Here’s my first crack at writing something serious. I don’t know quite yet if there’ll be something to follow this little story, obviously incomplete. Enjoy!
Cold. It was an eerie feeling, like icy fingers were running across her temples. This feeling she had encountered before, when….
“No, I need to snap out of it. Memories can be deadly in these far reaches,” the young draenei thought, moving closer to the fire. The flames had melted the snow for almost one foot around the setting but couldn’t do more against the winds of Northrend, constantly shifting direction. “It’s fitting. The scourge, with its for ever bolstered numbers, is always fighting us back to our outposts, like the wind does with my fire.”
She hated guard duty but when her number came up she had to grab her mace and shield and conform. “It’s not like anything ever happens here, it’s the safest place to be except for base camp,” she uttered as the chills went down her spine again. “This place… I feel it strange to touch,” she frowned, grabbing a handful of snow off of the ground. “What did the Sarge say? That I’ll love it here? I don’t.”
Valani looked around her for the hundredth time since she started guard duty. It was a shallow cave she had set up in, overlooking a valley surrounded by steep cliffs “The angle prevents the walls from being climbed and the narrowness makes it ideal for an ambush”. She was on the eastern cliff, the mouth of the cave very well hidden from suspicious eyes by a huge rock that seemed to have been cleft in half by a giant axe. Part of it was lying on the ground almost blocking access to the post and the other half stood tall and prevented anyone coming from the north from seeing the fire. Luckily the base was to the south so it was safe.
The war against the scourge was very difficult to fight. Loosing a comrade, a friend to this war was hard enough but having to see him rise from the dead to come kill you made it almost impossible to bear. It did toughen up everybody on this front and made friendships mean a lot more than drinking together and relying on another to swoop down to your aid. Not once did Valani see and hear oaths being taken that should one fall the other would make sure he did not rise again.
Swinging the hammer to crush the skull of somebody you knew and maybe liked the previous day took its toll on the troops’ though. Screams could be heard every night, the nightmares haunted everybody and spirits were undeniably low. Nobody knew if the bad dreams would ever stop. Some didn’t want them to. Those were the ones who had fought in the war against the Horde, who got a feeling of the glory. After the second war they had helped rebuild and then hired themselves as mercenaries. They had no choice, there aren’t many who would hire a soldier in times of peace. Fighting was all they knew because it had to be so when fighting the savage Old Horde. Children had taken up arms and learned how to thrust with a sword or impale with a polearm before they had a chance to learn how to write or were old enough to be left alone with a plow and handle it. They had entered the war scared and rose from it scarred but with a fearlessness hard to come by otherwise. They had survived. They had won over warriors twice or thrice their size and had a taste of glory.
Most of them died in the first battle against the scourge. The stories about the first and second wars against the Horde were now sung by bards and although one could still see the destruction that had come to the land in some remote parts of Azeroth, it was not as fresh a wound as it used to be.
The rest had to kill them again the second day, when the battle resumed. This was not something they wanted to forget lightly even though chances were they would not make it out of this war alive anyway. Children were drafted again and given a crash course in wielding weapons, children such as Valani. She barely remembered Draenor in all of its splendor before the orcs found the lust for blood and ravaged it. She was among the few who had survived the trip on the Exodar and made it to Azeroth and as soon as she could pick a sword up she did and began training with her father. Looking back to it, she knew that it wasn’t her true call, to be a warrior, but the wounds her father had suffered in the battle for Shattrath left him empty on the inside. The young draenei just wanted to see her father happy once more so she asked him to train her. He was not pleased by this and insisted that she think long and hard before going down this road. Her youth made the decision for her.
The training was rough. Valenthos, once proud Vindicator (?), did not show mercy for his own flesh and blood and hounded her with military exercises for over a year before he allowed her to even be in the same room with all the weapons he had brought along. It was for the better, she had to admit it even though at the time she was furious with him. Now she had the strength to hold a two handed sword and not feel its heaviness bring her down after a couple of moments. Valani remembered how after the initial couple of days of immaginary thrusts and parries that Valenthos allowed her he sat her down and presented the pros and cons of each weapon, what sword, if choice is given, to choose over another and why. This was the second year of her training.
She did not recall much of the third and last year, or better said, she did not know when it passed. Under his careful supervision she learned to wield all of the weapons in her father’s arsenal and moved from training dummies to sparring with some of his old friends that were still in strength. At first they made short work of her and had her kneeling within seconds of the fight starting. She will never forget what Valenthos said after the first time she hit the dirt.
He took her aside after Kalenthis left and sat her down.
“Do you know why he won?” he asked in a soft tone.
“Because I tripped,” she replied, tears still in her voice.
“No, Valani. You lost because you wanted to win. It may sound strange to you now, it did when my father first said this to me, but winning is not about sport. Not with war. It’s not about showing your opponent who is stronger or faster. You have to prove to him that you are smarter. Fights happen. Wars happen. What pitches you against another is almost never something of your choosing. What drives the both of you at each others’ throats is the will to live, knowing that only one of you can see sunlight again. You have to wait and be prepared for him.”
“So what you have taught me until now..”
“Was to make sure that you will be able to take whatever gets thrown your way. You attacked Kalenthis. That was your mistake. He is way too experienced to not know what you were going to do the moment you raised the blade. He was waiting for you to make your first move so he can counter it.”
“And he did.”
“Yes, my daughter, he did. There is no shame in loosing to a veteran like Kalenthis. He will come again. And now that you know what to do you will have a fighting chance.”