The Rite of Vision
Seventy-two years ago...
An’she was slowly fading behind the horizon in the Northern Barrens. The sky was painted a mixture of crimson, gold, and baby blue. Birds called to one another in hoarse notes through the winds, and the stomps of far-off kodo herds in search for watering holes could be felt, to those keen. A large fire had been burning for some time outside Seer Guia’s camp, ashes packed underneath the staggered logs... Sanar opened his eyes after a long meditation session, which accompanied a water fast upon Seer Gia’s request. He snorted a quick burst of air through his snout, his right ear smacking back and forth to guide a fly away. “Are you ready, Sanar?” Came the voice of Seer Guia, eldest shaman of the Earthspear Clan. She approached the young Shu’Halo carrying a bundle of firewood. “Yes, I am ready.” Sanar pushed himself off the ground, his weight sinking both hooves into the water-starved dirt. “You must go with nothing. Leave your spear and clothes.” Guia spoke to Sanar as she laid more logs atop the bonfire, signaling the time has begun for his Rite of Vision. Sanar began to strip his leathers before stabbing his spear into the earth deep enough to keep a hold. “How will I know when I have found what the Earth mother means to show me, Seer Guia?” Sanar asked hesitantly while undressing. Seer Guia shook her head, a little disappointed by the question, and responded “Do not question how the Earth mother reaches out to you, Sanar. You know this. She speaks to you through the rustle of the leaves, the roar of the river, and is ever watching you, through her eyes Mu’sha and An’she. Now finish up so I may bless you before you leave.”
Sanar stood fully nude as the Seer grabbed a bowl she had been preparing during his meditation. Dipping her hand into the yellow mix of corn powder and bone, she rubbed markings on Sanar’s face. “May the Earth Mother guide you on your Rite, and may the Sky Father give you the strength to follow through. Now go, go into the Earth Mother’s embrace, and do not return until you have seen what she wants you to seek.” Sanar let out a deep hum, feeling the warmth of the blessing, and nodded before turning off into the wilderness. The watchful eyes of the Earth Mother circled slowly overhead...
Dry branches snapped as Sanar walked in no particular direction. This season had been especially harsh, with little to no rainfall. The sun began to find its rest as the moon woke up, but the heat of the day could still be felt on Sanar’s fur. Hours of labored hiking passed and Sanar felt thirst clawing at his throat. Breathing heavily through his snout, Sanar thought “It has been a drought for a long while. Water has been hard to come by.” He knelt and took up a handful of dirt, letting it flow with the wind as he gathered his bearings. “The winds flow west. The rivers to the east and the Stonetalon Mountains to the north will channel the winds west, most nights... Maybe there will be some water at the base of the mountains. I know the riverbeds have been dried out for some time.” Sanar looked around and listened to the night for a moment, then stood up heading north. He pushed on through the dead grass and under the looming shadow of naked trees. He glanced upwards, breath heavy. “Mu’sha is at her peak.”
The base of the Stonetalon Mountains was getting very dark. Sanar lost his footing more often as darkness now cloaked the land. In the distance, however, a faint glow caught Sanar’s eye. The tauren lowered his body into the brush. “What is that?” Peering harder, he followed the glow as it moved from above the trees down to the ground. As if drawn by a beacon, Sanar began a slow approach towards the grayish light, and as he drew closer still, a shape emerged from the glow. Stepping through the last of the trees and into a small clearing, Sanar now knew what he had been following. Across the clearing and atop a pile of boulders lay a wyvern...
The great beast rose up, shaking its mane. “Shu’Halo. I have been waiting for you.” The wyvern spoke in Taur-ahe. “Why have you been waiting for me?” Sanar asked the beast with fatigued words. “I have been waiting to help you, young Shu’Halo. I will guide you, should you choose to trust me.” The wyvern’s scorpion-like tail waved back and forth as the rest of its body remained stoic. After taking a moment to think and look over the massive creature, Sanar bowed his head low. “Lead on, wyvern. You have my faith.” In response, the beast leapt down from its perch. “Then let us go, for we shall not waste time.” The wyvern set off through the forest of dead tree trunks with Sanar close behind. He looked into the sky to see Mu’sha passing her peak and starting her road to slumber.
“Where are you leading me, wyvern?” Questioned Sanar as he moved dried branches from his path. The wyvern looked back but kept pace. “I am leading you to life, young Shu’Halo. We are almost there.” Sanar’s breathing was taxed and his head spun; he had been without water for more than a day. The drought had been an anomaly this season and his clan was not thoroughly prepared.
As Sanar took a moment to study the wyvern further, he noticed that it was unusually large, even for an alpha. It must have been slightly bigger than a grown bull kodo. The faint blue glow of the creature shined like the moon illuminating the trail ahead. They finally exited the trees and came to a small path snaking into the mouth of the Stonetalon Mountains. “In there, young Shu’Halo. That is where you will find life. Follow that path, I will not be far behind.” Sanar stepped to the side of the wyvern, looking over the path that led into a cave. “Hurry, for time is not your ally.” The wyvern spoke as it turned to face the tauren. Sanar nodded and stepped forward, feeling the strength of his body drained from the long trek. Before setting hoof into the cave Sanar looked up at the sky, and saw Mu’sha further down, beginning also to find the end of her night journey.
