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A hunter's journey
#1
(( I just wanted to say up front that its been a while since I've done a lot of writing like this so the story may have flaws along the way. Feed back and gentle tips for improvement are always welcome. ))
____________________________


The warm midnight sky opened up overhead, glittering with countless stars like a bejeweled cloak. Wearily, the huntress leaned back against the large rock outcropping that sheltered her temporary campsite. Deep shadows seemed to cloud her normally bright emerald eyes as she sat scanning the sky, searching for answers she knew would not be there. Raven dark hair fell loose around her shoulders, a stray strand stirring in the light breeze; absently she reached up to tuck it back into place.

Beside her, the shadows cast by the flickering firelight merged into a form blacker than freshly spilled ink. Lying down at her side, the beast turned its own jade green eyes to her, a low rumble echoing through the massive chest. Reaching over, Kaisharra gently ruffled the thick mane as the ebon hued lion nuzzled her other hand. She smiled as she remembered the once tiny cub she had found lost in the desert, abandoned by his pride because of the color of his fur. He was a rare, pure black lion without even a hint of the normal golden hue anywhere within his coat. Now a fully grown adult, Sapa’yunke’lo was an intimidating sight to those who did not know him or the huntress he protected.

The slight sound of shifting sand and stones drew the attention of both elf and lion as another form entered the circle of light from the campfire. Pristine white fur smeared with dirt and blood, Taku’skan, the white lion stepped forward and dropped the young gazelle he had brought. Always they took turns, one would remain at her side to protect her, and the other would hunt for their evening meal. Tonight it had been Taku’skan’s turn to hunt. Pale blue eyes, like pools of frozen moonlight met the elf’s gaze as she stood. Taku’skan, like Sapa’yunke’lo had been cast out by his pride, born with fur as white as new fallen snow.

“Thank you Taku, you’ve done well. Go clean yourself up and rest while I get this cooked.”

Pulling out her knife, the huntress set to work skinning the gazelle, its hide would be set aside for tanning later. Once she had portioned enough of the meat off the carcass for herself to cook, she shoved the rest toward Sapa, knowing he preferred his food uncooked.

“There you go, that’s yours. You always complain if I cook it, so have at it.”

Sapa took the carcass a polite distance away, just at the edge of the fire’s light, and rumbled contentedly as he devoured his meal. Kaisharra proceeded to set her portion of the meat upon her makeshift spit to cook. Leaning back against the rock again, the elf’s gaze turned skyward once more. After a few minutes, Kai turned the meat and glanced around the camp, feeling the presence of her third traveling companion.

“Ohinyan, show yourself. I feel you.”

Feline laughter broke the silence as the phantom materialized. Chortling as she turned her warm, golden gaze upon the huntress, the spotted cat stepped closer. Ohinyan was still something of a mystery to Kaisharra, despite the years they had spent together. The huntress remembered back to that day. She had been exhausted, trying to find shelter from the fierce storm that had come up. In the unfamiliar lands of northern Darkshore, Kaisharra had found a small sheltered spot among some ancient ruins. Ages ago, this had been some glorious temple, and its guardian had been set upon the task of protecting it. Gleaming white fur with jet black spots, the cat had been made the guardian of this place. Now, its physical form long gone, the spectral feline had stirred from its slumber, awakened by the presence of the huntress. However, instead of attacking, the cat sat and studied the elf as the huntress studied her.

When the storm had finally passed, Kaisharra left the ruins with a third guardian. Ohinyan had chosen to finally leave the place she had stood guard over for so long, and now traveled with Kaisharra and the two lions. Able to manifest to a corporeal form for short periods of time, the ghost was still quite formidable when needed. She needed no food however, so never took interest in the hunting or cooking of the meals. However, she did seem to enjoy sneaking around unseen until she wanted to be seen.

Kaisharra finished her meal, stashing some of the cooked meat away in her pack for another meal in the morning. Taku’skan had finished grooming himself and now his coat was back to its normal glistening white. Sapa’yunke’lo had also finished his meal, and kicked the remaining bones well beyond the camp’s boundary, to prevent scavengers from being drawn too close. Taku settled himself down beside Kai and the huntress pulled her well worn blanket from her pack. Wrapping the blanket around herself, she snuggled close against Taku’s warm furry side. Sapa moved in to lay close against her other side. Ohinyan faded into the night but both lions knew the ghost cat would remain nearby, should anything happen.

As the hours slipped by, Kaisharra’s slumber grew more restless as memories stirred and haunted her dreams. Fitfully she tossed in her sleep, rousing both lions as she bumped against their sides. It was something they had grown used to, and they both pressed closer, low rumbling purrs trying to soothe the nightmares away.

