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Serendipity - A Coming of Age Story (Complete)
((So, uh, I've been bored on my train to work... *rubs the back of her head and grins sheepishly*))

It was raining deep in the wilds of Feralas. Normally, this unexpected shower wouldn't faze even the weakest of adventurers. In better circumstances, it might have even been pleasant. However, on this particular day, in this particular place, the rain did more than halt the adventuring of Galerunner Fartotem.

It made her wolf irritable.

Galerunner glanced out the opening of her little cave and let out a soft sigh. For three hours now she had been cooped up in that cave, and she was getting bored. And angsty. /Shuh'halo,/ she thought as she stared glumly at the rain, /are meant to run free. Not be wedged into some hole in a mountain-side./ Aloud, she muttered, "This is all your fault. We could be home now. Or, anywhere, really... safe and dry. Instead of in this cave. Damp." Her tail flicked with distaste. "And I need to get you to a healer."

In the rear of the cave, as far as he could get from the occasional plip-plip of rain that splattered into the cave, a huge black worg let loose a menacing growl.

Galerunner turned her head, clear pale blue eyes gazing at the dark shape from under a wide-brim floppy hat. "All right, no healer. Just let me look at your leg-" The growl took on a sharper edge. Galerunner sighed again and faced forward. She tugged the brim of her hat down lower.

Only a few hours ago, huntress and worg had been traveling together, moving through the jungle at an easy pace. Galerunner's latest infatuation had stemmed from the Lunar Festival and its world-spanning coin collection. Eager to collect all fifty of the mysterious coins, she had immediately set out. A rumor of an Elder hidden in Feralas had been all it took to get her scouring every nook and cranny of the verdant jungle for that now-familiar pillar of light.

That is, until Flint, gamely trotting alongside her, had gotten his leg caught in some trap or other (probably left lying around from some random hunter out reducing the yeti population). The resulting high-pitched yelp had her off her kodo in less than a moment, cutting her fingers as she pried the trap open enough for her injured pet to withdraw his left forepaw. A brief glimpse of dark blood, matted fur, and then, to her total surprise, the wolf was off, running and vanishing into the jungle before she could even call his name.

Naturally, she followed. Despite his injury, Flint moved with startling quickness through the overgrowth. Twice, she nearly lost his trail. The rain, which started only minutes later, only made her search that much more miserable. Finally, panting, huffing, and dripping water, she had crawled into a cave to find Flint curled up over his wounded leg. Since then, whenever she had tried to get close he'd set to snarling so loudly and fiercely that she had no choice to back off.

Three hours later, with no end to the rain in sight and her supply of songs exhausted, she was starting to get worried. What if Flint's leg became infected? What if he got sick? What if he got hungry and realized that she had left her supply of quail in her kodo's saddlebag? She did not want to be around him when that happened...

"Why must you be so stubborn? We have been together a month, surely in that time you would know that I mean you no harm?" Silence from the worg. Galerunner continued. "What must I do to make you trust me?" An agitated rustling sounded behind her as the worg shifted position. A sharp grunt of pain.

Galerunner closed her eyes. Took a deep breath. She turned around, scooting closer to Flint, and ignoring his low warning growl. She softened her tone. "Perhaps... you are afraid, being injured in a strange land with someone that you have not known for a very long time. I do not know how your old masters treated you, but it must not have been well, yes? But, know that I am not like those mean orcs. I do not want you to be scared of me."

Amber-gold eyes fixed on Gale's blue ones, staring at her in that disconcerting way that all wolves shared. But he had stopped growling.

Galerunner met that gaze calmly for a moment, thinking. Then, she tilted her head and smiled warmly. "Would you like to hear a story?"
It was the fiercest battle either opponent had ever faced. For hours, their deadly duel raged across the length and breadth of the sprawling Barrens savannah. Animals fled in mortal terror as they approached. Centaur and Tauren alike had taken cover, lest they draw the attention of the combatants. Even the mighty kodo, the lumbering juggernauts of the land, had steered clear of the epic battle in the making.

An eternity passed as the duo fought. Both were equally matched, neither gaining the upper hand for more than a few seconds. Each thunderous crash of blade on blade flattened and cracked the ground for leagues around them.

Suddenly, in a bold and clever move, the mighty Tauren warrior slipped inside her opponent's guard, knocking him to the ground. She raised her sword high to deliver the finishing blow. The earth held its breath in expectation. The air was fraught with portent. Time itself paused, heavy with-


The mighty Tauren warrior yelped in alarm and spun, bringing her sword to bear on the looming shadow that had snuck up behind her.