Sanar stepped into the cave with the wyvern behind. If it was dark outside, there was no word for the blackness Sanar entered now. His steps echoed off the walls as he made his way over rocks and pitfalls, deeper into the cave. The glow of the wyvern gave just enough light to show the immediate path ahead. “What am I looking for, wyvern? I have put my faith in you, and now I fear we are coming to the end of the cave.” Sanar looked back to find the wyvern no longer there. A still feeling overcame him then, as he listened in complete darkness. A low rumble rose from beneath his hooves, echoing off the cavern walls...
Overwhelmed by his senses, Sanar fell to his knees. Just ahead of him the earth began to crack. The same blue glow that had come from the wyvern punctured the cave’s floor, and Sanar quickly crawled forward. He watched as the cracks became a hole, with the light shining like a campfire in the night. As the hole expanded, water began to fill in from the bottom up. This water, too, shined with the same hue as before. Sanar put his parched mouth down to the water and drank his fill. The sharp cold of the liquid could be felt running all the way to his stomach. When at last he was finished, the water seeped back into the rock, and the hole trembled as it filled once more with earth. Sanar sat back and felt his strength return. “Thank you, wyvern. You have my trust.” Sanar stood back up, knowing this to be what the Earth Mother had intended for him to find, and began to walk through the dark cave back the way he came...
Thunder boomed overhead as he emerged from the cavern. As he descended the path, raindrops slowly started to trickle around the young tauren. The wyvern appeared next to Sanar. Sternly it spoke: “You will lead others to life, as I have led you. Over time, you will befriend the elements and they will lend you their great power; to help others, and to protect your clan. Keep faith in the Earth Mother and you shall always have your guide.” The Wyvern roared then, shaking the very trees, and Sanar let out a battle cry alongside it. The giant beast flapped its great wings, rose into the sky, and was gone.
After a moment, a grand thunderstorm eclipsed the rising sun in the distance, giving much-needed shade to the Barrens. In a downpour, Sanar walked through the plains of dead grass and looming trees, on the long road back to camp.
The Great Hunt
Seventy years ago...
Sanar Earthspear laced his leather bracers stiffly as he sat on a fallen tree trunk. His thick wooden spear, with a stone blade fastened to its end, rested next to him. Feathers and a dreamcatcher danced in the breeze on the weapon’s leather bindings. With a deep growl, he pulled tight the bracers before rubbing his wrists. Sanar clutched his spear and rose, looking to the tent just up the hill.
At full height, Sanar stood 9.5 feet tall and weighed near a half-ton. He was fully grown and ready for his last Rite, like all tauren before him.
The harsh travel from the Northern Barrens down to the south side of the savannah had not been easy for anyone. Centaur attacks plagued the Earthspear Clan as they followed the kodo migration. During this time of year, the kodo would mate on the borders of Mulgore and feast on the rainy season grass. The trees bore more leaves and the colors of the land were suffused with green and yellow.
Seer Guia exited the tent holding a clay vase. She had aged since Sanar’s Rite of Vision; her muzzle and fur now showed more gray.
Sanar quickly strode over to Guia to offer a hand, but she brushed him away. “I may be old, but this vase will not kill me, Sanar.” Snapped the old Seer. “I know you still have strength, Seer Guia, but I just want to help you.” Guia and Sanar made their way down the hill back to the fallen tree. “Sit and hand me your spear.” Seer Guia cracked a chicken egg into the vase, threw in a handful of red berries, and pulled some bark from the fallen tree, dropping that into the mixture as well. She mumbled a prayer with her hand hovering over the container. “Your spear now, Sanar.” Guia ordered, pointing to the ground before her. “In your age, Guia, you have lost patience.” Sanar chuckled a bit through his snout, pushing his nose ring back and forth. “Then learn from me, young Shu’Halo. When you are as grey as the rain-soaked clouds as me, you had better be more patient than a lioness mid-hunt.” Seer Guia tilted the vase, allowing the contents to pour onto the spear’s stone blade. “A blessing for strength on your quest.” Sanar nodded as he watched the Seer. He bent over and gripped the spear once she had finished.
“Earth Mother guide you, Sanar. You have grown fast, and learned quickly in the last two years. Even if the elements do not fully trust you yet they will come around, I am sure.” After a brief pause Sanar rose. “I am not your mother, but I am proud of you.” Guia embraced Sanar, rubbing his horns before placing her hand on his forehead. “Thank you, Seer Guia. The Earth Mother blessed me, having you as my mentor. I shall return soon.” Sanar gripped his spear tighter and began to trot into the wilds, letting out a battle cry as he did. Seer Guia responded with her own, and the Shu’Halo cries could be heard over the hill from the rest of the Earthspear Clan celebrating the Great Hunt.
