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Jaluli One

One

Two Years ago.

Morticai pushed himself up against the wall of the hut as the sentries walked past, their eyes passing left to right as they made their circuit back around the village again. Sen’Jin, named after the Elder of the same name who had been slain by the Murlocs so long ago, was not exactly foreign to him, but he did not know it as well as he wished. And he needed stealth this night.

Pulling his hood closer around his head, Morticai slid through the shadows between huts, trying to avoid the sentries and the occasional passerby. The sun had long since set, and he chose the mid of night when the moon slept early for this little sojourn into the lands of the Trolls.

All to find out whatever he could about the Hunter Khadiz.

Kargath still bothered him, learning of the Lady, and how Hardishane had gone so easily into her waiting arms, giving her the means to not only control the Warlock, but destroy this Family if she so chose. The arrival of the Hunter Khadiz at the precise moment Morticai returned from his ‘conversations’ with the Warlock Trainers of the Undercity seemed to his mind far too convenient. He needed information, and he needed it immediately.

Sen’Jin seemed as good a place as any to begin.

Torches sputtered and cast their flickering orange light along the paths weaving through the village, and Morticai avoided them like the plague (the thought making him chuckle softly to himself). The number of sentries, Troll and Orc alike, surprised him, and he found himself constantly shifting his path to avoid them, circling further and further out and away from the village proper, and into the darker areas where the huts looked less sturdy and no torches burned. Occasionally, he caught the barest glimmer of candlelight through a door or window, but they were few and far between.

It was here that his ears first caught a sound that caused him to pause. He cocked his head to one side, listening again, telling himself that he must be wrong, and yet he still heard it, softly carried by the wind. Whimpering. Pain. Despite his task here, he could not help but follow the quiet sounds of someone in pain, attempting to find the source….

He pulled back the curtain acting as a door for the little one room hut, his eyes seeing far better in the dark than most, falling on the form spread in the shadows. She shifted at the movement, and she looked up at him, her face swollen and cut, her clothes ripped to shreds, blood and cuts everywhere on her body – but she did not cry. She raised her chin defiantly at him, and met his eyes without flinching, even though one of hers was swollen shut.

“….blast.”

* * *

Morticai had a way of moving when he wished to, half serpent – half cat, and he used that now – sliding into the room with a grace he rarely showed to any watching, sweeping his robe off and across her naked form. For one brief, frightening moment, his eyes took in her red hair and saw in her face something of Rizarah – his heart went cold. But this close to her, her scent filling his nose, he knew this was not the Troll who had somehow managed to invade his heart. Yet, this Troll was in pain, and he was the only one here.

He blamed Hardishane for what happened next.

[Troll] “Do not speak. I will help you, as best I can.” She nodded at his whispered words, and he gently touched her cheek, turning her head so he could see. She had been badly beaten, her face was still swelling – the right eye was already swollen shut. Her lip was cut and her jaw a horrible shade of dark purple. Touching it caused her to wince, and he decided the jaw was more than likely broken.

The rest of her body was covered in bruises and cuts, her left arm was broken and lying wrong. Below her waist…. He had to bite down his anger, the need to bring justice – it would do her no good for him to go running off for vengeance, no matter how badly it burned in his breast. This was the work of an animal, nothing more, nothing less. He needed to take care of her, not run off.

Only, he didn’t see anything he could do for her. He was not a healer. Healing herbs, bandages – he could certainly manage these things, but broken bones needed a Priest, a Druid or a Shaman, and he were none of the above on his best day.

[Troll] “I must get help for-“

“…no..” her voice was weak, and it obviously pained her to speak. He tried to shush her but she continued, and spoke Orcish even though he’d shown her he could speak her native tongue. “….no here….dey…no….puhlease….”

Morticai was torn. She needed help he could not give her, healing. But looking into her eyes, he saw fear at the very thought of alerting anyone in the village to what had happened. It may be irrational on her part, but then again, he had no idea who had done this – it could be someone of some power or stature within the village, which could make it worse for her should he call for help. The scents in the hut weren’t helping – he caught whiffs of many different Trolls, but given that these were the poorer quarters, these places tended to trade hands fairly often. He would have to piece it all together later.

[Troll] “I can take you elsewhere for help, but it will not be easy…”

She gave the barest of nods. Morticai could only admire her courage, all things considered. Now he had to tell her something absolutely horrid.

[Troll] “…I cannot carry you. I can help you walk, but I cannot carry you…. I have not the strength….”

A bubbling laugh from her, then a coughing fit, and blood being spat out.

