Paradigm Shift ((Story))

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Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:05 pm

((This story takes place shortly before the Shattering and runs parallel to the story Shadow of Doubt. Related RPs and stories are as follows: A Satyr's Curse, Crimson Path to Tomorrow, Innocence Under Fire, Trapped in Lies, Shadows of Doubt, and Northern Reflections. Chains of Command occurs a few months after the events of Shadows of Doubt and Paradigm Shift. Originally located on the WoW forums, KaijinRhada and I decided to relocate it, mostly due to me putting my WoW account on hiatus.

Posts made under the tag of Sundar were made by KaijinRhada. Post made by me have the tag, Izdazi.

At this time this Story RP is closed, but I may open it later on.))



Paradigm Shift

Izdazi:
They didn't say anything to her and she had even less to say to them. That was the general demeanor of the group on their languid journey to Talonbranch. In fact, with the exception of the occasional, and what she suspected to be, exaggerated yawn from the sabers they rode on, the journey was made in near total silence.

That suited Izdazi fine. She didn't feel any particular oneness with the people she was traveling with. They were a group of a half dozen. Each had their reasons for making this journey and knew well that when it was over, they would be different people. They would no longer be considered civilians, but rather, the protector of civilians. And more then ever, the night elves needed protectors.

Two of their group were already Sentinels and were traveling to participate in an advanced training. The other four, including herself, were here to prove that they can be counted upon to defend the interested of the kal'dorei and their allies.

Once upon a time, Izdazi would have eschewed the very idea of becoming a sentinel. Now, things were different. What she was left wondering is if any of it would make a difference. The two sentinels knew of her checkered past and she had seen their brief glances of disapproval. Whether it was the dreadlocks she sported or the choices she had made, she wasn't sure.

It was a nonsensical question, really. Once the training was over and she was given a moonglaive and her duty station, she would become just another mindless grunt who had to follow the orders of a 'superior.' There was no place among the sentinels for an individual to prove their worth except for following a stringent code of discipline.

How did mother make it as far as she had?

Almost as quickly as the question entered her mind, she shook it away. She was doing this for two reasons. It was what her mother wanted and it would earn her a more permanent parole. This was a second chance that she fully intended to take advantage of.

She glanced ahead at the sentinel in the lead. Her silver hair cascaded over her the sentinel armor she wore. Her moonglaive hung across her back similar to the way the humans hung their shields. Ryaha Streamrunner had wasted no time assuming command of their journey from Nighthaven to Timbermaw Hold.

She was young and didn't sport any battle marks, but she was a sentinel nonetheless. None of the other recruits had contested her. Izdazi had considered it. Despite Ryaha's experience as a soldier, the huntress was sure she had more experience in navigating through the forests and woods. She was sure she'd travel farther and to more places then the warrior. However, since most of their travel would be on an already established road, she saw no reason to vie for leadership. Let the pretentious little sentinel have her go at leadership.

The first tendrils of sunlight were just starting to brighten the sky when the group pulled off the road and found a resting place several yards beyond. As soon as they dismounted and the saddles were unlatched the sabers took off into the forest to hunt. The riders thought little of it as they too began to setup the camp and prepare their meals. Most of this was done under the watchful eye of their self-appointed leader.

Izdazi said nothing and was already hiking beyond the camp before she could be ordered around. The others can set up camp; she was going to find their dinner. Hunting was best a solo job.

The trees did an adequate job of obscuring the brightening sky and an early morning mist hung close to the ground. The forest was still quiet, with only the earlier risers among the diurnal animals beginning their daily forage.

Unlike most of her kind, she had adapted to working during the sunlight. Most of the other races preferred working under the sun, which put Izdazi at a disadvantage when she was at Booty Bay. While it hadn't taken her long to overcome the natural distaste of the sunlight, like most of her people, she was always the most comfortable in the reassuring embrace of darkness.

Her footsteps were soundless even as she moved toward the sound of forest shrubbery being disturbed. The doe looked up at the nearly inaudible sound the bow made as she pulled back on the arrow. A moment later the deer fell to the ground with an arrow protruding from her neck.

With a quick scan around the woods, she quickly approached and inspected the fallen doe. The kill was good and the hunt swift. The huntress couldn't have asked for better.

Leave teamwork for the soldiers. I work better alone.

* * *

"Where have you been?" Sentinel Steamrunner demanded as soon as she entered camp. The others were sitting around the fire eating some of the nuts and berries that they had brought.

Izdazi made a pointed show of staring blankly at the young sentinel before dropping the doe on the ground at her feet.

"Hunting," she replied sarcastically. Ryaha narrowed her eyes.

"We were provided food," she snapped.

"Yes, but I'm tired of berries." The elf turned away from the sentinel and began digging through her pack for a skinning knife.

"We're here for training. This is part of the test. We should be able to make a three day journey with the resources provided," the sentinel explained.

"I didn't hear anything about that being a rule. Besides, Elune only knows what kind of hardships we'll be forced to endure while training. Some meat will provide much needed nutrients for us to whether these hardships."

The other elf stepped forward and kicked the pack from Izdazi's hand.

"The test is implied, you moron!" she yelled. "They want to see if we have to resolve to handle a simple journey."

Izdazi jumped up and glared at the taller woman. Her eyes flashed in anger before she reigned in her fury.

"There is no test, idiot," she replied, seething. "They told us to ride to Talonbranch. Not to starve ourselves on our reserve rations. I'm hungry and I'm going to prepare this meal. Anyone who wants some is welcome to have it." The huntress returned to preparing the kill and heard Ryaha storm away in huff.

"I'll be reporting your infraction to our shando when we arrive, Shadowcreek," she sneered.

"You're assuming he'll care," she replied snidely.

"What do we know of our shando?" another kal'dorei asked, changing the subject. Like most of them, she was simply a recruit with no military training. Her hands continued brushing down on her long dark green hair while she looked at the others. After a few long tense minutes in which none of the recruits and the other sentinel offered a reply Ryaha cleared her throat.

"I don't know his name, but he has a reputation for being the toughest. There are even some rumors that demons had asked him to kill the Scourge but even he was too tough for them to control. He's the trainer most of the recruits pray they never get," she explained in a story teller tone as she walked slowly around the campfire. "But those of us who make it through his grueling training will be among the best of the best."

"Sounds like something from a recruitment poster," Izdazi muttered more loudly then she intended and instantly regretted it when Sentinel Streamrunner's head snapped toward her.

"He has a reputation for weeding out the useless ones. I'm sure in a week you'll be returning back to the hole where whence you came, Izdazi," the sentinel rebutted.

Izdazi tried, and failed to suppress a quiet shudder at the thought of returning to the barrows. The notion of being surrounded by ever closing walls was enough for her heart to start rushing. Closing her eyes, she took deep breaths and forced her nerves to calm.

Unfortunately, Ryaha took the silence to goad her a step too far.

"It's amazing that your mother is the Commander Shadowcreek. A hero and warrior whose tactics are among required reading for officer training," the sentinel pressed on as she took a few steps closer to Izdazi. The huntress still had her back to her but had stopped skinning the deer. "You're just proof that even the best of our officers can make mistakes."

The dam of self-control finally collapsed. Izdazi released a battle cry, spun around and leapt on the unsuspecting warrior. Her eyes flashed in unrestrained fury and she managed to land two solid punches to the sentinel's face before two of the recruits could pull her off. Strings of kal'dorei epithets rained her lips as she fought against their group.

Ryaha recovered and stumbled to her feet. In the brightening daylight, the dark blood contrasted sharply against her light skin tone. A sly grin spread over Izdazi's face at the sight of one of the sentinel's eye swelling. The remaining recruits stared with uncertainty, and even a little fear, at the hostility.

"Release her," Ryaha rasped. Izdazi felt her arms released and shrugged them off.

She was about to offer a snide comment, when, faster then the huntress could track, Ryaha spun kicked her in the side of the head. Izdazi's world exploded in a sea of pain and confusion.

When her eyes opened could finally focus, Izdazi noted that she was lying on the ground. Something warm and moist was coating the side of her head and, with some effort, touched her forehead and looked at the blood in her finger.

"You're dirt, Izdazi. I can't believe they'd let you out of hole to become one of us. Especially after you attacked some of us. You're right where you belong. On the ground," Sentinel Streamrunner yelled as she returned to the campfire.

Izdazi allowed her head to fall back to ground and waited for the vertigo to pass. Then, deciding as if the place where she was laying was as good as any, she fell asleep.

* * *
Several hours later.


It was late afternoon when something nudged her awake. There was a wet sound and a course warm cloth was being brushed over her head. She grumbled sleepily and tried to roll away, but was nudged back and the cloth returned.

Her eyes slowly opened and then widened at the closeness of her saber's head. The riding cat was methodically licking her head and cleaning the dried blood.

"At least someone cares about me," she muttered, patting the saber and struggling to her feet. The campfire had reduced to smoldering wood. Around the camp, others elves were sleeping on mats. Sentinel Streamrunner wasn't anywhere to be seen but probably on watch.

"What am I thinking doing this?" she asked softly to one particular. Without pause, the huntress resumed preparing the doe and cooking the available meat.

* * *

Their arrival into Talonbranch was done without much fanfare or acknowledgement. The settlement wasn't particular large and only boasted a handful of small structures and tree domiciles.

Ryaha wasted no time ordering the recruits to stand at attention. Thanks to a healing salve or potion, most of the wounds to her face were no long visible, but her eyes still appeared dark.

Before resuming their travel, Izdazi had applied a healing salve to her own injury and her thin dreadlocks obscured the wound. Overall, she felt less embarrassed about it then Ryaha was of hers.

Still, I'm useless against close combat. Maybe I might learn something here. She looked down the line of recruits standing at attention and shook her head. Unlike the others, who were standing rigid and straight-ahead, she spent the time looking around and studying the settlement.

While she was sure that most of what Sentinel Streamrunner said about their shando was exaggerated, there was no denying that whoever this was took their job seriously.

It'd be just my luck…

Sundar:
Two and a half weeks earlier

Dusk in Teldrassil marked the start of a day for many of its inhabitants, though some were up earlier than others. A male night elf walked along the paths of the outskirts of Darnassus, and beside him was a strangely blue frostsaber. The kaldorei looked to be in his prime and was well-dressed. He wore a silken purple shirt and black leather pants and boots. His hair was of a deep ultramarine, worn long with segments tied in braids held at the ends and bases with metal rings, with one large one at the back. His bangs hung freely down to his chest and his goatee was grown long.

His expression was kept neutral as he proceeded on his way. His sabre companion also paid little heed to much else, only following the elf. The direction the walked in led past the Cenarion Enclave, where there were a few houses. Most of the homes were currently not in use, as their owners were away, but one still had signs of activity. A light could be seen through the window, but a more apparent sign was a black worg that slept outside of the door. As the elf approached the entrance, the worg stirred, looking up at him.

"Enjoying a nap?" the elf asked. The worg replied with a light whine before lying down again.

The night elf went on his way into the door, with cat in tow. There was a strong smell of herbs inside the building as he stepped in, and there was the sound of papers being shuffled.

"Raven?" the elf called out.

"Inside, Ashtalar." came a voice.

Ashtalar walked into the next room. Another elf, Ravenstar, sat in a chair with forms in hand. The other elf had dark green hair, styled in a long topknot with long hair cascading down his back, His loose bangs, parted in the middle, framed a stern face. The most curious feature was the strange blue glow to his eyes. Like Ashtalar he was simply dressed; a light blue shirt and brown pants and high boots.

"How was the meeting with the Sentinels?" Ashtalar asked the seated Kaldorei. "What was it about?"

"Tedious," Ravenstar answered plainly. "But it seems they're taking more action in reaction to the Silverwind situation. They want us to set up the camp earlier."

"Early, do we have that many recruits up for it?"

"They're augmenting the list with more Sentinel recruits." Ravenstar looked at the papers again before placing them on a nearby table. He then sat back in his chair with arms crossed. "They might send a priestess along with us, but the details are still being worked out."

"Oh, great," Ashtalar said, with an obvious lack of enthusiasm, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Even his cat mirrored his annoyance his a growl. "How many are we getting?"

"No numbers yet, and we're going to need to contact the others that were interested and tell them about the change. We might need to get an extra hand this time."

"So, when are we setting up?"

"Next week," Ravenstar said candidly. He stood up, rolling the stiffness out of his shoulder. "Let's get things started."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Present: Talonbranch Glade, Felwood

Ravenstar paced around the prepared camp, dressed in partial leathers for the time being given there would be little to do for the next two hours or so. He looked around the camp for anything that needed adjustments. Talonbranch Glade had been very accommodating in providing the tents and basic supplies they would require for the recruits staying there under such short notice.

The camp itself sported the usual kaldorei-style woven tents and illuminations, with a fire pit situated in the centre of the structures along with long benches to sit upon. Tarps were stockpiled on the side for when they needed and a rack for preparing hunted game for their meals was placed on the opposite side. At the far back, closer to one of the weaponsmits of the community, was an ornately decorated chest, one that Ravenstar and his companion would be keeping a close eye on.

Everything seemed in other, now all that was left to do was wait for their class to assemble. The elf took a moment to relax before their work would start. He was soon joined by Ashtalar, who was followed by a trio of beasts; his blue sabre, the armoured worg and now a violet raptor with a viciously spiked hide. Ashtalar was similarly outfitted in part of his gear.

"I still think it's a bit much to bring along that many pets of yours," Ravenstar commented, crossing his arms.

"Three isn't too many. If it comes down to the recruits being hopeless in hunting, we can ensure we get in good kills lest we starve," Ashtalar smirked, waving off the comment and injecting some humour into the decision. As he stopped, Ashtalar's three snimal companions circled around him. "How many are we getting in total again?"

"According to the list the Temple gave me, we'll be having four fresh recruits, two initiated Sentinels seeking further training and four trainees for the Wardens arriving tomorrow."

"That's a few more than usual, and a mixed group."

"We'll see if that number remains after the first few days."

"And I was wondering why we're starting in Felwood." Ashtalar said in a sly.

"In these times, I'd rather not add to the casualty count," Ravenstar said, almost not directing the answer to his friend. "Well, the Sentinel recruits should be here by now. Let's go and see if they made the trip."

"Meeting the students, oh what fun," Ashtalar intoned with a hint of sarcasm. He motioned his companions to follow as he walked alongside of Ravenstar to the front grounds of Talonbranch.

Introductions were often the most boring part of the camp for the two elves. They were keen on starting the training as soon as possible, but given the differences of travel time between their camp members, that would have to wait until the next day. As they arrived at the designated meeting area, Ravenstar saw that there were six elves standing in a mostly orderly fashion.

That must be them.

He quickly eyed over each of the recruits, taking in their demeanors and their attitdes to their surroundings. One particular elf caught his eye though and the sight h=of her suddenly made his brow furrow. She was like most of the other elves present, though not standing as tensely as they were. The most eye-catching characteristic she had though was her hair, which was styled with dreadlocks. There was only one elf he had met previously with such hair and she was as she had looked years before during their first encounter with each other in Ashenvale. He also noticed what looked like an abrasion upon the she-elf's forehead. Likewise, another recruit was sporting a black eye.

Izdazi Shadowcreek and what looks to be trouble cropping up already. Now this is going to be a long and awkward camp...

He also noticed what looked like an abrasion upon Izdazi's forehead. Likewise, another recruit was sporting a black eye. While the two elves had differences in the past Ravenstar had a job to do. He could not let personal pasts get in the way of his duty. He would try not to pay specific attention to Izdazi nor show any tension between the two on the recruits first day here. That would have to be dealt with at a later date in private.

Ashtalar noted the way Ravenstar looked at one of the recruits and wondered what the problem was. It would have had to wait for later as Ravenstar stepped forward to address the troupe regardless of any social tensions that may occur.

"I see you all made it here in one piece," the kaldorei announced placing his hands at his back. "Mostly." He eyed Izdazi and the other injured elf with a bit of curiosity. "I am Ravenstar, and this is my colleague Ashtalar," he gestured to his compatriot, who nodded to the small gathering with a neutral expression. "We will be your instructors for this camp. You will be joined by more students tomorrow, hence training will officially start then. For now you may take this opportunity to get to know your surroundings.

"Our camp is set up at the southern reaches of Talonbranch. There are supplies there for most of your basic needs, but I am guessing some of you have come prepared with your own. Before we let you off on a recoup after your journey here, there are some rules to be set here. First, you are all here as equals. I don't care about what standings you may have with other groups or with each other, here you are all students and will be expected to treat each other as your colleague. Your training here is to prepare you to work in the Sentinel forces and like it or not, you will have to work with others.

"Second, you do not leave the camp grounds unless told to do so or unless you have informed either Ashtalar or myself. Third, I expect that there will be no trouble coming from any of you. Talonbranch Glade was kind enough to allocate space for our training grounds, and I don't want to hear of any embarrassing acts from any of the residents here about this camp. Fourth, both mine and Ashtalar's campsite is further south of Talonbranch if there is need to find us, but if I find any of you snooping around our camp while we aren't there, I'll be setting up a one on three match for the offender to face off with Ashtalar's three friends here as a lesson. The don't take nicely to intruders on our privacy."

The elf motioned to the three beasts that were present. Already the worg let out a slight growl as some of the recruits eyed him.

Ravenstar looked up at the shafts of moonlight penetrating the thick forest canopy for a moment to keep track of time and trying to remain neutral with all of the present students. "I will allow four hours for your resting period, then I'll have a pre-training task for all of you. Are there any questions so far?"

Izdazi:
Not him.

Izdazi's silvery eyes widened at the site of Ravenstar. Her posture straightened almost to the same degree as the other recruits when he announced that he would be training them. And when he looked at her with his cold piercing eyes she almost felt like skulking back to the barrows where she'd been imprisoned for the last year and a half.

Almost.

The very thought of being imprisoned in a tiny earthen cell again, was enough to reaffirm her resolve to become a sentinel. But now she knew it'd be much more difficult.

She didn't know if Ravenstar was one to hold a grudge, but the brief glance he'd shot her had sent chills down Izdazi's spine. They had fought each other during the conflict with the satyrs several years ago and despite her cunning traps and best efforts, he had dispatched her with an almost shameful ease. Only by bartering, had she managed to convince him to reluctantly allow her to leave. But he had made himself abundantly clear that because she had tried to harm his friends, it would be best if he never saw her again.

I imagine he's as shocked as I am. And I bet he knows that my future is in his hands. Elune, help me.

"I see you all made it here in one piece," Ravenstar announced as he folded his hands behind his back. He spared Izdazi and Ryaha another glance before adding, "Mostly."

The she elf again fought the urge to shrink back.

"I am Ravenstar, and this is my colleague Ashtalar," he gestured to the other kal'dorei standing behind him. The other elf gave the recruits a quick nod but there was nothing in his visiage to determine how he felt or what kind of 'teacher' he would be. "We will be your instructors for this camp. You will be joined by more students tomorrow, hence training will officially start then. For now you may take this opportunity to get to know your surroundings."

With that, Ravenstar began explaining the layout of the camp and rules of conduct. His voice carried an air of authority that Izdazi found difficult to not respect. The rules he presented were more then expected, although she was sure some of them would be more difficult to stomach then others. Particularly the first one.

The huntress worked best and felt more secure when she worked alone. She didn't even prefer animal companions after the loss of her panther, Alio. Working alone meant that she only had to shoulder the burden of safety of herself.

But it was difficult to ignore the bond between hunter and companion. Her eyes looked at the animals that flanked Ashtalar. The worg and sabre were hardy and loyal companions but it was the violet-scaled raptor that caught her attention. Years in Booty Bay had taught her to respect these creatures. They, more then any creature, carried the spirit of the hunter with them.

His last rule concerning the privacy of his and Ashtalar's tent was punctuated with the threat of a match against the animal companions. The worg growled, but Izdazi kept her eyes on the raptor. The necklace of raptor teeth she wore under her linen shirt seemed to burn against her flesh.

"I will allow four hours for your resting period, then I'll have a pre-training task for all of you. Are there any questions so far?" Ravenstar declared.

"Shando," Sentinel Ryaha Streamrunner called out, taking a deliberate step forward but remaining at attention. Except for Izdazi, who spared a quick glance at the young sentinel, the rest of the recruits stood stone still. "Two of us have already cleared basic and were told to come to you for advanced training. Do you mean to say that us sentinels are to train with those who haven’t even proven themselves to the order?"

Unconsciously, Izdazi sneered at the quick jab. She had a feeling that Streamrunner's last comment was directed pointedly at her. But she quickly returned to a neutral expression and continued staring straight.

Ravenstar smirked at the question. "This training camp is meant for wardens and elites. Even Sentinel training will pale in comparison to this."

"Sentinel theory however, you will not have to repeat, but we will get to that later."

From the corner of her eyes, Izdazi could tell that Ryaha wasn't entirely convinced, but wisely chose not to pursue it further. The sentinel stepped back in formation and when no further question was raised he dismissed them .

The huntress spared the raptor one more glance before retrieving her pack and looking for a tent to call home. The others did likewise.

Beyond the perimeter of the camp the oppressive and mysterious forest seemed to call to her. Felwood was one of the few places she never had the opportunity or reason to visit. However, despite her lack of first hand experience, she knew some of the dangers of this place. It didn't seem to make sense to put a training camp in such a hostile location.

Then again, with the Horde aggression rising to new and alarming levels, there was little time to be slow and patient with recruits. Now, more then ever, her people needed able-bodied warriors to protect their homes. Izdazi understood this better then most, even though in the past she had shied away from the regimental discipline of the Sentinels.

The tents were meager and spartan; each being designed to accommodate a single occupant and their gear. They would suffice against the elements and provided privacy, but little else. If it weren't for her claustrophobia, she would have considered them adequately comfortable. Regardless, she decided that the thin fabric tent walls were not nearly as oppressive as the thick earthen walls of her cell in barrows. Not by a long shot.

Of course, what's to stop Ravenstar from intentionally failing me?

Brushing the uncomfortable thought from her mind, Izdazi tossed her pack into the tent and decided to explore Talonbranch.

Sundar:
The young elves had gone to their campsite without much of a word, though one of the recruits did speak up. Ravenstar was not concerned. There were always a few rookies that would question his rules and get ahead of themselves, but the older elf knew what was best. It would not take long for the cocky ones to get grounded.

As they left, Ravenstar kept his eye on Izdazi. The huntress had not said a word as of yet, luckily. He was actually unsure of how he would have responded. He did notice a sense of intimidation from the she-elf. He had to wonder if their last encounter had such long-lasting effects on her perception of him.

Whatever... When the time comes to talk to her, I'll just have to deal with it.

Ravenstar started on his way back to his tent. Ashtalar followed suit, but also looking at the green-haired elf with some curiosity. He had known his friend for longer than probably most or all of the recruits were alive for. He sensed some tension in the elf that he normally never sees. He hid it well, but Ashtalar knew the signs; a slight twitch of a brow, his eyes directed at certain details.

They arrived at their designated tent. It was larger than the tents allocated for the conscripts. It was furnished with two mats for sleeping and a bench, but there were also a few locked chests inside. Ashtalar's animal companions waited outside upon their friend's request as the two elves took a seat on their respective mats.

Ashtalar stretched out his arms and back before looking at Ravenstar. "So," he began. "Want to talk abou-"

"No," Ravenstar interrupted, sitting down with arms crossed and looking away with a disgruntled look. He knew what he was going to ask about.

"Oh come on, I'm curious!" Ashtalar prodded again at the subject. "I could see it, there's something between you and one of the recruits." The elf raised his eyebrows in a teasing manner.

"It's nothing of that sort," the other elf waved off.

"Well, what is it then?"

Ravenstar let out a sigh. He knew Ashtalar would not let the subject slide. He would continue poking around until he got an answer.

"You remember the troubles with that diplomatic meeting a few years ago concerning the Kaldorei satyrs?"

"Of course. It was the hot topic of the week," Ashtalar stated. He was not in Ashenvale at that time. However word spread quickly about the setbacks the meeting had and other more dire news coming from it.

"Well, one of those recruits is the one that attacked the convoy when it was close to Silverwind. She was apprehended, but later she had escaped custody and I brought her back. You've heard of Reyada Shadowcreek, that's her daughter."

"She's the one? Wait shouldn't she still be in the barrows?"

"She would have been, but a pardon may be granted if you join the Sentinels. I'm guessing she took that route, but I wasn't expecting her to be here." Ravenstar rubbed his brow.

"Is it really that bad between the two of you?" Ashtalar inquired, grabbing a flask of spring water.

"I can't say we closed off the dilemma in the friendliest way, nor can I assume she had forgotten her defeat. She probably still has a grudge against the kids."

"That could be troublesome concerning that..." Ashtalar added.

Ravenstar nodded in agreement. For a few moments the two friends were silent in contemplation. After some time Ashtalar spoke up.

"Speaking of the recruits, what should we start them off with?"

Ravenstar likewise procured some water, taking a drink before answering the question. "We can't start seriously today, but I was thinking of a warmup. Something to start building their stamina."

"Stamina? Oh I think I know what you're planning." Ashtalar let out a playful smile.

A hardened look crossed Ravenstar's features. "Yes, we shall see how well they do."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The hours had passed on and it was time again for the recruits to stand before the two elder Kaldorei. They had given them plenty of time to rest. This time the two instructors were looking like they were dressed for battle. Ravenstar wore hit typical attire of black leathers highlighted with deep blue and violet and bladed spaulders. His elegant glaives hung from his back and strapped to various parts of his armour were an array of knives. He looked almost more like a sinister assassin in his armour. Though this time he had forgone his cloak and putting up his hood.

Ashtalar on the other hand wore flexible mail armour of a blend of dark greys and black and hints of browns and greens. His shoulder guards appeared to have been adorned with the skull of a dragon on his right and that of a demon on his left. He was well armed just as his friend was, but to a farther extent it appeared. Strapped to his belt was a pair of vicious axes. On his back there was a spear, and a full quiver. In his hand was a grey and violet bow styled with a guard shield that resembled an owl upon a crescent moon. Of all of his weapons, only his bow appeared to be crafted by his own people, the other weapons were of a foreign design.

Ashtalar's sabre, worg and raptor were again at his side, but this time they were joined by two riding sabres clad in armour. One of a pure white coat and another of lavender. As the last of the recruits filed in to the common area of the camp, the great cats both stretched out their forms and started to groom their paws.

"I hope you all had a good rest," Ravenstar greeted the group of younglings. "As I had said before, we have a pre-trainign exercise for all of you. Nothing serious, but something to test the waters, shall we say. Ashtalar?"

The blue-haired elf stepped forward before the others. "Well, to get things started, we have perhaps a fun trial for all of you. Skoll." The armoured worg rose from his sitting position and stepped up by the elf, staring straight at the recruits. Ashtalar knelt beside the worg and started to tie pieces of silk cloth upon his collar. "A test of endurance. Skoll here will lead you all on a circuit around the surrounding area. You aim should be to at least keep up with him, but also to grab the silk cloth from his collar.

"You won't need to wrestle him down for it, in fact it's not recommended, just run along with him and try to grab hold of it."

"You may think of this to be a bit dangerous to do in Felwood, but Ashtalar and I will be keeping track of you," Ravenstar added. "You needn't worry about the threats of the forest as long as we're around. Any questions before we get started?"
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:06 pm

Izdazi:
Of all the things Izdazi expected Sentinel training to involve, chasing a worg through the forest didn’t even make the list. Yet here she was, with the other five recruits, struggling to keep up with the large, swift, muscular canine. This wasn't something you read about in the Sentinel recruitment posters.

Random foliage slashed at exposed skin as she and the others raced on. The white cloth attached to the worg’s spiked collar danced invitingly before her eyes, but every effort made to close the distance was quickly countered by a swift course change or burst of speed by the animal. By her reckoning, they had already been on the chase for three miles.

Thin stringy dreadlocks stuck to her sweat covered neck and forehead and at times threatened to all but obscure her target. But even as that common enough annoyance was easily brushed aside without even a cognitive thought, another was made abundantly known.

They had been running side-by-side for the last half-mile. The other four recruits were still in the chase, but in another five minutes all but one of them will lose sight of the worg. The two sentinels were managing better then the recruits, but one was lagging behind the other.

Izdazi was keeping the lead thanks to the time-honored practice of running as if a pack of hungry jungle raptors were chasing. Motivation, after all, is an important thing.

The huntress could tell that Ryaha wasn’t going to give up. The young sentinel was pushing herself as hard as she was. Both were ready to give up, but neither wanted to concede to the other. Again with the motivation.

“Why don’t you just give up?” Ryaha huffed as they leapt over a fallen log. The worg was darting in and out of their line of sight.

“You’d miss me,” Izdazi replied through rapid exhales.

“You’re not good enough to be one of us. Just dro…” the sentinel started to say before suddenly yelling out and losing her footing on a slick bed of leaves.

Izdazi chuckled and to sprint ahead when something landed between her boots. Her right foot failed to move ahead of the left one and she found herself sailing in the air with the ground rapidly approaching. She shielded her face with her arms just as she slid into the ground.

Taking a sharp breath, the huntress started pushing herself out of the ground only to have her arm painfully kicked out from under her.

"Ooops!" Ryaha called back insincerely before disappearing into the foliage. "I wonder what your mother would say, seeing you in the mud like that?"

Izdazi rolled on her back and her nursed her bruised arm. A few seconds later the other recruits raced past her. One stopped and offered her a hand, but she brushed it off angrily. With a derisive snort, the recruit continued on, leaving her on the ground to stew in her shame.

I tried, mother. I'm not cut out for this.

Why is it, you give up so easily when I give you a task? her mother's voice echoed in her mind. It was a conversation she and Reyada had about a year ago. Truion and Cheira told me of all you had accomplished in Booty Bay. Why can't you try as hard here as you did there?