Sanar made his way through the tall grass with a certain beast in mind. During the migration south, Sanar had witnessed a lion. This was no ordinary lion, however. It was twice the size of its kin, it ran with no pride, and its fur was all white. An’she was at his highest point – the temperatures would be rising quickly. Sanar knew the lion would be in his den during these hours to avoid the heat.
Two hours pass.
Off in the distance, Sanar could see the den. “Close combat with this lion in his den would not be wise. I must get him to come out and fight him on equal ground.” He thought as he slowed his pace, listening and watching. A flock of birds shot into the air as a deep roar rang out.
As Sanar neared the den entrance the odor of death leaked from within. Sanar stopped just a few yards away and knelt in the tall grass. At the entrance of the den was a blood trail that started not far from the grass the tauren crouched in. Up in the sky, a wyvern flew across the endless sea of blue, and when quiet its roar echoed in the distance. Sanar gripped the spear and stepped from the grass into the clearing in front of the cave.
The cavern entrance was hidden just behind a bent tree using a large rock as support. The tree showed claw marks, as if the lion had marked its territory.
Sanar squatted down and grabbed a handful of stones, bouncing them in his hand. Seer Guia always said, “It does not need to be clever to work.” Sanar stood up and let out a sharp breath from his snout before he threw the rocks into the cave entrance, hoping the lion would come to investigate.
As soon as the stones made contact with the cave floor an intense roar came from within the hollow. The steps of the lion could not be heard, but its striking white body soon began to show itself.
The beast stood at the entrance of its den, looking over Sanar. Its mouth, mane, and foreclaws were soaked in fresh blood. The lion bared its teeth as it assumed a low posture to pounce. Its canines extended all the way to its bottom lip, its head as large as Sanar’s hands cupped together. This was no ordinary lion. Sanar held his spear above his head and let out a strong growl. The lion lunged.
Snapping the tree branches in front of its den, the lion flew through the air at Sanar, claws extended. Sanar used his spear to deflect the lion and pushed its momentum to the side. The lion landed to the right of him and quickly spun to face him once more. The two circled one another, watching for weakness. Sanar attempted to plunge the spear into the lion’s shoulder, but the cat smacked the weapon with its mighty paw. The lion roared again as it ran at Sanar and swiped towards the tauren’s chest. Sanar put his spear in the path of the beast, stopping the claw, but breaking his spear in half. Quickly the lion lashed out at Sanar’s head with the other paw. The Shu’Halo moved to the side, barely dodging the heavy blow, but his ankle rolled over a pile of stone. Sanar toppled to his back and dropped his spearhead. Sensing the kill, the lion shifted its body and leapt at Sanar again.
Without a weapon, Sanar raised his arm as powerfully as he could to keep the lion at bay. When he put his hand out the earth from next to his shoulder shot forward to act as a shield from the lion. The predator smashed its full weight into the rock and as it fell, quickly resumed its attack. Sanar threw his other hand up to erect a second earthen shield. The lion broke this one as well but again was denied blood. The tauren shuffled backward, trying to extend his ground. The lion came again at Sanar, but this time the Shu’halo was not ready and no earth rose to shield the blow.
The lion landed on his right shoulder, gored by the tauren's horn but also sinking its teeth deep into the shaman’s flesh. Sanar let out a bellow of pain, but was able to get his hooves under the belly of the lion and bucked it off a few yards. The lion flew through the air, landing on its side with a thud at the cave’s entrance. The hunters gathered themselves and looked at one another, weakened. Blood dripped from the lion’s underbelly, and Sanar clasped a hand over his ruined shoulder. Then the lion’s furious roar echoed over the nearby savanna as it jumped into the air at Sanar. “AHHH!” The Shu’Halo met the beast’s roar with a battle cry equally ferocious, one filled with might and will. The lion’s roar stopped abruptly... as the loud sound of tearing roots took over the fray. The ground shook as dust kicked into the air, engulfing both combatants.
As the cloud of sand and dust settled, Sanar’s strained breathing could be heard. He stood in the same spot he had been before the lion took its last leap, one arm slung across his body to hold his bloodied shoulder, and his other arm stretched in front of him with fingers spread apart. On the other side of the clearing lay the lion, crushed under the tree that once sheltered its den. The lion could manage but short gasps of air as the tree sprawled over its shoulder and midsection. Sanar walked over to his spearhead and with pained and slow movements picked it up. He then walked over to the lion, squatting down within reach.
Sanar placed his hand on the lion’s mane. The animal did not fight, and in his eyes, Sanar could see that it understood the fight was over. “Earth Mother guide you. I did not come here an enemy and nor am I leaving an enemy. Thank you for helping me. Your spirit is now free to go into the Earth Mother’s embrace, friend.” Sanar lifted his spearhead above the lion’s neck. It hurt Sanar’s heart to have to end the beast’s life, but he needed to complete the Rite. With a final roar, Sanar stabbed his spearhead into the lion’s throat before letting himself fall onto his bottom. He sat there and watched as the lion’s spirit left its body, making sure he did not go alone, but with an ally by its side.
