The Beast Beneath [Part 3 of 4]

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The Beast Beneath [Part 3 of 4]

Postby Kaldur on Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:21 am

To the honourable members of the Order of Nature's Grasp,

I don't yet know if or how these letters will reach you. And perhaps by the time they do my name won't mean a jot to those who read it. Has it been years or centuries since I walked amongst you? The Other one here doesn't care to count the passage of time so I don't get to know. Anyway, I'll tell you more about him later. Right now - since I'm so rarely privileged to remember who I am - I'm going to tell you a little bit about me.

Where should I begin? Do you like stories? I could write a few good stories for you. I could write about the coward who became a mighty warrior. Or the unlearned Druid who became a Shan'Do. Sorry, but sitting here on the brink of my own existence, perhaps the time for self-modesty has passed. Maybe I should write about my glorious rise to become Keeper among you, or how I nurtured some of the most influential leaders of my time. I've fought great beasts, and made clothing of their skin. I've stared into the eyes of daemons and watched them die. I've absolved dark legends from histories best forgotten. I've helped the most unfortunate people's of this world survive and seen the unworthy perish in the ice. Yes, if you like stories I could write a few good ones for you.

But, enough of that. I'm kidding myself. There is only time for one more story and I know which story it must be. It's the story every writer waits a lifetime write. This story will be my last.