Long used to her daughter's mannerisms, Tomia Fartotem didn't so much as blink as she caught the stick in one strong fist before it smacked her in the face. Frigid hazel eyes gazed sternly down at the tall, gangly youth whose muzzle was turning an interesting shade of pink beneath short white fur.

"What are you doing?"

"I... Uh... Er... That is..." Galerunner hemmed and hawed, growing more flustered and agitated and mortified as her mother continued the icy gaze. She released her end of her wooden "sword", opting to stare at a point just above her mother's ankles.

"I've been calling you for ten minutes. Didn't you hear me?"

Galerunner shook her head in silence.

"It doesn't take two hours to get firewood."

The tips of Gale's ears were blazing red, she could feel it.

"And have you done /any/ of your chores yet?"

Galerunner's wince spoke volumes.

Tomia sighed. "Silly mooncalf," she murmured. The ice in her voice had melted somewhat, and Galerunner, ever hopeful, lifted her head enough to give her mother a sidelong, wary glance.

The older Tauren, a vision of Galerunner's future (provided she grew another two feet and gained the muscle to go with her lanky and awkward figure) chuckled and smiled. "Back to camp with you, 'oh mighty Tauren warrior.'" She ruffled Galerunner's hair with one hand, and swatted her daughter's bottom with the stick in the other. Galerunner squawked indignantly and hopped sideways, out of her mother's range.

Tomia brandished the stick at her. "Get on. Before I string you up for the centaur to find!"

Galerunner, feeling bolder or foolish (or both), stuck her tongue out at her mother and grinned. "You'd have to catch me first!"

"Hyah!" Tomia swatted at her daughter again, but, true to her name the young Tauren was already off, speeding away from the only thing that could frighten any mighty Tauren warrior: a mother's wrath.
For as long as Galerunner could remember, the Shuh'halo had always been nomadic wanderers, and the Fartotems had a tendency to wander farther than most. This season found the small tribe (sixteen souls strong) far north of their kinsman, perilously close to the towering trees that marked the foreboding border between the Barrens and Ashenvale.

Despite the small size of her tribe (or perhaps because of it), there was plenty for a young Tauren bubbling over with energy to do. Within minutes of returning the clearing where the half dozen tents were sprawled out, Galerunner found herself:

-hauling water-
-harvesting firewood-
-airing tents-
-washing clothing-
-checking snares-
-feeding the kodos-
-watching the stew-
-watching her cousins-
-watching her cousins spoil the stew-
-disposing the ruined stew-
-hauling more water for the new stew-
-and a host of other duties in a line of duties that never seemed to be done.

By the time night had descended, Galerunner was exhausted, but in that "good day's work" kind of way. She ate heartily, curled up in her bedroll in her family's tent, and promptly fell asleep.

Half-formed voices chased her down, nagging at her. One of them said her name.

An ear flicked. An eye opened.

There it was again: her name. Someone was talking about her.

She rolled over, fully intending to go back to sleep. But once it had sunk its talons into her, curiosity tugged and tugged until she was fully awake. Carefully, she rose and crept outside.

A single campfire still burned beneath a sky decorated with hard bright diamonds. Two dark shapes sat around the fire, speaking in low tones. Moving with all the stealth of a youth not yet used to her rapidly growing body, Gale snuck closer until she could discern individual words.

"...it is her choice," Skunkstripe said. Tall and imposing, Skunkstripe was near-invisible against the backdrop of the night sky. The dark-haired Tauren, so named by the thatch of bright white hair streaking his otherwise black mane, was the chief of the Fartotem tribe. He was also Galerunner's father. He sat on a log, his large hands fletching the last few arrows from a stack at his hooves with surprising speed and nimbleness.

Opposite the fire, half-shrouded in shadows, Tomia stood facing her husband with arms folded. "And when will she make that choice? She should be apprenticed by now, beloved. Every year that she is not is another year she falls behind her peers." Her mother sounded angry and frustrated and concerned, all at the same time. "How long will we allow her to gallivant around as if she's child? A decision must be made, and it must be made soon."

"She cannot decide if she does not yet know what she wishes to be. Do not worry, beloved. Galerunner will make the right choice." Her father lifted the arrow he had finished binding, sighting down its length to judge its straightness. "When she is ready."

"Pfagh." Her mother, ever the warrior, begin to pace, never content to remain idle for long. "I would not be so worried if she would simply pick a vocation and /stick/ to it. Everyone knew Stonemaur would be a shaman almost from the moment I birthed him. But she-" Tomia shook her head. "How can she be so fully involved with something one moment and completely disregard it the next?"

