Bloodwen: Part VI
The bleached sands shifted under Teake’s hooves as he shuffled along. Steamwheedle shrank in the distance with each step. The giant sun dipped towards the horizon, bathing the sands and waters with pinks and purples. As twilight approached, the heat of the desert began to give way to the night’s cold.
He feared little for Sutera’s safety. The goblins would watch every move his blood elven companions made, not trusting them in the slightest. She would wait for him until he returned, his note reason enough to remain.
A skittering sound caught his attention, horned head swiveling around. A giant scorpion moved through the vanishing light. The animal had not seen him, else a shriek would have erupted from its maw, but the druid felt a stab of fear. He rushed to a nearby outcropping, hiding behind the boulders until the danger passed.
The tauren felt a flush of shame and anger wash over him. His gnarled, twisted hands ached. Had the Nightmare not claimed him, had Arthas not ripped his tongue from his mouth, the creature would have stood little chance. Teake was a druid, a master of nature, one of the most skilled in the Circle.
The way was blocked. He could not access those abilities.
He peered around the large rock, watching as the bulbous tail bobbed away. If he could not protect himself from such a simple, weak creature, how could he protect Sutera from those that would surely see her dead?
A mere week ago he would not have worried at all. She had been in full control of her abilities, had a firm grasp on who she was. Every time he was brought in from his sessions with the dreadlord, she would hold him, golden energies washing from her hands to heal him of his most recent wounds.
He held a hand up as he continued, eying the twisted fingers. Not this injury, though. Whatever the Nightmare had done was beyond her abilities. They were each scarred in a way. He without his voice and use of his hands, her with her memories wiped. Neither could access those wonderful magics that defined them. Cripples. That is what they were.
Teake did not know what happened that fateful day. She had departed under the watchful eye of the Talah’dorei, bound by her fel-imbued chains. Though she withstood all manner of torture available to the dreadlord, these simple, demon-blessed chains were her only weakness. They held her destructive powers at bay, allowing her only the smallest glimmer of restorative magic.
But that day…that day she returned, eyes vacant. She did not greet him as she entered. Indeed, a puzzled expression stole over her as she regarded her horned cell mate. She was not afraid, and of this he was glad. No memory existed of their time together, however, their deep bond erased in the span of a second.
At least she did not remember the Nightmare.
He shuddered, drawing his robes around him as if to protect himself from the memory. The Nightmare was all-devouring. It could sense the living, sense the strangers in the Dream. The forms it took were legion, its arrival heralded by black smoke, a bright flash of light, or even subtle changes in their surroundings. It was all Teake could do to keep them hidden, even with the talismans provided by the druids of Nighthaven. They stole their way to the Rimring, the large moonwell. Sutera retrieved her sample.
Then the talismans, one by one, flickered and died.
He shoved the thoughts from his head, refusing to relive the Nightmare’s grip. They had succeeded. That was all that mattered. Whatever long journey she had started ended with him. A short trip to the Plaguelands and her task was complete.
For the life of him, he could not recall what happened beneath the Chapel.
The small building loomed in the darkness, set against the darkening sky. He began his climb up the small hill, keeping an ear out for any of the mercenaries or pirates that lived nearby. Why his cousin decided to make his home so far from civilization--or even Thunderbluff--escaped him. He claimed it was for the peace, to hear the serene call of the ocean.
The small, blackened craters surrounding the path told him otherwise.
As he neared the door, a small object bounced its way around the corner of the small home. The boar was larger than those he was familiar with, plates of metal set into odd locations on its body. Blue and black, it regarded him with what could have been a jubilant expression. The creature bounded up to him, nuzzling against his legs as its small, tufted tail wagged.
Teake went to knock on the door, but found it painful to form a proper fist. He rapped with the back of his hand, each strike causing a small jolt of pain.
The door opened wide, the boar prancing inside as if it were the herald of his arrival. The tauren within enveloped him in a tight embrace.
“Ah, cousin, it is good to see you. The druids knew nothing of your whereabouts when I visited Nighthaven, fearing the worst.” Teake’s cousin closed the door, motioning him towards his cluttered table.
All sorts of instruments covered the benches. Spanners, converters, nuts and bolts lay scattered across every conceivable space. Small, mechanical animals scurried to and fro, some of them teetering on the edge of collapse as their coils and springs failed. Various schematics were tacked to the walls, most written in languages that he could scarcely comprehend.
Most, he assumed, were Gnomish.
“It has been a long while since we last spoke, Teake,” the tauren said as he produced two cups. “Last I heard you were on some important mission for the Circle.” He chuckled. “I told you getting involved with that Bronze was a mistake, despite her intriguing form.” His large hands pushed aside various bottles. “Darkmoon Reserve fine with you? Just picked up a fresh supply from the Faire.”
There, of course, was no answer.
He turned, frowning. It was very unlike his cousin to remain silent, for they often enjoyed long conversations over a hefty amount of Reserve.
Teake held up his hands first.
“Oh, cousin…what happened to you?”
He then motioned towards his throat.
Geargrinder set the drinks on the table,. “Here,” he said, plopping a strange, narrow tube into the potent alcohol. “It’s a straw. Something the goblins came up with. At least they have something useful.”
Teake looked at it doubtfully, then clamped his mouth over it.
“All right, let’s have a look,” his cousin said, wrapping a pair of goggles around his head. A lensed tube whirred out from one eye as he took one of Teake’s twisted hands. Another pulsed with some unexplainable light, flashing with each poke and prod. “Not healable, I’d wager,” he murmured, the opinion reinforced by Teake’s nod.
“I might have just the thing for you. Been working on some prosthetics for a while now.” He waved towards a corner bench. Teake followed the motion, looking at the various dangling limbs. His eye then caught sight of a leg embedded in the roof. His cousin followed the look. “Um…never mind that. It’s all perfectly safe.”
Teake snorted, bubbles gurgling through the alcohol. As safe as anything Gnomish could be, he thought.
“Let’;s see if I have anything that might fit.” As he rose, the boar pranced over, excited. Its little feet scampered along the ground as it sought to keep up with its master, letting out a great squeal of expectation.
It squealed again, stamping its feet.
The boar stared. Finally, it snorted and turned on its heel, pushing itself through the small opening in the door.
“Here we are.” He returned to the table, placing two large hands in front of Teake. They seemed a perfect match for his size.
The druid picked one up, the metal fingers clacking as they struck the table. He frowned. What did these do, he wondered. Summon mechanical chickens? Shoot glitter into the air?
“Now, it’s a bit complicated. Once I do the surgery, I’ll have to attach the gigalators to the compacted arcwhirlers. A simple fusing of the intermittent relays and you should be wiggling those fingers in no time.”
Teake raised a brow at his hands.
His cousin rose, crossing the small room. Just above the smoldering fire rested his weapons. He passed over the rifle, retrieving his battle-worn axe. Hefting it, he returned to stand in front of Teake. He motioned towards the Reserve, placing the full bottle in front of him.
“Better drink up.”
Outside, the boar trundled through the sands, waggling its tail as it chased some imaginary enemy. Charging, it would stop in a shower of sand, squealing as it announced its victory.
A blood-curdling scream ripped from the small home.
The boar cowered, hiding behind a cactus.