I have been Kaldur Winterwind, and this is the story of how I died.



~~~~~~~~~~~


Moonglade - 600 years ago

He always knew she would be the real challenge. He'd climbed mountains and swum across raging rivers. He'd healed wounds, countered disease, and tended to a broken forest. He'd shown great skill in befriending the wildlife, surviving off the land, and removing the taints of corruption he encountered. All the while she was there watching. It's difficult to sleep, eat, and relax when your nemesis stalks your every movement.

Yet, when she finally came at him, Kaldur couldn't help but cry out in surprise. As he rolled to escape, she yanked out locks of his long lank hair; which froze, turned brittle, and shattered between her icy fingers. His frantic feet slipped on the wet ground so that he slid and fell some twenty meters down the bank, coming to a stop in the mud. It was an accident, but it bought him the distance he needed. He looked up and met her hollow eyes. Those eyes didn't feel compassion or grant mercy. For a thousand years the Wraith had been locked in an eternal cycle of hate and revenge - seeking the deaths of those who had slain her kind. He should pity her really. But it's hard to pity something that terrifies you and chills your skin.

Run or attack? Fight or flight? He waited too long and suddenly she was upon him again. He knew he had to get out his dagger and defend himself. A well placed stab would break her grip on this reality and send her hurtling back to where she'd first latched onto him. Instead he froze. Her face reminded him too much of the last woman he'd fought. The Wraith was already dead, but his instincts weren't to be swayed by such reasoning.

I can't fight again. I can't kill again...

He slipped away inside his mind. He let the Beast take over and do its worst, working with his own limbs. He heard the growls his lips made. He felt the claws snag and tear. When it was over, the Wraith was gone, and Kaldur returned as a quivering pile on the floor.

"Stand, Thero'Shan." A voice commanded - it was powerful enough to silence the gossiping birds and still the leaves on the trees.

Kaldur wiped the tears from his eyes and spat the mud from his mouth. He rose slowly. Five Druids stood in a semi-circle before him, resplendent and serene. They didn't smile or frown, they were too great for that. One shook his head. Two of them turned their eyes away. One didn't even move in a way Kaldur could see. He had failed.

"Kaldur Winterwind, you have shown a good understanding of the natural forces, and a delicate approach to maintaining balance. But what you just did is not something we can condone."

Kaldur looked down at his feet. The short battle had brought it all back; the raid on the Highborne camp some 20 years ago. The face of the girl he'd killed. The Masters had designed the trial specifically to test his deepest fears. Somehow they'd known. Shame, he thought of himself. Murderer.

"The power we teach must be controlled by a calm and thoughtful mind. If you let fear guide your actions, you can only spread chaos."

I'm out. I'm done. He thought. Worthless.

"Spend another decade in the forests. Let them heal your mind. And when you are ready you can apply to rejoin the..."

One of the five stepped forward, interrupting his colleague, and moving to cast a looming shadow over the ground. Kaldur looked up. The figure before him was fierce - larger and wider than any Kaldorei he'd ever seen. Where the others wore leaves, bark or feathers; this one wore furs and bones. His hair was a tangled mess and his canines jutted out from inside his thin lips.

"I'll train him." His voice was like two rocks being scraped across each other.

"Gryr..." The lead Druid started.

"It is my right as Shan'Do to choose my own students. I'll train him."

The lead Druid looked at his companions and shrugged.

"Very well. Come brothers, our next applicant will be completing the trials shortly. Congratulations, Kaldur Winterwind. It appears you have passed."

The others departed silently, and Kaldur was left alone with the large Druid who continued to look down at him - glowing eyes studying him, as though picking the thoughts from his head.

"Master," Kaldur said softly. "May I ask why you..."

Gryr Bearmantle lifted the Staff from his back and stabbed it into the ground between them. As he took hold of it, orange flames burst along its length. Kaldur took a step back and regarded the Stave in awe. It must be some enchantment. It doesn't burn his hand or the wood...

"The others think you're broken boy. They think you're dangerous. They think the trauma of your past has left you unfit to become a Druid."

A predator never respects a creature if it thinks it too meek. Kaldur looked from the burning Staff before him and forced himself to meet the lopsided gaze of his new teacher. Gryr was quite clearly a Druid of the Claw - the most fierce of the Druid classes. Kaldur understood he was now to become one himself.

"And you think they're wrong?" Kaldur asked.

"Oh no, Kaldur Winterwind. I know you're broken. But sometimes you have to break a person to find out what stirs beneath their skin."

"Come, young bear. I have much to teach you."
Kaldur Winterwind
The Old Bear. Former Keeper of the Order of Natures Grasp.

Amaeya Moonsorrow
Priestess, Peacemaker, and a Shining Beacon of Silver Light

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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 1 of 4]

Postby Aariam on Tue Apr 05, 2016 9:42 am

Just the opening letter gave me shivers; and the idea of Kaldur dying is incredibly sad..

The happy part is that we're getting to see more of your writing, which is something I always want more and more of. :D I am happy that there are three more parts coming for us all to enjoy!

I may even have to take that letter and write a little something of my own...

Hope you're doing well Kal, and that the new warm climate is nice. ;)
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 1 of 4]

Postby Kaldur on Tue Apr 05, 2016 10:04 am

Hey Aariam,
I recently went back over the forum and realised how much I missed you guys! Its great here in Oz, but I don't think the time difference would make it possible for me to pop by.
I'm sad I never got to finish my last story about where Kaldur went, so hopefully this wraps him up (for now).
Kaldur Winterwind
The Old Bear. Former Keeper of the Order of Natures Grasp.

Amaeya Moonsorrow
Priestess, Peacemaker, and a Shining Beacon of Silver Light

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Killer of Highborne, Historys' Assassin, a Dark Legend - missing presumed dead
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 1 of 4]

Postby Aariam on Tue Apr 05, 2016 11:19 am

Kaldur wrote:(for now).


I like. ;)
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 1 of 4]

Postby Tenshylwin on Wed Apr 06, 2016 7:35 pm

That certainly was an interesting read, I really liked your take on how the druids reacted to the different elements. Looking forward to read more!
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 2 of 4]

Postby Kaldur on Sat Apr 09, 2016 2:07 pm

The Beast had been within me for a very long time. At least since I made that first kill. When I couldn't face the world, He was the perfect escape. He understood little of our morality, and never let me feel a shred of guilt.

Gryr saw something in Him. Some sort of feral aptitude no sane man could ever hold. All the years Gryr trained me, I understood he was teaching me how to make the Beast's strength my own: and how to utilise Him as I saw fit.

I never realised that Gryr's lessons worked both ways, and that one day I might become His tool.


~~~~~~~~~~


Felwood - One Year Ago

The scant leaves on the trees were brown and gold. Branches recently heavy with fruit, now hung bare and consumed. The ground beneath his feet squelched with the sound of mud and rot. The air smelt of death and decay even before Kaldur's keen nose picked out the scent coming from the cabin up ahead. The Druid frowned. The smell was one bad omen. The other bad omen was the map he held in his left hand, stamped with the mark of a Kaldorei he had long since presumed dead.

Kaldur cursed under his breath. He wasn't supposed to go looking for trouble anymore. Lynnayla had told him as much. 'Retirement' he had jokingly called it. Of course, few warriors could afford a retirement given recent events - but Kaldur could at least be allowed time to regroup and raise a family before rejoining his people's plight once again.