Skunkstripe chuckled, a low, baritone laugh that rumbled out of his chest. "Do you remember four years ago? When she swore up and down that she was going to be a tanner? One week she was fostered to Rabbit before he returned her to us, all of her dyed head to hoof that weird green color. It must have taken weeks before her original hair color grew back!"

Tomia paused in her steps to look at her husband.

"And do you remember two years ago, when she had decided to take up the druidic arts like Brother Wolfsbane? All summer she badgered us to let her travel with him and, when we finally did, she came back three days later covered in welts from a nettle bush she had fallen into, trying to save that prairie dog from a snake."

Tomia snorted.

"And now, as you've told me, she's been terrorizing those self-same prairie dogs. 'The mighty Tauren warrior' is she?" Skunkstripe propped his elbow on his knee, grinning up at his scowling wife. Laughter danced in his light blue eyes. "You should be happy that she is finally showing an interest in your profession, beloved."

"I would be happier if she maintained her interest- in anything- for more than a handful of days."

Skunkstripe chuckled again. Setting aside his last arrow, he rose to his feet. "Come, beloved, the night is young, and so are we. It is the Fartotem way to explore every possible avenue, to journey along all possible paths. Galerunner will make her decision when she is ready, and not a moment before."

"It is the Fartotem way to daydream and wander about in both body and mind, you mean." Tomia smirked as she walked over to her husband. "Truly, I do not know what I was thinking when I decided to marry into such an easily distracted tribe."

Skunkstripe's smile took on a roguish cast. He lifted his wife's hand, kissing her palm, and kicked dirt onto the fire with his hoof. "Allow me to remind you."

As the two Tauren slipped into the night, Galerunner returned to her bedroll. It was a long time before she managed to fall asleep again.
Gale I just wanted to slip in a small note. This is some of the most natural seeming writing I've seen in a long time for fan fiction. You've got a wonderful touch for this and I hope to see it continue onward.

((Thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. Smile ))

Dawn came to the Barrens, shrouded in a veil of clouds that spoke of coming rain. However, long before the first touch of grey graced the sky, Galerunner was up and about, gathering the final items for her journey.

She had decided to travel light. In addition to her knife, she had only a small pack loaded with a couple of waterskins, some dried meat and a few loaves of hard, coarse traveling bread, and some bandages she had filched, in the event of an emergency.

As predawn stole its way across the eastern sky, Galerunner snuck past the ring of tents that encompassed her camp, past the two large kodos that served as pack animals, to the top of a small hill. From here, she figured, she could survey the surroundings and choose a suitable starting direction before the rest of the camp roused themselves in a couple of hours.

That is, until a shadow moved into her path. "Going somewhere?"

"Greatmother!" Galerunner laughed and surged forward, hugging the elderly matron of the Fartotems. "You scared me! I did not know anyone was awake!"

"This old body does not need as much sleep as it once did." Amaka was barely taller than Galerunner herself. Her mane and muzzle had long since gone grey with age. But her grip was still strong, and she moved with the grace of one half her near-century... even though she had long since gone blind.

Amaka gave her granddaughter an affectionate squeeze. The two of them crested the hill together, arm in arm, and Amaka, moving as though she could still see, sat down. "Now, granddaughter, tell me what is wrong."

Galerunner did. Seated across from Amaka, she poured out her thoughts and dreams and fears. She recounted the conversation she had overheard last night. Her restless, sleepless night. And her ultimate decision, arrived at only a few hours before.

Amaka listened in silence, rheumy eyes fixed on Galerunner with an intensity, a sense of "seeing", that many strangers found disconcerting but the young Tauren found comforting. When Galerunner was done the sky was noticeably lighter and Amaka sighed. "That is quite a decision you have made, granddaughter... to go on a journey of self-discovery. But you are young, and smart, and very spirited. I am sure you will do well." She kissed the top of her granddaughter's head. "I give you my blessing, granddaughter-"

Galerunner beamed.

"-and I'll do my best to keep your parents from hunting you down and strangling you to death once they have discovered that you have left," Amaka finished blithely.

Galerunner's jaw dropped open. She blanched. "They- they wouldn't..."

"Well, no, not your father. But most certainly your mother would, yes. I suggest you start running." The old druidess cackled.

Galerunner bleated and scrambled to her feet. She recklessly plunged down the side of the hill, and had managed two steps before-


At the sound of her true name, Galerunner whirled around and nearly fell. A hatchet thunked into the grass at her hooves, blade sunk into the soil, haft still quivering slightly from the force of Amaka's throw. Amaka called out, "Take it, Mikala, and know that the Earthmother guides you in your journey!"