Your shadow suffocates me! Izdazi had snapped venomously. At the time, remembered feeling a perverse sense of pleasure out how taken aback her infallible mother, Commander Reyada Shadowcreek had looked. I will never be judged as me! Everyone expects you when they see me! I can't live here. I can't live with you! I can't live in the same side of the world as you!

Tears burned her eyes as she remembered those words. It was the last thing she ever said to her mother and if she could, Izdazi would take them back.

Using a nearby tree to stand back up, she brushed the mud and leaves from her face and leather vest. The voices of the other recruits were rapidly fading into the distance. They were far beyond catching up at this point.

Bellowing in angry frustration, she kicked at a nearby tree, causing shards of bark to spray around. Somewhere, in her rage-saturated mind, she wondered if her anger was pointed at her failure or at the fact that Sentinel Streamrunner will be victorious.

Then, she heard it. Somewhere in the distance, one of the recruits call out something. It was unintelligible at this distance, but it wasn't the mystery of what was said that got her attention. It was the direction where the voices came from.

"They're circling around," she muttered to herself as hope rekindled. There was still a chance that this stumble could be salvaged.

The huntress froze as she strived to triangulate the sound of the others and judged the speed of the worg. If her estimations were right, then cutting through the settlement would be her best bet.

Coming to a decision, she vaulted off the trail and sprinted directly toward what she hoped to soon be the worg's path. About a mile into the run, she burst into the center of Talonbranch Glade. Residents called out angrily as she swept past the market area, knocking various displays and items people were carrying.

She shouted back half-hearted apologizes but didn't stop. Nothing mattered except for catching up to the worg.

The huntress leapt over a stack of skins and caught the lip of the roof with her hands. Hauling herself over, she raced across the rooftop and then jumped, flipping over a line of curing leather and landing skillfully on her feet. The leatherworker stormed out of the backdoor of his shop and started yelling something but she ignored him. Another minute later she was again amidst the forest, with Talonglade behind her. Her sensitive ears picked up on the shouts of the recruits. They were louder now.

Their proximity fueled her more. Adrenaline burned through her legs and she pushed forward harder then before. Something flashed in the trail ahead. It flashed again and she caught the brief sight of the worg as he darted through the shrubbery.

A second later, she and the worg intersected just as she had predicted. Izdazi leapt in the air and tackled the large canine. Together, they rolled on the ground. The worg's nails scratch her arms and torso as she skillfully twisted off its back. With the worg restrained, she snatched the cloth from his collar and then leapt off him.

The worg stood up and turned to her with his heckles raised and sharp teeth bared.

"Oh hush," she said, between deep breaths, in a tone that indicated that she wasn't intimidated by the beast. Whether it was a foolish stance or not, Izdazi wasn't sure.

Ironically, the worg was going to be the least of her concerns.

"Cheater!" someone shouted. The huntress turned and saw Ryaha panting against a tree and starting at Izdazi acidly.

"Winner," Izdazi corrected with a sly grin as she made a show of waving the cloth before the out-of-breath sentinel

"You were suppose to follow the worg!" Ryaha snapped.

"Oh, I followed the worg."

"You know what mean. Give me the cloth," she ordered, pushing off the tree.

"Take it from me, little sentinel," Izdazi challenged, as she swept a few rogue dreads from her eyes. She tucked the cloth behind her belt and gestured for Ryaha to bring it.

Without hesitation, the sentinel charged. It was a sloppy assault brought on by either over confidence or fatigue; perhaps both. Regardless, the huntress fell back to her arms and kicked her legs up. Her boot connected with the sentinel's jaw. She followed it with another kick to the sentinel's midsection.

By the time Ryaha hit the ground, Izdazi was back on her feet. Privately, she glad that that attack was successful. She had tried the troll-style combat style against Ravenstar only to have him counter it… painfully.

The young sentinel climbed back to her feet, brushed the blood from her mouth and uttered a few choice, but highly inaccurate, words about Izdazi's parentage.

"For someone who reveres my mother as a sentinel, you have an odd way of describing her," Izdazi countered in a calm voice she knew would drive her attacker angrier. What she didn't count on was Ryaha pulling out her knife.

Each recruit carried a small knife for emergencies. It was foolish for anyone to do anything in the forests of Felwood without some sort of weapon. But she didn't expect Ryaha, of all people, to pull one out like this.

"Put that away, Streamrunner," Izdazi warned, raising her unarmed hands. "I'm honestly flattered that you think you need a knife against me, but I'm not worth ending your career."

The young sentinel seemed to think it over and then glanced at the knife in shock. It wasn't difficult to see the confusion in her eyes. The instinct to pull the knife had come too quick, Izdazi realized as Ryaha tossed the knife on the ground and charged ahead.

Izdazi blocked the first few blows and dodged the third, but the forth caught her in the gut. Doubled over, she didn't have time to avoid being knocked into the small moss covered pool of water. She felt the sentinel take the cloth from her belt.

Kicking off the mushy floor of the pond, Izdazi grabbed Ryaha's shoulder and drove her face first into the water. At the same time, she kicked up with her knee and drove the air out of the sentinel's lungs. Automatically, Ryaha had tried to inhale, but only breathed in the pond water.

Overwhelmed by the need for air, she burst out of the water; inadvertently head butting Izdazi in the process, before rushing to the shore and coughing out the water.

The huntress recovered and stumbled to the opposite of the pond. Her vision was spinning and the partially healed wound in her forehead was open again.

After a moment of gasping, Izdazi realized that the other sentinels were standing around the pond cheering. Then, she felt a pair of strong hands on her shoulders and was driven back into the water. Ryaha was surging forward with the intention of kicking her back
into the water.

The slippery floor of the pond was going to make it impossible for her to kick Ryaha off. Instead, pulled her feet out of the floor and swam as fast as she could to the shore. Once her hands made contact, she hauled herself out of the pond and into sturdier dry ground. Izdazi turned around just in time to see Ryaha pull herself onto shore and jump to her feet.

"Enough!" she yelled as she reared back her arm and slammed her fist into the sentinel's face. Ryaha fell back into the water and the cheering recruits fell quiet and stared at her with open contempt. She eyed each of them and then back to Streamrunner, who was again making her way to the shore.

Izdazi sighed and started to move away, but the other recruits blocked her path. She turned another direction, but another pair blocked her.

"What is this?" she asked, sounding momentarily confused. There were footsteps behind her and turned in time to see Ryaha's charging. Again, she dodged her fist but still got knocked to the ground. The sentinel lashed out, striking the huntress in the ribs and kidneys. Izdazi fired back with a knee kick to the chest but she was starting to lose control of the situation. Closed quarter combat wasn't something Izdazi was good at and she was already fatigued from the running and fight.

Unfortunately, Ryaha seemed to be good at the fighting and better at managing her energy.

Lucky me.

Sundar:
The chase had begun. Skoll ran ahead leading the young elves around the tight unmarked corridors of the forest. Ravenstar and Ashtalar tracked their movements riding upon their great sabercats. Flanking them on either side were other animal companions companions. Given the worg's course, it was not an issue for them to keep up with the young elves.

It was easy for them to split up and surround the recruits without their knowing. Ashtalar took point, knowing where Skoll would turn, his exact reactions to the chase. The blue sabre and the spiked raptor followed along each side while Ravenstar lingered at the back, overseeing all of the recruits.

The young elves were able to keep up fairly well with Skoll, or perhaps each other, but Ravenstar had his eye on two recruits in particular. Izdazi and the other youngling that already passes basic Sentinel training were closest to catching the silk cloth pieces on Skoll's collar. He was surprised that none of them were lagging behind. He knew the worg was going at a reasonably fast pace; this group was showing some promise.

This might be one of the better groups lately.

That thought quickly left his mind as he saw the two lead elves start something with each other. The two elves were found scuffling with each other upon the forest floor. This was not what Ravenstar had in mind when the challenge was given. It seems though he had found the reason for the injuries found on the two recruits.

Oh petty drama, just what I want to deal with already, he mused to himself, placing a palm over his forehead.

The fight had ended decisively as Ravenstar looked back to the recruits. Izdazi was on the ground while the other elf had ran ahead with what he could hear was a taunt. He had thought about intervening, stopping the two elves before it grew into a bigger problem, but he decided it would be better to admonish the group as a whole and send the message clearly that such behaviour will be stemmed with an iron fist.

The rest of the elves had carried on in the chase, leaving Izdazi on the ground in defeat. She looked to be struggling to get to her feet, either from injury or the insult left by the other she-elf, Ravenstar was unsure. He was obligated to not interfere with the challenge directly, only to ward of threats, thus he stayed behind and left Ashtalar and his animal friends to watch the rest of the crew. He could not shake off the feeling that he would be disappointed if Izdazi gave up right then and there.

Given their previous encounter, he had seen the huntress fight, he witnessed how she thought and dealt with obstacles. The rogue knew of the potential in her. It would be a shame to see it go to waste. It seemed like ages, waiting, watching to see what she would do. Suddenly, the she-elf became alerted by something. He could hear it too, the sounds of the recruits coming around again. Ravenstar kept a close eye on Izdazi, curious about what she would do. Could she make up for the loss of time?

She suddenly bolted upward and dashed ahead. Ravenstar reined in his sabre, riding on to follow her. He was unsure of Izdazi's intentions in her new plan, but the direction they were headed in made him wonder.

She's heading back to Talonbranch.

Somehow, the elder kaldorei had a bad feeling about her route. He knew Skoll would be circling around the outpost, careful to not lead the young elves far out into the wild, but this path seemed too direct to him.

Oh no... She's not going to...

She did. Izdazi's plan was to intercept the worg, but from where they were, it would involve cutting through the middle of Talonbranch Glade. He rode in a wide arc, enough for him to stay at the outer limits of the community but close enough to keep an eye on the she-elf. To his annoyance, the huntress had managed to knock over various items in the market area, objects that the residents were holding, and a rack of leather that was curing outside.

Ravenstar shook his head as he continued onward, He was not looking forward to the complaints he will inevitably receive from the residents of Talonbranch, but there was nothing he could do now. He kept on trailing her progress, he had to admit that he was rather interested in how this would turn out.

Soon the rest of the recruits came in sight, as did Skoll. His focus remained wholly on the huntress. With some bravery, the elf had leapt onto the worg and tumbled upon the ground with the lupine. Izdazi managed to arrive on top of Skoll, taking on of the cloth pieces from his collar. Skoll was not at all pleased, though Ravenstar was impressed she managed that with little injury.

Not bad at all.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the troubles. With the coming of the rest of the young elves came a shout of "cheater" from one of them. Again it was the Sentinel that Izdazi had a conflict with earlier. As the two elves started to argue, Ashtalar came up beside Ravenstar.

"Stayed behind for something interesting?" the elf asked.

"It seems that sparks are flying between those two girls there," Ravenstar pointed out.

Just as he had said that, their current altercation turned into an exchange of blows. This time it ended with the Sentinel on the ground. She got up, an angry expression painted on her features.

"For someone who reveres my mother as a sentinel, you have an odd way of describing her," the two males heard from Izdazi. Whether or not she meant that as a taunt did not matter, the reaction she elicited caused Ashtalar to draw his bow an arrow as the Sentinel that she had toppled drew out the combat knife that they had provided for the trainees.

"Hold it," Ravenstar said to his friend in a whisper.

Ashtlar's instincts as a dead shot had overtaken him. He remained steady, but he lowered his bow. Izdazi had managed to calm the she-elf down enough to make her put away the knife, but then the two picked up the fight where they had last left off, now both wrestling with each other.

"Alright, now can I shoot?" Ashtalar asked, making sure the recruits would not hear.

"I'll get closer, send a volley down at their feet when I'm about eight yards away."

Ravenstar dismounted from his sabre and started to circle around the recruits. He was skillful in keeping himself hidden as he advanced to his targets, but with the way the younglings were, it did not matter if he came upon them with a charging kodo. The rest of the elves now circled the two women, shouting out for the fight, goading the two onward.

Of all things...!

Ashtalar remained in the backdrop, keeping an eye on where his cohort was. He readied his bow, keeping his focus on the targets and the signal. He knew how well stray arrows raining down from no where can catch one's attention. Ravenstar had gotten close enough. With lightning reflexes and deadly aim, Ahstalar let out a hail of arrows, with each landing closer than what would be seen as comfortable by the recruits, scattering those on the outer circle.

Ravenstar then came out dashing towards the fighting pair, sending a fist and a kick to the she-elves and knocking them to the ground. He drew his glaives, pointing one end each at Izdazi and the other elf. His eyes burned with a blue fire.

"Stay where you are, all of you!" he commanded the recruits, who shrunk away at fear.

Ashtalar revealed himself from out of the forest ipon his riding cat with Ravenstar's following, not hiding the fact that he was armed with the very bow that let loose the arrows. His sabre and raptor followed and Skoll trotted back to his master. His expression was less than impressed, though he did not seem as furious as Ravenstar did.

"What rabble is this to fight amongst yourselves?" the combatant elf demanded. "It was wishful thinking that this group would have potential, but behaviour like this is unacceptable!" He drew back his glaives and looked at each of the recruits. "Disappointments!" the elf roared. "This early and you're showing this lack of control on yourselves." He looked specifically at the Sentinels. "I expected more from some of you already, but it seems I am mistaken, you especially show unrestrained emotions that should not be in one that is already part of the Sentinels!" he seethed, pointing an accusing finger at Ryaha.

"Undisciplined whelps... Spending more time fighting with each other instead on focusing on your task. Don't expect this to even get off the ground in the army. As punishment for this show of idiocy, you'll be attending to the needs of the warden trainees as their underclassmen. I can guarantee you that they are years ahead of your mindset. You will do well to learn from them. Now, get back to the camp!"

He looked again at Izdazi and Ryaha. "And you two, report at my tent in an hour."

As the other elves were starting on their way back, Ravenstar went to retrieve his riding sabre.

"I haven't seen you this angry in a while," Ashtalar said, inwardly bemused. "Then again, I haven't seen this level of inner agitation in a group before."

"Neither have I," Ravenstar said, taking his sabre's reins and leading her back to the settlement. "And I'm not going to stand for it."

Izdazi:
Izdazi and Ryaha stared up from the ground in terror at the furiousness of Ravenstar’s voice. Neither recruit dared to interrupt him as he railed on.

Several years ago, when Izdazi had fought against Ravenstar, he was as calm and collected. Even while dangling upside down after tripping one of her straps, the elf seemed in charge and fearless to the point of almost seeming emotionless. And that level of emotionless remained when he brutally turned the tables on her.

Now, however, he was a volcano of anger. They had found the button to set their teacher off.

"Disappointments!" Ravenstar snarled. "This early and you're showing this lack of control on yourselves. I expected more from some of you already, but it seems I am mistaken, you especially show unrestrained emotions that should not be in one that is already part of the Sentinels!" He added the last part with finger pointed at Sentinel Streamrunner.

For a moment, the huntress almost felt sympathy for Ryaha. Almost.

"As punishment for this show of idiocy, you'll be attending to the needs of the warden trainees as their underclassmen. I can guarantee you that they are years ahead of your mindset. You will do well to learn from them. Now, get back to the camp!"

A chorus of groans and sigh rose from among the other recruits and they began walking away. Some, however, fired angry glances at Izdazi and Ryaha. Ravenstar looked back at them and Izdazi had to look away at the anger in his eyes.

"And you two, report at my tent in an hour,” he added before departing with Ashtalar.

The two recruits sat on the ground, staring at the empty forest and shivering from still being wet. Izdazi could feel her lower lip swelling and her forehead felt stick with blood. Ryaha looked about the same with her own set of injuries.

“If I get discharged because of this, I’m going to cut you down,” she threatened, before standing up and attempting in vain to brush the mud from her leather leggings.

“Get in line,” Izdazi muttered despondently as she got to her feet and limped back to camp.

* * *

As the hour wore on, her anxiety over meeting with Ravenstar only rose to unbearable levels. She had tended to her wounds and changed out of the muddied clothing, but even that task was plagued by what she predicted her meeting will end with.

He’s going to send me back to the barrows. How could I be so stupid as to be provoked into a fight in less than a day. Damnit, Iz. Stop being stupid.

The self-accusations only grew louder with each quiet whisper she heard from the others in the camp.

The thought of running away also crossed her mind. She had done it in the past and was no stranger to being out on her own. When she was younger, there were times when she wanted to get away from her mother’s incessant and ambitious training regimen. Oh, since her mother discovered she was having a girl, Izdazi’s future had been written in stone. She would be a sentinel, like her mother, her grandmother and great grandmother.

The times she escaped were the most calming. It would only be a few nights, but she would camp out in Ashenvale and revel at the freedom.

Then, years later as she was becoming an adult, the third war in the eastern realms had found its way to Kalimdor and an entire world of exploration had been opened to her. So, the night before she was to enlist, Izdazi had instead booked passage on a ship to the great and mysterious lands abroad.

Her adventures there had been less than stellar, but she had persevered, even through the worst of it.

And now she was back, full circle, trying to become a sentinel and failing spectacularly. And the worst part was what’s waiting for her when she failed. The Barrows.

Izdazi remembered well the cell where she had spent a little over a year incarcerated. It was almost impossible to stretch in such a cramped space. And the earth walls felt like they were closing in around her.

The huntress broke into sweat just thinking about the closeness of the walls. She couldn’t go back to the barrows.

She wasn’t going to.

But the alternative meant escaping into forest without any kind of riding beast, map or supplies. She could take the supplied bow and dagger, but the dangers of Felwood were as numerous as they were lethal.

A slow and maddening death as a prisoner in the barrows or a quick and savage death in Felwood? Izdazi mulled as she slowly took the bow and small quiver of arrows from her tent.

Journeying through Felwood won. Easily.

With a surreptitious glance over her shoulder, to make certain no one was watching, Izdazi began hiking into the forest. The meeting with Raven was in another fifteen minutes. She had that amount of time to put as much distance as she could between her and Talon Branch.

That was when the nagging voice in her mind shifted in another direction. What if Ravenstar gave her a second chance?

You already had a second chance. How many more chances do you think they will keep giving you?

I suppose Ryaha was right. I’m not sentinel material.

Izdazi suddenly froze and replayed her last thought. She just couldn’t allow Sentinel Streamrunner to have the last word.

After a moment of consideration, Izdazi buried the weapons under a mound of leaves behind a tree and then raced toward Ravenstar and Ashtalar’s tent. She’d hear them out. Maybe another opportunity to prove her worth will arise.