“…ah …can…walk…”

Morticai nodded, and then helped her to her feet. She whimpered, but did not cry out. Wrapped in his cloak, and leaning on him for support with her good arm, while the other hung limply at her side, they made their way out and away from Sen’Jin, into the desert where his horse waited for him. He could only hope that the beast would carry them both to Orgrimmar. The woman had other ideas.

“…take…meh…fah…away….”

[Troll] “Orgrimmar is our best bet – I can have a healer meet us there.”

“….no,” she shook her head, staggering against him. “…take …meh….where dere….be….no….trolls….”

[Troll] “My Dear, I think it best we get you to a healer.”

“….puhlease….where….dere….be…no….trolls…”

[Troll] “You speak of Trisfal then. The Forsaken lands.” She nods once, and then falls to the ground in a heap, shivering in the cold. Morticai could understand her not wanting to be around Trolls if it were a Troll who had done this to her, but she needed a healer or else he wasn’t sure she would even make it through the night. It was madness to take her to Trisfal.

“….ah….no….be wantin’….ah…’ealer…”

“Madness.”

“….puhlease…”

She looked up at him, and again he saw in her that which drew him to Rizarah. In that moment, he knew it was no use. She would not relent, he would have to fight her, and she didn’t have the strength, and he didn’t have the stomach for it. If she wanted to go to Trisfal……

Morticai pulled the stone from his belt pouch, crushing it between his fingers as the incantation slipped from between his lips….

* * *

The hills near Lordaeron are dotted with small and large caves alike, and it was here that Morticai brought the injured Troll woman, much against his better judgment. But if she wished to hide, Morticai knew better than most how to disappear from the world for a time, and he would help her if that were what she wished.

She had long since passed out when he came to the spot he had chosen. The cave had a single entrance, easily guarded, and cracks in the rock above allowed for smoke to rise and escape, which meant he could build a small fire to help keep her warm, for she was deathly cold.

He was most worried about her arm, but knew enough about first aid to realize that he needed to clean her wounds as quickly as he could, so he conjured a few bottles of water and put them on the boil in a small pot from his saddlebags. Armed with his three clean silk handkerchiefs, he began the process of clearing away the blood and grime, revealing more and more bruises and cuts, adding fuel to his already growing anger.

Setting the arm caused her to scream, but she quickly passed out again. He’d done all he could, and needed help. A healer, someone he could trust, and whether she liked it or not. He couldn’t very well set her jawbone. Pulling the guildstone out, he whispered into it, calling for Alerca. There was no answer, until:

“Hello! I am Torero!! However!”

“… Torero, this is Morticai. How quickly can you be in Trisfal?”

* * *

“…I do not understand why I am not healing all of her wounds… Is this some strange Forsaken custom?”

“What? No. Don’t be a fool! I don’t want her to know you were here – that’s why you only healed her jaw, and the damage…well, below.”

Torero did something Morticai rarely saw from the large Tauren; he clenched his fists and trembled.

“What was done was –wrong-! Who would do such a thing?!”

“I agree, Torero,” Morticai said softly, proudly. The boy was coming along nicely. “And I intend to find out. As for you, I thank you for this, and beg of you not to speak of it ever again.”

“But-! I do not understand!”

“She is a proud one, Torero, I have seen it in her eyes. It would be a far greater blow for her to have anyone know of this, I have seen it in her eyes. I ask this of you – can you keep this a secret?”

Torero looked torn, but in the end, he nodded his agreement.

“Morticai? I …. Even with the healing, she will never have…” Torero shook his head sadly.

“Never?” Morticai asked softly, his eyes burning brightly.

“Never. The damage…it is too much for me to heal. There are others who could do more, if only you would-“

“No, Torero. No. I would trust very few with this, and you were the only one available. I thank you again for coming.” Torero looked ready to say more, but Morticai had already turned away, eyes taking in the Troll woman resting just a bit more comfortably now. Morticai waited until the Tauren had left before taking up his position as guard at the entrance, waiting for the hated sun to rise. His head was already beginning to pain him. He would need to hunt in Ashenvale soon….

Before that, he would have to tell this woman she would never have children of her own. Then he would kill the one responsible.

* * *

The woman slept for days during which he had to trickle water and broth between her lips just to keep her strength up. The few times she woke, her one eye would roll around, taking in the cave, lighting upon Morticai, and then she would heave a sigh and pass out again.

He was unused to making anyone feel safe, yet somehow he was managing it with little effort. Days turned into weeks, and the pain became too much for him – the need, the gnawing in his stomach and the blurring of his vision demanded that he hunt. He left her for the better part of the night, stepping from Tirisfal to Orgrimmar in the blink of an eye then flying to Splintertree to hunt.