Galerunner bent and tugged the axe free, slipping the weapon into her belt opposite her knife. She waved to her greatmother. "I'll be back soon!" And took off in a steady, ground-eating lope.

By the time her mother's outraged "SHE DID WHAT?!" echoed through plains, Galerunner was miles away.
For a day and most of a night, Galerunner ran.

Straight west, unwavering, pausing only to refill her waterskin at the occasional stream or creek, for in a vast savannah water could be a precious thing. She encountered no one, saw nothing, and for many a league the only thing that accompanied her hoofbeats were the steady cadence of her thoughts.

Chief among them: what /was/ she going to do with her life?

Short answer? She didn't know.

Well then, she reasoned, what would she /like/ to do?

Everything, she argued. That was the problem, remember?

Oh, c'mon. She didn't like /everything./ She hated mushrooms. Fishing was the dullest thing in the entire universe. And the next time Mother had her mending tents all day, she had sworn she was going to go mad.

...all right. Well, that ruled out herbalist, fisherman, and tailor.

She supposed so...

And a druid, as she painfully remembered, was no longer a consideration.

Maybe she could be a shaman, like her brother Stonemaur?

Galerunner came to a stumbling halt, laughing so hard that she had to sit down for a moment. Finally, she wiped the tears from her eyes, pushed herself up, and continued on her way.

All right. Fine. Not a shaman. What, then?

A blacksmith? Like cousin Arnok?

Eh. Then she'd have to spend all day in a hot forge, banging away on metal, with scarcely a chance to see the sun from dawn to dusk. No thanks.

Okay, okay... moving on. Alchemist. She had always been fascinated by the concoctions Aunt Fleethoof had been able to create out of some water, a handful of herbs, and a mortar and pestle. Wouldn't it be fun to learn how to that?

One problem with that, she pointed out. Picking herbs? Herbalism? Herbalism bad?

Oh. Right. Forgot about that.

Uh huh.

She wasn't making a lot of progress, was she?

No... no. Not really.

Galerunner gusted out a sigh and slowed her pace to a walk. Eventually she came to a stop at the edge of a dry riverbed. A rocky ledge protruded out over the bank, and she took a seat, legs dangling over the side. Above her, a star-studded midnight sky whirled on impassively.

She flopped onto her back, staring up at distant stars. "Earthmother, tell me... what am I supposed to do?"

It was at that moment that the creature materialized from the darkness and fell on top of her.
Galerunner this is truly wonderful work. I have been reading SciFi/Fantasy for years and your skill is on par with them. I am greatly looking forward to more. Have you ever thought about publishing your work? I think you could.

<eagerly awaiting the continuation>
((Thanks! I've been writing fanfiction for... geez, five years now? I'm still considering the publishing thing. Smile ))

Dawn rose over a bleary-eyed Galerunner.

She sat on her ledge, dozing off, only to jerk her head up again every so often and peer suspiciously at the creature a few dozen yards away. Her eyes were bloodshot; her mouth dry as the riverbed below. A small stack of rocks were piled beside her, within easy reach.

In front of her lay the smoldering remains of a small fire. She had made it hastily, to give her light while she had worked throughout the night, and now it was finally going out. Tiny tendrils of smoke curled their way upwards whenever one of the few remaining embers snuffed out.

On the other side of the dying fire lay the Night Elf.

Or, she thought it was a Night Elf. All she really had to go on were childhood monster stories of fire-breathing half-Tauren, half-tree folk and the occasionally glimpsed horned-shade when her cousins had dared her to enter Ashenvale four years ago.

The creature before her, despite having hair the color of pine needles and bluish-grey skin, certainly didn’t look like it was half of a Tauren. It was smaller, for one thing. And it had five fingers on each hand. Weirdest of all, it didn’t have a tail. She wasn’t so sure about the half-tree part, since those ten wiggly things under the worn foot-wraps MIGHT have been roots.

She was definitely sure it was male. She had checked while bandaging it last night.

If it was a Night Elf, then she had to wonder what it was doing way out in the Barrens. It’s only clothing consisted of some blood-splattered breeches and those footwraps. The myriad of slashes and bruises along its bare chest (and the fact that it had passed out on top of her) suggested it had been in a fight. Recently. Perhaps it had escaped from somewhere. Or someone.

As much as she would have loved to dwell on such speculation, though, Galerunner had an altogether different concern on her mind.

Her eyes slipped shut, just for a moment, and they snapped open again to see the wolf sniffing the Night Elf’s shoulder.