And if it didn’t, she’d find a way to sneak out and retrieve the weapons.

~~~~

Izdazi arrived at the outskirts of their tents with only a few minutes to spare. Catching her breath, she approached the perimeter and waited. Their tent was far larger than the conscripts and she could see a bench inside with several chests, a small table and two mats. The floor was covered with furs.

Ryaha Streamrunner was already waiting outside and said nothing when Izdazi stood next to her. That suited Izdazi fine and she busied herself with calculating possible methods of escapes. Ashtalar’s pets, however, were going to make that difficult should the need arise.

“I suppose we’ll see what happens then.
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:07 pm

Ravenstar:
Ravenstar and Ashtalar had long since returned to their designated tent. The two elves again sat upon their fur mats and took the time to relax. Neither had changed out of their battle equipment, having only one hour until their meeting with the two recruits, Izdazi and Ryaha.

There was only a short time before they would have to deal with the two students. Both were leaning against the tent walls, which held up well. Ashtalar was the first to say something.

"You seemed to have calmed back to your normal self," he remarked. "Think they'll come?"

"They will if they want to be part of the Sentinels," Ravenstar answered. "If not, then it seems they really don't have what it takes."

"To be fair, they probably didn't expect us to attack them so openly. I think we may have at least scared a couple off."

"If they're that skittish, then the battlefield is no place for them," Ravenstar pointed out.

There was truth in what Ravenstar had said. The real thing would be less merciful than they had been in breaking up the fight. Still, the dead shot thought the shock of such a tactic to be a bit much on their first day.

"They should be outside by now." Ravenstar said as he stood up.

"I think I can smell their apprehension from here," Ashtalar jested as he followed Ravenstar out of their temporary dwelling.

As they had appointed, the two she-elves were present before them. They had cleaned up from their scuffle and hour earlier and now stood at attention before the two instructors.Izdazi and Ryaha did not look particularly stressed, though by the way they were standing, the elder Kaldorei could sense their anxiousness.

"So, it seems you two have a problem with each other," Ravenstar began with a coolness to his tone. "I don't know how or why it started, it's really none of my business. However, we're not going to tolerate that here.

"You may think it has no bearing on your future as a Sentinel, but your personal problems should never be brought to a professional setting. From your display today, I'm not sure if the two of you can withhold yourselves and set your differences aside.

"We initially discussed separating the two of you, Ashtalar and I, but that would be a poor choice. There will never be a guarantee that you two will not be stationed together. Instead, we will be posting the two of you together more often."

"We'll be watching closely as the two of you progress," Ashtalar picked up where Ravenstar left off. "You might hate the idea, but in war, there's no room for problems like these. Out in the real world, you're going to have to deal with people you may not like more often than you prefer. That's just the way it is. Unfortunately for you two, you're going to have to deal with it and make it work, otherwise you're not going to make it here."

"If we see any more fighting between the two of you, let's just say you don't want to get to that point," Ravenstar added. "If we have to tie both of you over a hungry pit of sabres to teach the two of you what cooperation is, we'll do it."

Ravenstar walked over to one of the chests that were packed near their tent. He opened up the container and from it, produced some bandages and salve.

"Get cleaned up and tell the others to rest, your training officially starts tomorrow. You're both free to go."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The two companions had retired to their tent after their chat with the recruits. Already they had stripped their armour off, placing it by their own containers and racks. It was still early for them, but it would be better for them to take some time to relax before tomorrow.

"That wasn't so bad. I guess that's it for today," Ashtalar said.

"That should be," Ravenstar said, slipping on his silken shirt. "We can take it easy until tomorrow."

The two were soon interrupted by a messenger that had arrived at their tent. She was carrying a few letters and scrolls and looked around, making sure she was not intruding on anything important.

"My apologies sirs, but I have some messages for the two of you," the elf stated.

"No need to apologize," Ashtalar answered. He walked up to the elf and retrieved the letters. "Many thanks." The she-elf had bowed and exited the tent, leaving the blue-haired elf started to rifle through the letters. "Now let's see what we got her-- Wait."

He paused for a moment reading through the letters. He quickly went to the next and scanned its contents, and then did the same with another. As he kept reading, an incredulous expression grew on his visage, and soon turned into a look of annoyance.

"What's the problem?" Ravenstar asked.

"These are bills and complaints!" he exclaimed. "A ruined roof, broken pots, a tanning rack that was destroyed? What is this?"

"Oh, that. Izdazi made a bit of a detour," Ravenstar said in a matter-of-factly manner.

"What, into the town centre?"

The green haired elf shrugged back. "We'll deal with that later. Maybe our next assignment for them is to help clean up."

Ashtalar let out a sigh as he went back to reading the rest of the letters.

"I think I'm going to get a headache from this group."

Izdazi:
It took far more effort to will her body into calmness then Izdazi had anticipated when Ravenstar and Ashtalar approached them. She wondered what was it exactly that made her fear Ravenstar as much as she did. Was it that he had beaten her so badly in their previous engagement? That was years ago. She should have been over that.

Or was it that he alone held the key to what the next century of her life would be? Mentally, the huntress nodded. That had to be it.

Of course, knowing this did little to calm her.

"So, it seems you two have a problem with each other," Ravenstar began with little preamble. Izdazi was a little relieved that he sounded far calmer then he’d been an hour ago when he and Ashtalar broke up the fight. "I don't know how or why it started, it's really none of my business. However, we're not going to tolerate that here.

"You may think it has no bearing on your future as a Sentinel, but your personal problems should never be brought to a professional setting. From your display today, I'm not sure if the two of you can withhold yourselves and set your differences aside.”

Izdazi was about to speak in her defense. This wasn’t her fault. Ryaha had instigated it. Izdazi had only sought to defend herself. She was just about to say as much, but Ravenstar continued and showed no willingness to allow either of them a moment for explanation.

"We initially discussed separating the two of you, Ashtalar and I, but that would be a poor choice. There will never be a guarantee that you two will not be stationed together. Instead, we will be posting the two of you together more often."

Oh great. Just what I need to make my parole all the more challenging, she thought. She sighed crestfallen and snuck a quick sideways glance at Sentinel Streamrunner. It didn’t take a clairvoyant to see the annoyance in her face, but she smartly remained silent and at attention.

"We'll be watching closely as the two of you progress," Ashtalar added, stepping toward them. "You might hate the idea, but in war, there's no room for problems like these. Out in the real world, you're going to have to deal with people you may not like more often than you prefer. That's just the way it is. Unfortunately for you two, you're going to have to deal with it and make it work, otherwise you're not going to make it here."

Again, Izdazi tried to find the words to phrase her defense. This wouldn’t work. It was hard enough having to learn all these confining regimental disciplines of the Sentinels. Now she had to make do while working with this snide woman.

"If we see any more fighting between the two of you, let's just say you don't want to get to that point," Ravenstar quipped. "If we have to tie both of you over a hungry pit of sabres to teach the two of you what cooperation is, we'll do it."

He opened a chest and retrieved some salves and bandages. He brought them to her and Ryaha.

"Get cleaned up and tell the others to rest, your training officially starts tomorrow. You're both free to go,” Ravenstar said in a dismissive tone of voice.

Izdazi started to speak, but saw the steely gaze from Ravenstar and fell silent. The discussion was over and they were dismissed. From the periphery of her eyesight Ryaha saluted the instructors and departed. The huntress pretended not to see her, though and instead, tried to think of what she could say to get Ravenstar to undo his order and possibly quell his concerns over her.

He wants me to fail. He wants to humiliate me before he ends my parole and ships me back to the barrows.

This isn’t fair! It’s not my fault!

Without a word or a salute, Izdazi turned and stalked back to her tent. Her mind was a maelstrom of recrimination, frustration and anger. And the storm only grew exponentially when Izdazi found Ryaha waiting outside of her tent.

With a snort, Izdazi started to turn around.

“I’m sorry.” Two simple words that Izdazi wouldn’t have expected from anyone in this camp, least of all Ryaha. The huntress stopped and turned to face her. The sentinel brushed her silver hair from her shoulders and looked at her with a petitionary gaze. “Ravenstar is right. I should have known better than to allow my personal disagreements about you to leak into our training. We are soon to be sisters in battle. How can we be victorious fighting an enemy when we are too busy with divisions within our own ranks?

“I don’t like how you came to be here, Izdazi, and I don’t like you. That won’t change. But as long as we’re here, or in the future in battle as sentinels, I will always have your back.”

Streamrunner extended her hand. Izdazi didn’t take it. Instead, she almost recoiled from it, as if her arm was leprous.

“I don’t want your pity or your apology and I don’t care if you have my back. I don’t need you or anyone. I just need Ravenstar to clear me for active duty and I’ll do whatever it takes to not get on his short list again,” Izdazi whispered back reproachfully. “You want a truce then that’s fine. We can have a truce. But you’re not fooling me with your little high and mighty sentinel display.”

“What do you mean?” Ryaha asked, pulling her arm back. Izdazi grinned and her eyes darkened as she took step closer to the sentinel. Even though Ryaha was several inches taller, the huntress didn’t look the least intimidated. The other recruits in the camp didn’t seem to notice the heated whispers the two shared.

“It didn’t take much provoking for you to pull a knife on me. You call that discipline?” Izdazi whispered. She was rewarded with the surge of fear and shame in the sentinel’s eyes. “That’s right. We’re more similar then you imagined.”

Ryaha stepped back and seemed to on the cusp of losing her temper, but then, with visible effort, she suppressed it. Her countenance flashed between anger and uncertainty. Finally, she closed her eyes momentarily and shook her head.

“It wasn’t discipline, Izdazi. I’m not any more perfect then you are. The only difference between us is that I realized the direction my life was going and willingly chose to serve my people as a sentinel, rather than continue the path that would have ultimately left me in the barrows or dead,” Streamrunner explained. “Just because you hate having to choose between this or imprisonment doesn’t mean you have the right to make me hate my choices.”

Ryaha turned and stormed off leaving Izdazi alone in front of her tent. She replayed the conversation in her mind and then shrugged. Ryaha Streamrunner was exactly what Izdazi expected: a self-righteous girl who was blindly devoted to the Sentinel rulebook. She had a past and someone had taught her the dirtier combat styles of knife combat. Izdazi had noticed the way she held the dagger earlier.

But ultimately, Ryaha was not Izdazi’s concern. If the sentinel wanted to have a truce, then the huntress was all for it. Her primary concern still remained centered on Ravenstar.


* * *


“I told Reyada that this was a waste of time,” the shaded armor clad sentinel said from behind the desk. Two other equally obscured sentinel’s flanked Izdazi and waited patiently, just slightly behind her.

The huntress tried to flex her arms, but they were secured by the wrists behind her. How did she get here? Izdazi didn’t remember leaving Talonbranch Glade. She tried to recall the last things she had done. She remembered was the stern lecture Ravenstar had given her and Ryaha. And then there was the conversation she’d had with Ryaha at the tent. After that she quietly slipped into the forest to retrieve the weapons she had stashed there earlier.

But instead of returning, she opted to tend to her injuries. Afterwards, with her back to a tree, she laid back and stared at the forest. She remembered the shards of sunlight that were starting to pierce the tree canopy and the forest had brightened considerably. The sounds of the nocturnal wildlife were soon replaced with the creatures of the day.

The sunlight did little to burn away the green haze that perpetually permeated Felwood. The creepy and unsettling aura of the forest remained as strong as ever. Then, Izdazi remembered falling asleep.

When she awoke, she found herself standing in the middle of a familiar office. It looked like the office of the Sentinel commander who had ordered her to the barrows. But the details were strangely obscured. The elf found it difficult to concentrate on anything there. But their voices were clear.

Did Ravenstar finally decide I wasn’t worth training? Did he… He must have had me drugged and then had me returned to... to...

The office had somehow changed into a different setting. They were on the bridge. The shadow of the Sentinel commander also changed, as well as the guards behind her. Though she still couldn’t see their faces, she recognized the silhouette of the armor they wore.

Wardens!

“You’re a terrorist, Izdazi. And while I recognized that you did step up and help once you realized the evil acts the organization you were working for was doing, it doesn’t completely absolve you of your crimes,” the faceless Warden growled. “It doesn’t even come close. And you’re here to pay for those crimes.”

The shadow nodded and the two mysterious wardens grabbed her from behind and started dragging her. The details of the place slowly resolved and her blood froze as she recognized the location. They were crossing a bridge over a large underwater river.

The Hyjal Barrow Dens! She was here for almost a year before the opportunity at parole had come up. And now, she had failed and she was being thrown back in.

“I can do this! Give me another chance!” she screamed, fighting against the strong and well armored wardens. With little effort they pressed on.

“Many of the criminals here don’t get second chances. You were blessed with an opportunity and you utterly wasted it,” the obscured warden captain said. “And to think that your mother actually believed you’d make the most of her sacrifice. You deserve worse.”

They stopped before a wall that was covered with thorny wines. Waving a rod before it, the vines retreated, revealing a small cell. Izdazi was thrown inside with such force that she was winded after hurling against the far wall. She sank to the earthen floor and gasping. Her eyes looked at the warden pleadingly as she fought to get enough air to speak.

But before she could say a word, the thorny vines suddenly began crisscrossing around the doorway. The last thing she saw of the wardens was the captain smirking. Ten seconds later, an impenetrable mass of thorns barred the entrance and closed her cell off to the rest of the barrows. She was alone in a dark cell.

Her heart began thrumming wildly inside her chest and she screamed when the earthen wall touch her back. Her hands shot out and with growing dread she realized that the walls seemed to be closing in. No matter where she moved, she could feel the walls.

It was just like the last time she was brought to her cell. The logical and rational part of her mind kept screaming that the walls don’t move and that she wouldn’t suffocate. The barrows were well ventilated. These walls have been here for 10,000 years. They won’t collapse.

But the rest of her mind descended into the cacophony of reactions as her claustrophobic fears surged over the logic and rational pleadings of her mind like a tsunami. Sweat covered her skin and she was trembling uncontrollably. She was lost as to whether she felt cold or hot; she felt both. Her screams faded as she felt like she choking. Everything felt like it was pressing against her and in desperation she took off the simple clothing that was provided to all the prisoners in the hopes that at least a smidgen of the suffocating feeling would be alleviated.

Then, to her added horror, the cell began violently shaking. At first she thought it was just her. She was trembling after all. But after clods of earth began falling on her from the ceiling, there was little doubt that her cell was in fact quaking.

Izdazi started to stand up but another large clump of soil and earth landed on her from the ceiling. Even with the nearly nonexistent light in the room, she could see cracks growing along the oppressively closely walls.

The she elf screamed as a wall started leaning over her. Then it fell.

. . .

Izdazi screamed and bolted upright and away from the tree where she’d been sleeping. The ground was still shaking and a low rumbling sound assaulted her ears. She took a few steps before losing her footing and falling down. Then, slowly, the ground trembling came to an end.

She looked the forest in blind panic and then back at the tree where she’d been laying. Her weapons were on the ground nearby. Looking up, she saw leaves and small sticks falling from the tree canopy above. The forest was eerily silent. No creatures could be heard; not even an insect.

An earthquake?]/i\ She had never been through one, but she’d heard about them from others.

It was a dream, Izdazi realized with growing relief. The earthquake, of course, wasn’t a dream, but the part where she was returning to the barrows, thank Elune, was just a dream.

She glanced at her attire and noted that she still wore tan colored leather leggings and vest. Both had no sign of dirt on them. Her undershirt was soaked with sweat, though.

“A dream,” she reaffirmed aloud to no one but herself. “More like a nightmare, but that’s all it is. A nightmare.”

The she elf paced around the clearing as she allowed her body and mind to recover from the panic attack. To her recollection, earthquakes didn’t happen in northern Kalimdor. Was this isolated or had something happened?

[i]Probably just a random event,
the huntress decided. The light was fading from the sky. In another hour it’d be dusk and a new day will begin. Izdazi retrieved her weapons and began hiking back to the camp. It’d do no good to further anger Ravenstar by getting caught already breaking another rule.

And she prayed dearly that the nightmare would not prove to be prophetic.

Sundar:
The next evening came quickly for the two instructing elves. Ravenstar and Ashtalar were already up early and preparing for the next lessons planned out for the recruits. Today though, they were expecting the arrival of more trainees; those that were to walk the path of the warden.

The two elves were again more simply dressed. They would not be expecting any form of combat until later on. For now they started to really ease in the recruits into training.

Ashtalar had already set the recruits out for some easy exercises to warm up; some push-ups, sit-ups, running, though Ravenstar had set Izdazi to warm up in another manner. The merchants and the local leatherworker had specifically asked for the damage done to be repaired, thus he had ordered the she-elf to help repair the damage she caused on their last challenge. She would be meeting up with the rest of the group a few hours later he was told.

While he went to check on Izdazi from time to time, he dead shot in the interim stood in vigil, shouting out orders to the young elves. "Another set of push-ups; one hand and alternate them!" Ashtalar called out. "Straighten your backs, go lower without letting your stomach touch the ground, and remember to pick up the speed."

Ravenstar on the other hand was back in their tent. He was busy organizing for the additional trainees. He went over the inventory of weapons and armour again to make sure that there was enough and that nothing was missing. He had finished with inspecting the armour, now he was taking count of the arsenal that was lent to them.

Swords aplenty with moonglaives, daggers, bows, axes...

The elf moved over to a large container filled with bundles of arrows. There looked to be enough to serve a small infantry. The local bowyer had done a fine job in crafting all of the arrows that he would need. In a few days, his next special order should be coming in from her.

This should do for a week or so.

Ravenstar finally finished with taking inventory and locked the chests again. As usual with habit, he made sure the locks were secure before departing his tent. Walking as if he was not in a particular hurry, he made his way to the training grounds.

The warden recruits should be closing in on Talonbranch now, according to the messenger hawks that had been sending progress on their route to the community. Ravenstar reckoned it was three hours to midnight. He had told Izdazi to clean up and come back to the group at that point. Still he went ahead and sent for a local guard to call for her in case she was going to decide to 'forget' about the meeting.

He proceeded down the hill to the common training area, where he found Ashtalar still shouting orders out to the recruits. It was immediately apparent that the warm-up was starting to wear down the recruits at this stage. It had been some hours since they started and the two instructors had decided to test them with an ongoing regiment of exercises to see how long they would last. The two Sentinels were faring better, but there was still a sense of weariness coming from the two elves as Ashtalar picked up the pace.

The recruits gave Ravenstar a cursory glance as he stepped up beside his blue-haired compatriot. For a some time, he simply stood there observing the young elves go about their exercise. A few moments later he made a gesture for them to stop.

"That's enough for now," he announced. "Get cleaned up and meet at the common area in twenty minutes." As the recruits started departing, Ravenstar nodded to Ashtalar. "They should be close now."

"Lovely, let's see what we get this time," the dead shot replied, feigning enthusiasm as usual.

The duo walked towards the local hippogryph roost, situated on a deck that had been built over the small pond located within the community. There they would await, what they would hope to be, future wardens. Ravenstar leaned against the railing while Ashtalar found a seat on one of the posts.

"You know, the courier came again with another letter," Ashtalar said, taking out one his axes and flipping it in the air. "While you were out taking a bath."

"Did she?" Ravenstar asked with some curiosity. "What was it about?"

"Our favourite druid might be dropping by Talonbranch while we're here."

"He's back here already? I thought I told him to take it easy and stay in Ashenvale longer." Ravenstar wore a frown at the news, an expression that incited a chuckle from Ashtalar.

"You know he still has some work here, and you can't really expect him to sit still."

"He'll be overworking himself sooner or later at this rate. He spends all of his time either working or on his search."

"Do you think it's in vain, then?" the other elf asked, stopping in his idle play and looking at the fighter.

"I don't. I'll admit that I have the same hope as he does, but he's blaming the problem on himself, and it drives him to correct it more so than anyone else. He's going to wear himself down."

Ashtalar nodded in silence. It was not a topic they often spoke of, but he could tell that Ravenstar still felt strongly about the whole situation. It was understandable, as it involved what he considered to be his family.

The two kaldorei rested for a few minutes more before they saw something break the gaps in the canopy of the trees. Coming from the west, a group of hippogryphs descended upon the settlement. Four in total and each with a passenger, the majestic beasts swopped around the roost before making a landing on the deck, their talons and hooves clacking on the wood as they settled down.

The riders dismounted from the hipogryphs and retrieved their packs, all were kaldorei with two males and two females. The were dressed fairly casually for the trip, though all of them appeared to be more seasoned than the recruits the recruits they already had.

Ravenstar and Ashtalar got up from their resting positions and approached the group.

"I take it you're the wardens in training?" Ravenstar inquired.

One of the females saluted. "Sir! That we are. We all have our writs for you."

"We'll get the paperwork sorted out later," Ashtalar jumped in. "It's just a formality, but I'll take those from you."

The four elves each took out a scroll from their packs and handed it to Ashtalar. The dead shot checked the contents of each writ and handed them off to Ravenstar, who likewise read the scrolls.

"A soldier of the Kaldorei army, a priestess, a Sentinel, and a druid. A nice mix we have here," the green haired elf commented. After scanning the documents, he quickly returned his attention to the group. "Apologies for the late introductions. I am Ravenstar, and this is Ashtalar. The others are already here at the camp if you would like to make your introductions there."

With no objections, the newly arrived elves followed their new instructors to the camp further into Talonbranch Glade. By then the other recruits had gathered at the common area, awaiting them.

"Everyone's here it seems," Ashtalar commented as they all arrived at the camp grounds. "If we can have your attention, the rest of your class has now arrived. I think it's time for formal introductions."

The each took their turn in speaking up, with one of the females starting.

"Valyria Starbough."

"Mateus Galeclaw."

"Celia Enduil"

"Orsir Bladewind."

"These will be your fellow trainees and soon, brothers and sisters in arms. I expect you all to treat each other with the same respect you would want from another," Ravenstar added. "Now we will give everyone two hours of rest, after that we shall introduce you to your next challenge: finding food."
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Izdazi
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:08 pm

Izdazi:
The deeper they progressed into Felwood, the more disinclined they were to speak. The forest just seemed to scream danger. Occasionally a wolf would howl in the distance. Leaves rustled all around them. Even the trees seem to glare down upon them with sinister visages.

Izdazi kept reminding herself that it was just a trick of the light and pattern of the grain in the wood. The explanation only grew weaker each time they passed another seemingly glowering tree. She finally relented and forced herself to stop regarding the trees as sinister. They were only trees, sickened and poisoned by the fel taint.

At least she hoped. As an elf, it felt surreal to her to fear a tree, of all things.

Behind her, walking almost as quietly was Ryaha Streamrunner and one of the warden recruits, Mateus Galeclaw. Neither had spoken so much as a word and much to her surprise, Ryaha had deferred the responsibility of tracking their quarry to Izdazi without so much as a debate.

Of course, the huntress knew she was better at tracking then the fresh sentinel. Most night elves were capable hunters, but not many had honed it to an art that an experienced tracker would have.

Mateus Galeclaw was more difficult to read, though. He didn't say much. Adding to the mystery was how he held a sword and shield in both hands. Two axes hung from his belt and she caught sight of a dagger in his boot. Unless he was planning on throwing any of those, she doubted he would be much use in a hunt.

At least he was good at sneaking around and staying quiet.

As they moved on, she remembered the announcement Ravenstar made shortly after introducing the Warden recruits.

"How many of you know how to hunt?" he had asked. Almost every hand was raised.

"How many of you know how to track?" Half the hands lowered. Izdazi remembered rolling her eyes at the question. To her, hunting and tracking were one in the same. But she knew that others thought of hunting as simply the ability to find food from a distance.

For a true hunter, hunting was about the hunt itself. It was the ability to enter the mindset of a quarry and to follow them, no matter where they went. By the time you were within range of your target, sometimes you felt as if you knew quarry.

"And how many of you know how to cook?" he finally asked. Again, Izdazi kept her hand up. She may not be a culinary genius, but she knew how to cook what she caught.

Ravenstar regarded the recruits silently for a moment and finally nodded.
"Well, all of you will learn how to do that today. You'll be providing Talonbranch with a bit of a feast, thanking them for allotting this space for us while we're here."

She remembered balking at that comment. They were here to train to become defenders of their people. Not chefs. She was about to say as much, but Ravenstar continued.

"'How is this relevant?' you may think to yourselves. Given the various areas you might end up being posted or if you're going to be sent to the wilds, you better know how to get food and prepare it so you may consume it. We'll start you off with something simple, but a bit... challenging."

For some reason, that last part had piqued Izdazi's interest.

"I don't think it has escaped any of your attention that the wildlife in Felwood is now usually tainted and aggressive. You'll be going after some of the greater beasts in these forests and you'll also be given a list of herbs that will allow you to consume their meat without getting ill. In addition you will also be finding some local plants and roots for the meal."

With that, he had divided the recruits into groups and set them upon their task. Her group was tasked with finding a stag.

Ryaha and Mateus didn't seem too particularly enthusiastic, but for Izdazi, this was like returning to her roots. In fact, by the time the other two commented on finding a trail, she'd been leading them down it for the last several miles. It was definitely stag prints.

She had her bow tightly clenched in her hand and her footfalls were silent. Her heart was thrumming in the excitement of the hunt.

Stags were powerful creatures and they provided some of the most succulent meat she had ever tasted. But killing them was the trick. They were difficult to take down and anything but a killing blow will result in a very angry and dangerous animal. Unlike deer and even wolves, a wounded stag doesn't run away. It attacks.

She fired back a quick hand gesture and heard their breathing slow until it was barely audible. When she knelt, the others followed without a word.

Night elves. Even if we're basic hunters, we know the rules, she mulled with a proud grin.

Ryaha had her moonglaive strapped on her back and brought her own bow up. Mateus, ever the soldier, seemed content to watch their backs. Izdazi was privately grateful for that. Ravenstar had warned them not to stray too far lest they stumble upon the Timbermaw or satyrs.

The huntress notched an arrow against the bowstring and silently pulled back. The bow strained against the tension without a sound. She felt her vision align with the readied arrow and zoom toward the target. His neck, just under his jaw, the forehead or just behind the front legs and angled upward. Only those areas would result in a killing blow. Her mind processed the direction of wind against her tapered ears and rustling of the leaves.

Then, she felt an unexpected wave of uncertainness. Something flashed in the distance, just past the stag's antlers. Slowly, she lessened the tension on the arrow and pulled the arrow from the string.

The stag moved off casually and Izdazi felt the eyes of her teammates boring into the back of her neck. Still, she kept her eyes on the area past where the stag had stood.

There it was again. A barely perceivable flash of color that didn't belong this deep in the forest. Then, as if coming to a realization, she scanned left and right of the distant object and found the faint line in the distance.

Had they traveled so far that they had stumbled upon one of the roads. If so, what was the object there?

Izdazi glanced back at Mateus and Ryaha. Both looked back in bewilderment and annoyance. They were probably wondering why she hadn't taken down the stag. Without a word, she tapped Ryaha's moonglaive and then gesture with her head toward the clearing.

By the sudden steel in their silvery eyes, Izdazi knew that they understood. Ryaha silently traded her bow for the glaive and keeping low to the ground, they began moving forward.

They were still several dozen yards away when they could tell that the object in question was indeed a cart. The sabers that had pulled it were both dead on the ground. Blood stained the top of their large heads.

Mateus tapped her shoulder and gestured that she should climb up one of the embankments and get the higher ground over the roadway. As their strongest archer, it made sense and she nodded her affirmation. Meanwhile, he directed Ryaha to circle around that they would both step out of the forest foliage together.

Moments later, and concealed behind the foliage, she had a clear bird's view of the ruined carriage.

In the distance, she caught Mateus gaze and gestured that she didn't seen anyone. The cart, didn't look all that damaged, but there was no sound of anyone in it or nearby. The forest sounded like normal, with birds and insects making their songs.

Still, she held pulled back on the bowstring and kept scanning the area. Both Ryaha and Mateus had ventured into the roadway and were visually inspecting the cart and surroundings.

Where did they go? Izdazi pondered. She could see tools and clothing through the tear on the roof of the cart. But there were no bodies.

It didn't look like the other two had found anything suspicious either. Then, she saw Ryaha reaching inside the cart. Izdazi jumped down from the branch and landed on the road in a crouch. She had replaced the arrow on the clip of her bow and held it casually to one side as she marched toward the young sentinel.

"Ryaha! Stop!" she yelled. After so many minutes of sneaking around, hearing a voice yell out, even if it was her own, was almost deafening. The young sentinel jumped and pulled back.

"Quiet," Mateus hissed, glaring at her angrily. "They could still be here."

"They aren't," she replied confidently. "Satyrs did this." She gestured at the hoof prints that covered the ground.

"I know. But sometimes they hide in wait to attack rescuers or scavengers," he hissed.

"Listen. What do you hear?" she asked. The only sounds were still the insects, birds and the wind in the trees. "If satyrs were nearby, the birds wouldn't be singing. You wouldn't hear any animas here."

She continued walking past Mateus and grabbed a large stick from the ground. Stepping in front of Ryaha, she threw the stick into the cart. Metal camp-like traps sprang from the cloth-covered strewn floor and snapped the thick stick into pieces.

"But satyrs will certainly booby-trap this," she added. Behind her, Ryaha let out a fearful breath.

"We should report this to Ravenstar," the young sentinel said. Mateus nodded, but Izdazi was busy picking around the cart.

"We should find whoever was driving this cart. This wasn't more then an hour ago. There might still be time," Izdazi said.

"It's just the three of us. We should consult our superior officer before deviating from the mission," Mateus automatically responded.

Izdazi pulled a small wooden sword from the cart. It was designed to mimic a sword used by the humans of Eastern Kingdoms, rather then kal'dorei style. And it was meant more for play then for training. A child's toy.

"We don't have time to consult with shan'do. We have to act on this now," Izdazi repeated, staring darkly at Mateus and throwing the toy sword at his feet. "This cart belonged to a family. Elune only knows what kind of hell they're experiencing now.

"The satyrs won't go far. Judging by the hoof prints, I'd say there's no more then six. That's a small raiding party. They will take this family a few miles from here before having their way with them. We don't have time to hike back to Talonbranch and then hike back. Especially now that the trail is fresh and easy to follow."

Mateus, however, wasn't convinced.

"Six satyrs against three of us. We don't know their defenses or actual numbers. We don't know what they are capable of. Going on the offensive is not only foolhardy, but idiotic."

"We can do this. They will be busy their recent catch. They won't expect us."

"I want to help them as much as you do, Shadowcreek, but this is a bad tactical idea. And, Ravenstar told us that you should follow the lead of the Warden recruits. I say we return and inform our superiors."

Izdazi growled and began pacing around. She knew they were still alive, but that will change in another hour. The victims will be abused and killed, or worse, taken to the coven, where only Elune can grant them mercy. She was sure they could make a difference.

"I'm with Izdazi," Ryaha finally announced, much to the surprise of her teammates. While she and Mateus had argued, the young sentinel appeared to be struggling with the decision. "We can do this."

"No. I'm in charge and I say we return," Mateus demanded.

"Then go to Ravenstar and bring backup. Izdazi and I will go and scout out their camp. If we think we can do it, then we'll try. If not, we'll hold position until your return."

Mateus grunted in frustration and started to jog back into the forest, but then he stopped. The veteran warrior sagged his shoulder and sighed. Finally he turned and regarded both women coldly.

"I'll go with you. I've been a soldier longer then both of you together have been alive. But if the situation doesn't look promising tactically, then I'm scrubbing this. Understand?"

"Thank you, Mateus. With you working with us, the chances of failure are greatly lessened. We'll follow your experience," Ryaha acquiesced. He turned to Izdazi.

"Fine. Let's get going," Izdazi said.


* * *


It didn't take long to find their trail. The satyrs clearly didn't care if anyone followed them. From his countenance, she could tell that Mateus didn't like that. Nor did he like when she reluctantly, but dutifully, informed him that was another set of hoof prints. Now it was seven against three.

Still, the elves continued running with as much haste as they could do while maintaining stealth.

When the sounds of the forest suddenly died down, Izdazi instinctually raised her fist in a gesture for the others to halt. She looked at Mateus and he nodded knowingly. He gestured in another direction and she nodded back knowingly. He wanted her to find a tree where she could get a clear view of the camp.

Izdazi was impressed with how he kept them downwind. Most recruits forget that. Then again, Mateus was a wizened warrior with centuries of experience. A lot can be learned in that time.

As she approached the tree, Izdazi could start smell them. It was the rank scent of rotten meat and stiff fur. Then she heard the cry of one of the prisoners and her heart thrummed harder in her chest.

Every part of the huntress wanted burst into the camp and fire an arrow into the gullet of each of those satyrs. She wanted to end their pain.

But that would be stupid, among many other things.

Izdazi found a tree as close as she dared to get to the camp and began climbing it. Climbing the tree was child's play. She knew which branches to avoid, either because they would make noise, or that they wouldn't' support her weight.

She could see the greenish campfire and shapes, but not much more detail.