* * *

[Troll] “Drink.”

The woman sniffed at the bottle of water he offered, her swollen nose crinkling up at it. With a sigh, Morticai took a long drink from the bottle then offered it again. This time, she took it, drinking sparingly at first before draining it greedily. He pulled the cork from another and handed it to her, she sipped at this one, which was far more sensible given her condition.

[Troll] “If I wished to harm you, I could have done so long ago.”

She said nothing to that, closing her eyes and resting again. Morticai waited a few minutes, waited for her breathing to become more regular and for the herbs within the water to work their way into her system – he had long ago forced his own system to develop a tolerance to them. She was recovering as well as could be expected, all things considered. She never spoke, not since he’d given her the news about the….damage.

But he would need her to speak this night. He was done with waiting.

[Troll] “Tell me who did this….” he said softly, eyes glowing a bit brighter in the glow of the fire. She stirred in her sleep but did not speak. Morticai waited a bit longer before repeating his question.

“Noooo……”

[Troll] “Justice… Tell me who did this….”

“”is bruddahs….” A part of his mind wondered that she was not responding in Troll while the rest focused on who these ‘brothers’ might be.

“Brothers?” he asked, dropping the Troll. “Whose brothers?”

“Nooo….” She made as if to move, but listlessly.

“I must know….” The herbs were serving their purpose, relaxing her. She would not even remember any of this, and he would have names this evening. He would make those responsible pay.

“T’ree bruddahs…angry….’e be callin’ me ou’ in fron’ o’da village…killed ‘im….bruddahs came in da nigh’….”

So. Three creatures had done this to her to avenge another. Beat her. Raped her. Cut her. Probably thought themselves ‘men’ as they did so, but these were not men. They were animals, and he would cut them down like animals, and skin their carcasses as well.

Another bottle of water with a packet of herbs and she is deeply asleep and with any luck at all, not dreaming. Outside he casts the slice in space and time that lets him step from Tirisfal into Orgrimmar. The Troll Mage standing there crinkles his nose but says nothing as Morticai turns and heads down the steps. They do not approve of his penchant for cutting corners. What did it matter anymore? It was his business, not theirs.

It’s late, but there is almost always someone at the Bank to hand over his box. A quick change and he is wearing black again, face hidden behind a hood. He takes an older staff with him and rides out of the city, spurring the horse on towards Sen’Jin.

* * *

“Bah! Joo be mad!”

Old Kaz’ree stared at the bones laid out on the straw mat before him with one eye closed and the other wide open – it was an ancient technique his Father had taught him, and his Father had taught him before that. You couldn’t trust both eyes to see the truth of things, so you closed one and looked, then closed the other and looked, and one of them would be telling you the truth while the other lied.

It took a real Witch Doctor to know which was which, though, and Kaz was a Witch Doctor.

Kaz took his Spirit Stick out and shook it at the bones, switching eyes as the rattles rattled and the face of Mojimbo frowned down from the tip. Grumbling about bones not telling the truth from any angle, Kaz put his Spirit Stick away and gathered up the bones for a fifth toss. He shook them in his cupped hands, spitting twice to coat em good, then tossed them back down on the mat where they landed in the exact same pattern. Again.

“Bah!”

[Troll] “What is it grandfather?”

Kaz smiled down at the girl child crouched next to him, the one who he’d decided would follow in his footsteps. She was trying to see what he saw, but he hadn’t explained the bones to her yet, only allowed her to watch when he threw them. Fifteen years old, he didn’t think she was ready for them yet, but she would be soon enough – she was strong, as he was. Perhaps next Summer, he told himself for the third year in a row.

[Troll] “Never you mind that, child. I’m going out for a smoke – you leave these be, you saavy?”

She nodded and he gathered his pipe, his peacebloom and headed outside for a breath of fresh air. The scent of the sea wafted in on a gentle breeze as he lit his pipe and began puffing contently. He’d built his home on the edge of Sen’Jin closest to the sea for this very reason – he loved that he could step outside and feel like he could simply step into the ocean and float away. One day, when all was ready, he would…

His teeth clamped down on the stem of his pipe, his mood soured by the bones he knew still lay on the mat within. The bones were wrong – they had to be. He had seen many things in his years, many things that could not be explained even by him, but for the bones to tell him that Death walked like a man this night, seeking blood – it made no sense!

