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Wait... weren't there three of you?
#1
In which Toranda is suddenly the baby of the family.

Midafternoon one glorious Sunday, Coranda putters about her home on Thunder Bluff. There's tea water boiling over the fire, potions brewing in their vials, a bed of wild steelbloom half weeded in a sunny patch in the corner, and a large tome propped up precipitously near the sink, where she is currently elbow deep in dishes and alchemical tools, humming away while she scrubs. A loud knock sounds at the door, startling her and sending the book clattering to the floor and suds splashing onto her apron.

"Aah! What? Who's there?"

She wipes her hands (futilely) on what she hopes are dry patches of her skirt, and scurries toward the front of the house. "It's open!" she calls.

Funny... I could have sworn I left the door open. And Amato never knocks anyway. I wonder what's going on?

The door is, indeed, open. Standing in the open doorway is a disheveled and tired looking Amato. Next to him, looking sheepish (and, if possible, even more disheveled) is a tall pale tauren warrior in dented and startlingly skimpy armor.

With a long-suffering sigh and a look to his wife that says: "She's your problem now," Amato shoves his guest through the door and tells her: "Here. Talk to your sister."

This mission completed, he shifts quickly into cat form and stalks off, muttering imprecations about in-laws, people with no sense of direction, and the things he does for his wife. The phrases “wouldn’t stop talking,” “smell can’t be natural,” and “maybe Oryx and Zlinka will let me sleep on the couch until she leaves” float by in the snarls.

Back in the house, Coranda stands openmouthed for a few seconds before launching herself happily at her sister. "Tor! You're back!"

Completely unprepared, Toranda finds herself bowled over by the force of her sister's hug/tackle/pounce and lands on the floor, laughing.

"Ow! You've put on some weight since .... last year? Mom Below, you're almost as heavy as little brother!"
Coranda blinks at the mention of their brother, but lets it slide for the moment. She untangles her legs from Tor and sits cross-legged on the ground, looking at her intently.

"Wow, it's really you. Where have you been? Last I saw you, you were planning to go off and find your name. Then I heard tell that you were battling demons at the front lines of the Portal..." She fingers Toranda's starburst-emblazoned tabard, at that. "... clearly."

Tor laughs and swats lightly at her sister, shrugging off the tabard as she stands up to stretch. "I'm not sure I'd call that the 'front lines,' exactly. I mopped up a few of the ones that snuck by in the frenzy, but it was too crowded there for my tastes. It takes a lot of room to swing this mace, you know..."

As she talks, she unbuckles the straps of her shoulder armor, twisting around and waiting for her sister to pick up the cue to help her. Once divested of those encumbrances, she works her way methodically through her armor, shedding pieces all over the floor.

“… anyway, I crushed a couple demons and set out to find my name. Teats of Our Mother! I don’t know how you did that so quickly. I wandered around for ages. I think I spent a week in Azshara alone, staring at those crystal formations and trying to hear Mommy Dearest speaking to me. Eventually, I gave up. If she wants me to bear a name, she’ll have to shout loud enough for me to hear it.”

By now, her armor is lying in crumpled piles all over what had previously been a clean (if cluttered) living room. Coranda sighs in resignation, kicking the piles out of the way and trying to concentrate on her sister’s scattered ramblings. Seeing her sister’s once-white fur covered in mud, she steers her out the door and into the shade of a nearby tree. A few well-flung globes of water and blasts of air later, Toranda is… if not clean, exactly, then presentable enough to not destroy the new clothes Coranda hands her.

“…. And that’s when I found myself in that awful ravine full of… what did you call them? Ravagers? Right, ravagers. Now there’s a pet I’d love to bring back to Coriakin! Remember when I hid those scorpids in his bed? That was hilarious!”

Hearing her brother’s name again, Coranda braces herself and starts to interrupt, but Toranda has already resumed her story.

“… so I decapitated the one on the left, but the one on the right got its fangs into my arm and pulled me off Stompy’s back. The thrice-damned spitter launched its venom at me, but totally missed and got ol’ Stomps in the face. By the time I’d killed it, the blasted kodo had run off, I was covered in icky green goo, and somehow my pack had spilled all over the area. You know, I really should get Cori to make me some new bags… these are all frayed and tiny! Stompy looked really spooked (and I don’t blame him, exactly… he’s getting old, you know), so I chased after him first, and wouldn’t you know it? He managed to stampede himself right into a fissure. It took me half an hour to calm him down.