As soon as she finished climbing, she secured herself to the side of the tree and brought her bow around. She saw four elves with their hands restrained behind their back and tied around several trees. Two were adult females. One was an adult male and a male child that looked to be about six or seven years old. By the coloring of their hair, she surmised that at least three of them were related.

Not that hair color can definitely say much. Though Izdazi's parents had the same hair color, and that she and her older brother inherited said hair color, her younger brother, Truion, differed with dark green hair.

But it was the eyes of the other female, with teal colored hair, that seemed to indicate that her purpose and mind was in a totally different place then these others. Izdazi could see the fear in her eyes, but there was also quiet desperation and resolve. The family, on the other hand, was terrified.

Much to her consternation, Izdazi could only count five satyrs. Three were near what she determined to be the mother. They were doing something to her neck and the woman was responding with screams of pain. One was tending to the campfire and the other milling around aimlessly.

But try as she might, she just couldn't find the other two and that worried it.

She looked down a little ways and found Mateus and Ryaha. The young sentinel was studying the camp, but Mateus was looking up, directly at her. Izdazi flashed five fingers at him and then shrugged. Mateus didn't look pleased as he turned and relayed her message. She kept her eyes looking between the two warriors and the camp.

Finally, Mateus looked back at her and nodded. He brought his sword and shield up and moved a little ways away. As soon as he left, Ryaha looked up at her. Her eyes shone with quiet uncertainty and some fear. Izdazi nodded back at Ryaha and then started taking aim. The young sentinel do the same.

There's nothing wrong with fear. You just have to overcome up. That's what separates the fighters from the victims.

Mateus was the first in. The satyr near the perimeter of the camp never saw him coming. As he fell, the others turned and began racing toward him. Izdazi launched an arrow at the one furthest back. Ryaha, meanwhile, had raced into the camp with her bow ready. She dropped the second one while Mateus engaged the first one by parrying it's mace with his sword and slamming into the demon's face with the shield.

Ryaha discarded her bow in favor of her glaive as the fifth one rushed at her with a flaming log. Izdazi tried to take aim at that satyr, but the demon and the sentinel danced around as they each tried to take a jab at the other.

Something crashed into the branch next to her and the huntress cried out when one of the hidden satyrs dug his claw into her arm. She pushed him off, but he managed to grab her leg. They both fell, the satyr dragging Izdazi down toward the ground.

Still thinking of her teammates, the huntress managed to keep from crying out. The satyr bit into her shoulder just as they crashed into the ground. The bulk of his frame cushioned the impact of the fall for her.

After a moment of lying on the ground atop of the dead satyr, Izdazi stood up. The sound of swordplay and the grunts of exertions filtered from the nearby camp.

Get up! Help them! Izdazi mentally screamed as she struggled to rise. She staggered to her legs and began limping toward the camp.

By the time she arrived, Ryaha and Mateus had just finished off their targets. The veteran warrior had no wounds. The young sentinel's right arm was covered in blood, but it didn't seem to slow her down.

The trio of moved toward the campfire and scanned around the camp. Trying to ignore the painful bite the satyr had inflicted upon her shoulder, Izdazi kept an arrow notched as she looked around. Ryaha and Mateus kept their weapons upright as well.

"Where's the other two?" Mateus called out.

"I sorta fell upon one of them," Izdazi replied, sounding somewhat sheepish. "There's only one left."

There was a sound of something cutting through the air and then Ryaha screamed out. Spinning around, Izdazi caught sight of her fellow recruit falling to the ground. There was a knife embedded upon her back. She pulled back tighter on her bow and gritted her teeth as the seventh satyr revealed himself behind one captive with teal hair.

"Get away from her!" Izdazi cried out. From the corner of her vision, she saw Mateus stiffen the hold on his sword.

"She will tell you nothing!" the satyr snarled before wrapping his claws around the captive's neck and tearing out her jugular. Both prisoners and rescuers cried out in surprise, masking the soft gurgling the female made. Before the glow of her mortally wounded elf's eyes faded away, Izdazi released the arrow and Mateus threw his dagger.

Both struck the target and the satyr fell.

While Mateus rushed forward in vain to try to rescue the captive, Izdazi dropped down next to the fallen sentinel.

"Ryaha," she called out while gently rocking her.

"Gyaaah! Stop that!" Ryaha screamed. "It hurts!"

Pulling the cloak off from the sentinel's back, the huntress carefully inspected the wound.

"We have to pull it out. It's a satyr blade. Elune only knows what sickness you can get while it's embedded in you. I have bandages that will hold until we can you to camp."

"Then pull it," Ryaha commanded from between gritted teeth.

"It's going to hurt," Izdazi warned.

"Pull the damn thing!"

Closing her eyes, she pulled the blade out from her back. The sentinel grunted, but otherwise, to Izdazi's surprise, she didn't make a sound beyond a grunt. She quickly prepared a salve and began wrapping the bandages.

* * *

"We need a medic!" Mateus announced as soon as they entered training area back in Talonbranch. He was carrying Ryaha who had fallen unconscious during the hike. The rescued adult male carried the dead prisonner. The rest of the family followed up.
While the child was unhurt, the other woman's neck was stained with blood.

Izdazi covered the rear to make certain no other satyrs were coming and had spent much of their hasty trip directing Mateus on which path to take. Her shirt was trained under the wound in shoulder, and occasionally it throbbed, but she kept quiet. There was need to worry Mateus about it until they arrived at the camp. Especially with turn for the worse Ryaha had taken.

They had changed Ryaha's bandages and reapplied a healing salve twice during the hike, but from the necrotizing of the flesh around the wound, Izdazi could tell that an infection from the blade was spreading. Her breaths had fallen shallow and she was growing pale.

They arrived at Ravenstar and Ashtalar's tents. She and the father carefully laid the other woman on the ground. Next to him, Mateus laid Ryaha.

It still struck Izdazi as odd how quickly the satyr had been to kill this woman. He must have known that she wouldn't serve as any kind of shield dead. Killing her was suicide for him.

Something metallic slipped around the collar of the shirt the murdered woman wore. Fishing her hand around the woman's cold neck, Izdazi pulled out a pendant. It had an emblem of a tree with a crescent moon behind it. She studied it a moment but was unfamiliar with the symbol. Laying it back upon the woman's chest, Izdazi turned her attention to Ryaha.

Mateus had spoken out against the rescue plan for good reason. They were outnumbered and ill prepared. Izdazi felt herself feeling guilt over her teammates condition and silently prayed Ravenstar or Ashtalar would know what to do.

Sundar:
Ravenstar and Ashtalar watched as their students went into the forest to begin their hunts. It was a simple challenge, though Felwood was still fraught with dangers. Although the two elves had discussed shadowing them, keeping track of three groups with only two of them would be more difficult to manage, even with the assistance of Ashtalar's companions.

It was then decided that the more experienced Warden recruits would be given a measure of leadership amongst each of the groups. With that, their concerns were lessened.

"So, think we'll be eating hearty today or starving the night?" Ashtalar joked with Ravenstar.

"I think they should do fine. Really the biggest challenge is getting the kill back here," the other elf shrugged. "We'll have to wait and see. Let's get to some training."

Ravenstar led the way back towards their tent. While they were to train the younger elves, they themselves also had to keep up with their art. As they neared their living quarters though, they noticed someone standing outside. It was a Sentinel that awaited them, holding a map and some leaflets in her hands.

I wonder what it could be now.

"Can we help you?" Ravenstar asked, looking slightly curious about her presence.

"Ravenstar, Ashtalar, I'm Sarrisa Whitemoon, captain of the local Sentinel forces," the she-elf replied, with a salute. "Do you have a moment?"

Ravenstar turned to Ashtalar, who shrugged. "I suppose we do."

"Good, because there are some things we need to discuss. Things have been happening in the forest and it's of great issue to the security of anyone residing in or traveling through Felwood. Is there a place I may show you these?" She held up the papers.

"Inside," Ravenstar suggested, pointing to their tent.

The Sentinel nodded and proceeded within. The two males quickly followed in. Knowing there was no table, they moved over one of the chests to make a substitute table. The three elves then gathered around the chest, sitting upon the covered ground.

The Sentinel first unfurled the map, placing it on the surface of the chest. It was a map of Felwood, but the most noticeable features on it were all of the highlighted areas and various points that were marked off with symbols.

"As you may already know, much hasn't changed with where the satyr strongholds are," she said as she pointed to the areas highlighted in a reddish colour. "Activity has been fluctuating but their defenses are growing tighter. Agents from the Emerald Circle are making regular rounds and it's been getting harder to infiltrate their camps."

She moved on to the marked points on the map. "All of these spots are places where travelers and local defenders have gone missing. The first noted disappearance was about eight months ago, two Emerald Circle Wardens. Since then, various reports have come in and now the number is nearing twenty." She held up the papers, each detailing a report on a missing person. "Between our forces and the Circle's, we have been searching everywhere for them, but no leads have turned up. We fear for the worst.

"We had heard you were going to set up a training course for recruits here, so we sought after you as soon as possible."

I sense impromptu recruitment, Ravenstar thought to himself. He could see where it was leading to.

"We're short-handed to deal with the upsurge in satyr related dangers. We were perhaps wondering if there was any potential of some... 'real-world' training for the recruits."

Now that's a steep request.

Such a chance at this time was not one Ravenstar would like to take. It was too early to tell what some of the recruits could handle and what their current capacity for combat was. Altogether he was not willing to pit them against enemies like the satyrs so quickly.

"That is not something I can decide to do in good conscious, Sentinel," Ravenstar stated with a flat tone, shaking his head. "While we have a number of recruits already with combat experience, we all know the Jadefire satyrs can give even seasoned warriors more trouble than they can handle. Perhaps at when I see that they are properly versed in combat, but right now, I would decline to endanger them in such affairs, tenttively. I will contact you if circumstances allow for it."

"I understand," the Sarrisa replied, disappointed, though still persistent. "Would there be any possibility that you might be able to assist us then?"

"Perhaps, though it's hard to say as we also have a commitment to keep with the recruits, the Watchers, and the Sentinel force... We will do what we can. One of my former students though is on the field with the Emerald Circle, perhaps you should contact him."

"Alright, thank you for your time. Should the time arise, we look forward to working with you." The she-elf gathered the map and the papers and left with a firm salute.

Ashtalar, after a moment of waiting for the Sentinel to leave the area their tent was situated n, spoke up. "They are having a lot of trouble."

"Yes, and it's likely that trouble will find us soon enough. We'll have to evaluate our options."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Nearly three hours had passed since they sent out the groups on the hunt. One team had returned just two hours after the start, bringing back a large wolf and a sac full of greens. The next team, forty minutes later, had come back with a bear, regaling their instructors with the difficulty of bringing back their kill, and their lot of greens. Twenty minutes had passed since then. Ravenstar and Ashtalar were back at their tents, preparing to head out. Only one team remained on the field.

"Only Mateus, Izdazi, and Ryaha are missing here," Ashtalar said, taking stock in who had returned and partially dressed in his armour. "Shall we get going then?"

Ravenstar nodded, who had also started to get his equipment. As he fastened his leather jerkin, he heard shouting and commotion coming from outside.

"Someone is calling for a medic," the green-haired elf observed.

"Sounds like one of ours too," his blue-haired counterpart added.

Immediately the two stopped in their tracks and went outside. There they had found the rest of their students, though in slightly worse shape than when they had left, but Ryaha was in a poor condition. Her complexion was waxen at best and her breathing was sharp and rapid.

Present with the recruits were a male and female kaldorei with a small child, and upon the ground was another woman next to Ryaha, though she had passed some time ago. Their main concern was the injured Sentinel.

Quickly, the two elder elves got to work. Ashtalar waved away the others, signaling to them to make room. Ravenstar quickly went to check on her vital signs and made sure they were able to move her as needed and noted the bandages.

"Cold," he said under his breath as he checked her body. He shifted the she-elf to her side and found the wound. A stab wound it looked to be, but the flesh around the cut was discoloured, withering. There was a mix of blood and pus coming from the stab wound, emitting an unpleasant scenti. Such a reaction would not be coming form a regular injury.

"Prep her," Ravenstar said to Ashtalar as he made for the tent. "I'll get the kit."

The dead shot went ahead to undo her armour, to give better accessibility to the wound, while Ravenstar quickly retrieved his tools from their tent. He came out with a sizable box and laid it next to Ryaha. He lifted up the hinge lid to reveal a portable alchemy lab. Various crystal containers, liquids, herbs and needles could be seen in the kit.

Their first task would be to find out what type of toxin was in her system. Ravenstar produced a vial of clear red liquid and another of yellow with a fine silk cloth. He tossed it over to Ashtalar, who caught them with ease.

Taking out a clear liquid, the roguish elf wetted a clean silk cloth and then took out one of the silvery needles and proceeded to wipe it down. He also cleaned an area of the elf's back near the wound with another cloth using the same liquid, soon after sticking the needle in and extracting blood.

"Give me your reports," Ravenstar said sternly to the two less injured students as he handed the needle to his partner and went on to prepare a mortal and pestle. Ashtalar was busy mixing together the liquid and the blood.

Mateus stepped forward, standing at attention that bespoke of his years being a soldier. "We had come across a carriage that was the victim of an attack," the warrior started. "The site was searched and Izdazi was able to deduce that the attackers were satyrs."

Well this is off to a good start, Ashtalar mused to himself with sarcasm as he finished mixing the clear fluid and blood together, waiting for the contents to settle. The dead shot could see his combatant friend, slightly frowning at the news.

"Further investigation gave us clues as to the carriage passengers, the family that is with us now," Mateus continued.

The liquid finally settled and with a deep red of blood at the bottom, the fluid that was at the top had changed to a strange yellow-green colour. Ashtalar opened up the vial and took in the scent from the separated liquid as Mateus was speaking.

"One fel lotus, two silverfoil, a dash of moon lily," Ashtalar interjected to Ravenstar, who placed in the corresponding herbs into the mortar and he started mixing the herbs with a light blue liquid.

"Continue," Ravenstar said as he crushed the herbs into a paste.

"After some deliberation, it was decided that we should go and find out where the captives were and to hopefully save them from whatever fate would have met them," Mateus stated. "Seven satyrs in total were confirmed when we had reached where they were taken. We engaged then and defeated the demons, but in the process, Ryaha was severely injured and this woman was killed before we could save her."

Ravenstar said nothing as the soldier finished his report. The herbs were now mixed into a fine paste. Ashtalar was now washing the wound with the golden fluid and nodded to his friend.

Now to see if this will do it.

Ravenstar took the paste and strode over to the fallen Sentinel. He applied it heavuly to the opening, ensuring the salve would spread into her blood stream. All that was needed now was for a dressing to be applied and ample rest for Ryaha.

"She should be fine now," Ravenstar said, standing up. "We'll tend to the rest of your injuries now. Your report is noted Mateus." He turned to Izdazi, looking at her with some curiosity. "I'd like to hear your observations, Izdazi."

Izdazi:
Izdazi paced around nervously as she watched Ravenstar and Ashtalar immediately got to work on the unconscious Ryaha. The two elves spoke in clipped voices as they hastily analyzed the toxin in the sentinel's wound. Clearly they were both very skilled alchemists. After a few moments, Ravenstar spared a quick glanced at them and demanded a report.

Mateus was the first to speak up, which suited Izdazi fine. She was still having a tough time collecting her thoughts and her shoulder was aching from the wound. And there was that nagging voice in the back of her head that blamed her for this.

It was the same voice that blamed her anytime someone under her charge was harmed, whether it was a customer in Booty Bay or her deceased hunting companion. She didn't want any more ghosts of regret following her.

The problem was, Izdazi knew she'd been reckless and hasty. She had wanted to prove to Ryaha that she was just as devoted to becoming a sentinel as any other recruit.

We engaged then and defeated the demons, but in the process, Ryaha was severely injured and this woman was killed before we could save her." Mateus concluded.

He left out that I was one who had insisted on doing this, Izdazi realized.

By that time, their teachers were wrapping up the aid they'd been administering.

"She should be fine now," Ravenstar announced as he stood up. "We'll tend to the rest of your injuries now. Your report is noted Mateus." The warrior nodded and distanced himself a little before standing at attention.

Izdazi saw Ravenstar turn toward her and without meaning to, she straighten herself to attention and waited patiently. "I'd like to hear your observations, Izdazi."

She took a deep and nervous breath.

"Sir, Mateus was incomplete with his report. He had suggested, wisely, that we should have returned to the camp and consulted you. Instead, I was persistent with going on ahead and trying to rescue the civilians. Even after I counted the tracks and realized that we were outnumbered by at least two to one, I still insisted that we should go on. Perhaps with more people, we could have lessened the risk," the huntress replied apologetically. "Mateus joined us because he knew we'd need his assistance. Don't punish him or Ryaha, please."

She took a few deep breaths and sighed.

"They attacked the cart with a combination of a ground ambush with ranged support up high. We found them about seven clicks from south east of the road," she began. She paused, trying to think of anything that Mateus missed. Then her eyes widened. "The last surviving satyr killed the woman. It was strange because he didn't make an effort to use her as shield. Nor did he go after the child or mother, as most demons would do. There was no sport, demented or otherwise, in her death."

Izdazi closed her eyes and tried to recall the events as they had happened.

"The last thing he said was that 'she won't tell us anything.' Then he killed her and we brought him down, " Izdazi added. "The woman has a medallion around her neck: a moon behind a tree. I don't know the relevance, though."

The huntress glanced at Ryaha's still unconscious body and then back at Ravenstar.

"We didn't get along, but that doesn't mean I'd want any harm to come upon her, shando."
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:09 pm

Sundar:
Ravenstar regarded Izdazi with scrutiny as she added more details to the report Mateus had given already. As she continued on with her report, Ravenstar's brow only furrowed more. It was not the first time tat he had seen recruits get ahead of themselves in battle. It was not the first time he had seen recruits injured because of it either.

He had to admit that he was impressed that they managed to cut down a group of satyrs and save the family. Regardless, he was still annoyed that they had rushed head long into battle without sending for more help.

Though perhaps if the didn't, the family wouldn't have survived the ordeal.

In any case, while the three had some combat experience, the demons and horrors in Felwood were a challenge to even the most seasoned combatants. They were lucky to have come out of the fight as well as they did. There were always risks attached to one's actions, and they have a reminder what consequences such risks entails.

"The last thing he said was that 'she won't tell us anything.' Then he killed her and we brought him down, " Izdazi continued. "The woman has a medallion around her neck: a moon behind a tree. I don't know the relevance, though."

A tree with a moon in the background. That's the Emerald Circle.

He was very familiar with the organization, having close friends at work with all of the Cenarion groups. Judging form the armour the deceased woman wore, she was a warden under their jurisdiction. Her capture and death by the hands of satyrs with the abduction of the family and the missing individuals seemed, to him, well connected. If they were, the implications would be troubling.

Ravenstar frowned at the thoughts of what they satyrs were up to, but he turned his attention back to the huntress as she continued recounting their detoured mission.

"We didn't get along,"Izdazi said. "But that doesn't mean I'd want any harm to come upon her, shando."

The roguish elf sighed in the end, but he could see the sincerity in Izdazi's eyes. He had seen that expression many times before. It was the look of regret, of guilt, in bringing your allies to danger. Danger is inherent in their profession, and needlessly caused danger was best to be avoided. Then Ravenstar started to wonder to himself about their plight.

What would I have done in their place?

He had done the same in the past, going against protocol, taking risks for a better result. He had gone against what would be considered protocol, but there was a key difference between the three of them and him. He never had to follow protocol.

His eyes were directed at Izdazi and Mateus, both stood at attention, waiting for his response. He could almost see the apprehension in their eyes, and rightfully so. He then lookeda at the family that they had rescued. They were weary, shaken but he saw that they were also grateful to the trio. They may have deviated dangerously from their assignment and gotten one of them gravely injured, but at least something good had come out of it.

He looked back at Izdazi. "No one wants any danger to come to their allies, but that is one of the dangers of living in this world. What's done is done and all we can do is make sure she returns to good health and hope for the best, no?" Ravenstar knelt down by Ryaha and checked her pulse. It had improved but it would take some time for the anti-toxin to do its work. "I'm not entirely displeased with the choice you made," he said, looking at the family and standing up. "However, that said, perhaps it would have been better for you to send for some help as you moved ahead. I'm not under the authority of the Sentinels or the army, but I do know that such impulsive actions won't be overlooked without some disciplinary action. Considering the nature of the attack, I'm going to overlook this incident this time."

Ashtalar appeared rather confused at Ravenstar's decison. That's odd, you're taking it easy on them.

"Next time I would advise sending word back to the camp for aid, if you can of course."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

After their meeting, they had sent the recruits and the rescued family to the local healer. Ryaha's condition had, by then, stabilized. The priestesses and healers would be able to take care of her until then. Ravenstar and Ashtalar had returned to their tent after going out for an impromptu hunt to bring venison to the tables.

Talonbranch would still hold the feast and there was over an hour to pass before it began. The two elves had since returned to their tent, getting back to more casual wear.

"You went easy on them," Ashtalar stated, buttoning up his silken shirt. "That's not really like you; don't tell me you're getting soft on them."

Stilll deciding on a shirt to wear, Ravenstar continued to root through his clothing as he replied to the dead shot's observation. "Oh quite the opposite, things will only get more difficult from here on out." He produced a black shirt and started to put it on. "I think we're going to need to look at our schedule."

"Oh? What are you thinking about?" Ashtalar cocked his head in a curious fashion.

"It's a very likely possibility that we're going to need them out on the field sooner than planned."

"Are you still thinking about Sentinel Whitemoon's request? I thought we decided that we wouldn't get them into it yet. And satyr attacks are pretty regular around here."

"'Yet,'"Ravenstar repeated, straightening his clothing. "We didn't specify when, and that warden, when she died and the satyr told us she would tell us nothing... The kid's been keeping me updated with activity around here before we arrived and it looks like the pests are getting more defenses for some reason. That coupled with the Sentinel's request is telling me that the whelps are going to get thrown into the grit of this sooner than we'd like. We'll need to prepare them now."

"What, so we jump into combat training?" the blue-haired elf shrugged.

Ravenstar rolled up his sleeves. "That's the idea. We'll get into details later, we have a feast to get to."

Izdazi:
Their eyes screamed accusations as she walked past them. Word had already spread around the camp about what had happened. For her to come out of this mostly unharmed when Ryaha didn’t was already raising some suspicions.

Izdazi wasn’t blind to those suspicions. Ryaha was popular; Izdazi wasn’t. People wanted the sentinel to succeed. They didn’t particular care if she did.

For her part, however, Izdazi ignored their glares. She did everything in her power to protect her teammates. No matter how she mentally replayed the events, everything seemed to conclude the same way. The only variable that could have changed was the decision to go after the satyrs to start with.

Ravenstar’s reaction puzzled her, though. She fully expected that he would have been livid at them. Instead, he seemed thoughtful and let them go with a proverbial slap on the wrist. Surely, he must have realized what a terrible risk it had been. Mateus was the single voice of reason and experience, but Izdazi had relied on Ryaha’s sense of duty… and ego, to gain the majority vote.

The huntress stopped just outside of her tent and swiftly removed her leather jerkin. It felt refreshing to have it off and the sweat-stained shirt she wore underneath served to cool her down quickly. However, the movement caused her injured shoulder to flare in pain.

Grimacing, she retrieved the rest of the medicine and bandages that Ravenstar had provided earlier and began dressing the wound while dwelling on the next mystery. What did the other woman know that the satyrs didn’t want revealed?

That train of thought didn’t go far before she sensed someone nearby. Turning around, she realized it wasn’t just one person, but a group of students. Some looked at her with fearful suspicion. Others carried the same contemptuous glare that Ryaha had given her earlier.

“Did you run, coward?” one of them, a young male sporting dark blue hair, accused without preaamble.

“What?” Izdazi replied, as she pulled the strap of the sleeveless shirt over her bandaged shoulder. Her countenance darkened as she looked back at the student and repeated the question. “What did you say?”

“Ryaha nearly died. How did 'you' come out unscathed?” he repeated while taking a step closer.

Here we go again.

“I didn’t get out unscathed and I did everything in my power to cover her,” Izdazi replied slowly. She felt her hands tightening into fists.

“I think you allowed her to nearly be killed. She’s better then you, so you…” The student suddenly staggered back, covering his face ater Izdazi’s sudden lash. She was so enraged by his allegation that she was preparing to see through with another assault when the others began rushing forward.

“Enough!” a hardened voice boomed, causing everyone to freeze. For a second Izdazi was terrified that Ravenstar had caught them in another brawl. Instead, Mateus approached, flanked by two wardens.

The students quickly released their grip on Izdazi’s arm and hair and began spreading out, but not before the one holding her injured shoulder gave it a tight squeeze. The huntress clamped down tightly on her teeth to keep from crying out. She didn’t want to give them the benefit of hearing her in pain.

“Ravenstar was right about you grunts. The total lack of discipline I’ve seen here puts nearly ten millennia of Sentinel tradition and standards to shame!” the grizzled warrior bellowed.

“She swung at me,” the student whom Izdazi struck complained. Half his face, near the left eye was bruised. Izdazi got to her feet, and even though she still held now throbbing bandaged shoulder, she managed to lift her chin defiantly at him.

“You deserved it,” she rebutted.

“Shut up!” he exclaimed again, looking between her and the other student. “I don’t give a damn about who did what. Ravenstar wants us preparing a feast for the residents in Talonbranch. It would be taken as a kindness if his students, perhaps even, future Sentinels, weren’t seen as a bunch of immature children. He’s your shando, for Elune’s sake! Show him the courtesy of being on your best behavior!”

The students, Izdazi included, shrunk away from not only his fury, but also his words. He had point.

“We have a banquet to set up so let’s move it!” he ordered, and the students immediately complied. Izdazi reached around to grab a silk shirt to go over what she already had on, but was blocked by Mateus. “We need to talk first.”

As soon as it was just the two of them, he paced around for a moment, cleared his throat and then turned back toward her.

“I saw you throw the punch first.”

“He accused of me of allowing Ryaha to nearly be killed. He questioned my honor!” the huntress snapped angrily. Then, as if remembering what Mateus had just said, she lowered her head contritely. “You heard what he said. You were there. Why didn’t defend m?”

“That’s not my place or my job,” he responded neutrally.

“Not your place? These people hate me and you don’t impart the truth on them. What the hell is with that?”

“To these students, Izdazi, you are pariah. They think you’ll get preferential treatment because of your mother’s past reputation. And to confirm their fears, it was your mother who got you out of the barrows. Not only were you incarcerated because you attacked sentinels, but because you may, or may not have, killed one.”

“Your gift for the obvious is ever so inspiring, Mateus" the huntress replied dryly. "I know why they hate me, Mateus. But why didn’t you defend me?”

“We’re warriors. You want their respect? Earn it. What I say or do won’t make a difference over what they think about you.”

Growling in frustration, Izdazi turned to her tent and began rifling through her bags until she found the cleanest shirt she had. Mateus didn’t leave, despite her dismissal.

“I served with Commander Reyada Shadowcreek once. She was an exceptional officer and warrior.”

“And let me guess,” Izdazi replied snidely. “If I were like my esteemed mother, I would have known better than to risk following the satyr tracks with only three soldiers? Or maybe if I were like my mother, I would have come up with a plan that would have saved all three captives and resulted in no casualties. Ryaha would still be walking around right now if my mother were in charge. Is that where this is going? Hmmmm?”

Mateus looked straight into her eyes for almost a solid minute before shaking his head in disappointment.

“You need to learn the keep your mouth shut, Izdazi. I was actually going to share a story she had told a group of warriors during a cross-training drill centuries ago,” he began. He looked at Izdazi as if waiting for her to interrupt. Instead, she folded her arms in front of her chest and waited silently.

“Her story began in a camp not much different from this one. She was training to become a Sentinel and one of their early drills involved a patrol near the edge of the known Shatterspear territory. Our efforts to route them away from our lands is just as persistent nowadays as it was thousands of years ago.

“They were halfway through the ninth patrol in as many days, and they still hadn’t seen a single troll. It was boring. The flies in that part of Darkshore are persistent pests and the humidity more so. Then, one day, they found a dead hippogryph. It was quickly concluded that an arrow, a troll arrow, had brought the beast down. But of the rider, they couldn’t find,” the warden continued.

“What they did find, were very fresh footprints. Troll footprints. Some of the trainees wanted to seek them out. Reyada was the student in charge of this patrol. She decided against it. She surmised that the rider was either dead from the crash or had wandered away. The trolls must have been studying the carcass. She also realized that following the troll prints would have disobeyed her CO's orders and put her patrol into a possibly dangerous situation.”

“So, mom made the right call, then?” Izdazi asked quietly.

“Reyada said that she never knew. To this day, she wasn’t sure if she’d made the right call. The person flying was a druid on his way to Moonglade. They never heard from him again,” Mateus explained. “The thing is, Izdazi, what if Reyada perused the trolls? What if the druid was alive? What if he wasn’t? What if the trolls had set up an ambush? What if it were just the three? She never found out and it took her years before she realized that this is part of being a soldier, and even more, being an officer.”

“Did you make the right call? I don’t know. Could things have happened differently? Absolutely. Could they have happened for the better, or for the worse? We’ll never know.”

The warrior shrugged and began to walk away.

“Wait? Is that all?” Izdazi stammered. “What did Reyada wish she had done?”

Mateus turned and she swore she saw the hint of a grin in his lips.

“It doesn't matter what she wished. She made a choice, Izdazi. Ultimately, that’s the moral of the story. She had to choose and she was at peace with what she decided , despite the ‘what ifs.’ You made a choice. The choice is done. Learn from it, but accept that while things didn’t go as we had hoped, they could have been far worse.

“Now hurry up. We have to feed our hosts.”


* * *

It was an old kal’dorei custom that Ravenstar was using to justify this feast. In it, if a guest was staying for an extended amount of time they were expected to prepare a meal for their hosts. Since Talonbranch was, in essence, opening their community to the recruits to use for training, Ravenstar saw it fit that they should host the dinner.

The food was bountiful and smelled delightful. The best of the students, who could cook, were busy preparing the meats and meals, while the rest tended to waiting on the residents.

And as for the residents themselves, most seemed genuinely surprised by the meal. Izdazi found herself surprised by how fulfilling it felt to make these people happy. With the dour state of things lately, it felt good to see people smiling again.

With the Horde now on a war footing against them, the satyrs becoming more prevalent, and strange earthquakes and storms wrecking havoc about the world, it’s not difficult to realize that despite people continuing with their lives, an aura of hopelessness was pressing down upon them.

Maybe, Izdazi decided as she offered a large dish to a nearby family, defending our citizens is just as much about spirit as it is about lives.

But, after moment longer of considering things, she shook her head. A strange and fulfilling as this feeling was, it did little to quell her own concerns. Even if she managed to complete Ravenstar's tests, there was no guarantee that she'd ever be accepted as a sentinel.

With food on the tables before the residents in attendance, the recruits were finally allowed to gather their own plates and enjoy the meal.

Izdazi would probably have enjoyed the meal as much as the others, if she weren't already bothered by the look of concern in Ravenstar's face. Occasionally, he and Ashtalar would trade quiet words, but while the latter seemed to be more in the moment, Raven seemed preoccupied.

Sundar:
The festivities in Talonbranch Glade was something Ravenstar and Ashtakar had never seen in such a grim part of Kalimdor. The local residents and posted guards looked to be enjoying the meal that the students had prepared, suprised by how well prepared the feast was.

The two friends sat away from the centre of the festivities, enjoying a more quiet area to eat their fill, underneath the cover of a tree. Both were still picking at their meal, having finished much of the main course. Ashtalar had leaned back against the tree, taking bites out of the pear in his hand. Ravenstar was still leaning forward, though now starting ahead at the community in deep thought.

Ashtalar looked thoughtfully at his companion. Ravenstar was not one he would call talkative, but the kaldorei was particularly stoic for a good part of their meal. They have had a loose conversation on various topics, but it was always initiated by the dead shot. "Something bothering you? You're more quiet than usual."

"Am I?" Ravenstar replied absently. The elf gave Ashtalar a cursory look before reaching for a peach he had gotten from the food tables and casually sinking his fangs into the fruit. It was as if he was dodging the question.

"Yes," the dead shot answered sarcastically. He became more insistent as it was apparent that his friend was not going to answer him. "Something is bothering you. Don't think I don't notice. So, are you going to tell me?"

Ravenstar shifted his eyes to Ashtalar as he finished a bite of the peach. As he straightened his posture, he turned fully to regard his blue-haired compatriot. "Does this ever remind you of the past?"

"Past?" Ashtalar looked back at the elf with a child-like confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"The war, when we were young," the fighter elaborated, and then clarified, though still sounding distant. "Our first, against the Burning Legion. Don't those whelps remind you of us? Training for war, not knowing what challenges laid ahead..."

Ashtalar exhaled audibly as he turned his attention to the recruits. The young elves all seemed to be enjoying their time in the festivities. It looked as if their troubles have been forgotten. If only for a moment, Ashtalar thought to himself.

"I think the biggest difference is that we didn't expect a war," Ashtalar pointed out with a shrug. "They know the scale of what they're getting into. We didn't expect an invasion of demons."

"The scale is something that is dynamic in these times," Ravenstar countered. "You've heard of the reports of Horde forces building up in Stonetalon and of the naga in Feralas?"

"Stonetalon?"

"They also have their eye on Azshara and even here in Felwood it looks." Ravenstar finished the rest of his peach, placing the discarded pit on his plate. "It's not in our domain, but the strange things that have been happening around the world, these storms and earthquakes... There have been sightings of elemental outbreaks in various parts of the world now."