"Hah!" She launched to her feet, launching a rock at the beast. It dashed away, unhurt, to a distance of twenty feet, and stretched out on its stomach facing her. Yellow eyes stared at her, unblinking. It looked amused.

The big grey wolf had appeared shortly before dawn, ghosting into Galerunner's view. It hadn't come close, but simply had stretched out on the grass and watched her. It seemed determined to get to the elf. Galerunner, naturally, would have none of it.

She retook her seat, bouncing another rock in her palm. "I see you," she grumbled. "...you can't eat it. Would ruin my story if you did. What kinda ending would that be if I said-" Her eyes closed, her head dipped, and she jerked herself awake again. "-'and then the wolf ate the elf.' Can't go home with that kind of ending. Mother would kill me..." Her head drooped again.

The wolf's ears pricked up. It rose and crept closer, eyeing her warily.

Galerunner twitched, a loud snort bursting from her.

The wolf dropped to the grass, slowly creeping forward a few feet on its belly. When she didn't react, it got up and trotted a few steps forward. Paused. Trotted closer. Got close enough to sniff the Night Elf again, eyes fixed on Galerunner's form.

Galerunner exploded to her feet. She lunged at the wolf, which was already running away to a safe distance, tripped over the elf's body, and crashed to the ground.

The wolf made an unusual chuffing/wheezing sound. Ancestors above... it was LAUGHING at her!

Snarling, Galerunner took off after the wolf.

Up and down the river course they ran, the wolf outpacing Galerunner with hilarious ease. Down into the riverbed, hooves and paws kicking up silt. Up the other bank, where she ran into a cloud of gnats.

Coughing and spluttering and spitting out small bugs, Galerunner halted.

The wolf stopped as well a short distance away. It sat and watched her, tongue lolling, jaws gaping in a too obvious wolfish grin.

She peered at it. "You did that on purpose."

The wolf chuffed. Yep. Definitely laughing at her.

She scowled. "Fine. Then I am not chasing you anymore." And moving stiffly, she clambered back down the riverbank, headed for the opposite side.

The wolf yipped in surprise.

Halfway up the other bank, she glanced over her shoulder at it. The beast was at the edge of the bank, looking down at her. She snorted, and resumed her climb. "I am serious. I have to look after my elf." Gaining her feet, she turned to shoo the animal away. "Go bother somebody else."

The wolf was still sitting there, still staring after her, as she returned to her camp and went promptly to sleep.
An ant explored the short savannah grass, antennae waving as it prodded the entrance of the cavern before it. What was this thing? Where did the tunnel entrance lead? Was there food at the other end?

And then it was sucked into Galerunner's nose, and its only thought was "Oh crap."

The Tauren youth sneezed explosively, startling herself awake. She sat up, coughing and snorting and rubbing at her nose with a finger to dislodge anything else that had found its way inside.

A glance at the sun proved that only a few hours had passed, which helped explain why she felt terrible. Her eyes still felt grainy. She had a headache. Her stomach rumbled loudly, reminding her of other needs.

She rubbed her eyes and gained her hoofs, stretching with a soft grunt as various aches made themselves known from her nap on the hard ground. Some food was definitely the next order of the day. She surveyed the unbroken grasslands around her and wondered if-

The wolf's ears perked up as she spotted it. Half its body was d#@!&d across the elf's legs. It gnawed on a bone held beneath one forepaw.

Hands on her hips, she glared at the animal. "Didn't I tell you to go away?"

The wolf had paused as she had spoken. Then it resumed its gnawing, not looking the slightest bit apologetic.

She stalked forward. "If that bone used to be my elf's arm, you will be sorry." She shoved the big wolf off the elf's legs. It growled in irritation, but took its bone and trotted a short distance away to resume its snack.

Glaring at it, Galerunner examined the elf's body, checking his bandages. He didn't /look/ chewed on, but one could never be too certain.

The elf's hand clamped onto her wrist. "...wa..."

Galerunner shrieked and scrambled away, drawing her knife. "DO NOT EAT MY SOUL!"

The elf sat up slowly. He buried his face into his hands for a moment, then turned to look at her. Eyes the color of burnished gold, luminescence dimmed by the sun, examined her. "Wa...ta..?"

Wa-ta? What the heck was "wa-ta" supposed to-

"Ohhhh! You want water, not my soul!" Galerunner laughed and stood, sheathing her knife. "Sure thing. Wait here!" She trotted over to her discarded pack and rummaged through it until she found one of her waterskins. She handed it to the elf, who took it gratefully. He drank a good deal of it while she watched him avidly, crouched a few feet away. When done, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and handed the flask back to her.