Some time passed before Sanar moved, An’she still high in the air. With a grunt the Tauren pushed himself to his feet and stepped up to the tree. He asked the wind to help him move the fallen wood,so that the lion’s remains would not go to waste. He extended his arm and the tree rolled aside, freeing the great beast’s carcass. Sanar let out a deep sigh of relief. “Thank you.” Kneeling next to the lifeless body Sanar inched the lion slowly on his non-injured side. With a heavy grunt and some luck ,he was able to stand up, leaning to the side to hold the lion upon his shoulder and back. The Shu’Halo began his hike back to camp, lion draped over him, its blood and his trickling down to mark their passing. Overhead a lone wyvern continued its slow path across the sky. Sanar’s eyes followed the creature until it was out of sight.
That next morning at camp...
Sanar sat upon the fallen tree trunk, Seer Guia looking over his wounds. “I did not enjoy taking the lion’s life, Seer Guia. It did not feel right.” For a moment Seer Guia remained silent, letting the response manifest before speaking. “Death is a part of life. It is a part of the Earth Mother. She guides all spirits in life and in death. You took part in a tradition that we all share. You should be proud and thank the lion spirit for giving you the opportunity.” Seer Guia runs her hands over the wounded shoulder with drops of salt water falling onto Sanar’s fur. “I did thank him. It will just take time. I thought it would be easier.” Sanar winces as the water goes into his wound. “That hesitation to take life is what makes you a Shu’Halo. It is also what made the elements grant you the power to defend yourself. You asked for help, knowingly or not, and they answered. Now your training can truly begin.” Seer Guia continued treating the wound. “Take this as a lesson: even though some battles are short-fought, their wounds can last a lifetime.” Sanar sat on the trunk and thought about the Great Hunt.
The Centaur Wars
Twenty-five years ago...
In the Savanah...
The stars shine like diamonds, while Mu'sha is making her way across the darkened blue sky. Down below, the ever reaching savannah extends as far as the eye can see. Only the peaks of the Stonetalon mountains break the horizon line. A gust of wind can be felt underneath a wyverns wings, as he cuts his way through the night air. Gazing over the grasslands he spots a kodo carcass being picked away by hyenas. Hungry, the wyvern swoops down, falling like a comet heading to Azeroth.
As the Wyvern nears the surface, he lets out a roar shifting his claws bracing for a hard landing. With a sudden force, he hits the ground and immediately rears his body up showing his full size to the pack of hungry scavengers. He lets out another roar while flinging his scorpion-like tail at his foes making sure to keep space. The wild dogs circle the wyvern snarling, snapping their teeth foaming at the mouth. The Wyvern looks around growling at the animals, and as if on cue the dog in the rear jumps to the wyvern's back.
The lion-like beast turns with grace and brutality, grabbing the dog with its mouth, throwing it to the side. The wild hound smashing into the dirt. A second dog attempts to attack the off-side of the wyvern, but the point of the venom soaked tail stabs into its hind leg. The dog squeals and runs off a few yards. The winged beast rears up on his back two legs and lets out a third roar. This time intimidating the pack of dogs, rattling them.
The strength of the wyvern's front claws meets the face of the hyena directly in front of him. With a bloodied muzzle and torn flesh, the scavenger slides into the tall grass, before quickly kicking up and running off. After the first spotted dog runs the rest of the pack shortly follows, crackling in the distance as they escape defeated but alive.
The mature wyvern pleased with how the fight turned out, lets out a growl and turns to the kodo that lays in the dirt half-eaten. He walks up to the picked apart beast licking his chops. The beast stretches its wings before feasting on the animal. As the creature is about to bite into the hide of the Kodo, he suddenly perks his head up. Without notice three arrows hit the wyvern in his shoulder, back, and neck. With no time to even let out a yelp, his lifeless body hits the dirt kicking up a small cloud of dust. Right after, a group of centaur tramples the body of both the wyvern and kodo smashing their remains into the earth, with sounds of flesh and bone splitting under the hooves of the beast-men. Without stopping the war party of centaurs continues their push into southern barrens...
At the Earthspear Clan Camp...
Sanar is much older, his exact age is unknown. The older tauren has seen many seasons and is an established shaman in the Earthspear Clan. Now going by the title seer, he is no longer directly mentored by Seer Guia but is seen as equal, even if he still treats her as a parental figure. Seer Guia's fur and skin are ashened color now. Both Sanar and Guia know her time is near an end in this plane, but Sanar refuses to accept it...
Seer Sanar uses a wooden mortar and pestle to crush some herbs near a fire. The smoke of the fire playfully glides into the air before fading into the night sky above. The night is unusually silent, no crickets playing their songs, and no snoring of the Kodos herded in the grasslands. The only sounds that could be heard was the snapping of the fire, and the soft patters of the mortar and pestle meeting each other. Seer Guia walks into the light drinking some water from her waterskin sitting down next to Sanar.