"You're thinking something bigger is coming?"

"It's hard to ignore these signs, Ash. At this rate we'll be fighting on multiple fronts with a smaller army than we have had before."

"But all other nations are suffering a loss of numbers," Ashtalar shrugged. "I think you're worrying a bit much still."

"Perhaps, but I have a feeling that they'll be carrying the burden and stress knowing that we'll be spreading our forces thin if it comes to that. Fighting knowing that you're outnumbered everywhere is something we can't prepare them for. That's what I'm most concerned about."

"An issue of morale." Ashtlar looked at Ravenstar with grim agreement. They could always train them to fight better and how to formulate tactics, but teaching them to fight what would seem like a losing battle without losing their conviction would be impossible.

"We didn't need to worry about it so much after the War of the Ancients, but now that similar pressure is building up everywhere. Just this time, as you've said, we know it's coming."

"In the face of the unknown, we can only go forward, no?" Ashtalar said with a slight grin. "I think that just means we'll need to focus a bit on their confidence."

The two elves silently agreed without saying a word to each other, setting their watchful gaze on the rest of Talonbranch Glade. For the rest of the night, and into the morning, the small community took the time to celebrate what they did have and to welcome the recruits into their home.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The feast had gone well into the early hours of the morning. Much of the community was now in bed, save a few guards to keep vigil in case of danger. Ravenstar and Ashtalar were likewise resting in their tent after a content meal.

The two elves were sleeping soundly, but Ravenstar was soon stirring. His ear twitched slightly as he caught the sound of various animals panicking. He rose from his sleeping mat, tossing the covers off, revealing his bare chest and breeches. Ashtalar too was awake and in similar dress, and both looked at the door.

"I think those are mine," Ashtalar said as he got up. Ravenstar followed his friend to the entrance of the tent.

Both kaldorei looked outside, finding Ashtalar's small menagerie of animals in disarray. His sabre, wolf and raptor looked to be in distress, as well as their riding cats. The beasts all nudged the dead shot as if starved of attention, but he knew that was not the case.

"Something's wrong. They're warning of something coming," Ashtalar relayed their message.

"Something coming?" Ravenstar was perplexed, but soon his query was answered.

It came without warning. The earth started heaving and rumbling. The two elves fell down to a crouch. The creatures panicked even more than they had been. Soon over the din, they could hear the residents shouting and various structures and buildings strain under the pressure of the trembling ground. Even part of their tent had collapsed.

It was only moments later that the quake had ceased. The pair regained their balance and Ashtalar's animal companions had calmed down. The then started to take stock of the damage the quake had caused.

"Are you alright?" Ravenstar asked Ashtalar, standing up.

"I'm good. That was very strange. We don't normally get quakes here," Ashtalar commented as he offered reassurance to his bestial friends.

"But there have been lately," Ravenstar added. "Come on, let's go check on the others."

Izdazi:
Izdazi was out of her tent and on her feet within the first moment of the earthquake. Leaves and branches rained down on the camp and the trees groaned loudly in their sensitive ears as the trees swayed in the bucking earth. For nearly a minute the ground rumbled and the sound, almost like a growl or low roar, filled her ears. It was terrifying.

A minute later, the earthquake ended and the recruits stood around, staring at each other and the eerily silent forest. Even with the increase in sporadic earthquake swarms that, it was still an unsettling experience. Nothing about Felwood felt right at this moment. She could read the uncertainty and fear in their eyes and they probably could see it in hers.

However, before anyone could establish some composure, Ravenstar briskly entered their camp.

"Anyone hurt? Anyone injured?" he quickly inquired, as he gave each recruit a scrutinizing glance. When no one spoke he cleared his throat. "Well, what are you waiting for? Get to out there! Get to work!"

His sharp order spurred them from their stunned lethargy. Without hesitation the recruits rushed to their tents, snatched up their armor and weapons and raced towards Talonbranch.

* * *

At first glance, the village didn't seem that heavily damaged. There was the odd damage here and there. Residents wandered aimlessly around the thoroughfare taking stock of the damage, but uncertain of what to do. While most of the structures were grown within the trees, there were some that were built artificially. Unfortunately, unlike the tree grown buildings, those structures didn't weather the ground shifting as well.

The recruits wasted little time reassuring the civilians while others began clearing debris and trying to get into partially collapsed structures. With her bow strung across her back, Izdazi began helping to push aside a heavy wooden beam from one of the collapsed buildings. The elves trapped inside could be heard calling out for help, however, since this building was the local blacksmith, most of the structure was comprised of stacked stones, which made the clearing that more tedious and dangerous. If they weren't careful, more of the building would collapse onto the survivors.

Through the entire process, Izdazi's thoughts were only on that of the helping get to these people. It didn't matter that her joints still ached from the physical training that Ravenstar was putting them through. Nor was she that effected by the interrupted sleep. The earthquake had shattered any possibility of further sleep.

"I can't push this up any further," Tamaver called out. He was one of the few male recruits. His dark purple arms strained as he pushed it upwards. "Someone needs to go in there and remove the stone that's holding this beam up."

"Shadowcreek, you’re the shortest of us. You should go," Delenna Forestsprite ordered.

Izdazi looked down at the jagged make shift tunnel leading into the depths of the nearly collapse smithy and then back at Delenna and Tamaver. Her face grew blanch and almost immediately her hands trembled.

She wanted to suggest that maybe someone else should go. The tunnel down looked very small and uninviting. But it was the voices of the trapped echoing in her ears that made pushed her forward.

"Go already.” Delenna ordered as she took Izdazi bows and the sword.

With an unsteady sigh, the huntress went to her knees and stuck her head into the small tunnel. No sooner did she crawl a few steps before the closeness of the walls began overwhelming her senses. She imagined the poor victims trapped below and it became a situation that she could very likely find herself in.

Her breaths sounded deafening to her ears and she began perspiring with each shallow shuffle. All around her she was surrounded by walls of debris. Each piece looked ready to hold her down while the earth swallowed her alive.

The walls were closing in.

Can't move.

Can't breathe.


The tunnel shuddered and small clumps of earth began falling on her back a head. Izdazi froze as her claustrophobia clashed with the desire and duty to rescue these trapped people. But every move forward was met with more blinding fear. Their cries called to her, but the terror of being trapped was becoming overwhelming.

"I can't hold this forever," Tamaver called out as he continuing straining against the beam. She heard his boots slip and the heavy wooden structure shifted loudly against the loose debris. More clumps of earth from the ceiling fell on her and like a tsunami; the fear washed away all sense of duty and bravery.

Frantically Izdazi crawled out of the tunnel, jumped to her feet and distanced herself from the tunnel.

"What the hell are you doing?" Delenna demanded. "They need our help!"

"I-I can't go down there," Izdazi stammered. "I can't do it."

"Coward!" the other recruit accused. “Get back in there and help.”

"Enough," Mateus interjected. "Orsir get down there and find what’s lodging the piece.”

Next to Mateus stood Orsir Bladewind, another of the rangers working with the recruits, Without hesitation, the ranger druid shifted into saber form and crept into the tunnel. Izdazi felt her face grow flush with embarrassment.

Mateus turned to her and Delenna. “I want you two to check the perimeter of Talonbranch. With all our attention here and so few sentinels, we need to make sure we’re safe from any external threats.

“Yes sir,” Delenna answered. She turned and threw Izdazi’s weapons at her feet. “Let’s go.”

The huntress clenched her fists, but there were no words to lessen the humility. She had allowed her fear to completely paralyze her ability to help those in need. It was disgraceful. Her mother was probably turning in her grave.

“Are you ok?” Mateus asked, looking at her intently. Izdazi looked up, swept a few stray dreadlocks back. She shook her head and was about to speak, but then looked away.

“I’ll be fine. Just… help those people,” she muttered, gathering her weapons and following Delenna into the forest.
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:10 pm

Sundar:
"One, two, three... Heave!"

Everywhere the inhabitants of Talonbranch Glade were helping with the post-quake efforts. The community was, at large, still standing, but a few of structures had fallen and consequently trapped and injured townsfolk.

Ravenstar was busy with the local healers and medics in treating the injures. Ashtalar was going along with him animal companions to search for anyone that may have been buried under the rubble of buildings and rounding up fleeing animal companions. It had already been nearly four hours since the quake and the clean-up efforts were going well.

Many of the injuries Ravenstar had taken care of were thankfully not very serious. There was also no word on any casualties as of yet. Of those that were found trapped, there were already plenty of helping hands, and only a couple citizens were unaccounted for. Their efforts were almost to an end. He was taking a short break, taking stock of how many more doses of healing antiseptic he could make.

"Some of our stores have taken damage," one of the town residents said. "Some of the vegetables and fruit are lost, as are healing supplies."

"We'll need to restock," another added. "Who knows what's going to happen next."

Ravenstar's ear twitched slightly in their direction. The lack of supplies would mean that there would be less to subside on, but that also meant that there would also be much less being put aside for their students and themselves. They already had to supplement Talonbranch's supplies, but now they would have to help replenish their food stocks.

The schedule is getting tighter, the elf thought to himself. He let out a short sigh. It can't be helped now.

He stood up and turned to the local healer as he walked towards the path leading towards his tent. "I'll be going out to get more herbs. We won't have enough for much else after this, especially if more injuries come up."

The kaldorei walked along the path with little distraction. The path ran along the edge of the rising that part of the town rested on. Ahead was a fork that marked the path downward towards the pond-side buildings. He looked straight ahead until he came to the fork, where he heard yelling.

"What the hell are you doing? They need our help!"

He turned his attention below him. It was his students, Tamaver, Delenna and Izdazi. Ravenstar could clearly hear what they were talking about. Hesitation to enter the fallen building to rescue someone? Ravenstar looked at the offending elf, what he saw was fear in Izdazi's eyes. What was she afraid of?

They were joined by Mateus and Orsir, who took over the rescue operation by Mateus' instructions. Orsir had taken the form of a sabre cat to reached those trapped beneath the fallen stones, while the trio of younger elves went on with lookout duties.

Mateus is a born leader, or perhaps it's from experience. It had been less than a week and already a distinction had grown between the students. It was earlier than usual, but then again, it was not often that he trained a mixture of Sentinels and wardens. Maybe it's time.

Ravenstar strode down the low path towards the pond and approached Mateus and Orsir. "Looks like you need some help."

"Ah, sir!" Mateus said with a salute.

Only a moment later did something come out of the collapsed building, a stone, followed by a dusky violet cat.

"I'm going back in to make sure there's no other instabilities. Lift the beams to make a larger space for them to squeeze through."

The last of the missing.

Mateus and Ravenstar went ahead without acknowledgement and propped up the fallen beams of the would-be entrance. With nothing in its way, they were able to widen the entrance. Soon, Orsir was able to direct both of the elves out, a male and female. They were covered in dust, scrapes and bruises. While shaken, they were not seriously injured.

"You saved us," the she-elf said. "How could we ever repay you?"

"Recompense is unnecessary," the druid replied.

Ravenstar and Mateus set down the wooden beam. The older elf turned to the pair.

"I'll escort you to the healers," Ravenstar said. He looked at Mateus and Orsir. "Good work here."

"Thank you, sir," Mateus said. "I think this was the last of the buildings. All other have been checked."

"And these two are the last of those unaccounted for," the older elf stated. "Now all there's left is to clean up." But I have come here for something else. "Mateus."

"Sir?"

"We would like to discuss some things with you. Would you be able to meet Ashtalar and I by the northeastern edge of Talonbranch at midnight?"

Mateus seemed puzzled about his request. He wondered what it could be about, but Ravenstar did not appear to be concerned or angry. In another sense, that raised more questions to the seasoned soldier. There was nothing else but to find out why.

"Certainly," Mateus said with a salute.

"Good, we'll see you then," the elder elf said.

He turned about and started to lead the rescued couple towards the path leading back to the infirmary area, leaving the pair of students behind. Orsir approached Mateus.

"So, Ravenstar wants to speak to you, I wonder why," Orsir thought aloud.

Mateus shrugged. "I'll see when midnight rolls around."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Ravenstar was finally able to leave to restock Talonbranch's herb supplies. The line of patients had faded and the healers kept it under control. He was now back in his tent, cleaning up and readying his gear. While he was not going far, it would be a mistake to go out unprepared.

"Not going to rest?" Ashtalar had come back. His gear was all in hand; it looked as if he had taken it for a wash.

"I'm going to help get some more herbs. The supply is fairly depleted," the green-haired elf stated. "I don't think they ever had that many injured to take care of once before, even with the forest as treacherous as it is."

"Well and earthquake is certainly odd."

"By the way, we're going to talk to Mateus at midnight at the northeastern side. I should be back here before then."

"Oh?" Ashtalar cocked his head in curiosity. "Did something happen?"

"Not necessarily, but perhaps it's a good time to start building on their individual strengths. And his is leadership."

"So you noticed too?"

Ravenstar nodded. "Oh yes, any news of his progress coming here?"

Ashtalar strode over to his side of the tent, placing his belongings to a side and took a seat on his bedding. "He should be here in the next few days, give or take."

"Good. We'll probably need a hand. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more action faster this time around."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

While Talonbranch Glade had clearly felt the quake, the forest on the other hand showed little sign of feeling the tremors. Ravenstar noticed that much of the wildlife was also continuing with no consequence.

Even though he was armed in his usual weaponry, he felt no danger in his surroundings. He scanned the forest floor and trees for the herbs he needed, and gingerly collected any he found. He was still within sight of Talonbranch Glade and he was able to fill a third of his herb bag already.

This area is fairly fertile. It shouldn't take long for me to fill this bag. He took a quick glance at what he had gathered already. Fangwort, crimson ivy, plenty of dreamfoil. I'll need to find some silversage and pinerose.

Ravenstar headed further into the forest, stopping every now and again to collect an herb or flower, his eyes scrutinizing the condition of every plant. The air had been growing more humid as of late, signaling a change in the seasons. Though there was more plant growth, the weather conditions were now also perfect for mildew to form on the plants.

As he went along in gathering, he stopped for a moment as he came across a strange plant. The stem was a deep red with ragged coral coloured leaves and small cream flowers, all covered in small hairs.

Ruby nettle. Come to think about it, I'm going to need these to make more medication for him. He should be running low by now. The elf carefully plucked the plant from the ground, I'll need to get some dreamvine as well. As he pondered, Ravenstar turned his eyes to the south. In the far off distance, he thought he could hear thunder.

I can't help but wonder how his search is going.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

The smell of rain hung heavy in the air. The clouds moved tumultuously over Felwood, waiting to pour out any moment. Ravenstar and Ashthiel waited along the mountainside by the great tree that grew in Talonbranch. Both elves were still in their equipment, having only stopped work momentarily before they arrived to their appointed meeting spot.

"The weather's been nice until now. But this will bring fresh water to us," Ashtalar commented, cracking his neck and trying to get the tired feeling out of it.

Ravenstar nodded and looked up to the sky. While obscured by the clouds, he could still tell it was drawing near midnight. It had been over eight hours since they were awoken by the earthquake. Everyone was starting to feel fatigued, but they all kept on working towards repairing the settlement.

Just as Ravenstar was about to say something, Mateus arrived before the two other Kaldorei. He stood at attention a few feet from the tree, waiting for them to acknowledge his arrival.

"So you have come, apologies for such a sudden meeting." Ravenstar said.

"An apology is unnecessary, sir. I do as I'm ordered," Mateus replied.

Ravenstar nodded. Inwardly he chuckled at his reply. It was not so much of an order as it was a request, but perhaps that was the way he was. "You're a very upstanding man, as we have seen from your efforts of the past. I've also noticed you've been tending to the younger students here."

"Well, for better or for worse, I'm one of them," Mateus said, still standing in form. "But I also have experience. With respect, sirs, they confide with me in a way they can't with you."

"Which is a good thing. One particular student has an aversion to me, time may perhaps fix that." Ravenstar leaned against a rocky facing of the mountainside, ignoring the moistened surface. "While you are all equals, there will be the need of someone to lead them."

Mateus raised an eyebrow at Ravenstar's revelation but said nothing. "If you believe that I'm the right person then I'll do my best," the warrior replied stoically. He started to slacken in his posture. "However, sir, if I may suggest.  Part of being a soldier in an army is that we're not all equals.  Both you and this student need to learn if this aversion is going to affect her performance in the field, sir."

"It, of course, will be dealt with in short order. Though she has more issues than a sore spot with me. You know what I speak of. That would be a more pressing matter. I know her fear of me will dissipate soon."

"Well, this is a rougher group then I've seen in the past. Not the coarsest but they have some ways to go, sir," Mateus replied.  He nodded after a moment. "I know who it is you speak of. Respectfully, sir, the latest upsurge in Horde aggression, a recruit like her would have been dismissed days ago." Mateus paused for a moment and considered his words. His hands fell to the side and his hands were held in loose fists. "I understand the family connection that puts her here, and I sympathize with her reasons, but I don't understand the patience she's been shown," he added. "This is a stressful time for recruits and her presence, and her actions, are adding volatility to the students, sir."

"They will be dealing with worse in the future. In the past, they had plants in the recruits, people purposefully placed in a core to disrupt the rest of the group. It would be a test to see if the recruits could work past that, for that is also one of the challenges you'll all face working in the field. If I'm to believe rumours that are flying around, such testing situations may pop up more often. You've heard of the return of the Highborne?"

Mateus nodded, though he appeared curious at the question. "I have. To be honest, sir, I'm not sure how I feel about them. Why do you mention them?"

"They've been accepted back into our society, not only for the healing of our bonds with them, but because we will be in need of their abilities. I think it's the same way with Izdazi." Ravenstar stood way from the wall of rock and looked to the direction of the camp. "In addition to training more wardens, a notice that came from the Sentinel forces to train additional soldiers, they are demanding a one-hundred percent graduation rate from us."

"It's a tall order, "Ashtalar added. "Considering the high failure rate in our camps."

"They are in need of soldiers. After losses on various fronts, they've started to screen for potential recruits and sending them to training facilities regardless of their background. We've received who they thought to be high potential candidates."

Mateus frowned and seemed to struggle to contain his controlled countenance. "With respect, sir, are we training soldiers or cannon fodder? The reason failure rates are high is because the best is demanded of us," the veteran explained in a clipped voice.  "Not everyone can do it."

Ravenstar looked back to Mateus. "They will be the determinant of their own success, as our policy always has been. We don't expect everyone to pass, we simply act as an agent to weed out the weak, and we'll continue to do so." The green haired elf shrugged. "They're finally realizing our fragility. We're not immortal, nor have we procreated to such extent as humans and other mortal races have. They're getting a sense of loss now."

"Our training routine will always be the same," Ashtalar added. "It was naive for them to think that we would pass anyone, but for now we'll have entertain them."

"In a way I can understand this. In the war, over ten-thousand years ago, we didn't have a choice in who would serve and who didn't. From all walks of life, soldiers and defenders of our people rose to the fore." Ravenstar smirked. "Wishful thinking these days, to expect we can achieve the same level of success."

Mateus sighs but remains straightened. "Despite the personal losses your Sentinel recruits may have experienced, the truth is, they don't know loss as soldiers yet. They need to become a cohesive unit before they can experience that." He gained a determined look in his eyes before continuing on, though what he said would left Ravenstar and Ashtalar with no surprises. "I suggest reassigning Shadowcreek.  With respect sir, she fears her punishment more then duty.  For the unit as a whole, I suggest removing the disruptive element."

"That isn't in my power to do so," the combatant elf said, shaking his head. "Even if it were," Ravenstar looked to Sentinels posted around Talonbranch. "I have a feeling she would only be shuffled to another training camp. There are those that resent her for her past deeds. They would have her down-trodeen as much as possible. It's most likely an insult to her to have the one that defeated her in combat to end up as her trainer."

"Not that you like it much better, Revar," Ashtalar quipped. An annoyed expression crossed his companions features, much to the dead shot's amusement.

"Well, that was explain her attitude towards you, but she needs to get off it," Mateus replied, placing a head on his forehead in a bit of frustration. "Respectfully, sir, these recruits needs to start behaving like Sentinels.I apologize for being so forward."

"Apologies are not needed. You're correct in that they need to grow. That takes time." A wicked grin found its way to Ravenstar's lips as well as a gleam of pleasure. "Have you ever wondered why our camp is the only camp that begins training in a high risk area, while others start in places closer to home?"

The soldier before them took a moment to think of a reason, which he then started speaking aloud "I have to admit, I have pondered that. Satyrs, Horde patrols, furbolgs, the wildlife, even the vegetation are all conspiring against them. This is a far cry from Shadowglen."

"As I had mentioned before, we're more of an erosive force. In order to accept failure, they have to realize themselves that they can't do this. At the same time, those that do survive the wilds of Felwood will mature faster and realize what it means to defend their people. The dangers are especially prominent here, given the recent satyr activities." A somewhat distant look came to the old Kaldorei.

Something that we're all to familiar with.

"This isn't something for new recruits then," Mateus commented. "So, you would like me assist with the training?  It would be my pleasure, sir."

"Perhaps you can. You're certainly a role model for others to look to. Speaking of the ever existing problems in Felwood, we might be tied up in the future. Though that isn't something that will be guaranteed to happen."

Ravenstar nodded. "It's a bit of a troublesome time for me, which further complicates Izdazi's presence here. It has something to do with my former students, and my former students were the ones that she had attacked only a few years ago."

"While our real affiliation isn't actually with a given group, we actually do a lot of work under the Cenarion banners," Ashtalar stated. "I'm sure you're knowledgeable of her crimes from before."

"We called in for an extra hand to help, but if we happen to be indisposed, then we may need some assistence in looking after the class. It can't be helped, since the Emerald Circle has sent in a request to aid them."

"So, we may already be receiving active missions?" Mateus asked eagerly.

"They're short handed here, it can't be helped," Ravenstar admitted with a shrug. "Hyjal has absorbed more personel than we predicted."

"Very well, sir," the soldier replied.  "I'll do what I can."

"Your efforts are appreciated. After Talonbranch has come back to order, I'll be given all of you a personalized training menu in addition to group training. Make sure you're well rested."

Ravenstar began on his way back to the tent. Ashtalar was about to follow, but he remained for a moment and turned to Mateus.

"You have a charisma about you that draws others to you," Ashtalar said with a smile. "Ravenstar's a bit of a grouch, but we do have high hopes for you. You also might be familiar with the additional trainer that's on his way."

"Thank you, sir. I'll do my best to help these recruits," Mateus replied. He still kept his emotions reserved thoughMateus appeared for a moment to be debating something mentally. He then glanced back at Ashtalar. "Has Ravenstar ever asked why Izdazi attacked his former students?  I don't mean what it appears, but the true reason?  If not, perhaps he should make the effort."

Ashtalar looked to Ravenstar's deirection of departure and then back to Mateus. "He's not a particularly talkative type. He's interrogated her. Let me give you the background of the students. They're brothers from the Stormchaser family, a ranger and his younger brother, a druid. The ranger however is one of those that fell victim to the corruption of the recent satyr assault in Ashenvale. So it's a touchy matter for him."

"I see. I'm sorry to hear that," Mateus said. He seemed thoughtful for a moment. "She was with the terrorists then? That doesn't answer why." The veteran warrior offers an uncharacteristic smirk. "Ravenstar and young Shadowcreek have much in common, Ashtalar. I look forward to meeting this additional trainer, sir." He offered a bow the the blue-haired dead shot.  

Ashtalar let out a laugh in reply. "You're right about that. Perhaps they're more alike than they wish to see." He started on his way, following Ravenstar. "Training from here on will be quite interesting. Rest up, we'll be back to training in a day. Tell the others," Ashtalar said, waving to Mateus while walking forward.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Dawn was fast approaching. It had been a busy day for everyone, and some still continued to labour away. A community meal was made for everyone, and accomodations were being made for those that have temporarily lost shelter. There was not much else to do aside from rest and recoup.

Ashtalar had his fill for a meal and had enough to feed his sabres, word and raptor. Oddly the one person he did not see at the food hand out was Ravenstar. The dead shot went back to their tent, dropping off the food for his animal companions and feeding their riding sabres. The creatures happily ate their fill. Ashtalar smiled at them, but he still wondered where Ravenstar had gone.

No use in wondering where he is. It's not like he can't take care of himself.

Ashtalar entered their tent, finding out where his friend had disappeared to. Within the dimly lit tent, Ravenstar sat on his bedding, dressed only in his pants. He was meditating.

Getting ready for the next phase of training? Ashtalar let out a smirk and shrugged. Soon he too quietly turned in for the rest of the day.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

One day later...

"It's time to see what your individual training menus are."

Ravenstar stood ready with Ashtalar before all of the recruits, but they were dressed differently. They were not in their full set of equipment, rather they were in a stripped down setup. Both wore light harnesses and were armed with battle-axes and throwing knives. Ravenstar was further armed with a pair of long daggers and Ashtalar kept his bow and arrows. The elder Kaldorei also kept their hair tied back away from their faces.

"You've had enough time to warm up. We'll be starting with some running," Ravenstar announced. "The course is scheduled to be two hours, but we'll be aiming to finish that in half the time or less."

"We'll be leading you through it as well," Ashtalar added. "When we come back, we'll take a break, and then the real event for today that will outline how you will train from here on out."

"The running is simply a workout," Ravenstar reaffirmed. "To survive in battle, you will need to develop stamina, but you will also need to work on other points of your physique and skills. That will differ from one individual to the next. We will work on building on your strengths and resolving your weaknesses. To help assess what you need to work on, you'll be doing some sparring."

"For now, we just want to see if you can keep up with us," Ashtalar said with some confidence. "We'll be involved in the training as well at this point. Alright, let's get going!"

Ashtalar and Ravenstar led the group at a good pace, waving them to follow. Ashtalar's beatly companions as usual followed in suit in the shadows around them to keep guard. The dead shot glanced back at the recruits, but his glance then switched to Ravenstar who was in the lead. He let out a smirk.

Won't they be surprised when they see who they get to spar with. This will be amusing.

Izdazi:
The forest was a blur of motion streaking from a distant point ahead of her eyes. That point was centered on the backs of the two trainers. This was just like a hunt. Nay, better. This was the chase part of a hunt that would culminate in a kill. This was everything rushing toward the climatic end.

The others were noisy. Oh, they were far more quiet then clumsy humans or drunk dwarves, but they were still noisy. The sound of twigs snapping and leaves being brush boomed in her ears like the misfire of firearm. Not her, though. She wanted to be silent. Stealthy.

Effortlessly, she followed them across a narrow fallen tree that spanned a narrow ravine. The run took them over a field covered in high grass, that masked small pits. One misstep would result in a sprained, or even broken, ankle. Without slowing her pace, Izdazi continued forward.

She was determined to prove Ashtalar, and more importantly, Ravenstar, that she was the best at this. At least she was better then the other recruits.

Don't get ahead of yourself, the huntress mentally rebuked. Pride wasn't something she was in short supply of. She needed to stay on her toes.

The two instructors abruptly changed direction and Izdazi followed suit. She just barely suppressed a surprised grunt when her boots started sliding in the slick layer of leaves covering the forest ground. It took a few precious moments, but she finally reengaged traction and powered on ahead. From the sound of slipping and the uttering curses, she could tell that the others were encountering the same difficulty.

Many minutes passed and the chase continued. She was starting to struggle to keep up with two older kal'dorei. Her legs were starting to burn and her breaths were coming in gasps. This wasn't the mild cross-country jogs she was used to, but rather, a full on run.

Ravenstar and Ashtalar are both much much older than she. Yet, neither appeared to show the slightest sign of fatigue.

She heard footfalls approaching and spared a fleeting glancing behind. One of the recruits was charging toward her fast. With a renewed grunt, the she elf tried to speed up, but the cramps in her chest weren't going to allow for that.

Fel! I need to slow down and pace myself if I'm going to finish this, the huntress relented. She dreaded the smug expression the recruit who was going to overtake was going to make as he passed her.

Instead of passing by her, the recruit shot his leg out and tripped her. With a surprised cry, Izdazi saw the ground rush up. She held out her arms before her face and felt the air pushed from her lungs as she slid forward on the soil ground. The heavy body of the other recruit landed atop her.

"What fel do you think your doi-" His hand covering her mouth garbled the rest of Izdazi's exclamation. She twisted and turned to face him. Starleaf. That was his family name. She hadn't bothered to learn his first name.

Her eyes were flashing in anger and she was just about to struggle from his hold when something flew just over their heads. She heard a dull thudding sound on the tree just near them. Turning her head she glanced up and her silvery eyes widened at the crude arrow embedded on the tree trunk.

"Furbolgs. They started tracking us a few minutes ago." the kal'dorei over her whispered between rapid breathes. He was very near hyperventilating.

"The others?" she whispered back, while glancing around fervently.

"They should… they should have taken cover," he gasped out a response. "You were too far ahead and we couldn't risk yelling out. Mateus asked me to run on ahead and catch up to you before the furbolgs did."

Izdazi turned to him as a realization slowly dawned over her. He hadn't been sprinting to overtake her, but rather to warn her. Hell… he may have just saved her life.

How had she not seen them? Furbolgs are hard to miss. Was she so fixated on besting her fellow recruits that she had completely missed everything else? That's something a rookie hunter would do. Not her.

"Thanks," Izdazi whispered as a trio of arrows struck the ground and a tree nearby. "I don't think they're convinced that we're gone, though. We can't stay here." She reached for her belt and pulled a hunting knife. The recruits were expected to each be carrying one on this run, although other gear was not to be brought.

From her vantage point, so close to the ground, it was difficult to see anything around them. She dropped low to the ground as another arrow hissed past her ear.

Damnit. I should be the one shooting the arrows. Not the poor sap being shot at.

"How many do you think there are?"

"Mateus thinks there are five. They were trying to ambush us."

"Then we split up," Izdazi suggested. "If we can split them up then-"

"What? Kill them with knives?" he quipped. "We should try to find cover."

Izdazi growled and shook her head, causing a few strands of her navy dreads to fall annoyingly over her face.

"We can't hide forever."

"You do know that the claws on furbolg has much more reach then these things," he replied, while raising his hunting knife for her to see.

Damn him. He had a point and she knew it.

I hate being the unlucky hunted one.

"Follow me," he ordered. Without a better plan, Izdazi reluctantly followed. They crawled to a rock outcropping and then began jogging low to the ground until they got to a rise. That was when the arrows began flying again. He had just slid behind the cover of the rise as the barrage began. Izdazi knew she wouldn't be able to clear the rise, so she opted to fall back behind the rock.

Holding her knife in her trembling hands, she took a surreptitious peek over the top, only to dive down when more arrows flew toward her. Her heart was thrumming rapidly and she felt herself start to perspire.

Issuing a whispered string of kal'dorei expletives, she began frantically looking around for something… anything that could be used as a weapon.

Picking up a nearby stick, Izdazi began frantically trying to whittle a sharp point on the end. The furbolgs were close enough to hear their foots falls. Their breaths were deep and throaty and the musty scent of their odor soon followed. The sound of underbrush being crushed under their clawed feet was almost as deafening as the time she rode the tram in Stormwind.

I can do this…

Do what? Get yourself killed while trying to take out these giant walking bears with your dull stick. Really?

Better than hiding.

Since when is dying better than hiding to fight another day.


Izdazi sighed and lowered her head. They were close enough to probably smell her by now. What were furbolgs even doing here? They were probably from the Deadwood Tribe, but they seldom venture this far south.

Looking back at the rise, Izdazi saw the other recruit looking down at her from a gap in the rock face. He held up two fingers and then pointed to her right. He repeated the same gesture but pointed to her left.

Four incoming. Two on either side. She nodded in response, then raised her makeshift polearm and gestured to her right. But Starleaf shook his head and gestured for her to stay low.

Wait? He wants me to wait. Is he serious?

Izdazi emphatically repeated the gesture, which earned her a reproachful glare from her fellow recruit and a repeat of the 'stay low and wait' gesture.

Baring her teeth, Izdazi struggled to remain as still as possible. Their footfalls were even louder now. She could hear them speaking, but couldn't make out their dialect.

Her hand tightened around her stave. As if reading her mind, the night elf above gestured again for her to wait.

Izdazi forced her breathes to come as slowly as possible. She managed to force the fear to the back of her mind and instead mentally rehearsed what she would do. Each version ended differently and most ended with her incurring an injury, or even being killed. These outcomes didn't worry her as much as they probably should have. They were just mentally exercises.

She looked behind her and saw the furbolgs between the shrubs that adorned the top of the rock face she was hiding behind. Their claws were far more elongated then she had previously remembered. Their dark brown fur was thick and matted and she could see their yellowed teeth as they sniffed the air around.

The wind was blowing against her face and toward them which meant that they could undoubtedly detect her scent.

They were now standing just on the other side of the rock face. A few moments later, the ones on the right started moving forward again. She was still being told to wait, but Izdazi knew that was absolutely not an option anymore.

He was the one safely hiding in the high ground. He could afford to be calm. She couldn't.

