrance to one of the many pock-marked caves north of the bunker. She slowly made her way down to them where they eyeballed her nervously.
"Go on! Shoo!" she shouted, backing them off. A cry of despair from inside the cave answered and in she went. A shadowy figure lie prone on the rock floor, mumbling. It was a troll, sick from exposure and softly ranting. Upon deciphering his jumbled words she had to kneel for fear of fainting. Swiftly regaining her senses, Beth fed him incantations until he stabilized and grew still. A couple of hours and many spells later, the troll awoke groggily to a crackling fire and a depleted night elf sitting warily on the other side. Motionless, the hunter peered about for Yupes, his pet worg, but she was gone. A good girl and deadly tracker: she would not have left unless it was to feed. Best play that card after he read the dealer.
"Whatchu doin' here, girl?"
"I could ask you the same thing," she snapped back, "One Horde soldier, a hunter I'm guessing, in Alterac. Unconscious in sub zero temperatures wearing... what is that… a chest thong?"
"A chest harness,” he snarled, “and again, why'm I still breathin' in your elf chatter?"
"Your life is still in doubt, Darkspear, if I don’t get you to proper shelter," she said, standing to kick out the fire, "and I could drag you one-handed as weak as you are but please don't make me. The elements in Alterac are being unnaturally manipulated. Fog is pouring down from the north so it will be slow going. You're my responsibility once we reach Dun Baldar; a spy if you like, to be interrogated. Trust me; you do not want them doing it. Oh, and leave the gun... your ram friends are conferencing about your intent."
Shoo cooperated, but only just. She kept pushing him about his presence here and the only way to keep conscious was talking. Still fighting a pounding headache, it was all quite fuzzy. He entered the valley, as ordered, two weeks after his sister died. Plainly in no condition to fight, Huntress Kuzari in Orgrimmar gave him a simple but vital task: See what the Stormpike were up to. Confirm rumors the dwarves had vacated their stronghold in exchange for Hillsbad. If true, they would divert resources at Frostwolf Keep for the growing conflict in the Foothills. Shoo's failure to report would say otherwise and the Clan, as usual, would hit the dwarves with everything they got: Deathwing was a mere formality between these factions. Up until he and Yupes left the Keep it was business-as-usual.
Still in mourning, Shoo came unprepared for the harsh climate and his misery intensified it. He succumbed frighteningly fast, plummeting from chills to a crippling loss of his keen senses. Everything became twisted that second day off the paths. Drenched in wet snow, he roamed aimlessly with Yupes trying to lead him. At what point did she leave… or die protecting him? He became increasingly uncertain as each hour passed. The next thing he knew he awoke to this child’s medicinal chants, eerily like Shessuna’s. He shared little of all this with the night elf; focusing on a stray, sick troll who lost his sister to the wave and was now confessing to a possible attack… a subtle bluff in a lousy hand.
- continued -