"Once I am done mending the herbs, do you want to pack the pipe Seer Guia?" Sanar asked doubtfully. "You know how to do it Sanar. Do not ask others to do for you, what can be done on your own." Guia laughed a bit before cracking a smile. "So is that a no?" he asked as she punches Sanar's side before putting her hands over the fire. "It is a windy night. The Earth mother is trying to speak." Sanar stays silent as he smashes the herbs. Seer Guia looks into the sky following the smoke of the flames into the wind. The smoke pushes from north to south. After studying the ash, she closes her eyes briefly and nods, pausing for just a moment.
"All done," Sanar says as he reaches into the satchel fastened to his belt. He grabs the large pipe from his side and brings it into view. The pipe is a totem carved from the wood of the trees found in the Barrens. The end of the pipe, where the herbs are packed, is the head of a wyvern. Sanar slowly grabs the herbs from the bowl and packs the pipe. "Is everything ok Guia?" He asked curiously. "You seem occupied this evening." Guia lays her hand on Sanar's scarred shoulder. "I am fine young Shu'Halo. I am fine." Smiling Sanar responds. "I would not say I am so young anymore Seer. At least that is not what the young braves say." He finishes packing the pipe and grabs a small twig from the fire, embering the herbs in the pipe.
Sanar puffs and let's smoke come from his snout offering the pipe to Guia. She grabs the pipe and does the same. Guia breaks the silence. "The Earth mother has given me a long and joyful life Sanar. She has blessed me with her wisdom, and youth even into my ash years. You must always know the Earth mother has her plans, and everything is intended with purpose, connecting our world together." She offers the pipe back to Sanar. "Even things we wish not accept." He clutches the pipe and stares at Guia as she speaks. The ashen Tauren stands up looking into the fire. "I have taught you all I can...When you told me how hard it was to take the lion's life on your Great Hunt...I knew death would be the hardest aspect of the Earth Mother for you to learn. I can not teach you this, for this is something you must learn on your own, young Shu'Halo." Seer Guia turns and steps into her tent. "I must rest now. I fear I may need my strength more now than ever." Sanar sits alone by the fire watching Guia walk into the tent. He hits from the pipe once more before looking following the smoke in the sky, watching it trail south. With an uneasy feeling, Sanar puts the pipe out and lays next to the fire closing his eyes...
Five hours later...
The sound of hundreds of Centaur yelling and sprinting through the savannah can finally be heard like the roar of a massive waterfall. The Shu'Halo in the Earthspear camp begin to wake from their slumbers. Large horns could be heard sounding off, signaling the threat. The roar of stampeding Centaur and the booming of the large war horns fight for space in the sky, dueling who could take over the grasslands in between. Sanar jumps up from his bedding and looks north, then back to the tent behind him. Guia already stepping out spear in hand, strapped with her leathers and headdress. "Quickly grab your weapons and leathers, and meet me at the nursery. We must protect the young!" Sanar nods letting out a harsh breathe through his snout. Seer Guia begins her run through the camp heading to the nursery. This is the largest centaur force to attack in recent history. The ground shakes from the horse-men moving in unison.
In the tent, Sanar grabs his shoulder plates protected by large strider skulls. After he fastens his headdress made of strider feathers, he pulls his bracers tight nearly ripping out the laces. He turns to his spear. The same stone blade from his Great Hunt, dream catcher and all still traveling with him. He grips the much newer shaft of the spear and stomps out the tent. He glances north, the sounds are becoming louder. Looking into the camp, tauren are rushing to equip themselves. Braves with giant hammers and shields, druids changing into different forms, cats are sinking into the shadows, and bears are moving logs, forming a wall on the north end of the camp. Hunters grab their bow and arrows or speaking to their companions not knowing if it will be the last conversation between the two.
Sanar runs through the camp heading to the nursery as instructed. It is chaos with tauren yelling and rushing back and forth. Sanar pushes past male and female alike preparing for the battle that lay ahead. Lesser shamans are pulling the earth up around the camp, forming a shield with the bears moving the lumber. Hunters are laying traps in-between tents. Young and more armored braves are gathering together feeding off the intense war drums pulsing through the camp. Arrows begin to fall well north of the camp, the centaur judging how far they are away before their archers can hit the Shu'Halo. War horns are still sounding off as elders are giving orders to the less seasoned warriors.
Sanar approaches the nursery after what seemed like an hour but was more like five minutes. The children are scared as they huddle into the tent along with the elderly clan members who can not fight. "Hurry now! Everyone into the tent!" Seer Guia yells to the camp. Mothers and fathers tell their young not to worry as they corral them into the structure, before leaving to join the preparations. The sound of children crying nearly snuffs out the war drums. "Sanar! Help me quickly!" Guia calls as he runs up. Both Seers put their hands out and together pulling a 10ft wall from the ground surrounding the nursery, leaving only the entrance open. "We must stay here and protect the young. Without them, we do not live on!" Sanar nods sternly looking out to the ensuing panic and rage of the camp. "Yes Guia, you have my spear! Always!"