~~~~

It had been a painstakingly slow process to have these recruits move silently along the forest toward Starleaf and Shadowcreek's position. As Mateus had expected, when the others fell silent, the furbolgs had immediately lost interest and instead pursued the only two continuing to run. That had given him time to have his rangers direct the remaining less experienced recruits ahead.

There was strength in numbers, but they were also outmatched in terms of weapons and sheer strength. Even unarmed, furbolgs are far more powerful than night elves.

It felt like eternity, although in reality it was only ten minutes before he got within sight of Starleaf. He couldn't see Shadowcreek anywhere, but from the way Starleaf was gesturing, he was within sight of her.

Like the sentinels, the rangers were only armed with knives, but it hadn't taken long to fashion a sling from some vines to shoot rocks towards the ursine creatures. The recruits would be handling the slings. With the haste that they were constructed in, and the inexperience of the sentinels with this kind of weapon, he doubted they'd be accurate. Nonetheless, it would offer a distraction for his rangers to move unseen behind the attacking furbolgs.

He gestured with his hands for the sentinels to follow the path to high ground. Once there, they were to begin raining rocks upon the furbolgs. Meanwhile, he and his rangers were going to circle in the opposite direction to hopefully flank them.

Mateus spared a quick glance at Starleaf and frowned. The young sentinel was frantically gesturing to the unseen Shadowcreek.

"Oh no," he muttered. This brought about a few curious glances from his companions. "We must make haste. Stay as quiet, but hurry."

Starleaf knew Mateus and other recruits were coming as quickly as they could. But clearly that wasn't soon enough for Izdazi. She was going to attack before they arrived.

~~~~

There was a chance that if she remained still, the furbolgs may not see her from her hiding space. But if they did, she'd be trapped.

Starleaf wasn't going to help her. He was too afraid to be of any use. He'd rather she wait this out. And what about Ravenstar and Ashtalar? How had they missed these furbolgs. Useless. Everyone is so useless.

This is why I don't work with others. You can't depend on them to have your back. Well, to hell with them. And to hell with these walking talking bear folks.

Her silvery eyes narrowing, the kal'dorei crouched low and steadied her breathing. She tried to visualize how this assault was going to work and then, gritting her teeth, she decided on a course of action.

The furbolgs were now in full view of her, but they hadn't turned toward the spot where she was hiding. In fact, they had their backs to her and were studying the rise where Starleaf was concealing himself. They must think that they're both hiding there.

They wore drabbed cloaks and the cloaks hanging from their back looked so inviting. Both held the bows up high and had arrows notched and ready.

Holding her makeshift polearm, Izdazi charged forward silently. Twisting her body near the terminus of her charge, she rammed the point as hard as she possibly could against the spine of the furbolg.

The fashioned spear struck something hard under the cloak and the elf knew instantly that her assault hadn't even broken skin. Both furbolgs snapped toward her. The one she had attack whipped his heavy arm and struck the side of her head. The world exploded in lights and the ground rushed toward her face for the second time that day.

A sharp spike of pain radiated along the length of her back and she screamed, before twisting around burying her knife to hilt in the middle of the furbolgs' heavy forehand. His claws were drench in blood. Her blood.

Issue a blood chilling growl, they raised their claws and prepared shred her into ribbons. Izdazi was out of options. She could only stare in shock as their ursine snouts opened, revealing teeth that she hoped never to see this close.

That was when the first high speed rock pelted the forehead of the nearest furbolg with enough force to cause him to stagger back. He issued a confuse growl and looked around. More rocks began pelting her attackers, and from the sounds of distant growls, she could tell that the other furbolgs were also being affected by the same kind of assault.

A group of five kal'dorei suddenly appear in their midst and began jabbing skillfully at the furbolgs.

Suddenly finding themselves in themselves in the middle of this unexpected situation the furbolgs panicked and began racing away.

~~~~

Mateus lashed out with his knife from behind the furbolg that was leaning over Izdazi. He scored a clean slash that tore effortlessly through his cloak and the straps holding the armor made of thick bark that shielded his back. Another jab landed a deep gash across his back, very near his spine.

Issuing a surprised sound, the furbolg bolted away.

Shifting his gaze up the rise, he watched as the sentinels spun up their slings over their heads and then sending their rock projectiles toward their targets. Raising an eyebrow, he nodded at the unexpected accuracy of these recruits. Almost all of them struck their targets, and at least two were struck the heads of their opponents, dazing them, while also managing to chase them away. He couldn't help but to be impressed.

However, his demeanor grew darker as his attention turned toward Izdazi.

"Thirty more seconds you could have waited. Thirty more seconds and you wouldn't have even been seen by the furbolgs. You should have waited," he admonished her.

"I didn't know you were all were coming," the huntress snapped, angrily as she raised her head and propped herself up by her elbows. Without hesitation Mateus slapped the back of her head hard.

"Starleaf saw us coming. He was telling you to wait for us. What you did was stupid!" Mateus snapped. Without pause, he grabbed her arm and hoisted the huntress to her feet.

"Sir! I see at least nine more furbolgs incoming!" one of his rangers shouted out.

"Up the rise. Now!" Mateus grunted.

He watched Izdazi turn and pick up a fallen bow and a handful of arrows that were sticking up from the ground and trees. With some concern, he noted the trio of gashes along her back and the large stain of blood on her shirt. .

"They got you good," he commented while climbing up the rise behind her.

"They weren't ordered out here without weapons," Izdazi huffed as she was helped over the top. Mateus ignored her comment and hoisted himself over the crest just as the first of the furbolg arrows began flying over their heads.

"What now?" Starleaf asked.

"Now… we wait," Mateus said. There was no way they'd have the same luck against an group of seven furbolgs. All they could do now was to secure their hold of the upper ground.

He saw a flash of impatience in Izdazi's visage as she fiddled with the furbolg's bow in her hand.

Sundar:
"How did we lose them?"

"I'm not sure, but I think we have more immediate problems now."

"They've never come this far south."

"First time for everything, Ash."

Ravenstar and Ashtalar stood back to back, surrounded by a group of furbolgs forming a sizable circle. The recruits were no where to be seen. They had somehow managed to get separated from them, and from Ashtalar's animal companions despite his calls for them. They were isolated, and more alarmingly, it happened without them realizing it until it was too late.

It was a mystery they would have to solve later. Their first order of business were the furbolgs standing in their way. Considering the tribes and the area they were in, it was the Deadwood that they have encountered. They knew of the furbolg's corruption. Even so, something seemed odd about those before the elves. The ursine humanoids appeared darker, more ragged.

The furbolgs bore their fangs, wielding their weapons, ready to strike at any time. The two kaldorei were not unfamiliar with fighting with furbolgs, but past experience had told them that engaging more than one of them was often more trouble than they could afford, and this time there were eight.

"We've been in worse before, haven't we, Revar?" the dead shot smirked.

"Of course," Ravenstar replied. He unsheathed his long knives while Ashtalar took up his axes.

It was that act of aggression that set their attackers on initiative. The furbolgs rushed in. While they stood taller than the two elves, it turned out that their immense girth was not an advantage to them. As a few of them charged, gaps were created in the circle. Ravenstar leapt over one of the ursine attackers and onto its back, burying his knives into the spine. Ashtalar sidestepped the other and retreated outside of the circle. It was their turn to lead the assault. Ashtalar swung his axes low, aiming for their hamstrings in alternating strikes as he created space between himself and them.

The roars of the furbolgs filled the woodland air as the elves continued their assault. The hides of furbolgs were thick and durable, and Ravenstar knew that. With one hand he held his current platform tightly by a clump of fur, with the other, he stabbed his knife into the furbolg around the spine. Another two came to attempt to swat Ravenstar away from its comrades' back. The elf however was quick to react; after planting a fatal stab to the spine, he slid down to meet his new opponents, allowing the knife to cut a large gash into his latest victim.

He met them as they were coming, dashing low. Ravenstar struck out at the closest furbolg, planting his knife into its abdomen. The elf then leapt up into the air, leading the blade up into an arcing slash and killing his would-be attacker. As the other furbolg loomed over Ravenstar, ready to strike as he landed, the elf raised himself, holding his knife up vertically and plunged the blade through the bottom of the furbolg's jaw and up into its skull.

All the while, Ashtalar had his own targets to cut down. He pulled away from the furbolg he initially attacked. In swift motion, the kaldorei sheathed his axes and let his throwing knives fly. Now he was able to leap back even further.

Back into my comfort zone.

Ashtalar drew his bow and arrows. In rapid succession, the dead shot fired his arrows at the ursine enemies. Their thick hide made it harder for the night elf to slow them down, but his aim changed as they turned more directly to him. Ashtalar continued to shoot more arrows, but this time, they struck at the eyes of the furbolgs. One roared in pain, something that he quickly took advantage of, planting an arrow into its neck.

In short order, Ashtalar had slain four of the eight furbolgs, and saw that Ravenstar had killed three himself, finishing off the remaining one, with both knives imbedded in the furbolg's stomach. Th edead shot remained free of filth, but Ravenstar came out of battle covered in blood spray.

"That was all of them, right?" Ashtalar asked, by way of seeing if his companion was alright.

"That was the eighth," Ravenstar replied as he extracted his knives. The elf looked to his surroundings, but found no path that was familiar. In fact, it was strange how the trees were idling in the wind. The moved back and forth in a rhythmic motion. "Still, something is wrong here. Search the bodies and see if we can find out if these were the cause of our errant pathing. While we may have out run the whelps, your friends shouldn't have lost us at all."

The two kaldorei searched the corpses for anything that was out of place, though there was much that was. Upon closer inspection, the furbolgs were of a strange colouration; their fur was either brown, tan, or black, but in the shifting light, there were patches and swathes of green. It was at this that Ravenstar frowned at.

Ashtalar overturned some of the furbolgs. He observed much of the same details that Ravenstar had seen. As he turned over the next furbolg, something stood out. It was not the furbolg itself, however, it was what it was wearing. Around its neck was a simple rope pendant, the pendant though was a softly glowing jade disc.

"Revar, I think I found something," Ashtalar announced, waving his friend over. Ravenstar quickly came over. "Jade jewelry. Looking at the markings, it's definitely from them."

Ravenstar removed the pendant. As soon as he took the piece of jade in his hand, a crack broke through the centre. The glow dissipated, and even more remarkable, the forest seemed to shift around them. In mere moments, their surroundings became a familiar path. The two looked in curiosity at the change. Along with the changed appearance of the woods, the forest revealed Ashtalar's animal companions in sight and running towards their master.

"Hey, you guys are alright!" Ashtalar exclaimed as the beasts rubbed up against him.

"If they're alright, let us hope the kids are fine as well," the combatant elf stated, pocketing the pendant and walking back on the path he knew. "Let's go."

Ashtalar replaced his bow and, with his small menagerie, followed Ravenstar as he broke into a paced run. Ravenstar could not ignore how they had lost the class in what was supposed to be a casual run. While the trinket they found would have thrown them off, he still berated himself for not noticing the changes sooner.

As far as he could remember, the change was noticeable about sixty metres back, but as they closed in on their target destintion, he heard unusual movement. The combatant elf halted in his advance and signaled back to Ashtalar. He heard it as well. The dead shot drew his bow again. It did not sound like a group of night elves. In the distance they heard a more guttural language, but not one that was alien to nature.

"More ahead" the green haired elf signed. He furthered gestured for Ashtalar to move to flank the left side while he moved to the right.

"I'll send Spinel to point. Skoll and Umbria will spread and move forward, Ashtalar signed back.

Ravenstar nodded. Ashtalar's azure wintersaber ran up ahead of the elves as they fanned out to the sides, or what they perceived as the sides, of the target group. Moving ahead, they counted the number of furbolgs. It looked like another group of approximately eight, but they could not be sure. For all they knew, there could be more. The furbolgs however seemed preoccupied: they were searching for something.

It was that that Ashtalar was interested in, it may very well be for their students. He crouched down on the ground, scanning the area for anything peculiar. There was a slight overlook that came up from the ground. His sharp eye sight caught some movement up at the top, though it quickly hid itself.

Are they up there?

A furbolg came within a breadth's distance from Ashtalar. The ursine lifted up it's head, mouth partway open as it tested the air. It knew that their quarry was nearby, but they hid themselves well. He could see that the furbolgs they were faced with now were the same as the ones they had slain. More concerning was that he saw more of jade jewelry of the same nature as the pendant upon their forms.

What troubles to come to us. Ravenstar mused to himself. From his standpoint, he clearly saw the students on the hill, but he could not betray his position to them lest he desired the furbolgs to know of his presence as well. The current positions of the enemy would make for a more chaotic fight, but it would not be impossible to dispatch them.

It was with the shift of a rock that put it all into motion. A stone came tumbling down from the otherwise stable hill, causing enough nose for the furbolg group to take notice. One of the bear-like humanoids grunted for two to go investigate.

The students! Ravenstar took out five throwing knives.

"Not on my watch," Ashtalar said under his breath, pulling the drawstring back on his bow.

A simultaneous hit. In a flash, the knives were neatly protruding out of one furbolg while an arrow came out from the other side of the second's neck. The furbolg party's attention was now split on opposite sides. There was no hiding now.

The two elves came out, but now there was more trouble. Growling and raptor screeches were heard in the back where they had left Skoll and Umbria. More furbolgs came to aid their brethren, about six. Ravenstar and Ashtalar entered the fray, as did Spinel. Ravenstar dashed with the saber into battle, engaging in their own fights as Ashthiel let out a barrage of arrows. A troubling breeze blew through the area however, and upon it, and ominous voice sounded.

"These elves... do not kill them! Bring them back, alive, and you shall be richly rewarded..." the voice hissed.

"What was that?" Ashtalar wondered as he continued firing.

Ravenstar eviscerated his target with cruel efficiency and shouted back to Ashtalar. "We'll figure this out later, we have to take them down first."

Each of Ashtalar's beastly companions were busy with their own targets, and now the rest of the furbolgs were rushing towards the two kaldorei. They could not let them get to the students, but now the furbolg party numbered past a dozen.

Ashtalar kept on shooting arrows finding their targets, but unlike the group from before, there were larger grunts in the mix with thicker hides. Ashtalar spat out a curse as they were being put on the chase. The next arrow he notched had a line of glyphs carved into the shaft. He placed a finger on one of the markings and the glyphs lit up with an orange glow. The dead shot fired the arrow at one of the lumbering furbolgs. It struck its chest, and it immediately exploded, leaving a charred open wound. It was debilitating, but Ashtalar knew that he would need more than one arrow to do the job.

Ravenstar leapt around from furbolg to furbolg, avoiding getting crushed and pursued by the rest of the party. He managed a few hits on some of the ursine, twisting the neck of one and thrusting his knives into the eyes of another. One of the furbolgs called upon a spell from the elements, a ball of frost formed before its hand, which it shot out at Ravenstar. The sphere struck the elf in the chest and exploded, knocking him away. Though he maintained his balance as he landed on the ground, the blow left a dull cold and burning sensation and a layer of frost on his skin. Breathing also proved more difficult.

"Revar!" Ashtalar shouted, but the dead shot was busy keeping the thick hide attackers at bay from his friend.

The roguish elf found himself face to face with another furbolg, wielding a club. It hefted the weapon, intent on crushing Ravenstar, but he put the injury out of mind, rolling to one side before the club came down upon him. He redoubled back, sheathing one knife and taking out an axe. He buried the axe into the leg of beastly humanoid, eliciting a roar, and using the other knife, he pierced it into the furbolg's kidney.

They have shamans amongst them. This is going to be slightly more difficult.

They had about half of the attacking force down already, with Ashtalar's animals ravaging another few, but it was the larger ursas that gave them issue. They were heavily built and more resistant to injury. It was going to take more to take them down. In total, seven remained standing.

It was then that something echoed in the distance. A howl. There were wolves in Felwood, and most were hostile and ill-tempered, but this howl, there was something different about it and it was not from the dead shot's worg. The sound gave the furbolgs pause, bringing confusion to the group. The next howl came much closer, and there was a metallic tone within it.

That howl...!

From the forest came a shadow. There was a flurry of movement, and another howl just on the edge of the battle. Bursting out from the trees was another fighter, charging into the group and knocking away several furbolgs. It was a night elf. His grey and iron-black armour, rimmed with fur, only partly covered his body along with a fur pelt that he wore around his waist. Most notable was the helm upon his head. Shaped in the likeness of a wolf, the helmet sat to cover his eyes with a mask that covered the lower part of his face. Even so, there was an unrestrained glint in his eyes.

So he has arrived, Ravenstar thought to himself with a smirk.

Armed with vicious battle axes in hand and a a menacing great sword on his back, he pressed on with the assault. The mysterious kaldorei drove his axe into the skull of one of the other furbolgs still standing, and swinging the other to cleave the snout off of another.

The momentary confusion gave Ravenstar and Ashtalar some reprieve as all three elves pushed them back. Their new ally was able to cut through the large ursa's defenses in a flurry of relentless strikes. Blood and gore splattered everywhere as he tore through the rest of the furbolgs, hacking off their limbs and even decapitating one. There was a wild light in his eyes.

Skoll, Spinel and Umbria assaulted the remaining ursa. Ashtalar charged another explosive arrow, hitting the head of one of the other furbolgs and exploding it into an unrecognizable mess. The last furbolg, Ravenstar engaged. It was the shaman. He got into close quarters with the furbolg, sending a fist into its throat to keep it from casting another spell. In one fell swoop, he drove the knife into its chest and jumped up, opening up the wound and ending its life.

The scene of battle was horrendous. In areas, body parts were strewn about, mingled with the bodies of the furbolg group. With nothing to distract him from his injury, Ravenstar panted, still suffering from the effect of the spell that struck him. Ashtalar lowered his guard and replaced his bow, his animals returning to his side.

"That was a timely arrival," Ashtalar said, turning to the newcomer night elf.

"Managed to get a ride with a courier," the wolven warrior said, his voice distorted by the helmet. He turned to Ravenstar. "You alright?"

The green-haired elf sheathed his weapons, but not without wincing from the pain. "I'll be fine when I get back."

"Let's get to it then," the dead shot suggested. "Hey, everyone! It's safe to come down," he shouted towards the hill.

The warrior undid the facemask and took off his helm. Revealing deep ultramarine blue hair that was parted to the side. His hair was loose and layered slightly below his neck with braids throughout and some of his bangs threatened to cover one of his eyes. More surprisingly, it was his facial features. Aside from his hair style and his facial hair, he was identical in appearance to Ashtalar.

Ravenstar stood up and looked to the warrior. "Good to have you with us, Ashthiel."
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:36 pm

Izdazi

The huntress winced as Mateus pressed the leaf against the deep claw marks on her back. While the other Wardens and Sentinel recruits used slings to hurl stones against the encroaching furbolg, the older Warden had busied himself with tending to her wound.

“Very soon you’re going to have to realize that being a soldier is being a part of something greater than yourself,” he had earlier rebuked while mixing the material into a balm and then spreading it into a leaf. The extract was suppose to disinfect the wound and accelerate blood clotting, but the only thing it seemed to excel at was causing the injury to burn like crazy. Tearing a strip from his shirt, he hastily created a bandage that he wrapped around the wound.

Izdazi felt her face grow flush at the reprimand but she bit back the angry retort forming in her mind. Instead, she looked around the forest and concentrated on coming up with some tactic.

Despite the high ground and the unexpected effectiveness of the slings, they weren’t going to be able to hold the line for long.

Something was off, however. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but she couldn’t find her bearings. The forest was different. The paths they’d taken were gone. The trees, even the mostly obscured sky, seemed… wrong.

To the huntress who prided herself on a strong sense of direction, this was all very disconcerting.

“Where are we?” she finally said, turning to Mateus.

“I don’t know. Something changed in the last few minutes. I don't understand," he said. He looked down at the furbolg bow that she’d taken earlier. “Do you think you have the strength to pull that?”

“I doubt it.” Izdazi confessed. Though she was an excellent archer, these bows were made for far stronger creatures. And even if she could, it will probably result in reopening the injury on her back

“Then rest and stay out of the way. Let the others do what they can,” Mateus suggested.

“Letting others take care of me isn’t my way,” she rebutted. Her silvery eyes flashed angrily as they bore upon Mateus’.

The older Warden paused a moment before pressing his face closer to hers.

“Stay out of the way! Think of unit, rather than yourself! When is that concept going to finally sink into your thick head?!” Mateus snapped. He paused a moment and seemed to contemplate what he was going to say next, but then with an impatient scoff turned away.

In muted anger, the huntress stared at his back as Mateus began coordinating a defensive strategy with the other recruits. She hated being useless. It felt like a waste of resources. And it made her self conscious that the others probably thought her useless.

But the worse part, the part that made her grind her teeth, the part that made her fingers dig into the earth like claws, was that Mateus was right. He wasn't just a 'little' right. He wasn't 'partially' right. He was completely right. It was common sense.

So, with heavy reluctance, she gingerly laid back and listened at the commotion caused by the furbolgs below them. But the sound had changed. Something was different. They weren't just growling in anger and frustration. They weren't even firing arrows or spears at them anymore. If anything, it sounded like they were fighting. A glance back at Mateus revealed that the veteran had just realized the same thing.

A then there was a new sound, issuing well above the clamor of battle. A howl, like that of a wolf or worg, only deeper and far more feral. Her first thought was orcs and a sudden hatred swelled within her. The battle grew harsher to her ears and, finally unable to conceal her curiosity, she risked a glance over the hedge.

The furbolgs were in the throes of an assault that they apparently hadn't expected. And the surprise had paid off because in minutes, the forest had grown silent. As the adrenaline and battle rush faded with the silence, so to did the shadow that had fallen over the forest. Almost like a switch turning on one of those gnomish flameless light orbs in Booty Bay, the forest became familiar again.

There were no orcs. Instead, there were three kal'dorei speaking amongst each other amidst a sea of dead furbolgs. She recognized two of them as their instructors, but the third was wearing fur pelts and a wolf-like helmet of some sort. He looked like the very embodiment of feral. In his hands he held two blood-soaked battleaxes.

Ashtalar's voice suddenly boomed surprisingly loud after the eerie silence that always falls in the wake of a battle in the forest. "Hey, everyone! It's safe to come down,"

The recruits tentatively rose and took in the scenery with makeshift slings and spears in hand. Once they realized that all was clear, they began sliding down the hill and making their way toward their teachers.

Izdazi joined them after shrugging off Mateus's offer of assistance to stand up. She was intrigued by this newcomer, but more so about what had just happened. She prided herself on her navigational cunningness. Suddenly losing her direction and bearing was very disconcerting. How had that happened?

By the time they made it, the newcomer had removed his formidable wolf-like helm. To her surprise, he looked just like Ashtalar! Were they twins? They'd have to be to look that similar.

"Good to have you with us, Ashthiel," she heard Ravenstar say.

"Sir!" Mateus called, still in heavy military mode. "Only three injuries; mostly minor."

The huntress said nothing as Mateus spoke, but it wasn't until Ashthiel turned to look at her that Izdazi realized that she'd been staring. She turned to Ravenstar abruptly.

"We should have been allowed to carry weapons," Izdazi blurted heatedly earning a reproachful glare from Mateus.

"That's a superior officer you're speaking to, recruit," he warned, although the huntress's eyes were still flashing in anger.

"Attacks as such have never happened before, but rest-assured, you will be outfitted appropriately."

"The extra weight will be good in toning your muscles as well," the newcomer added rather needlessly.

Izdazi was less then placated, though, and was even less amused by Ashtalar next comment.

"It's a bit odd for them to be this far south. Live practice sounds fun though."

"Tell that to Ryaha and travelers we tried to rescue," she huffed, thinking of the other recruit who had received a knife wound while trying to rescue a family that had been traveling.

"That's enough, recruit!" Mateus exclaimed.

Ashtalar shrugged. "That's fine. It's the reality of practicing on the field, no? Especially in a place like this. I'm sure you've all had the time to reconsider being sent here with the associated risks."

At that comment, Izdazi fell silent. 'The associated risks' of being out here, even with the threat of death or worse at the hands of satyrs and furbolgs was still far better then being in the barrows. Just the thought of being back in the barrows with earthen walls closing in on her was enough to threaten the precursor of a panic attack. Swallowing nervously, she nodded and opted to remain silent.

"Sir, something strange was happening in the forest when these furbolgs attacks. The forest seemed to become, unfamiliar. Has this been…?" Mateus added.

"You noticed it as well?" Ravenstar asked. He looked around him to see if there were any unwanted listeners. "There's something afoot here in Felwood. Did you hear a voice during the battle?"

Mateus shook his head, but at the time he and the other recruits were struggling to defend their encampment. Izdazi had heard the voice however and nodded so.

"You think these furbolgs were being commanded by someone else?" she asked. "This reeks of magic."

"It certainly does," the green-haired elf replied. He produced a cracked jade disc hanging from a red string.

"The forest from my perspective was warped. The area was centralized, but not closed," Ashthiel mentioned.

"I was lost. I'm never lost," Izdazi added in a soft voice. She gulped and then hardened her countenance as she glanced up at Ravenstar and then to the disc. "Any ideas on whose disc that is? It doesn't exactly say 'crafted by your local furbolg tribe."

"We do have a few culprits here, but none of them are exactly good alternatives," Ashtlar quipped. "The furbolgs here used to have dealings with the Winterfall, but as you said, that's unlikely. What's left are the Shadow Council and the Jadefire satyrs."

Mateus shook his head slowly and cleared his throat. "With respect, sirs, I think this environment may be more dangerous then the recruits can handle. At the very least the 'Sentinel' recruits."

"It has been quite a few days, and it's only the start," Ravenstar admitted. "And the demands are quite high here. The local defense is looking for more aid..."

"There is Winterspring," Ashtalar suggested.

"We're not weak, sirs," one of the sentinel recruits shouted, having overheard Mateus's remark. The others began nodding in agreement and giving Mateus baleful stares. "If Talonbranch needs help, then let's make their protection part of our training," he added.

"They've got guts, maybe they got dedication," Ashthiel said.

Ravenstar gave it more thought. Dangers were becoming higher than expected, but he had some faith in what the young elves could accomplish. "We can stay here for the time being. Moving to other areas is still on the itinerary for other environmental training. For now, we'll train within the glade. The three of us will discuss the current situation with the local Sentinels.

"If things look too rough, you might not see quite as much field time, but we have ways of accommodating. If it's more than you can handle, Winterspring is the next training area. The Sentinel trainees need to go there for theory anyway."

Mateus gave the instructor a very neutral nod. He'd been a soldier long enough to learn how best to hide his feelings when he thought a superior officer was ordering something foolish. "I'll do my best to keep them on their toes, sirs," was all he said.

Ravenstar eyed Mateus suspiciously. He knew not everyone would be happy with his decision, but it seemed most were in better spirits about it.

"Shouldn't we investigate the furbolg village where these guys were from? We might find something to narrow down the source of the artifact," the huntress suggested. Though she kept it to herself, she wasn't at all thrilled with the direction this 'learning experience' was going.

"Ravenstar and I will be taking care of that," Ashtalar said, throwing a thumb at his compatriot. "My twin can oversee your training while we're away."

"Perhaps some of us should be given the opportunity to join you. Rather then jumping hoops, running around the forest and the ever exciting construction projects, we will learn more from a 'real' missions," Izdazi persisted. "Some of us have already infiltrated a satyr camp. This 'theory' stuff is a waste of t---"

She was interrupted when Mateus rested a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. It wasn't a particularly painful squeeze, but the unspoken message was clear. Shut up.

"That part is non-negotiable," Ravenstar flatly stated. "As I've said, you'll be training within Talonbranch until further notice. This is something that could be in the Emerald Circle's jurisdiction."

Ashtiel gave the recruits a stern, almost emotionless nod.

This is a waste of time! she screamed in her mind, but another near painful squeeze from Mateus grip reminded her to keep her mouth shut.

"Some of the recruits have injuries that should be tended to. We should probably return to the Talonbranch, sirs," Mateus added.

"We're close, the path is up ahead," Ashtalar pointed out.


* * *

An hour later they were in the training camp. While Ravenstar, Ashtalar and the newcomer conversed in the officer's tent, the other recruits rested and prepared for whatever new exercises were coming. A few, however, chose the respite to challenge the remark Mateus had made earlier.

"So, you and your Wardens think Sentinels are too weak to handle a some satyrs," one of the recruits, a male, called out. The other Sentinels, except for Izdazi, joined in support of their fellow recruit.

With care, the huntress rested her back against a tree and passively watched the events unfold. As usual, Mateus was his cool calm self as he approached the much younger soldier. Like her, the hotheaded sentinel recruit was probably only a century or two old. But Mateus was around during the War of Shifting Sands. He had the experience, knowledge and patience of a soldier who probably spilled more blood then anyone else here, save Ravenstar probably.

Izdazi had to wonder why Mateus was even among them. Surely, this training, while being advance, was completely unnecessary for soldier who must have experienced as much as he had. Hell, he could be teaching here.

And he'd probably be a better shando then Ravenstar, Izdazi ruefully thought. She was still embittered by her performance during the surprise attack. Mateus was right, though. She was still thinking of herself first.

But that's not a fair assessment. Izdazi had worked as an expedition guide in Stranglethorn Vale for several years. It had been her responsibility to care for the people she was leading into whatever parts of that dark and dangerously unforgiving jungle they desired to go. And more than often, she had to put their concerns over hers, if for the only reason being that dead customers can't pay.

So, what was so different about this situation?

Mateus had answered that so brilliantly, if not bluntly, back in the forest. In Stranglethorn Vale, she was the one in charge. She was the one who understood the dangers in the jungle. She was the one who knew the shortcuts through hard earned practice and exploration. She was the one who had to painstakingly plan the logistics (from baggage packing to bribes) involved in deploying an expedition.

But here, things were different. She was expected to be an equal among many. She didn't have control over anything. And worse, she would have to depend on others.

Izdazi knew well how to work with people. She had at times worked with certain mercenary groups. But even then, she never truly allowed herself to depend on any of them. They were mercenaries. Every man or woman for themselves.

And in Stranglethorn, she knew better then to depend on her customers for help. The very thought was laughable! The worse were those self-important scholars from Dalaran who believed Azeroth revolved around whatever theory they came up with from reading books in the safety of library. Oh what a bitter pill they had to swallow when they finally realized how the real world operated.

And now she was swallowing that same bitter pill.

The huntress snickered softly at that last thought as she absently twisted one of her dreadlocks around a finger. The exchange between Mateus and the other recruits was coming to an end. The younger recruits shared contrite countenances as the wizened veteran, who never once raised his voice, finished whatever it was he was saying. It was clear that Mateus had won.

"Imagine that. For once there's an argument and you're not a part of it." The sudden voice startled Izdazi. She glanced up and saw Ryaha standing over. That Izdazi hadn't heard her approach was a testament to how lost in thought she'd been, or, she was reluctant to accept, how skillful Ryaha Streamrunner was at moving about soundlessly.