Of course, sometime in all that, he stepped on a huge rock shard, and completely ruined the pad on his hind foot. I don’t do any of that fancy hand-waving that you two do, so there wasn’t much I could do but bandage it…and have you ever tried to put a bandage on an angry kodo? It’s gotta be like getting that deliciously grumpy bear of yours into bed.”

Tor grins broadly at this, leaping out of the way in time to avoid her sister’s swat… but not quite fast enough to avoid the ball of lightning winging its way at her head from the opposite direction. Both women laugh, and Tor continues her story unabashed.

“My luck being what it is, of course, the ravagers had gotten to my pack. One of them ate my hearthstone, I think…and my compass was broken beyond repair. All of my food was eaten or …well, you don’t need to know what happened to the rest of it. Suffice it to say, it reminded me why Cori forbade me from bringing pets into the house last time. Whew! I couldn’t get the stink out for weeks.

Of course, that meant I was as lost as, well… as lost as you usually are. Stumbling around the continent, looking for things to eat, killing things that tried to kill me… you know, the usual. Eventually, I wound up in that swamp over there… you know, the one with the... tall things? With the legs? And the glowing flying stinger critters. That place.

Well, of course, I was a little high-strung by that point. Some of those things have tentacles! So when I got buzzed by a bird moving faster than anything I’d ever seen before, I nearly took its head off. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be your husband! Mmm, talk about grateful. Not only was I saved, I was saved by a broad-shouldered bull with a big weapon. Life of the Earthmother! Coriakin must be jealous… his scrawny little tail couldn’t hold a candle to that gorgeous beartank of yours.

And those wings! I didn’t know they could fly. Did you know he could fly? I swear, I’ve missed so much in the past few months. I just bet Coriakin’s gone and dyed his feathers pink or somesuch nonsense...”

Under her dark fur, Coranda blanches. Name of Our Mother, how am I going to explain this? She still thinks Coriakin is around. And she’s been away so long…. She takes a deep breath to interrupt her sister, as the young warrior is pratting on obliviously.

“Tor…”

“… is he still training in Balance? All that lightning and whatnot seems like it wouldn’t mix well with flying. Who flies in a hurricane, anyway?”

“Tor!”

“Nope, not me. I can barely stay seated on poor ol’ Stompy, let alone fly…”

“TORANDA!”

Toranda slows to a stop, staring incredulously at her usually soft-spoken sister. Coranda is standing tensely, twisting the fabric of her apron between her hands as a corona of lightning swirls around her body. Surprised, Tor puts up her hands in surrender, trying to calm her:

“Spirits of Earth, Cora… it’s okay. I’m shutting up. I promise.”

She mimes ‘zipping her lips,’ and waits patiently for Cora to get over whatever is bothering her. Coranda takes a deep breath and relaxes, her expression melting from exasperation to a strange mix of worry and comfort.

“Tor… Cori’s gone.”

“Gone? Of course he’s gone. Your house isn’t big enough for two bulls, especially not those two. Where is he living now? Has he gone off to the big city?”

“No, no… he’s gone gone. Not here any more.” Coranda’s eyes well up with tears as she fights to stay composed while she explains what happened. Toranda just stares at her, not getting it.

“Not… here any more? Where else is there to be?”

“I… how much of the battle for the Portal do you remember?”

“Not much, really. Like I said, I just whacked some demons and went off to find my name. No sense in rushing off to fight when I can’t even get a good hit in.”

“Well… at one point, it got pretty bad. The demons were coming through so rapidly, our lines were being swamped. Some… some of the guilds had an idea. The mages would pool their energies to open another Great Portal. But… well, nobody is strong enough to make… to make another one like the first. And with demons streaming through, nobody wanted to try.

So… some of the druids thought that they could, er, route the portal through the Emerald Dream. I don’t know the details. I wasn’t there for it. But… Cori… Coriakin was. And you know him… Give him a crazy idea, and he’s out there on the front lines waiting to try it out.”