"You are most welcome," she told him and grinned. "Now..." She dragged her pack closer and rummaged through it. "I do not know what evil elf demons such as yourself like to eat, other than my soul which you cannot have I would like you to know, but I hope you do not mind some travel bread. It is all that I have." She growled in quiet frustration, "If I could just find the-"


"Hm?" Galerunner lifted her bag up, peering into the depths. Where /was/ that bread?


"Swallow?" She said absently. "Is that your na-" She dropped the bag. "Sweet Ancestors, you can talk! Well, maybe not quite talk, but you know what I am!"

The elf laughed at her reaction. He pointed at her. "Suh•oo•ah•loo." He pointed at himself. "Kahl•door•ee."

"Kahldoor..." She blinked as the name came to her. "Oh, a Kaldorei! I never knew there were different names for demons. I guess I'll start calling you that instead of 'soul-sucking forest demon' all the time."

He lifted one long green eyebrow, clearly lost.

She giggled. "Ah well, I supposed it doesn't matter anyway, right?" She tilted her head. "I would offer you my birth name, but I do not want you sucking out my soul, so you may call me Galerunner."

He stared at her blankly.

She hooked a thumb at herself. "Galerunner."




"No, see you have to- Gaaaaaaaleeeee. Ruuuunnnnneeeeerrrr."


They stared at each other, the wolf looking back and forth between them in amusement. Finally, Galerunner sighed. "Mikala."

The elf was grinning, dangerously close to bursting out into laughter. "Mikala."

The wolf chuffed.

"This would be a lot easier if you spoke my language," she told the elf. "How do you demons suck souls if you can't even speak our tongue?"

The elf smiled, very amused.

"Perhaps you should meet Greatmother. She has traveled far in her youth, farther than any Fartotem. Perhaps she would know your tongue."

The wolf, lounging off to the side, jumped to his paws. He snarled at her.

"What? I think it is a good idea!"

"Hst!" The elf rose to his feet, glowing eyes searching about warily. He beckoned for her to stand and, when she did, he darted forward and snatched the knife from her belt.

She opened her mouth to protest, but a tickle, a sc#@!& of sensation clawed at the back of her neck. A half-glimpsed shadow at the corner of her eyes. A fetid stench, like rotting wood, washed over the trio.

The wolf lunged at the creature behind her, fangs sinking into its arm, and the knife that would have been in her back skittered along her left shoulder leaving a burning trail in its wake. She cried out and staggered away from her attacker.

Real demons burst from the air. Red-furred, horned and hooved, each bearing a wickedly curved blade coated a virulent green, the three satyrs ignored their wolf-mauled brother and closed ranks on the Night Elf and Tauren. The Kaldorei grinned and tossed Gale's knife between his hands, the weapon almost as large as a short sword. He didn't seem too concerned.

Utterly terrified, Galerunner fumbled her hatchet free.

Two of the satyrs lunged for the Elf. The third charged her.

Galerunner did what any mighty Tauren warrior would do: she shrieked, squeezed her eyes shut, and swung wildly.

Her axe connected with something that gave off a meaty thunk. A weight knocked her over, her head hit a rock, and the world went bye-bye.
((Sorry this took so long. Amazing what I'll write when I miss my train. *grins*))


Death had come to the Barrens.

The landscape stretched away from her, grayness as far as the eye could see, transforming the lush golden savannah into a desolate wasteland of nothingness. Half-glimpsed shades flickered in and out of her vision. Shadows danced in a fatal waltz, the participants unknowing and unseeing of the startled Tauren youth in their midst.

Was she dead?

The logical conclusion was yes, as she seemed to be a ghost herself. Her vaguely translucent hands no longer had weight. The grass poked up beneath her hooves, undisturbed by her presence. And there lay her body where it had fallen, pinned beneath the corpse of the satyr. A pool of liquid, black to her eyes, surrounded the two bodies, although who's was whose was anybody's guess. She could not even tell if she still breathed, nor could she move the satyr to check.

Around her the Night Elf and the wolf continued their fight against the three remaining satyrs. She could only see in flashes of movement: the satyr's lunge, the wolf's dodge, the Night Elf recoil as a wicked gash appeared in his side. The arterial spray of black blood as the elf struck so hard that he almost took his opponent's head off.

Elf and wolf seemed to be doing fine without her. And so, since she really couldn't do anything to help, she sat on the grass, well away from her body. She pondered death.