"I've caused enough trouble. I'm going to sit this one out," she replied with a smirk. "How are you doing?" The last she had heard of the Sentinel, she was still recovering from the poisoned arrow a satyr had lodged into her back.

"I'm doing better. The herbalists in Talonbranch really know their trade," she remarked coolly. "Our shando says I can resume training today. And what of you?"

"They haven't kicked me out yet," Izdazi replied, as she got to her feet. The taller sentinel returned a dark smirk at that reply.

"Don't get comfortable, Shadowcreek. Before I left, a messenger arrived at Talonbranch. Sentinel Commander Ravenheart is on her way here," Sentinel Streamrunner said in a predatory tone. "When she hears of how pathetic you've been, well, let's just say when the Commander leaves, you might be following her."

Izdazi opened her mouth to argue, but nothing came out. There wasn't simply anything she could say. She had hoped that after working together to rescue the family, some of the bad blood between Ryaha and her would have dissipated, but that clearly hadn't happened.

The silver haired sentinel walked away, leaving Izdazi pondering her choices.


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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  KaijinRhada on Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:37 pm

Ravenstar, Ashtalar and Ashthiel had continued past the recruits and headed back towards their tent. Having only suffered minor injuries, they had decided to proceed with training. Some time was alloted to allow those that were injured to tend to their wounds; with the available medicine, it would not take long.

Among the injured was Ravenstar, having suffered a blow from one of the furbolg shaman. The wounds was not serious in the least, though his chest still felt numb. As they went inside their tent, the roguish elf placed a hand where the icy attack had stuck him. The flesh was cold and his hand upon it caused a burning sensation. The temperature shock caused him to enter a coughing fit.

"Are you alright?" Ashtalar asked his stricken companion. He almost went to hold him steady, but Ravenstar put up a hand and regainined his composure. It was apparent that he was holding back the coughing as he spoke.

"I'll be fine," was all Ravenstar said as he entered their tent. His response elicited an exasperated look form the dead shot and a shrug accompanied with a familiar smirk from his twin. The two knew his reaction was to be expected and they followed him inside.

The green-haired elf went towards one of the chests that they had brought along. The decorated lockbox was where they kept their alchemic supplies. From it he took out gauze, bandages and a mortar and pestle. Next he found a thorny plant that smoldered with a flame and a clear blue liquid. Ravenstar began to crush the herb and the liquid into a thick paste.

Ashthiel regarded their quarters, now his as well, with some curiosity. He sat, with his brother, on the mat as they waited for Ravenstar. His curiosity however soon changed to the scent that started permeating their tent as he tilted his head up and took in the smell.

"Smells familiar," the warrior stated.

"Chillwind mint and emberthorn," Ashtalar explained. "We used it a lot in Northrend for frost injuries."

"I wondered why it brought up memories of endless armies of undeath," Ashthiel replied. "By the way, interesting group this time."

Ravenstar, having finished mixing the paste, removed his harness. Scooping up some of the herbal paste, he applied it to the wound on his chest and wrapped it with the gauze and bandages. He turned to Ashthiel; already he was sounding better than he had moments ago. "'Interesting' is one way to describe them. The disparity in skill and experience is apparent in a mixed group, so we have to bring the Sentinel recruits up to speed. That's a minor issue, thee bigger problem is their mentality."

"They say they're not weak," Ashthiel said, sweeping his bangs from his eyes. He patted a hand against one of his battle axes. "But in battle, that's where they'll see the truth."

"Experiencing an actual battle might be a bit harder now," Ashtalar chimed in. "We knew the risks coming into here, but it seems they're becoming worse at a faster rate than we expected. We'll need to report this before we head back to the younglings."

"And the jade?" Ashthiel inquired.

Ravenstar nodded. "It would be best to send it to the Emerald Circle."

The three elves sat in silence for a moment. There was no denying that the dangers were numerous and becoming harder and harder to contend with. It was uncertain is the younger students would be able to improve fast enough to keep up with the strange upsurge of violence in the forests.

"Then again," Ashtalar spoke up. "Sometimes the best way to improve is..."

"Through trial by fire," Ravenstar said, finishing the sentence.

The combatant elf finished with the dressings. Ravenstar checked the wrappings one last time before getting up and walking to another chest. After rummaging through the items, the Kaldorei found what he was looking for and tossed them to Ashtalar and Ashthiel. The twins caught the items easily, though Ashthiel regarded it with a measure of inquisitiveness while Ashtalar had a wily grin.

"I can't wait to see what their reactions will be," the dead shot said.

"I guess I should get changed then," the warrior-twin shrugged.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

It did not take the three night elves long to make it back to their students after making the report to the Talonbranch Sentinels. The reporting process itself was the longest part, but even so it was still efficient and prompt.

Now they stood before the younger elves. Ravenstar, Ashtalar and Ashthiel were dressed even more lightly than before. The three were completely bare-chested, save Ravenstar's bandages. They also wore loose fitting pants that were bunched and cut off halfway down the calves by form fitting leather boots. Their hands and forearms were wrapped in training bandages.

Though Ashtalar and Ashthiel were identical twins, it was easy to see that they had chosen different paths in their proficiency. Ashthiel was overall more muscular than the other two elves and had more scars to bear than the others. Though the warrior's hair was shorter, it was like his brother where both had a number of braids throughout.

"So everyone has recovered," Ravenstar said as he looked over the recruits. No one had ojected the observation and everyone was at attention. "We're going to continue with training then, and today we shall be doing some unarmed sparring."

Enthusiastic whispers erupted from the crowd, only interrupted by Ravenstar as he continued. "From this, we'll see what you each need to work on for combat, as following unarmed training will be weapons training. Seeing all of you have some basic training in combat, you will each have to face myself in turn before we pair you off. For your spar with me, you may continue until you feel necessary, but keep in mind that there are ten of you that need to do this. After training, we will call you in individually to discuss your training menus." It was at this that there was some derision amongst the students. "Any questions?"

"What if we already know what are weakness are.  Can we just skip on the consulting?" Izdazi inquired. The other students seemed to be of like mind and started talking amongst themselves.

They think they know their own weaknesses. The psyche glosses over imperfections, and such imperfections remain hidden from them.

Ravenstar shook his head, while the two twins looked at each other and shrugged. "Like an artist, you may improve with practice," Ravenstar said. "But outside observation will give you insight on what you need to work on and how."

Izdazi let out a huff of dissatisfaction. While she was unhappy with the reply, she chose not to pursue it. Likewise, the other students felt disinclined in the argument.

That solved that, Ashtalar thought with a smirk.

"Well, I think it's time to start the fun," Ashtalar said.

Ravenstar nodded. "If anyone wants to start off with the sparring, feel free to volunteer, otherwise I'll just randomly pick."

The students looked uncomfortably at each other. None of them seemed particularly enthusiastic about commencing the exercise. After a moment, Ryaha stepped forward, looking stoically at their green-haired instructor.

"Good," the combatant elf said, stepping forward. "I want to show me what skills you have. Try to the best of your abilities, we want to see what you are capable of."

Ryaha said nothing as she approached and then began careful circle around Ravenstar.  Her hawkish eyes narrowed and she brought her arms up into a fighting stance. Ravenstar also took a stood ready to battle. His feet were placed in a widened stance and he turned to the side. He readied one hand facing the Sentinel and the other held near his hip.

"Show me what you've got," Ravenstar ordered.

Ryaha stared at her instructor cautiously and then rushed forward.  She grabbed his outstretched arm and pulled him forward while jutting out her knee toward his chest. Ravenstar, with his free hand grabbed a hold of Ryaha's arm and levered himself to be momentarily on top of her, using the elf as a point of balance. He then flipped himself over and swung the young elf around him and towards the ground.

Gasping in shock, the trainee kicked out with her foot and twisted to the right before lashing out with her free hand toward Ravenstar's face. The male quickly intercepted his left hand to sweep the attack away. He then quickly pulled hard on her wrist and side-stepped as he let go of her. Ryaha rolled away from her opponent and then jumped up.  Without pause, she raced toward Ravenstar and attempted to tackle him to the ground by throwing her weight against him. The older elf braced for the impact with a wider stance, and pushed her back.

Ryaha was unprepared for the strength behind Ravenstar's push.  Falling on her backside, she again rolled back to a standing position and brought arms forward in another battle stance.  Her opponent's calm demeanor and the ease at which he repelled her was starting to dent her bravado. She roared and raced forward.  This time, however, she rotated around the reach of his arms.  Once she was behind him, she grabbed his shoulder and tried to pull him back, while jutting her leg behind his and attempting to trip him back. Ravenstar fell back, but he forcefully rolled away and went beneath Ryaha. With both hands sweeping in and upward motion, he lifted himself up with his legs and knocked her into the air.

With a cry, Ryaha fell with a thud onto the ground. She got back to her feet and started to return to a fighting stance, but after a moment of considering, instead saluted Ravenstar and stood at ease. Ravenstar, who was still in a battle stance relaxed himself and straightened out. He bowed back.

"Well done, Ryaha," the elder Kaldorei said. "Next!"

Ryaha bowed and silently returned to formation with the other recruits.  As she stepped past Izdazi, she threw the huntress a smug grin.   Izdazi felt her face grow flush in anger and clenched her jaws tightly.  Her fingers dug into the strips of cloth wrapped around her forearms and hands.

"When Ravenheart hears of how pathetic you've been, well, let's just say when the Commander leaves, you might be following her."  Ryaha's voice repeated in her mind.   How badly Izdazi wanted to prove her wrong.

And yet, the huntress also knew well her weaknesses and unarmed close quarters combat was certainly qualified as one.  Ravenstar had proven that all too well when he kicked her ass a few years ago. So, it was a surprise to Izdazi when she found herself stepping forward to face off against him again.

Well now, this will be interesting. Let's see if she learned anything new, Ravenstar thought.

"Oh now this will be fun," Ashtalar whispered to his twin with a sly grin. Ashthiel nodded, though he looked on with a now-sparked curiosity.

Ravenstar fell into a fighting stance once more, his expression remaining hardened as it usually was. "Come," he said. His next word though were said in a more quiet tone, but enough so that the huntress would be able to hear. "Show me that you've learned since we last met."

Izdazi cocked her head slightly upon hearing his whisper and felt her face grow flush again. Her mind was still spinning with possible tactics as she assumed a fighting stance. Her first inclination was to rush in with a forward assault.  Such tactics usually worked well with drunks at The Salty Sailor Tavern.   But that tactic had been disastrous when she had fought against Ravenstar years ago.

Well, I was bound to get my ass kicked sooner or later, she decided before rushing forward and feigning a punch with her right arm toward Ravenstar's head.  Instead, she reeled her arm back before he could grab it and instead tried to lash out at his bicep with her other arm.   

As best as she could, she tried not to give him the opportunity to get too close as she hopped back. Ravenstar, however, saw her distancing herself from him and trying to attack. One step to the side, and he dashed, going forward with enough force to cause a burst of wind between him and her.

It seems she learned a bit, but it's time for more lessons.

He ducked under her arms and past her. As he went low, he kicked her feet from under and then flipped her over as if she were but a board of wood. Pain radiated along her back as she felt her body literally bounce on the ground.  He was definitely much faster and stronger then she remembered.   

Stifling a cry, she ignored the dreadlocks that had fallen over her face and instead lashed out with her legs at Ravenstar's last position.   Flipping back, she jumped to her legs and swung out with a sidekick aimed at his chest. The older elf reactively fell back, vaulting himself on his arms. He used his legs as a clamp and caught hers. He then twisted his body around in the air, subsequently catching her as well. He let go and flipped himself upright.

Upon being released, Izdazi spun away and returned to a fighting stance.  Her heart was thrumming not just from the exertions, but also from a slow rage that was only growing hotter as Ravenstar effortlessly repelled her assaults.    

Growling, she grabbed his arm and pulled him towards her, while with her free arm, she attempted to slam her fist into his sternum. Yet the older elf twisted his caught arm around and freed himself from her grasp. The hook she was sending could not be avoided, but it could be caught. He laced a hand before his chest, catching her fist. He pulled it to the side and went under her arm and hooked it over her shoulder. He then threw the she-elf over him and on to the ground.

Izdazi coughed as she rolled onto her back and struggled to her feet.  She looked up and caught stares of her fellow recruits.  They shared trepid glances amongst each other, as they must have realized that they were next and their Shando seemed more invincible then ever. Unlike the Sentinel Recruits, the Warden recruits were far more difficult to read.  She could glean nothing from Mateus's carefully neutral countenance.

However, there was no mistaking the grin on Ryaha's face.   The damned bitch was actually enjoying watching this happen to her.   She dug her hands into the loose dirt in anger before turning to face Ravenstar.

Surging with anger, she jumped to her feet and sprinted toward Ravenstar.   She appeared to vault toward his midsection again but just as she got with hand's breadth of him, she flung a handful of dirt toward his face.   The huntress ducked low, dodging one of his arms, before rushing her knee toward his leg.

Ravenstar grimaced as the dirt hit his face. His vision was blurred as his eyes watered to expel the dirt and dust from them. With his eyes temporarily of no use, he had to rely on his other senses. He had learned that in battle over his long life, anything could happen and that all of his senses had to be honed and continuously trained. Immediately, falling back on this training, he used his hearing and his sense of touch.

He could hear the rustle of detritus behind him. He was still unsure of what height she would be at, but there was a way to know, and given the circumstances, he could risk it without serious repercussions. He felt it then, a touch on his leg. Just barely dodging her knee, he spun on a foot and leg his other leg in a swing, kicking upward in an arc.

A frustrated cry escaped her lips as she watched her target suddenly veer from her path.  The huntress barely had time to comprehend the movement in lower area of her periphery before his leg struck the bottom of her chin.   The force of the impact traveled along her jawbone and into the sides of her skull.   From that point, she didn't remember much.

Her sight exploded into flashes of color.   She didn't register her body falling face first into the dirt.  In fact, Izdazi didn't even feel pain.   The only thing she felt was a profound sense of shock, confusion and paralysis. Thankfully, the confusion and paralysis didn't last very long, but coordination seemed like it'd take longer.  She staggered back to her feet and slowly glanced around.  The sides of her skull were still thrumming and her vision was blurred.   

She would have relented, but she could still see Ryaha sneering and Ravenstar shaking his head in disappointment, as if she hadn't learned anything since the last time he humiliated her.  The huntress unconsciously bared her teeth as she turned looking around for her instructor.

Ashtalar let out a low whistle at the action between Ravenstar and Izdazi. "This is quite the show," the dead shot smirked.

"She's persistent, but Revar doesn't stop until someone drops; she's not looking to give up and he has energy to spare," Ashthiel stated. "We should stop it here or we'll be standing around until the next day. That knock to her head seemed a bit harsh too."

The warrior's twin nodded back before looking to the fighting Kaldorei. "I think we've seen enough," he announced. "Have to save some for the rest of the recruits!"

Izdazi paused upon hearing Ashtalar's announcement.   She froze, still staring at Ravenstar contemptuously.   From his stance, it was clear that he wasn't expecting Ashtalar to intervene either.

No.  I won't go back to the barrows.

Though still somewhat uncoordinated, anger spurred her next action.  All pretense of tactics and planning evaporated as she hurled a fist toward Ravenstar's face. Her clumsy attack however was easy enough. The few moments had allowed Ravenstar to recover his eyesight to an acceptable degree of use. He dodged her punch, letting her race forward, but he took the cuff of her shirt from the back and pulled her down, sending the she-elf on her backside.

"When we say you're done, take it as a sign to allow you to rest," Ravenstar stated.

Izdazi glared at her instructor, but the fighting had already taken its toll on her body.  She was tired, despite the rawness of the humiliation and shame she was feeling.   

"I don't want to go back to the barrows," she whispered, just loud enough for him to hear.  "I can do this."

Just as quietly, Ravenstar replied. "You won't be going back, but restraint and determination go hand in hand. Remember that."

Izdazi said nothing and walked back in line with the rest of the recruits. Ashthiel threw a water skin at Ravenstar. The combatant doused himself with the water, washing away the dirt from the last spar.

"Next up," he said as he wiped away the excess water from his face.

The recruits that have yet to go through the exercise looked at each other with nervous tension. They were hesitant to go, but it was only delaying the inevitable. One of the trainees did step up to take the challenge next, but it was a lavender-haired male; one of warden recruits, Orsir Bladewind. The elf stepped into the open area and the two Kaldorei prepared to spar.

"Oh, one of the warden recruits, and that one's a druid if I recall," Ashtalar said with some interest to Ashthiel.

"Go ahead," said Ravenstar, and signaling the start of their spar.

Orsir started to circle around his instructor and studied him. Ravenstar followed him with his eyes, turning as he needed to keep track of the druid. Orsir kept his movement steady, but once he got to Ravenstar's periphery, he dashed around to the back. The older elf followed his movement, but found that as he turned Orsir was throwing out a low hook at Ravenstar. To avoid the punch, he leapt back to the side, but it was a close hit.

His speed is good, and his skill level is where it should be. I think I can go on the offensive a bit.

The druid continued with his attack, Orsir pivoted on a foot and dashed again towards Ravenstar, closing the gap in a short moment. The younger elf started to throw an uppercut at Ravenstar. Where he had reversed attacks from the spars before, Ravenstar finally attacked; he crossed a punch downward and deflected Orsir's strike. With such speed, he shifted his weight and threw a hook at the druid's head. The younger elf ducked back, but was still grazed by the hit. The rushing air from the hook was enough to blow his bangs back.

He has good reflexes too, Ravenstar thought.

How could he throw such a punch with so little room?! A shocked expression was painted on Orsir's face. Maybe if I stay at mid-range...

Orsir circled his caught arm to break free of Ravenstar's cross and jumped back. He started to throw alternating punches, to which Ravenstar replied with assaults of his own. The exchange between the two Kaldorei was fast-paced; both were sending out a flurry of attacks, but barely hitting their targets as the other deflected their opponent.

While the fight seemed fairly even, the differences in speed, strength and skill was coming to the fore. Ravenstar maintained an even speed and strength with little fatigue, and Orsir was starting to lag behind. Ravenstar broke the pattern, moving further back as he alternated pivoting and rounding consecutive kicks at Orsir.

The druid was literally taken aback, but that did not discourage him from continuing the spar. Orsir rushed forward and grappled the combatant elf. He started to roll back, and suddenly, with the momentum of the roll, he sent a foot into Ravenstar and sent him flying. The elder elf however righted himself in the air and landed deftly on the ground on both feet and a hand.

Ravenstar straightened himself and went back to a battle stance. Orsir on the other hand stood at ease, nodding to his elder. The druid bowed and started on his way back to the line up.

"That's three out of ten," Ashtalar commented, as Ravenstar called up the next recruit. "What do you think so far?"

Ashthiel exhaled, crossing his arms. "There's going to be quite a few different training menus. There are some things that all of them will probably need to work on."

The dead shot nodded in agreement. "At least this is moving at a reasonable pace, we should get to pairing them off soon enough."
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:58 pm

"You won't be going back, but restraint and determination go hand in hand.”

Izdazi hung on to that sentence as if it were a lifeline. In fact, as far as she was concerned, it was a lifeline. It’d given her hope and allowed her to see this intensely demanding training camp in a new light.

And most importantly, it told her that Ravenstar wasn’t going to hold their tumultuous past against her. There was a chance she’d make it through this without going back to prison.

Hours later that hope was still fueling her as she and the other recruits jogged through the forest. Each recruit wore leather armor befitting soldiers in training. They carried a streamlined pack across their backs that contained a first aid kit, several skins of water, weapon sharpening tool, a small ration pack (which mostly consisted of nuts and berries and a slender stick of jerky) and several small tools.

They were each armed with a heavy, one handed wood training sword, a bow and knife. A quiver with about a dozen arrows was slung next to the rucksack along their back.

The weight was only half of what a soldier may be tasked with carrying, but the jogging pace Ravenstar had placed upon the recruits more then made up it. The sweat that annoyingly stung her eyes was proof of that.

To make matters more difficult, they were also ordered to minimize noise as much as possible. The forest was the domain of the kal’dorei. They weren’t clumsy, oafish soldiers of the Horde, after all.

Ravenstar also jogged with them. He kept to the back and hissed reprimands to any who left as much as a bent twig in the path. Quietly, Izdazi was impressed at the strength of the older elf.

She guessed that they had around fifteen miles along the uneven forest terrain when Ravenstar suddenly called for them to rest. No one argued. Some of the recruits stood around and panted softly from their exertions. Others leaned against trees or sat on the ground.

Her experiences while guiding expeditions through Stranglethorn Vale had taught Izdazi that staying on her feet was the wiser thing to do. It was hell getting back to one’s feet after allowing them such an abrupt rest.

Out of instinct, she also took the time to study her surroundings. She unclipped an arrow from the bow and quietly notched it. Yet, she kept the arrow pointed down. It was also her experience that resting periods were among the most dangerous moments. People were tired and often became sluggish.

On three occasions, jungle trolls waited until moments like this to attack the expeditions she had led. Rest time wasn’t for porters or soldiers. It was for the overweight, inexperienced civilians to get a breather.

That was why she wasn’t entirely surprised when Ravenstar began shouting out that they were under attack. Only, this time, it wasn’t from trolls or furbolgs, but rather from each other.

“Red group! Find someone in blue group and start sparring! Move it! Move it! Move it!” Ravenstar bellowed.

Before they had begun jogging, Ravenstar had split the recruits into two groups. He’d given them each a colored armband denoting their group and that had been the last they’d heard about it. The groups had been divided evenly with wardens and sentinels in each.

After the long run, they’d almost forgotten that they’d been split into groups. Of course, that all changed with Ravenstar’s orders.

In a single motion, Izdazi clipped the arrow back onto the bow and slung it back across her shoulder. Her other arm unsheathed the sword. Half of the recruits, mostly the sentinels, were struggling to rise after resting their legs. The huntress rushed forward and quickly (yet carefully) thrust the sword against chest of one of the blue team members who was about to rise.

“Deleena! You’re dead!” Ravenstar called out. The recruit she’d struck sneered at Izdazi but then fell back on the ground to simulate her death.

The huntress didn’t spare her a second glance. She quickly scanned for others, but by this point everyone was at their feet. Behind her, Ravenstar called out the names of two more recruits who had just been ‘killed.’

The sound of wooden waster swords striking each other filled the forest. She caught sight of someone from her team being pushed back by several members blue team. Rushing forward, she struck one of the attackers on the back.

“Orsir! You’re dead!” their instructor shouted again.

Izdazi didn’t pause. She pressed forward on the other member, but this time that person was ready. He swung his blade and parried her jab. She barely had time to counter his own thrust and then he rotated next to her. Izdazi knew she wouldn’t be able to counter it.

A sudden battle cry tore her attacker’s attention. The other teammate that Izdazi had just ‘rescued’ surged forward, bringing her blade between them. Her attacker was fast. Almost unbelievably fast. He slammed his elbow at her forehead while bringing his sword around to counter the newcomer.

Izdazi fell back to the forest floor slightly dazed. Her spinning vision quickly resolved itself with a few rapid blinks.

“Ryaha! You’re dead!”

Shaking the remaining shock out of her vision, she started to climb to her feet only to see the Blue Member rushing toward her with his sword pointed toward her. The huntress fell back to ground and kicked her legs out to deflect his sword arm. Her other leg shot out between his legs and hooked behind his ankle. With a quick twist, he fell to the ground.

Grunting, Izdazi rolled away from him and to her feet. She raised her sword and was about to surge toward him when she felt something hard touch her neck.

“Izdazi! You’re dead!”

Damnit! Where’d he come from? She dropped her weapon and laid back on the ground, fuming, and yet somewhat sobered by the abruptness of her ‘demise.’

The skirmish continued for a few minutes more until Ravenstar called an end to it. Everyone slowly rose up.

Even though he didn’t announce a winner, Izdazi could see that of the ten, only four remained. They were from Team Red.

Brushing the leaves from her back, she turned around and almost ran into the Mateus.

“You still need to work on your close quarter combat skills,” he stated matter-of-factly. There was no malice or mockery in the tone of his voice, yet Izdazi felt her face redden. “I’ve seen how you are out here. You’re watchful, cautious and ready. I’d wager that among the sentinels, you were the quickest to switch from resting to combat. But when you pick up that sword, you seem to lose awareness of surroundings.”

“Give me a bow and I’d have dropped everyone,” Izdazi replied.

“You won’t always have a bow. After that attack by the furbolgs earlier I’d have thought you learned that,” Mateus quietly rebuked. He leaned closer. “After training meet me outside of Talonbranch, to the east.”

Before she could ask why, he walked away. Ravenstar had started explaining what he’d seen and offering suggestions. He didn’t sound entirely pleased by how this had turned out and stated that from this point out, they were to wear their colored armbands at all times. Apparently, he planned to surprise them with more mock skirmishes in the future.

Then, he ordered them to double time it back to the camp.


* * *


Izdazi couldn’t remember how many expeditions she’d led into Stranglethorn Vale. People who had no business being in the jungle were always asking to go and experienced guides were needed to make sure they came back to civilization alive.

Human nobles and dwarves loved to hunt for rare creatures. Their furs were a prize to behold among the Stormwind nobility. But nobles were used to hunting in the nice peaceful forests surrounding Stormwind. They had servants and whole entourages following them on horseback. The jungle afforded no such luxuries and the rules of the forest were null and void within.

Then there were the explorers and scholars, who needed to find some piece of pottery or artifact, or who wanted to catalog some ruins. These people were used to hiking the vast and strange libraries of Dalaran or of Ironforge, but the paper cuts and snake bites were two very different things.

And of course, then there were the people who simply wanted guards for there trade convoys. This was the most boring of jobs, because they stayed on the main road. Angry gorillas and potholes made up most of the dangers; there were also jungle trolls, bandits and the dangerous of all, raptor packs.

She was no stranger to traversing dense jungles, where a full day’s hike my gain you only four miles of progress. Felwood was no Stranglethorn, however. Despite its unique blend of dangers, it was much easier to traverse. The wildlife was dangerous, but not any more so then in the jungle.

Yet, with any such hike, it was always important to maintain one’s sense of direction and pace. Izdazi knew her capabilities and that was the reason she was frustrated by her struggles. She shouldn’t be this tired after only thirty miles over such terrain.

Apparently, the year and a half she’d spent in the barrows had robbed of her more then freedom.

Glancing around, she realized she was at least fairing better then some of the younger sentinels. It wouldn’t take long for all of them to get more strengthened, however. Especially if Ravenstar continues running them ragged like this.

After a quiet chow and a few lessons from Ashtalar and Ravenstar, the recruits departed for their tents. Tomorrow night will be another exhausting day of whatever tortures their instructors could concoct.

The huntress waited outside of her tent until things settled down at the camp and then quietly made her way to the place where Mateus wanted to meet. Between the leaves and branches of the forest canopy she could see that the sky was slowly started to turn gray.

It didn’t take long for her to find Mateus. He was standing in the center of a small clearing. Two training swords have been thrust into the ground before him.

“I didn’t think you’d come,” the older warden said.

“Curiosity often gets the better of me,” Izdazi quipped. She looked down at the swords and then at him. “Sparring practice? Really?”

“It’s never to late to learn more. Why do you think I’m training here?”

“I figured you were just bored.” Mateus chuckled and shook his head.

“The world is changing, young one. Those who fail to adapt quickly find themselves regressing,” the warden explained. He picked up one of the swords and tossed it toward Izdazi. The huntress snatched it midair.

“You think my mother didn’t force me to learn how to use these?” Izdazi added.

“You’ve forgotten most everything about sword fighting. You wield a blade slightly better then the average drunk in Booty Bay. Considering you spent several years of your life in Booty Bay, that doesn’t surprise me. But you’re in the military now. You fight for the survival of our people and the protection of our land. And with the direction things are going in, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, you’re fighting for the survival of world.”

Izdazi began to roll her eyes at the incredulousness of his remark. In a flash, Mateus responded by striking her left arm hand with the wooden sword. Cursing, the huntress dropped her weapon and nursed her bruised arm.

“I served during the War of the Shifting Sands. Ravenstar served during the War of the Ancients. Your mother served during the Third War,” Mateus explained. His voice still carried a quiet calm that somehow only greatly increased the importance of what he said. “Who knows what tomorrow will bring? You need to be prepared.”

“So, what? I’m your special project?” Izdazi asked while recovering her sword. Her arm was throbbing from the strike.

“Like I said, you’re observant and cautious, but also, at times, reckless. Your biggest weakness is pride. I can’t do anything about that, so I’ll instead work on a few of your other weakness, such as this.” He waved his sword about. “You could have ‘survived’ today’s lesson if you’d have better situational awareness. But you’re too unfamiliar with this weapon and as a result, you devote too much attention to one opponent. That’s dangerous.”

Izdazi glanced at the sword, then at Mateus. “Fine then. Teach me.”

This time, Mateus grinned and picked up his sword. Then, to her surprise, he picked up a second sword that was hidden behind him. With both blades in hand, he effortlessly spun them around and swung them in a pattern that the she elf found hard to follow.

She felt her heart start to thrum faster as she raised her sword.

“These may be wooden swords, but I’d appreciate not having to tell our instructors why you’re covered in bruises tomorrow night,” Mateus said as he slowly stepped closer to her. “Tonight’s lesson is about defense. I don’t want you to worry about hitting me. I want you to simply defend yourself.”

“I’m really not sure this is the best way to teach me,” Izdazi cried out rapidly as the warden continued to advance. Then their swords struck.


* * *


A few hours later, a very tired and bruised Izdazi stiffly crept into her tent and passed out.
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  KaijinRhada on Thu Jan 17, 2013 11:07 pm

"You look a bit displeased with how today went," Ashtalar said to Ravenstar as he was whittling symbols into the training swords. The dead shot passed on the engraved wooden blades to Ravenstar who was colouring in the glyphs with a light green paste. The sword then went to Ashthiel's hands.