One knock, and the door swung inward, barely supported by its hinges. Fresh air met stale air, and daylight chased shadows deeper into the room. There were the belongings of a traveller in the doorway, discarded instead of unpacked. Kaldur pushed them back with his staff, before proceeding into the cabin.

A Kaldorei's eyes adjust quickly to the darkness. He could make out a bed and a fur bundle on top of it. The rise and fall of breathing coming from the bundle was so shallow he could have easily missed it. Creeping forward he stooped his staff down to the bedside table. Flames from the staff lit the candle that sat there and moments later the room flickered into a subdued amber light. The bundle on the bed stirred. Two faintly glowing eyes appeared from within it. Kaldur sighed. Even at the end of their life, he recognised those eyes.

"Kaldur," a thin gravelly voice rasped. "You came."

The figure began to sit up. Kaldur pulled a chair close to the bedside table, and sat so the light of the candle lit both their faces. He looked at the emaciated figure before him. His old master had been a huge Kaldorei once, with a character that dominated any gathering. The figure before him was almost unrecognisable, save for those eyes and pelts. The bearish man had shrunk within the same clothes he wore in life; now a scrawny body struggling to draw breath beneath his adorning furs.

"Gryr, did you really think I wouldn't?"

"I don't know, Kaldur. All these years and you never sought me out."

"I woke from the Dream and thought you dead."

"Hoped me dead maybe?" The dying Druid fixed him with an accusing stare, then shook his head. "But it is no matter. You came when called boy, and that is what counts."

Kaldur drew back from the flame so he could hide the look of contempt from his face. A few hundred years and he still talks to me like the boy I was. Gryr coughed a deep and rugged cough that spat flecks of bile and blood across his chin. Kaldur winced.

"Remember the battle with the Sicorat on Moonfire Hill?" Gryr Bearmantle rasped. "After 500 years its poison finally caught up with me. I always knew it would. There is no cure."

"I'm sorry."

The old Druid gave his hand a dismissive wave whilst he caught his breath. "Don't pity me, young bear. I've led a greater life than most, and still have some life left within me."

"Master, you never slept with us. I'd have known if you had. Where have you been all these hundreds of years?"

"Doing exactly what I told you I would. Whilst you and the others slept I laboured hard - completing my life's work."

Kaldur froze. His face went suddenly drawn and grey. "Gryr, you can't mean..." His breath caught and he felt a grip like frost magic inside his chest. He could almost hear what Lynnayla would say to him right now. Go. Run.

"If you want me to help you I won't." Kaldur said, shaking his head. "I never agreed with what you wanted to do. No one did."

Gryr's eyes hardened. Near death, he still had a gaze that could silence a room.

"Kaldur Winterwind. I don't expect you to complete my life's work. I doubt you even could. But - my time is almost up. You must give me the opportunity to show someone what I've been working on for all these years - to make someone understand. You at least owe me that."

Kaldur stood. He needed to put some space between himself and those intimidating eyes. Eyes that still held some power over him. He began to pace the room.

"What about the others? Emla... Laljoran... We could find one of them..."

"Dead, Kaldur. All dead. Of all my disciples, you're the last. It has to be you. You're the only one I trust enough with this. Come and see what I've achieved. That is all I request."

As he paced the room he could picture his home in Winterspring. They'd be asleep right now, Lynnayla and the baby. His mate would be naked and warm in their bed, waiting for him to return and curl up around her. If he left now he could be back in a few hours. They'd sleep together and rise to meet a new night.

Curses. He was going to let them down once again.
Kaldur Winterwind
The Old Bear. Former Keeper of the Order of Natures Grasp.

Amaeya Moonsorrow
Priestess, Peacemaker, and a Shining Beacon of Silver Light

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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 2 of 4]

Postby Aariam on Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:40 pm

It remains to be so very good. I'm just sat here, aching to read the next, and the last part. What has Gryr been cooking all these years?
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 2 of 4]

Postby Anhagath on Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:02 am

Image
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 2 of 4]

Postby Edradir on Tue Apr 26, 2016 12:33 pm

MOAARE! please.
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 3 of 4]

Postby Kaldur on Tue Apr 26, 2016 4:27 pm

When I woke from the dream I was such a confused thing. Fearing war I ran when I should have stood. I let the Beast in, when I couldn't cope with the realities of life. Only after my return from Northrend did I feel I had regained enough control of Him to re-enter Kaldorei society once more.

Even then, I never claimed to be a perfect person. I didn't deserve the love of those that gave it to me. People thought me wise, but too often I acted on instinct. Were those instincts mine or His? Was it me or Him that was compromised by emotions like anger, rage, love, and lust. Maybe he was just a convenient excuse for my failings.