The war drums stop, the horns fade. The sound of the Centaur war party getting ever closer, choking the air in the camp. Upon a perch raises a brute of a tauren. He is without a doubt, one of the biggest of the camp, as well as one of the most seasoned warriors in the clan. It is Tochoa leader of the Earthspear Shu'Halo, his calm demeanor silences the crowd commanding respect, as he stands over his people. Preparing to speak.
"The Centaur have come, yet again. This is the biggest force most of us have ever seen...Some of us... will be lost tonight on this soil." The chieftain pauses looking to the north now being able to make out the enraged hordes shape. "Even if our eyes close, fear not! For our bodies may sleep, but our kin will pass down our memory, and our spirit will live on free with the Earth Mother!" The crowd roars in agreement, warriors bang their shields, Shu'Halo scream with everything in them. The Earthspear leader raises his hand quieting the crowd. "Prepare yourselves, say a prayer to the Earth Mother and Sky Father for strength here and now! Always remember the Earth Mother fights alongside every one of us!" Tochoa raises his hammer above his head and lets out a battle cry as he moves down into the crowd of battle-ready Shu'halo, his clan responding with chants of equal valor.
The braves begin forming a line behind the makeshift defenses on the northern end of the camp. In unison smashing their axes and clubs against their shields. Boom...Boom...Boom...Boom. Shamans and druids are behind the braves praying along with the rhythmic clashing of weapons. Hunters are even further behind them, readying their bows, patiently watching with an eagles eye to the North...
Seer Guia and Sanar are still in front of the nursery, located in the middle of the camp. They stand side by side listening to the Earthspear tauren waiting for the attack, and the centaur horde lusting for blood. Seer Guia breaks their silence again. "Sanar, look to me." He turns silently facing his mentor. Guia's face is stern just as it used to be when she disciplined him ages ago. Guia rubs Sanar's horns before laying her hand on his forehead. After a moment he embraces Guia back doing the same. "Bless my spear, Seer Guia?" Sanar is able to see Guia's face after removing his hand from her forehead, her eyes showing some water. "You know how, Sanar." She responds while grabbing his spear from him.
The Centaur are not far off now. The crude arrows are grazing the walls on the north end of camp.
Guia mumbles while hovering her hand over his spear. Her eyes are shut tight, water is forced from the wrinkles and slowly run down her cheek. She opens her eyes and offers the spear back to her pupil. "I did not ask the Earth Mother for strength...You have had that for a long time, Sanar. I asked her for protection and guidance, you will need it." Seer Guia places her hand on Sanar's scarred shoulder and grips it stressing her next words. "This night will be hard for you young Shu'Halo, but take this as a lesson. The Earth Mother teaches in her own mysterious way, sometimes you must look deep within yourself to find it." Guia keeps her tight grip on Sanar's shoulder and studies his face hoping her words sink in. He nods silently. "Yes, Seer Gu-"
Their exchange is cut short with the sounds of weapons smacking and cries of pain coming from the crowd.
Arrows Fall into the braves. Some points meeting shield, other meeting flesh. One warrior gets pinned to the earth as an arrow pierces his hoof and sticks into the ground. The Shu'Halo lets out a loud cry into the air. The Brave next to him keeps his shield too high as he reaches down to grab the wooden arrow from his clansmen. Gripping the wooden shaft, the tauren attempting to help catches an arrow into his lower jaw, knocking him over. The back lines of tauren hunters let their bows go as well, ripping through the first centaur line. The four-legged horse-men fall over as they get impaled by arrows, causing the line behind them to fumble over their bodies, even crushing some still breathing centaur.
As the main body of the raider horde draws closer the Shu'Halo braves are quick to meet their enemies at the wall. With arrows still flying through the air, the front lines of both the tauren forces and the centaur war party meet. Swords and shield smack against one another over the wall. An elder warrior swings a massive totem hammer over the log defenses connecting with a centaur's chest, crushing her ribs, and instantly dropping her from the fray. He swings again, breaking through the shoulder of a second centaur. An arrow comes into the elder's hand, with that second of distraction two centaur are able to hope the wall over the old tauren, and he is trampled into the earth. The braves next to the elder turn to fight the invaders that made it over the wall, leaving their area exposed briefly. Like a river breaking through a dam, the taruen front line begins to collapse.
Log walls topple over as Centaurs jump the barriers, or run over the corpses of the unsuccessful beast before them. It is all out-combat in the north end of the camp. A druid that goes by the name Nanaki lets out a burst of energy, the light cooking an invader charging him. He quickly turned into a shadow lion and leaped onto a centaur that was fighting to his right, biting into his head, and ripping it off. He danced through the combat, changing into a bear standing on two legs before coming down on two more raiders in front of him crushing the pair with his paws. Nanaki let out a battle cry looking into the air when another beast slashed his right side. In response the druid used his left paw and clawed the centaur to the ground with great strength, leaving his animal form, he crushes the enemy's chest with his hoove, while ripping roots from the earth wrapping another horseman in the distance...