*************

“I still can’t believe how we could have failed so badly, a child of ours that is so totally inept at magic.”

“It is disturbing, but I don’t believe it is truly a failing on our part. Even the best of bloodlines occasionally has a flaw, that’s all this is. However, I have no idea what we’re going to do with her.”

Tears ran down the young elf’s face as she crept back up the stairs unseen. Her parent’s words burning straight to her soul. She had tried, with all she could muster to follow the studies of magic as her parents had wished, but no matter what she did things turned out wrong. Despite her parents wish for her to follow the family tradition, Kaisharra had no talent for the arcane arts. As she buried herself back under the blankets on her bed, she sighed and wiped the tears from her cheeks.

She could never understand why it was so important that she be good at magic. Both of her elder siblings had shown a good deal of talent at it, but still her parents were not satisfied. That even one of their children didn’t have a mastery of the arcane was unacceptable to them.

*************

As the sun slowly crept over the edge of the horizon, Kaisharra roused from her restless slumber. Sitting up, she peered around and caught sight of Ohinyan lying nearby. Both lions had moved off to hunt, feeling her safe enough with the ghost cat to keep watch. The soft sound of something stirring made her smile. Reaching over to her pack, she pulled back the flap covering a small pouch at the side. A small silvery reptilian head poked out from under the flap. Its eyes blinked against the light, and then the small dragonhawk wiggled itself free of the pack and fluttered up into the air. It hovered for a moment stretching its wings, then settled down on the elf’s shoulder to furl its wings up and twine against her neck.

“Good morning Lunaris.” Kai gently pet the tiny head. “I suppose you’re hungry?”

Perking its head up the dragonhawk slid down to her lap and then turned back to look up at her. She smiled and reached into the main part of her pack and pulled out some of the meat she had cooked the night before. Cutting a small piece off, she held it out to the small reptile. Thrumming with delight Lunaris set about eating the meat. Kaisharra looked over to where Ohinyan had been only to notice that the phantom feline had vanished.

Kai chuckled to herself, “Good morning to you too Ohinyan! Tell the boys to hurry back!”

Leaning against the rock, Kaisharra regarded the smoldering remains of her campfire. Lost in thought as she ate her own breakfast, the huntress didn’t notice the time slipping past. Only the shadows caused by two large lions stepping up in front of her, followed by their rumbled greetings drew the elf back to the present moment. Blinking back the ghosts of her memories, she smiled and hugged both furry necks.

“Took your time getting back didn’t you? It’s almost midmorning.” She sighed as she cast a glance at the position of the sun. “Oh well, we should still be able to reach CampTaurajo before the hottest part of the day. We can rest and re-supply there while I pick up Falyn.”

Shaking her head, she remembered trying to explain to the stable master of Camp Taurajo what happened to her hawkstrider, Falyn. The hawkstrider was still young and Kai had not had him for very long when a sudden hyena attack had caused the nervous bird to bolt, throwing Kaisharra. In him panic, the bird had injured himself enough so that Kai didn’t want to try riding him for a while. The Tauren had assured Kai that the hawkstrider would be cared for and back in shape for riding when she returned. Now it had been a week and Kaisharra was on her way back to Camp Taurajo.

Kai gathered her things together, slung her pack over her shoulder and checked the fire spot one last time to make sure it was cold and out completely. Satisfied that things were in order, she set off towards Camp Taurajo, with both lions padding along on either side of her. Although she didn’t see Ohinyan around, she knew the ghost cat would not fall behind. Lunaris fluttered along darting between Kaisharra and the two lions. Often when she got tired of flying, the little dragonhawk would land on one or the other cat and ride on them.

Three hours later, as the huntress and her companions were just able to see Camp Taurajo on the horizon, Kaisharra stopped to take a drink from her water skin. After she shared some with her pets, she stood up and tilted her head, thinking she had heard something. Glancing at the two cats and seeing both with ears also pricked forward, her thoughts were confirmed.

“Let’s go, something didn’t sound right.” Her pace quickened as the hissing screech seemed louder, more desperate the second time she heard it.

Veering her path toward a small cluster of the stunted scrub trees that grew in the Barrens, it became obvious that a severe sand and windstorm had passed through this area. Tree branches littered the ground and a sudden flash of red caused the huntress to hurry forward. The source of the sound was revealed as she moved a few broken branches.

*HIIISSSSSS* The serpentine head snapped forward trying to bite out of fear and self-defense.

Taku’skan growled and stepped forward, teeth bared. Kai looked back at her companions and stepped away from the serpent.