"It's not so much annoying as it is troublesome to deal with," the green-haired elf said.

"They've all experienced combat, but most are no good with swords, even the young Sentinels. I have to wonder what they're learning these days," Ashthiel commented. "Valyria, Celia and Mateus showed excellent swordsmanship, a good bar to set for us to bring the rest of the recruits up to par."

"Hopefully pairing them off will yield better results," Ravenstar added as he passed on the final training sword to the warrior-twin. "And it first starts off with this enchantment."

Ashthiel took the last training sword form Ravenstar and placed it with the rest. He then uttered a small incantation and the runes received a slight shimmer that soon spread to the rest of the weapon before dissipating back into the glyph. The warrior then took one of the swords in hand and began swinging and twirling it around.

"That's better," said Ashthiel. "This matches the standard weight pretty well."

Ravenstar got up and walked over to where Ashthiel was situated. He took up one of the swords and slipped it into the air and and caught it again by the hilt. He nodded approvingly. "Back to the basics."

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

"Sit ups, now! Alternate elbows!"

The commanding shouts of the older elves filled the glade in the early minutes of dusk. They had been awake for quite some time already, receiving their briefing already. The elder elves, too, joined in on the exercise routines. Ravenstar kept count of their movements.

"One hundred thirty-six! One hundred thirty-seven! One hundred thirty-eight!"

Some students started to show signs of tiring but they pressed on, hiding their growing exhaustion. It was only the start of the day and the third exercise they had done.

"One hundred ninety-nine! Two hundred!" Ravenstar announced. "Five minute rest. After that you have ten to put on the guards."

As the students rested, Ashthiel and Ravenstar went to take a draught of water from a skin to moisten their palette. Ashtalar went past them with a water skin; he had a different task. The other two kaldorei took out the wooden training swords the trainees would use and distributed them amongst the younger elves. They then fastened on arm guards.

"You've all been through combat of some sort, but we find that your abilities with swords to be deficient in certain areas," Ravenstar explained. "We paired you up with another student to best suit what you need to improve on and vice versa. You will compliment each other as you polish your skills. Stand with your partner." The recruits reassembled quickly to their predetermined sparring partner and stood at order.

"You will need to be familiar with a wide array of weapons, and this will be the first," said Ashthiel as he stepped up with two real blades in hand and gave one to Ravenstar. "Using a sword isn't as simple as waving it around; it should be an extension of your self, not just a tool," Ashthiel said. "A flick of a wrist provides a quick, and efficient cut," as he demonstrated on Ravenstar with three strikes. The other elf parried the attacks. "But you need a good eye to properly land a hit. Putting your shoulder, feet and weight into the the attack yields a more fierce strike." Again attacking the green-haired kaldorei with swings and slashes, but he dodged them instead. "But it takes more time to land a hit, and if you're not careful," he continued as he took another strike at Ravenstar, who not only dodged but sent a blade aimed at Ashthiel's throat, stopping only a hair's breadth from his skin. "It will create openings in your defense.

"This, and all weapons, stem from how well you control it, and your opponent." Ashthiel stepped back. "The training sword you have is now modified to simulate the standard issue weight for a blade you will commonly have available to you from the Sentinel forces. Those standing on the left of their partners, step forward, stand side by side in a line with three metres between you and the next student." The young elves did as their teacher ordered. "Now those in the back, find you will start off the sparring with your partner. As Ravensatr and I move along, we will be telling you how to improve your swordplay. Fight with ferocity Now, begin!"

The students started their sparring session. Talonbranch soon woke to the sounds of shouting kaldorei and the clamor of wooden swords being struck together. The two elder kaldorei walked around the paired elves and scrutinized every move they made.

"Step in harder, Starleaf!" Ashtiel said.

"Slacken your grip a bit, Deleena, you're too tense!" ordered Ravenstar. "Maeris, use more force in that swing!"

"More footwork, Heleni; you're a sitting target standing still! Get some fluidity in your movements, Orsir!"

"Ryaha, you need more work on defense!"

Ashthiel walked over to Izdazi and looked over to how she was faring. From last he had heard from Ravenstar, she was rather poor with the blade, but today she seemed to have improved. Perhaps she learned something from their surprise spar yesterday. The warrior then spied the numerous bruises that covered her body. They were not new bruises from the current day, they were older bruises, but he never noticed any bruising yesterday.

Now I have to wonder where she got those from.

"Let your wrist work in tandem with your arm when guiding your sword, Izdazi!" Ashthiel advised.

Ashthiel and Ravenstar continued on their rounds while Ashtalar was on the other side of the clearing setting up a series of stands. Using sinew string and plant fibre string, he tied the pieces of wood together and made sure the structure was stable. It looked similar to that of an artist's easel, though more heavy. He was soon joined by a handful of elves holding sizable wood and rawhide targets. Ashtalar looked up from his work and greeted the wood workers.

"I think these should fit your specifications. We'll bring in the extras," the local wood worker said.

"Thanks! Want the broken ones taken to the back shop?" the blue-haired dead shot asked.

"That would be perfect; we'll get them fixed for the next day."

"Good, and the runed arrows from the bowyer?"

"The order will be done in two days. They've been having delays with the shipment of enchanting dust. There's trouble with all forms of travel recently."

"I see," Ashtalar replied. "Well, thank you and keep up the good work."

As the other kaldorei left Ashtalar to work, he started to think about what they had said about the shipment troubles. Strange things have been happening lately. Not a good sign I reckon. He looked back to where his twin and Ravenstar were working with the rest of the recruits. They had gotten more personable with with the students, showing them up close what they need to work on as time went on. Yet he could hear the two night elves shout clearly from across the small field.

"Ten minute break!" Ravenstar announced. He regrouped with Ashthiel to review how well their younger elves faring.

"They're making some improvements. I think at this rate they'll be able to handle the next lesson," Ashthiel commented.

"Their stamina has seen a marked increase as well," Ravenstar stated. "I think we can intensify the training more."

"I think so," agreed the warrior, with a smirk touching his lips.
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:44 pm

Two weeks later.

Every muscle screamed in agony as she raced through the forest. Their trainers had been relentless in pushing the recruits to the brink of exhaustion and though Izdazi was loathed to admit it, it seemed to be paying off.

That didn’t mean the training was getting any less painful, though. Actually, it seemed to be getting more brutal. And Mateus’s own efforts to improve her dismal close range combat skills added to the strain her body was experiencing. There seemed to be layers of bruisers on her wrists, arms and legs, not to mention a nasty gash over her right eye that the healing salve was still working on.

The huntress wished she knew if all of these torment was going to pay off. Would she make it to become a Sentinel, or be shipped back to the Barrows? Since their first sparring match, Ravenstar hadn’t mentioned her performance again. He had promised her then that she wouldn’t go back and she had clung to that promise like a lifeline in a storm, but in the end, would it matter?

Despite her poor performance in hand-to-hand combat and with melee weapons, Izdazi had scored excellent in archery. In fact, her score was the highest among the recruits, with some of the Ranger Recruits scoring just below her. Ashtalar had defeated her in an impromptu archery contest between her and the instructor, although, he seemed quietly impressed.

But there was much more to being soldier then simply one’s skills with a bow and arrow, and the instructors were quick to hone in on any weakness. While others spent extra time practicing archery, she spent more time getting beaten up in close quarter combat training.

In truth, it was getting tiresome. Not tiresome enough to warrant giving up and returning to the Barrows. Not even close. But it was frustrating to keep failing performing counter moves.

Still, after two weeks of training, guard rotations, long distance fast paced marches, etc., they were finally doing something different.

This time, they were tasked with trying to locate their instructors. The trick, however, was to locate them, without they themselves being found. Once split into groups of four, each team was given an opportunity.

This time, it was her, Ryaha, Mateus and Orsir. Mateus was group leader for this exercise, with Ryaha acting as second. Orsir was covering flank while Izdazi served as the group tracker and took point.

Whichever of the instructors they were tracking was intent on not making it easy for the students. The tracks were broken up with false leads and riddled with confusing markings. She had inadvertently sent her team on several wrong tracks before finding the faint marking that signaled his true one.

On more then a few occasions, she heard Ryaha whisper to Mateus that she should take point. She never heard Mateus’s response, but nor did he ever move to replace her. For her part, Izdazi ignored Ryaha complaints. It was taking enough of her concentration to study the paths, while keeping her footsteps silent and her ears sharp for any stray sound. The other teammates were busy studying the surrounding the area.

Her only task was to follow his path. She’d tracked animals many times. There was even that one time she had to track someone in Stranglethorn Vale. This was no different.

It just required patience.

There were a few tense moments, such as the time the track they were following passed perilously close to a small herd of grazing deer. While the deer themselves didn’t pose any danger, startling them would undoubtedly alert anyone nearby. Such was their slow careful progress that the deer never realized how close they were to the four kal’dorei.

But that was hours ago when they were making progress. Now, she had stumbled upon a slight hiccup in their progress.

The tracks she was following had disappeared.

Well, not quite disappeared, but rather, become obscured by a plethora of other tracks. Bent sticks, twisted twigs, cut leaves, flattened grass, it was a confusing mess to study. It seemed like a heard of animals had come through here.

But even that still didn’t seem right.

“What’s wrong now?” Ryaha hissed impatiently. Izdazi didn’t bother to respond to her, but judging by her sudden silence, Mateus must have silently hushed her.

The huntress felt her heart flutter faster at the potential of failing the only other recruit who seemed to be willing to give her chance, but try as she might, her eyes just couldn’t resolve the mess she was staring at. Their target’s track was simply gone, but the mess that obscured it wasn’t… ‘right.’

She felt Mateus approach her periphery and she looked up. His eyes silently asked the question, what’s wrong. She could only radiate confusion before looking back at the ground.

Stop looking for what you want to see and instead, simply look at what’s there.

Bent sticks, twisted twigs, cut leaves, and flattened grass but no indentations of hooves in the moist soil. Her heart rushed faster, but thoughts of disappointment soon turned to that of alarm.

Now that she knew what she was looking for, it wasn’t long before she found it.

It was faint, barely visible, and clearly left by someone who knew how to not be tracked. But nonetheless, it was there.

The shallow indentation of a boot over an narrow patch of matted down grass. It was a large boot and with her eyes adjusting rapidly, she could see other similar boot marks. And in another area there was a large toe indentation. And in yet another area, a hoof mark. A shallow, large hoof mark carefully placed over grass, as to not be as noticeable as if it were on dirt. It was much too wide to be deer or a stag.

In a fluid motion, Izdazi unslung her bow and drew an arrow. Her teammates instantly understand the implications of her actions and without a word did likewise.

“Horde,” she managed to whisper just before the hours long silence of their forest trek exploded into a cacophony of battle cries and footfalls and trills.

They had planned their ambush perfectly. The elves were in a small valley, surrounded by bluffs and ridges. The battle cries and sudden motion from all sides momentarily confused them.

Izdazi nocked an arrow and pulled back, taking aim at the first flurry of motion she could find. She let the arrow loose and in a second, had another pulled back. She didn’t bother to see if the first arrow struck its intended target. She already knew it had, although she was certain it wasn’t a precise hit. Her eyes scanned the area and then above the ridgeline where she caught a troll taking aim at her. She let lose that arrow and silently snarled when the troll ducked away a split second later.

She noticed a shadow next to her ducked just as an axe sailed over her head. The huntress swung her bow hard against the head of the orc, but not before he managed to graze the side of her head. Dropping low, she swept her leg and kicked the legs out from under the dazed orc.

The cut wasn’t large, but it was deep. It was already stinging and she could feel the warmth of blood issuing from the gash and sliding down the side of her face. The wound only fueled her adrenaline high.

A pair of broad hands suddenly wrapped around her chest from behind. Issuing a cry of her own, Izdazi reared her head back against the head of the opponent behind her and then, grabbing the arms that still held her, crouched low and swung him over her head. Her attacker released her and she slammed her boot against his chest.

Tossing the bow aside, the huntress unsheathed her sword and studied the scene. It wasn’t promising. The four elves were facing off against at least ten Horde. The mixture seemed to be a variety of orcs and trolls and at least one tauren druid in bear form.

Orsir, their only druid, was in saber form and facing off the tauren druid. Mateus and Ryaha were back-to-back and dealing with at least four. To her horror, Mateus already had an arrow embedded in his shoulder. He was using his less favorable arm to fend them off with his sword.

She scanned above the ridgeline and picked up two troll archers taking aim at them. Rushing forward, the elf dodged two orcs, rolled on the ground and came to stop at one of the fallen orcs she had injured earlier. Taking two of the small axes, she carefully threw them at the archers above, forcing them abandon their aim and take cover.

“Orsir! Return to camp and get help! Now!” Mateus called out before he was suddenly driven to the ground by a group of them. Near his feet was an unmoving Ryaha.

We’re losing, Izdazi suddenly realized with dread. She froze, unsure of what to do.

A troll seemed to materialize in front of her. She barely had time to register the stone axe he was preparing to ram into her skull before she leapt into action. Dropping her sword, she grabbed his tusks, pushed his head down while driving her knee into his sternum. The troll grunted and fell to his knees clutching his chest.

Issuing her own battlecry, Izdazi leapt at the next nearest opponent, driving her foot into the back of his knee and then reaching around to strangle him. Another orc, this one a female, leapt up and tackled her off her opponent. She lashed out with her knee and pushed the orc off her.

Pulling her sleeve up, the huntress armed the small crossbow strapped to her left wrist. The two limbs snapped outward, drawing the string taught and preparing the short bolt for release. The orc rolled back to her feet and started to rush toward Izdazi again. Pulling the string on her middle finger, she felt the recoil as the bolt was hurled from her wrist and into the shoulder of the oncoming orc.

She fell back with a sudden cry, clutching her shoulder. Cursing her dismal aim, and without time to reload the small crossbow, she grabbed her sword and tried to rush toward Mateus and Ryaha. To her consternation, she saw a small pool of blood under Ryaha.

In the distance, she saw Orsir, still in feline form, race away from the battlefield. The tauren, still in bear form, was chasing after him, but she’d seen Orsir in action and felt confident he’d evade his chaser.

The two trolls who’d been shooting from the ridgeline leapt down and joined the remaining uninjured members of the Horde party, who were now advancing on her and her fallen comrades.

“Fel,” Izdazi muttered, holding her sword at the ready despite understand the utter futility of it. Wiping the blood from her eyes, she nervously eyed each of the closing members of the Horde.

Now that they weren’t darting around, she could see that they appeared young. Not children, but just of age. Their attire was mismatched and certainly not anything that resembled uniforms, although, she did note the emblem of the Horde patched at least somewhere in their clothing.

Slowly, the she elf lowered her sword and sighed. Then, with her free hand, she swept it before them in a casual manner.

“<We’re not the elves you’re looking for,>” Izdazi stated in orcish with as much confidence as she could muster. This garnered a moment where a few confused glances were shared between the young Horde soldiers. Then, without warning the largest of the orcs slammed his fist into her face.

Stars exploded in her vision and she tasted blood pooling in her mouth as she fell back. By the time she regained control of her limbs, her arms were tied back and a cloth sack was drawn over her head, effectively obscuring her vision. Then, she allowed herself to fall back into unconsciousness.

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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Fri Oct 25, 2013 4:48 pm

Izdazi wasn’t sure what to expect when she regained consciousness. Surprise, was at least one emotion she felt. She was still alive.

With that revelation came another emotion, however. Dread. Being a prisoner of orcs as of late was never something to look forward to. She remembered well the incident involving a group of Sentinels that had been skinned and left hanging from trees in Ashenvale. It had been warning from the Horde but at the time, long before she’d ever even had the desire to join the Sentinels, it had enraged even her.

Now, Izdazi was struggling to not be paralyzed by fear. She didn’t move and fought to keep her breathing steady and unchanged. She needed to learn just how bad her situation was. Fear was unavoidable, but panicking would accomplish nothing.

They were in camp or settlement of some kind. The sounds of voices speaking filled the air. They weren’t speaking quietly, which indicated that their Horde captors were sure of their security.

Her orcish was good enough to pick out words here and there, but she gleaned little else except when their lunch would be ready.

They were cooking stag meat. And there was the slight scent of sautéed vegetables. She never thought much of orcs eating vegetables, but…

Concentrate, damnit!

The voices were mostly in orcish. The gruff sound of orders given and the rapid beating of boots on moist soil fluttered around their area. There were also bits of Zandali being spoken. It was in the Darkspear dialect, which made it hard for Izdazi to decipher. She was familiar with the Zanzil dialect used by most of the trolls in Booty Bay.

In addition, she picked up on some sin’dorei speak and what she took for tauren.

Other sounds came in the form of an iron hammer striking something metallic, indicating a blacksmith or weaponsmith. There was a thick chemical smell in the air suggesting an apothecary.

And then she heard the sound of someone being stuck and a low gasp. A voice, this time in a broken common said something and then the sound occurred again.

Mateus! They were interrogating Mateus.

The urge to panic resurged and it took more effort to control her breathing. She spent the time testing her limbs. She was in a seated position, but slouched over and held up by her arms, which were tied behind her back and around a post. Her legs were also tied at the ankles. Her boots were gone, however.

After a moment of listening to hear if anyone was nearby, Izdazi risked opening her eyes slightly. The inside of a roughly hewn cloth bag was all she saw. Although there were opening where sunlight streamed in, the holes were too small for her to study to their location.

“You still not talk?” the raised, yet gruff voice of an orc suddenly announced. A group of footsteps began approaching her and then the sackcloth was roughly pulled off her head.

Izdazi squinted as the sun’s early morning radiance assaulted her sensitive eyes. She twisted her head away, only to cry out when a large green hand grasped a bundle of her blue dreadlocks and twisted her head back toward Mateus.

The Ranger was a mess. The crimson blood caking the right side of his face contrasted sharply against is light purple skin. His right eye was swollen shut. Like her, his arms were tied back around a post.

“How many at your camp?” the orc leader (or at least she assumed he was their leader) demanded.

Mateus turned his head slowly towards her and they shared eye contact for a moment. Then, without a word, he lowered his head to the ground.

That was when the orc suddenly kicked her hard in the gut. All the air blew from her lungs and her body strained uncontrollably against the post as she struggled to take in a breath. Her lungs wouldn’t obey and with her arms strapped behind the poll and her seated her position; it was only making it harder.

Izdazi felt her body convulse, but could little to stop it. But instead of taking in a much-needed breath of air, she vomited. Her vision swirled as the stinging sharp taste of bile burned her throat. Everything dimmed.

When she came to again, her throat still burned and the taste of bile served to rush her to a consciousness she would much rather have slept through.

“Are you ok?”

Izdazi looked up and regarded Mateus with a pithy countenance. She was far from well. She was in terror and not to mention more than a little pain. Her chest and abdomen were still hurting from the kick.

Yet, now that her vision was no longer obscured she could study their surroundings. It was definitely a settlement. Log walls formed a defendable perimeter and the building, while looking shabby, gave this settlement a more permanent and militaristic feel.

Escape would not be easy.

To her added consternation, the smell of the apothecary she had detected earlier came from building with a distinctly Forsaken design to it. There was the blacksmith she had smelled and a small wyrvern roost. Nearby, there were two orc guards conversing. Occasionally, they were glance at their prisoners before returning to the conversation at hand.

“Where’s Ryaha?” Izdazi managed to say as she studied the smooth rolling mountains behind the settlement walls.

“I don’t know. She took a nasty wound during the ambush,” Mateus responded. There was a tone of disappointment in his voice that Izdazi was all too familiar with. The sound of a leader who feels they have failed those they were responsible for.

“I should have realized what those tracks were sooner. I’m sorry,” the huntress said regretfully.

“It’s not your fault. They planned this ambush well.” There was a pause as they regarded each other in silence. Then, with a sigh he added, “I’m sorry that he attacked you.”

“Did you tell him what he wanted to know?”

“No.”

“Then the apology is accepted,” Izdazi whispered, offering him a smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes. “We’re in the eastern slopes of Felwood. I’d say maybe twenty clicks from Talonbranch.”

“How can you tell? I’ve been trying to figure out where we are since I woke up.”

“I just do. I saw a map of Felwood and, I always seem to know where I am. It always surprised my parents,” the huntress remarked. “How did we not know about this place?”

“The Horde have been busy,” the Ranger responded.

Glancing at the guards, who were well into a discussion about the merits of having the Bilgewater Cartel rolled into the Horde, Izdazi began struggling with her bindings. The ropes, however, were quite secure in their bindings.

“We’ll get through this. Save your strength,” Mateus whispered.

“How do you know?” Izdazi snapped back harsher then she’d intended to. She stopped fidgeting and took a deep breath. Then, shaking her head, she finally turned toward Mateus. “Sorry, sir.”

The restrained ranger accepted her apology with a nod and then leaned his head back against the pole. Despite his injuries, he seemed relaxed about the situation.

More then likely, he was simply conserving his energy. Izdazi saw the wisdom in it, but any moment she was just sitting, was a moment her mind was coming up with all the dreadful ways this was going to end.

They didn’t have to sit for long. Three orcs soon approached them. She recognized the bearded one as the orc who’d been interrogating Mateus. The trio conversed in rapid orcish for a few minutes. At times they gestured to the two elves.

Izdazi picked out a few words in their conversation, but it was all much to fast for her to process in its entirety. The words ‘training,’ ‘combat,’ and ‘example’ were thrown around a lot. She also picked out ‘question’ and ‘weakling.’

She felt a wave of conflicting emotion when they seemed to decide on her, for whatever reason. At least Mateus would get some rest after the brutal treatment he had already suffered, but it also meant it was her turn.

The bindings around her ankles were cut, but as the ones behind her arms were being untied the ‘leader’ lowered her head to his ear. “Try to escape, and he and the other female will be given to the Forsaken for their experiments.”

So Ryaha is still alive. Good. Izdazi offered the orc the briefest of nods and felt her arms suddenly free. She brought her arms forward and finally stretched them, but was interrupted when the two orcs grabbed her upper arms and hauled her to her feat.

They wasted no time escorting her to the far end of the camp, where she was unceremoniously shoved to the dirt ground. Gathering her wits, the huntress slowly stood up and noted with increasing apprehension the circle of soldiers that surrounded her. There were at least a dozen young looking soldiers consisting of orcs, trolls and taurens.

A battered and well-worn sword was tossed carelessly at her bare feet.

The ‘leader’ moved to the center of the circle and regarded the other soldiers closely. Then, he pointed to one, a troll with long white hair and painted tusks. Grinning, the troll entered the circled and withdrew a large two-handed sword and began swinging it in a skillful arc.

Izdazi, never taking her eyes off the troll, knelt to the ground and retrieved the blade. There was no resemblance of balance in it. It was of human construction and thus, small for a night elf. The blade edge was covered in notches and scratches. The hilt was loose.

“<Our enemies think this forest belongs to them!>” the orc leader announced in orcish. “<They deny us the materials we need to protect ourselves! They have spilled the blood of your brothers and sisters. Of your fathers and mothers.

“<But do not underestimate their strength by what you’ve seen here today. They are swift and silent. And, in the forest, they are unseen and deadly,>” the orc continued explaining as he approached her. “<But once you see them up close, they’re just as easy to bleed as any other accursed member of the Alliance,>” he spat.

He gestured to the troll. “<Dispatch her. Show no mercy, because she will not.>”

The troll grinned and nodded.

These are soldiers in training, Izdazi realized. And I get to be the training dummy.

The troll surged forward and Izdazi fought to remember everything her trainers had taught as she struggled to fend him off.

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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  KaijinRhada on Wed Dec 25, 2013 5:25 pm

There was a flurry of movement above in the canopy of the tress and below on the ground of the forest as Ravenstar and Ashthiel raced on in their full equipment. There had been an unexpected turn of events, and now they had to set off on a rescue and scouting mission, all in one.

One of the groups of recruits had been ambushed by Horde, in Talonbranch territory. Of the group, only Orsir was the only one that was not caught, warning Ravenstar of the situation. That left Izdazi, Mateus and Ryaha in enemy hands. While everyone knew the risks of training in Felwood, the concerning point of the situation was the proximity of the incident. The Sentinels had not seen or reported any nearby Horde encampment; the closest one would have been at Venomblood River.

So while they had sent Orsir off to Ashtalar to rally some Sentinel ouriders and huntresses, Ravenstar and Ashthiel would advance on the camp and perform a preliminary rescue of their students. Ravenstar had estimated that their reinforcements would arrive relatively soon after they had infiltrated the camp, if all went well.

Tracking the enemy was easy enough. They made some effort to cover their tracks, but not well enough to fool the two kaldorei in pursuit. The direction took them to the southeast. The trees grew thin and were mostly dead in that area. Further south was a fel tainted valley.

Up ahead, the two elves spotted a tattered camp. They started to slow their pace; from such a distance, it would not be out of the question that they would have patrolling rounds out this far. Ravenstar and Ashthiel rendezvoused near a hedge by the base of a tree.

"We'll have to clear the camp out," Ravenstar stated straight away, handing the warrior a set of throwing knives and some rope.

"I suppose we'll be doing what we each do best," Ashthiel replied. "I'll try to take them towards the mountains."

"I'll help with the initial distraction. Ashtalar should be here soon. Use crow calls for signaling."

There was a sudden thrum in the air high above the canopy. It could not have been the Sentinels, unless they had started mobilizing before Ashtalar contacted them. They looked up to see something that was completely out of place and certainly not native to Felwood, or Kalimdor for that matter.

A sizable frostbrood drake was flying overhead. It was odd to see a creature from Northrend in these parts, but it also looked familiar and it was flying towards Talonbranch Glade. The two Kaldorei knew of one ally that uses one as a winged mount. It was still odd to find him using it though.

"Back to business," Ashthiel said. "Want any casualties?"

"Lets wait until the Sentinels get here, we'll need some leverage while they have our students captive."

"Alright. Are we ready?"

"As ready as we'll ever be."

Ravenstar and Ashthiel donned their hood and helm respectively and now proceeded on their separate ways towards the small camp while keeping their cover. As they got closer, they could see that the camp appeared to have been made rather hastily; there were some tents, with one larger tent. It looked appropriate for one that could be relocated and kept mobile. Was it an advance camp? Will they try to take on Talonbranch Glade?

While there were some guards keeping watch, there were not very many patrols. On the side of the camp were some kodos and worgs; they could also be utilized for their distraction. They would have to draw a good portion of the camp out into the open, any and all distractions would be used.

Ravenstar cloaked himself in shadows and stepped lightly towards the pack animals. They were each tied to a holding post. He had to cut or untie the hold without the creatures noticing him. The elf unsheathed a knife and started to slash the ties. He lightly rustled a kodo to keep the worgs distracted as he cut their leads. His work was done and he slipped off to the distance. Ravenstar had other distractions to prepare.

Ashthiel mean while settled with making as much noise as possible. He tied the rope around some of the barricades surrounding the camp. With some hard pulls, he was sure he could uproot some of them. He retreated to some distance away and hid in the withered greenery. He cupped his hands around his mouth and let out a caw, to which actual ravens called back.

The roguish elf heard the signal from his cohort and finished with his last distraction. Ravenstar crept back to a safe area while rolling a small explosive in his palm. He issued a crow call before pulling a pin from the sphere he held. He threw it to the perimeter of the camp and allowed it to do its work. At that moment Ashthiel started to heave and tug at the rope, and in short order, he broke the barricades.

The torn fencing created such a racket, the inhabitants burst from the tent, just spotting Ashthiel speeding away with the remains of their barrier. Then bomb exploded close to the fencing, where Ravenstar had set a line of other low powered explosives, including where the pack beasts were. The smoke, sparks, and explosive noise startled the worgs and kodo, and with their cut leads, the mounts fled into the wilderness.

Their efforts drew out quite a few members of the camp. Some were yelling at others to chase Ashthiel while others had gone to try and track down the errant beasts. In the chaos, Ravenstar dodged the stampede of animals and humanoids and proceeded to infiltrate the camp. There would be guards left, but this would have helped to keep a good portion of them busy while he went to find, and hopefully, free the students. At worst, he'll find them with the Sentinels descending on the camp.

He could hear chatter coming from the remaining guards about the ruckus that had just occurred. Others still went to see what had caused the would-be assault, running past Ravenstar who remained covered in shadows.

Three main tents with a few smaller ones. The night elf approached one of the larger tents and slit a hole into the fabric to peer inside. Supplies. He went to the next of the three large tents and inspected that one, and to no avail, for it appeared to be the commander's quarters. The next tent was of interest though. Ravenstar looked into the tent to find two orcs, one being older, and to his fortune an injured Ryaha. All in all, it looked like the medic's tent.

The younger orc was arguing with the older orc about his decision to tend to her injuries, a curious debate to have for certain. Why would they be helping Ryaha? The younger orc grew exasperated and started to leave the tent. Having tracked down one of the three recruits, the older Kaldorei went on his way to find them and further assess the camp. He did not have to go far though before he found what he sought. There was an open area with practice dummies and a dirt circle, looking like a make-shift arena. Not far from it was a cage with two familiar looking elves.

Well, that was easier than expected.

~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~*~~

Ashthiel and Ravenstar had done well with drawing attention away from the camp, now it was up to the warrior to lead a wild chase through the forest. So far he was doing quite well in keeping his pursuers up. Unbeknownst to him, there was something watching both parties.

The single elf with various members of the Horde in chase flew by some shrubs. After they had passes, pairs of glowing eyes peered from the gaps. And growls were issued.

The chase was about to get more interesting.
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Re: Paradigm Shift ((Story))

Post  Izdazi on Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:21 pm

((This story is now merging with Shadow of Doubt.    http://newvienna.forumotion.com/t23p30-shadow-of-doubt-story#609  ))
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