-----------


She had tracked the two elf Druids all the way from Everlook. One was dying, both were weary. Here in the far north mountains she knew they must be nearing their prize, and soon it would be hers. He'd promised as much.

She'd taken all the right precautions. She should have been safe. The rocky crevice she'd chosen gave perfect shelter from the cold winds, and excellent concealment. The smokeless fire she'd built emitted its scent downwind of those she tracked. It was the little things that she couldn't appreciate that gave her location away; the way nature draws away from an intruder like oil in water, or how the harmony of the silent mountains bends and distorts around a stranger. It takes someone who has lived centuries to appreciate these things. It takes a night elf.

Kaldur was on her before she could blink. The fight was all shadows in the dark, but his keen ears and nose painted in the details she couldn't sense. She swung at him with a hefty notched blade. Her reach was good, but the Old Bear was impossibly fast for his size. Each swing she took was weaker than her last. His claws had been in her twice already and now she was slowly bleeding out - turning the crisp white snow beneath her into a brown sludgy mush.

A thick bear paw came up and hit her sword arm in the middle of her final swing. Her blade went singing down the mountainside. And then he was upon her. A bear more than twice her weight. All teeth and muscle and claw.

-----------



"Well, did you manage to get one this time Kaldur?" Gryr asked.

Kaldur spat out his answer. Red on white. A bloody starburst melting through the snow.

Gryr looked down and nodded. "What species?"

The Beast had controlled him throughout much of the fight. It hadn't cared which species it had killed. Kaldur ran his tongue over his teeth. He'd eaten cow in Stormwind once. This was somehow similar.

"Hmm, Tauren, probably." He replied.

"Ah."

Gryr shuffled off into the cave. Whilst the dying Druid shivered and shook, he refused to admit the cold was becoming too much for him. Kaldur was amazed he had gotten this far, but Druids of the Claw were nothing if not resilient - and no doubt this one was burning up the last of his strength in a desperate bid to complete his final journey.

"Well, your hunt should buy us some time Kaldur, but I don't think we can afford to rest. They'll be more behind that one and our goal is now so very close."

"You don't seem surprised we have so many following us, Gryr." Kaldur asked, watching is former master through narrowed eyes.

"I've grown careless the last few years as my strength has waned. Someone must have noticed I was up to something."

"And we're leading them right to this thing you've been building, Gryr. Did you think about that?"

The Old Druid pulled on his furs, picked up his staff, and turned back to Kaldur. There was still a steady glow about his eyes, despite his dying body. He didn't meet Kaldur's gaze. Kaldur was certain he knew more about those tracking him that he was willing to share.

"It's too late to worry about that now my boy. We're too close. Come, help me. Just a few more hours to go."

And so they left their cave, Gryr leaning on Kaldur for support with one arm, and his staff with the other. Like two dwarves returning from a long session at a tavern, they trudged together through the snow with an awkward stumbling gait.

Kaldur could sense further disturbance behind him. Others followed. Were they other Tauren like the one he'd killed? Were they working for the Tauren leadership, the Horde, or another faction altogether? But more troubling than the disturbance behind him, was the one up ahead. He could feel it in the ground beneath his feet, and taste it in the wind that weathered his cheeks. The life force of the mountains didn't patter with the sound of a thousand different tunes, they thrummed together with the song of just one.

Oh Gryr, he thought. You clever fool. What have you done?
Kaldur Winterwind
The Old Bear. Former Keeper of the Order of Natures Grasp.

Amaeya Moonsorrow
Priestess, Peacemaker, and a Shining Beacon of Silver Light

Kreska Stormraven
Killer of Highborne, Historys' Assassin, a Dark Legend - missing presumed dead
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 3 of 4]

Postby Anhagath on Tue Apr 26, 2016 6:03 pm

Ahhh, loving it! Can't wait to see the end :O Really, this is SO well-written and THE SUSPENSE!
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Re: The Beast Beneath [Part 3 of 4]

Postby Edradir on Thu Apr 28, 2016 1:20 pm

That ol'Gryr... sneaky bastard.

Kaldur wrote:The Beast had controlled him throughout much of the fight. It hadn't cared which species it had killed. Kaldur ran his tongue over his teeth. He'd eaten cow in Stormwind once. This was somehow similar.

Lol, so thats how Tauren tastes.

MOOAAR! pretty please. ^^
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