“Hush both of you; it is just hurt and scared. I’ll be fine, now back up so you don’t scare it worse.” She sat her pack down and pulled out her tattered blanket.

Returning to the serpent she surveyed the situation. From the looks of things, the wind serpent had been caught by the branches as the storm snapped them. It had probably been sleeping or trying to seek shelter from the storm. Gently she put the blanket over the serpent’s head, and placed one hand on the neck to try and stop the thrashing. She spoke softly, trying to soothe the frightened reptile as she worked to untangle its wings and body from the twisted branches.

Exhausted and weakened from its ordeal the wind serpent stopped struggling and Kaisharra was able to free him from the branches and take a close look for injuries. One wing had been damaged, not broken but bruised enough that it was painful when the serpent tried to move it. Making a temporary bandage and wrap out of her blanket, the elf picked the reptile up.

“Come on, this poor thing needs more attention than I can give him here, we’re almost to Camp Taurajo.”

*************

The ebony hawkstrider spotted his mistress from the stable yard and screeched a greeting as he stretched his wings. The tauren stable master smiled as he stood up from tending to a wolf also in his care. Waving he stepped out of the stable yard to meet Kaisharra.

“You look concerned, hunter, what is wrong?”

Kai nodded, “I’d like you to help me look over this fellow, I think his wing is hurt but it didn’t seem actually broken.” She held the bundled wind serpent so that the Kelsuwa could see.

“Ah, so you’ve found another one eh? Alright, bring him inside and we’ll see what the matter is with him.”

They moved inside the small building that served as Kelsuwa’s home and part of the stables for smaller creatures. Laying the wind serpent on the table, Kaisharra carefully undid the wrapping so that the tauren could examine the reptile. Freed from the tree branches and somewhat rested from being carried this far the serpent spooked at being handled again, this time by the much larger tauren. Hissing, he bared his fangs and struggled to move. Kaisharra moved around to the other side of the table and gently stroked the feathery crest on the serpent’s head, speaking softly. His pale yellow eyes locked on her and the hissing stopped, and although he didn’t relax, at least he stopped struggling.

Tilting his head, the tauren observed quietly while he also finished his examination. “Well, the good news is that it only appears to have been bruised badly. I would suggest not letting him fly, although that may be more difficult to do than to say. He needs a good feeding and plenty of rest, but given that he should make a full and quick recovery.”

Kaisharra smiled and nodded, “Let him up then, we’ll see what he does. I’ve got a bit of meat left in my pack too, I’m sure he is hungry. I’ve no idea how long he’d been stuck under those branches where I found him.”

Kelsuwa nodded and stepped back, letting the wind serpent go. Turning over, the reptile hissed at him, then coiled the lower part of its body up as if to brace himself as he spread his wings, flinching from the pain in his left one. Kaisharra placed a slice of the meat from her pack onto the table near him, moving slowly so as to hopefully not startle him into trying to fly away. The serpent lowered his head, tongue flickering over the meat briefly before he gobbled it down in two bites.

Kelsuwa stepped over to her, stopping when the serpent hissed angrily at him. He handed her two bowls, one filled with water, and the other with fresh meat. “Here, give these to him. I don’t think he trusts me.”

She nodded and placed the bowls on the table. The reptile eyed them suspiciously but the scent of food and water overwhelmed his caution and he lowered his head to the bowls. Kaisharra smiled and motioned for the stable master to follow her outside.

“Yes?”

“Thank you for your help. How’s Falyn?”

The tauren chuckled, “Help? All I did was confirm what you had already figured out. As for Falyn, he’s fine and ready to go. I think that serpent in there is going to be going with you too, you name him yet?”

She laughed, “I have thought of a name, but we’ll see. I’ll stay in Camp a day or so and let him recover. If he stays when he’s able to fly well again, then I’ll go ahead and name him.” She walked over to greet her hawkstrider who fluffed his feathers and squawked for attention.

*************

The huntress and her companions spent two days in Camp Taurajo. The wind serpent had recovered quickly with the rest and feeding she had given him, and just as Kelsuwa predicted, the reptile had bonded himself to her. He was flying freely, but he would return to her and either hover around her, or drape himself across her shoulders, tucking his wings against his body. As Kai checked the last of the necessary packing, she reached up and gently smoothed the serpent’s crest down.

“So you mean to come along with me do you?” She asked him. The reptilian head turned slightly to look up at her, and then the inner eyelid closed. To him, it was settled and he was prepared to sleep for the time being. “Well then, I shall call you Luta’wi’chante.”
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