Truth be told, this was not how she expected to die. She had always figured she'd go down defending her family from marauding centaurs. Or from old age, surrounded by many, many grandchildren. Or in a baking accident.

This, though? This was kind of anticlimactic. Staid. Dare she think it... it was downright boring.

A soft chuckle. "You are not dead, Mikala Galerunner Fartotem. Although you are closer than you might like."

She leaped to her hooves and turned around.

How does one describe a god? How does one see the creator of not just your race, but of your entire world?

As a towering pillar of fire that put the sun to shame?

As a Shuh'halo warrior with eyes of flame and black armor and a crystal sword of such brilliance that it could cut starlight?

As an amused and teasing wolf?

No, just a lanky Tauren youth in some dusty clothes over her brown and white fur, the only colorful figure in this strange gray and lifeless landscape.

They stared at each other, the ghost and her double, colorless eyes fixed on dark blue.

"You're me!" Galerunner the ghost finally exclaimed.

The Earthmother laughed again. "Not quite, young daughter, not quite. I just borrowed your shape just a bit, that's all. I hope you don't mind."

"Oh, not at all, Earthmother!" She tilted her head. "Although, I am most curious why you chose to impersonate me?"

"Well..." And for a rather amazing moment, the goddess of creation looked a little petulant. "I had been meaning to reveal myself in your dreams. You have come a long way on a journey of self-discovery, and I was fully prepared to reveal to you the meaning of your existence, and the path you were meant to take in the world. However, that damn Elune got here first, and insisted on using you to help that elf of hers. Cited dietic necessity and some such nonsense." Fists on hips, the Earthmother scowled up at the heavens. "I got her first, you long-eared twit!"

A peal of thunder rumbled across the plains in reply.

"Hah! You couldn't hit the broadside of a kodo!" The Earthmother glanced at the youth. "She talks big, but she's really a big softy. And nearsighted as a goat." She cackled.

"Uhm..." Galerunner wondered what the punishment for interrupting a god was.

"Oh, don't look at me like that, young one. I'm as old as Time itself; I'm entitled to act a little senile if choose to do so."

"O-Of... course, Earthmother..." Galerunner stammered, wide-eyed.

"Now, back to this 'death' business. As I said, you're very close. The satyr's knife was poisoned, you know. Nasty stuff there." She clucked her tongue. "Simply awful. I'd cure you myself, but, then you'd start to believe that you were immortal. Like that damn Hotaur." She wagged a finger at Galerunner. "You stay away from him, young one. He's crazy. Or will be crazy, I'm never really quite sure. Time was never my strong point."


"I WILL, however, get you out of this jam that SOMEONE saw fit to place you in. As your death would fall under a certain moon-loving tree-hugger's jurisdiction- and she CERTAINLY does not want to deal with you in the afterlife- I'm going to bring you back to life. More back to life, rather. Take care now, young one!" And she snapped her fingers.

Galerunner's body, her ghostly one not her unconscious one, jerked so hard that it felt like every insubstantial bone in her form had suddenly snapped in half. Grey haze surrounded her, cold fingers drawing her back into unconsciousness.

She struggled against it, clinging to the quickly fading image of the Earthmother. "Wait! Earthmother! My purpose in life! What path am I to walk?" Her voice, to her ears, sounded strangely distant and flat.

The Earthmother, however, had already turned away, walking towards a road of light that stretched to the sky. She glanced over her shoulder. "What? Path..?" A hand waved in dismissal. "I don't know... go be a hunter or something. Stop bothering me and go back to sleep."

"Okay." Galerunner did.
Galerunner Wrote:And then it was sucked into Galerunner's nose, and its only thought was "Oh crap."

((I startled Utsusemi laughing incredibly hard at this! This is my new favorite line. Ever. Also enjoying the story!))
~Better a cruel truth than a comfortable lie.~ (Edward Abbey)
"Is she-"

"She breathes, and it is a miracle she does so. See here? And here? Where the demon's blood spilled, the ground and her clothes are scorched and pitted. Yet she herself remains whole."

"...nearly whole."

"The wound on her back is a scratch, nothing more."

"Yet she does not awaken. Is it the poison?"

"...Aye, it is. And a more virulent kind I have never encountered. Had she taken a deeper injury, and more of the poison, she would certainly be dead now. As it is, with this fever, I doubt she will last much longer. Perhaps not even through the night."

"Do not say such things! She is my daughter!"

"And you are my friend, Nightshade, and I've known you long enough to know that you won't appreaciate being coddled with empty promises. I haven't lied to you before, and I won't start now."


"What of the wolf?"

"What of it?"

"Doesn't it seem a little to, er, /attached/ to the girl?"