The centaur kept pouring into the camp, like ants breaching a kicked over mound. Guia thrust her spear into an incoming raider stabbing under his arm-pit. She pulled the spear out with a scream before putting her hand forward pushing the centaur away with an immense wind. Seer Sanar, not far from Guia, uses both hands pushing the shaft of his spear forward. A great flame came from the spear into the group of marauders, that made it to the backline of Shu'Halo hunters. The centaur charred and fell over, and the flame quickly dissipated. A lesser shaman witnessed the use of the fire, and quickly called forth the element herself, letting out a massive flame that she could not handle. A handful of centaur were set ablaze, but so was the earth around them. The lesser shaman Shia was cut down quickly as she was in a panic over the blaze, due to the water elemental refusing to aid her. All-consuming, the fire spread through the battlefield...
The flames cut through both forces causing a maze of fire and ash. As the fire spread shamans attempted to put it out calling forth the water elements. Some more successful than others, but the distraction left many open to be attacked and bested by the centaur. Seer Guia could not leave her post, or the young would be put at risk. "Sanar go try to contain that fire!" Guia throws a boulder across smashing a centaur atop a young brave. "What about your flank Guia!" he calls out putting his hand up and with a surge of wind he deflects an incoming spear. "I will be fine, that fire needs to be tamed! Go now, do not argue!" Sanar reluctantly nods and runs into the main battle. Guia watches him as he runs into the fray. "Earth mother protect you."
A centaur cuts through the headdress of a taruen warrior splitting the crown of his head. The beast pulls the blade and yells into the sky instigating the other marauders in the area. A spearhead pushes through the centaur's chest and drops him. Sanar steps up and rips his spear out. Sanar holds out his hand. "Please help me calm these flames. I ask you to aid me." Water begins to surface from deep within the ground, extinguishing most the flames. "Thank you." Sanar opens his eyes to an enemy about to buck him. The shaman falls over into the wet dirt. The centaur brings down his blade attempting to cut into the Seer. Sanar quickly puts his spear out to stop the blow. The clash of both weapons sends a ring through both their bodies. Tochoa grabs the raider by the ponytail pulling him back. With his other hand, he comes down with his stone hammer, crushing the horsemen's skull, stopping the cry for help. He drops the centaurs body and moves along the battle toppling over the next beast.
Sanar pushes himself up and looks over the battle. The Earthspear are losing the fight. Not out of will, but sheer numbers. With the bulk of the flames contained, he rushes back to the nursery. "Guia we will not win this fight, the centaur are too many!" Guia looks to him in the small window they had, before analyzing the main battle. Centaur and Shu'Halo alike litter the ground. Blood is over everything almost as if red was its natural color. Screams can be heard coming from all directions. Guia follows the smoke drifting into the night sky from the leftover flames. The ash follows the winds from north to south. "Sanar watch over the young." Guia shifts her gaze from the sky down to the younger seer. Sanar Realizing what she intends to do calls out to her with heavy breathe now. "Wait!" At that moment a centaur sprints to the younger tauren. Seer Guia roars, raising her hand, and the earth under the centaur shoots up in jagged edges, impaling the beast.
Seer Guia steps to Sanar quickly her movements showing her fatigue. She places her hand on his chest and speaks with breathless haste. "Over the last few years I...I have seen your future within the Emerald Dream. I...I fear in the coming decades you will play a role to combat an...unimaginable threat. Take my teachings, and pass onto others, you will need help. Go to the Earthen Ring, there you will find your path." Sanar confused and taken aback can not help but question Guia. "What do you me-?" She quickly cut him off saying. "When your mother died I took you as my own remember? I promised to protect you as best I could, you are not my son, but I love you all the same." Seer Guia removes her hand from his chest and rubs his horns one last time "Earth Mother guide you, young Shu'Halo." She removes her hands from the bull's horns before turning to run into the battle, looking back once more. Knowing he cannot stop her, Sanar places his hand over his heart and bows to Guia. The moment is stripped away as two more beast break from the fray and charge Sanar. He throws his spear into the first one taking down the foe, before grappling the second into the dirt. The ashen tauren sprints as fast as her legs would let her, into the chaos.
There was no time to look back. There was no time to second guess. There was only time to act. She has known the elements for over a century, and they have been loyal allies to her when called upon. If the Earthspear clan was going to see An’she again, Guia knew, she must ask more of the elements than she ever has.
The old seer was apart of the of shaman Earthen Ring, has walked in the Emerald Dream as a spirit walker, and was an extension of the Earth Mother herself. With all that behind her, she prayed, one last time, as she ran with labored breathing and the battle a haze moving around her. “Earth Mother, bless me with strength, even just for a little bit longer.” She asked with soft words in between gasp of air. Guia stops and raises her spear above her head. She focuses; channeling her energy to call forth the elements help.