Toranda nods, still dumbstruck. Cora sniffles, getting herself under control. She takes Tor’s hand, and leads her to a low couch in a sunny corner of the front room. Dabbing her eyes with a corner of her apron, she continues:

“It... worked, sort of. Some of the largest guilds and strongest warriors lined up to go and hit the demons from behind. Whole families of fighters, stretching back generations… they stepped into the portal and vanished. And the demons... the demons slowed their attacks. We broke through their lines. We… won.

It was a pyrrhic victory, though. The Dream… it wasn’t meant to be a tool of war. It wasn’t meant to have so many people traversing it without knowing its ways. When … when the groups stepped in to return, it just… twisted and broke. Or that’s what the mages who were holding the portal open said. One moment, it was there… the next, they were holding on to nothing. It broke some of them… turned others mad. And the druids… none of the druids there ever woke from their time in the Dream.

We lost them. We lost every single person in the portal. About… it looked like a third of our population just disappeared into the air. None of the druids who dared walk the Dream after that found any sign of them… nor any Mages probing the Nether. It was like they had never existed.”

Coranda snuffles into her apron and hugs her sister hard, anticipating a storm of tears. Surprisingly, none are forthcoming. Toranda pats her sister fondly on the back and smiles with slightly watery eyes before bursting out with laughter. At a glare from her sister, she tries to explain:

“I know it’s not funny, but…. That’s exactly the sort of thing we always said would get him killed. All of those silly experiments and bizarre notions… remember the one about the owlbear pox and earth elementals? He couldn’t sit down for a week!”

Cora lets out a weak smile at this memory, but continues to sniff and dab at her eyes. Tor puts an arm around her, smoothing out her hair and leaning their heads together.

“… besides, he’s gotten himself into odder things than that. You said they all just vanished, right? Well, just think about how many people have vanished into portals, only to find themselves somewhere new. Heck, Mages get lost all the time, portaling when they’re tired or drunk. And you’ve seen what happens when a warlock’s summon spell gets misplaced, or someone tries a Goblin Transporter… if there’s an accident, you know. Remember when Valakhad tried to bring in that water elemental to show everyone?”

At this, Cora laughs. Her tears have cleared up, and she’s beginning to look more herself. Tor smiles and squeezes her arm.

“See? Our baby brother is probably fine. Thousands of people don’t just go missing without notice. They’re probably just deposited in some other realm, or thrown back in time or something bizarre like that. Isn’t that in one of your textbooks or something? The law of… conservation of… something or other? The one where everything’s got a place to be and a time to be there? Or is that the one where if you kick the world, the world kicks back? Anyway, it’s gotta be one of those.”

Coranda nods absently, counting something on her fingers. After a moment, she bursts out in a fit of giggles. Tor looks at her in confusion, as the punchline of her joke had passed by several beats.

“I .. I’m sorry, I just.. ha! It occurs to me that you’re the baby, now. You, who were the oldest for so long… now you’re the baby and I get to boss you around!”

Toranda gives her a long look before counting something off on her own fingers, and laughing in chagrin.
“Hah! You’re right. I am. Now things go back to orcish counting, I guess… you’re born first, so you’re the oldest. Whoda thunk it? I passed all the milestones before you, except, well… no, okay, I haven’t been the older one for a while, actually. You found your name before I did, you got married before I did… you reached the end of your studies before I did… I haven’t been your senior for at least … almost since we got separated, I guess. But I was always older than Coriakin… which had to count for something.”

“Only, now he’s in another plane, so it doesn’t count. Remember when Elder Sorehoof walked us through the story of the timelost twins? Once you leave the shared planes, you have to suspend your count until everyone can sync up again. That’s why it’s so hard to reckon a druid’s true age, because of all that time they spend in the Dream. I haven’t got a clue what my husband’s proper age is any more…only that he’s older than I am, which suits me just fine. Let him dance attendance on the Elders when they call.”

Both sisters are now laughing and smiling, relating stories of their childhood and reminiscing about all the time they’ve lost. A quick look out the door sometime later reveals that the entire day seems to have slipped away. Toranda’s kodo is stabled outside, next to the other family mounts, and her things have materialized in something of a neat pile, with only a few claw marks and fur tufts here and there. Amato, naturally, is nowhere to be seen… only a quick rippling in a deeply shady patch indicates anything out of place.

Coranda laughs and blows a kiss into the darkness as she closes the door, leaving a light on just in case. Her sister is home, her husband will get over it, and life is the way it should be.
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