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And now, something completely different…

Briaja studied the beautifully detailed drawings that adorned the walls of Dazalar’s abode. The tracker had drawn them himself, and the beasts showcased in them seemed almost ready to leap off the vellum parchments and come prowling out of their frames. One in particular caught her eye – a snow white lion tiny in the perspective of the picture, but arresting nonetheless. Dazalar caught her gaze lingering on it. “A rare beast that, and merely seeing it put me at great risk, for that is Echeyakee, king of the Barrens prides. He only appears to one of the Tribes who has completed a chain of spirit quests, and even then only for a short while. I was lucky that I chanced to be passing by when he was called.”

“He’s perfect,” Briaja breathed.

The autumn sun hovered just above the horizon, and dust shimmered up from a herd of antelope crossing the Gold Road. Briaja lay flat in a hollow screened by tall whispering grass, idly watching an orc child chasing a young worg in front of his family’s thatched hut. She knew enough of her own history to know what his forbearers had wrought on hers. But in watching the hordling child, she didn’t think the simple joy he took in his play was any different than her own recent childhood fun chasing the elusive wisps in the giant Tree Teldrassil. Maybe she would have felt differently had she been there, but as an orphan of the crash of the Exodar who had been raised by Night Elves wiser (and more impetuous) than most, she had no real connection to those past events.

The shadows stretched long, and still she waited. The boy’s parents called him in, and the worg followed. A chill began to settle over the plains, but the ground remained warm from the baking it took during the day. Still she lay silently. The oil lamp in the hut went out, and a slim sickle moon rose. She finally began to move, creeping well past the little hut before rising and loping beyond it into the low foothills. Another pair of hours passed before she saw the landmarks she had been told to look for…the bleached ribs of an ancient giant kodo.

She heard a low rumbling, and barely visible at the range of her sight she discerned a lump of sleeping fur that was one of the Barrens’ lion prides. A tall but stooped shadow detached itself from the larger shadow of an acacia tree and came toward her. The projecting tusks told her it was a troll. The angry mass of scar tissue running down his right arm told her this was the correct troll.

“I do dis ting cause I owe your sister my life. She pulled me from yon lion pack when I was a much yonger troll. Dis tho, settles de debt.”

Briaja nodded. The troll turned to face the bones, and produced a fragile whistle from his belt pouch. He pursed his lips and blew, cocking his head to listen afterwards. He nodded to her, then broke the whistle and scattered the fragments on the ground under the bones, and disappeared back into the shadows. A thin mist settled in from the higher hills.

The silence grew almost deafening, broken here and there by a snort from one of the sleeping lions. And then she saw it…a shape taking form in the mist, rapidly solidifying into the graceful and almost silent form of a huge moonlight white lion. He stood only twenty paces away, surveying the sleeping pride. Briaja dropped her ice spelled trap in front of her, and called him with the age old offer of friendship only one born to the ways of the trails can know. And like most wild beasts, his spirit answered the call even as he leapt at her with bared teeth. The trap held him, and she told him of the adventures they would have together if he would but come with her. He was strong and determined; it took all her will to bring him to her side, but come he did. He looked up at her with an almost comical mix of resentment and interest. She offered him a handful of kodo jerky, which he took with relish, and the resentment started to fade.

“Yes,” she whispered to him, “We are going to have many fine adventures together.”

He twitched his gorgeous mane in response, and they began the long walk home.


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