"Perhaps so, but I won't complain. That wolf led us here. Heh, I owe this mangy rapscallion my daughter's life."

"If she survives."

"She will."

"Why? Because she's your daughter and-"

"-and to stubborn and thick-headed to be taken by some middling poison or fever. And more. She is a Fartotem."

"Her blood is not."

"And not you nor I nor anyone will tell her otherwise. My sins, my debts and my duty to the Sect will die when I do, so it was decreed when I married the stranger, and so it shall remain. My daughter is a Fartotem and I will not have her growing up with the mantle of shame I still bear."

"You would have her ignorant of her birthright?"

"I would have her free, 'old friend.' Stay out of her life."

"Peace! No need to turn your sword on me, Nightshade. I'll respect your wishes. Can't say the same for the Elders-"

"Hmph. I've told the Elders what they could do with themselves."

"And I wish I could've seen the looks on their faces when you did! But... are you sure I can't convince you to bring her for even a visit?"


"Ow! Okay, all right! No need to be violent, even if you do it so well, Nightshade. But, come, those clouds tell me that rain is approaching. Let's get her into the tent so I can apply a poultice to that scratch."

"...you don't have to keep calling me that, you know."

"Why not? I do not know 'Tomia Fartotem.' Only you, Nightshade Shadowslayer."


"And besides, who are you afraid will hear us? Certainly not the girl, sick as she is. But, what's this? Oh ho! Her hand twitched! Maybe she's been concious and listening all along, hey? Heh heh."

"...arrogant bastard."

"So you keep saying yet, here I am, helping our daughter. Here, grab her legs. I've got her back. Carefully, now... lift on the count of three. One... two... thr-"
Excellent writing, keep it up, I am rivited, especially after the last installment.
"And that is how it ended. Well, not precisely like that, but I think that is a good enough place to end, if I say so. And I do say so because it is my story. Besides, I do not think you want to hear about the two weeks I spent lying on my back, to ill to do much of anything. Or how the wolf followed Mother and myself back to our home. Or the beratings I suffered for leaving so unexpectedly. Or how I eventually tamed that wolf after many days of getting him to stop eating my food.

("I named him Mistwalker, after my uncle's cousin's brother's father's Mother, who was also notorious for eating other peoples foods. There was this one time when Elder Mistwalker... But I am digressing-)

"I did what the Earthmother told me, and I have been very diligent in my hunter teachings. Or at least I hope I have. The Earthmother has not spoken to me since the day the satyrs attacked."

The massive worg's head lay in her lap, eyes half-closed and ears limp and floppy as it dozed. A brightly festive pink runecloth bandage was tied around its forepaw.

Oblivious to her pet's somnolence, Galerunner continued on blithely. "I never found out who that elf was. Or why he was in the Barrens with a bunch of satyrs. The Earthmother was most likely correct when she said that I had been sent by Elune to help the Night Elf, rather than the Earthmother sending the Night Elf to help me. Since then I have come a little closer to meeting Elune." A delicate shudder went through the Tauren's frame in remembrance. "I do not care to repeat the experience.

"I also did not discover who Mother was talking to, and I never saw fit to ask. It never struck me as vitally important, and there was just so much to do that I simply forgot it. And in a few years, Father died fighting the centaurs, Stonemaur and I journeyed to Mulgore to start our Rites of the Earthmother, and I haven't been home since then."

The rain had ceased an hour ago leaving the air laden with moisture and the distant sounds of birds calling to one another in early evening. The clouds had passed. Soon the stars would be visible; already the sliver of one moon ghosted the leaves and grass with a silver patina. Galerunner scratched her worg behind the ears with one idle finger, looking out into the falling night, but gazing inward as she rambled.

"There is a saying my tribe, and one that my Greatmother is very fond of using: 'A journey, once begun, does not truly ever end.' I often did not understand Greatmother; she may be wise, but she's also a little, er... the Goblins would say she is 'off her rocker.' Whatever that means.

"But I think that, in my case, Greatmother's saying has a point. I may have completed one part of my journey-" A small square of cloth, perfectly black against the stone of the cave floor, rested beside her. Faint red swirls of light twisted through the fabric, constantly in motion, sometimes forming words that Galerunner could understand. But she did not look at it. She knew what it said.

Who had mailed it to her was a mystery. The goblin that had delivered it to her just days ago would not say. But the stench of demon was strong on the felcloth. Its presence made her uneasy. She should get rid of it, and yet...

/Ware ye Shadowslayer./

To the worg and the night and herself, she murmured, "-but another part is about to begin."

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