He had never had the bones tell him something so specific before. It couldn’t be right. He decided that it -wasn’t- right. Puffing away on his pipe, it made it easier to accept that the bones must be wrong. His mind was racing down so many different paths all at once that he didn’t even notice as the temperature began to drop. He was rubbing his arms and legs, and hopping from foot to foot just to stay warm!

Scanning the sky, he didn’t see any clouds and there didn’t seem to be a wind, only this damnable cold all of a sudden! Bringing his eyes back from the sky – that’s when he saw it – saw him. A shadow against shadows, shuffling along like some boogeyman out of an old wives tale and the only thing standing out were the glowing yellow eyes.

Kaz cursed himself for a fool. Mojimbo sat inside his hut, on the floor next to the bones. He had absolutely no protection against Death, and this had to be Death – didn’t the bones tell him and he refused to listen?! And now he was going to be punished for not listening because Old Man Death was coming straight for him.

Old Man Death was small, that much he could make out in the shadows. And he was walking with a staff – sort of shuffling along which just told you that he was Old and “who was older than Old Man Death?!” his mind wondered. Not to mention the fact that there was frost on the ground in the end months of summer where they ought not be any – who was colder than Old Man Death?

Kaz stood up tall as Old Man Death approached. He’d decided to accept his fate, such as it was, since the Spirits had decided it was his time. He took a few more long pulls on his pipe, letting forth a long stream of smoke. If he were going to die, he’d at least get to finish his pipe – no sense letting good peacebloom go to waste.

“Disgusting habit,” Death said with a voice fresh from the grave. “You’ll catch your death out here. Best go inside where the fire is burning warmly.”

Kaz gaped, his pipe falling from his mouth. Death was…not here to take him? As Old Man Death stalked past, Kaz couldn’t move or speak, just gaping like a moonstruck child. His mind was racing – if not him, then who had Old Man Death come for? A thought saddened him, there were many older Trolls who’d taken sickly in the last few weeks, and any one of them might be a target for the hand of Death. Just as he had screwed up the courage to ask, Death paused and that cowl turned back towards him. He couldn’t see a face – not even the eyes, but he could hear that voice again – the one that made his skin crawl.

“Three brothers. Lost a fourth recently. Where are they?”

Three brothers? His mind flashed back to a sunny day when Baj’Ali called that girl out into the village square, what was her name again? She and Baj were inseparable since they were tall enough to be on their own, and him out there calling her names. He rubbed at his chin, thinking back. She’d met him, eyes filled with sadness and tears and he continued calling her vile things but Kaz could see what had happened – she’d come into her own – had the lust. Probably old Baj was there when it happened too, taking advantage the way his lot always did, and now him out there saying she did things she ought not, and her looking sad and hurt. Weren’t right, and Kaz had said so, but it were too late.

Baj said she either became his or admitted she were nothing but a whore. She weren’t going to stand for that, no sir. She’d been training to be a warrior. So when he drew his sword, she drew hers, and with tears streaming down her face, she cut him down.

It would’ve ended right then and there had Baj been anyone other than who he were. He had Family, and that Family knew people seen to it she was shunned by everyone. Kaz had thrown a fit over that, but she told him it weren’t his concern, smiled and left. Kaz hadn’t seen her since. Hadn’t seen much of old Baj’s brothers either, come to think about it, and they weren’t the kind to hide away – they liked their drinking and their women more than pretty much anything else. Odd they would be so long from him seeing them around.

“Joo be here foah dem?”

“I am. Three brothers.”

Kaz rubbed his chin. “Why be Old Man Death lookin’ foah dem?”

Death chuckled. “Vengeance.”

The temperature dropped again, and Kaz had to keep his mouth shut just to ensure his teeth didn’t chatter. He pointed towards where the brother’s lived and then shot back inside his own hut, quickly tying the door down. His granddaughter looked at him, eyes as big as shields and he scooped her up in his arms, hugging to her for all he was worth.

He’d seen Old Man Death – Had talked with him, and lived to tell the tale. Only, he didn’t think he ever would. Bad enough it happened at all, there was no need to relive it through the telling.

In the morning, he untied the string keeping the door shut and stepped into a new day, thanking the Spirits for seeing his Family safely through the night. The village was a buzz with excitement, though. Kaz took his granddaughters hand and made his way to the center of the village where a great crowd had gathered and many voices were arguing back and forth.

As he got closer, Kaz was able to make out what had everyone so upset. Seems that somehow, three brothers had been killed the night before. As odd and horrible as that was, what really had people frightened was how they had been killed – horribly tortured each and every one, and then skinned and finally put out of their misery. Only no one heard them scream a once, and the door to their hut was locked. From the inside.

* * *

END PART 1

Part Two

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