Tochoa picks up a shield from the floor, spotting Guia summoning in the distance. As the bull sprints to close the gap he yells to his fellow Shu’Halo. “Everyone to Guia! Protect her with everything you have!” The Earthspear leader slams the shield to the back of a centaur, dropping his enemy. In a fluid motion the shield makes contact with a second, and using his hammer to bash down a third marauder, he pushes through the battle getting closer to the ashen seer. The sudden surge of Tochoa gave his clan a new life. The tauren began to fight harder and pushed to the channeling Crone. With the Earthspear Clan fighting off the beast, Guia’s eyes roll behind her head as she begins to mumble incoherently to those around.
Winds begin to gust as clouds gather overhead. Quickly what were just a few bunches of clouds, turn into a swirling mass with branches trailing around a core center. Thunder begins to shatter the sky above the battle. Tauren and centaur alike slow their fighting and begin to look up at the alien-like formation. As it continues to circle in place, the skies darken with black, grey, and cobalt dominating above...
Guia’s eyes snap back as she gasps for a breathe. Without hesitating, she swings her spear in a wave-like motion bringing a slab of earth erupting from the ground covering her and the other Shu’Halo, like a wave crashing in on itself. Sanar following suit, he does the same pulling up a stone wall arching over himself, and the nursery.
An explosion of lighting strikes shot down from the cyclone above. The sound is deafening like the atmosphere is ripping itself apart. Lightning strikes the stone shield protecting the tauren, chipping away at their defense. The slab falls a little as Guia bends to one knee. Tochoa commands. “Aid her!” Trying his best to outroar the thunder above. The lesser shaman quickly begin to channel their power as one, and the slab holds. Sanar yells putting all his might into holding the wall covering the nursery and himself, upright. “AHHH!” The centaur try to fight their way under the covering earth, but Tochoa, Nanki, and the fellow Earthspear warriors hold them off. Chanting in unison. Hmph...hmph...hmph...hmph. As they push the marauders back. Chopping away at what is left of the raiders.
The lighting slowly fades and the winds die down. The battle becomes still...Centaur can be heard retreating in the silence. The group of shaman push the battered earth covering them back into the ground, where it surfaced. Sanar exhausted slowly lets down the wall to the side. The stone cracked and breaking apart as he does. Mothers and fathers rush to the nursery calling to their young. Sanar slowly makes his way to the main group, pushing through the Shu'Halo gathered up. The entire camp on its last legs.
As he makes it into the front lines he sees Guia’s body laying on the floor. Letting out a growl the seer pushes past his clansmen and falls to his knee. Sanar closes his eyes and bows his head in silence. Tochoa stands straight up, showing his strength, and looks over his tribe. With his hammer low, but his head high he speaks to his clan. “The Earth Mother is with us still. In life and in death. We lost some of our brethren tonight, but they are now free to walk into the Earth Mother's embrace. We must gather our fallen and give them the proper respects. On the morrow, we will move. The centaur will be back, as they know we are weakened.”
Tochoa looks down to Sanar and gives a stern nod before walking through the crowd of Shu’Halo. Sanar stays next to Guia lowering his head again. Before walking off the tauren of the clan pat Sanar and say a quick prayer for the fallen crone.
Once the group scattered, Sanar rubs Guia’s horns before placing his forehead down against hers. His eyes showing water. In a somber tone, the young Shu'Halo tells his mentor. "Thank you...I will see you again in the rustle of the leaves, in the call of a river, and in the flames of our campfire." He did not move for a long time. The lone seer sat there by Guia's body, with a hand on her forehead, making sure she did not go to the Earth Mother alone, but with a friend by her side...
The Kodos moan as they are packed with tents, food, and whatever could be salvaged from the attack. Shu’Halo are praying, saying their last goodbyes to fallen loved ones, their ashes released into the wind. An’she is cracking through the leftover clouds. The barrens are overshadowed in a filter of grey as ash floats around, following the indecisive winds. Wrecked tents still smolder in piles of embers and debris. Sanar is packed with supplies, his leathers, and spear. As he walks up to Tochoa, the clan leader turns from Kahnti and greets him.
“Are you sure you must go Sanar? We need you now more than ever.” Asked Tochoa. “I am afraid I must, Seer Guia instructed me to go to the Earthen Ring, before she passed. This is something I need to do.” He responds gently placing his hand on a bag tied to his belt, containing Guia’s ashes. Tochoa nods and places his hand on the younger tauren's shoulder. “If you must, you must. Return when you have found what you seek.” Sanar places his hand on Tochoa’s shoulder and grips sternly. “Thank you Chieftain. Where will I be able to find you?” Both Tauren lowered their hands. “There have been whispers of Cairne Bloodhoof unifying all the Shu’Halo tribes, to fight back the centaur as one. That is where we will go.” Tochoa lets out a sharp breathe from his snout. “What do you plan on doing with Seer Guia’s ashes, Sanar?” Tochoa asked. “I will release them once I speak with Muln Earthfury, at the Earthen Ring.” The chieftain and his mate embrace Sanar, before the lone Seer walks through the camp, leaving the tribe behind him, for now...